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'80s Synth Icons O.M.D. Still Value Gay Fans

By Pollo Del Mar

“What is amazing for us is the huge percentage of our fans in America who are gay and lesbian,” says Andy McCluskey, lead singer of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. “It’s always been that way for us.”


Well before “If You Leave,” the career-defining contribution to Molly Ringwald’s iconic 1986 movie Pretty in Pink, introduced global audiences to the band and shot O.M.D. into the U.S. Top 5 – and worldwide fame -- McCluskey says LGBT audiences embraced their music. Even more people, he recalls, wrote the trend-setting electronica act off as a group only of interest to gays.


“When English synth bands first arrived in America in the ‘80s, a lot of media and American rockers who were like, ‘What’s this faggot English music?’” shares the singer, who played San Francisco’s legendary Warfield Theatre Mon., Oct. 3.


“We were like, ‘You know what? The ‘faggots’ do love it,’” the Brit says, laughing, “’So fuck you!’”


After the success of “If You Leave,” and as other similar acts exploded in popularity, O.M.D. had the last laugh. Unfortunately, as the decade came to a close, so did that chapter in the group’s history.


“In the mid-‘90s, nothing seemed more out-of-fashion and past its sell-by date than a group perceived as an ‘80s synth band,” McCluskey shares, giving insight into why members called it quits nearly two decades ago.


After doing solo projects and producing for others throughout the ‘90s and early 2000s, McCluskey and primary collaborator Paul Humphreys started to feel the time was ripe for a reunion. According to McCluskey, “the musical landscape was fertile” for O.M.D.’s return.


“As the new millennium dawned, electro music was starting to become fashionable again,” he shares. “A whole new generation had rejected the rock ‘n roll clichés of all the guitars which came back in the ‘90s. Other bands – young bands, a totally different generation – were citing us, using lovely words like ‘iconic’ and ‘seminal’ and ‘influential.’”


In 2007, O.M.D.’s “classic” line-up of McCluskey, Humphreys, Malcolm Holmes and Martin Copper reunited. While he admits the quartet was so rusty they often had to listen to their own records to remember how to play certain things, they were soon on the road, winning rave reviews, and considering a new CD.


“All the European gigs had been brilliantly reviewed, even by journalists for a change!” he points out with a laugh, “We didn’t want to fuck that all up by making a crap album.”


To the group’s pleasure, the resulting History of Modern arrived to impressive reviews in Sept. 2010. O.M.D. has been on the road supporting the set ever since. The original four members are now promoting the release throughout North America. ARIA award-winning Australian act Washington is opening the tour.


O.M.D. was originally slated to play San Francisco Oct. 4, but the group moved its performance date after significant audience outcry. It appears that even many years later, McCluskey and crew still value their LGBT fan base.


“Until tickets went on sale, we had no idea who else was in town that night – Erasure,” McCluskey says with a chuckle. An outpouring of emails from frustrated fans, most LGBT, led to O.M.D.’s decision to not go head-to-head with their ‘80s synth-pop compatriots.


“We specifically moved our dates because, let’s face it, there are going to be an awful lot of gay people going to see Vince [Clarke] and Andy [Bell],” says McCluskey, “We didn’t want to lose half of our audience!”


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