Tag: Propaganda (Page 2 of 4)

A Beginner’s Guide To CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN

With her distinctive ice maiden delivery, CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN is the undoubted queen of cinematic avant pop.

She first came to prominence with PROPAGANDA and the Trevor Horn produced film noir drama of ‘Dr Mabuse’. Together with Susanne Freytag, Michael Mertens and Ralf Dörper, the Düsseldorf based quartet released their acclaimed album ‘A Secret Wish’ on ZTT in 1985. But despite the album being a favourite of musical figures such as Quincy Jones, Martin Gore, John Taylor and Jim Kerr, PROPAGANDA split following business and creative tensions as a result of their deal with ZTT.

Remaining with ZTT, Brücken formed ACT with early electronic pioneer Thomas Leer and released an album ‘Laughter Tears & Rage’ in 1988 which featured an array of lush synthetic dynamics glossed with a touch of starlet glamour. Not one to rest on her laurels, her first solo album ‘Love: & A Million Other Things’ came in 1991 on Island Records before she took a career break.

There was a brief reunion of PROPAGANDA in 1998, but when that came to nought, Brücken spent much of the new millennium’s first decade working and touring with OMD’s Paul Humphreys in ONETWO, supporting ERASURE and THE HUMAN LEAGUE along the way.

Since then, she has released two further solo albums and more recently been spotted in the studio with Susanne Freytag and Stephen J Lipson, while a new collaborative project with Jerome Froese is also in progress.

Although her catalogue is wide and varied, CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN is perhaps still very much regarded as a cult figure on the music scene. In 2011, she celebrated her career with a special show at The Scala in London with various friends and collaborators, all captured on the live DVD ‘This Happened’.

Certainly, she deserves greater recognition so with a restriction of one track per release, here is a twenty track Beginner’s Guide to her work…

TOPOLINOS Mustafa (1982)

TOPOLINOSBrücken and Freytag first met in Düsseldorf around Die Ratinger Straße; “There was this interaction between art and music happening and everyone kind of knew one another” she said. Together they formed TOPOLINOS, literally translated as ‘The Mickey Mouses’! Using a rhythm unit, electric organ lines and Middle Eastern flavoured vocal phrasing, ‘Mustafa’ was a typical art school recording of the period and appeared on ‘Partysnäks’, the soundtrack to the film ‘Die Tanzbeinsammler’.

Available on the compilation album Electri_City 2 (V/A) via Grönland Records

PROPAGANDA p: Machinery (1985)

Propaganda ‎– pMachineryAt the suggestion of Freytag, Brücken was recruited into PROPAGANDA and their dynamic sound was marketed as “ABBA in Hell”! p: Machinery captured their Teutonic edge and the charm of state-of-the-art technology such as the PPG Wave and Synclavier systems. Produced by Stephen J Lipson, the song also had an unexpected contributor as Brücken recalled: “It was amazing when David Sylvian came in. On ‘p: Machinery there is this line he wrote on a little keyboard that he brought in…”

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

GLENN GREGORY & CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN When Your Heart Runs Out Of Time (1985)

Glenn+Claudia When Your HeartWritten by Will Jennings, best known for ‘My Heart Will Go On’ for the film ‘Titanic’ and ‘Up Where We Belong’ from ‘An Officer & A Gentleman’, ‘When Your Heart Runs Out of Time’ was recorded for the film ‘Insignificance’ directed by Nicolas Roeg. Brücken and the HEAVEN 17 vocalist met during the Anton Corbijn directed video shoot for ‘Dr Mabuse’ when Gregory’s then-wife Sarah was doing the make-up. The song was produced by Midge Ure, under the pseudonym of Otto Flake Junior.

Available on the compilation album ‘The Art Of The 12 Inch’ (V/A) via Union Square

ACT Absolutely Immune (1988)

ACT Absolutely ImmuneAfter PROPAGANDA fragmented, Brücken formed ACT with Thomas Leer in 1987. Working again with Stephen J Lipson, alongside the technological marvels came a more playful, decadent glamour with some political flirtations. ‘Absolutely Immune’ was a commentary on the apathy of the nation at large with its “I’m alright Jack” selfishness. Unfortunately, with the sentiment lost on a British public still drowned in blue emotion, it failed to gain interest in a landscape dominated by the bland blue eyed soul.

Available on the ACT album ‘Love & Hate’ via Union Square

JIMMY SOMERVILLE Run From Love (1990)

jimmy_somerville-the_singles_collection_1984-1990While not a sales success, the acclaim and respect that ‘A Secret Wish’ attained among fellow artists led to Brücken being offered many opportunities to collaborate. One of the first came from Jimmy Somerville. ‘Run From Love’ was a lesser known BRONSKI BEAT number reworked in a more house directed fashion by S’EXPRESS producer Pascal Gabriel for the diminutive Glaswegian’s greatest hits collection and Ms Brücken provided backing vocals in the chorus.

Available on the JIMMY SOMMERVILLE album ‘The Singles Collection 1984/1990’ via London Records

CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN Absolut[e] (1991)

Claudia Brucken Absolut(E)Despite ACT ending, Brücken signed a deal with Island Records which eventually spawned her debut solo album produced by Pascal Gabriel. The first single ‘Absolut[e]’ was very much dominated by Gabriel’s dancefloor instincts. But as the album was being recorded, all was not well within. “The MD from Island suddenly left and all the people who worked on my album left as well” she remembered, “A new guy came in and already I could sense what would happen, so Pascal and I decided to get really experimental”.

Available on the CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN album ‘Love: & A Million Other Things’ via Cherry Red Records

CHROME SEDUCTION Light The Way (1993)

Claudia+SusanneThe reaction to ‘Love: & A Million Other Things’ was muted and Brücken took a career break to bring up her daughter Maddy, emerging only occasionally to record the odd guest vocal. ‘Light The Way’ with CHROME SEDUCTION was a percussively frantic club number that also saw a reunion with former partner-in-crime Susanne Freytag. The project of Magnus Fiennes, brother of actors Joseph Fiennes and Ralph Fiennes, it first surfaced on an independently released 12 inch on Mother Alpha Delta.

Available on the CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN album ‘ComBined’ via Union Square

THE BRAIN I’ll Find A Way (1996)

THE BRAIN I'll Find A WayThe project of Düsseldorf based DJ Dietmar Andreas Maier, ‘I’ll Find A Way’ was typical of the frantically paced Euro-Trance of the period. Co-written with Michael Mertens, the seed of a PROPAGANDA reunion began with a number of songs including ‘Ignorance’, ‘No Return’, ‘To The Future’ and ‘Turn To The Sun’ being demoed. Although a video for ‘No Return’ was produced, the title proved poignant and Brücken later announced: “The reunion was worth a try, but did not work out.”

Available on THE BRAIN single ‘I’ll Find A Way’ via BMG

OCEANHEAD Eyemotion (1997)

OCEANHEAD EyemotionContinuing to contribute the occasional guest vocal, ‘Eyemotion’ was a co-write with John Etkin-Bell which coupled a shuffling drum loop with some beautifully chilled out atmospheres. Brücken’s breathy whispers and a muted synthetic brass motif à la PET SHOP BOYS provided the colourful sonics on an elegant piece of downtempo electronica. Blowing away the likes of ENIGMA and SACRED SPIRIT, the original CD single release was limited to just 2000 copies however.

