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”STOCKHAUSEN OR ABBA? CAN’T WE BE BOTH?”

ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK BEGAN AS AN ART PROJECT THAT PLAYED ONE GIG FOR A DARE. FORTY YEARS LATER, ANDY MCCLUSKEY AND PAUL HUMPHREYS’ ART PROJECT HAS SOLD MILLIONS OF RECORDS, SPLIT UP IN A MESS OF BAD DRUGS AND WORSE FINANCES, ONLY TO REFORM STRONGER THAN EVER. “THERE’S STILL AN ENORMOUS AMOUNT OF DRUGS ON OUR TOUR BUS,” THEY TELL CLASSIC POP. “BUT NOW THEY’RE JUST PRESCRIPTION ONES KEEPING US ALIVE.”

OMD singer Andy McCluskey calls Paul Humphreys “The Surgeon”.

The keyboardist in turn refers to the frontman as “The Butcher”.

“I cleave ideas with a big chopper and throw them out,” Andy explains. “Paul surgically makes it all fit together. It really does work.” It’s a neat summary of how Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark have operated since their first gig at influential new wave club Eric’s in Liverpool in 1978.

But it’s also a slightly jokey remark which highlights the probable reason OMD aren’t more revered in electronic music: they take their music seriously, themselves much less so.

Debut single Electricity was groundbreaking synth-pop and one of the first five releases on Factory Records. Its B-side Almost is cited by Vince Clarke as the reason he took up playing keyboards. OMD’s 1983 album Dazzle Ships flopped at the time but has gone on to be named by The Killers, Arcade Fire and Radiohead as an influence. And you won’t get a better late-period synth-pop classic album than OMD’s most recent record, 2017’s The Punishment Of Luxury. Their original drum machine Winston is on display at a museum in Liverpool and further museum displays have been dedicated to them in Arizona. Andy has even co-written for the band with Kraftwerk’s Karl Bartos. If only OMD were more earnest and po-faced, they’d have statues erected in honour of their influence on electronic music.

“If we hadn’t played together in decades, it’d probably feel like we started 40 years ago,” ponders Andy. “But, when we reformed, we reacquainted ourselves with our old songs and everything OMD, so that makes it feel like it wasn’t that long ago. Mind you, when we played a show a couple of years back with our old tape machine Winston back on stage, we had to retrieve him from his display case at the Museum Of Liverpool. When something from your own life is behind glass in a museum? That makes you feel old.

That’s scary!” Paul chips in: “The teenage Paul and Andy would be horrifi ed to know we’d still be doing this after 40 years. They’d have been amazed to hear The Punishment Of Luxury and realise we could still be innovative. So they’d be proud. But defi nitely horrifi ed, too – back then, we’d sneer about The Rolling Stones: ‘God, why are they still doing it at their age?’ because they were in their early thirties.”

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, Paul Humphreys (left) and Andy McCluskey
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About Classic Pop

In the latest issue, we have an exclusive interview with synth pioneers Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark as they celebrate 40 years of marrying art with pop. Elsewhere, we welcome back Simply Red – Mick Hucknall talks us through new album Blue Eyed Soul and Classic Pop speaks to Prince’s inner circle as the Purple One’s wonderful 1999 LP gets a revelatory boxset treatment. Our classic album this month is Peter Gabriel’s iconic So, the perfect union of pop and World music that made the former Genesis frontman a global star. There’s a dash of Acid Jazz funkiness as we meet Incognito and The Brand New Heavies plus we hear from Bruce Hornsby about how Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon has given him some latter-day hipster cachet. We take an in-depth look at the solo back catalogue of George Michael in our Album By Album feature and also hear from Midge Ure about his 1980 Tour and brand new career retrospective compilation. In our extensive reviews section, we put new albums from the likes of A-ha’s Magne Furuholmen, Anna Of The North, Alphabeat, The Wonder Stuff and David Hasselhoff under the microscope and there’s a bumper crop of reissues including that huge Prince boxset, Rick Astley, The Police, Sparks, David Bowie, Simple Minds, Factory Records and much more. Our books special includes reviews of Prince’s autobiography The Beautiful Ones, Andrew Ridgeley’s George & Me plus Debbie Harry’s Face It and more. For live reviews, we head to Hyde Park for Radio 2’s Festival In A Day – headlined by Pet Shop Boys – and elbow our way down the front for shows by xPropaganda/D:uel, Tanita Tikaram, The International Teachers Of Pop and Morten Harket.