Tag: Berlin (Page 1 of 2)

The Electronic Legacy of EUROPE

Europe is the spiritual home of electronic music, inspiring it not just artistically but forming an important bond with the continent’s classical tradition through the romance of its historical imagery.

Continental Europe is defined as being bordered by the Arctic Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Often considered to be separated from Asia by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas and the waterways of the Turkish Straits, it includes the part of Russia where Moscow and St Petersburg are located.

Mark Reeder was one of the first British music personalities to fully adopt Europe, making West Berlin his home in 1978 and subsequently releasing a number of themed compilation albums such as ‘European’ in 1995 and ‘Assorted (E For Europe)’ in 1999 on his MFS label. His fellow Mancunian and friend Bernard Sumner of NEW ORDER said to The European in 2016: “I feel European, I regard myself as a European… as a musician I’ve always been massively influenced by Europe and its people”.

From Paris to Vienna back to Düsseldorf City, Europe fascinated British musicians who having been open-minded enough to use synthesizers, now embraced many different mindsets, languages, cultures and cuisines, all within a comparatively accessible geographical land mass. Meanwhile, European instrument manufacturers such as PPG, Elka, Crumar, RSF, Jen and Siel found their products in the thick of the action too.

The Electricity Club stands proud of its Eurocentric focus. Esteemed names like Hütter, Schneider, Flür, Bartos, Moroder, Jarre, Vangelis, Plank, Rother, Dinger and Froese have more than highlighted the important debt that is owed by electronic music to Europe.

While the UK may have scored an equalizer with Synth Britannia, it was the Europeans who took that crucial half time lead. So to disengage with the European tradition would be betraying everything that The Electricity Club is all about.

Presented in yearly and then alphabetical order with a restriction of one track per artist moniker, here are The Electricity Club’s favourite twenty electronic tunes that were inspired, either directly or obliquely, by the legacy of Europe…


DAVID BOWIE Warszawa (1977)

‘Warszawa’ was named after the Polish capital city but accurately captured the Cold War tensions in Europe without the need for lyricism. At Hansa Studios where the sessions were being mixed, the watch towers in East Berlin could look into the windows of the building! Tony Visconti’s production only enhanced the collaborative drama between David Bowie’s enigmatic wailing over Brian Eno’s Minimoog and Chamberlain keys. This formed part of an all instrumental suite on the ‘Low’ album’s second side.

Available on the DAVID BOWIE album ‘Low’ via EMI Records

http://www.davidbowie.com


KRAFTWERK Europe Endless (1977)

With KRAFTWERK utilising a customized 32-step Synthanorma Sequenzer and a Vako Orchestron with pre-recorded symphonic string and choir sounds sourced from optical discs, if there was such a thing as a musical European travelogue, then the romantically optimistic beauty of ‘Europe Endless’ was it. This lengthy work influenced the likes of NEW ORDER, OMD and BLANCMANGE who all borrowed different aspects of its aesthetics for ‘Your Silent Face’, ‘Metroland’ and ‘Feel Me’ respectively.

Available on the KRAFTWERK album ‘Trans Europe Express’ via EMI Records

http://www.kraftwerk.com/


THE DURUTTI COLUMN For Belgian Friends (1980)

‘For Belgian Friends’ was written in honour of Factory Benelux founders Michel Duval and the late Annik Honoré. Although not strictly electronic in the purest sense, Martin Hannett’s technologically processed production techniques made Vini Reilly’s dominant piano sound like textured synthetic strings, complimenting his sparing melodic guitar and the crisp percussion of Donald Johnson. This beautiful instrumental was one of Reilly’s best recordings, originally on the compilation ‘A Factory Quartet’.

Available on THE DURUTTI COLUMN album ‘LC’ via Factory Benelux Records

http://www.thedurutticolumn.com/


FATAL CHARM Paris (1980)

Nottingham combo FATAL CHARM supported ULTRAVOX and OMD in 1980. Their excellent first single ‘Paris’ was produced by Midge Ure and could be seen reflecting the electronically flavoured new wave template of the period. Singer Sarah Simmonds’ feisty passion gave a freshly charged sexual ambiguity to the European love story written in the days before the Channel Tunnel. Instrumentalist Paul Arnall said to The Electricity Club: “we were able to use Midge’s Yamaha synth which gave it his sound”.

Available on the FATAL CHARM album ‘Plastic’ via Fatal Charm

http://fatalcharm.co.uk/


IPPU DO German Road (1981)

Did you hear the one about the Japanese band impersonating a German band and doing it rather well? Influenced by the motorik backbeat of NEU! and also heavily borrowing form its guitarist Michael Rother’s solo track ‘Karussell’, IPPU DO’s leader Masami Tsuchiya was something of a multi-cultural sponge, later joining JAPAN for their final ‘Sons Of Pioneers’ tour in 1982. Meanwhile IPPU DO are still best known in the UK for their startlingly original cover version of THE ZOMBIES ‘Time Of The Season’.

Remixed version available on the IPPU DO album ‘Essence: The Best Of’ via Sony Music

http://www.ne.jp/asahi/masami/london/


LANDSCAPE European Man (1980)

Electronic pioneer Richard James Burgess said to The Electricity Club: “I think we all embraced this new direction because of our raw excitement over the new technology…We discussed it in the band and everyone was on board so I started working on the lyrics that became ‘European Man’”. Colin Thurston was the producer assisting in realising this new direction and interestingly, the rear artwork of the first issue featured an early use of the term “electronic dance music”.

