Tag: Lori & The Chameleons

MUSIK, MUSIC, MUSIQUE 1980: The Dawn Of Synth Pop

1977 is often seen as Year Zero for synthpop, thanks to hit singles by DONNA SUMMER, SPACE and JEAN-MICHEL JARRE.

But it was not until 1979 with TUBEWAY ARMY reaching No1 with ‘Are Friends Electric?’ that the sound of synth truly hit the mainstream.  Although ‘No1 Song In Heaven’ by SPARKS had actually been a hit a few months earlier, ‘Are Friends Electric?’ was the beginning of the synth being accepted as a worthy mode of expression, rather than as a novelty. But as synths became more affordable, they became the perfect tool of youthful expression.

From Cherry Red, makers of the excellent ’Electrical Language: Independent British Synth Pop 78-84’ 4CD boxed set, comes ‘Musik Music Musique’; subtitled ‘1980: The Dawn Of Synth Pop’, this 3CD 58 track collection explores the arrival of synth pop and the dawn of a new musical era. This was the year before the synth became the rule rather than the exception with the success of SOFT CELL and DEPECHE MODE.

The set starts appropriately with OMD and ‘Messages’, one of the first tunes showcasing the warmer side of electronics following the colder wave led by Messrs Numan and Foxx. But as if to counter this next generation of youngsters, ‘Messages’ is immediately followed by the collection’s vocoder laden title song ‘Musik Music Musique’ from Zeus B Held and the superb proto-industrial ode to loveless sex ‘Coitus Interruptus’ by the much missed FAD GADGET.

Zeus B Held was later to make his impression on popular culture remixing ALPHAVILLE and SIMPLE MINDS as well producing the likes of FASHION, DEAD OR ALIVE, SPEAR OF DESTINY and TRANSVISION VAMP, but his wider breakthrough came as part of GINA X PERFORMANCE in 1979 with The Blitz Club favourite ‘No GDM’; on this compendium, the lesser-known but just as worthy ‘Vendor’s Box’ from their second album ‘X-Traordinaire’ is deservedly provided a platform.

The best producers often earn their spurs as artists and realising their limitations, use their accumulated studio nous to subvert the mainstream via pop. ‘Astroboy’ by BUGGLES sees Trevor Horn develop his sonic architecture to prove that he had another song that wasn’t ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’. Meanwhile the welcome inclusion of NEW MUSIK’s other hit ‘This World Of Water’ allows Tony Mansfield to showcase the crafted sparkle that would later go on to adorn records by CAPTAIN SENSIBLE, VICIOUS PINK, A-HA and NAKED EYES.

It may seem strange to see SPANDAU BALLET as part of this package but when they first appeared, they were considered a synthesizer band; ‘Glow’ was a UK double A side single with ‘Musclebound’ in 1981 and while it was the last synth-led track they did, their funk soul aspirations were there for all to hear. In fact, songwriter Gary Kemp had conceived ‘Glow’ with a brass section in mind, so it is now something of a curio that could be seen as a precursor to ‘Chant No1’.

SPANDAU BALLET were produced by Richard James Burgess who co-designed the Simmons SDSV; his electro-jazz combo LANDSCAPE figure with the Colin Thurston helmed ‘European Man’ which was actually designated “electronic dance music” on its single artwork some three decades before it was appropriated and abbreviated to become EDM…

Many of the usual suspects from the period like VISAGE, JAPAN, JOHN FOXX, THE HUMAN LEAGUE and OUR DAUGHTER’S WEDDING are all present and correct with familiar recordings, but interestingly (although not for the better), it’s the original version of PHIL LYNOTT’s ‘Yellow Pearl’ without the Rusty Egan drums or the Midge Ure remix that gets the nod!

One of the main beauties of these thoughtfully curated collections is to be able sway away from the obvious and feature a known-name with a lesser-known work; in the case of ULTRAVOX, it’s the occasionally Eno-inspired and Conny Plank produced ‘Waiting’ which was the B-side to their first Midge Ure fronted single ‘Sleepwalk’. Meanwhile, SUICIDE are represented by the excellent Ric Ocasek produced ‘Diamonds, Fur Coat, Champagne’ and YELLO with ‘Bimbo’, the oddball opener of the Swiss trailblazers’ debut long player ‘Solid Pleasure’.

SILICON TEENS get to feature with something other than ‘Memphis Tennessee’ and it’s the Daniel Miller‘s self-penned instrumental ‘Chip N Roll’ that has the honour, while the Mute Records founder gets another track in with ‘Brushing Your Hair’, a gloriously vibrant instrumental production and co-write for Alex Fergusson of ALTERNATIVE TV.

