Tag: Icehouse

The Electronic Legacy of VARIOUS ARTISTS

So come on, whose first album was a various artists compilation?

They were the biggest sellers for a decade and had dominated the UK album charts so much so that they were given their own!

In 1966, the Canadian budget household gadget firm K-Tel diversified into the territory of compilation albums with ‘25 Country Hits’; it was a surprise success and this comparatively new idea of collecting a number of artists onto an album based around a single theme was expanded further.

K-Tel negotiated directly with artists and labels for the rights to reproduce the original recordings, but where this was not possible, the company would contract “one or more of the original artists” to make a new recording for the compilation, under the premise that the general public generally could not tell the difference between a re-recording and the original.

However, UK budget label Pickwick Records via their Hallmark imprint went one step further in 1968 by producing compilations of the latest hits but as rush-recorded soundalike cover versions under the title ‘Top Of The Pops’ which had nothing to do whatsoever with the BBC TV show; it was all perfectly legal thanks to an oversight by the corporation on trademark.

Purchasers unknowingly got treated to unique interpretations of ‘Autobahn’ and ‘The Model’ by anonymous session musicians who quite obviously had only learnt the song ten minutes before entering the studio. Although demand for such records had dimmed by 1981, acts such as SOFT CELL were still unable to escape with ‘Say Hello Wave Goodbye’ hilariously reduced to geezer pub rock! The singer was revealed to be one Martin Jay who a few years earlier had treated the world to his cloak and dagger take on ‘Are Friends Electric?’.

The albums from K-Tel attempted to cram as many songs as possible onto the 12 inch vinyl format. In order to accommodate this philosophy within its physical limitations, many of the tracks were usually faded out early or came in unusual and often clumsy edits, but even these versions were sought after by loyal fans, thus making the records they came from valued collector’s items.

The various artists compilation album changed forever in 1983 when Virgin and EMI joined forces to produce the ‘Now That’s What I Call Music’ series which at the last count had reached ‘Now 106’ and spawned numerous spin-offs and even cable TV channels. In 1984, Sony BMG and Warner Music joined in the action with the ‘Hits’ series, but such was the domination in the UK of these types of albums that in 1989, they were given their own chart and excluded from the main one!

For electronic pop, ‘Machines’ released by Virgin Records in 1980 was one of the first attempts to gather music using synthesizers into one place, but the entry point for many new fans was 1981’s ‘Modern Dance’ on K-Tel. This well-thought out collection saw youngsters saving up their pocket money for their first record purchase or asking Santa to put it into their Christmas stocking, thanks to Radio1 DJ Peter Powell declaring that ‘Modern Dance’ was “The best of total danceability, the sounds of modern dance, on one LP!”.

As with greatest hits albums, what makes a great various artists compilation is a seamless listening experience where possible, or at least more killer than filler. However the continuous DJ mix was a particular irritant running through compilations for a period and rarely worked with classic material or recordings not specifically aimed at the clubland.

However, staying within theme on a compilation is VERY important and straying just slightly can spoil a whole concept, especially if it has been outlined in the title. Soul Jazz Records’ lushly packaged ‘Deutsche Elektronische Musik’ sets over two volumes contained a wide range of freeform experimental works from Germany, but occasionally forgot about the Trade Descriptions Act implications of its title. Meanwhile, ‘Reward’ by post-punk trip-poppers THE TEARDROP EXPLODES had a regular place on collections such as ‘Club For Heroes’, ‘New Romantic Classics’, ‘It’s Electric’ and ‘Our Friends Electric’ despite being brass dominated.

But the nadir came with ‘Synth Pop’, a 3CD collection by Sony Music in 2015 which totally missed the point by featuring AZTEC CAMERA and HAIRCUT 100!??! Now while the inclusion of IMAGINATION’s ‘Body Talk’ with its iconic Moog bassline could be justified, the set highlighted just how much the modern day definition of “synth pop” had become particularly blurred…

Now while some listeners just want endless hits on various artists compilations, others want to be informed and introduced to some lesser-known or rare songs. However, this latter approach can meet with mixed results.

For example, Cherry Red’s ‘Close To The Noise Floor’ and the Trevor Jackson’s ‘Metal Dance’ series were historically fascinating, but not always easy collections to listen to in one sitting. With some of the music close to being unlistenable, it could be akin to studying a hefty text book… highly educational but not always entirely fun!

So The Electricity Club takes a personal look at the electronic legacy of various artists via twenty notable compilation albums, each with valid reasons for their inclusion, presented in yearly and then alphabetical order within.

Yes, several songs reoccur over a number of these releases, but perhaps that is more an indication of their timeless nature. These were tunes that were dismissed by the press and wider public back in the day, but are now considered classic and part of the cultural heritage.


MACHINES (1980)

Having seen the future and signed THE HUMAN LEAGUE as well as OMD through their Dindisc subsidiary, Virgin Records had the foresight to issue a long playing showcase of acts that used synthesizers as their primary instrumentation. As well as their two great hopes, among the outsiders on board were TUBEWAY ARMY, FAD GADGET, SILICON TEENS and DALEK I LOVE YOU. While XTC’s B-side ‘The Somnambulist’ appeared to be incongruous, this was from the band’s synth experimentation period before going more acoustic on 1982’s ‘English Settlement’.

‘Machines’ was released by Virgin Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Machines/master/59149


METHODS OF DANCE (1981)

This compilation had actually been the idea of David Sylvian, hence why it was named after the JAPAN song although their contribution would be ‘The Art Of Parties’. Virgin presented their embarrassment of riches including BEF, DEVO, DAF, SIMPLE MINDS and MAGAZINE while the primary selling point was a new special dub edit of THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Do Or Die’ acting as a trailer to ‘Love & Dancing’. The cassette featured more tracks including John Foxx and the actual undanceable ‘Methods Of Dance’ song in place of ‘The Art Of Parties’!

