Tag: China Crisis (Page 1 of 8)

2023 END OF YEAR REVIEW

Photo by Jori Hulkkonen

Just as it looked like it would be safe to come out to play, there was uncertainty within the music industry again.

What had become the artists’ favourite platform thanks to its low commission and 0% Fridays, Bandcamp was taken over by Epic Games in 2022 but then following a move by employees to unionise, was sold to Songtradr who immediately dismissed half of its staff… in hindsight, despite its proclamation that this platform cared about the music, it looked like this had been yet another start-up by tech venture capitalists. Just as many acts dropped their own websites in favour of Facebook over a decade ago but were then trapped into sponsored posts to reach the majority of their own fanbase, online shops had been dropped for Bandcamp. So, things are back to square one as many consider a rebuild of their web presence.

Meanwhile, Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino made a controversial declaration that concert ticket prices were generally too low and that artists could easily “charge a bit more”. While THE CURE notably refused to do this and capped their face value tickets at $20 for their US tour, the Live Nation sister outlet Ticketmaster applied excessive booking extras of more than $20 per ticket for a “service fee”, “facility charge” and “order processing”! With dynamic pricing in place at a number of high profile events and so-called VIP tickets on the rise (which didn’t actually include a meet ‘n’ greet but only a nearby bar and a lanyard), fans had their “FOMO” anxieties triggered and simply paid up!

Photo by Chi Ming Lai

Another artist who kept ticket prices low was Midge Ure who embarked on the successful ‘Voices & Visions’ tour after a year’s delay due to uncertainties over the Covid situation in 2022. Complimented by a straightforward but very effective light show and material from his second and third long players with ULTRAVOX ‘Rage In Eden’ and ‘Quartet’, it was a triumph. He was rewarded with a 70th birthday show celebrating his career at The Royal Albert Hall, which despite its plush surroundings was also kept affordable.

Who says an artist has no control over retail pricing? But one band who were shamelessly happy to charge more for concert tickets, more for merchandise and more for physical releases were DEPECHE MODE. For their first album and tour since the passing of co-founder Andy Fletcher in 2022, the remaining members played the death card with ‘Momento Bori’ and managed to plonk an even more underwhelming arena show into the stadiums of the world… at least the ‘Global Spirit’ tour featured risers!

With renowned UK venues such as Printworks and Moles closing down, as had already been highlighted by Juls Garat of US goth band PILGRIMS OF YEARNING via social media in 2022: “If you’re spending a kidney on DEPECHE MODE tickets and not attending a local show this weekend, I don’t wanna see you complaining that there’s no scene, local venues or new music anymore”. However, one seemingly oblivious Devotee said about the inflated ticket prices: “Really don’t know what the issue is. Happily paid £108.00 for a DM ticket. Would have paid more!!”. And therein lays the problem… DEPECHE MODE played a date at Stadion Wankdorf in Bern and that said it all! As the man who Devotees call a genius once wrote: “Some great reward will be coming my way…”

Photo by Chi Ming Lai

As The Devotees wallowed in their collective misery during 2023, the Stockholm Syndrome was stronger than ever. On the Bratislava leg at the National Football Stadium, one of The Black Swarm commented to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK: “I was there… I must admit, a bit disappointed… but I still love them!!!”. It was business as usual for DEPECHE MODE, with “business” being the operative word. It was reported that so much money had been sucked out of the European alternative music market in particular that a number of acts had to schedule their planned tours to 2024, while others who had made good albums worthy of attention in 2023 got lost in the sea of DM propaganda on the web.

Despite increased ticket prices at all levels, gig etiquette declined to the worst possible standards with the constant chatter and bad manners among some attendees. Surely if you have paid upwards of £30 or more for a show, you might want to pay more attention and enjoy it? ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK has never seen it this bad in the 43 years it has been going to concerts, but this entitled arrogance to talk extremely loudly about total bollocks is a undoubted legacy of Brexit and Covid which in combination has normalised a lack of social graces in gathered environments… and when challenged, these total numbskulls become aggressive, pitifully unaware that they are ruining the evening of those around them.

Meanwhile, there was another undesirable element who only go to gigs to post selfies and badly distorted footage on their socials… these were often the sort of people who actually hated the band back in the day, but after 40+ years realised they like the song on the Vitality or Waitrose advert so are sudddenly giving it the big “I AM” about being a fan… but BECAUSE they are only there for one song, they then treat the rest of the gig like they were out with their mates in the pub! 🤬

Photo by Chi Ming Lai

The best live shows of the year came from PET SHOP BOYS and DURAN DURAN with their arena extravaganzas full of hits, classic fan favourites and great staging. Among the album celebrations, CHINA CRISIS ran through their second long player ‘Working With Fire & Steel – Possible Pop Songs Volume 2’ on tour to celebrate its 40th anniversary and founder bassist Peter Hook took the first NEW ORDER compilation ‘Substance’ out on the road to coincide with its expanded 4CD reissue.

“Sweden’s best kept pop secret” KITE impressed with an imitate headliner for their debut London gig and later at Cologne’s Amphi Festival to a much larger crowd, while the return of Ollie Wride to the London stage at The Scala illustrated why he has potential to be the next synthwave artist to crossover into the mainstream.

Photo by Ed Miles

‘Time’s Arrow’, LADYTRON’s second album since their return from hiatus proved to be something of a disappointment while fairing slightly better with its anti-Brexit sentiments, ‘Bauhaus Staircase’ was touted as the final album from OMD; now kissing the strict machine, having previously been supportive of new electronic pop via ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK championed acts MIRRORS, VILLA NAH, VILE ELECTRODES, METROLAND, TINY MAGNETIC PETS and SOFTWAVE, their choice of art glam hipsters WALT DISCO as opening act on the UK leg of the 2024 tour was symbolic of the general poor state of modern synthpop ie pop music using synths, particularly within the narrow-mindset of Brexit Britain.

Although the UK was continuing to party like it was 1933, the incendiary language that Cruella Braverman was using was so extreme that she was even dismissed from fronting the Conservative Party new wave covers band A FLOCK OF SIEG HEILS… as a trio of poets from South Yorkshire once said: “BROTHERS! SISTERS! WE DON’T NEED THIS FASCIST GROOVE THANG!”

Reflecting a wider issue, 2023 also saw ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK publish its fewest number of ‘Introducing…’ new artist articles since its inception in 2010 with only Brigitte Bardini and Madeleine Goldstein featured. There were a number of possible reasons…

Photo by Bella Salvatore

“The technology leads the art form and it always has” said veteran producer Steve Lillywhite on a recent Rockonteurs podcast, “if the technology allows you to reference other people’s records… you WILL do that!”. This was summed up by an Apple Mac advert featuring sample-based British pop singer PinkPantheress demonstrating how to have a hit by appropriating a topline from Kelly Rowland and plonking it into GarageBand before processing her voice through AutoTune and nabbing the intro of ‘Gold’ by SPANDAU BALLET… you said it yourself Miss Walker, IT SOUNDS LIKE GARBAGE!

While the accessibility, usability and sound quality of modern tech has totally democratised music making, as another veteran producer Stephen Hague put it to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK “it’s made it far too easy”, with the end result being familiarity and imitation rather than innovation. Now that an acceptable sound is able to be obtained fairly quickly on software such as GarageBand, the level of songwriting has generally declined in many genres. Artists abstain from putting in the hard work towards the actual songcraft because they think their track is already great, as it sounds like someone they’ve based it on!

However, the misuse of “synth” as a description reached a new nadir in 2023. There were those using “synth” or “synthwave” in their brand identity who proudly revealed via their Spotify Wrapped that their Top Genre was actually rock or made bizarre comments like “What I like most about synthwave is the guitar solos”. Meanwhile one artist declared they were synthpop because they had spent their youth “listening to too much Madonna”! But synth music as an enduring form is ultimately doomed when social media platforms using “Synthpop” in their idents think that guitar-based bands like BIG COUNTRY and COCTEAU TWINS are part of it, or compile acoustic playlists!! 🤦‍♂️

“Synth” has now somehow become is a general term for any retro-flavoured pop with an element of shiny artifice whether synthesizers have been used or not! These artists and “content creators” are now too young to understand what “synth” in music actually once meant and probably think the term is short for “synthetic” as in clothes and hair products, as opposed to “synthesizer”.

That said, 2023 was not all bad and there was a lot of excellent music. The song of the year was by the unlikely synth hero in glum rocker Lloyd Cole; while guitars made a more prominent but limited return on his album ‘On Pain’ following 2019’s electronically-dominated ‘Guesswork’, the standout song ‘The Idiot’ saw him provide a touching narrative on the relationship between David Bowie and Iggy Pop as they relocated to Berlin in 1976.

