ELECTRICITY (x3)

The sleeve pictured above is the version of Electricity that I first owned. It was on Dindiscs Records and came out in early 1980.

What I didn’t realise at the time, and indeed didn’t for many years, was that this was in fact the third attempt at turning the song into a hit single, albeit the first really serious attempt as previous releases had been either via a limited run or using a mix which the band were unsure about.

It’s a complex and twisting tale….please bear with me

First Release : Factory Records (FAC6) : May 1979

The band had originally recorded Electricity, together with the b-side Almost, with Martin Zero (aka Hannett) at the helm in Cargo Studios in Rochdale. They felt, however, that it was overproduced and so, at a studio in their home city of Liverpool, they re-recorded both songs with production being shared by the band and their manager Paul Collister. As a compromise, and not wishing to totally upset the volatile Hannett, it was agreed by Factory Records that the b-side from the Cargo sessions would be used…..all of this is info is provided on the reverse of the sleeve for FAC6, which was restricted to a run of 5,000 copies:-

mp3 : OMD – Electricity (FAC6 version)
mp3 : OMD – Almost (FAC6 version)

If you’re lucky enough to have a good quality copy of this artefact, you could ask for and get in excess of £100 if you put up for sale.

Second Release : DinDisc Records (DIN2) : September 1979

The band had left Factory, enticed by a multi-album offer and decent advance by DinDisc, and the label decided to try to make an early gain by re-releasing Electricity in September 1979, but for some strange reason went with the version recorded at Cargo despite the band having previously indicated they weren’t satisfied with it:-

mp3 : OMD – Electricity (Hannett Cargo Studios version)

The version of Almost was that from the Factory single. Again, all of this info is provided on the reverse of the sleeve.

Third Release : DinDisc Records (DIN2) : March 1980

The single Red Frame White Light (DIN6) had been a minor hit in early 1980 just in advance of the release of the self-titled debut album. In an effort to keep the momentum going, Dindisc decided to re-release Electricity. The ability for confusion can be seen from the fact that they didn’t give this re-release a different catalogue number, nor did they change the front of the sleeve, although the back was different as there was no information provided about the recording process.

The piece of plastic inside the sleeve was completely different from earlier 45s as they were the versions that had been included on the debut album:-

mp3 : OMD – Electricity (album version)
mp3 : OMD – Almost (album version)

This version, if you cross-checked with the album, was produced by the band and someone called Chester Valentino, who in reality was manager Paul Collister who had been credited under his real name on the Factory version.

Told you it was complex and twisting.

In any event, the third effort at creating a hit out of Electricity came to nothing. It has, however, endured as one of the bands best-known and best-loved songs.

It was a contender for inclusion in the great debut singles series that occasionally features here, but intsead I felt the full story needed to be told.

Oh and just to complete things for you, here’s the earliest known version of the song, recorded by Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphries before they came up with the name of Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark.

mp3 : The ID – Electricity

And finally, the version of Almost that was recorded in Liverpool but which didn’t see light of day until its inclusion in a compilation album in 2001 (and which in my view is the best of them):-

mp3 : OMD – Almost (alternate version)

JC

SOMETIMES IT TAKES A WHILE

omd-orchestralmanoeuvresinthedark-lprecord-474649

Aside from Simple Minds, which was largely on the basis of them being local, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark were the first electronic band that I really became a fan of, thanks to the early singles Electricity and Messages. They were certainly the first electronic band I ever saw play live at the Glasgow Apollo in November 1980, a gig which left me rather disappointed and underwhelmed, but then again I didn’t have a great seat stuck at the back of the circle (but not quite the upper circle which really was a dreadful spot in the building being so high up and far from the stage).

However, it was only some 20 years after its release that I really became a fan of the band’s debut LP. This was a record which had versions of the two hit singles I loved along with eight other bits of music, many of which were far darker, moodier and difficult for a 17-year-old weaned on guitar music to really get his head around. It wasn’t too long in the collection as I soon swapped it with a friend for a copy of Diamond Dogs (which I’m sure he had pinched from his big brother’s collection) as  I was just really getting into Bowie on the back of Scary Monsters.

It was many years later that I picked up a copy of the OMD debut on CD for £5. I was of course approaching it with a whole new outlook on music with my tastes have broadened substantially from those long-ago teenage years. And I very much liked what I was hearing – and in particular what I had previously thought difficult and almost unlistenable bits of music.

A few weeks ago I picked up a second-hand vinyl copy of the album. It’s not the now rare first edition that I had bought away back in 1980 but one of what was a number of re-issues by Dindisc Records. It’s a near mint copy vinyl wise, but the sleeve is a bit tattered and torn which makes me think the original owner, a bit like myself, didn’t take a shine to the music and the sleeve ended up not being looked after as it was boxed up and moved house on a few occasions.

The closing tracks on the second side of the record in particular are quite stunning – the very experimental and inappropriately named Dancing and then the beauty and majesty of Pretending To See The Future which can now be seen as a huge influence on so many bands who were to follow:-

mp3 : Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Dancing
mp3 : Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Pretending To See The Future

It’s also worth having a listen to the original version and the single version of what would become their first Top 40 hits:-

mp3 : Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Messages (LP version)
mp3 : Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Messages (10″ single version)

It’s a very fine example of tweaking a song to make it far more daytime radio-friendly without losing the sense of magic that made it sound so special in the first place.

Enjoy.