George Andrew “Andy” McCluskey (born in Heswall, Cheshire) is an English musician, songwriter and record producer who is best known as the singer, bass guitarist and co-founder of synthpop band Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD). Within OMD, McCluskey is noted for his baritone voice, manic onstage dancing, multi-instrumentation, and unconventional lyrical subjects.
McCluskey also founded girl group Atomic Kitten, for whom he served as a principal songwriter, and has collaborated with various popular acts. A pioneer of electronic music in the United Kingdom, McCluskey is an Ivor Novello Award-nominated songwriter whose work has topped charts in the UK and internationally.
McCluskey met Paul Humphreys at Great Meols Primary School, in Elwyn Road, and played with him in several bands, including Hitlerz Underpantz, VCL XI and the Id. McCluskey then attended Calday Grange Grammar School in West Kirby. McCluskey briefly joined Dalek I Love You as their lead singer, but left because he wanted to sing his own songs. McCluskey teamed up with Humphreys again to form OMD in 1978, achieving global success.
Humphreys and the rest of the band split with McCluskey in 1989, with McCluskey retaining the OMD name: he disbanded the group in 1996. McCluskey single-handedly wrote the OMD hits “Enola Gay”, “Joan of Arc” and “Maid of Orleans”, and co-wrote the successful singles “Locomotion”, “Talking Loud and Clear”, “If You Leave” and “Sailing on the Seven Seas”.
McCluskey developed a popular and distinctive onstage dance routine, dubbed by the BBC’s Stuart Maconie as the “Trainee Teacher Dance”. Rock group ZZ Top, who shared a studio with OMD on a 1980 edition of BBC2 show The Old Grey Whistle Test, adopted the routine as part of their live set (and also played OMD’s self-titled debut album over the PA prior to concerts). Maconie wrote that the “jerky, leg-snapping” dance became “the dance-floor routine of choice” for teaching students in the early-to-mid 1980s. Rolling Stone observed “the infectious manic energy of [OMD] frontman Andy McCluskey, a walking encyclopedia of New Wave dance moves”. McCluskey himself said: “I find that it becomes part of the show. It’s got to a point where I am now in a shamanistic shaking ritual. I just get physically involved.”
In live shows, McCluskey often plays bass guitar and occasionally, keyboard instruments and guitar. He is right-handed, but originally learned to play bass guitar on a left-handed model. As a result, he plays with the strings “upside down” (i.e., with the lowest-pitched string on the bottom and the highest-pitched one on top), counter to normal practice.
McCluskey and Humphreys reformed OMD for a performance on German TV in June 2005, with the promise of more gigs to follow. 2007 saw the first tour of the reformed OMD, including Martin Cooper and Malcolm Holmes, commemorating the twenty-sixth anniversary of the release of their seminal album Architecture & Morality. The album itself was remastered and re-released to coincide.
The band released a CD and DVD of their Hammersmith Apollo (London) live gig from the 2007 reunion tour in the spring of 2008 before undertaking a short tour to celebrate thirty years as a band in the autumn of 2008, concluding at London’s historic Roundhouse venue on 7 October 2008. A compilation of their singles and videos, Messages: Greatest Hits, was released to coincide with the tour. On 20 September 2010 Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark released their 11th studio album History of Modern, their first in 14 years.
Atomic Kitten and the Genie Queen
In 1998, McCluskey founded the UK pop group Atomic Kitten. Their song “Whole Again”, co-written by McCluskey, was his first UK No.1, and he and his fellow songwriters were nominated for the Ivor Novello Award for excellence in songwriting. McCluskey was also a writer of the Atomic Kitten hits “Right Now”, “See Ya” and “Cradle”. He parted ways with the group during the recording of their second album, Feels So Good (2002).
McCluskey subsequently formed the White Noise records and publishing label where he worked with Liverpool girl group, the Genie Queen. He also bought a recording studio, the Motor Museum, in Liverpool.
McCluskey has written with, and provided session musicianship for, various artists. Some of his collaborators include: Gary Barlow, with whom McCluskey wrote the song “Thrill Me” for the soundtrack of the film Eddie the Eagle (2016); The Lightning Seeds, for whom he played keyboards on their debut album Cloudcuckooland (1990); and Karl Bartos, whose record Esperanto(1993) – released under the Elektric Music moniker – features McCluskey as co-writer on “Show Business” and “Kissing the Machine” (and as lead vocalist on the latter track). Bartos also co-wrote the song “The Moon & the Sun”, which featured on OMD’s Universal (1996). “Kissing the Machine” would later appear in a reworked form on the OMD album English Electric (2013).
McCluskey’s girlfriend in the late 1970s was the Id bandmate Julia Kneale. She wrote the lyrics to “Julia’s Song”, which appeared on OMD’s eponymous debut album (1980).
McCluskey later married a woman from San Diego, California, with whom he had two children. A prominent reason for OMD’s reformation was that his children had never seen him on stage; in 2007 he said: “I was happy to stop working to be with the kids, but strangely enough they have been the most vocal in encouraging me back.”
The couple divorced in 2011, and McCluskey’s wife returned to her native San Diego with their children.