There’s additionally tracks by lesser known international acts or those bands that faded from view after effectively being one hit wonders. The entire career of M may have been overshadowed by the ubiquitous ‘Pop Muzik’ but Robin Scott did go on to release three albums and work with Ryuichi Sakamoto; the sombre ‘Official Secrets’ may not really have much of a hook but it contains some percolating bleepy sections that pre-date KRAFTWERK’s ‘Home Computer’ by one year.

‘A Circuit Like Me’ from Australian combo, THE METRONOMES actually sounds very 21st century with its detached female vocal and charming monosynths, while the gallop of ‘Drawn & Quartered’ by THE KORGIS is a worthy find. Now while ROCKETS found fame with a catchy robotic flavoured cover of ‘On The Road Again’ with the help of Zeus B Held, the silver faced Italians found that the vocoder suited their performance art poise and reapplied it for the self-penned space rocker ‘Galactica’.

Also possessing a bit of a gallop is LORI & THE CHAMELEONS’ wispy Morricone-influenced single ‘The Lonely Spy’ although with its acoustic strum, it is quite different from the understated electronic disco of their best known track ‘Touch’. Cut from a similar melodic post-punk cloth, the Martin Hannett produced ‘Sympathy’ from PAULINE MURRAY & THE INVISIBLE GIRLS is a reminder of how women were coming to the fore after punk in synth-assisted new wave, a fact borne out on ‘Musik Music Musique’ by the inclusion of more obscure works from TOYAH, KIM WILDE and HAZEL O’CONNOR.

‘Musik Music Musique’ is also an opportunity to become reacquainted with lost tunes of yore and ‘The Eyes Have It’ by KAREL FIALKA will be remembered by those who owned the 1980 Virgin Records compilation ‘Machines’, as will the octave driven ‘Destiny’ by DALEK I LOVE YOU. Some enjoyably avant pop adventures come courtesy of XYNN’s ‘Computed Man’ and SCIENCE’s ‘Tokyo’, while one of the more bizarre but successful experiments included is ‘I’m A Computer’ by THE GOO-Q.

One of the lesser known acts featuring with the eccentric ‘Money’ is MOEBIUS, not the member of German duo CLUSTER but an American art rock band with a penchant for DEVO. ‘Doctor …?’ by BLOOD DONOR is another wonderful discovery while of the more experimental art pieces included, NINI RAVIOLETTE’s ‘Suis-Je Normale’ delightfully comes over like a collaboration between Jane Birkin and Laurie Anderson.

Düsseldorf is often seen as the spiritual home of electronic music and there is worthy representation from DER PLAN and ‘Da Vorne Steht Ne Ampel’ illustrating how there were other dimensions to German electronic music other than that engineered by KRAFTWERK. But closing the set is the band named after the Electri_City itself, LA DÜSSELDORF with the light-hearted ‘Dampfriemen’; a quirky slice of synth “Oompah” with comedic chants and a kazoo section, it sums up the manic oddball nature of the former NEU! drummer Klaus Dinger.

There are many other tracks that have merit, but textures which reoccur on ‘Musik Music Musique’ to date stamp the period are the icy chill of the affordable ARP Quartet string machine and squawky sax, although not in an overblown jazz funk way.

Despite ‘Musik Music Musique’ comprising of a carefully researched tracklisting, a few errors do slip through; as well as the SPANDAU BALLET track being released in 1981 as already mentioned (although it was available on a very scarce Japanese-only promo sampler in late 1980), the version of ‘Kebabträume’ by DAF is the 1982 Conny Plank version from the Virgin album ‘Für Immer’ and not the Bob Giddens produced Mute Records five piece band recording which actually came out in 1980.

Then in the booklet, the Foxx fronted 1977 line-up of ULTRAVOX! gets illustrated as opposed to the New Romantic suited Midge Ure one, while LA DÜSSELDORF’s Hans Lampe is referred to as a “Keyboard Whizz” when he is actually a drummer and now performs with Michael Rother who was Klaus Dinger’s partner in NEU!; in fact Dinger handled keyboards himself under the pseudonym of Nikolaus Van Rhein.

Those are minor quibbles though, because this set is very good value and acts as a great music history lesson as well as offering the chance to hear some new vintage synth. While many may have heard of BERLIN BLONDES, THE PASSAGE, THE FALLOUT CLUB and EYELESS IN GAZA, only a few will have heard their music.

