Tag: Propaganda (Page 1 of 4)

MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY Beta Blocker

In an enlightening chat with The Electricity Club after his ‘Infinity Mirror’ album launch show, Ryan A James, the talented Welshman behind MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY confessed that ‘Beta Blocker’ was where his headspace was currently at and indicative of his future musical direction.

Using the competitive antagonist drug prescribed predominantly to manage abnormal heart rhythms as a lyrical metaphor, ‘Beta Blocker’ is paradoxically one of the energetic highlights from the excellent third album by MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY.

The track itself is characterised by a meaty programmed electronic bassline of the type not unlike those PPG Wave derived ones which adorned many a record by PROPAGANDA, FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD and GARY NUMAN.

‘Beta Blocker’ now comes with a lyric video created by James using “an old TV, a video synth and a circuit bent video mixer found down an eBay rabbit hole.”

Interestingly, Beta Blockers were also used frequently by snooker and gold professionals before they were outlawed within their sports, but the track itself is perhaps more lively and much harder than James’ dreamier past offerings.

The outstanding work of primarily just one musician, ‘Infinity Mirror’ was one of the best albums of 2018, bursting with craft and melody. Showcasing the talent of Ryan A James, it’s one that has already been recognised by ROYKSÖPP who invited him to contribute to their track ‘Sordid Affair’ from ‘The Inevitable End’ album in 2014.


‘Beta Blocker’ is from the album ‘Infinity Mirror’ released by Killing Moon Records and available from https://manwithoutcountry.bandcamp.com/album/infinity-mirror

https://manwithout.country/

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https://twitter.com/mwc_music

https://www.instagram.com/mwc_music/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
4th January 2019

PROPAGANDA The Murder Of Love

A new fan-made PROPAGANDA video which founder member Ralf Dörper has described as “unglaublich” has just hit the web. Set against ‘The Murder Of Love’ from ‘A Secret Wish’, it reimagines a visit to New York by PROPAGANDA during their ‘Outside World’ tour in 1985 when they performed at the Irving Plaza.

With cinematography by Rick Martinez plus makeup by Connie Ojeda Smith and Jaelene Jaquez, the superb and affectionate visual presentation is directed and edited by Vlad Panov. A humorous and nostalgic tribute to PROPAGANDA, Hannah Fleming and Talia Shvedova as respectfully Claudia Brücken and Susanne Freytag are quite convincing, while Panov himself could pass for Michael Mertens in the way the actors who played Stephen Morris in ’24 Hour Party People’ and ‘Control’ did.

However, Vladimir Putin lookalike Michael DeGrandpre could do with a pair of stack heels or stilts as Ralf Dörper. As is always the way, these type of films play with artistic licence and in this instance, the very tall Düsseldorfer actually declined to be part of the ‘Outside World’ tour so was not even in New York on 26th September 1985.

Ralf Dörper told The Electricity Club in Autumn 2012: “I had a quite stubborn view on playing live as PROPAGANDA as I believed it would be not possible to give a proper impression without lifting the studio on stage. And I did not consider it an option to use guest musicians … especially no guitar player.” – their label ZTT just issued a press release to say he was at his day-job in a bank to cover for his absence!

While Dörper continues today touring and recording as a member of DIE KRUPPS, Brücken and Freytag will be opening as xPROPAGANDA for HEAVEN 17 on ‘The Luxury Gap’ tour this Autumn.

Meanwhile, Mertens continues as a successful freelance composer whose production company Escape Route has had commissions from Volkswagen, Renault, Ford, Autostadt and C&A.


