#1124: Joan Of Arc by Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) is a band that formed in 1978 in the Liverpool suburb of Wirral, UK. The bands’ co-founder, George Andrew “Andy” McCluskey, was born in 1959 in the town of Heswall on The Wirral peninsula. In primary school McCluskey met Paul Humphreys. The two teamed up in their teens to play in the bands Hitlerz Underpantz, VCL XI and the Id. The latter was a synth-pop band that also included future OMD member Malcolm Holmes. Paul David Humphreys was born in 1960 Merseyside. He was influenced by Kraftwerk and Brian Eno. Malcolm Holmes was born in a suburb of Merseyside in The Wirral in 1960. When the Id was founded in 1977, Holmes became the band’s drummer. He joined OMD in 1980. Martin Cooper was born in 1958 and joined OMD in 1980.
Andy McCluskey was the lead vocalist for the band, also playing lead guitar, bass guitar and keyboards. Paul Humphreys played piano and keyboard, as well as backing vocals – though he occasionally was the lead vocalist. Malcolm Holmes played drums and percussion, while Martin Cooper contributed saxophone, keyboards and backing vocals.
In 1980 the band released their self-titled debut album Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. They released four singles from the album, with the fourth – “Messages” – charting highest on the UK singles chart at #13.
In 1980 Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark released an anti-war song titled “Enola Gay”. The song was named after the bomber that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. “Enola Gay” became a Top Ten hit in Ottawa (ON), peaking at #9 in May 1981. Internationally, “Enola Gay” peaked at number-one in Italy and Spain, #2 in Switzerland, #6 in France and #8 in the UK. It was the only single release from the band’s second album, Organisation.
Their next single release was “Joan Of Arc”.
“Joan Of Arc” is a song written by Andy McCuskey. Joan of Arc (Jeanne d’Arc in French) is an historical figure who lived from 1412 to 1431 and was burned at the stake at the age of 19. Joan Of Arc was not born in a place called Arc, but the village of Domrémy, on the frontier of the French border of what was then continental England. In 1425, at the age of 13, Joan of Arc had visions Saint Michael, Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret telling her to drive the English out of France. She lived during the Hundred Years’ War (1337 to 1453) fought between England and France. She was nicknamed “The Maid of Orléans” after she ended the English siege of Orleans in nine days on May 8, 1429. She was captured by the English in 1430 and put on trial for heresy concerning her beliefs about what Catholic saints had told her, her loyalty to the Pope in Rome, and for cross-dressing. She was burned to death at the stake on May 30, 1431.
The lyrics are narrated by someone who is in love with Joan Of Arc. Regarding her choices to lead the French to battle, the singer laments “she should have known better than to give her heart.” But the lyrics seem later to be addressed to the world: “We should have known better than to give her away
We should have know better to this very day.”
“Joan Of Arc” peaked at #5 in Toronto, #7 in Winnipeg (MB), and #15 in Vancouver (BC) and Halifax (NS). Internationally, the single peaked at #5 on the UK singles chart.
Vancouver radio listeners had to turn the dial to Top 40 radio on CFMI where OMD’s “Souvenir” climbed into the Top Ten in June 1982. Current lack of availability of most of the CFMI charts for 1982 prevents regular chart performance of “Souvenir” from being used to calculate the songs position within this website’s Countdown. However, “Souvenir” is one of three songs reviewed here as a bonus single. Internationally, “Souvenir” climbed to number-one in Portugal and Spain, #3 in the UK, and #9 in Ireland. Both “Joan of Arc” and “Souvenir” were singles from OMD’s album Architecture & Morality.
Back in the UK, OMD released a followup Joan of Arc-themed single titled “Maid Or Orleans (The Waltz of Joan of Arc)”. The single topped the charts in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain. Elsewhere it climbed to #2 in Austria, #4 in Switzerland and the UK, #5 in Ireland, and #7 in New Zealand.