‘Musik Music Musique’ offers something of a low risk opportunity to make some new friends while becoming reacquainted with a few old and lost ones. Here’s to the 1981 follow-up set…


‘Musik Music Musique – 1980: The Dawn Of Synth Pop’  is released on 31st July 2020 as a 3CD boxed set by Cherry Red Records

https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/musik-music-musique-1980-the-dawn-of-synth-pop-various-artists-3cd/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
13th July 2020

ELECTRICAL LANGUAGE Independent British Synth Pop 78-84

From Cherry Red Records, the makers of the ‘Close To The Noise Floor’ trilogy showcasing formative and experimental electronic music from the UK, Europe and North America, comes their most accessible electronic collection yet.

Subtitled ‘Independent British Synth Pop 78-84’, ‘Electrical Language’ is a lavish 4CD 80 track boxed set covering the post-punk period when all that synthesizer experimentation and noise terrorism morphed into pop.

Largely eschewing the guitar and the drum kit, this was a fresh movement which sprung from a generation haunted by the spectre of the Cold War, Mutually Assured Destruction and closer to home, the Winter of Discontent.

As exemplified by known names like THE HUMAN LEAGUE, FAD GADGET, SECTION 25 and BLUE ZOO included in the set to draw in the more cautious consumer, this was pop in a very loose manner with melodies, riffs and danceable rhythms but hardly the stuff of ABBA or THE BEE GEES!

‘Red Frame/White Light’ by OMD was a chirpy ditty about the 632 3003 phone box which the band used as their office, while THOMAS DOLBY’s ‘Windpower’ was a rallying call for renewable energy sources. Then there was the dystopian ‘Warm Leatherette’ by THE NORMAL based around two noisy notes and lyrically based on JG Ballard’s ‘Crash’ with its story around car collision symphorophilia.

While those acts’ stories have been rightly celebrated for putting the electronic avant pop art form into the mainstream, with any truly great compilation or collection, the joy is in finding the lesser known jewels.

Made primarily by the idealistic outsiders and independent experimenters from the lesser known side of Synth Britannia, ‘Electrical Language’ has plenty of synthetic material to rediscover or hear for the first time. Indeed, the more appealing tracks appear to fall into three categories; forgotten songs that should have been hits, oddball cover versions and largely unknown archive wonders.

Those forgotten gems include the exotic ‘Electrical Language’ title track by BE BOP DELUXE, documenting the moment Bill Nelson went electro. His production on the gloriously emotive ‘Feels Like Winter Again’ by FIAT LUX is another welcome inclusion to the set.

But the two best tracks on ‘Electrical Language’ are coincidentally spoken word; ‘Touch’ by LORI & THE CHAMELEONS about a girl’s Japanese holiday romance is as enchanting and delightful as ever, while there is also THROBBING GRISTLE refugees CHRIS & COSEY’s wispy celebration of Autumnal neu romance ‘October (Love Song)’, later covered in the 21st Century in pure Hellectro style by MARSHEAUX.

Merseyside has always been a centre for creativity and this included synthpop back in the day. ‘I’m Thinking Of You Now’ from BOX OF TOYS was a superb angsty reflection of young manhood that included an oboe inflected twist which was released on the Inevitable label in 1983. From that same stable, FREEZE FRAME are represented by the atmospheric pop of ‘Your Voice’

Jayne Casey was considered the face of Liverpool post-punk fronting BIG IN JAPAN and PINK MILITARY; the lo-fi electronic offshoot PINK INDUSTRY released three albums but the superb ‘Taddy Up’ with its machine backbone to contrast the ethereal combination of voice and synths lay in the vaults until 2008 and is a welcome inclusion. The ‘other’ Wirral synth duo of note were DALEK I LOVE YOU whose ‘The World’ from 1980 remains eccentric and retro-futuristic.

Scotland was in on the action too despite many local musicians preferring THE BYRDS and STEELY DAN; although both ‘Mr Nobody’ from THOMAS LEER and ‘Time’ by PAUL HAIG were detached and electronic, they vocally expressed minor levels of Trans-Atlantic soul lilt compared with the more deadpan styles of the majority gathered on ‘Electrical Language’.

Under rated acts form a core of ‘Electrical Language’ and while THE MOBILES’ ‘Drowning In Berlin’ may have come across like 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 in 3/4 time!

NEW MUSIK’s ‘The Planet Doesn’t Mind’ probably would have gone Top 20 if had been done by HOWARD JONES, although band leader Tony Mansfield had the last laugh when he later became a producer working with the likes of A-HA and NAKED EYES. The brassy arty synthpop of ‘XOYO’ from Dick Witts’ THE PASSAGE was immensely catchy with riffs galore, while POEME ELECTRONIQUE’s ‘She’s An Image’ offered stark European electro-cabaret.