‘Methods Of Dance’ was released by Virgin Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Methods-Of-Dance/master/43926


MODERN DANCE (1981)

1981 was when the sound of electronic pop was virtually everywhere, so the release of ‘Modern Dance’ was perfect synthchronicity. Featuring superb singles from the stellar cast of OMD, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, HEAVEN 17, JAPAN, DEPECHE MODE, SIMPLE MINDS, VISAGE, LANDSCAPE, FASHION and THE CURE as well as synth trailblazers John Foxx and Gary Numan, an indicator of how supreme this compilation was came with the fact that its most obscure track ‘A World Without Love’ by little known combo THE NEWS was rather good!

‘Modern Dance’ was released by K-Tel Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Modern-Dance/release/504872


SOME BIZZARE ALBUM (1981)

Stevo Pearce’s compendium of new Futurist acts has gone into folklore, having launched the careers of DEPECHE MODE, SOFT CELL, BLANCMANGE, THE THE and B-MOVIE. Several of acts who didn’t make it were also superb. THE FAST SET’s cover of Marc Bolan’s ‘King Of The Rumbling Spires’ was enjoyable electro-macabre while ‘Tidal Flow’ by ILLUSTRATION is one of the great lost songs of the era, the band themselves disappearing despite securing the services of Martin Hannett to produce their debut single ‘Danceable’, but it was never finished…

‘Some Bizzare Album’ was released by Some Bizzare

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Some-Bizzare-Album/master/2754


CLUB FOR HEROES (1992)

It took a few years for people to realise just how good the music from the New Romantic era was, so how better than to celebrate it than a compilation named after one of Steve Strange and Rusty Egan’s club nights. Featuring the all-star cast of DURAN DURAN, SPANDAU BALLET, ULTRAVOX, VISAGE, SOFT CELL and JAPAN, other acts who also got entry into the party were YAZOO, ABC, TALK TALK and CLASSIX NOUVEAUX while most welcome were ICEHOUSE with their eponymous single.

‘Club For Heroes’ was released by Telstar Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Club-For-Heroes/master/120444


IT’S ELECTRIC (1994)

Gathering nineteen “Classic Hits From An Electric Era” including the full length ‘Blue Monday’ from NEW ORDER, ‘It’s Electric’ was largely, a more purist synth collection than ‘Club For Heroes’. Alongside the usual suspects were A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS, TEARS FOR FEARS, BRONSKI BEAT, KRAFTWERK, EURYTHMICS, BRONSKI BEAT and ERASURE. However, this collection featured the album version of ‘Tainted Love’ instead of the single, a mistake that would be repeated again and again even on SOFT CELL’s own compilations.

‘It’s Electric’ was released by Dino Entertainment

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Its-Electric-Classic-Hits-From-An-Electric-Era/master/37974


DAWN OF ELECTRONICA (2000)

A tie-in with Uncut magazine celebrating “a music synonymous with futurism”, ‘Dawn Of Electronica’ included the album version of ‘From Here To Eternity by Giorgio Moroder and for the first time on CD, the Some Bizzare version of ‘Remembrance Day’ by B-MOVIE. With the likes of DAF, SUICIDE, ASSOCIATES, CABARET VOLTAIRE, PROPAGANDA, THE ART OF NOISE and YELLO alongside TUBEWAY ARMY, ULTRAVOX, JAPAN and SOFT CELL, this compilation was something a bit different compared to the ones that had come before.

‘Dawn Of Electronica’ was released by Demon Music Group

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Dawn-Of-Electronica-Uncut/release/577680


ELECTRIC DREAMS (2002)

Like ‘Teenage Kicks’ for punk and new wave, there are far too many compilations named ‘Electric Dreams’. This 2CD affair from Virgin Records comprised of thirty-eight “synth pop classics”. For once, this was a compilation documenting the different electronic pop phases including trailblazing analogue electro and the advent of digital sampling that actually worked. From ‘The Model’ and ‘Electricity’ to ‘Relax’ and ‘19’, with ‘We Are Glass’, ‘Yellow Pearl, ‘Say Hello Wave Goodbye’ and ‘Absolute’ in between, this was one of the best releases of its type.

‘Electric Dreams’ was released by Virgin Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Electric-Dreams/release/322736


THIS IS NOT THE 80s (2002)

Subtitled “A Nu-Wave Electro Compilation”, this modern collection brought out the electro in Electroclash with gloriously klanky drum machines in abundance. The undoubted star was Miss Kittin with four tracks including the mighty scene anthem ‘You & Us’ with Michael Amato aka THE HACKER; meanwhile the man himself and Anthony Rother each had three contributions in various guises. FPU, DOPPLEREFFEKT and ADULT. were among those helping to bring the sound of vintage electronic pop into the 21st Century for the club crowd.

‘This Is Not The 80s’ was released by Incredible / Sony Music

https://www.discogs.com/Various-This-Is-Not-The-80s-A-Nu-Wave-Electro-Compilation/master/375573


THIS IS TECH-POP (2002)

Compiled by Ministry Of Sound, ‘This Is Tech-Pop’ was a representative snapshot of electronic music at the start of the 21st Century. However the “Tech-Pop or Electroclash or Synth-Core or Neu-Electro” legend in the booklet highlighted the dance music’s daft obsession with categorisation. But the music from the likes of FISCHERSPOONER, TIGA & ZYNTHERIUS, FC KAHUNA, WALDORF, ZOOT WOMAN, LADYTRON, SOVIET, FELIX DA HOUSECAT, CIRC and GREEN VELVET was mostly excellent, although DJ mixing the tracks together clouded the listening experience.

‘This Is Tech-Pop’ was released by Ministry Of Sound

https://www.discogs.com/Various-This-Is-Tech-Pop/release/50649


ELECTRICITY 2 An Electronic Pop Sampler (2003)

‘Electricity 2’ came at a time when the only platform for UK and Irish synth acts seemed to be Ninthwave Records in the USA. It featured HEAVEN 17’s first new song for six years in the ‘Music Sounds Better With You’ influenced ‘Hands Up To Heaven’ as well as material by WHITE TOWN, SPRAY and EMPIRE STATE HUMAN. Among the highlights were ‘The Machines’ by MASQ which sounded like a bizarre Gaelic synthpop take on Gary Numan and the comical ‘Alan Cumming’ by TURD FERGUSON which satirically sent up ‘Frank Sinatra’ by MISS KITTIN & THE HACKER.

