Haunted Dancehalls Volume #1 Messages : OMD


Punk was over! It was official. You didn’t need the NME or the Pistols to tell you that the original spirit of punk had been neutralised or co-opted by 1979 and that only ‘hardcore’ refuseniks, professional dissenters and Americans were the only people interested in keeping that snotty, self-defeating delusion alive.

On the mean streets of Grangeway, the punks were dividing into Oi skins, mods and ahem, hippies. Never trust a hippie, unless he sells you weed and trips. The drug of choice became your post-punk music and sub-culture of choice. The speed heads became mods, the weed heads became Pink Floyd fans. Into this mix, the first emergings of ‘synth-pop’ or ‘futurism’ began to make in-roads. Kraftwerk ofcourse were the most obvious symbol of this robotic refusal to bide by the old rock as craft and graft rules.

Pay your dues? Fuck off, I’m a machine you rock n’ roll prick! ‘Kraut’ rock and ‘Space’ Rock had continued its course from the days of Neu and Can right through the 70s and Jamiacan dub also provided a sonic antidote to the verse-chorus-verse-chorus monotony of most ‘pop’ music. Kraftwerk and German music reflected the sheen and sophistication of the post-war Teutonic transformation. It was industrial, modern, sleek and devoid of patronising notions of ‘soul.’ As such it encouraged other white boys in places like Sheffield, Liverpool and Manchester to swap their gee-tars for synthesisers. What is ‘soul?’ indeed. What, for that matter, is music?

OMD were typical of their time; two middle class kids with a preposterously pretentious band name; Orchestral Manuevres In The Dark? Fuck off you Wirral whoppers. Except,with Bowie and Eno in Berlin and the mod revival being exposed for the Quadrophenia karaoke it was, ‘synth pop’ seemed to point to a new age. My cousin, Deb, a former northern soulie, had OMD’s first LP and I’d paly BUnker Soldiers over and over and over again. It was boss! Then three lads, all former punks, turned up at the youthy dressing as they put it ‘square.’ Side parts, Harrington jackets, tigh jeans and pumps.

They then did a kind of mutant rockabilly dance to OMD’s ‘Electricity’ and we gawped. In Liverpool, where a few months earlier, almost everyone had been a mod, now as the seventies turned to the the eighties, a new look began to predominate; the ‘scal.’ Ofcourse there had been a gradual evolution of this look for a few years but by 1979/80 it had become a mass movement, unspoken, undocumented, unresponsive to the demands of ‘youth culture.’ The local scousers adopted this look as we wools were still walking around in crombies and two tone suits. It wouldn’t take long before we swapped the DMs for Pods and the boneheads for wedges however, as the entire north west fell under the scally spell. If one track reminds of those days it’s this.

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We were all sat in the Boys Club disco, a ‘wool’ venue where 2Tone had ruled the roost until some neo-scally wool deserters had formed their own corner and danced in jumbo cords and Adidas trabs to ‘Einstein A Go Go’ or ‘Empire State Human.’ Then in walks Ged, a small scouse lad, wearing his ‘balloon’ jeans, decks shoes and wooly jumper. He has a boss wedge and walks over to the DJ, who begins playing ‘Messages’ to which he does the gayest, weirdest dance, a kind of slow version of the twist, and we all laugh.

Yet, it is Ged who walks out of the door with the birds and so a lesson is learned. If it’s not about the music, it’s certainly about the sex. OMD soon went the way of other ‘synth-pop’ and ‘English Invasion New Romantic bands, selling out to the yanks and stadium tours but stil for a few years, they soundtracked the ‘new era.’

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