Tag: Tears For Fears (Page 1 of 4)

MUSIK MUSIC MUSIQUE 2.0 1981: The Rise Of Synth Pop

1981 is the year covered by the second instalment of Cherry Red’s ‘Musik Music Musique’ series.

1980 was something of a transition year for the synth as it knocked on the door of the mainstream charts but by 1981, it was more or less let in with welcome arms. From the same team behind the ‘Close To The Noise Floor’ compendiums and the most excellent ‘Electrical Language’ boxed set, ‘Musik Music Musique 2.0 1981 – The Rise Of Synth Pop’ presents rarities alongside hits and key album tracks from what many consider the best year in music and one that contributes the most to the legacy of electronic music in its wider acceptance and impact.

Featuring HEAVEN 17  with ‘(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang’, OMD with ‘Souvenir’ and the eponymous single by VISAGE, these songs are iconic 1981 canon that need no further discussion. Meanwhile the longevity of magnificent album tracks such as ‘Frustration’ by SOFT CELL and ‘I Remember (Death In The Afternoon)’ by ULTRAVOX can be summed by the fact that they have featured in 21st Century live sets alongside their parent acts’ hits.

Although not quite as celebrated, ‘You Were There’ from pastoral second John Foxx long player ‘The Garden’ captures the move from stark JG Ballard imagery to something almost romantic. DEVO are represented by the LinnDrum driven ‘Through Being Cool’, the opener of the ‘New Traditionalists’ album which comes as a statement that the mainstream was their next target; the Akron quintet were one of the many acts signed by Virgin Records as the label focussed on a synth focussed takeover that ultimately shaped the sonic landscape of 1981.

Then there’s TEARS FOR FEARS’ promising debut ‘Suffer The Children’ in its original synthier single recording and The Blitz Club favourite ‘Bostich’ from quirky Swiss pioneers YELLO. Another Blitz staple ‘No GDM’ from GINA X PERFORMANCE gets included despite being of 1978 vintage due to its first UK single release in 1981. The use of synth came in all sorts of shapes and FASHIØN presented a funkier take with ‘Move Øn’ while the track’s producer Zeus B Held took a more typically offbeat kosmische approach on his own ‘Cowboy On The Beach’.

Pivotal releases by JAPAN with the ‘The Art Of Parties’ (here in the more metallic ‘Tin Drum’ album version) and A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS ‘(It’s Not Me) Talking’ highlight those bands’ then-potential for mainstream success. But in the battle of the New Romantic boy bands, the sitar tinged DURAN DURAN B-side ‘Khanada’ easily blows away the SPANDAU BALLET album track ‘Reformation’ in an ominous sign as to who would crack it biggest worldwide.

The great lost band of this era, B-MOVIE issued the first of several versions of ‘Nowhere Girl’ in December 1980 on Dead Good Records and its inclusion showcases the song’s promise which was then more fully realised on the 1982 Some Bizzare single produced by the late Steve Brown although sadly, this was still not a hit.

The best and most synth flavoured pop hits from the period’s feisty females like Kim Wilde and Toyah are appropriate inclusions, as is Hazel O’Connor’s largely forgotten SPARKS homage ‘(Cover Plus) We’re All Grown Up’. But the less said about racist novelty records such as ‘Japanese Boy’ by Aneka, the better… the actual nation of Japan though is correctly represented by their most notable electronic exponents YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA with ‘Cue’ from ‘BGM’, the first release to feature the Roland TR808 Rhythm Composer.

With these type of boxed sets, it’s the less familiar tracks that are always the most interesting. As the best looking member of TANGERINE DREAM, Peter Baumann had a crack at the single charts with the catchy Robert Palmer produced ‘Repeat, Repeat’ while former Gary Numan backing band DRAMATIS are represented by ‘Lady DJ’ although its epic A side ‘Ex Luna Scientia’ would have equally merited inclusion. But BEASTS IN CAGES who later became HARD CORPS stand out with the stark dystopia of ‘Sandcastles’.