Swedish veterans PAGE took the Numanisation of their poptronica to its zenith by bringing in former imperial phase Numan band members Chris Payne and RRussell Bell on their new album ‘En Ny Våg’. Across the Öresund Bridge, Danish synthpop couple SOFTWAVE showed the world the ‘things we’ve done’.

Photo by George Tripodakis

Another music veteran Ricky Wilde teamed up with NINA to reveal their ‘Scala Hearts’; full of classic pop references and a modern sheen, this was the record Wilde had wanted to make for a few years but hadn’t been able to with his sister Kim. Its creative drive showed and this was also the best long player that NINA had been part of since she launched her solo career in 2011. In a busy year, NINA also found time to satisfy many a red blooded fantasy by collaborating with Kid Moxie on the ‘Lust’ EP released by Italians Do It Better.

The Finns were strong too, with Jaakko Eino Kalavi and Jori Hulkkonen producing two of the best albums of 2023. The former’s eclectic ‘Chaos Magic’ featured Alma Jodorowsky, Mr Silla and Jimi Tenor as special guests while the latter’s ‘There Is Light Hidden In These Shadows’ brought in John Grant, Ralf Dörper, Jake Shears, Jon Marsh, Juho Paalosmaa and Tiga.

While maintaining his front man role in MESH, Mark Hockings presented his solo project BLACKCARBURNING in long playing form and was ‘Watching Sleepers’. Also going it alone, Alison Goldfrapp squarely hit the dancefloor via ’The Love Invention’ with Kylie Minogue’s similarly glitzy ‘Tension’ as its companion. But with ACTORS still busy touring the world, the planned long playing debut from LEATHERS was yet to emerge but there were two new singles in the interim.

METROLAND and side project 808 DOT POP ambitiously released albums in five different formats with exclusive tracks on each between them simultaneously, in a move that had not been seen since 1978 when all four members of KISS released solo records on the same day. Much more discretely, ITALOCONNECTION came up with ‘Nordisko’ which comprised of Nordic pop disco covers. More ambient experiments were served by John Foxx, Vince Clarke, Patricia Wolf, Johan Agebjörn and the late Ryuichi Sakamoto, while putting those ethereal textures into song was Hinako Omori with her appropriately named second album ‘stillness, softness…’

Germany’s BEBORN BETON offered bleak commentary on the state of the planet with ‘Darkness Falls Again’ but encouraged everyone to be dancers in the dark while Chinese band STOLEN highlighted this ‘Eroded Creation’. Within their ‘Circle Of Doom’, NNHMN had pressing matters closer to home while ZANIAS emerged from her ‘Chrysalis’. FERAL FIVE confronted and worked with AI to declare ‘Truth Is The New Gold’ and Finlay Shakespeare tapped into his ‘Illusion + Memory’.

Photo by Tim Darin

Among the promising emergent acts with debut EPs were NEU-ROMANCER and DIE SEXUAL while German solo artists Jennifer Touch and Laura Dre added to their long playing portfolios, as did OHNOTHING and BUNNY X. Fronted by respectively by John Grant and Neil Arthur, CREEP SHOW and THE REMAINDER outlined the benefits of collaboration while CAUSEWAY joined forces with R. MISSING for the single ‘Wear The Night Out’.

Despite having plied their trade for over 50 years, SPARKS continued to be as eccentric as ever and even had Cate Blanchett appear in the video for ‘The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte’. With ‘*Happiness now completed’ and Dave Ball returning to the live fold after a period of serious illness, SOFT CELL effectively issued another new album featuring a significant number of previously unreleased tracks including covers of Giorgio Moroder and X-RAY SPEX to provide a much more satisfying listening experience than the parent ‘*Happiness not included’ record. Then there was the unexpected recorded return of CLASSIX NOUVEAUX with their ‘Battle Cry’.

Veteran acts who ceased active operations many years ago got worthy boxed set treatments; TELEX provided ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK with the funniest interview of the year in support of their self-titled retrospective on Mute while LANDSCAPE were comprehensively catalogued by Cooking Vinyl. Not to be left out, the trusty Cherry Red via their Lemon imprint showcased how underrated NEW MUSIK and their leader Tony Mansfield were, especially with the latter’s sound clearly audible in today’s pop acts such as THE WEEKND.

Despite the return of Q, the jury was still out on whether music magazines are still desirable aside from their CD and vinyl artefacts. Meanwhile, music-based social media dumbed down its engagement to cut ‘n’ paste Wikipedia snippets accompanying archive photos or artwork, pointless 26th anniversary posts and non-significant birthday celebrations to attract likes. Comments from the public such as “My favourite album… I wish I still had it!” and saying “Happy Birthday” when the platform wasn’t even connected to the artist concerned only highlighted further the continuing inane nature of online interaction. And this was without those irritating “POV” reels and reaction videos on TikTok and Instagram which were unfortunately prevalent!

The less said about the right wing gammon infested sh*t show that Twitter has become, the better but on the new Threads platform intended to take it on, PENDULUM’s El Hornet remarked “omg threads is full of music industry self help w*nkers making lists about things nobody asked abort! ABORT!” 🤣

With such platforms also seemingly centred around the exposure of flesh with photos “just for fun” be the subject a golfer, gamer, painter, baker, comedian, hairdresser, photographer, psychologist, racing driver, book reviewer, poet, dating coach or Lego enthusiast, is it any wonder that several music artists resorted to setting up OnlyFans accounts to sell nude photos!

With pun totally intended, in this challenging climate for exposure, some acts simply got a bit too big for their boots and were unbearably conceited on their socials with their bragging and frivolous chatter to appease a needy flock who hung onto their every word, desperate to be seen to be “friends” of wannabe stars while crowdfunding towards their spa weekenders and vet bills for their cat… it was therefore ironic that one of these acts declared “Music isn’t a competition!” when it appeared that another band might be taking away some of their limelight! Well, stop acting like it’s a 24 hour edition of ‘The Apprentice’ then!!! 🙄

On the other side of the coin, one too cool for school band took a strange attitude to promotion by refusing to accept questions about their influences while trying to come over like total originals. Despite their inspirations being blatant and obvious to hear, they had a misguided self-belief that they were somehow speaking a new language! But everybody knows they started out by purchasing the sheet music to ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ from a New York thrift store! 😆

A few years ago, a lone British artist was complained about the lack of press attention for their new admittedly good album, but then proceeded not to answer emails containing interview pitches. Artists need to engage, no matter how much they say they hate doing promotion, they can’t have it both ways. The days of RADIOHEAD not doing interviews to promote a new album and letting the music speak for itself are long gone…

With the world now making up for lost time since 2020, it would be fair to say that 2023 has been something of a strange year!


Text by Chi Ming Lai
18 December 2023

A Beginner’s Guide To MIKE THORNE

Photo by JR Host

Born in Sunderland, Mike Thorne began learning to play piano at the age of 11.  

The lessons sparked a passion for music that led to him buying a tape recorder so that he could record songs off the radio. He then studied composition at The Guildhall School of Music & Drama. But despite later graduating with a physics degree from Oxford University, the music industry was where he wanted to be. His first jobs included tape op, journalist and then A&R at EMI looking after THE SEX PISTOLS during their short tenure at the label in 1976.

This led to becoming a house record producer at EMI and his first assignment involved recording 120 saxophones playing ‘The White Cliffs Of Dover’. After recording several live albums including ‘Live at The Roxy’, Thorne got his break producing French rock band TÉLÉPHONE whose eponymous debut album went gold.

New Yorkers THE SHIRTS and the Peter Godwin fronted METRO were among those followed, but it was his work on the first three albums by WIRE – a band he spotted and signed to PINK FLOYD’s label Harvest – that drew the most critical acclaim. The records demonstrated Thorne’s willingness to experiment in the studio, stripping down structures while adding electronic elements where appropriate.

Recognising that electronics and computers were the future of pop music and that a reinvention was likely by responding to new possibilities, Thorne had the foresight to purchase the first version of the NED Synclavier in 1979. A polyphonic digital sampling system and music workstation which used FM synthesis, it was to become his production mainstay and arrived in time for Colin Newman of WIRE’s first solo release and Scottish new wave quartet BERLIN BLONDES’ only long player.

