The Garrulous Jay – The Opposite Of A Good Idea

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Despite some of my wilder adolescent dreams I will never be a music producer: I lack both the ear for a tune and the technical know-how. But if I was, and I was asked to produce a record that was guaranteed to fail, here’s how I’d go about it…

First, I would insist that the band adopted a ridiculous name. I would suggest that they call themselves something that was at least nine syllables long: more of a sentence than a ‘nom de tune’.

I would then suggest the album should have such a pretentious title it would struggle to sustain the pensive frowns and middle-distance gazes of even the most committed teenage chin-strokers.

The artwork for the album would be relatively hard to interpret and bear little relation to either the title or the music.

As for the songs, there would need to be at least one instrumental, ideally with a section that sounded like some bloke angrily hammering at a piece of corrugated iron.

For the sake of confusion, two of the songs would have almost identical titles, and if they could feature an obscure middle-aged heroine from another country so much the better.

For good measure I’d introduce an unfashionable musical instrument – the Mellotron for example – and some choral samples to put a few more people off.

And I would round it out with some pretty average lyrics that pretentious types would argue were deliberately ambiguous rather than just a bit pants.

In terms of length, I would keep the album under 38 minutes just to reduce the risk the buying public might think they were getting a bargain in terms of playing time, and I’d make sure one track took up nearly a fifth of this.

If I did all of this I might have produced ‘Architecture & Morality’ by Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark.

Yet Architecture And Morality remains to this day one of my favourite albums. Over 40 years after its release I find songs from the album coming to mind more often than those of almost any other album.

That’s not to say the album ranks as an all-time classic bought by millions whilst benefiting from universal critical acclaim.

But for me herein lies the lesson. By making an album that dared to be different without seeking mass appeal, I think OMD produced something that will stand the test of time: an album that may not appeal to everyone, but which will inspire loyalty and affection among many who discover it.

In business it is easy to speak of “disruption” and “innovation”, but very few translate those words into action. Here Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys have something to teach us, perhaps exemplifying what art can teach commerce.

As Rory Sutherland so often says, the opposite of a good idea can also be a good idea.