The one that “should-have-been-a-pop-hit” is the ABBA-esque ‘I Can’t Hold On’ by Natasha England and it’s a shame that her career is remembered for a lame opportunistic cover of ‘Iko Iko’ rather than this, but the delightful ‘Twelfth House’ demonstrates again how under-rated Tony Mansfield’s NEW MUSIK were, and this with a B-side!

The rather fraught ‘Wonderlust’ by THE FALLOUT CLUB captures the late Trevor Herion in fine form on a Thomas Dolby produced number with a dramatic Spaghetti Western flavour that is lushly sculpted with electronics. Over a more sedate rhythm box mantra, ‘Love Moves In Strange Ways’ from BLUE ZOO swirls with a not entirely dissimilar mood.

Mute Records founder Daniel Miller was breaking through with his productions for DEPECHE MODE in 1981, but representation on ‘Musik Music Musique 2.0’ comes via the colder austere of ‘Science Fiction’ by Alan Burnham. ‘West End’ by Thomas Leer adds some jazzy freeform synth soloing to the vocal free backdrop, while ‘Surface Tension’ from ANALYSIS is an appealing instrumental.

The strangely accessible weirdness of CHRIS & COSEY’s ‘This Is Me’, MYSTERY PLANE’s ‘Something To Prove’ and the gritty ‘Brix’ from PORTION CONTROL will delight those more into the leftfield, while AK-47’s ‘Stop! Dance!’, the work of Simon Leonard (later of I START COUNTING and KOMPUTER fame) is another DIY experiment in that aesthetic vein.

Some tracks are interesting but not essential like Richard Bone’s ‘Alien Girl’ which comes over like an amusing pub singer SILICON TEENS, Johnny Warman’s appealing robopop on ‘Will You Dance With Me?’ and the synth dressed New Wave of ‘Close-Up’ by THOSE FRENCH GIRLS. For something more typically artschool, there’s the timpani laden ‘Taboos’ by THE PASSAGE and SECOND LAYER’s screechy ‘In Bits’.

More surprising is Swedish songstress Virna Lindt with her ‘Young & Hip’ which oddly combines showtune theatrics with blippy synth and ska! The set ends rather fittingly with Cherry Red’s very own EYELESS IN GAZA with the abstract atmospherics of ‘The Eyes Of Beautiful Losers’ although they too would eventually produce their own rousing synthpop statement ‘Sunbursts In’ in 1984.

Outside of the music, the booklet is a bit disappointing with the photos of OMD, TEARS FOR FEARS, HEAVEN 17, B-MOVIE and a glam-bouffanted Kim Wilde all coming from the wrong eras. And while the liner notes provide helpful information on the lesser known acts, clangers such as stating Toyah’s ‘Thunder In The Mountains’ was from the album ‘The Changeling’ when it was a standalone 45, “GONG’s Mike Hewlett” and “memorable sleeve designs by Malcolm Garrett’s Altered IMaGes” do not help those who wish to discover the origins of those accumulated gems.

But these quibbles aside, overall ‘Musik Music Musique 2.0’ is a good collection, although with fewer rare jewels compared with the first 1980 volume which perhaps points to the fact that those who had the shine to breakthrough actually did… 40 years on though, many of those hit making acts (or variations of) are still performing live in some form.

Was 1981 the most important year in synth as far becoming ubiquitous in the mainstream and hitting the top of the charts internationally? With VISAGE’s ‘Fade To Grey’ becoming a West German No1 in Spring 1981 through to SOFT CELL taking the summer topspot in the UK and culminating in THE HUMAN LEAGUE eventually taking ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ to No1 in the US, the sound of synth had done its job. Setting the scene for 1982 and 1983, further editions of ‘Musik Music Musique’ are planned.

‘Musik Music Musique 2.0 1981 – The Rise Of Synth Pop’ is released on 15th October 2021 as a 3CD boxed set


Text by Chi Ming Lai
12th October 2021


The origin of the BBC radio session came about due to restrictions imposed on the corporation by the Musicians Union and Phonographic Performance Limited with regards the airing of recorded music.

The thinking behind this was to create employment, as well as force people to buy records and not listen to them free of charge on the air. As a result, the BBC had to hire bands and orchestras to perform cover versions of recorded music to make up for the shortfall.