Thorne moved to New York to become a freelance producer, working mostly at Media Sound Studio. But it was while in London working on the soundtrack to a Julie Christie film ‘Memoirs Of A Survivor’ that Thorne was commissioned by Phonogram Records to produce their new signing B-MOVIE. The deal had been brokered by Some Bizzare, an umbrella organisation that was more stable than label and part of the 2-for-1 arrangement was for him to work with a Northern synth duo called SOFT CELL. The rest, as they say, is history…

‘Tainted Love’, a cover of a song written by Ed Cobb and recorded by Gloria Jones, went to No1 and was the biggest selling UK single of 1981. It also spent a staggering 43 weeks on the US Billboard Hot 100. During the recording of ‘Tainted Love’, Thorne conceived a new way of producing an extended dance mix… the 12” single would be arranged and recorded first, with the 7” single version edited from sections of the longer track. Phonogram boss Roger Ames felt the track was a little slow so it was varispeeded up slightly for release!

Meanwhile, SOFT CELL were to enter an imperial phase of five successive Top4 UK hit singles with Thorne at the production helm including ‘Bedsitter’, ‘Say Hello Wave Goodbye’, ‘Torch’ and ‘What’. However, with the overwhelming success of their debut long player ‘Non Stop Erotic Cabaret’, tensions brewed during the recording of SOFT CELL’s appropriately titled second album ‘The Art Of Falling Apart’ leading to Thorne parting ways with the duo.

In 1984, Thorne was to produce one of the most important albums of his career when he was teamed up with BRONSKI BEAT for ‘The Age Of Consent’. The trio soon fragmented after its release, but Thorne followed their lead singer Jimmy Somerville to his new project THE COMMUNARDS with Richard Coles to achieve yet another No1 in a HI-NRG cover of ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’; it was also the best-selling UK single of 1986.

Thorne’s ethos was always “to make music I liked with people I liked”. As well as working with more esoteric clients such as Marianne Faithful, Nina Hagen and Laurie Anderson, he was appreciated for his crossover potential in the mainstream with Daryl Hall & John Oates commissioning him to construct an Extended Club Mix of ‘Maneater’ in 1984 which included a breakdown clearly influenced by the middle section of the ‘Tainted Love’/ Where Did Our Love Go’ 12” segue.

Although Thorne ceased working as a hired hand from 1995, he continued as a producer for artists signed to his label imprint The Stereo Society while he issued his first his solo record ‘The Contessa’s Party’ in 2005 featuring special guests Kit Hain, Lene Lovich and Sarah Jane Morris.

Despite achieving two best-selling UK singles of the year, Mike Thorne has often slipped under the radar in discussions about notable record producers who led the start of the digital era. Documenting a significant and trailblazing career, here are 20 tracks selected by ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK which act a Beginner’s Guide to Mike Thorne, listed in yearly and then alphabetical order by artist moniker with a restriction of one track per album project.


WIRE I Am The Fly (1978)

Although WIRE’s debut ‘Pink Flag’ was minimalist post-punk rock, their sophomore offering, ‘Chairs Missing,’ adopted more song structure, art rock approaches and synthesizer textures brought in by Thorne. One of WIRE’s signature tracks, ‘I Am The Fly’ had menace and provocation, prompting audiences at gigs to start lying down, waving their limbs in the air like dying flies! Musically, its influence can be heard from TUBEWAY ARMY’s ‘My Shadow In Vain’ to ELASTICA’s ‘Lined Up’.

Available on the WIRE album ‘Chairs Missing’ via Pink Flag

http://www.pinkflag.com/


BERLIN BLONDES Framework (1980)

A meeting of synthesizers, art rock and obscure vocals, Glasgow’s BERLIN BLONDES exuded the detached European cool of David Bowie during his Mauerstadt exile and were unusual at the time for using a drum machine. The quartet only made one album produced by Thorne which was recorded at Gary Numan’s Rock City Studios, ‘Framework’ was syncopated futurist disco featuring crashing electronic beats and icy flashes of synth under the influence of SPARKS and MAGAZINE.

Available on the BERLIN BLONDES album ’The Complete Recordings 1980-81’ via Cherry Red Records

https://www.discogs.com/artist/512473-Berlin-Blondes


COLIN NEWMAN Order For Order (1980)

After three albums, WIRE split for the first time. Their lead vocalist Colin Newman released his first solo album, ‘A-Z’ in 1980, featuring songs created for the anticipated fourth WIRE album. It was produced by Thorne and could be considered a sonic companion to BERLIN BLONDES. ‘Order for Order’, explored the possibilities of new wave mainstream numbers and while some compared it to Gary Numan, it had more in common with MAGAZINE.

Available on the COLIN NEWMAN album ‘A–Z’ via Sentient Sonics

http://www.coldwarnightlife.com/features/shine-on-colin-newman/


B-MOVIE Remembrance Day (1981)

Despite being alongside DEPECHE MODE, SOFT CELL, BLANCMANGE and THE THE on the now iconic ‘Some Bizarre Album’, B-MOVIE were unable to secure a hit with the poignant magnificence of the Thorne produced ‘Remembrance Day’. The struggle for success and internal tensions led to the band fragmenting by 1983. But the song gained cult status and in 2004, American band THE FAINT presented a fine interpolation in ‘Southern Belles In London Sing’ .

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

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


KIT HAIN Spirits Walking Out (1981)

Kit Hain had an international hit ‘Dancing In The City’ with Julian Marshall in 1978 but after the duo split, Hain issued her debut solo album ‘Spirits Walking Out’ produced by Thorne. While ‘Danny’ was to be a minor single success, one of the album highlights was the synthesized cabaret noir of the dramatic title song. Hain was to have a role in the SOFT CELL story as it was her Roland CR78 Compurhythm which Thorne borrowed and used as the rhythmic backbone to ‘Tainted Love’.

Available on the KIT HAIN album ‘Spirits Walking Out’ via Renaissance Records

https://kittusmusic.com/


SOFT CELL Bedsitter – Early Morning Dance Side (1981)

With direction from Thorne, SOFT CELL often incorporated extra vocal sections into their 12” extended formats as on ‘Torch’, ‘Facility Girls’ and ‘Insecure Me’. So instead of purely instrumental breakdown extensions, ‘Bedsitter’ added a marvellous rap from Marc Almond where he asked “do you look a mess, do have a hangover?” before taking a little blusher. The literal kitchen sink drama to song concept saw tea leaves pushed down the drain as the night life started all over again.

Available on the SOFT CELL album ‘The Twelve Inch Singles’ via UMC

https://www.softcell.co.uk/


NINA HAGEN Tiatschi Tarot (1982)

Record in New York with Thorne, ‘NunSexMonkRock’ was the debut solo adventure by eccentric German singer Nina Hagen, as well as her first record with all her songs performed in English after disbanding her band after two acclaimed albums. While it was primarily a dissonant mix of punk, funk and reggae, ‘Taitschi-Tarot’ was a delightful oddball avant opera piece using piano and synths that covered the topics of Buddhism, reincarnation and yoga.

Available on the NINA HAGEN album ‘Nunsexmonkrock’ via Sony Music

https://ninahagendas.beepworld.de/


SOFT CELL Torch – 12” version (1982)

Thorne and Marc Almond agreed that ‘Torch’ was their finest moment of recording together. Punctuated by John Gatchell’s flugelhorn, ‘Torch’ came in the middle of SOFT CELL’s imperial pop phase and the 12” version was a pièce de résistance, fuelled by Almond and Dave Ball partying on the New York club scene where they met Cindy Ecstasy. In an amusing spoken middle section, her nonchalant off-key vocal counterpointed Almond’s fabulously forlorn romanticism.

Available on the SOFT CELL boxed set ‘Keychains & Snowstorms’ via UMC

https://www.facebook.com/softcell


THE THE Uncertain Smile (1982)

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

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

https://www.thethe.com/


SEONA DANCING More To Lose (1983)

SEONA DANCING were the synthpop duo comprising of a young Ricky Gervais and his friend Bill McRae formed while they were students at University College London. With Gervais adopting a melodramatic Bowie-like persona as a doomed romantic, their first single ‘More To Lose’ produced by Mike Thorne was of its time. However, its incessant rhythms and tuneful keyboard inflections had appeal and the song became a surprise radio hit in The Philippines.

Available on the SEONA DANCING single ‘More To Lose’ via London Records

http://www.rickygervais.com/


SOFT CELL The Art Of Falling Apart (1983)

Whereas Mike Thorne had been a happy collaborator on their debut album ‘Non Stop Erotic Cabaret’, during the making of the follow-up, he was viewed as a controller and spy for Phonogram. As former art school students, pop stardom did not suit SOFT CELL so there was no option but for Marc Almond and Dave Ball to self-destruct. The imploding disposition of ‘The Art Of Falling Apart’ title song couldn’t have soundtracked a mental breakdown any better.