‘Electricity 2’ was released by Ninthwave Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Electricity-2-An-Electronic-Pop-Sampler/release/730718


ROBOPOP Volume 1 (2003)

Compiled by Wayne Clements of Essex duo MACONDO for his own Lucky Pierre imprint, ‘Robopop’ was possibly the closest thing to the ‘Some Bizzare’ album in the 21st Century. Heading the line-up were the-then newly configured CLIENT and MY ROBOT FRIEND while Mute stalwarts KOMPUTER contributed the previously unreleased ‘My Private Train’. The stand-outs though were machine funksters ALPINE STARS, irreverent retro-poppers BAXENDALE and VIC TWENTY featuring Piney Gir with a delicious synth cover of Lynsey de Paul’s ‘Sugar Me’.

‘Robopop Volume 1’ was released by Lucky Pierre Recordings

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Robopop-Volume-I/release/296881


RETRO:ACTIVE 5 (2006)

Compiled by Alex Hush, now of U2 and ERASURE remixers DAYBREAKERS, ‘Retro:Active 5’ pulled off the feat of gathering twelve classic 12 inch extended versions into a listenable programme. Longer takes of ‘I’ve Been Losing You’ by A-HA and ‘Pretty In Pink’ by THE PSYCHEDLIC FURS led the way with BLANCMANGE and DEAD OR ALIVE in support. But the biggest selling points were the ultra-rare ‘Love Cascade’ from LEISURE PROCESS and ‘More To Lose’ by SEONA DANCING, the synthpop duo fronted by Ricky Gervais.

‘Retro:Active 5’ was released by Hi-Bias Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-RetroActive5-Rare-Remixed/release/719639


ROBOPOP The Return (2006)

For ‘Robopop The Return’, Wayne Clements was joined by production duo MANHATTAN CLIQUE who co-released the compilation via their own Planet Clique label. Described as “Essential Electro Pop”, it was a much higher profile release than its predecessor with GOLDFRAPP, THE KNIFE, TIGA and DRAGONETTE all on board. Also present were THE MODERN relaunching themselves as MATINEE CLUB while HUSKI, FORMATIC, LORRAINE and SOHO DOLLS were among the worthy lesser-known inclusions. A bonus DJ mix by MANHATTAN CLIQUE also featured.

‘Robopop – The Return’ was released by Planet Clique / Lucky Pierre

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Manhattan-Clique-Robopop-The-Return/release/1410368


CHILLTRONICA A Definition No1 (2008)

Electronic music of a more downtempo disposition compiled by BLANK & JONES, perhaps unsurprisingly, the most exquisite tracks featured female vocalists with Sarah Nixey just pipping the highlight honours on her cover of JAPAN’s ‘Ghosts’ with INFANTJOY over Claudia Brücken guesting on the hosting trance DJ duo’s ‘Don’t Stop’. ‘Ghost Trains’, a solo tune by KINGS OF CONVENIENCE and RÖYKSOPP vocalist Erlend Øye was a livelier number that actually worked alongside chilled out tracks by THE GRID, BLISS, SPOOKY, MARCONI UNION and DEPECHE MODE.

‘Chilltronica – A Definition No1’ was released by Soundcolours

https://www.discogs.com/Blank-Jones-Chilltronica-A-Definition-No1/release/1714901


ELECTRI_CITY 1_2 Elektronische Musik Aus Düsseldorf (2016)

Tying in with Rudi Esch’s book about the German city of Düsseldorf’s music heritage, ‘ELECTRI_CITY 1_2’ gathered the more accessible elements of Deutsche Elektronische Musik, Kosmische and Neue Deutsche Welle. Featuring RIECHMANN, DAF, DER PLAN, DIE KRUPPS, LIAISONS DANGEREUSES, RHEINGOLD, HARMONIA, LA DÜSSELDORF, NEU! and pre-PROPAGANDA girl group TOPLINOS featuring a very young Claudia Brücken and Susanne Freytag, this two volume collection was like a journey of discovery with the benefit of a local tour guide.

‘ELECTRI_CITY 1_2 – Elektronische Musik Aus Düsseldorf’ was released by Grönland Records

https://www.discogs.com/Various-ELECTRI_CITY-1_2/release/8919263


NEW ORDER Presents Be Music (2017)

Be Music was the moniker of NEW ORDER used to cover studio production work by all four members of the band. This boxed set gathered these varied recordings which involved either Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris, Gillian Gilbert and combinations thereof, with notable solo tracks from Marcel King, Paul Haig and Winston Tong alongside those of 52ND STREET, SECTION 25, THE BEAT CLUB, SHARK VEGAS and AD INFINITUM’s cover of ‘Telstar’ which many believed was NEW ORDER in disguise but actually only featured Hooky.

‘NEW ORDER Presents Be Music’ was released by Factory Benelux

https://www.factorybenelux.com/new_order_presents_be_music_fbn60.html


ELECTRICAL LANGUAGE Independent British Synth Pop 78-84 (2019)

From the team that put together the ‘Close To The Noise Floor’ series, the 4CD ‘Electrical Language – Independent British Synth Pop 78-84’ did as it said on the tin and with a far more accessible template, was all the better for it. With THE HUMAN LEAGUE, OMD, THE NORMAL and FAD GADGET included to draw in the more cautious consumer, purchasers were treated to a plethora of wonderful lesser known acts like FIAT LUX, BOX OF TOYS, LORI & THE CHAMELEONS, PASSION POLKA, TESTCARD F, EDDIE & SUNSHINE and JUPITER RED. Meanwhile, the best novelty item was a Schaffel driven cover of Alvin Stardust’s ‘My Coo Ca Choo’ by BEASTS IN CAGES; half of the band went on to form HARD CORPS!