Cut from a similar cloth, one-time ULTRAVOX support act EDDIE & SUNSHINE inventively (and some would say pretentiously) presented a Living TV art concept but they also possessed a few good songs. The quirkily charming ‘There’s Someone Following Me’ deserved greater recognition back in the day and its later single version was remixed by one Hans Zimmer.

Meanwhile, the 4AD label could always be counted on more esoteric output and COLOURBOX’s ‘Tarantula’ was from that lineage, but then a few years later perhaps unexpectedly, they became the instigators of M/A/R/R/S ‘Pump Up the Volume’.

These days, modern synth artists think it is something an achievement to cover a synthpop classic, although it is rather pointless. But back in the day, as there were not really that many synthpop numbers to cover, the rock ‘n’ roll songbook was mined as a kind of post-modern statement. The synth was seen as the ultimate anti-institution instrument and the cover versions included on ‘Electrical Language’ are out-of-the-box and original, if not entirely successful.

Take TECHNO POP’s reinterpretation of ‘Paint It Black’ which comes over like Sci-Fi Arthur Brown while the brilliant ‘My Coo Ca Choo’ by BEASTS IN CAGES (which features half of HARD CORPS) is like PJ Proby with his characteristic pub singer warble fronting SILICON TEENS with a proto-GOLDFRAPP stomp.

Having contributed a T-REX cover for the ‘Some Bizzare Album’, THE FAST SET recorded another. Whereas ‘King Of The Rumbling Spires’ on the former was frantic electro-punk, ‘Children Of The Revolution’ is far more sombre and almost funereal. Least desirable of the covers though is ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’ by HYBRID KIDS.

Of the obscurities worth checking out, the rousing standout is ‘Lying Next To You’ by Liverpool’s PASSION POLKA. A brilliant track akin to CHINA CRISIS ‘Working With Fire & Steel’ but with more synths and drum machine, it was recorded in 1983 but never actually saw the light of day until 2011 via a belated release on Anna Logue Records.

Delightfully odd, the VL Tone and organ infused ‘Bandwagon Tango’ from TESTCARD F is swathed with metallic rattles and possesses a suitably mechanical detachment. But with piercing pipey sounds and a hypnotic sequence, the metronomic ‘Destitution’ by cult minimal wavers CAMERA OBSCURA with its off key voice is one of the better productions of that type. Cut from a similar cloth, the perky ‘Videomatic’ by FINAL PROGRAM throws in some lovely string synths to close.

Swirlingly driven by Linn and her sisters, ‘Baby Won’t Phone’ by QUADRASCOPE comes from the Vince Clarke school of song with not only a great vocal, but also the surprise of a guitar solo in the vein of ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN!

‘The Secret Affair’ from JUPITER RED is a great ethereal midtempo synthpop song also using a Linn, while ‘Surface Tension’ from ANALYSIS is an appealing club friendly instrumental that was largely the work of the late Martin Lloyd who later was part of OPPENHEIMER ANALYSIS.

Produced by Daniel Miller, ALAN BURNHAM’s ‘Science Fiction’ from 1981 takes a leaf out of DALEK I LOVE YOU, while tightly sequenced and bursting with white noise in the intro, ‘Feel So Young’ by LAUGH CLOWN LAUGH has bubbling potential but is spoiled by some terribly flat vocals.

One of the weirder tracks is ELECTRONIC ENSEMBLE’s filmic ‘It Happened Then’ which recalls Parisian art rockers ROCKETS; backed by a brilliant ensemble of synths, it sees the return of the cosmic voice from Sparky’s Magic Piano and remember in that story, it could play all by itself!

Of course, other tracks are available and may suit more leftfield tastes… packaged as a lavish hardback book, there are extensive sleeve notes including artist commentaries, archive photos and an introductory essay by journalist Dave Henderson who cut his teeth with ‘Noise’, a short-lived ‘Smash Hits’ rival that featured a regular ‘Electrobop’ column covering the latest developments in synth.

While worthy, the ‘Close To The Noise Floor’ trilogy could at times be very challenging, but ‘Electrical Language’ provides some accessible balance, allowing tunes and beats in. It captures an important developmental phase in music, when technology got more sophisticated, cheaper and user friendly, that can be directly connected to ‘Pump Up the Volume’. Yes, this story is the unlikely seed of the later dance revolution, like it or not! And at just less than twenty five quid, this really is an essential purchase.