Available on the album ‘The Art Of Falling Apart’ via Mercury Records

https://www.instagram.com/softcellhq/


BRONSKI BEAT Smalltown Boy (1984)

When BRONSKI BEAT made their first ever TV appearance performing on BBC2’s ‘ORS’,  they were nothing short of startling, thanks to their look, their minimal synth sound and Somerville’s lonely earth shattering falsetto. The trio had sought to be more outspoken and political in their position as openly gay performers and the tale of the Mike Thorne produced ‘Smalltown Boy’ about a gay teenager fleeing his hometown made an important statement.

Available on the BRONSKI BEAT album ‘The Age Of Consent’ via London Records

https://www.jimmysomerville.co.uk/


THE COMMUNARDS Disenchanted (1986)

After leaving BRONSKI BEAT, Jimmy Somerville formed THE COMMUNARDS with future TV vicar Richard Coles and took Thorne with him to produce their self-titled debut. While more organic elements such as piano, brass and strings featured, there remained a HI-NRG electronic element. The brilliant ‘Disenchanted’ heavily recalled the sound of his previous band. Somerville never stuck around for long and his relationship with Coles was dissolved in 1987.

Available on THE COMMUNARDS album ‘Communards’ via London Records

https://www.facebook.com/officialjimmysomerville


HOLLYWOOD BEYOND Save Me (1987)

HOLLYWOOD BEYOND was the vehicle of flamboyant singer-songwriter Mark Rogers and he went Top10 with the Stephen Hague produced ‘What’s The Colour Of Money?’ in 1986. Mike Thorne was brought in to produce one track, ‘Save Me’, for the parent album ‘If’. Released as a single, it was an attempt to make a funkier version of BRONSKI BEAT and THE COMMUNARDS but Rogers lacked the vocal richness of Jimmy Somerville to pull it off.

Available on the HOLLYWOOD BEYOND album ‘If’ via Warner Music

https://www.discogs.com/artist/134514-Hollywood-Beyond


LAURIE ANDERSON The Day The Devil (1989)

Laurie Anderson’s fourth studio album ‘Strange Angels’ saw her attempt to move away from performance art into a more musical territory. Taking singing lessons and developing into a soprano, there was less of the spoken word that characterised her surprise No2 UK hit ‘O Superman’ and its parent album ‘Big Science’. Thorne produced four tracks on the album including ‘The Day the Devil’, a gothic art mini-opera with sinister diabolic overtones.

Available on the LAURIE ANDERSON album ‘Strange Angels’ via Warner Music

https://laurieanderson.com/


CHINA CRISIS Red Letter Day (1989)

While CHINA CRISIS had recorded their fifth album ‘Diary Of A Hollow Horse’ with STEELY DAN’s Walter Becker, Virgin Records had felt there were no potential hit singles. So the band were despatched to re-record three songs including ‘Red Letter Day’. Using a sharp piano figure reminiscent of Rupert Holmes’ one hit wonder ‘Escape (The Pina Colada Song)’ with more counterpoints, synths and vocal harmonies, the track was issued as the album’s second single but no hit was forthcoming.

Available on the CHINA CRISIS album ‘Diary Of A Hollow Horse’ via Virgin Records

https://www.facebook.com/chinacrisisofficial


BRONSKI BEAT I’m Gonna Run Away From You (1990)

Mike Thorne reunited with Steve Bronski and Larry Steinbachek when BRONSKI BEAT were rebooted in a new deal with Zomba Records subsidiary Zed Beat featuring a new vocalist Jonathan Hellyer who possessed a falsetto similar to Jimmy Somerville. The first track released was a frantic dance cover of ‘I’m Gonna Run Away From You’, a Northern Soul song made famous by Tami Lynn. Sadly, Larry Steinbachek passed away in 2017 and Steve Bronski in 2022.

Originally released as a single by Zed Beat, currently unavailable.

http://www.bronskibeat.co.uk/


INFORMATION SOCIETY Peace & Love, Inc (1992)

From Minneapolis, INFORMATION SOCIETY had their breakthrough ‘What’s On Your Mind (Pure Energy)’ in 1988. From the album of the same name on which Thorne produced 4 tracks, ‘Peace & Love, Inc’ was spikey and energetic social commentary with heavy rave influences with 808 STATE samples thrown in. Incidentally another album track ‘To Be Free’ was produced by Karl Bartos under his post-KRAFTWERK guise as ELEKTRIC MUSIC.

Available on the INFORMATION SOCIETY album ‘Peace & Love, Inc’ via Tommy Boy Records

https://www.facebook.com/informationsociety


PETER MURPHY Our Secret Garden (1992)

BAUHAUS front man Peter Murphy sought to capture the live feel of a band, having sampled musicians on his two previous works. But recording had not been straightforward and it was the longest time Thorne had worked on an album. the spacious and exotic ‘Our Secret Garden’ saw keyboards played by Murphy himself alongside the producer’s Synclavier. The ‘Holy Smoke’ album also reunited Thorne with B-MOVIE’s Paul Statham who was now acting as Murphy’s wingman.

Available on the PETER MURPHY album ‘Holy Smoke’ via Beggars Banquet Records

https://www.petermurphy.info/


MARC ALMOND We Need Jealousy (1996)

During Thorne’s reunion with Marc Almond in 1993, the singer was dismayed that the producer was still using his Synclavier. A change in record labels led to Thorne’s productions being remixed by THE BEATMASTERS and BIZARRE INC. Mixed by Gregg Jackman, ‘We Need Jealousy’ featured some great bassline programming augmented by ‘Motorbiking’ guitar by Chris Spedding. The experience drained Thorne, who withdrew from working as a hired hand.

Available on the MARC ALMOND album ‘Fantastic Star’ via Mercury Records

http://www.marcalmond.co.uk/


For personal commentary by Mike Thorne, archive articles and information on releases by The Stereo Society, please visit https://stereosociety.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Simon Helm
20th February 2023

THE ELECTRONIC LEGACY OF 1983

In addition to albums, several standalone singles were to be key to 1983 for those with a preference for the synthesized form.

NEW ORDER’s ‘Blue Monday’ and KRAFTWERK’s ‘Tour De France’ became iconic works while the David Sylvian and Ryuichi Sakamoto collaboration ‘Forbidden Colours’ not only bravely tackled a topic during a period when gay pop stars and media personalities still felt unable to openly come out, but also reinforced the value of a movie tie-in.

Sampling was no longer the preserve of wealthy musicians and their Fairlights as the cheaper but still expensive Emulator became more widely available. Meanwhile the Roland Jupiter-6, Prophet 600, the Roland TR-909 and Roland MSQ-700 became the first instruments available with MIDI. Digital synthesis became affordable via the astonishingly affordable Yamaha DX7, although it proved to be a nightmare to programme. As a result, the music world fell into a preset trap overnight with the sound of simulated slap bass, flute and harmonica appearing on almost every pop record for the next few years…

But synthesizers and electronic sounds ceased being a desired texture as the huge success of David Bowie with his ‘Let’s Dance’ album meant every band would soon add a brass section to their line-up. SPANDAU BALLET, who perhaps may have triggered pop’s brass aspirations back in 1981 with ‘Chant No1’, went all smaltzy with ‘True’ and this coincided with the rise of pseudo-soul pop such as WHAM! and CULTURE CLUB. Meanwhile, in alternative circles, bands like THE SMITHS were spearheading the backlash with their frontman Morrissey declaring “there was nothing more repellent than the synthesizer…”

However, the old guard from Synth Britannia soldiered on and continued to experiment while acts who perhaps were not electronically-minded at their heart could see the benefits of embracing the developing technology, such as having more streamlined line-ups and dispensing with drummers.

However, a sign of the confusing artistic mindsets of the period came with Gary Numan’s ‘Warriors’ album and its dreadful artwork with our hero looking like Mad Max after a visit to the hair salon, but annoyed that his mulleted mane had been dyed the wrong colour. Things had looked promising for his return to the UK live stage after retiring in 1981, but he fell out with producer Bill Nelson during the recording sessions.

With the embracement of jazz funk influences and sax solos appearing whether they were really needed or not, the result was a well-played if confused record that was the beginning of a creative confidence crisis that would afflict Numan for at least another decade.

So here are 20 albums selected by ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK as contributing to the electronic legacy of 1983. Listed in alphabetical order, there is a restriction of one album per artist moniker where beyond this place, the rains are falling hard…


CABARET VOLTAIRE The Crackdown

Richard H Kirk and Stephen Mallinder became seduced by the sequenced adventures of NEW ORDER and electronic dance music emerging from New York. Signing to Some Bizzare and licensed to Virgin Records, ‘The Crackdown’ was produced by Flood and featured contributions from Dave Ball of SOFT CELL on the title song and ‘Animation’. Meanwhile the stark single ‘Just Fascination’ helped the album become CABARET VOLTAIRE’s highest ever UK chart entry at No31.