‘The Murder Of Love’ is from ‘A Secret Wish’, available via BMG in vinyl LP, CD and digital formats

xPROPAGANDA open for HEAVEN 17 on ‘The Luxury Gap’ 35th Anniversary Tour, dates include:

Northampton Roadmender (Friday 9th November), Norwich UEA (Saturday 10th November), Bournemouth O2 Academy (Friday 16th November), Birmingham O2 Institute (Saturday 17th November), Glasgow O2 ABC (Friday 23rd November), Liverpool O2 Academy (Saturday 24 November), London O2 Shepherds Bush Empire (Friday 30th November), Bristol O2 Academy (Saturday 1st December), Manchester O2 Ritz (Friday 7th December), Sheffield O2 Academy (Saturday 8th November)

DIE KRUPPS go on ‘The Machinists United Tour’ with FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY in 2018, dates include:

London O2 Islington Academy (19th August), Paris La Machine (20th August), Utrecht De Helling (21 August), Krefeld Kulturfabrik (22 August), Gothenburg Truck Stop (24 august 2018), Stockholm Klubben (25 August), Wroclaw Stary Klasztor (29 August), Prague Lucerna Music Bar (30 August),
Budapest A38 (31 August), Bratislava Majestic Music Club (1st September), Vienna Viper Room (2nd September, Munich Backstage Halle (4th September), Frankfurt Batschkapp (5th September)

https://www.facebook.com/claudiaandsusanne/

http://www.diekrupps.com/

http://escaperoute.de/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
11th August 2018

BRÜCKEN FROESE Beginn

One is a former member of TANGERINE DREAM and son of electronic music pioneer Edgar, while the other is best known for her being part of PROPAGANDA, ACT and ONETWO.

‘Beginn’ sees the first results of a new collaboration between Jerome Froese and Claudia Brücken.

Atmospheric album opener ‘(The) Last Dance’ starts with a synth string pad, lo-fi Roland CR78-style drum machine and subtle piano part.

From the off, this is a beautifully produced track, Brücken sounds absolutely stunning here and her vocals float ethereally over Froese’s textural synth and guitar parts. Sequencers are used sparingly throughout and the emotional impact comes from the lyrics which catalogue the unavoidable break-up of a relationship “…we danced our dance”.

With a couple of exceptions, this is very much a downtempo, chilled-out album. The tempo rarely raises itself above 100bpm and the second track ‘Wounded’ is another example of this. With its skittery percussion and dark string synth textures, ‘Wounded’ has the kind of production aesthetic and chord progression which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Exciter’. The track’s chorus really lifts off with a dark droning FM-bass synth underpinning everything; lyrically we are again dragged into pretty dark surroundings with Brücken storytelling about a person trapped in a relationship.

‘Flight (of) Fancy’ (there are plenty of brackets on the track names!) lightens the mood considerably and is the most guitar-oriented piece on ‘Beginn’; possibly a bit too lightweight in conception (one could imagine Emma Bunton or Natalie Imbruglia covering this), it’s partially salvaged by a welcome minor key sequencer-based part in the middle 8.

‘Cards’ is similar in tone and conception to Alison Moyet’s some of recent solo works… in fact if you were looking at an overall comparison point for ‘Beginn’, then ‘the minutes’ would be a good place to start. Breakbeats which are introduced later in the track and some middle-Eastern inflected melodies keep the dark vibe going and gets ‘Beginn’ back on track again.

‘Light (of the) Rising Sun’ is a short ambient piano / synth based piece; more of an interlude than a complete song, Brücken delivers another beautiful vocal in a track which has positive and uplifting lyrics which counterpoint some of the darker themes present elsewhere.

‘Whispers (of) Immortality’ is the epic center piece of ‘Beginn’ with Brücken providing a spoken word contribution throughout. The song, which features hissing analogue snare and hi-hats, has a Brücken vocal delivery which is very reminiscent of THE VELVET UNDERGROUND’s Nico, especially on the “here she comes” line.

In contrast, the following ‘Sound (of the) Waves’ is very much a game of two halves, the first stripped back with little percussion, then the second lifting off with more breakbeats.

‘Sweet Sense (of) Liberation’ is a definite highlight of ‘Beginn’ and the most contemporary-sounding piece here by a long shot, ’s xPROPAGANDA bandmate Susanne Freytag. With its deep detuned Reese sawtooth sound and Drum N Bass kick / snare pattern, it wouldn’t sound out of place on a Hospital Records compilation. Adding to the album a welcome change of pace, the track has some PROPAGANDA-style spoken word elements in it’ middle section and sparkling blippy sequencer lines throughout.