‘Electrical Language – Independent British Synth Pop 78-84’ was released by Cherry Red Records

https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/electrical-language-independent-british-synth-pop-78-84-various-artists-4cd-48pp-bookpack/


THE ELECTRICITY CLUB (2019)

Comprising of thirty-four tracks from 2009 to 2015, ‘The Electricity Club’ compilation has stood the test of time, scrutiny and repeated plays. With ERASURE heading the line-up alongside a MARSHEAUX remix of Katy Perry and acts such as MIRRORS, SIN COS TAN, VILE ELECTRODES, NIGHT CLUB, ARTHUR & MARTHA, KID MOXIE, MESH and ELECTRONIC CIRCUS. In hindsight, the weakest link comes surprisingly from one of the star attractions, coming as a result of the licencing compromises that often have to be made when the first and second choices get declined 😉

‘The Electricity Club’ was released by Amour Records / Minos EMI / Universal Music in collaboration with Undo Records

http://www.electricityclub.co.uk/the-electricity-club-2cd-compilation/


THE TEARS OF TECHNOLOGY (2020)

Compiled by Pete Wiggs and Bob Stanley of SAINT ETIENNE, what ‘The Tears Of Technology’ had was a heartfelt suite of music which captured the essence of its title. At its centre was OMD’s sub-eight minute adventure ‘Sealand’ alongside synthy diversions by THE TEARDROP EXPLODES and THE PALE FOUNTAINS, with the Merseyside connection extended to CARE and CHINA CRISIS. Scotland got also got a look in courtesy of Paul Haig and Thomas Leer. The rare ‘Direct Lines’ by Chris Payne’s ELECTRONIC CIRCUS found itself a place too.

‘The Tears Of Technology’ was released by Ace Records

https://acerecords.co.uk/bob-stanley-pete-wiggs-present-the-tears-of-technology-1


Text by Chi Ming Lai
2nd August 2020

TEC’s 25 SINGLE VERSIONS THAT ARE BETTER THAN THE ALBUM VERSIONS

Ever bought an album on the strength of a single, only to find that “this is not the single I am looking for”??

As long as there has been a music business, artists and producers have been forever tinkering with their work. Sometimes it is to improve an album track for single release by remixing or even re-recording it. Or it is vice-versa to create a new vision for a song or just to make it sound more like the material on a latterly recorded long player. But in many cases, it’s the version that was made for mass consumption through radio play that remains superior and best loved.

This list celebrates the frustration of being stuck with the wrong version and the dilemma of whether to shell out extra cash to go out and buy the proper version.

Restricted to one single per artist and presented in chronological and then alphabetical order, here are The Electricity Club’s 25 Single Versions That Are Better Than The Album Versions…


JOHN FOXX No-One Driving (1980)

While ‘Metamatic’ is an iconic long player and includes ‘Underpass’, its second single opted for a reworking of ‘No-One Driving’, rather than the more obvious ‘A New Kind Of Man’. Much busier and expansive than the comparatively tame album version, it provided JOHN FOXX with another Top40 hit, something which had eluded him in ULTRAVOX who interestingly also produced a better single version with ‘Quiet Man’ from ‘Systems Of Romance’ while he was in the band.

Available on the JOHN FOXX boxed set ‘Metamatic’ via Edsel Records

http://www.metamatic.com/


OMD Messages (1980)

On OMD’s debut self-titled album, ‘Messages’ just a song with potential as a single. Utilising a pulsing repeat function on a Korg Micro-Preset shaped by hand twisting the octave knob, it was decided to re-record ‘Messages’ for its single release. Produced by Mike Howlett, the new version included the addition of separately recorded drums for a cleaner snap alongside the basic primary chord structures and one fingered melodies to produce a magnificent UK chart hit that reached No13.

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

http://www.omd.uk.com/


B-MOVIE Remembrance Day (1981)

Despite being alongside DEPECHE MODE, SOFT CELL, BLANCMANGE and THE THE on the now iconic ‘Some Bizarre Album’, B-MOVIE were unable to secure a Top40 chart entry with the poignant magnificence of the Mike Thorne produced ‘Remembrance Day’. The struggle for success coupled with internal tensions led to the band fragmenting by 1983. Finally releasing an album in 1985 on Sire Records entitled ‘Forever Running’, it featured an inferior re-recording of ‘Remembrance Day’.

Available on compilation album ‘Dawn Of Electronica’ (V/A) via Demon Music Group

http://www.b-movie.co.uk/


THE HUMAN LEAGUE The Sound Of The Crowd (1981)

The combination of obscure lyrics from Ian Burden like “Stroke a pocket with a print of a laughing sound” and a screaming chant gave THE HUMAN LEAGUE their breakthrough hit. Produced by the late Martin Rushent, bursts of Roland System 700 white noise were trigged from an MC8 Micro-composer for the rhythm track. But for the subsequent ‘Dare’ album, ‘The Sound Of The Crowd’ was reworked with a Linn Drum and with the chant also pushed back, it lost much of its dystopian tension.

Available on THE HUMAN LEAGUE album ‘Greatest Hits’ via Virgin Records

http://www.thehumanleague.co.uk/


JAPAN The Art Of Parties (1981)

More muscular and dynamic, ‘The Art Of Parties’ explored a funkier template was a move away from the mannered Roxy muzak that JAPAN had been associated with. Originally produced by John Punter, when it came to the album ‘Tin Drum’, new producer Steve Nye smoothed off some of the track’s tribal weirdness and muted its brassy punch. While the end result was tighter, synthier and had more melody, the band preferred to play the original single version live…

Extended version available on JAPAN album ‘The Very Best Of’ via Virgin Records

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


JEAN-MICHEL JARRE Magnetic Fields 2 (1981)

The first track on side two of the last two JEAN-MICHEL JARRE albums provided the trailer singles for radio and ‘Magnetic Fields’ was no different. But in a new approach, the French Maestro offered up a toughed up remix where the klanky lightweight tones of the Korg Rhythm KR55 were replaced by bangier drum samples while the synth stabs on the bridge were turned up. But as Jarre’s audience preferred albums, this superior remix got lost over the years and missed inclusion on his many compilations.

