February 27, 2018

20,000 vinyl LPs 128: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) ~ Dazzle Ships

Today, February 27, is the birthday of Paul Humphreys, one of the founders of the electronic New Wave group, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD). For this event I've chosen one of my favorite albums by OMD, Dazzle Ships (1983).     

Although I've known the title and cover art (designed by Peter Saville) reference a painting by Vorticist artist Edward Wadsworth, which painting I didn't know. I was recently informed by Lon Clark the painting, titled Dazzle-ships in Drydock at Liverpool, was based in turn on dazzle camouflage (link below). Dazzle-ships in Drydock, is in the collection of the National Art Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, Canada.  

What a mind-blower that was! Dazzle camouflage, also known as razzle dazzle (in the U.S.) or dazzle painting, was a family of ship camouflage used extensively in World War I, and to a lesser extent in World War II and afterwards. Credited to the British marine artist Norman Wilkinson, though with a it consisted of complex patterns of geometric shapes in contrasting colours, interrupting and intersecting each other (link below).       

The album cover

The music is divided into "time zones"; this is reflected in the physical graphic design of the gatefold, die-cut album cover in the British issue (this recording) but not the US pressing. There are die-cuts, holes, punched into the appropriate locations on the map of the world on the interior of the gatefold album.     

The record sleeve has different color configurations on each side so when inserted one way, the time zones are indicated in orange; when inserted the other way, the time zones are indicated in yellow.      

The music

Dazzle Ships is the fourth album by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD), released in 1983. The title and cover art (designed by Peter Saville) allude to a painting by Vorticist artist Edward Wadsworth based on dazzle camouflage, titled Dazzle-ships in Drydock at Liverpool.       

Dazzle Ships had six conventional pop songs, up-tempo numbers and ballads. Two of them, The Romance of the Telescope and Of All the Things We've Made were remixed versions of songs previously issued on B-sides to earlier singles (on the Joan of Arc single, The Romance of the Telescope was described as "unfinished"). Radio Waves, not to be confused with the Roger Waters song by the same name, was a new version of a song from McCluskey and The Id, the pre-OMD band Paul Humphreys played in. Two singles were released from the album, Genetic Engineering and Telegraph, which achieved moderate chart success in the United Kingdom and on American rock and college radio. Both were also released as 7" vinyl picture discs.  

My favorite song on the album was not one of the "hits", of course. It is Silent Running, not to be confused with the film nor the song by Mike and the Mechanics. Running is very short but very beautiful (YouTube link below).    

A terrific dance song is the energetic, Telegraph. It starts quietly and tinkly then bursts into a fast as a speeding train tempo.

Of All the Things We've Made is a great song to be danced to fast or slow depending on who you're with and how you're feeling.       

The album was released on Virgin Records, however, to maintain the image of being signed to an "indie" label, the record purported that the album was released by the fictitious "Telegraph" label.   

vinyl LP label, side 1
photo by Styrous®

Dazzle Ships was the follow-up release to the band's hugely successful Architecture & Morality (1981). OMD, then at their peak of popularity, opted for a major departure in sound on the record, shunning any commercial obligation to duplicate their previous LP. The album is noted for its experimental content, particularly musique concrète sound collages, and the use of shortwave radio recordings to explore Cold War and Eastern Bloc themes.    

It's these typewriter, experimental, shortwave radio signals, etc., sounds that make this album so interesting on so many levels. McCluskey has said, "We wanted to be ABBA and Stockhausen. The machinery, bones and humanity were juxtaposed." They did an excellent job on that score!  

The Radio Prague track is the actual interval signal of the Czechoslovak Radio foreign service, including the time signal and station ID spoken in Czech. Time Zones is a montage of various speaking clocks from around the world. Neither Radio Prague nor Time Zones carry any writing credit at all, with OMD being credited only for arranging the tracks. The tracks This Is Helena, ABC Auto-Industry and International also include parts of some broadcasts recorded off-air (a presenter introducing herself, economic bulletin and news, respectively). The track Genetic Engineering is an homage to Kraftwerk, with the vocal arrangement drawing heavily on the structure employed on their track Computer World from the album of the same.