The album climaxes (as it started) in a low-key fashion with ‘Unbound Spaces’, featuring a mixture of found sounds and synthetic textures and brings the album to a satisfying and melodic atmospheric conclusion.

Interestingly, ‘Beginn’ is a bit of a curveball in that it’s really not what you would expect considering the backgrounds of the two artists; if you approached it expecting a TANGERINE DREAM album fronted with icy PROPAGANDA vocals, then you may be surprised.

It’s plainly obvious to the listener that ‘Beginn’ has had a lot of time and love invested in it; it is immaculately produced and Brücken has never sounded better.

Her vocals compliment Froese’s synth and guitar textures perfectly and if you are seeking a reflective downtempo album which combines these elements, it’s unlikely you will hear a better one delivered this year. A perfect beginning…


‘Beginn’ is released by Cherry Red Records on 15th June 2018 in download, CD and limited edition double vinyl LP featuring two bonus FLEETWOOD MAC cover versions, pre-order direct from https://www.cherryred.co.uk/artist/brucken-froese/

http://www.claudiabrucken.co.uk

http://www.jeromefroese.com

https://twitter.com/ClaudiaBrucken1

https://twitter.com/jeromefroese


Text by Paul Boddy
27th May 2018

xPROPAGANDA Live at The Garage

Released in 1985 on ZTT, PROPAGANDA’s ‘A Secret Wish’ is often hailed as a classic album of the electronic era which heralded the advent of sampling and digital synthesis. 

Among its fans were the likes of Martin Gore, John Taylor and Jim Kerr; over the years, ‘A Secret Wish’ has grown in stature with its influence felt on MICHAEL JACKSON’s ‘Bad’ produced by Quincy Jones.

Meanwhile, the quartet of Claudia Brücken, Susanne Freytag, Ralf Dörper and Michael Mertens dubbed “ABBA in hell” were a forerunner of acts such as LADYTRON.

But it all ended acrimoniously and despite attempts to reform PROPAGANDA over the last 30 years, they have all come to nought, although the quartet performed together at the ‘Produced by Trevor Horn’ celebratory concert for The Prince’s Trust in 2004, while Freytag and Dörper joined Brücken for her career retrospective show at The Scala in 2011.

More recently, Claudia Brücken and Susanne Freytag have teamed up with Stephen J Lipson, producer of ‘A Secret Wish’ and have been using social media to introduce their new project named D:UEL; so it was something of a surprise when it was announced that the pair would be playing two London shows performing ‘A Secret Wish’ billed as xPROPAGANDA.

Despite the online protestations of Michael Mertens, the two shows quickly sold out and it was interesting to see Ralf Dörper at the bar as an interested observer to hear how the songs he co-wrote with Mertens would come over in the 21st Century. Squeezed onto the comparatively small stage at The Garage, Brücken and Freytag were joined by Stephen J Lipson on guitar, famed ZTT percussionist Luis Jardim, regular CB sidemen James Watson and Philip Larsen, drummer Paul Jones and Sam Tate on flugelhorn.

Performing ‘A Secret Wish’ in order, it was Freytag who took centre stage first with ‘Dream Within A Dream’, her spoken Germanic tones reciting the stark poem by Edgar Allen Poe. With Brücken on vibraphone, the pair were backed by a progressive soundtrack of hypnotic bass guitar from Watson and some synthetically layered drama from Larsen. While Lipson’s transient soloing maintained the tension, the solid dual percussive backbone of Jones and Jardim were unable to recreate the frenzied attack of the original’s middle section.

The machine rhythm of ‘The Murder Of Love’ welcomed Brücken’s first lead vocal of the evening with an enthusiastic response from the audience, although whether they appreciated Lipson’s jazz guitar work was debatable.

‘Jewel’ brought Brücken and Freytag into an appealing shouting match as a barrage of aggressive textures sourced from the original album were brought into play, before Freytag left the stage for Brücken to give a spirited rendering of ‘Duel’, joyfully accompanied by the crowd. A supreme pop song, Stock Aitken & Waterman loved it so much that they recorded a version of it with Mandy Smith in 1988, while Sophie Ellis-Bextor covered it in 2007!