Available on the OCEANHEAD single ‘Eyemotion’ via Land Speed Records

CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN & PAUL RUTHERFORD This Is Not America (2000 – not released until 2011)

After the aborted reunion of PROPAGANDA, Brücken accepted an invitation in 2000 to join Paul Humphreys on his solo tour of the USA; one of the first recorded fruits of their partnership was a cover of ‘This Is Not America’ featuring FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD’s Paul Rutherford intended for a film soundtrack. A beautifully crafted synthesized tribute to DAVID BOWIE & THE PAT METHENY GROUP, although shelved, it finally saw the light of day on her ‘ComBined’ career retrospective.

Available on the CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN album ‘ComBined’ via Union Square

APOPTYGMA BERZERK Unicorn – Duet Version (2002)

APOPTYGMA BERZERK HarmonizerEurope maintained a vibrant industrial music scene at the start of the new century and in a one-off collaboration with Norway’s cult electronic body merchants APOPTYGMA BERZERK, Brücken returned to the more Teutonic overtones that had been evident in PROPAGANDA. In an electronic rework of the heavier guitar focussed original, the combo provided a suitably aggressive but accessible backing track for her to duet with frontman Stephan Groth on ‘Unicorn’.

Available on the APOPTYGMA BERZERK album ‘Harmonizer’ via WEA

ONETWO Cloud 9ine (2004)

ONETWO ItemBrücken formalised her musical partnership with Paul Humphreys and together they named themselves ONETWO. They dusted off a track that had been demoed during the aborted PROPAGANDA reunion. The song in question was ‘Cloud 9ine’, a co-write with Martin Gore which also featured the guitar of DEPECHE MODE’s main songwriter. It was the stand-out song on ONETWO’s debut EP ‘Item’, but it would be a few years before their first album would be completed.

Available on the ONETWO EP ‘Item’ via There (there) at https://theremusic.bandcamp.com/album/item

ANDY BELL with CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN Delicious (2005)

ANDY BELL Electric BlueBrücken joined ERASURE’s Andy Bell to sing on two tracks for his debut solo album ‘Electric Blue’. More club oriented than ERASURE, the long player was produced by THE MANHATTAN CLIQUE who were also part of the ONETWO live band, and provided the introduction. The call-and-response Hi-NRG stomp of ‘Delicious’ saw Brücken in her most playful mood since ACT and in rare poptastic glory, despite the bittersweet, reflective lyrical nature of the song.

Available on the ANDY BELL album ‘Electric Blue’ via Sanctuary Records


ANOTHER LANGUAGEBrücken teamed up with former ZTT label mate Poppy to record a number of stripped back cover versions, with just piano or guitar as accompaniment for her first long form release since 1991. Among the reinterpretations were songs originally performed by RADIOHEAD, MARIANNE FAITHFUL, ASSOCIATES and KATE BUSH. One of the highlights was a suitably dramatic take on ‘Libertango’, better known as ‘I’ve Seen That Face Before’ made famous by GRACE JONES.

Available on the CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN & ANDREW POPPY album ‘Another Language’ via There (there) at http://theremusic.bandcamp.com/album/another-language

ONETWO Anonymous (2007)

Humphreys and Brücken finally released a full length album as ONETWO in 2007 and from it was ‘Anonymous’, a song that began life as a demo from the aborted PROPAGANDA reunion and which had also been co-written with Andy McCluskey. The pretty ringing melodies and elegiac atmospheres were very reminiscent of classic OMD. But the collaboration had been unusual as at the time of the song’s conception, as Humphreys had not yet fully rejoined McCluskey in his old band.

Available on the ONETWO album ‘Instead’ via There (there) at https://theremusic.bandcamp.com/album/instead

BLANK & JONES Don’t Stop (2008)

BLANK & JONES The Logic of PleasureIn between the aborted PROPAGANDA reunion and ONETWO, CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN guested with the popular German dance duo on ‘Unknown Treasure’, a most gorgeously shuffled electrobeat ballad. The parties reunited in 2008 but while ‘Unknown Treasure’ was in Brücken’s words, “a real collaboration”, “’Don’t Stop’ was in reverse, they gave me all the music and then I did the words and sent it back to them”. Despite the remote detachment of the recording, ‘Don’t Stop’ was still elegantly enticing.

Available on the BLANK & JONES album ‘The Logic Of Pleasure’ via Soundcolours


=LA NoireRockstar Games wanted a German singer for a new game called ‘LA Noire’ soundtracked by THE REAL TUESDAY WELD’s Stephen Coates who was known for producing jazzy cabaret-style music with subtle electronica influences dubbed Antique Beat. “I thought: why not?” said Brücken, “I heard the songs and thought they were so beautiful. I found it a really good challenge doing something I hadn’t done before”. ‘The Things I Love’ was the alluring highlight of three songs recorded.

Available on the soundtrack album ‘L.A. Noire’ (V/A) via Rockstar Games

CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN One Summer Dream (2012)

Claudia Brucken One Summer DreamThe B-side to ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA’s massive hit ‘Mr Blue Sky’, ‘One Summer Dream’ was the first song to emerge from Brücken’s reinterpretations project with producer Stephen Hague which also included material by DAVID BOWIE, PET SHOP BOYS, DUBSTAR, JULEE CRUISE and THE LILAC TIME. Beginning with a vintage gramophoned segment, it built to a dreamy John Barry influenced, ‘Felt Mountain’-era GOLDFRAPP string arrangement.

Available on the CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN album ‘The Lost Are Found’ via There (there)

OMD Kissing The Machine (2013)

OMD-English-ElectricAlthough this Andy McCluskey / Karl Bartos co-write first appeared in 1993 on the ELEKTRIC MUSIC album ‘Esperanto’, Paul Humphreys completely reworked ‘Kissing The Machine’ from scratch for OMD. “Paul had the idea of asking Claudia to do the vocal in the middle eight” remembered McCluskey, “but I suggested we start it with the ‘I want you to want me – I need you to need me…’ bit through a vocoder and went ‘y’know, could you ask Claudia to do it in German as well?’!” The result was electronic magic.

Available on the OMD album ‘English Electric’ via BMG

CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN Time To Make Changes (2014)

CLAUDIA BRUCKEN Where ElseThe biggest surprise musically on Brücken’s third solo album ‘Where Else…’ was her adoption of the acoustic guitar. Working with producer John Owen Williams whose credits also included BLANCMANGE, the songs dealt with the subjects of “emotion, beginnings, endings, past life and future hopes”. Almost like ABBA meeting THE SMITHS in a lush organic backdrop, ‘Time To Make Changes’ very much reflected her personal mindset following the end of her relationship with Paul Humphreys.

Available on the CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN album ‘Where Else…’ via Cherry Red Records

For further information on the upcoming projects of CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN, please visit her official website and Facebook page




Text by Chi Ming Lai
30th July 2016

A Beginner’s Guide To TREVOR HORN

Trevor Horn is a producer who can be said to have shaped modern pop music.

