80's synth-pop legends OMD reveal Edinburgh Military Tattoo inspired landmark album, Architecture and Morality
Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark are heading to Edinburgh for the first time in decades and there's no disguising Andy McCluskey's delight. The city has a special place in his heart and not just because it influenced OMD's most iconic album.
Let us know what you think and join the conversation at the bottom of this article
McCluskey and OMD co-founder Paul Humphreys celebrate the 40th anniversary of the release of Architecture and Morality, at the Usher Hall on November, 2, and it's appropriate that performance should take place in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle, home to the inspiration for what was their third studio album.
The 62-year-old explains, "I have a soft spot for Edinburgh. My dad is from Glasgow and from when I was six we'd go on family holidays to Scotland. We'd drive around the country. Glasgow was always the sad place because my dad would go, 'Oh, there's a great chippy around the corner... Oh, they've knocked it down.' 'Oh, that's where my mum used to live... Oh, they've knocked it down.'
"Edinburgh was where the whole family was happy; it was beautiful and there were no sad family memories for my father."
McCluskey's mum, who loved the Edinburgh International Tattoo, made sure the family also took in the landmark event on those trips to the Capital, little realising the impact it would have on her son.
The singer reveals, "The architecture in Edinburgh is amazing and what makes that quite relevant is that one of the biggest influences on the sound of Architecture and Morality is the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Think about Maid of Orleans, think of the drums; boom cha cha, boom cha cha, boom cha cha... a single big bass drum followed by rattling snares and, of course, the melody. Well, the melody sounds like a cat being strangled by bagpipes, doesn't it?" he laughs.
"It sounds crazy that a synthesiser pop group was influenced by the beat of the drums and skirl of the bagpipes but that really was it, a lot of the sounds on that album were influenced by the massed drums and the pipes."
Elaborating on how such an unlikely marrying of styles came about, he continues, "We had to do something different every time, that was the raison d'etre of the band. Our first album was basically garage synth-punk; all the songs we’d written between the ages of 16 and 19. The next was very melancholic, probably influenced by Joy Division who we were on Factory with. The third, we just went for the power of religious choirs and the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. The record company executives were probably scratching their heads but, 'Boom!' It worked."
At the Usher Hall, OMD will play that album in full along with other hits and favourites such as Enola Gay, Telegraph, Sailing on the Seven Seas and Pandra's Box.
"We are all excited about this, it has been a long, long time,” admits McCluskey.
“We haven't played Edinburgh for several decades and we'll be playing the whole album but if we only played Architecture and Morality it would be a very short show, about 35 minutes.
"So we will play all nine tracks from the album, which obviously includes the three Top 5 hits, Souvenir, Joan of Arc and Maid of Orleans… it would have included more hit singles if the difficult and pretentious young 22-year-old Andy McCluskey hadn't refused to allow the record company to release any more singles,” he laughs.
"I think my quote to them was, 'You're not prostituting our art by releasing too many singles...' Oh, dear! I could slap myself now, but in proper Eric Morcambe-style, at the Usher Hall we’ll be playing all the songs, but not necessarily in the right order."
The playlist will also include Electricity he promises when he discovers their debut single remains my favourite OMD track.
"Paul and I started making music when he was 15 and I was 16. I had an upside down bass guitar – I'm right-handed but the only one I could afford in the second hand shop was a left-handed one. Paul used to canibalise his aunty's radios and make circuits that produced weird noises, so for about six months we were very ambient.
"Then he bought a little £25 electric piano… that is the sound of Electricity. We were both 16 and it was the first actual song we wrote together."
It would be another three years before the track was released on Factory Records.
McCluskey reflects, "Consciously, we were trying to emulate our heroes, Kraftwerk, unconsciously we had adapted that sound with the 70's glam pop we’d grown up loving. Later, I got to know some of the guys from Kraftewerk and was invited to Wolfgang Fleur's house for dinner. He had a gold disc of their hit, Radioactivity, on the wall. I said, ‘That track was so influential. Really, our Electricity is just an English punk version of Radioactivity.' They all just looked at me and said, in that typically German way 'Ja, we know'."
While Electricity introduced the Merseyside synth-wizards it was Architecture and Morality that cemented their reputation as one of the most influential bands of a generation.
"We were making that when I was just turning 22. It's often considered to the pinnacle of our releases and was, until some 10 years later, the biggest album of OMD's career – the Sugar Tax album in 1991 sold as many.
"But if you ask OMD fans or critics, they will say, 'Architecture and Morality is where they got it all right, they were still being experimental but had this beautiful melodic sugar coating on their experiments.'
"It was an album you could love because it was just so musical. You could love also it because it was a bit weird or because it was melancholic or charming or whatever. It seemed to tick everybody's box but came about completely by accident because our mentality was to keep changing our sound.”
OMD, Usher Hall, November 2