Freytag returned to offer her shade next to Brücken’s light on ‘Frozen Faces’ before the volume went up a gear for a magnificently powerful rendition of ‘P: Machinery’. The electronic cover of JOSEF K’s ‘Sorry For Laughing’ continued the power trip before the unsettling cinematic glory of ‘Dr Mabuse’; it seems amazing now that this slice of avant pop noir could have even entered the Top 30 of the UK singles chart in 1984, but it was a much more open-minded and visionary time back then… to close the main set, Brücken and Freytag playfully bashed Simmons drums side-by-side to the coda of ‘The Chase’ before departing to the haunting endsay of ‘The Last Word’.

After a short interlude during which the love could clearly be felt in the room, Freytag returned for the encore brandishing a whip for the welcome performance art of ‘Disziplin’.

Acknowledging the contribution of Ralf Dörper, Michael Mertens and late founder member Andreas Thein to PROPAGANDA in her introduction, ‘Disziplin’ was once presented live on ‘The Tube’ back in the day; inspired by THROBBING GRISTLE’s rather stern ‘Discipline’, it was Dörper who wrote some new German lyrics and the demo got PROPAGANDA signed to ZTT.

Brücken swapped places with Freytag and for her encore contribution, she performed a fabulous version of ‘Femme Fatale’, the Lou Reed song originally voiced by German chanteuse Nico for THE VELVET UNDERGROUND’s debut album produced by Andy Warhol, which was the B-side to ‘Dr Mabuse’. With all the classic line-up PROPAGANDA material now performed, there was a reprise of ‘Duel’ to end proceedings on a nostalgic high.

Brücken and Freytag will have a busy year as they take xPROPAGANDA out on the road opening for HEAVEN 17 as well as playing select European festivals in the summer. But while Claudia Brücken celebrates her past, there is the mouthwatering prospect in June 2018 of her new collaborative album ‘Beginn’ with Jerome Froese (son of the late TANGERINE DREAM legend Edgar Froese) which is set to include electronic reimaginings of two FLEETWOOD MAC songs, ‘Sara’ and ‘Gypsy’.

Whether working in the past or present, another hope feeds another dream…


xPROPAGANDA open for HEAVEN 17 on ‘The Luxury Gap’ 35th Anniversary Tour, dates include:

Northampton Roadmender (Friday 9th November), Norwich UEA (Saturday 10th November), Bournemouth O2 Academy (Friday 16th November), Birmingham O2 Institute (Saturday 17th November), Glasgow O2 ABC (Friday 23rd November), Liverpool O2 Academy (Saturday 24 November), London O2 Shepherds Bush Empire (Friday 30th November), Bristol O2 Academy (Saturday 1st December), Manchester O2 Ritz (Friday 7th December), Sheffield O2 Academy (Saturday 8th November)

http://xpropaganda.co.uk

https://www.facebook.com/propagandamabuse/

https://www.facebook.com/claudiaandsusanne/

http://www.claudiabrucken.co.uk

https://www.facebook.com/ClaudiaBruckenMusic/

https://twitter.com/ClaudiaBrucken1


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Richard Price
29th March 2018

TEC’s 25 CLASSIC SYNTH COVERS

“The medium of reinterpretation” as HEAVEN 17 and BEF’s Martyn Ware once put it, is an important creative opportunity that can widen a musical audience and expand the aural palette.

SoftCell-81This was most evident in 1981 when SOFT CELL’s cover of ‘Tainted Love’ became ubiquitous as Synth Britannia’s first true crossover record, reaching No1 in UK, Germany, Australia and Canada while also breaking the US Top 10 a year later.

A disgruntled rival musician had told Marc Almond only a few months before that “You couldn’t make a decent dance record if you tried”, but make one he did!