Available on LANDSCAPE album ‘From The Tea-Rooms Of Mars…’ via Cherry Red Records

https://twitter.com/Landscape_band


SIMPLE MINDS I Travel (1980)

“Europe has a language problem” sang Jim Kerr on ‘I Travel’, adding “in central Europe men are marching”. Aware of the domestic terrorist threats that were apparent in every city they were visiting on tour, SIMPLE MINDS captured a claustrophobic tension within its futuristic frenzy like a doomy disco take on Moroder. It was a favourite of DJ Rusty Egan at The Blitz Club where its shadier spectre was highly welcomed by its clientele, reflecting their own discontent closer to home.

Available on the SIMPLE MINDS album ‘Empires & Dance’ via Virgin Records

http://www.simpleminds.com


TELEX Eurovision (1980)

TELEX’s manifesto was “Making something really European, different from rock, without guitar.” Having previously visited a ‘Moscow Disko’ and with tongues firmly in cheeks, they entered the 1980 Eurovision Song Contest with a bouncy electropop song that had deliberately banal lyrics about the whole charade itself. Performing to a bemused audience in The Hague with the sole intention of coming last, unfortunately Finland decided otherwise! Who said the Belgians didn’t have a sense of humour?!

Available on the TELEX album ‘Ultimate Best Of’ via EMI Music Belgium

http://www.telex-music.com/


ULTRAVOX New Europeans (1980)

If there was a song that truly represents The Electricity Club’s ethos, then the synth rock fusion of ULTRAVOX’s ‘New Europeans’ is it! Noting that “his modern world revolves around the synthesizer’s song” in lyrics largely written by drummer Warren Cann, it all pointed to an optimistic way forward “full of future thoughts and thrills” that would later be opened up by direct train travel across the channel with freedom of movement to and from the continent for “a European legacy and “a culture for today”.

Available on the ULTRAVOX album ‘Vienna’ via EMI Records

http://www.ultravox.org.uk/


VISAGE Moon Over Moscow (1980)

While in his dual role as DJ at The Blitz Club and VISAGE’s drummer, Rusty Egan had become inspired by the melodic interplay of Japanese trio YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA which had been European influenced: “I liked the album and played it along with TELEX and SPARKS. The sound was an influence on VISAGE. By the time we recorded ‘Moon Over Moscow’, that was to include Russia, Japan, Germany and France in our sound… the drummer was also using the same drum pads as me!”

Available on the VISAGE album ‘Visage’ via Alliance Import

http://rustyegan.net/


ASSOCIATES White Car In Germany (1981)

ASSOCIATES first musical signs of a fascination towards European influenced electronic music came with the funereal pulse of ‘White Car In Germany’. The swirling electronics, cold atmosphere and treated percussion were intended to sound as un-American as possible. Billy MacKenzie’s observational lyric “Aberdeen’s an old place – Düsseldorf’s a cold place – Cold as spies can be” accurately captured post-war tensions under the spectre of the bomb.

Available on the ASSOCIATES album ‘The Very Best Of’ via BMG

https://www.facebook.com/theassociatesofficial/


JOHN FOXX Europe After The Rain (1981)

Foxx admitted he had been “reading too much JG Ballard” and had thawed considerably following ‘Metamatic’. Now spending his spare time exploring beautiful Italian gardens and taking on a more foppish appearance, his new mood was reflected in his music. Moving to a disused factory site in Shoreditch, Foxx set up a recording complex which he named ‘The Garden’ and the first song to emerge was the Linn Drum driven ‘Europe After The Rain’. Foxx had now achieved his system of romance.

Available on the JOHN FOXX album ‘Modern Art: The Best Of’ via Music Club

http://www.metamatic.com/


JAPAN European Son (1981)

Recorded as a JAPAN demo for the 1979 Giorgio Moroder sessions that produced ‘Life In Tokyo’, this sequencer heavy number was rejected by the Italian disco maestro. Left dormant in the vaults of Ariola Hansa, the song was finished off under the supervision of John Punter and later given a single remix by Steve Nye with redone parts by Mick Karn. ‘European Son’ showed David Sylvian’s vocals in transition from the catty aggression of earlier albums to the Ferry-ish croon most now associated with the band.

John Punter version available on JAPAN album ‘The Very Best Of’ via BMG

http://www.nightporter.co.uk/


THE MOBILES Drowning In Berlin (1981)

THE MOBILES’ were from the sleepy shores of Eastbourne; while ‘Drowning In Berlin’ may have come across as a ‘Not The Nine O’Clock News’ New Romantic parody on first listen, its decaying Mittel Europa grandeur was infectious like Hazel O’Connor reinterpreting ‘Vienna’ with The Master of Ceremonies at the Kit Kat Klub. And like ‘Vienna’, ‘Drowning In Berlin’ was inspired by a holiday romance, in this case one that singer Anna Maria had while visiting the divided city.

Available on THE MOBILES album ‘Drowning In Berlin: The Best Of’ via Cherry Red Records

https://www.discogs.com/artist/98916-Mobiles


BERLIN The Metro (1982)

Inspired by acts like ULTRAVOX and KRAFTWERK, Californian band BERLIN with their approach to synthesizers were a far cry from the way they were being used Stateside within rock. And in ‘The Metro’ with its frantic motorik drum machine and Teutonic pulses, songwriter John Crawford aimed to capture the tense filmic romance of Paris despite never having visited the city, a vibrant but detached feeling ably projected by partner and singer Terri Nunn in a similar fashion to FATAL CHARM.

