Orchestral Manoeuvres Out of the Dark

Back in 2017 I went to an Orchestral Manoeuvres In the Dark gig at the geometrically designed Hexagon theatre in the nearby town of Reading.

To me, OMD have always been a bit like Battenburg cake:  pretty good, I’m always happy to have a bit, but can’t say I’d really miss it if it wasn’t there.

Back in the day, I thought  Maid of Orleans/Joan of Arc their best tracks,  with Messages,  in the same way as  The Who’s Won’t Get Fooled Again, has the most breath taking build up in first minute then rather peters out once the singing starts.

OMD3I’d never seen OMD play live before and was delighted to find they were excellent, with much of what was then ‘new’ stuff really good. Maybe I’m a bit behind the zeitgeist now, but I think you’d like their 2017 album, The Punishment of Luxury, and at the very least the track  Isotype  surely one of the most catchy, rhythmic and dancy songs about picture language ever written. This is OMD at their best.

punishment of luxuryEnthusing after the gig, I bought the album and joined their mailing list. This suggested that a book was to be written,  Pretending to See the Future, to celebrate the band’s 40-years in the music business, and it invited fans to write in with their recollections for possible inclusion.

I wrote and submitted mine and received an email back from the author, Richard Houghton, saying it had made the first edit, and should be included provided mainstays of the band, Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys approve.
OMD2
The book was published in time for the Christmas 2018 market and, unaware if I had been included, I went on the Amazon link to book to buy a copy. Erk. £35. That’s a lot for a book –  If I’d have written it all myself, I still would have baulked. So I let it go.

Roll on to last month and I found myself in Reading again, not to see a band his time, but do some research for a book I am writing in the library. For a break, I walked around the shops and popped into the large Waterstones. On my musing, I stopped at the Music section when I remembered the OMD book and looked to see if there was a copy.

There wasn’t, but a very helpful assistant came over when he saw my furrowed brow and asked if he could help. Within a few minutes he had identified through the computer that as aWaterstones_Reading_Broad_Street,_UK_-_20150707.jpg company they held 5 copies, the nearest of which was available at their Banbury branch. Very kindly, he offered to have it sent across. I was very appreciative and pushed my luck asking if (i) he could direct it to my local Newbury branch and (ii), would it matter that if I found I wasn’t in it, I wouldn’t buy it. Bless him, he was happy on both counts, and to express a small gesture of thanks I bought another book from his store.

DSCF4467A week later,  the Newbury Waterstones staff let me sit in their coffee lounge and examine Pretending to See the Future. It’s a beautiful book, glossy pages, very high quality and true compendium of all OMD-related stuff that would satisfy the most dedicated of fans. I was quite excited as I started to leaf through the pages, getting gradually less enthralled as I flicked through pages 200 through 300 through 400 until…there I was – on page 432 My lovely wife offered to buy it for my birthday.

So, here it is…under my name…Martin Strike.

2019 05 - OMD book 1
OK, so you can’t read it from this scan – you try getting a 470 page book into a photocopier. So thank you for reading thus far, and here is the piece:

Born in 1963, I am of the first OMD generation. I clearly remember first hearing Enola Gay on a cassette player at school lunchtime while we were indulging a big ‘bundle’ (in 1970’s Epsom, a ‘bundle’ was a massive, light-hearted yet violent piling up of 10 or more schoolboys in a manner reminiscent of mosh-pit behaviour) in room B10 before ‘Piggy’ Stockton, our teacher returned for double-physics. Much of my adolescence was spent with your aural company in my bedroom, performing some solitary, middle-ages sort of court dance to Maid of Orleans, having been simultaneously inspired for the era by the first series of Blackadder. God knows what my folks thought from downstairs as their ceiling reverberated by Joan of Arc and my size-11’s performing quadrilles up there on my own.

Now in my own personal middle-age, my old school pal, Clive, who also survived those daily bundles at grammar school, suggested we go to watch you at Reading Hexagon last year. We thought back and could not believe that despite attending far too many gigs to recall in the interceding years, including many to see your peers, we had never been to an OMD gig. Not one.

Well, at least now that wrong has been righted, but shame on us, and how riling to have missed out in your live performances for 36 years. So OK, you two may look like Rob Brydon and Barry from Eggheads (don’t worry – I still resemble Bernie Winters and Clive, more a sagging Trevor Francis), but you proved yourself as electro-gods that night.
I can’t tell you how much we enjoyed the gig. Of course the stuff we knew has been hard-wired in our cores – you were always going to be on a winner there, but the curse of the band who dismay their audience by announcing ‘here’s some new stuff we’ve been working on’, did not happen to you guys. We thought the stuff you played from The Punishment of Luxury was great, even for a first listen – and a natural development from your first glories. I bought a copy and, of course, have played it to bits, devising and performing new quadrilles, while my wife sits below trying to hear Eastenders over the thumps.

As important as the music that night, you came over – rightly or wrongly – as relishing and smiling through every second, and on behalf of the audience, I can say we lapped up the warmth and joy in your performing. We loved you loving us.

A gig-story for you. As you came on, we stood centrally, maybe 15 people deep when 2 drunk women pushed in front of us. We are both 6-foot so it was no problem. One seemed to latch on to me, turning round to smile (and stagger) using me more and more as some sort of virtually-sober support for her wavering frame. She looked up at me, She was very cute, but through a mist of Prosecco, told me she last saw you guys at 15, and she was 50, and thus ‘far too old for me’. Being 54, I did not attempt to contradict her. It was during Messages that this harmless, almost amusing, only slightly annoying behaviour turned into bump and grinding on her part into mine. As a happily married man, and in the shadow of these Weinstein-stained days, I managed to pass her gyrating self on to some apparently single chap next to me. My question to you is: why this thing never happened to me once during my single days? I clearly should have gone to your earlier gigs.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. amydwestphal says:

    Hey Martin, congrats! 2 published works? You’re entirely way to good for us now. 😭. How’s the writing going ? Did you decide on a direction for your historical?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey straight back at ya, Amy. Thank you for the congrats – yep, I’m in the big time at last, though £35 down in the process. I’ve been totally absorbed in stalking that bonkers Nazi airplane for my writing (though I have written a Halloween story to be read out to kids at the Newtown Road Cemetery Chapel on the big day). The more I research it, the more amazing the story is. It will make a good niche interest book I think, though copyright of the obligatory photos could be an issue. How are you? Still eating the ice cream? I keep looking for your novel at my local bookstore.

    Like

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