‘The Crackdown’ is still available via Mute Artists

https://mute.com/artists/cabaret-voltaire


CHINA CRISIS Working With Fire & Steel – Possible Pop Songs Volume 2

Produced by Mike Howlett, ‘Working With Fire & Steel’ allowed CHINA CRISIS to deliver a more cohesive album following the four producers who steered their debut ‘Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms’! Best known for the brilliant ‘Wishful Thinking’, the album is much more with melancholic synth melodies and woodwind counterpoints, from feistier numbers such as ‘Animals In Jungles’ to more atmospheric set pieces like ‘Here Comes A Raincloud’ and ‘The Soul Awakening’.

‘Working With Fire & Steel – Possible Pop Songs Volume 2’ is still available via Caroline International

https://www.facebook.com/chinacrisisofficial


DEPECHE MODE Construction Time Again

The first album featuring Alan Wilder as a full member as well as Gareth Jones as Tonmeister, ‘Construction Time Again’ saw DEPECHE MODE experimenting with found object sampling. Mixed at Hansa Studios in West Berlin, it was a socially conscious record featuring Cold War paranoia on ‘Two Minute Warning’, environmental concerns on ’The Landscape Is Changing’ and the now ironic anti-capitalist statements ‘More Than A Party’, ‘Pipeline’ and ‘Everything Counts’!

‘Construction Time Again’ is still available via Sony Music

https://www.depechemode.com/


DURAN DURAN Seven & The Ragged Tiger

DURAN DURAN may have yielded a 1984 No1 single in a Nile Rodgers remix of ‘The Reflex’ but overall, ‘Seven & The Ragged Tiger’ was an over produced disappointment. Recorded in France and Australia, tensions between the band and producer Ian Little led to the ubiquitous Alex Sadkin to be brought in. Despite this, highlights included the punchy ‘Shadows On Your Side’, the JAPAN inspired instrumental ‘Tiger Tiger’ and the forgotten single ‘New Moon On Monday’.

‘Seven & The Ragged Tiger’ is still available via EMI Music

https://duranduran.com/


ENDGAMES Building Beauty

The success of ABC and HEAVEN 17 heralded a new age of technologically enhanced blue-eyed soul. One band with aspirations in that field were Glasgow’s ENDGAMES. ‘Universe Won’t Mind’, ‘Desire’ and ‘Waiting For Another Chance’ were among the standouts. Meanwhile ‘Love Cares’ was like a funky CHINA CRISIS walking into the recording sessions of ‘The Lexicon Of Love’ and by coincidence, singer David Rudden had a passing resemblance to Gary Daly!

‘Building Beauty’ was originally released on Virgin Records, currently unavailable

https://www.discogs.com/artist/50709-Endgames


BRIAN ENO Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks

Recorded as a soundtrack to a documentary about the Apollo moon missions, Brian Eno wanted to convey the feelings of space travel and weightlessness as a reaction to the uptempo, manner of space travel presented by news reels of the day with their fast cuts and speeded up images. Although based around a Yamaha DX7, it was instrumentally varied featuring Daniel Lanois’ countrified guitar on its best known track ‘Deep Blue Day’, as well as ‘Silver Morning’ and ‘Weightless’.

‘Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks’ is still available via Virgin / EMI Records

http://www.brian-eno.net


EURYTHMICS Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)

The first of two EURYTHMICS albums in 1983, after their German-inspired debut ‘In The Garden’, Annie Lennox and David A Stewart explored the synthesizer and acquired a Movement Drum Computer. Recorded in their newly equipped 8 track home studio, ‘Love Is A Stranger’ was the breakthrough. Despite its hopeless nihilism, the title song went global but there were other notable songs such as ‘I Could Give You (A Mirror)’, ‘I’ve Got An Angel’ and the brilliant forgotten single ‘The Walk’.

‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)’ is still available via RCA

https://www.eurythmics.com/


JOHN FOXX The Golden Section

John Foxx had envisioned ‘The Golden Section’ as “a roots check” with a psychedelic electronic rock flavour. This came to a head on a revised ‘Endlessy’ which captured an accessible uptempo euphoria. With folk laden overtones, ‘Ghosts On Water’ was a highlight along with the powerful opener ‘My Wild Love’. But away from these influences, ‘Twilight’s Last Gleaming’ was a glorious haunting closer. Foxx later remarked the album was a mistake as he tried to “fit too many favourite things together”.

‘The Golden Section’ is still available via Edsel Records

http://www.metamatic.com/


PAUL HAIG Rhythm Of Life

Produced by Alex Sadkin, ‘Rhythm Of Life’ was the one and only attempt by Paul Haig to crack the pop mainstream away from the frantic guitar driven angst of his previous band JOSEF K. Highly percussive and lifted by some sub-ASSOCIATES rhythm guitar and big layered synth riffs, ‘Never Give Up (Party Party)’ showed great promise while ‘Heaven Sent’ was a superb reimagination of SIMPLE MINDS’ ‘I Travel’ for the New York dancefloor. A lack of hits failed to ignite wider interest in the album.

‘Rhythm Of Life’ is still available via Les Disques Du Crépuscule

http://www.paulhaig.com/


HEAVEN 17 The Luxury Gap

After the success of ‘Penthouse & Pavement’, the second album ‘The Luxury Gap’ was HEAVEN 17 aiming to be incredibly popular. With a Roland MC4 Micro-composer and Linn Drum driving their System 100s and Jupiter 4, there were Top 5 hits in ‘Temptation’ and ‘Come Live With Me’. Still experimenting, ‘Lady Ice & Mr Hex’ was a surreal marriage of synthesizers with jazz while with the use of a Roland TB303 Bassline prominently on ‘Let Me Go’ pre-dated acid house.

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

https://www.heaven17.com/


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Fascination!

Trying to follow-up ‘Dare’ proved to be a fractious experience with producer Martin Rushent leaving the sessions after creative conflicts with various members of THE HUMAN LEAGUE. The few completed tracks were issued on a North American mini-album. While included were the ‘Love Action’ B-side ‘Hard Times’, the catchy title single and the electro-Tamla of ‘Mirror Man’, they were topped by ‘You Remind Me Of Gold’ and Rushent’s mix of ‘I Love You too Much’.

‘Fascination!’ is still available as part of the boxed set ‘The Virgin Years’ via Virgin Records

https://www.thehumanleague.co.uk/


NAKED EYES Burning Bridges

Pete Byrne and Rob Fisher were NAKED EYES and while their Simmons heavy Bacharach & David cover of ‘Always Something There To Remind Me’ didn’t trouble the UK Top 40, it reached No8 in the US. Produced by Tony Mansfield of NEW MUSIK, the eponymous debut album used a Fairlight, Synclavier 2, PPG Wave 2.2, Emulator, OBX-a and Prophet 5. Not another Bacharach & David cover, a further US hit came with ‘Promises Promises’.

‘Burning Bridges’ is still available as ‘Naked Eyes’ via Chrysalis Records

https://www.nakedeyesmusic.com/


NEW ORDER Power, Corruption & Lies

Using sequencer-like effects on interim singles ‘Everything’s Gone Green’ and ‘Temptation’ had set NEW ORDER on a new path and while there were still guitar driven songs such as ‘Age Of Consent’ and ‘Leave Me Alone’, hybrids such as ‘The Village’ and ‘Ultraviolence’ utilised a pulsing electronic backbone. ‘Your Silent Face’, dubbed the “KRAFTWERK one”, was the ultimate romantic homage to Kling Klang but strangely, the track that seeded it all ‘586’ lost its menace in its album incarnation.

‘Power, Corruption & Lies’ is still available via Warner Music

http://www.neworder.com/


OMD Dazzle Ships

A brave sonic exploration of Cold War tensions and economic corruption, ‘Dazzle Ships’ was not what Virgin Records expected from OMD after three Top5 hits. Of its two singles, the jangly ‘Genetic Engineering’ was only a minor hit while the scathing attack on TV evangelism ‘Telegraph’ failed to get into the Top40. Although it featured some of the band’s best songs like ‘The Romance Of The Telescope’, ‘International’ and ‘Radio Waves’, ‘Dazzle Ships’ sold poorly on release but it has since been re-evaluated.