In 1983 the debut single from OMD’s album Dazzle Ships titled “Genetic Engineering” peaked in the Top Ten Alternative Radio charts in both Edmonton (AB) and Montreal. In 1984 OMD released Junk Culture. The debut single titled “Locomotion” was a song with different lyrics than the Little Eva hit from 1962. “Locomotion” climbed to #4 in Ireland, and #5 in the Netherlands and the UK in 1984. It also climbed into the Top 30 in Montreal on AM-Top 40 radio. A second single from Junk Culture titled “Talking Loud And Clear” peaked at #11 in the UK. But it failed to get much airplay in North America.
The band next released an album titled Crush with the lead single “So In Love”. In Vancouver (BC) the single climbed to #8. The single made the Top Ten on the Alternative Radio charts in Edmonton (AB) and Calgary (AB). It was the first single to chart on the Billboard Hot 100, climbing to #26. This was aided by its number-one peak in San Francisco, The followup single, “Secret”, peaked at #6 in Hamilton (ON) though it stalled at #63 on the Billboard Hot 100.
In 1986 OMD’s song “If You Leave” was featured in the teen romance Pretty In Pink. The exposure gave the band their first Top Ten hit in the USA, peaking at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #2 in Vancouver (BC). Also that year, OMD released the studio album Pacific Age. The lead single “(Forever) Live And Die” climbed to #1 in Vancouver (BC) and #19 on the Billboard Hot 100.
In 1988 OMD released a new single titled “Dreaming” on The Best of OMD. McCluskey split from the band in 1989, taking with him rights to OMD. This left Humphreys, Holmes and Cooper to find a new record label and form a new group they named The Listening Pool. In 1991 Andy McCluskey, with a new musicians released OMD’s eighth studio album, Sugar Tax. The lead single, “Sailing On The Seven Seas”, peaked at #3 in Austria, the UK and Sweden, #5 in Ireland and #9 in Germany. The followup single from the album, “Pandora’s Box”, peaked at #7 in Austria, Sweden and the UK late in 1991.
In the 1980s and 90s OMD managed to chart four singles into the Top Ten on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart. The last of these singles was “Stand Above Me” which climbed to #6 on the chart in 1993. It was the lead single from Liberator their ninth studio album. Their last Top 20 hit in the UK was in 1996 with “Walking On The Milky Way”. Disillusioned with the prevalence of BritPop in the mid-90s, Andy McCluskey disbanded OMD in 1996.
In 1996 Paul Humphreys began to collaborate with Claudia Brücken, the former lead singer of the German synth-pop band Propaganda. They wrote songs and performed in concert until 2013. In 1998 Andy McCuskey founded a girl group called Atomic Kitten, co-writing their number-one 2001 UK hit single “Whole Again”. In addition he co-wrote four of their other Top Ten hits that appeared on the UK singles chart between 1999 and 2005.
In 2006 McCluskey, Humphreys and Holmes reunited. In 2007 Martin Cooper rejoined OMD. The band has continued to tour and in 2011 released the album History of Modern.
OMD has continued to record over the decades with their 13th studio album, The Punishment Of Luxury, released in 2017. Touring with their album, the band performed at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver (BC) on March 23, 2018. Since 2015 Stuart Kershaw had been the drummer for OMD.
September 5, 2020
“Darryl Smyers, “Q&A: OMD’s Paul Humphreys Talks Reformation, The Return of Intelligent Music and Being in Hitler’s Underpants,” Dallas Observer, March 18, 2011.
Julian Marszalek, “OMG It’s OMD! Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark Interviewed,” The Quietus, October 7, 2011.
Greg Kot, “OMD: Dystopian Electro-pop and the Chicago Connection,” Chicago Tribune, March 15, 2018.
“Interview with Andy McCluskey of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD).” Kickin’ it Old School blog, March 10, 2011.
Helen Castor, Joan Of Arc: A History, (HarperPerennial, 2016).
“CFUN Top 30,” CFUN 1410 AM, Vancouver, BC, April 17, 1982.
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