Rupert Hine sits in that group of producers whose work was all over the charts for several decades.

But unlike majority of his contemporaries (with the exception of a certain Mr T Horn), he was also a musician of note who produced some of the most engaging releases of the early part of that decade which are now being revisited in this excellent boxset from Cherry Red. A quick history lesson firstly. Hine’s career began in the 60s as one half of the folk duo Rupert & David, their debut release being a cover of ‘The Sound of Silence’ which featured a young session player called Jimmy Page on guitar… whatever happened to him I wonder?

This failed to set the heather on fire but the pair soldiered on into the next decade and their tenacity was rewarded when they signed to DEEP PURPLE’s Purple records label. Neither of the two albums released at the time were a commercial success but with the encouragement of Purple’s Roger Glover, Hine began his career as a producer.

An early taste of what would be an eclectic career behind the desk was signalled by the release of the single ‘Who Is The Doctor?’ which saw the then occupant of The Tardis, Jon Pertwee, reading a poem over the Doctor Who theme music. This was backed by incidental music from the Doctor Who story ‘The Sea Devils’ and anyone that has heard that will find it amusing when compared to the electronica that was to come in Hine’s solo career.

Throughout the decade, Hine worked not only as a producer but also with future PENGUIN CAFÉ ORCHESTRA leader Simon Jeffes writing advertising and television music which, by his own admission, paid the bills. At this time he was also picking up more and more production work and as always this was with a heady mix of artists from Murray Head to CAMEL. There was also CAFÉ JACQUES who featured future SIMPLE MINDS drummer Mike Ogletree, THE FIXX and his own band QUANTUM JUMP, best known for the surprise hit ‘The Lone Ranger’.

Moving on, we come to the subject of this release, the three Hine solo albums released between 1981 and 1983. The first thing that should be noted is these came out in a period that also saw him producing Canadian band SAGA and THE WATERBOYS as well as Jona Lewie and Chris De Burgh. As previously noted, it is an eclectic body of work for anyone over a whole career, let alone some 36 months.

1981’s ‘Immunity’ is, simply put, a masterpiece. Dark and brooding this early slice of electronica sits as an equal (and in places above) anything that was released by contemporary artists. Opening with ‘I Hang on To My Vertigo’, it’s clear from the outset that this is an artist that was keen to throw away rule book. This approach is discussed at length by co-producer Stephen W Tayler who remastered these three albums for the boxset.

Experimentation is to the fore on ‘Immunity’ with tape loops, heavily effected guitars, drum computers vocoders and synthesizers coming together to create an LP that followed the stated rule of “…if you’ve done something a certain way, find another way to do it…” to create something new.

Other highlights include the dreamlike sonic painting ‘Samsara, ‘Psycho – Surrender’ with its spiky percussion and ‘Misplaced Love’ which features Marianne Faithfull on vocals. The surprising thing, giving what was going on musically in the UK at the time, is that none of these tracks bothered the UK charts. This in itself would be a welcome re-release but the wealth of riches continues on the subsequent two discs.

1982’s ‘Waving Not Drowning’ is slightly more accessible in its structures and arrangements with songs like ‘The Set Up’ but no less adventurous in its execution. The dark lyrical themes of this release, written by long time Hine collaborator poet Jeanette Obstoj, cover subjects such as the many ways to you can be killed on ‘Sniper’ to apartheid on ‘House Arrest’.

‘The Curious Kind’ is the best single Gary Numan never released, the previously mentioned ‘Sniper’ is the type of track that would have gone down a storm at places like The Blitz with is driving bass and effected vocals whilst ‘The Outsider’ features orchestrations and choral arrangements played on a Synclavier and PPG Wave 2, highlighting perfectly how Hine was always at the forefront of technology.

Closing number ‘One Man’s Poison’, the most overtly rock song here, flies in the face of the approach taken by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush at the time and floods the close of the song with a multitude of ride and crash cymbals over a fabulous Philip Palmer solo.

Concluding this trilogy of solo releases is ‘The Wildest Wish To Fly’ which is the most pop of the three albums. The most striking aspect of this release is the vocal contributions from Robert Palmer. By a long chalk, one of the finest male singers to come of the UK, this is an interesting what might have been from a Hine produced Palmer release. Certainly to my ears, there are flavours of ‘Wildest Wish’ on both ‘Pride’ from the same year and the subsequent global behemoth ‘Riptide’.

That said, the album as a whole is massively entertaining. Opener ‘Living in Sin’ is a fabulous slice of dance pop whilst the title track cover the sort of source material the likes of UK band BIG BIG TRAIN excel at bringing into their music. This is the sound of an artist producing something special and clearly enjoying what he is doing.

The great pity is that these three albums are feted by those in the know, Kate Bush for example is a huge fan of ‘Immunity’, calling it “very special”, but the commercial success they deserved eluded them at the time. There is, when listened to in sequence, a clear sense of purpose and sonic footprint to these albums which highlight why, moving through the decade, Hine became such an in demand producer and continued that previously commented on eclecticism work with the likes of American starlets Tina Turner and Stevie Nicks as well as RUSH and most notably Howard Jones, all artists who recognised the unique stamp that Hine could put on their work.

These are essential albums for anyone that has an interest in the development of electronic music and one can only hope Cherry Red follow this with a similarly curated collection of what followed from the THINKMAN project.

In memory of Rupert Hine 1947 – 2020

‘Surface Tension: The Studio Works 1981-1983’ is released as a 3CD boxed set by Cherry Red Records on 9th December 2022

Text by Ian Ferguson
26th November 2022