He began his professional music career as a session bassist, most notably for UK disco starlet Tina Charles and her producer Biddu.

Another member of her backing band was keyboard player Geoff Downes; together they would go on to form BUGGLES and score a No1 in 1979 with ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’. But Horn’s pop stardom was to be short-lived. Despite their musical virtuosity, BUGGLES were an unusual looking pair…

So with his best interests at heart, his wife and business partner Jill Sinclair advised that while he wasn’t going to be the greatest frontman in the world, there was a chance he could make it as a top record producer.

In 1981, Horn started a run of producing and co-writing four singles for pop duo DOLLAR; this attracted the attention of NME journalist Paul Morley and they would later establish the ZTT label through Island Records.

Also listening were Sheffield band ABC who asked him to produce their debut album ‘The Lexicon Of Love’. It was during these 1982 sessions that Horn brought together his classic studio team of arranger Anne Dudley, engineer Gary Langan and Fairlight specialist JJ Jeczalik for the first time; the three would later become THE ART OF NOISE.

During this early phase of his production career, Horn favoured the Fairlight CMI as his tool of choice; it had been demonstrated to him electronic music pioneer and Simmons SDS-V co-designer Richard James Burgess, who had worked with him on the first BUGGLES album ‘The Age Of Plastic’.

The Fairlight also allowed for many arrangement possibilities and not just one, but two, three or four different remixes of a single track, a promotional tactic that was employed heavily at ZTT with FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD, THE ART OF NOISE, PROPAGANDA and ACT.

Horn had first become interested in more mechanised musical templates after hearing ‘Warm Leatherette’ by THE NORMAL in 1978. So when the Linn Drum Computer came along, it was like manna from heaven for the forward thinking Horn. He told The Guardian in 2004: “You could tell the Linn what to do, which was unbelievable because before then you had to tell the drummer what to do and he was generally a pain in the a*se”. However, Horn did use accomplished session musicians when needed to compliment his carefully controlled direction.

Horn would go on to win BRIT Awards for ‘Best British Producer’ in 1983, 1985 and 1992. In 2010, he received an Ivor Novello Award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to British Music’. His production portfolio is vast, taking in PAUL McCARTNEY, TOM JONES, CHER, ROD STEWART, MALCOLM McLAREN, ROBBIE WILLIAMS, GENESIS, LEANN RIMES, LISA STANSFIELD and CHARLOTTE CHURCH among many, plus lesser known acts such as PHILIP JAP, INTERPLAY and THE MINT JULEPS.

Not necessarily collecting his best known or mainstream work, but certainly listing some of his more interesting adventures in modern recording, here are eighteen works from Trevor Horn that fit closest to the electro ethos of ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK, presented in chronological order…

ABC Poison Arrow (1982)

ABC’s first single ‘Tears Are Not Enough’ produced by Steve Brown was loose, scratchy funk that fitted in with the times, but the Sheffield combo wanted to be a far more polished and approached Horn to hone their sound. The first fruit of labours was ‘Poison Arrow’ was held together with a drum machine backbone and augmented by some dramatic piano passages from Anne Dudley in her first session with Horn. The chemistry of all involved led to a musical masterpiece of the era, ‘The Lexicon Of Love’.

Available on the ABC album ‘The Lexicon Of Love’ via Mercury Records


SPANDAU BALLET Instinction (1982)

Horn reworked Richard James Burgess’ production of ‘Instinction’ and threw in reworked synths from Anne Dudley and extra bombastic percussion; it saved SPANDAU BALLET’s career. However, further sessions were abandoned when, according to songwriter Gary Kemp in his autobiography ‘I Know This Much: From Soho to Spandau’, Horn wanted drummer John Keeble replaced with a drum machine. Kemp stuck by his bandmate and went with IMAGINATION producers Swain and Jolley for the ‘True’ album.

Available on the SPANDAU BALLET album ‘Gold : The Best Of’ via EMI Records


YES Owner Of A Lonely Heart (1983)

In 1981, Horn had partly abandoned work on the second BUGGLES album to join Geoff Downes in YES; the press dubbed the new line-up YUGGLES! But Horn amicably left a few months later to finish what became ‘Adventures In Modern Recording’ and kickstart his production career. With Gary Langan and JJ Jeczalik on board, ‘Owner Of A Lonely Heart’, could be considered as the birth of THE ART OF NOISE; the stabbing samples of a jazz orchestra and tight programmed drums provided a distinctive counterpoint.

Available on the YES album ‘90125’ via Atlantic Records


THE ART OF NOISE Moments In Love (1983)

THE ART OF NOISE “happened because of a happy accident” said Gary Langan. But Trevor Horn was not their producer – “Well, he wasn’t the producer!!”  Langan clarified,“we were the producers! If I’m being really honest, we were a little naive. Anne, JJ and myself really had no intention of forming a band… so when we signed to ZTT, we needed somebody to do all the artwork and how it was going to portrayed which was really down to Paul and Trevor”. It was an indicator of how powerful Horn’s name had become.

Available on THE ART OF NOISE album ‘Who’s Afraid Of…?’ via Union Square / Salvo


PROPAGANDA Dr Mabuse (1984)

Düsseldorf’s PROPAGANDA were the proto-LADYTRON or ABBA in Hell, depending on your point of view! They boasted within their ranks Ralf Dörper and Michael Mertens, plus two mini-Marlenes in Claudia Brücken and Susanne Freytag. The magnificent Fritz Lang film noir of ‘Dr Mabuse’ was their opening salvo. Produced by Horn, the success of FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD however meant the producer’s helm was handed over to his engineer Stephen J Lipson, although Horn was later involved in the final mix.

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



A key signing to ZTT, regardless of who was actually playing and what the band would have achieved without Trevor Horn, in their short life FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD were a thrilling adventure that wouldn’t have worked without the songs, which were largely written by Holly Johnson, Peter Gill and Mark O’Toole. ‘Relax’ and ‘Two Tribes’ got the ball rolling, but the classical grandeur of ‘The Power Of Love’ was an outstanding piece of work in anyone’s book.

Available on the album ‘Bang!: The Greatest Hits’ via Warner Music


GODLEY & CREME Cry (1985)

After they left 10CC, Kevin Godley and Lol Creme’s appetite for experimentation with tracks like ‘Babies’ led them to be called “the older generation’s Depeche Mode” by Smash Hits. They also branched out into directing promo videos for VISAGE and DURAN DURAN. It was while doing videos for FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD that they ended up working with Trevor Horn. Almost sparse by Horn’s standards with a metronomic tension alongside minimal guitar, ‘Cry’ was a terrific pop statement.

Available on the album ‘Cry: The Very Best Of’ via Polydor / Universal Music


GRACE JONES Slave To The Rhythm (1985)

Trevor Horn took his multiple remix approach to its zenith with GRACE JONES’s seventh album; rather than actually do a collection of songs, why not do an album that was effectively multiple remixes and interpretations of one song? While the familiar single version of ‘Slave To The Rhythm’ was wonderful, sun-kissed funky pop, the album’s fifth track take was far more aggressive, with a punchy synth brass riff taking centre stage to make the most out of Miss Jones’ enigmatically frightening demeanour.