‘Electrical Language’ is released as 4CD boxed set on 31st May 2019 and can be pre-ordered from https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/electrical-language-independent-british-synth-pop-78-84-various-artists-4cd-48pp-bookpack/

https://www.facebook.com/closetothenoisefloor/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
23rd May 2019

TEC’s 25 SYNTH SINGLES THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN HITS

The late Ronnie Peterson has been acknowledged as one of the fastest Grand Prix drivers of all time, yet he was never crowned World Champion.

peterson-ItalianGrandPrix_1971Statistics can often not be a good indicator of quality and so it is that sometimes, a great single never actually attained the sales recognition it deserved.

This could have been due to timing, lack of interest from a fickle music buying public or even a saturated market. While some of these lost singles do get forgotten, many become live standards and firm fan favourites.

So here are 25 singles from predominantly established acts, or collectives featuring figures who are now well known in the music scene, that did not reach the UK Top 40 Singles Chart. Due to the sheer numbers of songs that are eligible, a cut-off point has been made for when CD singles started to become the norm around 1990.

Please note that after much deliberation, it was decided to leave out the work of ASSOCIATES as a number of their songs that would have been contenders for this list were featured in The Electricity Club’s own Beginner’s Guide To BILLY MACKENZIE. There are of course, several other notable omissions, but this list could go on forever…

So with a restriction of one single per artist moniker, the list is presented in chronological order by year, and then alphabetically…


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Empire State Human (1979)

the-human-league-empire-state-human-virginIt seems unbelievable now that this extremely catchy single failed to be a big hit in an era when synthesizers were being accepted by the wider record buying public. After all, both SPARKS and TUBEWAY ARMY had entered the Top 20 with their Moog assisted ditties. In hindsight though, Colin Thurston’s production did sound comparatively thin next to ‘The Number One Song in Heaven’ and ‘Are Friends Electric?’. Despite a timely re-release in 1980, ‘Empire State Human’ only reached a high of No62.

Available on THE HUMAN LEAGUE album ‘Reproduction’ via Virgin Records

http://www.thehumanleague.co.uk


LORI & THE CHAMELEONS Touch (1979)

Lori--The-Chameleons-Touch---2nd-issue-448240THE CHAMELEONS (not to be confused with the cult Manchester band) were actually Zoo Records supremos Bill Drummond of THE KLF fame and country house resident Dave Balfe who played keyboards with THE TEARDROP EXPLODES. On the beautifully sequenced ‘Touch’, art school student Lori Lartey innocently told of her holiday romance in Tokyo. It spent one week at No70 when re-issued on Sire Records. There was to be just one more single entitled ‘The Lonely Spy’.

Available on the compilation album ‘North By North West’ (V/A) via Korova Records / Warner Music

http://www.penkilnburn.com/


JAPAN Gentlemen Take Polaroids (1980)

JAPAN Gentlemen Take PolaroidsAfter three albums with Ariola Hansa, JAPAN decamped to Virgin Records and reached No60 with ‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’, their first single release on the label. This should have been considered a promising success, but much more was expected as the band were already playing huge venues such as The Bukodan in Tokyo. It would not be until Autumn 1981 following a cash-in release of ‘Quiet Life’ by their former label that David Sylvian and Co. were to become regular singles chart fixtures.

Full length version available on the JAPAN album ‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’ via Virgin Records

http://www.nightporter.co.uk


ROBERT PALMER Johnny & Mary (1980)

robert-palmer-johnny-and-mary-islandThe suave Mr Palmer took an interest in synths having become a fan of GARY NUMAN and JAPAN. ‘Johnny & Mary’ was a beautifully world weary number that hit a high of No44. Palmer was to later have massive success with a more rock flavoured sound while his bank balance was enhanced when ‘Johnny & Mary’ was covered for the ‘Papa et Nicole’ Renault adverts. Bryan Ferry’s reinterpretation with Todd Terje exposed a twilight years scrutiny on the lyrics which sadly, Palmer himself was never able to do….

Available on the ROBERT PALMER album ‘Clues’ via Island Records / Universal Music

http://www.robertpalmer.com/


SIMPLE MINDS I Travel (1980)

SIMPLE MINDS I TravelSIMPLE MINDS were signed to Arista Records between 1979-1980 and like JAPAN, they were met with indifference by their label. ‘I Travel’ was their penultimate single at Arista who threw in a free blue flexidisc featuring ‘Kaleidoscope’ and ‘Film Theme Dub’ as a sweetener to early purchasers. But despite airplay from Rusty Egan at The Blitz Club where its futuristic frenzy was highly welcomed, ‘I Travel’ did not make any chart impact. Arista’s 1982 cash-in reissue of ‘I Travel’ disappeared without trace…

Available on the SIMPLE MINDS album ‘Celebrate: The Greatest Hits’ via Virgin Records

http://www.simpleminds.com


ULTRAVOX Passing Strangers (1980)

ultravox-passing-strangers-chrysalisThings were heading in the right direction for the Mk2 line-up of ULTRAVOX following ‘Sleepwalk’ getting to No29 in the UK chart. Built around a more synth rock structure, ‘Passing Strangers’ had the makings of a bigger hit with a great chorus and a sympathetic environment in which THE HUMAN LEAGUE and DEPECHE MODE were also managing to break through. But the single stiffed at No57 and it would take the massive surprise success of ‘Vienna’ in early 1981 to truly establish ULTRAVOX as a chart force.