When the policy evolved with the advent of the more pop and rock oriented station Radio1, bands ventured into BBC’s Maida Vale studios to lay down between 3 to 5 tracks, with in-house personnel such as John Walters, Dale Griffin, Jeff Griffin, Chris Lycett, Mike Robinson, John Owen Williams and (not that) Tony Wilson helming the sessions.

The most celebrated of these BBC sessions were recorded for John Peel, but equally of merit and perhaps more of an indicator to potential breakthroughs into the mainstream were those produced for Richard Skinner and Kid Jensen.

Sessions were usually recorded and mixed in a single day, so had a rougher feel that lay somewhere between a live performance and a studio recording, sounding almost like a polished demo.

While acts would often use the opportunity to promote their latest single or album, others would premiere recently written compositions, try out different arrangements on established songs or perform cover versions. A number of these session recordings were even superior to their eventual officially released versions.

So ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK presents its favourite 25 BBC Radio1 session tracks with other selection criteria including rare songs or tracks capturing the zeitgeist and signalling a change in the course of music. Presented in chronological and then alphabetical order within each year with a restriction of one track per artist moniker, here are some special moments from our beloved Auntie Beeb.

THE HUMAN LEAGUE Blind Youth (John Peel 1978)

In Summer 1978, THE HUMAN LEAGUE perhaps surprisingly recorded their only session for the BBC which included ‘Being Boiled’, ‘No Time’ (which became ‘The Word Before Last’), a cover of ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’ and ‘Blind Youth’. The latter was the frantic percussive highlight of the four, a wonderfully shambolic slice of synth punk with bum bleeps and avant waves of white noise, all held together by the metallic rhythmic bed of a sequenced Roland System 100.

Not officially released


TUBEWAY ARMY I Nearly Married A Human (John Peel 1979)

Although only comprising of three tracks, Gary Numan’s session as TUBEWAY ARMY for John Peel in early 1979 captured an artist in transition. From the comparatively punky ‘Me! I Disconnect From You’ to the dystopian synthpop of ‘Down In The Park’, the electronics were gaining more prominence to suit his increasingly unsettling lyrical themes. And on the mostly instrumental ‘I Nearly Married A Human’, the machines launched a coup d’etat and took over like an army of replicants with the murmurs of the title being the only sign of flesh and blood.

Available on the GARY NUMAN ‎// TUBEWAY ARMY album ‘Replicas – The First Recordings’ via Beggars Banquet


OMD Pretending To See The Future (John Peel 1980)

Several months after the release of their self-titled debut long player, OMD returned for their second of their four John Peel sessions with Paul Humphreys and Andy McCluskey accompanied by drummer Malcolm Holmes and keyboardist Dave Hughes. By now, their live sound had expanded and this change was captured on this session with the version of ‘Pretending To See The Future’ having more presence and a looser percussive edge compared with the underwhelming drum machine-led album version.

Available on the OMD album ‘Peel Sessions 1979-1983’ via Virgin Records


B-MOVIE Polar Opposites (John Peel 1981)

One of the bands alongside SOFT CELL, DEPECHE MODE and BLANCMANGE who got a profile boost from their inclusion on the ‘Some Bizzare Album’, although they were signed by Phonogram to take on DURAN DURAN, B-MOVIE had more of a psychedelic vibe as reflected by songs like ‘Welcome To The Shrink’ and ‘All Fall Down’ on their first John Peel session in March 1981. But the highlight was ‘Polar Opposites’ with its mighty ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ synth line. It would have made a great single, but never properly was!

Available on the B-MOVIE ‎album ‘BBC Radio Sessions 1981-1984’ via Cherry Red Records


DEPECHE MODE Boys Say Go (Richard Skinner 1981)

Broadcast in Summer 1981, this session captured the original DEPECHE MODE line-up of Dave Gahan, Martin Gore, Andy Fletcher and Vince Clarke several months before the release of debut album ‘Speak & Spell’. Refining into a pop band but still retaining much of the synthetic rawness that linked them artistically to acts like FAD GADGET, the session was characterised by use of the Korg Rhythm KR55 drum machine with its charming klanky metallics. This version of ‘Boys Say Go’ possessed an aggression that was lost on the eventual album cut.

