Messages is the title of a song by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark written by group members Humphreys/McCluskey. As a single it became the group's first hit in May 1980.
The song first appeared on the group's eponymous debut album (side two, track one) although a version had also been recorded for their debut Peel session in August 1979 (first broadcast 03 September 1979). The song would also have featured in their live shows when supporting Gary Numan in 1979 and for their first headlining tour to promote the album. A brand new version, premiered live on The Old Grey Whistle Test on 15 April 1980, produced by Mike Howlett was recorded for a single release in May 1980. The new version has basically the same structure and lyrics as the original although with a far more bolder sound thanks to the repetitive opening synth line which continues throughout the track, a crescendo opening leading into a stronger drums and bass line, and a generally 'beefed up' overall sound with a slightly faster tempo. This is the definitive version which has been included on all OMD singles compilation albums and is still performed live.
Lyrics and style
The lyrics to Messages are written from the point of view of a man begrudgingly receiving letters from a former lover. In part he rejects the titular messages them but also does not have the courage to destroy them: "I'd write and tell you them that I'd burned them all but you never sent me your address, and I've kept them anyway". Typically the song does not have a traditional sung chorus but instead carries a catchy synth melody which is extended between the second and third verse.
Single release and sleeve
The single was released on DinDisc in both 7" and 10" formats on 02 May 1980, the latter having a slightly
longer version of Messages than the former, and with an extra track on the B side. The sleeve design was by Peter Saville with two slightly different designs for each format.
The single gained extensive radio play on its release and the group appeared on Top of the Pops for the first time on 08 May 1980 to perform the song when it was still at no.53 although it did not reach the Top 40 until almost two weeks later. It climbed to no.26 the week after resulting in a second TOTP performance on 29 May 1980. The single eventually reached no.13 although could not be performed or shown again on TOTP due to a BBC strike which kept the show off the air for two months.
7" single DIN 15
A. Messages (4:01)
B. Taking Sides Again (4:20)
10" single DIN 15-10
A. Messages (4:48)
B. Waiting For the Man/Taking Sides Again
- The fundamental difference between the two versions of Messages is that the 10" version has a longer run-out. The song structure and mix remain the same.
- Taking Sides Again is a dub mix/version of Messages
- Waiting For The Man is a cover version of the 1967 Velvet Underground song 'I'm Waiting For the Man' written by Lou Reed.
- An initial pressing featured the original album version of Messages instead of the re-recorded version. Such discs were however quickly withdrawn and remain a rarity. 
- Due to this change, initial pressings of the 10" single with the new and longer version of Messages mistakenly credit the production to Chester Valentino and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark whereas it was actually produced by Mike Howlett. A further issue correctly credits Mike Howlett as producer. 
A promo video was made for the single. It features the four-man line up of McCluskey, Humphreys, Holmes and Douglas who also performed the song on Top of the Pops in May and live on The Old Grey Whistle Test in April. (see below)
Curiously, in the video Paul Humphreys plays a left-handed bass guitar.