Written by Ed Cobb, ‘Tainted Love’ was recorded by Gloria Jones (partner of the late Marc Bolan) and became a Wigan Casino favourite on the Northern Soul scene. As a fan of that scene, David Ball knew the song and took it into haunting electronic torch territory. Segued with a Motown cover ‘Where Did Our Love Go?’ on an extended version, it became one of Sire Records biggest selling 12 inch singles in America.

It was to be a double edged sword though as the coupling of two covers made SOFT CELL minimal money despite the record selling millions. Thus successful cover versions generally only make the original songwriter any dough. Although often perceived as a sign of creative desperation, a fair number of cover versions are genuinely recorded as a labour of love.

So what of the other great synth reworkings? The covers in The Electricity Club’s listing are predominantly conventional songs reworked in a synthpop manner. And in several cases, the reworks have been so distinct and definitive that it is often forgotten they are actually covers! Restricted to one song per artist moniker, they are presented in chronological order.


VISAGE In Year 2525 (1978 – released 1983)

VISAGE 2525ZAGER & EVANS’ pessimistic ditty was perfect fodder for the first VISAGE demo steered by Midge Ure in 1978. ‘In The Year 2525’ was perfectly resigned aural dystopia. Steve Strange’s deadpan fronted the sombre tone perfectly but Ure’s vocal backing and counterpoints added some musicality. But when Ure presented the demo to his then employers at EMI Records, it was rejected! Remixed later by John Hudson, it was finally unleashed for public consumption in 1983.

Available on the album ‘The Face’ via Universal Records

http://www.visage.cc


YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA Firecracker (1978)

One of first Japanese bands to have a Top 20 hit single in the UK was YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA in 1980. ‘Firecracker’ was a cover of a 1959 composition by Martin Denny, but actually released as ‘Computer Game (Theme From The Invader)’. Recorded in 1978, the parent self-titled album was noted for its use of the then brand new Roland MC8 Micro-Composer to control the synthesizers. The result was a clean, exotic pop sound that was unusual, even in the synthpop heartland of Europe.

Available on the album ‘Yellow Magic Orchestra’ via Sony Music

http://www.ymo.org


GARY NUMAN On Broadway (1979 – released 1980)

NUMAN live 79Written by Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller, Barry Mann, and Cynthia Weil, a quartet who between them have written some of the greatest songs in pop history, the original by THE DRIFTERS was a favourite in the Webb household. So GARY NUMAN did a live machine music rendition on 1979’s ‘The Touring Principle’. However, the star on this magnificent reinterpretation of ‘On Broadway’ is not Numan himself, but guest keyboardist Billy Currie of ULTRAVOX with his screaming ARP Odyssey solo.

Available on the album ‘The Pleasure Principle’ via Beggars Banquet Records

https://garynuman.com


TELEX Rock Around The Clock (1979)

telexOn paper it shouldn’t have worked; a funereal take of the song that heralded the birth of Rock ‘N’ Roll smothered in robotic vocoder. And it caused much head scratching when it became a UK Top 40 hit, although one person listening was Daniel Miller who borrowed the concept for SILICON TEENS. Belgian trio TELEX always had a sense of subversive irony about them. This mischief came to its head with their lampooning number ‘Eurovision’, which they actually entered for 1980 Eurovision Song Contest!

Available on the album ‘Ultimate Best of’ via EMI Belgium

http://www.telex-music.com


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Only After Dark (1980)

human league only after darkAn all synth rework of Head Spider Mick Ronson’s guitar dominated cult favourite, the metronomic tension was enhanced on THE HUMAN LEAGUE version by the metallic sequence of a Roland System 100 while monophonic synth lines complimented the futuristic atmosphere. Oakey impressively bellowed away while Martyn Ware provided some sprightly vocal support. ‘Only After Dark’ had been due to be released as a single but was cancelled in favour of a reissue of ‘Empire State Human’.