Available on the compilation ‎album ‘1 & Only – 25 Years of BBC Radio 1’ (V/A) via BBC Enterprises / Band Of Joy


DURAN DURAN Like An Angel (Peter Powell 1981)

Like THE HUMAN LEAGUE, DURAN DURAN only did the one BBC session for their biggest champion Peter Powell. Broadcast in June 1981 to coincide with the release of their self-titled debut, they recorded near-facsimile versions of ‘Girls On Film’, ‘Anyone Out There’ and ‘Night Boat’. But a surprise came with ‘Like An Angel’, a sprightly love song unreleased at the time which pointed away from the New Romantics to the more mainstream pop ambition of the ‘Rio’ opus that was to come just a year later.

Available on the DURAN DURAN boxed set ‘Duran Duran’ via EMI Records


SOFT CELL Seedy Films (Richard Skinner 1981)

Contributing five songs to their first BBC session as ‘Tainted Love’ was rising up the UK chart, brilliant songs like ‘Bedsitter’, ‘Entertain Me’, ‘Chips On My Shoulder’ and ‘Youth’ demonstrated the potential of Marc Almond and Dave Ball, even in basic form. While ‘Seedy Films’ was faster paced and a bit “snap, crackle and pop” compared to the more sophisticated and laid-back clarinet-laden ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ album version, it outlined why at the time, SOFT CELL were rated higher than DEPECHE MODE.

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


SPANDAU BALLET Mandolin (Studio B15 1981)

‘Studio B15’ was a short-lived Sunday afternoon magazine show presented by the late Adrian Love that often invited their guests to perform live. SPANDAU BALLET had just released their debut album ‘Journeys To Glory’ and as a band that didn’t tour and rarely played live, this was an opportunity to demonstrate their abilities. ‘Mandolin’ featured a prominent Yamaha CS10 synth line while this version featured Simmons drums and a much clearer vocal with a more pronounced diction from Tony Hadley compared to the oddly smothered album version.

Available on the SPANDAU BALLET deluxe album ‘Journeys to Glory’ via EMI Records


BLANCMANGE Running Thin (John Peel 1982)

Aired in February 1982, BLANCMANGE were captured in their only John Peel session as a much darker proposition than was later perceived by their UK chart success. It included an early take on ‘Living On The Ceiling’ without its Indian embellishments but the session was notable for ‘I Would’ and ‘Running Thin’, two songs that would not make it onto the ‘Happily Families’ tracklisting. ‘Running Thin’ in particular saw Neil Arthur and Stephen Luscombe trapped in a stark state of gloomy resignation.

Available on the BLANCMANGE album ‘The Very Best Of’ via Demon Music


CHINA CRISIS This Occupation (John Peel 1982)

Recorded nearly six months before the release of their debut album, CHINA CRISIS’ first John Peel session saw the duo exploring territory that sat between electronic and traditional pop. ‘Seven Sports For All’ and ‘Some People I Know To Lead Fantastic Lives’ ended up on the album while the more moody ‘Be Suspicious’ was already a B-side. But this version of ‘This Occupation’ was pure machine-propelled synthpop complete with sequencing and strong lead lines; later recordings that appeared on the B-sides of ‘Wishful Thinking’ were never as good.

Available on the CHINA CRISIS deluxe album ‘Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms’ via Caroline Records


EURYTHMICS I’ve Got An Angel (Kid Jensen 1982)

After their 1981 German-inspired debut ‘In The Garden’, Annie Lennox and David A Stewart explored the possibilities of the synthesizer and acquired a Movement Drum Computer to live up to their moniker. In a BBC session that also included ‘Love Is A Stranger’ which was soon to be issued as a single , ‘I’ve Got An Angel’ was an unusual hybrid of synths, electronic drums and wah-wah guitar, with flute by the front woman alongside her particularly intense and raw vocal. By comparison, the released version on the ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)’ album was more restrained.