Most of the reviews of the time were unfavorable, however, Maxim Jakubowski acknowledged that a few of the tracks "recapture the melancholy brilliance of the past". More forgiving was the Melody Maker article by Paul Colbert, who wrote that "as an album from start to finish it's a challenge and a reward". Reviewer Johnny Black in Smash Hits hailed the new musical direction saying, "the songs are waiting to be found and are as melodic, passionate and vital as ever". Right on!

The record peaked at #5 on the UK Albums Chart and remained in the top 20 for six weeks (rising from #19 to #16 in its second-to-last week), and achieved sales of 300,000 copies. It was deemed a flop in comparison to multi-million selling predecessor Architecture & Morality (1981), which prompted OMD to move in a more conservative musical direction on future releases. This is a shame as the experiments in this album indicate that there might have been exciting an innovative work to come.    

Musician and music journalist Bob Stanley commented on its limited impact: "[It] contained no obvious hits and soundtracked the cold war at its coldest... Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark's Dazzle Ships came to be viewed as a heroic failure – the ultimate commercial suicide."

The LP has garnered positive retrospective appraisals from publications such as Record Collector, The A.V. Club, Q and The Quietus, among others. John Bergstrom of PopMatters said the album "is rightly considered a lost classic". Pitchfork journalist Tom Ewing wrote: "Luckily, you don't need a contrarian streak to love it... history has done its own remix job on Dazzle Ships, and the result is a richer, more unified album than anyone in 1983 could have imagined." Ned Raggett in AllMusic said the record "beats Kraftwerk at their own game", and described it as "dazzling indeed"; he and colleague David Jeffries hailed the album as a "masterpiece"—an opinion echoed by numerous critics. DIY writer Gareth Ware said: "Like a strange piece of modernist architecture, it's a collection of awkward, jagged polygons which come together to form a cohesive mass at the last possible moment... [Dazzle Ships] demands attention."        

It's important to keep your eye on the target but like a Vorticist painting, Dazzle ships made everyone miss their mark!    


Side 1:

A1 - Radio Prague, Arranged By – OMD* - 1:18

A2 - Genetic Engineering - 3:42

A3 - ABC Auto-Industry - 2:06

A4 - Telegraph    - 2:57

A5 - This Is Helena, Vocals [Additional] – Maureen Humphreys- 1:58

A6 - International - 4:26

Side 2:

B1 - Dazzle Ships (Parts II III & VII) - 2:21

B2 - The Romance Of The Telescope 3:26

B3 - Silent Running - 3:33

B4 - Radio Waves, Written-By – Floyd*- 3:44

B5 - Time Zones, Arranged By – OMD*Recorded By – Andy Dunkley, Dirk Hohmeyer, Jean Michel Reusser*, Keith Nixon, Michael Stark (2), Paul Ward (4), Sue Sawyer, Tony Lawrence (3)- 1:49

B6 - Of All The Things We've Made - 3:23

Companies, etc.

    Phonographic Copyright (p) – Virgin Records Ltd.
    Copyright (c) – Virgin Records Ltd.
    Published By – Virgin Music (Publishers) Ltd.
    Recorded At – The Gramophone Suite
    Recorded At – Gallery Studios
    Recorded At – Mayfair Studios
    Mixed At – The Manor
    Mastered At – Master Room


    Design – B. Wickens*, K. Kennedy*, M. Garrett*, P. Saville*, P. Pennington*
    Engineer – Brian Tench, Ian Little, Keith Richard Nixon*, OMD*
    Management – Gordian Troeller
    Management [Assisted By] – Ines Troeller, Steve Baker (8), Susan Pippet
    Mastered By – Arun Chakraverty
    Performer – G. A. McCluskey*, M. A. Holmes*, M. H. Cooper*, P. D. Humphreys*
    Producer – OMD*, Rhett Davies
    Written-By – OMD* (tracks: A2 to B3, B6)


Recorded at The Gramophone Suite, Gallery Studio, Mayfair Studio.
Mixed at The Manor Studios.
Mastered at The Master Room.