Available on the album ‘Slave To The Rhythm’ via Culture Factory


ACT Chance (1988)

Following her departure from PROPAGANDA, Claudia Brücken teamed up with early electro trailblazer Thomas Leer in ACT. The Trevor Horn produced ‘Chance’ was released as their third single, but withdrawn due to the 12″ mix containing an unauthorised varispeeded sample of ABBA’s ‘Take A Chance On Me’. Far more theatrical and spielerisch than PROPAGANDA, ACT were however, less well received with the eventual Stephen J Lipson produced ‘Laughter, Tears & Rage’ not making quite the impact that was hoped for.

Available on the album ‘Love & Hate’ via Union Square / Salvo


PET SHOP BOYS Left To My Own Devices (1988)

“Che Guevara and Debussy to a disco beat” was a concept coined by Horn while he was working in the studio with Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe. Taking in the then ubiquitous form of acid house, ‘Left To My Own Devices’ incorporated  a dramatic string arrangement by Richard Niles and the opera stylings of soprano Sally Bradshaw. One of PET SHOP BOYS’ most striking recordings  it had been intended to programme the synthesizers and record the orchestra in one day… six months later, the song was finished.

Available on the album ‘Introspective’ via EMI Records


SIMPLE MINDS Wall Of Love (1989)

The bombastic tendencies of the now stadium friendly SIMPLE MINDS were well-suited to the Trevor Horn treatment, although paradoxically by the time they got into the studio together in 1988, the Glaswegians were favouring a more restrained follow-up to the rock monster that was ‘Once Upon A Time’. Time has not been kind to ‘Street Fighting Years’ album, which now comes across as self-indulgent and over-politicised. But one track with a vibrant energy despite the soapbox was the more classic sounding ‘Wall Of Love’.

Available on the boxed set ‘Street Fighting Years’ via Virgin Records


SEAL Crazy (1990)

SEAL found fame as the voice of ADAMSKI’s ‘Killer’ which reached No1 in 1990. Possessing a soulful voice that suited both dance and rock, Horn couldn’t believe his luck when he discovered he was a free agent. A deal with ZTT was sealed and their first single together was the mighty techno rock of ‘Crazy’. It was the perfect platform for SEAL’s crossover potential and the Paddington-born singer found fame in America with ‘Kiss From A Rose’, which was also produced by Horn and netted a 1995 Grammy Award.

Available on the album ‘Seal’ via ZTT Records


MARC ALMOND Jacky (1991)

If it wasn’t for SOFT CELL, then the path for FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD and PET SHOP BOYS might not have been so smooth. Signing with Warners, this cover of Jacques Brel’s ‘Les Chanson De Jacky’, made famous in an English version by Scott Walker, was a compromise reached by Almond to regain both his pop and artistic high ground. While basically a technologically enhanced remake of Walker’s cover, Horn’s production was mighty and cute, in a stupid arse way 😉

Available on the album ‘Tenement Symphony’ via Warner Music


MIKE OLDFIELD Sentinel (1992)

Virgin Records had always been pushing MIKE OLDFIELD for a ‘Tubular Bells II’ since the original in 1973. But ironically, when Oldfield departed the label for Warners, he did just that. Horn was a natural choice as producer for this long awaited follow-up. The first ‘Tubular Bells’ featured no synthesizers at all; with the titled inspired by an Arthur C. Clarke short story, not only did ‘Sentinel’ exploit the use of modern studio technology, but beautiful female vocals were also part of this more obviously melodic reprise.

Available on the album ‘Tubular Bells II’ via Warner Music


TINA TURNER Whatever You Want (1996)

Written by Arthur Baker, Taylor Dayne and Fred Zarr, ‘Whatever You Want’ for TINA TURNER was an archetypical production from Horn. Using the most up-to-date technology yet retaining a vital musicality, there was always space for the lead vocalist to perform to their maximum. However, it always was a time consuming process. Legend has it that when ROBBIE WILLIAMS handed over his demos for the 2009 album ‘Reality Killed The Video Star’, he apparently said to Horn “I’ll see you in six months!”

Available on the album ‘Wildest Dreams’ via EMI Music


TATU Not Gonna Get Us (2002)

Faux lesbian duo Julia Volkova and Lena Katina caused a stir with the Horn produced No1 single ‘All The Things She Said’ and its accompanying video that broke many broadcast taboos. Much more interesting musically though was another Horn produced track ‘Not Gonna Get Us’. Sounding like THE PRODIGY fronted by fleas on helium, ‘Нас Не Догонят’ (as it was originally titled in Russian) was heavier than usual Europop, with a rebellious teenage angst message.

Available on the album ‘200 km/h In The Wrong Lane’ via Interscope Records


DELAYS Valentine (2006)

In 2003, Horn worked with Glaswegians BELLE & SEBASTIAN for the first time. And after the hangover of Britpop, indie bands were starting to embrace synths again. Southampton band DELAYS almost went the full hog with the brilliant ‘Valentine’, a Horn-assisted disco number. The pulsing sequences and syncopated rhythm section were pure DURAN DURAN, although Greg Gilbert’s raspy falsetto in the soaring chorus and some choppy guitar ensured the band weren’t totally detached from their roots.

Available on the album ‘You See Colours’ via Rough Trade


PET SHOP BOYS I’m With Stupid (2006)

PET SHOP BOYS reunited with Trevor Horn, ‘I’m With Stupid’ was a perfect politically charged jape at the special relationship between George W Bush and Tony Blair. The satirical lyrical content was enhanced further with an amusing promo video featuring ‘Little Britain’ stars Matt Lucas and David Walliams. However, other than the brilliantly hypnotic opener ‘Psychological’, the remainder of the ‘Fundamental’ album was lacklustre, with the dreary Diane Warren penned ballad ‘Numb’ being a low point.

Available on the album ‘Fundamental’ via EMI Music


Text by Chi Ming Lai
13th February 2016


SJLipson B&WcropStephen J Lipson, both individually and in collaboration with Trevor Horn, has been responsible for some of the most iconic sounding electronic-based musical productions over the last 30 years.

Alongside Trevor Horn, he was an integral part of the ZTT Records sound which was the Ying to the pop Yang of Stock, Aitken and Waterman – producing a stellar run of songs that were musical, very often cerebral and in many cases, massive chart hits.

Whereas some band producers of the era were happy just to record the artists and suggest a few overdubs, Lipson and Horn saw the potential in often scrappy sounding demos and had the vision to use the latest available technology, combined with their own musicianship, to totally transform and take them to another place altogether.

The two acts that remain most musically indebted to the ZTT stable were Liverpool’s FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD and Germany’s PROPAGANDA. As well as producing tracks which arguably sounded better than most of the competition, the label’s arch strategist Paul Morley perpetuated a tradition started by Factory Records in aligning the music of their artists with a design aesthetic that although could be seen as being ultra-pretentious, helped give the bands a unique identity.

