Tag: Our Daughter’s Wedding (Page 1 of 2)

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

Ten Years Of TEC: ANOTHER ANNIVERSARY RETROSPECTIVE

Paul Boddy, freelance producer, musician and writer looks back on ten years of The Electricity Club.

I had known Chi Ming Lai previously via another now defunct website which I used to contribute a variety of bootleg remixes of THE HUMAN LEAGUE and DEPECHE MODE. Once we were on each other’s radars and had moved on, I was very flattered when Chi asked me to start contributing to The Electricity Club.

One of the first pieces I did was an interview with ADAMSKI in 2012. Looking back, this was one of the most nerve-wracking things I’d done and completely out of my comfort zone at the time. This was primarily because a) he was a bit of a musical hero of mine as a previous band I was in had covered ‘Killer’ and b) I was faced with the proposition of trying to interview the guy over the phone and then record it using a mobile digital recorder (untried technology for me).

Despite his mobile signal dipping in and out (as he was ambling around London at the time I interviewing him) and the batteries running out on my recorder half-way through, the interview went well and I got a huge sense of achievement once the piece had been transcribed and eventually published.

The main enjoyment I get from occasionally contributing to the site is the ability to interview bands and people within the scene, Chi has kindly put some interviews my way including WANG CHUNG, SHRIEKBACK, KOSHEEN, CHICANE, WRANGLER and CREEP SHOW as well as two of my own personal favourites John Foxx and Ulrich Schnauss. Having the platform to interact with these kind of artists is mind-blowing for me, especially the ones who I have admired and in some places influenced my own musical development. My other approach and contribution to the site is tracking down (some may call this stalking!) artists via social media and approaching them with a view to TEC featuring them in its ‘Missing in Action’ series.

Although a bit hit and miss as some artists don’t always respond when messaged, it has borne fruit with many artists accepting and using the opportunity to reflect and look back on their tenure in the music industry.

In terms of the people I’m most proud of ‘snagging’ in this manner are Scott Simon (OUR DAUGHTER’S WEDDING), Dave ‘Dee’ Harris (FASHIØN), Jerome Froese (TANGERINE DREAM) and Rob Dean (JAPAN). Because of the big interviews already done on the site by Chi, I find that this gives a lot of traction when cold approaching these kind of artists.

However, the icing on the cake was when Chi and myself spent a glorious few hours in a Liverpool Street pub with Stephen Singleton and Mark White from ABC and VICE VERSA. Getting this interview was a long process which started when Stephen contacted me in 2015 with regards to reviewing the VICE VERSA box set; this led to linking up with Mark and after a long period of negotiation and Facebook messenger chats, a face to face interview in 2019 with lots of laughter.

For me this has definitely been my highlight of TEC and although the transcribing of the interview was one of the longest processes I’ve done (the guys LOVED to chat!), the sense of achievement upon completion was huge.

Moving away from the artists themselves and onto electronic synth music itself, Chi and myself have quite differing tastes in music, but with enough crossover that we can still happily work together. The material I favour tends to be male-fronted, often dance-inflected and also with elements of guitars thrown into the mix (see BATTLE TAPES, MAPS, MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY and SPLEEN UNITED).

If you are a reader of the site, you won’t be surprised to hear that along with the other TEC contributors, I continue to be disappointed with the lack of decent UK based synth acts and the exposure that so many second-rate bands continue to get. For a country that has such an amazing heritage of electronic music (like DEPECHE MODE, YAZOO, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, EURYTHMICS, OMD… I can go on), why is it that there are so few acts of quality which are continuing the tradition of these incredible acts?

What grinds my gears the most is the complete lack of emphasis on quality vocals that some UK synth bands have; for many it appears that once a synth backing track has been made, the process of adding vocals is treated as an afterthought. Very little attention is paid to crucial things like tuning / character / lyrics, all traits which have made vocalists such as Alison Moyet and Annie Lennox titans in their field. Whether this will improve and we will get another CHVRCHES or MIRRORS is doubtful, but I live in hope!