Available on the ULTRAVOX album ‘The Collection’ via EMI Records

http://www.ultravox.org.uk


OUR DAUGHTER’S WEDDING Lawnchairs (1981)

OUR DAUGHTERS WEDDING LawnchairsNew York trio OUR DAUGHTER’S WEDDING were one of the new synthpop acts to emerge following Synth Britannia from across the Atlantic and their best known song ‘Lawnchairs’ was a frantic mechanised combination of OMD and GARY NUMAN. Despite gaining regular radio play in the UK, its chart summit was No49. The trio later re-recorded ‘Lawnchairs’ with a more conventional live drum sound, but this template totally took the charm out of the song!

Available on the OUR DAUGHTER’S WEDDING album ‘Nightlife – The Collection’ via EP Music

http://www.synthpunk.org/odw/


SOFT CELL Memorabilia (1981)

SOFT CELL MemorabiliaProduced by Daniel Miller, ‘Memorabilia’ borrowed heavily from CERRONE’s ‘Supernature’ and the funky overtures of James Brown. Released as a 12 inch single in March 1981 but relegated to B-side status on the edited 7 inch format where ‘A Man Could Get Lost’ was the A-side, Almond recalled a list of trashy souvenirs over a linear dance track that were also metaphors for stalking. Dark yet danceable, despite not being a hit, ‘Memorabilia’ would later become citied as an influential proto-house classic.

Available on the SOFT CELL album ‘The Very Best Of’ via Phonogram / Universal Music

http://www.marcalmond.co.uk


BLANCMANGE Feel Me (1982)

BLANCMANGE Feel MeIf Ian Curtis had joined TALKING HEADS, then it might have sounded like this. “On reflection, I always thought it was more David Byrne than Ian Curtis but, there was never any intention” recalled Neil Arthur in 2013, “We hired a Roland Jupiter 8, an ARP sequencer and a Korg MS20 plus a Linn LM-1 which Stephen Luscombe and I programmed up” . Reaching No46, ‘Feel Me’ always had untapped hit potential as FAITHLESS’ reworking using Arthur’s vocals proved.

Available on the BLANCMANGE album ‘Happy Families’ via Edsel Records

http://www.blancmange.co.uk


THOMAS DOLBY Europa & The Pirate Twins (1982)

THOMAS DOLBY EuropaWith its thundering Simmons drums and glistening synth riff, ‘Europa & The Pirate Twins’ was based on a real life romance of Dolby’s: “I had a girlfriend and we used to fantasise that after the apocalypse, wherever we were, we would meet up on this beach in East Anglia where I grew up… I always thought she’d end up being this big movie star or something”. Alas the single was not a Top40 hit, but the song entered the wider consciousness when its intro was used as the theme to BBC Radio1 show ‘Saturday Live’.

Available on the THOMAS DOLBY album ‘The Golden Age Of Wireless’ via EMI Records

http://www.thomasdolby.com


HEAVEN 17 Let Me Go (1982)

HEAVEN 17 Let me goGlenn Gregory and Martyn Ware often cite ‘Let Me Go’ as their favourite HEAVEN 17 song. Propelled by a funky Roland TB303 Bassline in the days before it was hijacked by Acid House, ‘Let Me Go’ had hit written all over it, but stalled at No41. But in a competitive Autumn ‘82 for new releases, even songs that were to become international hits like THOMAS DOLBY’s ‘She Blinded Me With Science’ and EURYTHMICS’ ‘Love Is A Stranger’ (on its initial release) were having difficulties getting into the Top40 as well.

Available on the HEAVEN 17 album ‘The Luxury Gap’ via Virgin Records

http://www.heaven17.com


THE TEARDROP EXPLODES Tiny Children (1982)

Teardrop Explodes - Tiny ChildrenTrip-poppers TX may not have been a synthesizer driven group as such, but this marvellously haunting ballad was layered in Prophet5 courtesy of Dave Balfe while Julian Cope sounded like a distressed little boy, lost in his sunshine playroom. Mercury Records probably thought ‘Tiny Children’ would be a hit following the success of JAPAN’s ‘Ghosts’ but released in June 1982, the sonic chill reminiscent of Copey’s hero Scott Walker was not what people were wanted to hear as they prepared for their summer holidays!