"Dazzle Ships" title suggested by Peter Saville after a painting by Edward Wadsworth.

℗ 1983 Virgin Records Limited
© 1983 Virgin Records Limited
Except "The Romance Of The Telescope" & "Of All The Things We've Made" ℗ 1981 Virgin Records Limited

Comes in a die-cut gatefold sleeve with pink and yellow inner sleeve.
Barcode and Other Identifiers

    Matrix / Runout (Side 1): V-2261-A1
    Matrix / Runout (Side 2): V-2261-B1
OMD* ‎– Dazzle Ships
Label: Virgin ‎– V 2261, Telegraph (2) ‎– V 2261
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album, Gatefold
Country: UK
Released: 04 Mar 1983
Genre: Electronic
Style: Synth-pop, Experimental

Viewfinder links:     
YouTube links:     
OMD ~ Dazzle ships
             Silent Running
             Of All the Things We've Made   
             Radio Waves   
             This Is Helena    
             Time Zones      
             Telegraph (Live at Royal Albert Hall 2016)      
             Genetic Engineering [Live at the Museum of Liverpool]

Happy birthday, Paul! 

Styrous® ~ Tuesday, February 27, 2018  


Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) articles/mentions

Dazzle Ships    
Just Can't Get Enough 12" single     
Master & Servant 12" single         
Dazzle ships, Vorticist art & BLAST       
Depeche Mode ~ Master & Servant      


Dazzle ships, Vorticist art & BLAST

this is a continuation of the OMD, Dazzle Ships album
 (link below)


SS West Mahomet in dazzle camouflage - 1918

Dazzle camouflage, also known as razzle dazzle (in the U.S.) or dazzle painting, was a family of ship camouflage used extensively in World War I, and to a lesser extent in World War II and afterwards. Credited to the British marine artist Norman Wilkinson, it consisted of complex patterns of geometric shapes in contrasting colours, interrupting and intersecting each other.    

The 1919 painting, Dazzle-ships in Drydock at Liverpool, by Edward Wadsworth was the inspriation for the album, Dazzle Ships, by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD), released in 1983 (link below).    

In 1914, an embryologist named John Graham Kerr approached Winston Churchill and proposed a new way to camouflage Britain’s ships. Taking his inspiration from animals like the zebra and giraffe, he suggested that instead of trying to conceal their ships, they make them so glaringly conspicuous that it would be nearly impossible to target them.    

HMS Nairana (1917)

Unlike other forms of camouflage, the intention of dazzle is not to conceal but to make it difficult to estimate a target's range, speed, and heading. Wilkinson explained in 1919 that he had intended dazzle primarily to mislead the enemy about a ship's course and so to take up a poor firing position.

Front view of Siboney - May 1918

The trick was in the paint, which formed optical illusions along the hulls of the ships. The goal was to make it so disjointed, so visually confusing, that rangefinders wouldn’t be able to get a fix on the ship’s location, size, and speed. The rangefinders used to pinpoint enemy ships at the time worked by creating two half-images of a target; when the operator maneuvered the half-images into a single, unbroken image, he could calculate the ship’s distance, allowing them to calibrate the guns for an accurate shot.

painting by Norman Wilkinson of a moonlit convoy 
wearing Dazzle camouflage, 1918

But if you looked at a ship with dazzle camouflage, the two half-images still ended up looking like a mismatch, even when they were perfectly aligned. With their patterns of zigzags, spirals, and complex geometric shapes, the ships didn’t look like ships anymore; all the distinguishing features normally used to identify a ship’s orientation—mainly the stern and the bow—were lost in the illusion.

HMS Argus displaying a coat of dazzle camouflage - 1918

The Admiralty made it a point to use a different paint scheme on every single ship so the enemy couldn’t learn to use the patterns to identify specific classes of ship. As a result, it was hard to tell what worked and what didn’t. There was no standard; one ship could be painted bright blue with red spirals, and another might be painted with intersecting black and white bars. If one of those went down, it could have been because of the colors, or the pattern, or just because the enemy got lucky. There were too many factors involved to fairly evaluate it.