Single version not currently available

https://jeanmicheljarre.com/


SOFT CELL Tainted Love (1981)

Everyone knows the wonderful hit single version of this Northern Soul cover with its hypnotic Roland Compurhythm running all the way through it. But for the ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ album, ‘Tainted Love’ was shortened by 2 seconds while the second phrase became the first, thus strangely muting the emotive impact of the original single. Annoyingly, this inferior version crept onto the first SOFT CELL compilation ‘The Singles’ and the more recent ‘Keychains & Snowstorms’ collection.

Available on SOFT CELL album ‘The Very Best Of’ via Mercury Records

http://www.softcell.co.uk/


ASSOCIATES Party Fears Two (1982)

With its iconic honky tonk piano line, ‘Party Fears Two’ was a magnificent song about dealing with the perils of schizophrenia. It also kick started a brief period when ASSOCIATES subverted the UK charts with an avant pop approach that fitted in with the Synth Britannia template of the times. A Top10 hit and emotive to the nth degree, the original single version is still the best and total perfection, while the longer album remix with its ambient intro and stop ending lost some of the magic.

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

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


HEAVEN 17 Height Of The Fighting (1982)

The original ‘Height Of The Fighting’ from the second side of ‘Penthouse & Pavement’ was sonically an extension of ‘Travelogue’, Martyn Ware’s last album as a member of THE HUMAN LEAGUE. The more commercial single version took the funkier approach of the first side of ‘Penthouse & Pavement’, adding synthetic drums and a meatier bass synth attack. Also featuring the BEGGAR & CO brass section who had already played on records by SPANDAU BALLET, it was a glorious electronic soul hybrid.

Available on HEAVEN 17 album ‘The Best Of’ via Virgin Records

https://www.heaven17.com/


ICEHOUSE Icehouse (1982)

Led by Iva Davies, the song which got Australian combo ICEHOUSE noticed by a wider audience in the UK during their tenure opening for SIMPLE MINDS was a slight reworking of the chilling synth laden ‘Icehouse’, the title track of their debut album from when the band were called FLOWERS. Featuring a strange offbeat and the mannerisms of GARY NUMAN before blitzing out for the song’s flanged guitar climax, ‘Icehouse’ was easily as good as anything on VISAGE’s eponymous debut.

Single version not currently available

http://www.icehouse-ivadavies.com/


SPANDAU BALLET Instinction (1982)

Having been outflanked by DURAN DURAN in the New Romantic debut album stakes, SPANDAU BALLET explored Britfunk with ‘Chant No1′, but then took a strange about turn with their next album ‘Diamond’ featuring a number of ethnic art pieces. Fresh from working with ABC, Trevor Horn reworked Richard James Burgess’ understated production of ‘Instinction’ from the album. Throwing in extra synths played by Anne Dudley and extra bombastic percussion; it effectively saved SPANDAU BALLET’s career.

Available on the SPANDAU BALLET album ‘Gold: The Best Of’ via EMI Records

http://www.spandauballet.com/


THE THE Uncertain Smile (1982)

Still Matt Johnson’s finest five minutes as THE THE, ‘Uncertain Smile’ on its single release featured a wonderfully rigid TR808 pattern, lovely layers of synths and a variety of woodwinds including flute and sax. Produced by Mike Thorne, this fuller sounding and more emotive take far outstripped the bland and overlong ‘Soul Mining’ album cut produced by Paul Hardiman which included the extended boogie-woogie piano of Jools Holland tagged onto the end…

Available on the THE THE album ’45 RPM – The Singles’ via Epic Records

https://www.thethe.com/


VISAGE Night Train (1982)

Inspired by the burgeoning New York club scene, Rusty Egan brought in John Luongo to remix ‘Night Train’ from ‘The Anvil’ album much to Midge Ure’s dismay; it lead to the diminutive Glaswegian ending his tenure with VISAGE. But Luongo’s rework was sharper and more rigid, pushing forward the female backing vocals to soulful effect in particular and replacing the clumpier snare sounds of the original album version with cleaner AMS samples.

Extended version available on the compilation boxed set ’12”/80s – Volume 2′ (V/A) via Family Recordings

http://www.visage.cc/


GARY NUMAN Sister Surprise (1983)

At over eight and a half minutes, the album version of ‘Sister Surprise’ on the ‘Mad Max’ inspired ‘Warriors’ was far too long, plus something was missing. For its single release, this slice of synthetic funk rock was shortened and sharpened, while a new vocal hook was added over Numan’s now ubiquitous “woah-oh-oh” refrains which provided a much better chorus. Despite this improvement and an appearance of ‘Top Of The Pops’, it was the lowest charting GARY NUMAN single to date…

Available on the GARY NUMAN album ‘Premier Hits’ via Beggars Banquet

https://garynuman.com/


DURAN DURAN The Reflex (1984)

“Somebody’s fooling around…” – the ‘Seven & The Ragged Tiger’ album sessions had not been a happy experience for DURAN DURAN with the prolonged mixing leading to a fall out between bassist John Taylor and producer Alex Sadkin. ‘The Reflex’ had potential but this was not fully realised. Enter Nile Rodgers who gave the track a rhythmic lift and played around with the then-new innovation of sampling, using various vocals to create new hooks and phrases for a monster international hit.

Available on the DURAN DURAN album ‘Greatest’ via EMI Records

http://www.duranduran.com/


FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD Two Tribes (1984)

Comedian Lenny Henry summed things up best in a sketch where he entered a record shop to buy a single and was then offered a plethora of versions by the assistant:”I JUST WANT THE VERSION THEY GOT RIGHT!” – ZTT’s marketing exploits with 12 inch mixes are well known, but they played around with album versions too and with the version of ‘Two Tribes’ on ‘Welcome To The Pleasure Dome’, they got it wrong and took out the piper call middle eight!

Available on the FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD album ‘Frankie Said’ via Union Square

http://www.frankiesay.com/


BLANCMANGE The Day Before You Came (1984)

There once was a time when it was not cool to like ABBA but BLANCMANGE changed all that with their version of ‘The Day Before You Came’, a song many regard as the last ABBA song. Combining that noted Swedish melancholy and melodicism with the artful quirkiness of Synth Britannia, the more compact single version produced by Peter Collins considered improved on the ‘Mange Tout’ album version helmed by John Luongo and made more of Neil Arthur’s deep melodramatics.