Stephen J Lipson has also produced for PET SHOP BOYS, SIMPLE MINDS, ANNIE LENNOX, SOPHIE B HAWKINS, PHARRELL WILLIAMS and ULTRAVOX amongst others. He kindly spoke to about elements of his glittering career and also his move into the world of film music production and mixing.

Your early days in the industry seemed to involve a lot of “learning on the job”

I was self-taught and I built my first studio in the mid 70’s with no knowledge or help. Then I started engineering, making it up as I went along – my only previous experience was operating a Revox tape machine in my bedroom. After the studio had been going for a few months, Dave Robinson (Stiff Records) wanted to record an album there and suggested that he got an engineer in for the first day. That was Phil Brown who, in the space of 12 hours, got the project under way and taught me some invaluable lessons.

The art of band album production is often seen as a bit of a “black art”, what is your take on being successful at it?

You need to have personal taste, be able to get on with people and have good teamwork. Not taking up too much space in the room too by doing what has to be done – tea, driving, jokes, playing, writing, emailing, etc etc. Also giving encouragement to all involved and understanding that it’s not too important, at the end of the day it’s just music!

You’re well known for playing on some of the works you produce, are many producers frustrated artists?

I don’t know many producers and the ones I do know seem to be happy without the need for adulation.

Things really clicked into place when you started working with Trevor Horn and the whole ZTT experience, what are you main memories from that period?

My main memory is WORK! We worked so hard that when FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD’s ‘Relax’ went to number one we didn’t celebrate, we just kept at it – it was enjoyable work in a great team though. My other memory is exposure to loads of equipment and having the time to use it.

‘Relax’ took a lot of attempts to perfect, how did the process go from the original (very rough) demo to final product? 

Trevor had done a version with The Blockheads before I started working with him. We then spent ages on a “smart” version which took ages. Then he came in one day and said he wanted to scrap it and start again. That was when the single happened, very quickly, Trevor, JJ Jeczalik, Andy Richards and myself all playing live.

With the exception of Holly Johnson and Paul Rutherford, the rest of FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD didn’t actually play on the final released version of ‘Relax’, how did the public react to that?

As far as I know, I don’t think anyone knew at the time!

PROPAGANDA’s ‘A Secret Wish’ is still a stunning sounding piece of work, were the demos you received for the album pretty fully formed?

For the most part the demos weren’t finished at all. They were skeletons, which is one of the reasons the album took so long. Michael Mertens, the musician in the band, lived in Düsseldorf. Trevor was working on other projects, so we were very much left to our own devices. Paul Morley was the main person who helped steer the project. My main memory of the album is of working in a black room for months with Andy Richards and loads of gear.

Apparently there were 14 versions of ‘Relax’ and 10 of ‘Dr.Mabuse’ – why go the extra mile and create so many alternative versions?

No-one knew what they were doing at the time and Paul Morley probably kept asking for more and we just kept going!

Do you feel you and Trevor Horn deserve more recognition for pioneering the art of remixing and the alternative version?

No… people who do what we do are, by definition, backroom people. That is a choice and those who want to know can find out…

I believe you were one of the first producers to work using digital recording, how was that experience?

It was a massive relief. There was no hiss, the difference in sound to our ears was wonderful and less EQ was needed. The Sony machines were also really reliable, we tried a Mitsubishi 32 track first but it didn’t work.

Are you a “snob” when it comes to music/studio equipment?

Absolutely not. Just about every piece of equipment is good nowadays, plus you can’t blame the gear any more. Instruments are different of course…

Do you often wish that vocalist-enhancing tools such as Autotune and Melodyne were available back in the day?

Not really. The limitations were good and I miss that, but we can’t turn the clock back, so onwards…

Do you have a favourite post-ZTT artist that you’ve worked with?

It’s hard to say, I enjoy the process of recording so if I were to pick an artist I would base it on personality which isn’t really relevant.

You produced the ULTRAVOX comeback album ‘Brilliant’, were you a fan of the band before joining the project?

Yes! Also I thought that any band that could write and make the records that they had over the years would be great to work with.

How was the process of working with the band on the album, was it a challenging experience?

Sort of, but it was very fulfilling. They’re lovely guys, but I was amazed that the album didn’t do all that well, I thought it was very good.

Do you have any ideas as to why the album wasn’t more successful?

Not a clue. Maybe it was a lack of money to promote it? Maybe a lack of interest in the band? It’s hard to say.

Today it is far easier for artists to self-produce and record, do you still think the big studio has a place in the current market?

Yes and no. In order to collaborate it’s ideal to be in the same space and this requires more than a home studio. I miss the collaborative aspect of record making but pragmatism must prevail, plus there are rarely any big budgets for projects now.

Does having the internet mean that there is a less of a necessity to travel for certain projects now?

To a certain extent, but a common space is better. It’s an interesting way of working though. I did an album with MIKE OLDFIELD recently, where I was in LA and London and he was in the Bahamas where he lives. For the most part it worked but we did have some strange moments!

Much of your work now involves mixing/producing film scores including with HANS ZIMMER on ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ and ‘Rush’, how does that compare with making band albums?

It was a massive learning experience moving into the film world, but it happened for me at an ideal point. I was getting bored with the predictable song structure and instrumentation of pop music. And I was starting to feel out of touch with the charts. There isn’t much comparison apart from music being the common denominator. Everything in film world is larger – budgets, quantity of music, sounds, personalities, sophistication. But being able to go between the two is amazing as after a while I miss all the things I found boring in pop.

Hans Zimmer StudioIs Hans Zimmer’s studio as stunning as it looks in photographs?

More so! The pictures don’t show the technical side which is beyond one’s wildest thoughts.

What projects are you currently working on and are they still biased towards the film world?

The film work is definitely biased towards the film world!

Currently I’m working with Ronan Keating. The 5th album of his I’ve worked on. Also an amazing Japanese artist called HOTEI. In a couple of weeks I’m off to New York to do another movie with Hans.

If you could pick a ‘Desert Island Disc’ track that you are most proud of working on, what would it be?

I have no idea. I’m not truly happy with anything so would probably take something else entirely!

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Stephen J Lipson



Text and interview by Paul Boddy
21st October 2015


NEON LIGHTS Luminous 12 - Rega2‘Is That The 12 Inch Mix?’ people used to ask…

“Sometimes you never knew what you were getting when you bought the 12 inch mix” says Rob Grillo, author of the same titled book tracing the history of the extended format, “Sometimes you got the 7 inch version and a bonus track, sometimes it was just the longer album mix, and sometimes you got the normal mix when the sleeve promised a ‘brand new mix’, occasionally there would be a gargantuan explosion of noise that heralded a completely new take on the song that would blow you mind away…”

ELECTRICITY CLUB.CO.UK itself has never been particularly big on remixes or 12 inch versions. They were on occasions, an unnecessary evil.

Just because a song can be extended and reworked to submission doesn’t mean it has to be… FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD’s bassist Mark O’Toole snorted to International Musician & Recording World in 1986: “A punter walks into the shop, wants to buy a single – and there’s half a dozen mixes of it! It’s a pain in the ar*e!”