‘Dazzle Ships’ is still available via Virgin Records

http://www.omd.uk.com


SOFT CELL The Art Of Falling Apart

Pop stardom did not suit SOFT CELL so there was no option but for Marc Almond and Dave Ball to self-destruct. The imploding disposition of ‘The Art Of Falling Apart’ title song couldn’t have soundtracked a mental breakdown any better. Despite the sinister romp of ‘Baby Doll’ and the explicit ode to promiscuity ‘Numbers’, ‘Forever The Same’ and ‘Loving You Hating Me’ could have been a singles, while ‘Where The Heart Is’ and ‘Kitchen Sink Drama’ featured highly relatable domestic narratives.

‘The Art Of Falling Apart’ is still available via Mercury Records

http://www.softcell.co.uk


TEARS FOR FEARS The Hurting

With a magnificent combination of synth, preset rhythms and conventional instruments, ‘Mad World’ had set the scene for TEARS FOR FEARS’ debut album ‘The Hurting’. But it disappointed some, as it not only had all four singles to date been included but also two B-sides. But the majority had been reworked while the fraught tensions of the title song and ‘Memories Fade’ found favour amongst the new material. The re-recorded ‘Pale Shelter’ became a hit on second time of asking too.

‘The Hurting’ is still available via Mercury Records

https://tearsforfears.com/


THOMPSON TWINS Quick Step & Side Kick

Now down to a trio, the Alex Sadkin produced ‘Quick Step & Side Kick’ was the third THOMPSON TWINS album. Although ‘Love On Your Side’ was to be the breakthrough hit with the catchy but potentially annoying ‘We Are Detective’ following, the exotic funky non-hit ‘Lies’ deserved greater recognition while ‘Judy Do’ gloriously borrowed from Lou Reed’s ‘Satellite Of Love’. This was without the Grace Jones cameo on the bonkers ‘Watching’ and the rousing ‘If You Were There’.

‘Quick Step & Side Kick’ is still available via Edsel Records

http://www.thompsontwinstombailey.co.uk/


WHITE DOOR Windows

WHITE DOOR formed from the ashes of prog rock combo GRACE. Led by the sensitive vocal presence of Mac Austin, he backed by the Davies brothers Harry and John on synths. Produced by a young Andy Richards, ‘Windows’ saw its title song get BBC Radio1 airplay. The beautiful choir boy synthpop of ‘Jerusalem’ was later covered by Swedish synthesist Johan Baeckström, along with another album track ‘School Days’. Baeckström wolud join the trio for their 2020 comeback.

‘Windows’ is still available as a CD from Cherry Red Records

https://www.facebook.com/whitedoorband/


YAZOO You & Me Both

Despite the success of ‘Upstairs At Eric’s’, all was not well in the YAZOO camp so by the time of ‘You & Me Both’, Vince Clarke and Alison Moyet were working in the studio separately. ‘Ode To Boy’ was rescued from B-side obscurity while ‘Nobody’s Diary’ was the mighty swansong single. The album contained Moyet’s poignant anti-war statement ‘Mr Blue’ but in the Vince Clarke voiced ‘Happy People’, he came up with his most polarising composition since ‘What’s Your Name?’.

‘You & Me Both’ is still available via Mute Records

https://yazooinfo.com/


YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA Naughty Boys

As a reaction to the over-seriousness of their previous two albums, YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA lightened up considerably for ‘Naughty Boys’. The most commercial record of their career, this was highlighted by the joyous lead single ‘Kimi Ni Mune Kyun’. But while ‘Opened My Eyes’ could have been any Western synthpop act, ‘Lotus Love’ revealed some unexpected psychedelic overtones and ‘Kai-Koh’ showed that the trio had not lost their ear for exotic timbres.

‘Naughty Boys’ is still available via Sony Music

http://www.ymo.org/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
19th January 2023

25 SONGS NOT SUNG BY THE LEAD VOCALIST

Wikipedia says “The lead vocalist in popular music is typically the member of a group or band whose voice is the most prominent melody in a performance where multiple voices may be heard”.

It also adds “The lead vocalist may also be called the main vocalist or lead singer. Especially in rock music, the lead singer or solo singer is often the front man or front woman”. A BBC Radio 4 parody series ‘Radio Active’ first made the joke in 1981 that “Ringo Starr isn’t the best drummer in THE BEATLES” and in a similar way, it could be said that Bernard Sumner is not the best singer in NEW ORDER.

However, the lead vocalist is considered the figurehead and often the character of a band so regardless of what is said publicly about democracy, a hierarchy inevitably ensues.

But what happens when another member of the band takes their turn at the front? In most cases, it is just a one-off although sometimes it becomes recurring feature over successive albums. These tracks can meet with varying degrees of success, but there have even been occasions where the second vocalist eventually becomes lead singer! However, there have been strange situations where a less vocally competent instrumentalist is unhappy about the attention that a singer is getting and insists on switching roles, thus ensuring that the band does not play to any of its strengths!

So taking things back to front and with a limit of one track per act, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK presents a list of 25 songs not sung by the lead vocalist in chronological, then alpnabetical order…


ULTRAVOX Mr X (1980)

Having been an idea that dated back to the John Foxx-era of ULTRAVOX just before his departure, the KRAFTWERK influenced robotic spy story of ‘Mr X’ was voiced by Warren Cann while Midge Ure was settling in as the band’s new lead vocalist. The track had begun as ‘Touch & Go’ and been premiered live. In a gentlemen’s agreement, keyboardist Billy Currie gave his melody of ‘He’s A Liquid’ in return for Foxx’s melody to ‘Touch & Go’, hence the structural similarity to ‘Mr X’.

Available on the album ‘Vienna’ via Chrysalis Records

http://www.ultravox.org.uk/


DEPECHE MODE Any Second Now (1981)

Although now known as a songwriter, Martin Gore had contributed an instrumental ‘Big Muff’ and one song with lyrics ‘Tora! Tora! Tora!’ on DEPECHE MODE’s debut album. Written by Vince Clarke like most of ‘Speak & Spell’, ‘Any Second Now’ was a beautiful minimalist set piece that stood out amongst the dance friendly synthpop tunes and suited an understated tone of expression. And so began a tradition of Gore taking on DM’s ballads instead of front man Dave Gahan.

Available on the album ‘Speak & Spell’ via Sony Music

https://www.depechemode.com/


DRAMATIS Turn (1981)

DRAMATIS were the former Gary Numan live band and while they were musically virtuoso, the band’s Achilles’ heel was vocals. RRussell Bell and Denis Haines were the quartet’s main singers and Numan himself guested on their biggest hit ‘Love Needs No Disguise’. The classically trained multi-instrumentalist Chris Payne found himself a reluctant vocalist on a song he had written called ‘Turn’; “I have never felt comfortable about my own voice” he clarified.

Available on the album ‘For Future Reference’ via Cherry Red Records

https://www.discogs.com/artist/45761-Dramatis


NEW ORDER Doubts Even Here (1981)

After the end of JOY DIVISION, Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris reconvened as NEW ORDER while recruiting Gillian Gilbert on keyboards and guitar. Synths and drum machines were taking greater prominence but not entirely. While Sumner did the majority of the vocals on their debut album ‘Movement’, it was Hooky’s fraught delivery on ‘Doubts Even Here’ and words from The Bible spoken by Gilbert that provided the album’s most glorious moment.

Available on the album ‘Movement’ via Rhino

http://www.neworder.com/


KISSING THE PINK Watching Their Eyes (1982)

Best known for the profound anti-war statement ‘The Last Film’ which entered the Top20 in 1983, KISSING THE PINK had Nick Whitecross as their lead singer. Produced by Colin Thurston, the baroque opera tinged ‘Watching Their Eyes’ saw saxophonist Josephine Wells provide a haunting impassioned vocal. Wells went on to play live with TEARS FOR FEARS but sadly, she was to later battle her own traumas as a survivor of the Marchioness boat disaster in 1989.

Available on the album ‘Naked’ via Cherry Red Records

https://www.facebook.com/kissingthepink/


CHINA CRISIS Wishful Thinking (1983)

After his OMD success, Mike Howlett produced the most synth based CHINA CRISIS long player. Utilising Emulator strings and a pizzicato sample derived from plucking an acoustic guitar string close to the bridge, ‘Wishful Thinking’ was written and sung by guitarist Eddie Lundon. A sweetly textured, melodic pop single that deserved its hit status, lead singer Gary Daly responded with ‘Never Too Late’ but that song was shelved to B-side status for sounding too similar.

Available on the album ‘Working With Fire & Steel – Possible Pop Songs Volume 2’ via Caroline Records

https://www.facebook.com/chinacrisisofficial/


TEARS FOR FEARS The Hurting (1983)

While Roland Orzabal is more or less seen as TEARS FOR FEARS lead singer now, that is not how it was perceived at the start even though he sang their debut single ‘Suffer The Children’. Following three Top10 hit singles prior to the release of their debut album ‘The Hurting’, Curt Smith was considered the face and the voice of the band. Orzabal was main songwriter and sang lead on the title track with a more angst-ridden take than was heard on the Smith-fronted singles.