Although the original music that I write and produce (J-Pop / K-Pop) isn’t the kind of thing that TEC would champion, it still features a lot of electronics and I have been fortunate to have had success with some major Japanese artists including ARASHI and E-GIRLS (who covered YMO’s ‘Rydeen’).

I continue to write and produce for this market which is great fun. I continue to enjoy performing live as well in various cover bands.

Signing off, TEC has been a wonderful platform for me and has enabled me to interact with many of my musical heroes and also review some of their work too, long may it continue…


Text by Paul Boddy
17th March 2020

HYPERBUBBLE Western Ware

The quirky Texan husband and wife duo HYPERBUBBLE have finally delivered their long awaited cosmic country album with a twist.

First revealed during an interview for The Electricity Club in 2014, ‘Western Ware’ puts the “MOO” into Moog!

Inspired by GIL TRYTHALL’s ‘Switched On Nashville’ which featured a Moog modular version of ‘Gentle On My Mind’ and a bizarre vocoder laden take on ‘Folsom Prison Blues’, ‘Western Ware’ was actually recorded in the home city of country music.

This HYPERBUBBLE album is a collection of covers that promises the recordings are “100% Electronic. No Strings Attached”. Opening song ‘Y’All Come’ is a hoe down in space, but things get more crossover with the unmistakable lilt of ‘Jolene’. Previously covered by acts as unlikely as THE SISTERS OF MERCY, STRAWBERRY SWITCHBLADE and ONE DOVE, Dolly’s classic tune gets an enjoyable synthpop reboot.

On the ‘Nashville in the 23rd Century’ rendition of ‘Boney Fingers’, Jess DeCuir’s theremin is a most perfect Country instrument as it hauntingly twangs, while she duets with her man Jeff. Perhaps unsurprisingly as electronic music’s own CARTER & CASH, ‘Truck Driving Woman’ actually sounds like one of HYPERBUBBLE’s own compositions despite being of 1968 vintage, first made famous by Oklahoma starlet NORMA JEAN.

With its swoops, sweeps and Darth Vader references, the cover of FREDDY WELLER’s ‘Bar Wars’ is hilarious and brought up to date.

The tone continues on a pulsating synth laden rendition of ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ which also features musical pranksters Ricardo Autobahn and Daz Samson as well as some HI-NRG orchestra stabs!

And as the track segues into ‘Digital Cowboy’, there’s a treat for fans of OUR DAUGHTER’S WEDDING as Scott Simon comes out of semi-retirement to play lead synths on this previously unreleased title track from ODW’s first EP.

‘The Rubber Room’ adds some square waltzing and more theremin before the album climaxes with ‘The Electric Horseman’, a meaty take on the instrumental from the Robert Redford film of the same name. Extended from the original which incidentally also featured a sequencer line, the track is given a powerful synthwave workout not far off from PERTURBATOR!

‘Western Ware’ clocks in at just over 29 minutes and while it doesn’t outstay its welcome, it is disappointing that ‘The Devil Went Down To Georgia’, which HYPERBUBBLE have played live on several occasions, hasn’t made the final tracklisting.

As with their previous offering ‘Music To Color By’, phasers are again set to fun and for the ‘Western Ware’ concept alone, HYPERBUBBLE deserve either an award or a straitjacket 😉

‘Western Ware’ uses the following equipment: Moog Etherwave Theremin, Moog Rogue, Moog Sub37, Moog Little Phatty, Moog Theremini, Moog Prodigy, Moog Taurus II, MicroKorg Vocoder, Korg Monotron, Roland Gaia, Roland Juno 60, Roland Jupiter 8, Roland TR707, Roland TR808, Roland TR909, ARP Odyssey, ARP Omni, Yamaha CS01, Casio MT500, Oberheim Matrix, Nord lead, Access Virus T12, Alesis D4, Linn LM2, Boss DR55, Simmons SKHB2, Dubreq Stylophone