Available on the BLANCMANGE album ‘Second Helpings’ via London Records

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


A-HA Hunting High & Low (1985)

The collective strength of A-HA over the years has been to produce great melancholic pop in that classic Nordic tradition, but also add a contrasting glorious optimism. The photogenic trio have offered many great ballads over the years such as ‘Stay On These Roads’ and ‘Summer Moved On’, but their best known one is ‘Hunting High & Low’. Originally produced by Tony Mansfield, it was dramatically remixed for single release by Alan Tarney with the addition of orchestrations by Anne Dudley.

Available on the A-HA album ‘Time & Again: The Ultimate’ via WEA

https://a-ha.com/


PET SHOP BOYS Suburbia (1986)

Originally produced by Stephen Hague, ‘Suburbia’ was a good if slightly underwhelming album track from ‘Please’ that got transformed into a more fully realised epic in a re-recording produced by Sarm West graduate Julian Mendelson. Complete with barking dogs, widescreen synths and thundering rhythms, the more aggressive overtones in the single version of PET SHOP BOYS‘ clever social commentary made ‘Suburbia’ a big hit, particularly in West Germany.

Available on the PET SHOP BOYS album ‘Pop Art: The Hits’ via EMI Records

http://petshopboys.co.uk/


DEPECHE MODE Behind The Wheel (1988)

With DEPECHE MODE’s Trans-Atlantic breakthrough album ‘Music For The Masses’, the good but meandering track heading side two never realised its potential. But with PET SHOP BOYS, NEW ORDER, DURAN DURAN, ERASURE and MADONNA remixer Shep Pettibone ‘Behind The Wheel’, a funkier bassline and syncopated rhythms were added to the much better single version, giving the song a far more accessible groove that could fill alternative club dancefloors in America.

Available on the DEPECHE MODE album ‘The Singles 86-98’ via Mute Records

http://www.depechemode.com/


NEW ORDER Spooky (1993)

‘Republic’ produced by Stephen Hague was not the finest hour of NEW ORDER, so it was something of a surprise when London Records chose to release the underwhelming ‘Spooky’ as the fourth single from it. But it was remixed by FLUKE, a house dance trio who had already worked with BJÖRK and were influenced by CABARET VOLTAIRE and GIORGIO MORODER. Rhythmically more spacious, this superior ‘Minimix’ allowed the best elements of the song to shine.

Available on the NEW ORDER single ‘Spooky’ via London Records

http://www.neworder.com/


SAINT ETIENNE You’re In A Bad Way (1993)

Listen to the ‘So Tough’ album version of ‘You’re In A Bad Way’ and it is far too understated. With a brighter punchier recording helmed by A-HA producer Alan Tarney for the single version, the acoustic guitar was pushed back while vintage synths and a lovely ‘Telstar’ motif was added for a vastly superior rendition of the song. Sometimes more can mean more and this slice of HERMAN’S HERMITS inspired pop brilliance gave SAINT ETIENNE a well-deserved No12 hit single.

Available on the SAINT ETIENNE album ‘London Conversations’ via Heavenly Records

http://www.saintetienne.com/


WILLIAM ORBIT Adagio For Strings (1999)

Orbit’s concept of adapting classical works was because he wanted to make a chill-out album that had some good tunes. But trance enthusiasts who loved Dutch producer Ferry Corsten’s blinding remix of Samuel Barber’s ‘Adagio For Strings’ will have been shocked if they had bought its virtually beatless parent long player. Sounding not unlike JEAN-MICHEL JARRE set to a 4/4 dance beat, this single version actually reached No4 in the UK charts.

Available on the compilation boxed set ‘Dance Anthems Classics – The Collection’ via Rhino

https://www.williamorbit.com/


ERASURE Moon & The Sky (2001)

In a poor period for Andy and Vince, the ‘Loveboat’ album’s problem wasn’t just the emphasis on guitar driven dynamics, but it also lacked the usual ERASURE charm despite production by Flood. Even the album’s one potentially great song ‘The Moon & The Sky’ was missing an uplifting chorus, something which was only fixed with the Heaven Scent Radio Rework version by Jason Creasey that was later released as an extended play single.

Available on the ERASURE album ‘Total Pop! – The First 40 Hits’ via Mute Records

http://www.erasureinfo.com/


RÖYKSOPP Remind Me (2001)

With vocals by KINGS OF CONVENIENCE vocalist Erlend Øye, ‘Remind Me’ was one of the highlights of RÖYKSOPP’s excellent debut album ‘Melody AM’ which fitted in with dance music culture’s penchant for chill-out. But for single release, the track was given a more rhythmic KRAFTWERK styled feel via ‘Someone Else’s Radio Remix’ by Marisa Jade Marks. The track drew in new listeners, although they would have had a major shock to the system on hearing the album original…

Available on the RÖYKSOPP download single ‘Remind Me’ via Wall Of Sound

http://royksopp.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
14th November 2018

TINY MAGNETIC PETS The NATO Alphabet EP

TINY MAGNETIC PETS The Nato Alphabet EPThe follow-up to their ‘Stalingrad’ EP, the Cold War referencing title ‘The NATO Alphabet’ indicates it’s business as usual for Dublin trio TINY MAGNETIC PETS.

They were founded in 2009 by vocalist Paula Gilmer and synth wizard Sean Quinn.

Both were experienced hands on the music scene; Gilmer was session singer, while as a member of EG signed rock band DUBH CHAPTER, ‎Quinn worked with noted producer and guitarist Steve Hillage.

TINY MAGNETIC PETS underwent a number of guises before percussionist Eugene Somers settled into the line-up. The end result has been a kosmische driven hybrid of classic synthpop and more esoteric acts such as STEREOLAB.

Indeed, it has been a steady musical progression from their minimalist 2010 debut album ‘Return of the Tiny Magnetic Pets’ to ‘On An Inter-City Train’, the undoubted highlight from ‘Stalingrad’. Things have gone well for TINY MAGNETIC PETS since the release of the latter, with luminaries such as Rusty Egan and Andy McCluskey giving their endorsement.