Available on the album ‘The Hurting’ via Mercury Records

https://tearsforfears.com/


YAZOO Happy People (1983)

Of Vince Clarke’s most polarising song since ‘What’s Your Name?’ for DEPECHE MODE, Alison Moyet said “That could have been the beginning of the end for us… in fact, no it wasn’t because Vince had already decided to leave. ‘Happy People’, I just tried singing it a couple of ways and I just hit him with ‘I can’t do this, you want it sung, you sing it yourself mate!’… so he sang it himself, fair play to him”. The song was an ironic send-up of middle aged political activists.

Available on the album ‘Three Pieces’ via Mute Records

https://yazooinfo.com/


BERLIN Rumor Of Love (1984)

Multi-instrumentalist John Crawford had proved himself a capable if almost anonymous singer when duetting with BERLIN front woman Terri Nunn on their 1982 breakthrough track ‘Sex (I’m A…)’. But for the B-side of the 1984 Giorgio Moroder produced single ‘No More Words’, Crawford did a lead vocal turn on the Mike Howlett-helmed ‘Rumor Of Love’ which echoed Scott Walker and ended up as a bonus track on the original edition of the ‘Love Life’ album

Available on the album ‘Love Life’ via Rubellan Records

https://www.berlinmusic.net/


OMD Never Turn Away (1984)

While Andy McCluskey was the lead singer of OMD, Paul Humphreys would see his less frequent vocalled tracks released as singles with ‘Souvenir’, ‘Secret’ and ‘Forever Live & Die’ becoming international hits. While their fifth ‘Junk Culture’ saw forays into brass sections, calypso and reggae, ‘Never Turn Away’ was a more traditional OMD ballad with Autumnal atmospheres but while it was a fine album track, it made little impression as a single release.

Available on the album ‘Junk Culture’ via Virgin Records

https://www.omd.uk.com/


PROPAGANDA Dream Within A Dream (1985)

While Susanne Freytag was the original PROPAGANDA vocalist with her stark narrative style, she soon stepped back in favour of her friend and TOPOLINOS bandmate Claudia Brücken. While Freytag’s Germanic prose remained vital on songs such as ‘Doctor Mabuse’ and ‘P-Machinery’, her vocal style suited the lead role on ‘Dream With A Dream’, a 9 minute epic which put a mighty soundtrack to accompany an Edgar Allan Poe poem which was first published in 1849.

Available on the album ‘A Secret Wish’ via ZTT Records

https://www.xpropaganda.co.uk/


KRAFTWERK The Telephone Call (1986)

On the disappointing ‘Techno Pop’ née ‘Electric Café’ album, Karl Bartos gave an assured performance in his only lead vocal for KRAFTWERK on ‘The Telephone Call’. While the assertive automated phone messages were a sharpened metaphor for female empowerment, band politics were at play when Ralf Hütter refused to let Bartos lip-synch his part on the monochromatic video although Wolfgang Flür got to mime a single phrase while cast in shadow.

Available on the album ‘Techno Pop’ via EMI Music

https://kraftwerk.com/


PET SHOP BOYS Paninaro (1986)

“Passion and love and sex and money – Violence, religion, injustice and death” went the opening phrases of Chris Lowe’s debut lead vocal for PET SHOP BOYS. Dryly spoken rather than sung, the track was a celebration of an Italian fashion cult. The middle eight featuring an ‘Entertainment Tonight’ interview saw Lowe deadpan: “I don’t like Country & Western. I don’t like rock music. I don’t like Rockabilly. I don’t like much, really, do I? But what I do like, I love passionately!”

Available on the album ‘Alternative’ via EMI Music

https://www.petshopboys.co.uk/


NITZER EBB Let Beauty Loose (1987)

With Douglas J McCarthy fronting NITZER EBB, the singing abilities of instrumentalist Bon Harris only came to the fore with his ‘Songs From the Lemon Tree’ lockdown live streams of solo covers often tinged with falsetto. But on the ‘That Total Age’ album, he had shouted his way through ‘Let Beauty Loose’, a typical slice of frantically paced EBM. Acting as a supersub in late 2021, Harris stood in for a hospitalised McCarthy at two NITZER EBB shows in Palm Beach and Toronto.

Available on the album ‘That Total Age’ via Mute Records

http://www.nitzer-ebb.com/


BOOK OF LOVE With A Little Love (1988)

Originally from Philadelphia, BOOK OF LOVE were started by school friends Susan Ottaviano and Ted Ottaviano who were not actually related. Jade Lee and Lauren Roselli Johnson joined later on and the quartet were invited to support DEPECHE MODE on two US tours while their single ‘I Touch Roses’ was reissued in a Daniel Miller remix. Although Susan Ottaviano was lead vocalist, Ted Ottaviano impressed on ‘With A Little Love’ which was co-produced by Flood.

Available on the album ’Lullaby’ via Noble Rot

https://www.bookoflovemusic.com/


CAMOUFLAGE Sooner Than We Think (1989)

German trio CAMOUFLAGE named themselves after a YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA track. While Marcus Meyn was lead singer and the voice of hits like ‘The Great Commandment’, on their second album ‘Methods Of Silence’, both instrumentalists Heiko Maile and Oliver Kreyssig did a vocal turn, with the latter’s ‘Sooner Than We Think’ considered worthy enough to include on their first two Best Of compilations ‘We Stroke The Flames’ and ‘Rewind – The Best Of 95-87’.

Available on the album ‘Methods Of Silence’ via Universal Music

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


KON KAN Move To Move (1989)

Despite Kevin Wynne being the voice on KON KAN’s sample heavy NEW ORDER inspired international hit ‘I Beg Your Pardon’, he was a hired hand as the mastermind behind the project was Canadian producer Barry Harris. The surprise success led to an album for which Wynne did most of the vocals for. However, Harris took the lead on the album’s title track. For the next two KON KAN albums ‘Syntonic’ and ‘Vida!’, Wynne was not recalled.

Available on the album ‘Move To Move’ via Atlantic Records

https://www.facebook.com/konkanofficial


THE HUMAN LEAGUE One Man In My Heart (1995)

Phil Oakey has often cited Susanne Sulley as the best singer in THE HUMAN LEAGUE. While she famously did a verse on the UK and US No1 ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ as well as various solo phrases on ‘(Keep Feeling) Fascination’ and ‘Heart Like A Wheel’, she didn’t get a lead vocal turn until ‘One Man In My Heart’. The format of the song fitted right in with the rise of female fronted trios like DUBSTAR, SAINT ETIENNE and PEACH.

Available on the album ‘Octopus’ via EastWest

https://thehumanleague.co.uk/


DURAN DURAN Medazzaland (1997)

After their panned 1995 covers album ‘Thank You’, DURAN DURAN were in a state of turmoil; Simon Le Bon was experiencing writer’s block while John Taylor was suffering from depression. This state of affairs led to Nick Rhodes working more closely with guitarist Warren Cuccurullo and the keyboardist taking a spoken word lead on the title track of the ‘Medazzaland’ album. Taylor left halfway through recording while the end product was only released in the US.

Available on the album ‘Medazzaland’ via Tape Modern

https://duranduran.com


LADYTRON True Mathematics (2002)

With a template similar to PROPAGANDA, LADYTRON had a singing vocalist in Helen Marnie while Mira Aroyo provided stark spoken prose in her native Bulgarian. While the latter had been an enticing subplot to ‘Discotraxx’ on the debut album ‘604’, Aroyo took the deadpan lead on the fierce ‘True Mathematics’ which opened their next album ‘Light & Magic’. Owing a debt to THE NORMAL’s ‘Warm Leatherette’, it premiered a much harder LADYTRON sound.

Available on the album ‘Light & Magic’ via Nettwerk

https://www.ladytron.com/


KID MOXIE Medium Pleasure – Marsheaux remix (2009)

KID MOXIE began as a duo comprising of Elena Charbila and Erica Zabowski, recording an EP ‘Human Stereo’ and album ‘Selector’. Although Charbila took the majority of the lead vocals in her airy continental style, Zabowski adopted more of a snarl on ‘Medium Pleasure’ with a lyric attacking cultural mediocrity. By the time ‘Selector’ was released, the pair had already parted.