‘Western Ware’ is released by Fellowshipwreck as a CD and download
http://www.hyperbubble.net/

https://www.facebook.com/hyperbubble

https://hyperbubble.bandcamp.com/

https://twitter.com/Hyperbubble

http://fellowshipwreck.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
26th February 2017

Missing In Action: OUR DAUGHTER’S WEDDING

Our Daughters Wedding ODW - BW profileIt’s accepted that commercial electronic music had its formative roots in Germany with the innovations started by KRAFTWERK and their transition from the early Krautrock scene through to that of electropop pioneers.

This was followed by the large wave of UK synth-based acts.

However a comparable scene in the United States saw most bands from across the Atlantic, with the exception of DEVO, struggling to achieve major popularity in both their homeland and in the British charts.

Bands such as SUICIDE managed to make it over the pond and supported several established acts, but their influence was only really felt several years later. MINISTRY started out as a New Wave electronic act, but eventually morphed into an Industrial Metal band with frontman Al Jourgensen disowning their early material.

OUR DAUGHTERS WEDDING LawnchairsNew York-based OUR DAUGHTER’S WEDDING, who were named after a card divider in a gift shop, were arguably one the few other commercial US synth bands to make any sort of impact in the UK.

Early single ‘Lawnchairs’, a classic slice of synthpop charted at No49 and has been a regular fixture in many electronic music single compilations ever since.

ODW, who comprised Layne Rico (electronic percussion / synth), Keith Silva (vocals / synth) and Scott Simon (synth / saxophone) were often compared to early DEPECHE MODE and OMD, a comparison which the band themselves disagreed with – musically there were obvious similarities, but with the release of their sole album ‘Moving Windows’, other elements started to creep into their music with a far more polyphonic and funky chord-based approach than some of the more one finger synth bands of the day.

DURAN+ODW AdvertSadly, ODW were a candle that burned brightly but burnt out too quickly, splitting after releasing a handful of singles, a solitary long player and touring as support for several high profile bands including OMD, TALK TALK, U2, DEPECHE MODE and DURAN DURAN.

The Electricity Club spoke to ex-ODW member Scott Simon about the band’s gestation and how musical life was for a synthesizer act based in the US…

How did ODW form and transition into an electronic band?

ODW was the child of previous dysfunctional musical marriages. Firstly, the HUMAN BENDS, a five-piece alternative band formed in suburban San Francisco comprising Layne Rico, Keith Silva, Tim McGeary, Vanessa Wilkenson and myself.

Under the guise of a business, I would arrange for rentals in tract home areas. We’d throw in a few mattresses, our instruments and a circus tent, which we’d pitch in the living room to drown out the sound.

Our Daughters Wedding ODW - Scott Simon thenThe problem was we didn’t have a vocalist, as Keith Silva’s voice hadn’t found its sweet spot yet. We auditioned several but nobody suitable showed up at our door…I’m sure one of the singers was Michael Bolton – long mane, tights and suspenders, Freddy Mercury karaoke! It was a year before we found someone that fit our style, but time had done its deed. The band fought, petty jealousies formed and Tim and I decided to return to New York. Poof!!! No more HUMAN BENDS!!!

After a feeble attempt to resurrect the band on the East Coast, Tim and I decided to form a new band NEIGHBORS & ALLIES. We moved to Philadelphia where I called on a vocalist I had known since childhood and the band gelled quickly. Before we knew it we were back in New York headlining CBGBs and playing for DAVID BOWIE, who was generous in his praise, cigarettes and beer.

It was during these heady days that Keith would talk to me about his idea to form an all-electronic band. At first, I rebuffed the offer to join, but as time passed and things with NEIGHBORS & ALLIES unravelled, I agreed to join Keith.