Available on the BERLIN album ‘Best Of’ via Geffen Records

http://www.berlinpage.com/


DEPECHE MODE Oberkorn (1982)

Radio Luxembourg broadcasted pop music to the UK using the most powerful privately owned transmitter in the world. But when DEPECHE MODE played the country in early 1982, they were booked to perform in a small town called Oberkorn. With a glorious ambient instrumental on the B-side of the then soon-to-be-released single ‘The Meaning Of Love’ requiring a title, Martin Gore needed no further inspiration, unconsciously capturing the air of the Grand Duchy’s countryside and oceanic climate.

Available on the DEPECHE MODE boxed set ‘DMBX1’ via Columbia Records

http://www.depechemode.com/


THE MOOD Paris Is One Day Away (1982)

Before the days of the Channel Tunnel, young York based New Romantic trio THE MOOD noted the how long it took by boat and train to get to the French capital. ‘Paris Is One Day Away’ was the hit that got away; reaching No. 42, it secured a slot on ‘Top Of The Pops’. However, it was the 1982 World Cup and a match heading into extra time meant that a hasty edit was made. And it was THE MOOD’s performance as the new and unknown act that ended up on the cutting room floor!

Available on THE MOOD album ‘The Singles Collection’ via Cherry Red Records

http://www.themood.info/


RATIONAL YOUTH Saturdays in Silesia (1982)

After ‘Dancing On The Berlin Wall’, RATIONAL YOUTH mainman Tracy Howe turned his attention towards Poland. “What was it like to be young person behind the Iron Curtain? What did they do on a Saturday night anyway?” he told The Electricity Club, “Did they have clubs to go to? Probably underground ones. They’d probably break down the door. Apart from the fact that there are no ‘navy docks’ in Silesia, this record makes a jolly racket and may well be the first recorded instance of a Roland TR-808.”

Available on the RATIONAL YOUTH album ‘Cold War Night Life’ via EMI Records

https://www.facebook.com/RationalYouth/


IAN ANDERSON Different Germany (1983)

Fascinated by the likes of Thomas Dolby and Gary Numan, JETHRO TULL frontman Ian Anderson went synth in 1983. Assisted by Peter John Vitesse, ‘Different Germany’ embraced both the electronic and progressive sides of Anderson’s career perfectly with a marvellous middle section featuring a bristling keyboard solo. The end result sounded not unsurprisingly like Tull fronting ULTRAVOX; of course, the circle was completed when Midge Ure covered ‘Living In The Past’ in 1985.

Available on the IAN ANDERSON album ‘Walk Into Light’ via EMI Records

http://jethrotull.com/ian-anderson-bio/


THE STRANGLERS European Female (1983)

Born to French parents in Notting Hill, THE STRANGLERS’ bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel was a loyal European, even releasing a 1979 solo album entitled ‘Euroman Cometh’ where “a Europe strong, united and independent is a child of the future”. Taking lead vocals for the beautiful ‘European Female’, it possessed an understated quality with subtle Spanish guitar from Hugh Cornwell alongside Dave Greenfield’s sparkling synths and Jet Black’s electronic percussion to celebrate the allure of continental mystery.

Available on THE STRANGLERS album ‘The Very Best Of’ via EMI Records

http://www.thestranglers.co.uk/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
18th April 2019

COSAQUITOS EN GLOBO Humanum

Although South America isn’t usually the prime source of cream of electronica, there are gems, hidden in the depths of the Latin lands, and Argentina shines through with the example of COSAQUITOS EN GLOBO.

Since their first appearance in 2004, the now duo consisting of Maru Pardo Saguier (vocals) and Sebastian Cordoves (synths/programming) have distinguished themselves with a strong electro base, strengthened by the fact that Cordoves knows his technique to such extent, he actually builds his own synths.

Pardo Saguier’s strong vocals, performed over melodies often being partial to the rockier side of things, certainly add to the recipe for a solid electronic success.

‘Humanum’, the duo’s fourth album is said to hold an “organic and emotional response to an increasingly less empathic world”, and ‘Cruzando el Puente’ opens with an optimistic, airy and very synthy notion, vibrating nonchalantly around the Spanish lyrics. We are definitely dealing with an Argentinian SPECTRA PARIS here.

‘Cristal’ is minimalistically delicious, offering a hopeful approach to an otherwise, gloomy world of today, while the title track ushers symbolic sounds a la early DEPECHE MODE, wrapped up with a dance bow and elevated to gratifying sci-fi levels.

‘Loop of Love’ gathers its prisoners with sublimely ethereal vocals and capable synthscapes, before coming back to the Spanish ‘Buscando Para Encontrar’, which is an electronic ballad full of ambient sounds envisaging a concept of a search, leading into a rather upbeat ‘Raiz’.

The ‘Root’ has fabulously sprouted from the classic synth seeds, fertilised with club notions and lighthearted vocals.

‘Ansiedad’ floatingly continues the journey where a man meets the machine to achieve a “utopic fantasy” of finding the very core of humanity.

‘We Have Enough’, or quite the contrary; the listener can’t have enough of the clear voice and scrumptious synthesised power pop, bearing the resemblance to the highly charged tracks of BERLIN. After all, it’s all ‘About Love’, with cunningly placed Euro Trance elements and almost JAPAN-like vocal execution. Fancy an excellent dark dance tune? Here it is… a plenty!

‘Ver Mas Cerca’ sees closer into the core of human sensibility and the closing ‘Viaje a Traves del Tiempo’ sums up the ‘Journey Through Time’ with a synthy extravaganza of sound and vision, and the vision is of an optimistic future.