TINY MAGNETIC PETS+Andy McCluskeyAn appearance at in Düsseldorf’s prestigious ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE  last October, opening for MICHAEL ROTHER and WRANGLER, reinforced their reputation as an intriguing live act, with Paula Gilmer’s impressive voice and seductive stage presence sitting well alongside Sean Quinn’s progressive synth solos. However, TINY MAGNETIC PETS have overall been less convincing in the studio; does ‘The NATO Alphabet EP’ do anything to change that opinion?

The EP is the perfect modern format, as it documents the artistic mindset of an act within a small body of work, without raising the unnecessary expectations that a full-length album would. Opening ‘The NATO Alphabet’, ‘Everybody Knows’ is immediately accessible NEW ORDER-esque pop, with some pretty vocals from Gilmer and delightful slices of Hooky bass. It also learns from the lessons of their previous releases, utilising a tighter production while still retaining the essence of the manual interventions that characterise the TINY MAGNETIC PETS sound.

TINY MAGNETIC PETSAs can be expected from a title like ‘Klangfarben’, this instrumental is an enjoyable homage to KRAFTWERK, but taking its lead from the looser ‘Radio-Activity’ era rather than the more robotised period that say, METROLAND are musically connected to.

The German for “soundcolour”, it refers to a technique whereby a musical line is split between several instruments, rather than assigning it to just one instrument, thereby adding timbre and texture.

It’s an approach that has served OMD well over the years and explains why TINY MAGNETIC PETS went down so well at the ELECTRI_CITY_Conference. It’s playfully Dublin goes to Düsseldorf via THE VELVET UNDERGROUND’s ‘What Goes On’… but the revelation of the EP is the soulful ‘Not Giving In’. Attached to a stuttering reggae inflected beat, it incorporates some shuffling syncopation from Somers to enhance the atmosphere. With detuned pulses contrasting the digital chimes and staccato voice samples, it’s a developmental triumph.

Continuing along a similar rhythm path, if THE POLICE had used a drum machine on ‘Outlandos D’amour’, it might have sounded a little like ‘No One At The Safe House’. Using some haunting muted trumpet sounds in the vein of THE BLUE NILE, it’s a tense Cold War dissident narrative reminiscent of ABBA’s ‘The Visitors’. Meanwhile the line “There is no love at the safe house” echoes the eponymous calling card of Australian combo ICEHOUSE.

Eerily, it concludes with an unsettling broadcast collage. As a result, the short slice of noise ambience that forms ‘2 Delta Bravo’ makes for a fitting EP closer.

‘The NATO Alphabet’ is TINY MAGNETIC PETS’ best body of work to date. The trio have engaged their potential audience, welcomed feedback and accepted criticism. From that, they have responded and delivered; the positive outcome is now present for all to hear. It’s a process that many independent acts could learn from.


‘The NATO Alphabet EP’ is available on CD and download direct from http://tinymagneticpets.bandcamp.com/album/the-nato-alphabet

https://www.tinymagneticpets.com

https://www.facebook.com/Tiny-Magnetic-Pets-69597715797/

https://twitter.com/TinyMagneticPet

https://www.instagram.com/tinymagneticpets/

https://open.spotify.com/album/2uIJ5mz9eQX1Wg5t4NQTmh


Text by Chi Ming Lai
25th April 2016, updated 14th June 2020

ICEHOUSE White Heat: 30 Hits

One of Australia’s best acts of the post-punk era ICEHOUSE have been comprehensively collected on a 2CD+DVD compilation ‘White Heat: 30 Hits’ released by Repertoire Records for European consumption, having already been available in Oz since 2011.

Part of a reissue campaign for the ICEHOUSE catalogue, the label also recently reissued the SPARKS and GIORGIO MORODER back catalogues.

Officially sanctioned by ICEHOUSE’s mainman and vocalist Iva Davies, it documents ICEHOUSE’s recorded career from late 1980 when they started out as FLOWERS.

They were forced to change their name due to an American act having the same moniker; so for a new name, Davies chose the striking title track of FLOWERS’ debut album ‘Icehouse’.

Often overshadowed internationally at the time by INXS and MEN AT WORK, ICEHOUSE were however far more interesting, blending an artful European aesthetic with the Aussie love of more straightforward rock ’n’ roll.

ICEHOUSE’s early cinematic videos were directed by Russell Mulcahy who also worked with ULTRAVOX and DURAN DURAN on their iconic promos before going on to make the film ‘Highlander’. Meanwhile ICEHOUSE’s 1986 album ‘Measure For Measure’ featured notable guest musicians such as Brian Eno and JAPAN’s Steve Jansen.

ICEHOUSE were one of the first acts to employ Moroder apprentice Keith Forsey as a producer before his massive success with British acts who broke America such as BILLY IDOL, THE PSYCHEDLIC FURS and SIMPLE MINDS. Indeed, it was SIMPLE MINDS who gave ICEHOUSE their UK break by inviting them to be their support act in 1981 while later on, Davies and Co supported DAVID BOWIE on the European outdoor leg of the ‘Serious Moonlight’ tour in 1983.

Featuring the line-up of Iva Davies, John Lloyd, Anthony Smith and Keith Walsh, the quartet’s first single ‘Can’t Help Myself’ was a bizarre but enjoyable mix of THE EAGLES and ULTRAVOX. The follow-up ‘We Can Get Together’ had more of an new wave vibe to it, but the song which got ICEHOUSE noticed by a wider audience in the UK was the chilling, synth laden ‘Icehouse’.

With the misty video’s premiere on youth arts TV show ‘Riverside’, ‘Icehouse’ added a strange offbeat and the mannerisms of GARY NUMAN before Blitzing out for the song’s flanged guitar climax. With its Eurocentric overtones, ‘Icehouse’ was easily as good as anything on VISAGE’s eponymous debut.

Despite the new found profile in Europe, Davies dissolved the band and decided to record the second ICEHOUSE album ‘Primitive Man’ essentially as a solo project in Los Angeles with Keith Forsey in 1982. With the accessibility of new digital technology such as the Linn Drum Computer, his songs started to change with a more precise sensibility creeping in. The first single from these sessions was the magnificent ‘Hey Little Girl’.