By this time Layne had moved east with his Synare percussion synth, an instrument only he could master. In the summer of 1980 we started to rehearse in a small flat on West 75th Street and with the privacy of self-powered headphones we wrote our tunes.

Tiny spaces such as the UK club in the East Village were more than happy to let us perform. Word spread, we wrote ‘Lawnchairs’, headlined every club, played with U2 on their first US gig at the Ritz, and rest as they say was history!

While you were championing synth pop on the East Coast, on the West Coast, THE UNITS were developing their style of electro-punk, were you aware of each other and what was your perception of the US synth-based scene?

I think after our North American tour with OMD, we became aware of pockets of electronic music in several cities. We were honoured to share the stage with THE UNITS at San Francisco’s Old Waldorf.

The US scene had more edge, while Euro material took on a more symphonic, ethereal posture.

Early synth bands in the UK notoriously often had a difficult time from crowds unaccustomed to the lack of real instruments being played. How was your experience in US when you became fully electronic?

Trial by fire, my friend! A packed house of bikers on Long Island, my Father’s place to be exact… flying beer bottles and such! But IGGY POP had coached us on the dodgeball effect, so we ducked and played. Soon, seeing that the music we were making was song-based, crowds accepted our format.

You are best known for the song ‘Lawnchairs’, do you get fed up with the lazy comparison to OMD’s ‘Messages’?

I don’t mind the comparison at all. OMD is a great band. We were close friends at one point, even spent time with them in The Manor and their small space in Liverpool.

Both versions of ‘Lawnchairs’ have live drums on them which seemed to go against your primarily electronic sound, was there any particular reasoning behind that?

My brother Frank, who co-produced the first record, suggested we have Layne play a simple beat on kick, snare and hat. This was done to improve the sound quality as we had a limited budget back then!

How was the experience of coming to Chipping Norton Studios to record the ‘Digital Cowboy’ EP with Colin Thurston, producer for DURAN DURAN, TALK TALK and THE HUMAN LEAGUE?

Chipping Norton was great fun – Simon Phillips (who played drums on the EP) was brilliant. Although to be honest, Colin was distracted, he spent a lot of time flying around The Isles on Concorde on our dime. That part was a very unhappy experience, although he later attended our sold-out Venue show and apologized. I hold no grudge…

On the ‘Digital Cowboy’ EP, the band made a point of highlighting that “No Sequencers Were Used”, what was the reasoning behind that statement?

We were proud of our musicianship, that we could play complicated parts with precision and speed, while our contemporaries relied on programming and triggers. I got a first-hand look at the difference when we played with DEPECHE MODE in Chicago.

Your roles seem very defined on your sleeve credits, did you always play “bass synthesizer” or did you contribute other electronic elements?

I started as a drummer, moved to guitar (I have 12 credits of jazz and classical at university), then to keyboards and sax. As the band progressed, I wrote many of the tunes or co-wrote with Keith.

ODW Moving WindowsWas ‘Moving Windows’ a fun studio album to make? Tracks like ‘Buildings’ sound like a riot…

‘Moving Windows’ was a trip! We started in Electric Ladyland, partaking in all it had to offer, then moved to Intergalactic where Afrika Bambaataa and Arthur Baker had taken up residence.

This was all with the guiding hand of David Spradley, former P-FUNK member, writer of ‘Atomic Dog’.

We had access to the only Fairlight in the States at the time and we used it to the fullest. On ‘Buildings’, we dropped wires and mics into a crowd we had gathered on East 86th Street. We taught them the tune, they sang, and were sampled into the Fairlight. The hilarious results are on record.

‘Auto Music’ has one of THE great synth basslines…

I appreciate the nod for ‘Auto Music’ that came about by David Spradley and I jamming one morning in our Union Square loft.

SYNARE advertYou managed to secure some pretty high profile support slots, how was that experience?

We shared a bus with DURAN during our tour of Europe. Interesting, although they weren’t “DURAN DURAN” yet – John, Andy, Roger, Simon and Nick, all great guys. We also hung with them during the ‘Tiger’ tour in the US. What a scene!