Available on THE TEARDROP EXPLODES album ‘The Greatest Hit’ via Mercury / Universal Music

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


TEARS FOR FEARS Suffer The Children (1982)

TEARS FOR FEARS Suffer The ChildrenIt’s now strange to think that when TEARS FOR FEARS first appeared, they were trying to emulate OMD. ‘Suffer The Children’ took inspiration from Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal de la Quintana’s interest in Primal Scream therapy while musically, it recalled McCluskey and Humphreys’ ‘Pretending To See The Future’ but with more guitar. The child-like refrain by Ozabal’s wife within the bridge and coda would have actually sounded like an OMD hookline had it been played on synth.

Available on the TEARS FOR FEARS deluxe album ‘The Hurting’ via Mercury / Universal Music

http://tearsforfears.com/


VISAGE Pleasure Boys (1982)

VISAGE Pleasure BoysIn Autumn 1982, VISAGE were in a state of limbo following the departure of Midge Ure. But with John Luongo who had remixed ‘Night Train’ on board, the remaining quartet of Steve Strange, Rusty Egan, Billy Currie and Dave Formula plus new bassist Steve Barnacle explored New York electro. ‘Pleasure Boys’ was hard and aggressive with lyrics full of hedonism. But the New Romantic audience had moved on and sales were only enough for it to get to No44.

Full length dance mix version available on the VISAGE album ‘The Face – The Best Of’ via Universal Music

http://www.visage.cc/


DEAD OR ALIVE Misty Circles (1983)

DEAD OR ALIVE Misty CirclesHave courted the major labels for some time, DEAD OR ALIVE finally settled on Epic Records and unleashed this vicious slice of electro gothic disco in ‘Misty Circles’ as their first single release for them. Featuring guitars from a soon to be sacked Wayne Hussey, who went on to join THE SISTERS OF MERCY and then form THE MISSION, ‘Misty Circles’ had a highly unusual sound produced by Zeus B Held that was initially far darker than the romping Hi-NRG that DEAD OR ALIVE were later to have hits with.

Full length version available on the DEAD OR ALIVE album ‘Evolution’ via Epic Records / Sony Music

http://www.deadoralive.net/


JOHN FOXX Endlessly (1983)

JOHN FOXX EndlesslyBy 1983, JOHN FOXX had moved away from pure electronic music and was now listening to both SIMPLE MINDS and U2. His third solo album ‘The Golden Section’ took on a more pop oriented slant under the auspices of producer Zeus B Held ‘Endlessly’ was initially released in 1982 as a moody Linn drum heavy psychedelic romp and failed to chart. But for the new version, thundering sequencers, Simmons drums and a danced up euphoria were added… however, it still failed to be a hit.

Available on the JOHN FOXX album ‘The Golden Section’ via Esdel Records

http://www.metamatic.com


OMD Telegraph (1983)

OMD-Telegraph‘Electricity’ would have been a hit had its sales not been spread over three separate releases with three different recorded versions between 1979-80. ‘Telegraph’ was Andy McCluskey’s angry metaphoric attack on religious fundamentalism in the United States, but considered to be the most commercial track on OMD’s brave but critically panned nautical adventure ‘Dazzle Ships’. With an infectious synth melody, what was there not to like? But OMD’s audience had diminished by this time and it only got to No42.

Available on the OMD album ‘Dazzle Ships’ via Virgin Records

http://www.omd.uk.com


TALK TALK My Foolish Friend (1983)

TALK TALK My Foolish FriendBrilliantly produced by Rhett Davies who was best known for his slick touches on ROXY MUSIC’s ‘Avalon’, ‘My Foolish Friend’ was the last TALK TALK song to feature contributions from their original keyboardist Simon Brenner. Released in the interim between ‘The Party’s Over’ and ‘It’s My Life’ albums as a single, Mark Hollis was in wonderfully miserable mode over a dramatic synthesized backdrop. The single became lost when it only reached No57 and was not included on the ‘It’s My Life’ long player.

