OMD: “Souvenir” (1981)

The first of several keepsakes from the band’s most memorable album.

Kronomyth 2.8: Je me souviens.

I remember when this song came out. It was the first example of romantic, electronic dream pop I could recall, like Brian Eno meets Ultravox (which, of course, he did several years earlier). Pop music is a continuum, and you could connect the dots between “Golden Hours” and “I’m Not In Love” and “Souvenir” and “Wonderland” if you wanted to. So Souvenir wasn’t created in a vacuum, but in 1981 it felt that way, as it didn’t sound like anything else, even the earlier OMD albums.

Architecture & Morality was a brilliant departure from the fist two albums in that it tapped into the band’s heretofore untapped romantic appeal. Unfortunately, it ushered in an age of breathy, new romantic nonsense (“So In Love,” “Forever Live and Die”), though not before the band committed commercial suicide with Dazzle Ships. “Souvenir” also featured a pretty cool music video, with Paul Humphreys singing from a balcony, Andy McCluskey driving a red sportscar and nobody (mercifully) dancing.

The single was originally released in a 7-inch and a (then stylish) 10-inch version, the latter featuring a longer version called Extended Souvenir. It’s not an extended remix, but rather extends the pleasure of “Souvenir” for an extra minute (thank you). The flip side included two (!) tracks: an updated version of “Motion & Heart” that adds a bit more sonic detail to the original, and the breathy, dreamy Sacred Heart. The fact that songs like “Sacred Heart” and “Navigation” didn’t make the original cut for Architecture & Morality underscores what a creative period this was for the band.

For my money, “Souvenir” and “Joan of Arc/Maid of Orleans” were two (or three) of the best songs released in 1981. OMD never equalled them, so maybe it was cosmic serendipity. Whatever the cause, they’re some of my most-cherished souvenirs over a lifetime of listening.

Original 7-inch single version

A1. Souvenir (Paul Humphreys/Martin Cooper) (3:37)
B1. Motion & Heart (Amazon Version) (Andy McCluskey/Paul Humphreys) (3:07)
B2. Sacred Heart (Andy McCluskey/Paul Humphreys) (3:28)

10-inch single version
A1. Extended Souvenir (Paul Humphreys/Martin Cooper)
B1. Motion & Heart (Amazon Version) (Andy McCluskey/Paul Humphreys)
B2. Sacred Heart (Andy McCluskey/Paul Humphreys)

US 7-inch single version
A1. Souvenir (Paul Humphreys/Martin Cooper) (3:00)
B1. The New Stone Age (Andy McCluskey) (3:20)

The Players

Produced by Mike Howlett (A1) or OMD (B1/B2).

The Plastic

Released on 7-inch and 10-inch single on August 4, 1981 in the UK and Australia (Dindisc, DIN 24/-10), Canada (Dindisc, VS/VSX 1140), France (Dindisc, 103 520), Germany (Virgin, 103 520), Italy (Dindisc, VIN 45043), the Netherlands (Virgin, 103 558), Portugal (Dindisc, 504005) and Spain (Dindisc, B 103 520) with regional picture sleeve; reached #3 on the UK charts. Also released on 7-inch single in March 1982 in the US (Epic, 14-02766).

2 thoughts on “OMD: “Souvenir” (1981)

  1. I’m 100% in agreement with you on this one. I was 20 when this was released and from the simple opening synth chords to the spacious and lonely mix, I was hopelessly crushed by it’s sheer beauty. It still guts me whenever I hear it some 39 years later…

  2. I should mention that the reserved music video you mention was directed by their friend and designer Peter Saville. The man responsible for their sleeves. That was his Karmann-Ghia as well. This was a stunning single that I could not have been less prepared for following the gothic industria of “Organisation.” I recall hearing the then so new import 10″ version on college radio in 1981 that I had no idea that it had been released! It was an example of the most wistful and heartbreaking electronic pop I’d ever heard. Then the percussion break on the middle eight was as breathtaking as the airy choral loops in the intro. A few weeks later, i leapt at the import LP of “Architecture + Morality” where’s it’s remained one of the many classic 1981 albums that have become my bedrock.

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