Available on the album ‘Travelogue’ via Virgin Records

http://www.thehumanleague.co.uk


JAPAN All Tomorrow’s Parties (1980)

JAPAN all tomorrows partiesSaid to be Andy Warhol’s favourite Lou Reed composition, this interpretation of THE VELVET UNDERGROUND’s Nico-led cult classic was turned from a Teutonic funeral march into a looser, synth assisted beat ballad in the vein of ROXY MUSIC. Demo-ed under the supervision of manager Simon Napier-Bell in 1979 but remixed later by John Punter, ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’ was to herald the sophisticated muzak direction that JAPAN were to become ultimately associated with.

Available on the album ‘Quiet Life’ via BMG Records

http://www.nightporter.co.uk


OMD The More I See You (1980)

This cover of ‘The More I See You’ had actually began musically as a new OMD composition until Andy McCluskey started improvising and using the words of this vintage tune written in 1945 by Harry Warren and Mack Gordon. It was subsequently a hit for Chris Montez in 1966, although OMD’s version was a far darker proposition, with the spectre of JOY DIVISION vocalist Ian Curtis looming over the bright synthesizer melodies and deep bass drones.

Available on the album ‘Organisation’ via EMI Records

http://www.omd.uk.com


DURAN DURAN Fame (1981)

Before they became Birmingham’s most famous boat crew, DURAN DURAN recorded this speeded up version of David Bowie’s art funk co-write with John Lennon and Carlos Alomar for the 12 inch B-side of their flop single ‘Careless Memories’. As well as having a more frantic pace and layers of Nick Rhodes’ Crumar Performer string machine, Andy Taylor even aped Robert Fripp to add a screaming guitar solo that had not featured in the original.

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

http://www.duranduran.com


THE FAST SET King Of the Rumbling Spires (1981)

Some_bizzareA speeded-up, manic darkwave rendition of an early Marc Bolan composition, this was the one of the best tracks on the ‘Some Bizzare Album’ after DEPECHE MODE, SOFT CELL, BLANCMANGE, THE THE, B-MOVIE and ILLUSTRATION. The screeching synths and aggressive, unorthodox vocals are all over in a matter of a couple of minutes. THE FAST SET disappeared after just one proper single ‘Junction One’ which also featured another Bolan song ‘Children Of The Revolution’ on the flip.

Available on the ‘Some Bizzare Album’ via Some Bizzare Limited

http://www.last.fm/music/The+Fast+Set


DAVE STEWART & BARBARA GASKIN It’s My Party (1981)

Keyboardist Dave Stewart, once of prog rockers HATFIELD & THE NORTH recruited friend and backing vocalist Barbara Gaskin to sing on the second of his electronic pop covers, the first being ‘What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted’ with Colin Blunstone. Their inventively oddball synth version of ‘It’s My Party’ (made famous by Lesley Gore) was a triumph and a worldwide hit which reached No1 in the UK and Germany. Stewart and Gaskin have continued to worked together and have a new album pencilled in 2018.

Available on the album ‘The Singles’ via Broken Records

http://www.davebarb.com


TECHNO TWINS Falling In Love Again (1981)

TECHNO TWINS were wife and husband duo Bev Sage and Steve Fairnie; they indulged in their own brand of ‘Technostalgia’ with silent partner Dave Hewson who later reappeared in POEME ELECTRONIQUE and more recently TWINS NATALIA. This abstract theatrical cover of the 1930 German song composed by Friedrich Hollaender as ‘Ich Bin Von Kopf Bis Fuß Auf Liebe Eingestellt’ and made famous by Marlene Dietrich actually managed to reach No70 in the UK singles chart!

Originally released as a single by PRT Records, currently unavailable

https://www.discogs.com/artist/153114-Techno-Twins


BEF feat GLENN GREGORY Wichita Lineman (1982)

BEF Witchita‘Wichita Lineman’ was one of Jimmy Webb’s great narrative songs like ‘By The Time I Get To Phoenix’, ‘Galveston’ and ‘Where’s The Playground Susie?’ which were made famous by Glen Campbell. Although included for the ambitious ‘Music Of Quality & Distinction Vol1’ project, BEF’s recording is a HEAVEN 17 track in all but name and was originally recorded by the other Glenn as his audition piece. The chilling electronic arrangement takes on an even darker turn as a magnificent cacophony of sound invades the climax.