Echoing the popularity of New Romantic styled acts such as JAPAN and the programmed pop of THE HUMAN LEAGUE, ‘Hey Little Girl’ polarised listeners with some accusing it of being a lavish ROXY MUSIC rip-off while others praised it for its evocative, dancefloor charm. While the single was perfection in itself, the 7 minute ‘Australian Disco Mix’ on the 12 inch (featured on Repertoire’s ‘The 12 Inches’ compendium) was a delightful addition and pushed its Mick Karn styled bass playing and Sylvian-esque backing vocals to the forefront. Although it made the UK Top 20 singles chart, it deserved to be a far bigger hit!

With the success of ‘Hey Little Girl’ in the UK, Chrysalis Records swiftly reissued ‘Primitive Man’, but with a new cover and re-titled it after the interim single ‘Love In Motion’ to reflect the altered tracklisting. While the album was very much of its time, ‘Primitive Man’ aka ‘Love In Motion’ contained some of ICEHOUSE’s best work.

‘Street Café’ was an excellent single but did little to dispel the Roxy rip-off accusations…  it actually chucked more wood on the bonfire by sounding even more like BRYAN FERRY than ‘Hey Little Girl’! There was also the quirky ADAM & THE ANTS gone electro of ‘Glam’ but the grandest gesture came from the epic ‘Great Southern Land’.

Written as a response to the horrible ‘Down Under’ by MEN AT WORK, Davies had been particularly dismayed by the “ain’t we wacky?” portrayal of his homeland by his fellow Aussies. Not included though on ‘White Heat: 30 Hits’ but also worthy of mention from ‘Primitive Man’ is ‘Trojan Blue’. Never released as a single, the song captured the stylish drama of ICEHOUSE which set them apart from their contemporaries.

The album led to the call from Mr Bowie and the recruitment of a new ICEHOUSE live band featuring noted bassist and stand-up comedian Guy Pratt. With ‘Hey Little Girl’ becoming a significant European hit and interest in Antipodean music at an all time high with the likes of MIDNIGHT OIL and SPLIT ENZ (soon to mutate into CROWDED HOUSE) also on the scene, 1984 should have been time to capitalise.

But instead, ICEHOUSE released the dreadful ‘Taking The Town’ as the calling card for the new long player ‘Sidewalk’. One disgruntled hack called it “Wang Chung meets Japan!” and although it was intended as an ironic commentary on hooligan culture, the in-yer-face yobbish chorus did not appeal after the reflective overtones of ‘Primitive Man’. The sombre ballad ‘Don’t Believe Anymore’ was unable to halt the downward spiral.

After the disappointment of ‘Sidewalk’, ground needed to be recaptured and with the enlistment of noted British producers Rhett Davies and David Lord, this was achieved with the more esoteric and expansive ‘Measure For Measure’. From it was the superbly atmospheric lead single ‘No Promises’, effectively a rework of Bowie and Metheny’s ‘This Is Not America’. Again wearing his influences on his sleeve, Davies clearly referenced his contemporaries but put his own stamp on proceedings.

Also from the album, ‘Cross The Border’ managed to sucessfully combine SIMPLE MINDS with DURAN DURAN. Co-written with regular guitarist and collaborator Bob Kretschmer, the song began as a rhythmical programming error on the Fairlight which in turn triggered off a Prophet 5; and to complete the experimental circle, there was Steve Jansen on drums and Brian Eno on backing vocals to boot!

‘Measure For Measure’ set the scene for a big international breakthrough. From ICEHOUSE’s fifth album ‘Man Of Colours’, the anthemic ‘Crazy’ took the lead from SIMPLE MINDS’ ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’ and roused the senses via a thoroughly brilliant chorus. Meanwhile ‘Electric Blue’, co-written with John Oates of HALL & OATES fame was simply tailor made for American FM radio.

But it was the beautiful ‘Man Of Colours’ title track that was the centrepiece of the album, combining electronics with woodwinds (Davies was an oboe player with the Sydney Youth Orchestra) in a song that could have easily come from the ‘Measure To Measure’ sessions. Overall, the album was certainly ICEHOUSE’s most universally accessible and led to them touring the world throughout in 1988; ‘Man Of Colours’ is still the highest-selling album in Australia by an Australian band.

With no new album forthcoming, the next single was the straightforward rock pop of ‘Touch The Fire’ and issued to promote an ICEHOUSE best of ‘Great Southern Land’ in 1989. Another song recorded for the compilation ‘Jimmy Dean’ followed a similar line but then after that, ICEHOUSE lost momentum with 1990’s ‘Code Blue’ and 1993’s ‘Big Wheel’ albums only appealing to their hardcore fanbase.

However, 1997’s ‘The Berlin Tapes’ unplugged covers project (from which no songs feature on this collection) recorded for the Sydney Dance Company provided an interesting showcase tribute to Davies’ influences ranging from ROXY MUSIC, DAVID BOWIE and TALKING HEADS to LOU REED and FRANK SINATRA to PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED, THE CURE and KILLING JOKE.

Since then, Iva Davies has recorded a number of solo albums and scored the soundtrack for the Russell Crowe film ‘Master & Commander’ in 2003.

But more recently, ICEHOUSE have enjoyed a renaissance in Australia following a return to live performance with the ‘Primitive Colours’ retrospective shows.

Very much under rated in the UK, ‘White Heat: 30 Hits’ is a great way of discovering ICEHOUSE’s fabulous music from an era when people were far too interested in the macho posturing of INXS’ Michael Hutchence and Sting-isms of MEN AT WORK as far as Australian acts were concerned to have noticed the songcraft of Iva Davies.

As the man himself sang: “I am a man, a simple man… a man of colours”


‘White Heat: 30 Hits’ is released in Europe as a 2CD+DVD boxed set by Repertoire Records

http://www.icehouse-ivadavies.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Icehouse/

https://twitter.com/Icehouseband


Text by Chi Ming Lai
26th October 2013