It is time this undiscovered gem got unearthed. Argentina has it going on in the synth world, and COSAQUITOS EN GLOBO have it going on in bunches.

‘Humanum’ is deliciously electronic, wonderfully melodic and wholesome. Don’t understand Spanish? It matters not: the music speaks many languages and transcends many meanings. This stuff is good.


‘Humanum’ is available as a download album from https://cosaquitosenglobo.bandcamp.com/album/humanum

http://www.cosaquitosenglobo.com

https://www.facebook.com/cosaquitos/

https://www.instagram.com/cosaquitos/


Text by Monika Izabela Trigwell
4th September 2017

A Beginner’s Guide To MIKE HOWLETT

Mike-HowlettMike Howlett is undoubtedly one of the producers who helped shape the sound of Synth Britannia and Trans-Atlantic post-punk.

As the bassist in Sydney band THE AFFAIR, he relocated to London after the group travelled to England following winning the Hoadley’s Battle of the Sounds competition.

In 1973, he joined progressive rockers GONG who featured guitarist and future SYSTEM 7 co-founder Steve Hillage.

After leaving GONG, Howlett formed STRONTIUM 90 which featured Sting, Stewart Copeland, and Andy Summers who of course, subsequently had success as THE POLICE. His production career began in earnest at Dindisc Records, the Virgin Records subsidiary where his then-girlfriend Carol Wilson was Managing Director. There, he worked with fledgling acts such as THE REVILLOS, MARTHA & THE MUFFINS, MODERN EON and OMD.

While his first Top 20 UK chart entry was with MARTHA & THE MUFFINS, it was his three consecutive Top 15 hits with OMD, including the mighty ‘Enola Gay’, that were to make him an in-demand producer between 1981-1985.

Working with a number of synth friendly acts like BLANCMANGE and CHINA CRISIS, this lucrative period was to include a Grammy Award for ‘DNA’ with A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS in the ‘Best Rock Instrumental Performance’ category. His portfolio was not just restricted to electronic pop, with FISCHER Z, ANY TROUBLE, COMSAT ANGELS, THE ALARM and JOAN ARMATRADING among the artists he also worked with.

Compared with a number of his peers, Howlett’s output was small, but it was highly influential in a short period. Although he moved away from album production, he co-founded the Record Producers Guild in 1987 and launched a record label Mauve in 1993.

Today, he lectures in music technology at several universities throughout the world, having been awarded a PhD in record production in 2009, while he also performs with his psychedelic space funk combo HOUSE OF THANDOY and the occasional reunion of GONG.

Presented in calendar year order and then alphabetically, with a restriction of one song per album project to conceive an imaginary 18 song compilation CD, The Electricity Club looks back at the impressive studio career of Mike Howlett…


MARTHA & THE MUFFINS Echo Beach (1980)

MARTHA & MUFFINS Echo BeachMARTHA & THE MUFFINS were six Canadian art students who confusingly had two members named Martha; Gane and Ladly. Combining the spirit of punk and North American styled new wave, ‘Echo Beach’ was a catchy slice of credible pop that featured sax, flute and organ alongside the more conventionally accepted guitars, bass and drums. Reaching No10 in the UK singles chart, it was Howlett’s first big hit and set him off on his successful production path.

Available on the album ‘Metro Music’ via Virgin Records

http://www.marthaandthemuffins.com/


OMD Messages (1980)

OMD MessagesFor its single release, OMD re-recorded ‘Messages’ from their self-titled debut. Utilising a pulsing ‘Repeat’ function on a Korg Micro-Preset shaped by hand twisting the octave knob, Howlett harnessed a template of basic primary chord structures and one fingered melodies to produce a No13 UK chart hit. As well including Mal Holmes’ separately recorded drums for a cleaner snap, Howlett added several melodic bass guitar lines onto the coda to enhance the warm sound that was distinct from Messrs Numan and Foxx.

Available on the album ‘Messages: OMD Greatest Hits’ via Virgin Records

http://www.omd.uk.com


OMD Stanlow (1980)

OMD OrganisationJust nine months after the release of OMD’s self-titled and self-produced debut, the band entered Ridge Farm and Advision studios with Howlett for the much more cohesive and gothic follow-up ‘Organisation’. The album’s closer was ‘Stanlow’, a brooding 6 minute epic that conveyed the emotion of returning home after a long journey; the sight of that huge, brightly lit oil refinery from the M56 motorway was apt symbolism. The intellectual but cryptic lyrical themes of OMD set them apart from other synth based acts.

Available on the album ‘Organisation’ via Virgin Records

https://www.facebook.com/omdofficial/


THE TEARDROP EXPLODES When I Dream (1980)

THE TEARDROP EXPLODES When I DreamWhile THE TEARDROP EXPLODES were not a synthesizer group, their use of synths often confused some to dub them New Romantics as they straddled the line between psychedelic pop and Synth Britannia. The Howlett produced ‘When I Dream’ released in Summer 1980 launched Julian Cope and Co’s debut album ‘Kilimanjaro’. Dressed with detuned synths and low-end sweeps, it got them closer to the charts but it took a brass section to net that first hit in ‘Reward’.

Available on the album ‘The Greatest Hit’ via Mercury Records

https://www.headheritage.co.uk/


MARTHA LADLY & THE SCENERY CLUB Tasmania (1981)

MARTHA LADLY FinlandiaFollowing designing the cover to MARTHA & THE MUFFINS second album ‘Trance & Dance’, Martha Ladly won a scholarship to study graphic design and left the band. She also began working with Peter Saville. She continued a solo career with her first single ‘Finlandia’ produced by Mike Howlett. While this was akin to Nordic folk, the B-side ‘Tasmania’ was a brooding percussive piece reminiscent of JOY DIVISION with sombre chants from Ladly. Just one more single ‘Light Years From Love’ emerged in 1983.