Which synths were responsible for the ODW sound and how important was the Synare?

Primarily we used the MicroMoog, Roland RS09 String synth, Sequential Circuits Pro One, Electro Harmonix DRM32 Drum Machine and Synare 2 Percussion synth. Nobody could play the Synare like Layne, the guy was a genius. As we grew, the device was used less, especially when the Prophet 5, OB-X and others came on the scene.

What sort of a relationship did the band have with MTV?

At the time, MTV needed us and we needed them. Our loft was near their West Side studio – a ramshackle, three-story townhouse and both Keith and I appeared / guest hosted with one of the original VJs Martha Quinn. I’d say the band’s relationship culminated with the network when the winning contestant for “BRING MTV TO YOUR HOUSE FOR HALLOWE’EN 1982”, selected ODW and Joey Ramone as the stars he wanted to attend. After a three-hour booze cruise in a stretch limo, we arrived at a small suburban Connecticut house that had been converted into something out of England’s medieval times, thatch roof and all. It was a freak show! The kid was about 14 years old, his parents were overwhelmed by the lights, hangers-on and hoopla. We never heard from MTV after that affair!

Latterly you experienced major problems with your record label, what happened?

EMI screwed us, our record was on the way up, top club DJs such as Mark Kamins gave it the big thumbs up. The LA office killed it due to a personal problem a senior executive had with our representative. A personal problem! Can you believe it? The guy ruined what should have been a long and prosperous career, perhaps for the better? Who knows…

How did you feel when the second “British Invasion” happened and UK electronic bands started to have success in the US?

I’m all about music and writing, the more bands the merrier. I don’t care if they’re from Antarctica!

Our Daughters Wedding ODW - Scott Simon todayWhy did ODW split and did you still continue in music afterwards?

ODW split after the disappointment of working hard to produce good music, but only to find music didn’t matter. People can only take so much. Nowadays I have a studio on my farm, music has been part of my life for as long as I can remember.

I recently wrote and produced an album for PHILADELPHIA SOUL SOCIETY. Before I twirled a drumstick, tuned a guitar, or sat at a piano, writing was my foray into the art world and as pop music and its trappings held me by teenage reins, the pencil became less important, albeit temporarily.

After years of scribbling lyrics into a spiral notebook, mostly for tunes no one would hear, I have returned to writing fiction. My first project was declared one of the winners in the 2009 St. Martin’s Press YA competition. I was too embarrassed to use my name so I selected Simon Barkley as the nom de plume. Today I write under Scott Simon, confident there are people who will find my work entertaining. My genres are historical thrillers and private eye mysteries. I am currently working on the ‘Jedidiah Alcatraz Mysteries’ — three-part adventures of an autistic private eye.

How do you look back on your time in ODW and do you feel proud of your part in the early US electronic scene?

I cherish my time with ODW. It was seminal in my development as an artist and a person. I met my wife of 35 years through the band. She did our record covers. I used to have little regard for our work, mostly I think, because of how things turned out. But over the years, having learned others appreciate ODW and what it means, I have been most fortunate to hear our music in a new light. Through this light, I realized why I first picked up a drumstick 50 years ago… love!


The Electricity Club gives its grateful thanks to Scott Simon

OUR DAUGHTERS WEDDING Nightlife-TheCollection‘Nightlife – The Collection’ is available as a download from Amazon and iTunes

Scott Simon’s novels ‘Executive Thief’ and ‘Katherine’s Cross’ can be found on Amazon and other outlets, please visit https://t.co/XqWVOiNzvg via Amazon to view the book trailer

https://www.facebook.com/Our-Daughters-Wedding-380882682006092/

https://www.facebook.com/scott.simon.773

http://www.discogs.com/artist/106443-Our-Daughters-Wedding


Text and Interview by Paul Boddy
17th November 2015

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

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