Comedian Lenny Henry summed things up best in a sketch where he entered a record shop to buy a single and was then offered a plethora of versions by the assistant… “I JUST WANT THE VERSION THEY GOT RIGHT!” he exclaimed.

In another stand-up routine, he commented that a 12 inch single could last longer than a marriage. But they could be tremendously passionate affairs as Rob Grillo remembers: “In essence, buying the 12 inch was more exciting than buying the 7 inch…”

With the restriction of tape, a razor blade and the mixing desk, the era often conspired to make more interesting, structured reworkings than the meaningless dance work-outs of today. When done well, the 12 inch extended version could totally surpass the original.

Each track on this list of classic variations was released as a 12 inch single with a corresponding original 7 inch release that was shorter (which thus excludes ‘Blue Monday’ by NEW ORDER); full length album versions that subsequently got issued as 12 inch singles are not included.

With a restriction one track per artist moniker going up to the period before remixes got a bit daft with the advent of rave culture, here are ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s 25 choices in chronological and then alphabetical order…

SPARKS Beat The Clock – Long Version (1979)

SPARKS Beat The Clock 12The shorter album take of ‘Beat The Clock’ was more basic and less epic. But in this longer, more powerful and percussive 12 inch version, the star of this ace collaboration with Giorgio Moroder was the ever dependable Keith Forsey with his rumbling drumming syncopating off the precisely sequenced electronic production. Russell Mael was at his best in fully fledged falsetto mode, while Ron stood even more motionless than usual, safe in the knowledge than he didn’t even have to play anymore.

Available on the album ‘Real Extended: The 12 inch Mixes (1979 – 1984)’ via Repertoire Records


DURAN DURAN Girls On Film – Night Version (1981)

DURAN DURAN Girls On Film 12At the start of their career, rather than just simply extend a song by joining together sections of tape, DURAN DURAN actually took time to rearrange and re-record their 12 inch singles. This they did on ‘Planet Earth’ and ‘My Own Way’, but the best of the early ‘Night Version’ trilogy was ‘Girls On Film’. From its opening Compurhythm beat and first instrumental chorus set to Nick Rhodes’ swimmy Crumar Performer to Simon Le Bon’s closing verse ad-lib, this marvellous arrangement formed the basis of their live version.

Available on the boxed set ‘The Singles 81-85’ via EMI Records


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Don’t You Want Me – Ext Dance Mix (1981)

THE HUMAN LEAGUE Don’t You Want Me 12Effectively an instrumental of the closing track on ‘Dare’, the quality of Martin Rushent’s production was fully showcased on this ‘Ext Dance Mix’. Each synth had its own voice and placed inside a precise lattice that formed a fabulous pop tapestry. It was also notable for featuring a guitar, albeit used obliquely by Jo Callis to trigger a Roland System 700. Even without its lead vocals, ‘Don’t You Want Me’ was a fine example of well-crafted, melodic electronic music.

Available on the album ‘Original Remixes & Rarities’ via Virgin Records


SIMPLE MINDS The American – 12 inch Version (1981)

With the futuristic ‘Changeling’ and ‘I Travel’, SIMPLE MINDS had been heavily rotated by Rusty Egan in his DJ sets at The Blitz. ‘The American’ was the Glaswegians’ first single for Virgin and sounded like Moroder merged with NEU! Metallic motorik drumming from Brian McGee sans hi-hats provided an interesting rhythm construction and challenged the band into finding inventive ways of making people dance. With Mick McNeil’s pulsing synths coupled with Derek Forbes’ bass engine, this was prime art disco.

Available on the boxed set ‘X5’ via Virgin Records


SOFT CELL Bedsitter – Early Morning Dance Side (1981)

SOFT CELL Bedistter 12SOFT CELL were quite unique in their 12 inch extended formats by often incorporating extra vocal sections like 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, pushing tea leaves down the drain and starting the night life over again. This literal kitchen sink drama to song concept won SOFT CELL many ardent followers.

Available on the deluxe album ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ via UMC


SPANDAU BALLET The Freeze – Special Mix (1981)

SPANDAU BALLET The Freeze 12While the single version of ‘The Freeze’ was an enjoyable if polite slice of guitar driven disco, the 12 inch ‘Special Mix’ of SPANDAU BALLET’s second single fully utilised their Yamaha CS10 with a pulsing octave barrage that could have been borrowed from their Blitz Club contemporaries VISAGE. A closing cacophony of electronically processed percussion came over like a funkier KRAFTWERK but with the overblown vocal histrionics of Tony ‘Foghorn’ Hadley, this could only have been the Islington quintet.

Available on the album ‘The Twelve Inch Mixes’ via Chrysalis Records


B-MOVIE Nowhere Girl – Version (1982)

B-MOVIE Nowhere Girl 12B-MOVIE were famously the band that Phonogram pursued to take on SPANDAU BALLET and DURAN DURAN. Managed by Some Bizzare’s Stevo Pearce, he stipulated that an unknown synth duo called SOFT CELL be part of any deal. Possibly the best single featuring the original line-up, the 12 inch version of ‘Nowhere Girl’ featured an extended intro with just a solid beat for company along with tinkling ivories that came over like ULTRAVOX in full flight before the pulsing bass and harp-like synths kicked in.

Available on the boxed set ’12” 80s Alternative’ (V/A) via UMTV


CLASSIX NOUVEAUX Is It A Dream? – 12 inch Version (1982)

CLASSIX NOUVEAUX Is It a Dream 12The best classic 12 inch versions often retained the musical structure of the song but cleverly used the technique of breakdown to achieve dynamic highs and lows where appropriate. The 12 inch version of ‘Is It A Dream?’ effectively tagged the instrumental version of the song onto the beginning which provided a build towards the main act as the recognisable elements of the tune steadily kicked it. A final coda of thumping Simmonds drums and brassy synth provided the piece de resistance.

Available on the album ‘The Very Best Of’ via EMI Gold


NEW ORDER Temptation – 12 Inch Version (1982)

NEW ORDER Temptation 12A different version altogether from the 7 inch, however the 12 inch version was actually recorded in one massive 14 minute jam session with the shorter version preceding it. The recording itself was marvellously flawed, with Stephen Morris’ overdriven Simmons snare panned too far to the right while band members can also be heard calling instructions and tutting. The final closing refrains and the iconic “oooh-oo-ooh” vocal hook to the drum breakdown made ‘Temptation’ both grand and magical.

Available on the boxed set ‘Retro’ via Warner Music


GARY NUMAN Music for Chameleons – Extended Version (1982)

GARY NUMAN Music for Chameleons 12In 7 inch form, GARY NUMAN’s ‘Music For Chameleons’ sounded incomplete. Lasting almost eight minutes, with the fluid fretless bass runs of Pino Palladino and the stuttering distorted clap of a Linn Drum providing the backbone to some classic vox humana Polymoogs, the 12 inch version’s highlight was the windy synth run in the long middle section. The effect of this was ruined on the ‘I Assassin’ album version which clumsily edited this section out, thus proving occasionally that more can really mean more!