Available on the album ‘1981-2011’ via Virgin Records

http://www.heaven17.com


NEW ORDER Turn The Heater On (1982 – released 1986)

NEW ORDER heaterReggae artist Keith Hudson’s ‘Turn The Heater On’ was a favourite of Ian Curtis and recorded by NEW ORDER for their second John Peel session as a tribute to the late vocalist of JOY DIVISION. Bernard Sumner’s melodica gave a claustrophobic dub laden vibe alongside the white noise rimshot  of Stephen Morris, while Hooky actually played bass as opposed to his trademark higher register six string and Gillian Gillian’s ARP string machine added some appropriately frozen textures to match to the title.

Available on the album ‘The John Peel Sessions’ via Strange Fruit Records

http://www.neworder.com


MIDGE URE No Regrets (1982)

MIDGE URE No RegretsA cover of a cover, ‘No Regrets’ was written by Tom Rush and a comeback hit for THE WALKER BROTHERS in 1976. During a break from ULTRAVOX, Midge Ure created this synth heavy rework. But that wasn’t all that was heavy… out of nowhere came a blistering guitar solo that would have made Eric Clapton proud and a doubled Linn / Simmons pounding for the overdriven climax. Possessing high and lows in a way that previous versions never had, the diminutive Glaswegian made ‘No Regrets’ his own.

Available on the album ‘No Regrets’ via EMI Gold

http://www.midgeure.com


FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD Ferry Cross The Mersey (1983)

FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD were very good at covers as Born To Run’ and ‘War’ proved. With a superbly honest vocal from Holly Johnson,  the Trevor Horn produced reworking of this paean to Liverpool’s famous river crossing, written by Gerry Marsden for the 1965 film of the same name, climaxed with some joyous cascading synth lines and a frantic Linn Drum programme in a manner that couldn’t have been originally imagined by its composer.

Available on the album ‘Frankie Said’ via Union Square / Salvo

http://www.frankiesay.com


NAKED EYES Always Something There To Remind Me (1983)

NAKED EYES, who comprised of Pete Byrne and Rob Fisher, had actually been in a band called NEON with Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith. They had a huge US hit with a synthpop cover of this Bacharach and David classic which had been put together in the studio from memory. Rob Fisher later met Simon Climie and formed CLIMIE FISHER who had a number of UK hits, but he sadly passed away in 1999 aged just 42; Pete Byrne still continues to tour as NAKED EYES.

Available on the album ‘Burning Bridges’ via Cherry Pop

http://www.nakedeyesmusic.com


BLANCMANGE The Day Before You Came (1984)

blancmange-day before you cameThere once was a time when it was not cool to like ABBA and covering their songs was certainly not on many artists’ agenda. But BLANCMANGE changed all that with their version of what many regard as the last ABBA song. Combining that noted Swedish melancholy and melodicism with the artful quirkiness of Synth Britannia, ‘The Day Before You Came’ fitted well with Neil Arthur’s deep melodramatics. Add in the mystique of the Indian sub-continent and it was pure heaven.

Available on the album ‘Mange Tout’ via Edsel Records

http://www.blancmange.co.uk


ERASURE Gimme Gimme Gimme (1985)

ERASURE GimmeThey did the ‘Abba-esque’ EP and the mid-career crisis ‘Other People’s Songs’ album but ERASURE’s best cover was right at the beginning with this Hi-NRG romp in the big shadow of DIVINE. Turning ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!’ into the ultimate anthem, the progressively faster ending made for an appropriately thrilling climax. Following not long after BLANCMANGE’s cover of ‘The Day Before You Came’, the seeds of an ABBA revival were now well and truly planted.