Every ship was given a different pattern. The Admiralty called in a creative army of artists, sculptors, and designers to create each design. While some were just crazy jumbles of lines and shapes, others were full-on optical illusions, creating such effects as making the center of the ship appear higher than either side. 

Dazzle has been compared to the contemporary Vorticist art that was partly inspired by Cubism. Though the style grew out of Cubism, it is more closely related to Futurism in its embrace of dynamism, the machine age and all things modern (cf. Cubo-Futurism). However, Vorticism diverged from Futurism in the way it tried to capture movement in an image. In a Vorticist painting modern life is shown as an array of bold lines and harsh colours drawing the viewer's eye into the centre of the canvas.   

 The Mud Bath, 1914 
Oil on canvas by David Bomberg.

The name Vorticism was given to the movement by Ezra Pound in 1913, although Wyndham Lewis, usually seen as the central figure in the movement, had been producing paintings in the same style for a year or so previously.    

 Workshop painting by Wyndham Lewis, c.1914

The movement was announced in 1914 in the first issue of BLAST, which contained its manifesto and the movement's rejection of landscape and nudes in favour of a geometric style tending towards abstraction. It became the literary magazine of that art movement in Britain but only two editions were published: the first on July 2, 1914 (dated 20 June 1914). The first edition contained many illustrations in the Vorticist style by Jacob Epstein, Lewis and others.     

Italian futurist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti gave a series of lectures at the Lyceum Club, in London in 1910, aimed at galvanizing support across Europe for the new Italian avant-garde. In his presentation  he addressed his audience as "victims of .... traditionalism and its medieval trappings," which electrified the assembled avant-garde. Within two years, an exhibition of futurist art at the Sackville Gallery,  in  London, brought futurism squarely into the popular imagination, and the press began to use the term to refer to any forward-looking trends in modern art.     

The second (and last) edition of BLAST, by Wyndham Lewis and friends, included an article by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska; it was written and submitted from the trenches of WWI.               

BLAST second edtision - July 1915

Dazzle camouflage ships

Depiction of how Norman Wilkinson intended dazzle camouflage to cause the enemy to take up poor firing positions.      

Eyepiece image of a warship in a naval rangefinder, image halves not yet adjusted for range. The target's masts are especially useful for rangefinding, so Kerr proposed disrupting these with white bands.                     

Claimed effectiveness: Artist's conception of a U-boat commander's periscope view of a merchant ship in dazzle camouflage (left) and the same ship uncamouflaged (right), Encyclopædia Britannica, 1922. The conspicuous markings obscure the ship's heading.        

dazzle camouflage (left), uncamouflaged (right) 
  December 31, 1921 

 naval coincidence rangefinder, c. 1930 
Polish destroyer ORP Wicher (sunk September 3, 1939) 

HMT Olympic, sister ship of RMS Titanic, in dazzle camouflage while in service as a World War I troopship, from September 1915.               

RMS Olympic in dazzle camouflage during WWI

RMS Olympic in dazzle camouflage front view

Diagram of the camouflage pattern of the S.S. Alban produced for the U.S. Navy by Thomas Hart Benton, 1918.        

 camouflage pattern diagram 
by Thomas Hart Benton - 1918 

American ships in dazzle camouflage 
painting by Burnell Poole - 1918

HMS President, painted by Tobias Rehberger in 2014 to commemorate the use of dazzle in World War I.    13 February 2015.      

HMS President painted by Tobias Rehberger in 2014


Viewfinder link:     
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) ~ Dazzle Ships       
Net links:     
KnowledgeNuts ~ The Ludicrous Dazzle Camouflage Of Britain  
Merseyside Maritime Museum ~ Dazzle ship     
Public Domain Review ~ Dazzle Ships
Huckberry ~ Razzle Dazzle Camouflage       
YouTube links:     
Dazzle Painting
James May's 20th Century (BBC) ~ Dazzle Camouflage     
Naval Camouflage of WW1 and WW2 (Razzle Dazzle)       
Dazzle Camouflage: Hiding in Plain Sight Exhibition       

My thanks to Lon for inspiring this blog. 