Available on the TALK TALK album ‘Asides Besides’ via EMI Music

http://www.spiritoftalktalk.com


THE BLUE NILE Tinseltown In The Rain (1984)

blue_nile-tinseltown_in_the_rain-frontA classic song that sounded like THE PSYCHEDELIC FURS fronting OMD, ‘Tinseltown In The Rain’ is regarded as THE BLUE NILE’s signature tune. From the album ‘A Walk Across The Rooftops’ that was released as part of a deal with hi-fi manufacturer Linn Products to showcase their flagship Sondek LP12 turntable, the gorgeous melancholy of ‘Tinseltown In the Rain’ had an understated quality that ensured the trio’s sporadic releases over the next 20 years were eagerly anticipated by the musical cognoscenti.

Full length version available on THE BLUE NILE album ‘A Walk Across The Rooftops’ via Virgin Records

http://www.thebluenile.net


CHINA CRISIS Arizona Sky (1986)

china-crisis-arizona-sky-virginLiverpudlian combo CHINA CRISIS are probably the most under rated band of their generation. Lyrically inspired by an artificially assisted gondola ride in Venice, ‘Arizona Sky’ was one of their many singles which deserved greater recognition. The nucleus of Gary Daly and Eddie Lundon usually managed at least one hit per album but with the wonderful ‘Arizona Sky’, it was not to be. It settled at No47 despite the song’s brilliant singalong chorus, infectious synthesized textures and catchy “bop-bop-be-doo-dah” refrain.

Full length version available on the CHINA CRISIS album ‘Wishful Thinking: The Very Best Of’ via Universal Music

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


ERASURE Oh L’Amour (1986)

Erasure_-_Oh_L'amour“Why are they doing a DOLLAR song?” someone was overheard at their first visit to an ERASURE concert. And this ultimately sums up why ‘Oh L’Amour’ should have been a massive hit. Its now highly collectable ‘Thomas The Tank Engine’ cover had to be withdrawn due to copyright infringement and wouldn’t have helped availability. However, it should be noted that the original artwork does not actually feature Thomas The Tank Engine, but two incidental characters from the Reverend W Audrey’s famous books!

Available on the ERASURE album ‘Always – The Very Best Of’ via Mute Records

http://www.erasureinfo.com


NEW ORDER Bizarre Love Triangle (1986)

NEW ORDER Bizarre fac163One of NEW ORDER’s best loved tunes, ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ only reached No56 in the UK Chart as a single. However, the version released for 45 RPM consumption was an irritating, dance enhanced remix by Shep Pettibone which took all the subtlety out of the song with its collage of overdriven percussive samples. Far better and much more commercial was an at-the-time unreleased remix by Stephen Hague which later formed the basis of the ’94 version on ‘(the best of)’ compilation.

Available on the NEW ORDER album ‘Singles’ via Rhino Records

http://www.neworder.com


ACT Snobbery & Decay (1987)

act-snobbery-and-decay-ztt-1It was the height of Thatcherism and the Synclavier driven theatrics of ‘Snobbery & Decay’ were a sharp observation by Claudia Brücken and Thomas Leer on the state of the nation. However, the UK were not yet ready for an Anglophile German to tell them about its political decline… “No sadly they didn’t” remembered Claudia Brücken in Summer of 2010, “perhaps it was just not the right moment for this song… Thomas does think that perhaps we were ahead of our time”.

Available on the CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN album ‘ComBined – The Best Of’ via Salvo / Union Square Records

http://www.claudiabrucken.co.uk


KRAFTWERK The Telephone Call (1987)

kraftwerk-the-telephone-call-emiThe last single featuring the classic RFWK line-up, ‘The Telephone Call’ was the most immediate track on the disappointing ‘Electric Cafe’ album. Featuring lead vocals from Karl Bartos, despite the abundance of digital synthesis and sampling, ‘The Telephone Call’ still had all the usual Kling Klang hallmarks such as pretty melodies, syncopated rhythms and slightly off-key singing to make this to ‘Electric Cafe’ what ‘Computer Love’ was to 1981’s ‘Computer World’ opus.

Available on the KRAFTWERK album ‘Techno Pop’ via Mute Records

http://www.kraftwerk.com


CAMOUFLAGE The Great Commandment (1988)

camouflage-the-great-commandment-atlanticIn today’s world, DEPECHE MODE influenced acts are common place but in 1989, this was highly unusual. Taking ‘Some Great Reward’ as their template, CAMOUFLAGE developed on the industrial flavoured synthpop of ‘Master & Servant’ and ‘People Are People’ which the Basildon boys had all but abandoned from ‘Black Celebration’ onwards. ‘The Great Commandment’ was probably the best single DM never recorded but while it was a hit in Europe and the US, it made no impression in Britain.

Available on the CAMOUFLAGE album ‘The Singles’ via Polydor Records / Universal Music

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


Text by Chi Ming Lai
3rd January 2015, updated 15th April 2018