Remix version available on the deluxe album ‘Wonderland’ via Mute Records

http://www.erasureinfo.com


PROPAGANDA Sorry For Laughing (1985)

Written by Paul Haig and Malcolm Ross, ‘Sorry For Laughing’ was the key song on from the only JOSEF K album ‘The Only Fun In Town’. It had been a favourite of ZTT arch strategist Paul Morley and as per the label’s early policy, he persuaded his then-new signings PROPAGANDA to the rework the frenetic guitar track into a more moodily percussive electronic one. However, Ralf Dörper later told The Electricity Club: “I very much would have preferred to have a THROBBING GRISTLE cover version…”

Available on the album ‘A Secret Wish’ via Union Square

https://www.facebook.com/propagandamabuse/


WINSTON TONG Broken English (1985)

Having written and sung lead vocals on ‘In A Manner Of Speaking’ with TUXEDOMOON which was later covered by a certain Martin L Gore, Winston Tong embarked on a solo electronic pop adventure with Alan Rankine of ASSOCIATES fame at the production helm. The subsequent album entitled ‘Theoretically Chinese’ dealt with the theme of cultural identity and an excellent uptempo cover of Marianne Faithfull’s ‘Broken English’ slotted into the overall concept perfectly.

Available on the album ‘In A Manner Of Speaking: Best Of’ via LTM Records

http://www.ltmrecordings.com/winston_tong.html


DEPECHE MODE Route 66 (1988)

Written by Bobby Troup and covered by artists such as diverse as Nat King Cole and The Rolling Stones, this signalled the start of DEPECHE MODE’s fixation with a more blues based sound. While largely guitar driven, the rhythmical structure was driven by drum machine and sequences while the instrumental break of’Behind The Wheel’ made a guest appearance during the middle eight. It was performed as an encore during the ‘World Violation’ tour in 1990, but with Dave Gahan on lead vocals instead of Martin Gore.

Available on the single ‘Behind the Wheel’ via Mute Records

http://www.depechemode.com


JIMMY SOMMERVILLE From This Moment On (1990)

red hot & blueOften having his biggest hits with covers, you could be forgiven for thinking Jimmy Sommerville was some kind of falsetto karaoke machine. But for the most part, his reinterpretations were good. One of his lesser known covers was ’From This Moment On’, a throbbing contribution to the charity album ‘Red Hot & Blue’ of Cole Porter standards. With a snatch of ‘I Feel Love’ thrown in for good measure, this was one of the best recordings from the collection which also featured U2 and ERASURE.

Available on the album ‘Red Hot & Blue’ via Chrysalis Records

http://www.jimmysomerville.co.uk


PET SHOP BOYS Go West (1993)

Performed at The Hacienda in 1991, ‘Go West’ had been due to be released in Christmas 1992, but PET SHOP BOYS bottled it when it was pointed out a VILLAGE PEOPLE cover would look like the duo were aping ERASURE’s ‘Abba-esque’.  ‘Go West’ was based on Pachebel’s ‘Canon’ and its elegiac quality was particularly poignant with AIDS still very much in the news at the time. Meanwhile the ‘Oklahoma’ male choir styled key change gave the song a lift that was never apparent in the original.

Available on the album ‘Pop Art’ via EMI Records

http://www.petshopboys.co.uk


CAMOUFLAGE Bad News (1995)

Written by Moon Martin, an American rock artist who also wrote ‘Bad Case Of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)’ which was covered by Robert Palmer, ‘Bad News’ with its metronomic core had been popular in German new wave clubs, which was how CAMOUFLAGE came to hear it. Given a pacey Eurodance treatment that was very much of its time, it also mixed in twangy ‘Pulp Fiction’ surf guitar elements alongside the trancey electronics for an unusual but successful hybrid of styles.

Available on the album ‘The Singles’ via Polydor Records

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


DUBSTAR Not So Manic Now (1995)

DUBSTAR No so manic nowOriginally a little known song by Wakefield indie band BRICK SUPPLY, DUBSTAR made ‘Not So Manic Now’ their own with the Northern lass earthiness of Sarah Blackwood providing the chilling commentary of an attack on a helpless pensioner. Stephen Hague’s wonderful production fused programmed electronics with guitars and cello in fine fashion, while the incessant programmed rhythms drove the song along without being obtrusive to the horrifying story.

Available on the album ‘Disgraceful’ via Food Records

http://dubstarofficial.co/


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Ian Ferguson
21st December 2017

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