Souvenir :: OMD
from the album, Architecture & Morality
“It’s my direction.
It’s my proposal.
It’s so hard.
It’s leading me astray.”
A Little History:
Souvenir is a song written by Paul Humphreys and Martin Cooper of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) and released as the first single from their 1981 album, Architecture & Morality. It is sung by Humphreys, who ordinarily functioned as keyboard player and backing vocalist. The track has minimal lyrical content and is characterized by slowed-down choir sounds offset by pulsing major key piano chords. Its synthesizer hook[ substitutes for a vocal chorus, as with other OMD compositions.
Souvenir became a major international hit for the band. Peaking at # 3 on the UK Singles Chart, it remains the group’s highest-charting single in their home country, along with 1991’s Sailing on the Seven Seas. The song also reached # 6 in Canada and the Top 10 in several European territories, including topping the charts in France, Spain and Portugal.
Having gained little mainstream airplay in recent years, Souvenir has been hailed as a forgotten classic within popular music. The makers of the New Musical Express and Uncut, in the 2011 publication 501 Lost Songs, lauded the track as a “classic piece of early ’80s melancholy.” Dave Thompson in AllMusic wrote: “OMD at their most luminescent, ‘Souvenir’ was a permanent memento of the group’s early power.” Humphreys’ vocal also garnered praise, as did the mid-song instrumental break.
A tape consisting of slowed-down loops of a choir tuning up lent by ex-OMD member Dave Hughes had been the initial inspiration for the song.
Keyboard player Paul Humphreys co-wrote the song and provided lead vocals. Frontman and co-founder Andy McCluskey was not a fan of the track. He has said: “I think you can always make a better case for a song you’ve written on your own…But everyone seems to think I hated ‘Souvenir’ just because it was Paul’s song – not so. I genuinely thought it was a bit soppy, and since I hadn’t written it, I found it hard to relate to.”
An extended version of the song (with an additional verse) was released as a 10″ single and included as a bonus on the digitally remastered copies of Architecture & Morality.
The music video (see above) was filmed on the grounds of Stowe House, which is used as Stowe School, in Buckinghamshire, England. It was an early MTV favorite and is among OMD’s more well-known videos.
Andy McCluskey spends the entire video driving around in a classic red, convertible Volkswagen Karmann Ghia, while Paul Humphreys is standing on the Palladian Bridge while singing and leaning against the pillars of the bridge. The music video is included on the video version of The Best of OMD, the bonus DVD of the 2007 reissue of Architecture & Morality and the DVD included in the 2008 Compilation album Messages: Greatest Hits.
A Little Memory:
I press play and it is instantly late Summer in 1987, it is the beach at night, the stretch between Newport and Balboa, it is three girls in a car with the windows rolled down, it is me in the backseat clutching my purse, my eyes closed, letting the ocean air and this song wash over me. The girl behind the wheel had one of those booming, boisterous kind of laughs. It was infectious, as was her whole demeanor. She was the one to always choose dare over truth, the one to throw her shoes in the sand and run across the shore, kicking and screaming as the chilled Pacific Ocean water stung her bare skin. I was infected by it, by her spirit, by her.
Shyness was still my shadow self, and it clung heavy around me, keeping my feelings tucked just underneath my surface. I wanted to laugh loudly, scream and sing that night in the car in the same way I did alone in my room. The next Summer would be different. I would have my own car with music pouring out of the speakers, the window rolled down, seats filled with friends. A year from that Summer I would have conquered some of my shyness, as well, or at least fueled it with cigarettes and alcohol, and a few other substances. But, this song doesn’t bring to mind that Summer, nor that me. No, it calls to mind my last Summer as the shy girl, clutching her purse, sitting in the backseat, mouthing the words while wishing to be someone else.
It is a souvenir though, of a time gone by, a version of a girl gone by, a simpler, and more complicated, time gone by, all at once. All those feelings, as they sing, “they still remain“.