Available on the album ‘Exposure: The Best of 1977-2002’ via Artful Records


VISAGE Night Train – Dance Mix (1982)

VISAGE Night Train 12Inspired by the burgeoning New York club scene, Rusty Egan brought in John Luongo to remix ‘Night Train’ much to Midge Ure’s dismay, leading him to end his tenure with VISAGE. But Luongo’s rework was sharper, pushing forward the female backing vocals to soulful effect in particular and replacing the clumpier snare sounds of the original album version with cleaner AMS samples. However, on this longer dance mix, Luongo isolated Rusty Egan’s drum break which unexpectedly saw him do his impression of Billy Cobham!

Available on the boxed set ’12″/80s/2′ (V/A) via UMTV


BLANCMANGE Blind Vision – 12 Inch Version (1983)

BLANCMANGE Blind Vision 12Possibly BLANCMANGE’s most overt disco number, under the production supervision of New York club specialist John Luongo who had remixed ‘Feel Me’ to great rhythmical effect, ‘Blind Vision’ was punctuated by brass, extra percussion and slap bass as well as the trademark BLANCMANGE Linn Drum claps also thrown in. A steady build-up, vocal ad-libs from Neil Arthur and a prolonged coda extended the track to a hypnotic nine and a half minutes.

Available on the album ‘Mange Tout’ via Edsel Records


DEAD OR ALIVE What I Want – Dance Mix (1983)

DEAD OR ALIVE What I Want 12With an edgy production from Zeus B Held, ‘What I Want’ was effectively a rewrite of ‘Blue Monday’, or even ‘Shake It Up’ by DIVINE, depending on your outlook. Combining a variety of musical styles, this HI-NRG / Goth hybrid was the last track Wayne Hussey would play on as a member of DEAD OF ALIVE before departing for THE SISTERS OF MERCY. “Listen blue eyes, shut up!” scowled Pete Burns with an aggression that showed he was a top rather than a bottom in this salaciously pounding affair.

Available on the album ‘Sophisticated Boom Boom’ via Cherry Pop


JOHN FOXX Endlessly – 12 Inch Version (1983)

JOHN FOXX Endlessy 12After the mechanised dystopia of ‘Metamatic’ and the comparative romantic thawing with ‘The Garden’, JOHN FOXX started experimenting in psychedelic pop. With nods to ‘Sgt Pepper’, the original Linn Drum driven version of ‘Endlessy’ from 1982 had the makings of a good song, but was laboured in its arrangement. Reworked with Simmons drums, metronomic sequencers and grand vocal majestics, the Zeus B Held produced 1983 version was even more glorious in an extended 12 inch format.

Available on the boxed set ‘Metadelic’ via Edsel Records


HEAVEN 17 Crushed By The Wheels Of Industry – Extended Dance Version (1983)

HEAVEN 17 Crushed By The Wheels Of Industry 12Taking a leaf out of their old sparring partners THE HUMAN LEAGUE, HEAVEN 17 took off most of the vocals and played up the various instrumental elements of ‘Crushed By The Wheels Of Industry’ with a restructured rhythmical backbone. With a punchy retuned bass drum attack and Roland Bassline programming pushed out to the front, sequences and guitar synth solos were phased in and out. The chanty chorus remained while John Wilson’s funky freeform bass solo closed the show.

Available on the boxed set ‘The Luxury Gap’ via Virgin Records


FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD Two Tribes – Annihilation (1984)

FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD Two Tribes - Annihilation Mix 12Sounding like SIMPLE MINDS, ‘Two Tribes’ was influenced by ‘I Travel’, itself inspired by right wing terrorism in Europe. While Holly Johnson’s original lyric referenced the dystopian drama ‘Mad Max’, it sat well within the Cold War tensions of the period. With mighty Fairlight orchestra stabs and masterful PPG programming for the iconic synth bass, the first 12 inch version entitled ‘Annihilation’ featured the poignant authoritative voice of Patrick Allen, reprising his real life ‘Protect & Survive’ commentary…

Available on the album ‘Frankie Said’ via Union Square Music Ltd


KRAFTWERK Tour De France – Remix (1984)

KRAFTWERK Tour De France 12The original ‘Tour De France’ single in 1983 signalled the launch of a new KRAFTWERK album ‘Technopop’. Despite being given an EMI catalogue number, it was never actually released. However, ‘Tour De France’ took on a life of its own. This masterful remix by New York DJ Francois Kevorkian backed a key scene in the film ‘Breakdance’ which lead to a re-release of this rework. Much more percussive and less song based than the first version, it reinforced KRAFTWERK’s standing in the US Hip-Hop scene.

Available on the single ‘Tour De France’ via EMI Records


GIORGIO MORODER & PHILIP OAKEY Together In Electric Dreams – Extended (1984)

GIORGIO MORODER & PHILIP OAKEY Together In Electric Dreams 12One of the best 12 inch versions ever, it not only retained the essence of the original song but added enough extra elements to make it quite different too. There was more rock guitar from Richie Zito which actually enhanced the track and the false end after the guitar solo leading to a superb percussive breakdown that made the most of Arthur Barrow’s frantic Linn Drum programming. Of course, ‘Together In Electric Dreams’ wouldn’t have been any good without Moroder’s songcraft and Oakey’s deadpan lyricism.

Available on the album ‘Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder’ via Virgin Records


TALK TALK It’s My Life – US Mix (1984)

TALK TALK It's My Life US MixThe UK 12 inch extended version was a rather formless, dub excursion that never got to the point. However, taking a leaf out of DURAN DURAN’s specifically taylored remixes of songs from the ‘Rio’ album for America, EMI / Capitol commissioned Steve Thompson to construct a toughened up version of ‘It’s My Life’ to make it more MTV friendly. The song became an unexpected favourite in US clubs. One impressionable teenager who was no doubt listening was Gwen Stefani who covered the song in 2003.

Available on the boxed set ‘’12″/80s’ (V/A) via UMTV


ULTRAVOX One Small Day – Special Remix Extra (1984)

ULTRAVOX One Small Day – Special Remix Extra 12One of ULTRAVOX’s more guitar driven numbers, there were eventually three different extended versions of ‘One Small Day’, the best of which was the ‘Special Remix Extra’ (also known as the ‘Extended Mix’) that was issued on the second of the 12 inch releases. With chopped up vocal phrases replacing a conventional vocal on this neo-dub mix, it allowed the instrumentation to come to the fore without Midge Ure’s shrill chorus acting as a distraction.