Originally released as the B-side to the single ‘Finlandia’ via Dindisc Records, currently unavailable

http://womenandtech.com/interview/martha-ladly/


MODERN EON Euthenics (1981)

MODERN EON EuthenicsMike Howlett had effectively become house producer at Dindisc Records and led him to work with most of their artist roster. His production of MODERN EON’s ‘Euthenics’ was a re-recorded version of a single released by indie label Inevitable in 1980. With a sprightly but solemn sound like WAH! HEAT and HAMBI & THE DANCE, the band showed some promise. Led by Alix Plain, this version of ‘Euthenics’ included Tim Lever and Cliff Hewitt who later respectively showed up in DEAD OR ALIVE and APOLLO 440.

Original version available on the boxed set ‘Birth Of A Nation – Inevitable Records: An Independent Liverpool 1979-1986’ via Cherry Red Records

http://www.soulsaw.com/modern-eon/


OMD Souvenir (1981)

OMD SouvenirMike Howlett’s work on ‘Souvenir’ cannot be underestimated, with the nightmare scenario of spinning taped choir loops alongside early synthesizer technology. And all this while dealing with a disillusioned Andy McCluskey, who was feeling left out of a song written by his bandmates Paul Humphreys and Martin Cooper. Even after its recording, ‘Souvenir’ didn’t sound quite right, until Howlett varispeeded to the point of Humphreys almost sounding like Alvin The Chipmunk. The end result? OMD’s biggest UK hit!

Available on the album ‘Architecture & Morality’ via Virgin Records

http://www.mikehowlett.co.uk


THOMPSON TWINS Perfect Game (1981)

THOMPSON TWINS Perfect GameBefore THOMPSON TWINS settled into being the Alex Sadkin produced electropop trio of Tom Bailey, Alannah Currie and Joe Leeway, they were a seven strong combo with a more conventionally driven musical outlook. Previous to that, they were a five-piece art squat collective and Mike Howlett produced their guitar driven third single ‘Perfect Game’. The band later signed to Arista Records and released the more synth friendly breakthrough single ‘In The Name Of Love’ in 1982.

Available on the album ‘A Product Of…’ / ‘Set’ via Edsel Records

http://thompsontwinstombailey.co.uk/


BLANCMANGE I Can’t Explain (1982)

With a blistering opening of Linn Drum and elastic synth bass, ‘I Can’t Explain’ opened BLANCMANGE’s ‘Happy Families’ and set the scene for an impressive debut album. With a sub-Ian Curtis vocal from Neil Arthur, this  wasn’t far off an electronic take of JOY DIVISION’s ‘Interzone’, which was based on the Northern Soul fave ‘Keep On Keeping On’ by NF PORTER. This feeling was enhanced further once David Rhodes’ frantic processed guitar kicked in alongside the bizarre, staccato gospel backing vocals.

Available on the album ‘Happy Families’ via Edsel Records

http://www.blancmange.co.uk/


A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS Space Age Love Song (1982)

A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS Space Age Love SongWith titles ‘like Modern Love Is Automatic’ and ‘Telecommunication’, the futuristic Sci-Fi vibe of A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS came to its zenith with ‘Space Age Love Song’. Howlett’s brilliantly punchy production integrated synths with guitars, which undoubtedly helped this often forgotten Liverpool band gain a foothold in the traditionally synthphobic territory of the USA. But the song was popular in Europe too, as exemplified by MARSHEAUX’s blatant interpolation of its main hook for ‘Dream Of A Disco’!

Available on the album ‘A Flock Of Seagulls’ via Cherry Pop

http://www.mikescore.com/


GANG OF FOUR I Love A Man In A Uniform (1982)

GANG OF FOUR I Love A Man In A UniformA popular cult single from the Leeds combo named after the Chinese Communist faction led by Madam Mao, ‘I Love A Man In A Uniform’ was a fine example of the scratchy post-punk funk that was prevalent with alternative acts such as A CERTAIN RATIO, PIGBAG and BAUHAUS. Exploring the public fascination with the military, it was also perhaps a passing dig at ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN who the year previously had perfected a camouflaged look that their fans were copying.

Available on the album ‘A Brief History Of The 20th Century’ via EMI Music

http://gangoffour.co.uk/


TEARS FOR FEARS Pale Shelter (1982)

TEARS FOR FEARS Pale ShelterWith the title inspired by Henry Moore, Roland Orzabal described ‘Pale Shelter’ as “a kind of a love song, though more referring to one’s parents than to a girl” – the original single version was produced by Howlett and subtitled ‘You Don’t Give Me Love’ but failed to chart. It began with an unsettling, reverse spoken vocal from Orzabal. Much darker and obviously synthetic than the familiar re-recording produced by Ross Cullum and Chris Hughes for the TEARS FOR FEARS debut album ‘The Hurting’.

Available on the deluxe album ‘The Hurting’ via Mercury Records

http://tearsforfears.com/


TV21 All Join Hands (1982)

TV21 All Join HandsNamed after the Gerry Anderson offshoot comic, TV21 primarily used conventional instrumentation, but their Howlett produced single ‘All Join Hands’ featured an OMD styled bass synth sequence and drum machine. Possibly the best known song in the Edinburgh band’s short career, ‘All Join Hands’ was filled with melodic drama, thanks to some classical augmentation by THE CANNIZARRO STRINGS and a fine lead vocal from singer Norman Rodger.

