Number Ones: #123


  • Week Ending 13th February 1988
  • 1 Week At #1

1987 had been a miserable time for OMD, and ended without them gracing the UK Top 40 during a calendar year for the first time since 1979. Even the Crush era of 1985 provided a #27 hit in the shape of So In Love. Their sole release, a re-recorded amble through the unremarkable mid-tempo blandola of Shame, peaked at #52. Its parent album, The Pacific Age, had permanently sunk without trace within 8 weeks of its release in September 1986.

What to do?

As it turned out, exactly what they needed to do, and what I would have also wanted them to do the most. Retrospective time!

The Best Of OMD was a welcome reminder to everyone (mostly the public at large, as I needed very little prompting) just how many excellent singles they’d amassed since breaking through with Messages in early 1980. In fact, that run extended even further back, to the early 45s such as Electricity and Red Frame, White Light. The latter wasn’t included as Virgin deemed the 20 minutes or so of extra space on the CD format was better taken up with 12″ mixes of La Femme Accident and We Love You rather than a fuller compliment of actual singles (Never Turn Away and Shame also lost out, but at least Genetic Engineering snuck in, albeit out of sequence).

Of course, something new was required to help flog this compilation; which is where we say hello to Dreaming. There isn’t an awful lot to say about it though. It’s a perfectly okay perky pop tune, sprightly and catchy but lacking any real depth or character. Basically, it’s We Love You (the worst single they ever made, in my opinion) but with a prettier tune. Q Magazine described it as OMD in the post-Rick Astley era, which was technically correct but Dreaming continues a slide into formulaic, chiming bubblegum pop that would ultimately give us the horrid Liberator album in 1993.

Though it does an alright job of signing off the first phase of OMD’s career without embarrassing itself too much or leaving a nasty mess on the carpet, Dreaming alone was not the reason the single topped my own charts. A 4-track CD single (at the “bargain” price of 5.99 in the Virgin Megastore) offered up two frankly superb bonus tracks; one – Satellite, the official B-side – evoked the typical OMD fare of 1981-83, with a contemporary twist. Even better was Gravity Never Failed, which actually was a track recorded between 1981 and 1983, but never included on either Architecture & Morality or Dazzle Ships. It would have been a highlight of both albums.

Possibly sensing the writing was on the wall for the type of thoughtful, experimental electronic music they used to be known for, and possibly due to “creative differences” with Andy McCluskey, Dreaming and The Best Of OMD would mark the end (temporarily, at least) of Paul Humphreys’ involvement with Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark. He, and the horn/rhythm section of the Cooper brothers, split to form The Listening Pool – their debut single, Oil For The Lamps Of China, was a beautiful little record with a charm and melodic invention sorely lacking in most of the 90s-era OMD.

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