Available as the ‘Extended Mix’ on the album ‘Lament’ via EMI Gold


A-HA The Sun Always Shines On TV – Extended Version (1985)

AHA Sun Always Shines on TV 12Despite being labelled a teenybop group, from the beginning A-HA were always so much more than just the catchy pop of ‘Take On Me’. ‘The Sun Always Shines On TV’ revealed a lyrical darkness while the combination of synths and edgy guitar put them in the same league as ULTRAVOX and ASSOCIATES. This rarer first ‘Extended Version’ made the most of the powerful instrumentation and added more drama with a slow solemn piano intro. And just listen to that emotive string synth solo…

Available on the deluxe album ‘Hunting High & Low’ via Rhino Entertainment


PROPAGANDA Duel – Bitter Sweet (1985)

PROPAGANDA Duel – Bitter Sweet 12While  the Trevor Horn produced ‘Dr. Mabuse’ was very much a Fairlight-fest, PROPAGANDA’s second single ‘Duel’ with production by Steve Lipson was based around the Synclavier, PPG and Roland Super Jupiter. To add some syncopation, Stewart Copeland from THE POLICE rhythmitised alongside the Linn Drum while the ‘Bitter Sweet’ extended mix broke down the instrumentation to reveal a highly intricate arrangement. The programmed piano solo is still one of the maddest bursts of music ever!

Available on the album ‘Outside World’ via Repertoire Records


OMD Forever Live & Die – Extended Mix (1986)

OMD Forever Live & Die 12Not the better known but less fulfilled ‘Extended Remix’ by Tom Lord-Alge, John Potoker’s reworking did away with its daft skips and enhanced the song’s enjoyable instrumental elements largely hidden in the single mix. The wonderful end section with its wild rhythm guitar from Kamil Rastam and Malcolm Holmes’ reverbed drums also revealed that despite the song’s palatable Trans-Atlantic sound, the synthetic choirs that had been part of OMD’s sound since they heard KRAFTWERK’s ‘Radio-Activity’ still lingered.

Available on the boxed set ‘Maxi Singles 80 Vol 2’ (V/A) via Wagram Music


PET SHOP BOYS Suburbia – The Full Horror (1986)

PET SHOP BOYS Suburbia 12‘Suburbia’ was a good if slightly underwhelming album track from ‘Please’ that got transformed into a more fully realised sub-nine minute epic. Produced in this new longer version by Sarm West graduate Julian Mendelson, it was effectively a two-parter. Complete with barking dogs, widescreen synths and thundering rhythms, the intro and middle sections saw a pitch shifted Neil Tennant monologuing about the evils of ‘Suburbia’ in a devilish ‘Meninblack’ tone.

Available on the album ‘Disco’ via EMI Records


DEPECHE MODE Never Let Me Down Again – Split Mix (1987)

DEPECHE MODE Never Let Me Down Again 12A merging of the album version with the Wasp driven bass heavy ‘Aggro Mix’ (hence the ‘Split Mix’ title), this sub-ten minute take on one of DEPECHE MODE’s classic songs was perfection. Other DM 12 inch versions were tiresome like the ‘Slavery Whip Mix’ of ‘Master & Servant’, but ‘Never Let Me Down Again’ took into account that the best 12 inch mixes usually had the actual song and an instrumental middle section before a reprise of the main chorus hook.

Available on the album ‘Remixes 81-04’ via Mute Records


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Rob Grillo and Rob Harris
5th October 2015, updated 30th April 2018


CLAUDIA BRUCKEN Where ElseIn a career of thirty years, CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN has released just seven full length albums including what turned out to be one-offs with PROPAGANDA, ACT and ONETWO.

Her third solo album ‘Where Else…’ sees a development of the more conventional musical template showcased on 2012’s ‘The Lost Are Found’.

Unlike that album though, apart from a single cover, ‘Where Else…’ comprises of original compositions, her first since ONETWO’s ‘Instead’ which was recorded with OMD’s Paul Humphreys.

Her partnership with Humphreys is now over so naturally, there are different approaches and the biggest surprise musically is Ms Brücken’s adoption of the guitar. But despite this album’s occasional forays into folk, country and blues, her usual evocative sensibilities and electronic references remain, albeit more abstract. As well as this, ‘Where Else…’ follows the lyrical thread of her 1991 debut solo album ‘Love: And A Million Other Things’, dealing with the subjects of emotion, beginnings, endings, past life and future hopes.

New collaborators always bring fresh results and in the case of ‘Where Else…’, the co-writer and producer is John Owen Williams whose past credits have included BLANCMANGE, THE PROCLAIMERS, THE HOUSEMARTINS and more recently Petula Clark. And it would appear ‘Where Else…’ is a reaction to the synthetic nature of ONETWO.

None more so than with the superb lead single ‘Nevermind’. It could be considered a response to ‘Stay With Me’ from OMD’s ‘English Electric’. But whereas ‘Stay With Me’ was a cry for reconciliation, ‘Nevermind’ accepts the end of the road and optimistically moves on. Musically, while there is a six string dominating, a wonderfully whirring synth solo makes an unexpected appearance.

Of course, Ms Brucken has done the acoustic thing before on ‘Another Language’ with Andrew Poppy but those cover versions worked on a minimalist principle. While the songs on ‘Where Else…’ were written to be sung accompanied only by piano or guitar, they are recorded in a much more expansive manner. Proceedings begin with ‘I Want You’ and its cinematic chanson melody. A lonely melancholic piano leads proceedings alongside some beautiful strings while looming over it lyrically is the spectre of the late Lou Reed. But after this solemn start comes the precise mechanical beat on ‘Nothing Good Is Ever Easy’. But a twist is provided with the kind of countrified outlook that was explored by ERASURE on ‘Union Street’.

Claudia Brucken by Anton Corbijn‘I Lay All Night’ is another departure with its Hammond organ textures and continues the inherent moodiness of the album.

The short Nick Drake cover ‘Day Is Done’ recalls ‘The Road To Happiness’ from ‘The Lost Are Found’; the latter’s writer Stephen Duffy is a big Drake fan so this in a way completes the spiritual connection.

‘Walk Right In’ brings in a Chamber orchestra and is very English, laced with harpsichord runs and psychedelic overtones plus affectionate mentions of “tea, toast and jam”.

Continuing the quintessentially English theme, the excellent ‘How Do I Know’ rather bizarrely has sonic parallels with Morrissey although Ms Brucken did cover THE SMITHS ‘Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now’ with ACT so this isn’t entirely a surprise.

Meanwhile, ‘Moon Song’ comes over like CHINA CRISIS with a pretty hybrid of strumming and atmospheric synths. Slightly more uptempo, ‘Letting Go’ is the closest it gets to CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN’s electro material despite some bluesy guitar while the title says it all. The final two songs are possibly the sparsest songs on ‘Where Else…’ – ‘Time to Make Changes’ makes a statement of intent both musically and emotionally while ‘Sweet Sound Vision’ drifts along to finish in a manner not dissimilar to most of GOLDFRAPP’s recent organic material on ‘Tales of Us’.

With ‘Where Else…’, CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN adds another string to her bow and the variation will please her loyal fans. However, for those into her more electronic material, this album may not be so straightforward to appreciate.

But ‘Where Else…’ is sophisticated and emotive, capturing an important crossroads in CLAUDIA BRÜCKEN’s life both musically and personally. “I want to explore different styles” she said recently, “a big reason why the title ‘Where Else…’ suits me – where else will I go? What will I do next?”. Indeed, wherever she goes next, it will have integrity and honesty as it always has done.

‘Where Else…’ is released by Cherry Red Records in CD, vinyl and download formats




Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Anton Corbijn
8th October 2014

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