Available on the album ‘Snakes & Ladders – Almost Complete: 1980-82’ via Cherry Red Records

https://www.facebook.com/TV21-63251111019/


CHINA CRISIS Wishful Thinking (1983)

China_Crisis_Wishful_ThinkingWith his OMD success, Mike Howlett was drafted in by Virgin Records to produce what turned out to be the most synth based CHINA CRISIS long player. Utilising Emulator strings and a pizzicato sample derived from plucking an acoustic guitar string close to the bridge, ‘Wishful Thinking’ was a sweetly textured, melodic pop single that deserved its Top 10 chart placing. One fan of the record was STEELY DAN’s Walter Becker who went on to produce the 1985 follow-up ‘Flaunt The Imperfection’.

Available on the album ‘Working With Fire & Steel – Possible Pop Songs Volume 2’ via Virgin Records

https://www.facebook.com/China-Crisis-295592467251068/


A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS Wishing (1983)

A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS WishingWith a percussively clanky backbone and using just black keys for its infectious melody line, ‘Wishing’ was the big home hit that A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS has been waiting for, following their acceptance by the MTV audience across the Atlantic. Although much derided in the UK, it was in the US that A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS made a cultural impact, with send-ups of singer Mike Score’s outlandish hairdo appearing in ‘The Wedding Singer’ and ‘Friends’. Score later moved to America and lost his Scouse accent!

Available on the album ‘Listen’ via Cherry Pop

http://www.afosfanclub.com/


JOHN FOXX Twilight’s Last Gleaming (1983)

JOHN FOXX The Golden SectionWhile Zeus B Held provided his rugged arty pop energy for the majority of ‘The Golden Section’, a gentler hand was required for the more serene closer ‘Twilight’s Last Gleaming’. Bringing in Mike Howlett to fulfil the role, he gave the tune an epic gothic aesthetic that recalled ‘Statues’ from OMD’s ‘Organisation’. The end result had more of a connection to its predecessor ‘The Garden’ thanks to the choir boy vocal of James Risborough and John Foxx’s own forlorn whistling alongside the synthesized dramatics.

Available on the album ‘The Golden Section’ via Edsel Records

http://www.metamatic.com


TIN TIN Hold It (1983)

TIN TIN Hold ItAfter leaving DURAN DURAN prior to the band signing to EMI, Stephen Duffy formed TIN TIN, an electronic oriented project. Their first single ‘Kiss Me’ released in 1982 became a cult dancefloor hit and for its follow-up ‘Hold It’, Mike Howlett was drafted in on production duties. Less immediate than ‘Kiss Me’, ‘Hold It’ nevertheless gained club traction thanks to a remix by Francois Kevorkian. Duffy eventually went solo and it was a Fairlighted remake of ‘Kiss Me’ that got finally got him a hit.

Originally released a single on WEA Records, currently unavailable

http://thelilactime.com/


BERLIN Now It’s My Turn (1984)

Although the two songs produced by Giorgio Moroder grabbed most of the attention on BERLIN’s first album proper, the rest of ‘Love Life’ was produced by Howlett. Having achieved success with A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS, Howlett was a natural choice for the LA based band and their Eurocentric aspirations. Combining electronics with a dash of AOR, BERLIN often sounded like ULTRAVOX fronted by HEART. With a defiantly feisty vocal from Terri Nunn, ‘Now It’s My Turn’ was absorbingly anthemic.

Available on the album ‘Love Life’ via Rubellan Remasters

http://www.berlinpage.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
4th January 2016, updated 3rd May 2020

MAD WORLD BOOK

The book ‘Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s’ is to be formally made available in the UK.

In the book’s foreword by DURAN DURAN’s Nick Rhodes, the flamboyant synth player says: “It was a culture where the predilection was standing out from the crowd rather than fitting in. Artists were musically adventurous, less driven by commerce… While those in their teens and early 20s have a limited musical vocabulary, they remain the key source for change in music”. Concluding in the afterword, MOBY states: “New Wave was its own world. With its own influences, its own codes, its own bailiwick(s), its own aesthetics, its own sonic landscape…”

Launched in North America to great acclaim last April, it discusses many of the artists who formed the British Invasion of the US with the advent of MTV; the Americans referred to these types of acts as New Wave.

While not definitive, ‘Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s’ delves into the spirit, the politics and the heartache behind some of the best songs ever recorded, regardless of genre. The book does bias towards a Stateside viewpoint courtesy of self-confessed Anglophile and Duranie Lori Majewski, but the content is balanced by the critical input of LA based Glaswegian Jonathan Bernstein.

The two met at Spin Magazine during the height of Grunge and found themselves to be kindred spirits as they quietly bonded over Synth Britannia and New Romantics, much to the chagrin of their scruffy, plaid shirted colleagues.

The dynamic between the “sour by nature” and “staunch supporter of the sheer oddball” Scotsman and the “obsessed past the point of sanity” American ensures that ‘Mad World’ celebrates the triumph and innovation of the era while simultaneously pulling no punches.

For example, while accepting their places in the book, Bernstein lobs a few hand grenades in the direction of KAJAGOOGOO and THOMPSON TWINS! The pair’s differing viewpoints on the two phases of OMD are another enjoyable discussion point.