Styrous® ~ Tuesday, February 27, 2018  

Giuseppe Verdi articles/mentions

Hearst Greek Theater performances   
Norma ~ Maria Callas debut @ the Met   
Leontyne Price ~ the ultimate Aida  
Renata Tebaldi is Aida     

Portrait by Giacomo Brogi

André Previn articles/mentions

Leontyne Price ~ the ultimate Aida      
Dionne Warwick ~ Greatest Motion Picture Hits  

André Previn - 1973     
photo by Bert Verhoeff        

Richard Strauss articles/mentions

Leontyne Price ~ the ultimate Aida       
Gunther Schuller & Third Stream jazz   
Portrait by Max Liebermann

Antonietta Stella articles/mentions

Antonietta Stella (March 15, 1929, Perugia, Italy as Maria Antonietta Stella) is an Italian operatic soprano, one of the finest Italian spinto sopranos of the 1950s and 1960s, particularly associated with Verdi and Puccini roles.      

Viewfinder links:   
Leontyne Price ~      
          A Christmas Offering    
          the ultimate Aida     

Antonietta Stella - 1960's 
photographer unknown    

February 21, 2018

Visions of Red @ the Gray Loft Gallery


photos of Seeing Red



Dean Santomieri ~ Photia

Jo Babcock - Chippewas Motel

Susan Scott - Burning Earth 3

Diane Kaye - Cell Division

Diane Kaye - Raining on Bottles

JP Terlizzi - Nazzareno

JP Terlizzi - wesst 2nd Steet 

Krista Kahl - Ode To Joan of Arc

Karyn Yandow - Muir Woods #1

Caren Alpert - Terra Cibus no 36

Lisa Toby Goodman - 7 November 2014

Susan West - Burning Bush

Styrous® - Dreams

Marna G. Clarke - Red Towel

Mike Kirschner - Out for a Walk

Judi Iranyi - School Yard

Michael Teresko - Drive in

Troy Paiva - Red as Coal 

Stephen Albair - How Dare You Not Be Me

Yoav Friedlander - Somewhere Between Rochester & NYC

J. M. Golding - The land remembers, the land heals

Richelle Semenza - Wing

Lesley Louden - Mountain ESS series #5

Ernie Luppi - Fear, San Jose, CA

Tamara Porras - untitled [a patriot]

Sarah Christianson - Flaring near the Blue Buttes

Eben Ostby - Naustvik

Jeffrey Abrahams - Red Hot Luck

Sherry Karver - Do Not Enter

Jon Wessel - I Stand on Their Shoulders

Pete Rosos - Untitled #3

Neo Serafimidis - Blood Fury

George Tomberlin - Red Spot

Jeanne Hauser - Women's March DC

Robin Apple - Splash 1

Jessica Hayes - DACA

Kevin B. Jones - Si Se Puede

dorie meister - jewelry

Jenny Sampson - Onion, Small Red

Sas Colby - Nude Running

Stephanie Williamson - Candy Box

Charlotte Niel - Lips for You

Rhianna Gallagher - Falling Crown

SheSaidRed - 171219_03

Anita White - Absent #2

Yelena Zhavoronkova - Memories in Red

Seeing Red

a photography exhibitition celebrating the color red

juried by Ann M. Jastrab 

February 9 – March 9, 2018
2nd Friday Jingletown Opening Reception

February 9, 6 – 9 pm
2nd Friday Jingletown Closing Reception

March 9, 6 – 9 pm
Gallery Hours: 
Saturdays 1:00 to 5:00 and by appointment

Gray Loft Gallery Address:   
2889 Ford Street, third floor, 
Oakland, CA 94601

Viewfinder links:         
Seeing Red articles  
Jeffrey Abrahams       
Jo Babcock       
Lisa Toby Goodman       
Marsha Guggenheim       
Judi Iranyi            
Dorie Meister       
Eben Ostby            
Jenny Sampson             
Dean Santomieri     
Susan Scott       
Richelle Semenza         
Jon Wessel     
Stephanie Williamson        
Karyn Yandow           
Net link:         
Gray Loft Gallery  

Styrous® ~ Tuesday, February 20, 2018