Number Ones: #83


  • ORCHESTRAL MANOEUVRES IN THE DARK (Forever) Live And Die (Virgin)
  • Week Ending 27th September 1986
  • 2 Weeks At #1


Depeche Mode, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, and now another firm favourite returned to the fold; O.M.D. Whereas the first half of 1986 had seen some new names taking turns at the top of my chart, from August onwards it was time for the big-hitters to reclaim their dominance.

If ever a lead single gave false hope of what lay in store with the rest of an album, and its campaign in general, then (Forever) Live And Die could be cited as a textbook example.

O.M.D. had long since moved away from the plaintive synth-pop of Souvenir and Joan Of Arc, UK Top 5 smashes from 1981’s seminal Architecture & Morality album. In its place, Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys had (1983’s Dazzle Ships apart) mined a more directly commercial vein of bright, horn-augmented synth-pop with crashing snare drums ahoy.  Locomotion, Tesla Girls, So In Love, If You Leave. Songs with actual choruses rather than catchy melody refrains.

Imagine, though, if they somehow combined the two, and made a Souvenir for the Pretty In Pink generation? Plaintive synth-pop, sung by Humphreys, but with the horns, the crashing snare drums, and a ruddy big chorus to top it all off?

(Forever) Live And Die was that record.

It really has got the lot. Arguably their best-produced single, all lush keyboards and barber-shop harmonies, that killer middle-eight horn break, a song that’s memorable and insistent without ever being irritating…..the thrill it gave this O.M.D. fan, in anticipation of the upcoming album The Pacific Age, probably eclipsed even Frankie’s comeback a month earlier. We were finally going to get an O.M.D. album worthy of succeeding Architecture & Morality, in the glossy, digitally-enhanced Compact Disc era.

If only.

Well, it wasn’t a total duffer; with a better choice of singles, The Pacific Age may not have sunk quite so quickly and spectacularly. (Forever) Live And Die proved a genuine hit single, peaking at #11 in the UK and #19 in the US, yet the legacy of Crush‘s comparative lack of love from the O.M.D. fanbase continued to undermine the band’s album sales. A top 10 entry on the back of such a strong lead single would have been the least of their expectations, but The Pacific Age could only chart at #15, gone by November (as a song once put it).

That might have been unexpected, yet given the general bloodbath taking place on the UK pop scene it wasn’t as bad as it could have been (The Human League, Howard Jones, Nik Kershaw and others will testify to that). What happened next was still unnecessary, though. Whoever was picking the singles from O.M.D. albums in the mid-80s (was it the office cat?), they went one worse than the choice of La Femme Accident from Crush by opting for the terminally dull, by-numbers synthetic drivel of We Love You, bereft of charm, of melody and of any interest whatsoever. Even more bizarrely, Virgin threw the absolute kitchen sink at it, in terms of advertising and remix formats.

Unsurprisingly, it didn’t pay off. A turkey is a turkey, however you dress it up.

Why not album opener Stay (The Black Rose & The Universal Wheel)? A typically offbeat O.M.D. title, a punchy arrangement, plenty going on in the mix and a decent chorus. Or how about Goddess Of Love? The most obvious single-in-waiting of their career, yet perversely relegated to a B-side. Nope. Clearly not as outstanding as We Love You, according to Virgin/the band/the office cat.

With the campaign pretty much over before Christmas, and sales flat-lining for several months afterwards too, what better move than to release a third and final single from the album in late April 1987, when the entire pop world has forgotten all about O.M.D. and how marvellous (Forever) Live And Die actually was. So, the low-key ballad Shame slunk out, in pointlessly re-recorded form, and no amount of promotion or tempting fans with a (then still-a-novelty) CD-single format was going to get it into the Top 40. God knows it’s a Shame, indeed.

I’ll never know, I’ll never know why.


(Okay, I’ll stop now).

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