‘Mad World’ is The Electricity Club’s kind of book… it is affectionate and respectful, but also objective and discerning; this more than makes up for previously feeble attempts by other writers to capture the era by combining acts as disparate as SIMPLE MINDS and JASON DONOVAN into a single volume!

daniel millerWhile the Adam ‘n’ Moz laden front cover might indicate otherwise, many of the artists who impacted on the Post-Punk synthesizer boom figure prominently in ‘Mad World’. As well as GARY NUMAN, OMD, DEPECHE MODE, SOFT CELL, ULTRAVOX, NEW ORDER, JOY DIVISION, YAZOO, HEAVEN 17, HOWARD JONES, TEARS FOR FEARS, DURAN DURAN, A-HA, A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS, SIMPLE MINDS and THOMAS DOLBY, there’s also THE NORMAL and the early HUMAN LEAGUE to represent the trailblazers from 1978 who helped define the era.

Daniel Miller describes electronic music like ‘Warm Leatherette’ as “pure punk music” as opposed to “punk rock”, due to it adopting that true punk ideal of do-it-yourself. Meanwhile, Martyn Ware waxes lyrical about the realisation of ‘Being Boiled’… the chapter was to have been about ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ but with Phil Oakey’s continued refusal to give interviews about the past has ensured its omission. At the end of the day, Oakey misses an opportunity to reflect and give his story of the era.

However, Oakey’s contemporaries don’t disappoint; as usual, Andy McCluskey gives great copy and his interview nicely sums up the rise and fall and rise and fall and rise of OMD to highlight the pressures of achieving and maintaining success. And while ‘If You Leave’ from the film ‘Pretty In Pink’ may not be the greatest song he and Paul Humphreys have ever written, it is certainly not their worst and its success in America is a handy pension pot for the duo.

The joy of this book is that even if an act is of no interest musically, the back stories are fascinating and a number have not been widely known. Like did you know that the true origin of the name SPANDAU BALLET is even more unpleasant than JOY DIVISION? Or that ‘True’ was inspired by Gary Kemp’s unrequited relationship with ALTERED IMAGES’ Clare Grogan? Or that DEXY’S MIDNIGHT RUNNERS’ Kevin Rowland is a right miserable sod, but he always has been and always will be!

Meanwhile, the entertaining KAJAGOOGOO chapter proves that like in much of today’s music scene, ego can often exceed inherent talent and actual artistic success. The diva-ish spats between Limahl and Nick Beggs in ‘Mad World’ are almost worth the purchase price alone.

While ‘Mad World’ is full of tales of excess and hedonism, one very interesting chapter is about the clean living and philosophical HOWARD JONES. While quietly making his fortune in the US, the happily married vegetarian readily admitted to having a wandering eye that inspired his biggest American hit ‘No-One Is To Blame’: “It’s about being attracted to other people and admitting that. You are attracted to maybe half the people you meet, and that isn’t a bad thing. You shouldn’t blame yourself for that… but if you want to consummate that attraction to other people, then you have to be prepared to take what comes with it”.

‘Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s’ is a terrific read, but there are the odd date errors and what some might consider irritating translations of distinctly British terms for the primarily American audience.

And while the book covers most bases, one important song that is missing is VISAGE’s ‘Fade To Grey’. A complex story in itself, that probably would have made up a book on its own! But overall, these minor aberrations do not spoil what ‘Mad World’ is… the best book so far capturing that MTV era which many like to refer to as ‘The 8*s’ 😉

Following her highly informative interview earlier in the year, co-author Lori Majewski spoke to The Electricity Club again to reflect on the Americanisation of New Wave and why certain UK acts came to become more highly regarded in the US than back home…

Why did it seem the only US acts that seemed to ride on that UK synth wave were BERLIN and ANIMOTION?

LA had a very big New Wave scene with MISSING PERSONS, THE GO GOS, THE MOTELS, BERLIN and ANIMOTION but what you have to remember is that it kinda got watered down by the time it got to America. As we say in the book, you had Brits trying to be Germans wanting to be robots, and then Americans who wanted to be British!

So the Americans were already two steps removed from the conception of New Wave. You look at something like BERLIN, so they’re named after the city that inspired New Wave and 6,000 miles away singing about ‘The Metro’ in Paris where they had never even been!

But I think what LA New Wave brought was glamour. First of all, there weren’t a lot of women in New Wave full stop although in the UK, you had Annie Lennox, Alison Moyet and BANANARAMA. So in LA, we had BERLIN’s Terri Nunn who was a model and tried out to be Princess Leia in ‘Star Wars’, there was THE MOTELS’ Martha Davis who was very old school Hollywood glam and THE GO GOS; plus you had MISSING PERSONS’ Dale Bozzio, who was the first woman I ever saw and thought “oh, that’s what a breast implant is” *laughs*

I think in general, Americans put their own spin on New Wave but as Jonathan likes to point out in the book several times, it wasn’t something we exported back to Britain; it was something that we kept here that Brits didn’t really go for.

tearsforfearsWhat did you think about bands like TEARS FOR FEARS, SIMPLE MINDS and THE PSYCHEDLIC FURS tailoring their sound for the American market when their initial charm was sounding British in the first place?

It’s something we talk about in the TEARS FOR FEARS chapter. We forget that TEARS FOR FEARS had the biggest album of the era in ‘Songs From The Big Chair’. Curt Smith talks in the book about how they did consciously move to appeal to a wider audience but also to make a different record to ‘The Hurting’.

They were listening to more American things like FRANK ZAPPA. So they didn’t make a conscious decision to be American, they made a conscious decision NOT to make the first record again… and as you point out, that record was very British. I don’t know if ‘Songs From The Big Chair’ is American sounding, it just not as New Wave sounding.

The Americans really loved THOMPSON TWINS and HOWARD JONES? What was it about them that appealed Stateside?

