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Music / Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

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Enola Gay, you should have stayed at home yesterday,
Oho it can't describe the feeling and the way you lied,
These games you play, they're gonna end it all in tears someday,
Oho Enola Gay, it shouldn't ever have to end this way.
— "Enola Gay"

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (often abbreviated to OMD) are a Synthpop group formed in the Wirral, UK, in the mid-'70s by Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys.

Their real fondness was for bands like Kraftwerk and Neu!. Their first three albums were filled with very intellectual stuff but had one or two hit singles each, keeping the record company happy (very happy with Architecture and Morality, which was an international hit album and spawned three hit singles, two about Joan of Arc). Their fourth just had the weird stuff with no hits. The record company had a little word with them, and subsequent albums were entirely written to the hit formula.

They split in the late '80s, with McCluskey retaining the name and releasing three more albums, which were actually reasonably successful, while the rest of the former members formed issued one, not so successful, album as The Listening Pool. After a bit of a hiatus, during which McCluskey masterminded the early hits of Atomic Kitten, among other things, the classic lineup reformed and has toured and recorded new material to some acclaim.


  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (1980)
  • Organisation (1980)
  • Architecture & Morality (1981)
  • Dazzle Ships (1983)
  • Junk Culture (1984)
  • Crush (1985)
  • The Pacific Age (1986)
  • Sugar Tax (1991)
  • Liberator (1993)
  • Universal (1996)
  • History of Modern (2010)
  • English Electric (2013)
  • The Punishment of Luxury (2017)
  • Bauhaus Staircase (upcoming; set for 2023)


  • Author Appeal: McCluskey definitely has more than a passing interest in Joan Of Arc.
  • Break-Up Song: The songs they're best known for in the USA, "So In Love" and "If You Leave" are both this.
  • Captain Ersatz: They couldn't get permission to use a real Edward Hopper work on the cover of Crush, so an In the Style of painting was commissioned instead.
  • The Cover Changes the Gender: Not strictly a cover since McCluskey and Stuart Kershaw were part of the writing team but their version of Atomic Kitten's "Whole Again" changes "and if you see me with another man" to the neutral "another one".
  • Cover Version: Velvet Underground's "Waiting For The Man".
  • Doo-Wop Progression: "Enola Gay".
  • Fix It in Post: On the Electricity live DVD, Andy jokes that they'll do this after he forgets the lyrics during "Talking Loud and Clear".
  • Genre Roulette: Not usually, but Crush is all over the place in stylistic terms, with everything from straight synthpop ("Secret"), to rock ("88 Seconds in Greensboro") to avant-garde ("Crush"), to Baroque Pop ("La Femme Accident") to the weird pop + rockabilly + horn section mash-up seen in Junk Culture ("Bloc Bloc Bloc").
  • Green Aesop: "Electricity" advocates the use of solar power.
  • I Am the Band: Andy McCluskey for Sugar Tax.
  • "I Want" Song: "Atomic Ranch" is the creepiest one you will ever hear.
  • Last Note Nightmare: "Georgia", which ends with a loud "bang".
  • Lead Bassist: Andy McCluskey is the bassist and lead vocalist.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Quite a few, as much of the band's material borders political and sensitive issues altogether.
    • "Enola Gay", an upbeat song about the bombing of Hiroshima.. Guess what "Dresden" is an upbeat pop song about? Close - it's a broken relationship song, but with a lot of fire-related lyrics, and a clear nod to "Enola" musically.
    • "Love and violence", and "White Trash", are both songs depicting domestic abuse, with the latter being a rather chilling take on the matter.
    • "Dreaming" is a poppy song about a person who is really disillusioned with his/her feelings for someone who refuses to commit to them.
  • Mundane Made Awesome:
    • "Stanlow", an absolutely majestic song about... an oil refinery.
    • "Red Frame/White Light" is an awesome hard-hitting number about... a telephone box.
  • New Sound Album / Lighter and Softer: After the panning given to the dark and angsty Dazzle Ships, the band responded by making Junk Culture, an album of jolly pop songs (retaining a relatively experimental appeal OMD was known for at that point)
  • Non-Appearing Title: Their two joint highest-charting UK hits (reaching number 3) both have non-appearing titles: "Souvenir" and "Pandora's Box". The latter was subtitled "(It's A Long, Long Way)" in the USA.
  • "Pachelbel's Canon" Progression: "Walking On The Milky Way", virtually chord for chord.
  • Precision F-Strike: "Garden City", "Crush", "Pulse", and "Kiss Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Bang". In the latter song, the music drops out to further emphasise the profanity.
  • Rock-Star Song: "Walking On The Milky Way".
  • Science Is Bad: Inverted in "Genetic Engineering". Although many listeners took it to be a Science Is Bad song, Word of God says it was actually celebrating the ability of science to improve our lives. "Telegraph", on the other hand...
  • Shout-Out:
    • "Pandora's Box" is about the actress Louise Brooks; "Joan of Arc" and "Maid of Orleans" are obvious titular shout-outs to Joan of Arc (and both singles have sleeve art to match, the former even using her actual signature), though they don't seem to be about her, as such.
    • "Sister Marie Says" is about a real-life nun, Sister Marie Gabriel, who made a number of prophecies of doom, including predicting that the world would end in a fireball following the collision of Comet Shoemaker-Levy with Jupiter in 1994.
    • OMD has made several to Kraftwerk:
      • Andy and Paul have both admitted that "Electricity" is a sped-up version of Kraftwerk's "Radioactivity".
      • The song "VCL XI" off the album Organisation is a really obscure one, referring to a label of a drawing of a vacuum tube on the back cover of the Radio-Activity album, though the original is written "VCL 11".
      • The title of Organisation might be a reference to the pre-Kraftwerk band Organisation, too.
      • The vocoded introduction of "Radio Waves" is a shoutout to the vocoded introduction to "Autobahn".
      • OMD covered "Neon Lights" on the Sugar Tax album.
      • The song "RFWK" off History of Modern is another Kraftwerk reference, both using letters from the band's name, and a reference to the first names of Kraftwerk's most famous line-up: Ralf, Florian, Wolfgang, and Karl. The lyrics might also be an oblique reference to discovering Kraftwerk's music.
      • "Kissing The Machine". Co-written by Andy and Karl Bartos (i.e. the K in "RFWK") first appeared on Bartos' (as Elektric Music) album Esperanto in 1993, then twenty years later as an OMD track on English Electric. It sounds like an OMD track on the former and a Kraftwerk track on the latter, despite the two versions being pretty similar.
  • Self-Titled Album
  • Standard Snippet: Need an instantly recognisable riff to sum up the synthpop era? Then you need the intro to "Electricity"! Strangely, it was never actually a hit at the time. "Enola Gay", which was a hit, also serves the same purpose. When something more atmospheric is required, "Maid of Orleans" is a popular choice.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: In theory there was a Vocal Tag Team set-up in the band, but it was tilted toward McCluskey to the extent that Paul Humphrey's lead vocals effectively became this. Malcolm Cooper's rarer lead vocals are a less ambiguous example.
  • Train Song: "Locomotion", obviously. The title of and cover art on English Electric combine trains and planes (the blue and yellow referencing English Electric Deltic locomotives of the 60s thru 80s, and the red triangle coming from some of the gaudier 60s color schemes of the English Electric Lightning)

Alternative Title(s): OMD