Available on the album ‘Selector’ via Undo Records

https://www.facebook.com/kidmoxie


DE/VISION Kamikaze (2012)

Forming in 1988, German duo DE/VISION have been a mainstay in Europe for enthusiasts of darker electronic climes. Comprising of Steffen Keth on vocals and Thomas Adam on synths, their vast majority of their songs have been sung in English. For their 2012 album ‘Rockets & Swords’, there was a surprise in the penultimate song ‘Kamikaze’ which was not only voiced by Adam but also in Deutsch.

Available on the album ‘Rockets & Swords’ via Popgefahr Records

http://www.devision-music.de


TWINS NATALIA I Avoid Strangers (2014)

TWINS NATALIA comprised of Marc Schaffer, Steve Lippert, synth wizard Dave Hewson and singers Sharon Abbott and Julie Ruler, with the latter three from cult combo POEME ELECTRONIQUE. With classic Weimar Cabaret melodies and vibrant Kling Klang interplay, they conjured memories of holiday romances. But the uptempo ‘I Avoid Strangers’ featured Hewson on vocals, possessing a paranoia that suited the song perfectly.

Available on the album ‘The Destiny Room’ via Anna Logue Records

https://www.facebook.com/twinsnatalia


CHVRCHES High Enough To Carry You Over (2015)

The two Martin Doherty vocalled tracks on ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’ polarised opinion and his voice made an appearance again on the synth driven funk of ‘High Enough To Carry You Over’ for CHVRCHES second album ‘Every Open Eye’. While nowhere near as accomplished as main vocalist Lauren Mayberry, by taking on a more Americanised drawl in the vein of MISTER MISTER, this was a big improvement on the stoner vibe of his previos two singing attempts.

Available on the album ‘Every Open Eye’ via Virgin Records

http://chvrch.es/


APOPTYGMA BERZERK Nearest (2019)

The project of Norwegian Stephan Groth, APOPTYGMA BERZERK went Deutsch on the ‘Nein Danke!’ EP while displaying a prominent “NEWWAVESYNTHPOP” legend on its artwork. ‘Nearest’ saw Stephan’s live bandmate and brother Jonas step into the limelight on a chilled electronic ballad ‘Nearest’ that possessed the same ethereal qualities as the best known APOP track ‘Kathy’s Song’. Jonas Groth has since stepped fully up to the front in his own synthpop duo PISTON DAMP.

Available on the EP ‘Nein Danke!’ via Pitch Black Drive

http://www.theapboffice.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photo by Catrine Christensen
31st December 2022

CHINA CRISIS Live at The Stables

CHINA CRISIS, THIS IS YOUR LIFE!

It was to Laurie Johnson’s iconic TV theme tune that Gary Daly and Eddie Lundon walked onto the stage to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of CHINA CRISIS as a recording act with the ‘Classic Crisis – Greatest Hits’ show.

The location was The Stables in Wavendon, a village just on the edge of Milton Keynes; the venue had been originally established by jazz legends Sir John Dankworth and Dame Cleo Laine in 1970, within the former stables block of their home, hence the name.

The entertainment began with a few anecdotes from Daly; an engaging raconteur who could probably get a spot on BBC comedy showcase ‘Live At The Apollo’, he apologised for the lack of visuals which has been seen at other shows, as the laptop containing them had been stolen from his car along with some stage clothes. But the story didn’t end there as Daly had thoughtfully placed a tracker on the computer and told of how the band gave chase and ended up at a local supermarket. They spotted the thief dumping the stage clothes into a charity recycling bin before legging it with the laptop!

It was an evening filled with laughter and music as Daly continued about how he and Lundon had met at St Kevin’s Catholic Boy School in Kirkby near Liverpool and began making music together, partly because they just about hated everyone else who attended! Similarly to OMD, the duo purchased their first synthesizer from a Kays mail order catalogue belonging to Lundon’s mother; it was familiar to Daly as he recalled, for the ladies’ underwear section, which ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK would like to add, was always easy to find as it was after the ladies shoes section!

Settling on a monophonic Yamaha CS10, Lundon used it to play just three notes on their debut single ‘African & White’.

It was at this point that the musical part of the show began with regular sidemen Jack Hymers on synth and saxophonist Eric Animan joined by a drummer, backing vocalist, bassist and another two guitarists (including Stuart Nisbet who played with CHINA CRISIS in 1986-87) to become Merseyside’s answer to BLAZIN’ SQUAD!

In true ‘This Is Your Life’ style, the setlist was primarily chronological as CHINA CRISIS ran through the highlights of their career and told the stories that behind them. Daly took joy in reminiscing about how they were signed by Virgin Records and became a “threat” to label mates and rival Merseyside duo OMD; “When Paul Humphreys and Andy McCluskey saw our photos, they must have thought ‘the game’s over’” Daly delightfully quipped.

But while OMD were affectionately the butt of the humour throughout the evening with the CC33 front man stating “we wrote about our girlfriends, but Andy McCluskey wrote about atomic bombs and genetics, typical pretentious sixth former…”, CHINA CRISIS were capable of haunting anti-war commentary too, as their first hit ‘Christian’ taken off the ‘Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms’ album proved. Meanwhile ‘Here Comes A Raincloud’ was an emotive observation on the plight of the working classes in Merseyside as it was ripped apart under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher.


Given a slight Mexican flavour, CHINA CRISIS’ biggest UK hit ‘Wishful Thinking’ was followed by its sister song ‘It’s Never Too Late’, a rare number even in the wider Crisis Canon and deservedly given a platform on this 40th Anniversary tour.

Written by Daly in response to the Lundon-penned ‘Wishful Thinking’, it was originally recorded as part of the ‘Working With Fire & Steel’ album sessions produced by Mike Howlett.

However ‘It’s Never Too Late’ was dropped from the tracklisting for having a similar Emulator I string aesthetic and arrangement despite being of equal quality; it ended up being a bonus song on the limited edition second 12” of ‘Black Man Ray’ so was hardly heard even by CHINA CRISIS fans until it showed up on the 2017 deluxe reissue of third album ‘Flaunt The Imperfection’. “We should have released it after ‘Wishful Thinking’, we would have had another international hit and wouldn’t be here!” bantered Daly, “Like how many times have OMD played The Stables??? Like NEVER!”

‘Black Man Ray’ closed the first half of the show, with Daly recalling the excitement of working with the late Walter Becker of STEELY DAN who was bowled over by the song’s catchy simplicity. But he warned the audience that the second half would feature less hits but still lots of good songs; this was delivered with ‘It’s Everything’ from ‘What Price Paradise’ and the 1986 album’s lead single ‘Arizona Sky’, a song which today sounds like the massive hit it never actually was.

After ‘Sweet Charity In Adoration’ off 1989’s ‘Diary Of A Hollow Horse’ which had been recorded in Hawaii with Walter Becker and passing over the 1994 long player ‘Warped By Success’, CHINA CRISIS quickly moved onto songs from their crowdfunded comeback record ‘Autumn In The Neighbourhood’ issued in 2015.

Following the smooth ‘Fool’, a tune developing on the soulful moods of ‘You Did Cut Me’ featuring Lundon on lead vocals, the show concluded with what Daly termed “a Saturday Night Disco”.

After the mature audience stood and danced to the bouncy pop grooves of ‘King In A Catholic Style’ and ‘Tragedy & Mystery’, the final wind down came with ‘My Sweet Delight’ from ‘Autumn In The Neighbourhood’ as a poignant dedication to loved ones who have passed on…

While CHINA CRISIS didn’t achieve quite as many hits as their Virgin label mates OMD, THE HUMAN LEAGUE and SIMPLE MINDS did, they still had enough of them to enable them to work with their musical heroes, see the world and are today still popular enough to tour regularly with North America as well as their first shows in Australia and New Zealand now on the 2022 itinerary.

With a 50th Anniversary tour unlikely as Daly joked to everyone present that “half of you won’t be here!”, this was an enjoyable and entertaining celebration of possible pop songs, savouring not just the music but the enlightening and comical stories that helped to inspire them as well.


‘What Price Paradise’ is reissued as a 3CD deluxe set by Virgin Records

The ‘Classic Crisis – Greatest Hits’ live DVD is released on 22nd July 2022, pre-order from https://www.musicglue.com/chinacrisis/

CHINA CRISIS tour North America in June / July 2022 and Australia / New Zealand in December 2022 while they will be opening for Kim Wilde on her ‘Greatest Hits’ UK tour in September 2022

https://www.facebook.com/chinacrisisofficial/

https://twitter.com/ChinaCrisisUK

https://www.instagram.com/garydalymusic/

https://open.spotify.com/artist/0WUphJOGHE5i95IeR87hsO


Text and Photos by Chi Ming Lai
25th April 2022

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