HOWARD JONES did well here but I think he would have made it no matter what decade it was because he wrote classic songs… but he happened to use synthesizers and he had the haircut! When you look at a song like ‘No-One Is To Blame’, it’s a good pop song, period!

As for THOMPSON TWINS, Jonathan knew of their previous incarnation while I did not, so he was suspicious of how they were this art conglomerate that suddenly wanted to be pop stars and on the cover of Smash Hits!

I have to say, they were visually arresting and those songs are built to last. You hear ‘Hold Me Now’ today and what an incredible song!

And I always remember that was the first time I thought about couples fighting because the idea that a man will placate a woman and say “you ask if I love you, well what can I say? You know that I do and if this is just one of those games that we play”, and I thought “Oh my God, that’s right… that’s what women do!” *laughs*

So I felt Tom Bailey was a pop star with a romantic side that really appealed to me, especially with the song ‘If You Were Here’ at the end of the John Hughes film ‘Sixteen Candles’, that’s one of my favourite songs from the entire era.

Why do you think acts like A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS, THOMAS DOLBY, WANG CHUNG and NAKED EYES were perhaps more popular in America than Britain?

I think this IS the advent of MTV, you guys in the UK didn’t have it and we did.

‘I Ran’ by A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS was a huge MTV hit, but it only started going up the US charts and being played on radio after people were requesting it because they saw the video on MTV. So they rode a wave that was not available in their own country.

It was the same with NAKED EYES and I love their version of ‘Always Something There To Remind Me’. MTV helped a lot of bands that were using the medium of video to get to an audience.


MAD WORLDThe Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Lori Majewski

‘Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s’ is available in the UK from all good bookshops and online retailers

Meanwhile in Brooklyn at Rough Trade NYC on Saturday 14th September 2014, ‘A Mad World Conversation with MIDGE URE’ takes place at 5.00pm – details can be found at the Mad World website

http://madworldbook.com

https://www.facebook.com/madworldthebook


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
2nd September 2014

ELEVEN:ELEVEN Through The Veil

111-Sicca2After almost a year’s delay, Texan duo ELEVEN:ELEVEN have finally released their debut album ‘Through The Veil’.

Combining elements of Italo Disco, Hi-NRG and Electroclash with the feisty template Of Terri Nunn’s BERLIN and the Mittel Europa romanticism of VISAGE, ELEVEN:ELEVEN deliver a melodic but edgy style of electronic dance music which doesn’t cause death by four-to-the-floor!

Fronted by the feline demure of Sicca and powered by the crisp electronic backing of Jake Childs, ELEVEN:ELEVEN have been described as the musical love child of GIORGIO MORODER and ADULT.

The duo’s debut EP ‘Infection’, with exquisite songs like ‘Infection’, showcased the subtle dynamics of their futuristic disco friendly sound influenced by the likes of producers such as Bobby Orlando as well as the man whose name is Giorgio. The original promotional concept of ‘Through The Veil’ had been to the release a track one-at-a-time before culminating in a finished ten track album but after six were premiered, things went quiet while the duo were signed to Canadian label Cliché Musique, part of Universal Music.

It comes as a big surprise though after all the delays that the whole album has been given away as a free download… but what a freebie! The songs are uncluttered, and allowed space to breathe rather than just having the kitchen sink thrown in. Punching forth at the start is ‘Escape’ which combines atmosphere, danceability and emotion for a superb opener.

111-MesmerizeTaking on a more Eurocentric countenance with a hint of A-HA’s ‘Take On Me’ is ‘Essence’ although Sicca doesn’t try to attempt falsetto.

With a moodier percussive outlook, creepier synths hook-in at a steadier pace on ‘Mesmerize’ with Sicca all haunted and exclaiming “You’re toxic, mesmerise me… I waste away”; it all gives ‘Through The Veil’ a kind of sexy gothic allure.

‘The Play’ explores bondage chic, a theme often referenced in ELEVEN:ELEVEN’s artwork. Feeling the need for speed, it is more frantic than the other numbers running through the core of ‘Through The Veil’.

There’s plenty of highs and lows in its two minutes. The exploration continues on ‘The Chains’ and at four plus minutes, is the longest song on the album. Strangely, it does sound a little too long…

The synthetic seediness of ‘No Words’ is reminiscent of MISS KITTIN & THE HACKER but whereas Ms Herve would just speak, Sicca coos with a sultry allure… it actually makes a change to hear a singer on an electronic backing track like this rather than the expected deadpan monologue. Driven by an arpeggiated bassline and analogue drum machine clatter, ‘Little White Lies’ is rather divine with Sicca sounding quite seductively resigned over some great syncopation, club friendly without being overbearing.

‘Isolate’ and ‘Justified’ maintain the quality of the album and don’t veer too much away from the ‘Through The Veil’ template. But the best number comes last with the brilliantly sparkling title track which put quite simply, is just great angelic synthpop.

An impressive debut, the main noticeable trait of ‘Through The Veil’ other than its quality dance stance is that the songs are all short and sweet. There’s no unnecessary 20 inch dance mixes needed as the point can be made in less than three minutes… so DJs and dance acts, PLEASE LEARN!

At thirty-two minutes, ‘Through The Veil’ does not outstay its welcome and with its enjoyable ten variations of a theme, it showcases how there is subtle, crafted thinking within EDM from this promising electronic duo.


‘Through The Veil’ is available via the usual digital platforms

http://www.facebook.com/the.eleveneleven

https://twitter.com/weare1211


Text by Chi Ming Lai
19th November 2013, updated 8th July 2018

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