Not officially released


NEW ORDER Too Late (John Peel 1982)

Not actually recorded at the BBC, NEW ORDER’s second self-produced John Peel session was a fascinating document of the Mancunian’s transitioning sound with the throbbing sequences of ‘586’ highlighting a future proto-dance direction. Meanwhile ‘Turn The Heater On’ was a cover of the Keith Hudson reggae song in tribute to Ian Curtis and ‘We All Stand’ had avant jazz overtones. But ‘Too Late’ was significant, sounding like it could have come off debut album ‘Movement’ with its lingering gothic doom but also remaining unreleased, discarded as if a relic from another era.

Available on the NEW ORDER boxed set ‘Power, Corruption & Lies’ via Rhino


TEARS FOR FEARS Memories Fade (Kid Jensen 1982)

Featuring ‘The Prisoner’, ‘The Hurting’, ‘Start Of The Breakdown’ and ‘Memories Fade’, the arrangements for this BBC session aired after TEARS FOR FEARS’ success with ‘Mad World’ differed significantly from the versions on their debut album. Featuring Linn Drum programming and Banshees-like guitar instead of sax, this version of ‘Memories Fade’ was far superior, utilising a much more powerful mechanised rhythmic tension that reflected the fraught paranoia and resignation of Roland Orzabal’s lyrical angst.

Available on the TEARS FOR FEARS boxed set ‘The Hurting’ via Mercury Records


YAZOO In My Room (Kid Jensen 1982)

Reshaped with a Fairlight and Linn Drum Computer, this version of ‘In My Room’ recorded in session for Kid Jensen was far superior to the irritating album version on ‘Upstairs At Eric’s’. Forming the basis for the live interpretation, it was now free of Vince Clarke’s “Our Father” tape loop monologue and allowed Alison Moyet space to express her emotive frustration to reveal a fantastic song free of distractions. Other songs in the session included beefed up takes on ‘Bring Your Love Down (Didn’t I)’, ‘Situation’ and ‘Too Pieces’.

Available on the YAZOO boxed set ‘Three Pieces’ via Mute Records


DEAD OR ALIVE Give It To Me (Kid Jensen 1983)

Co-written with Wayne Hussey, ‘Give It To Me’ was Pete Burns at his filthy lyrical best, declaring that “Apart from all your obvious attractions, I’ve got the bullets, you’ve got the gun, bang me into action, let’s make this obvious distraction, physically you are just what I wanted!”. Although this slice of  Middle Eastern favoured HI-NRG later surfaced as a bonus track on the 12 inch single of ‘I’d Do Anything’, it seems almost unbelievable now that this potential hit single was never developed further in the studio.

Available on the DEAD OR ALIVE boxed set ‘Sophisticated Boom Box MMXVI’ via Edsel Records


JOHN FOXX Hiroshima Mon Amour (Saturday Live 1983)

‘Saturday Live’ was a show that featured interviews and live sessions. Having ventured out touring for the first time since his ULTRAVOX days in support of his third solo album ‘The Golden Section’, John Foxx eschewed material from ‘Metamatic’ but perhaps more surprisingly, mined his former band’s catalogue. Backed by Robin Simon, Peter Oxdendale, David Levy and Barry Watts, Foxx performed an interesting arrangement of ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ sans rhythm machine but with guitars, ARP Odyssey and the ubiquitous thud of Simmons drums.

Available on the JOHN FOXX album ‘Metadelic’ via Edsel Records


HOWARD JONES Don’t Put These Curses On Me (Kid Jensen 1983)

Having triumphed opening for CHINA CRISIS in Spring 1983, Howard Jones impressed with his first BBC session featuring songs like ‘New Song’ and ‘Natural’ which would be included on his debut album ‘Human’s Lib’. The album title track also featured on the session with its original love triangle monologue intro. But ‘Don’t Put These Curses On Me’ would not be released until 2003, thanks to Jones considering the song unlucky following an equipment breakdown while attempting to perform it on the live Channel 4 TV show ‘Loose Talk’.

Available on the HOWARD JONES boxed set ‘Human’s Lib’ via Cherry Red Records


SIMPLE MINDS The Kick Inside Of Me (Kid Jensen 1983)

By the end of 1983, SIMPLE MINDS were leaning heavily towards more rockist climes with songs like ‘Waterfront’. But for a three song BBC session which also featured a reprise of ‘New Gold Dream’, there was the debut of ‘The Kick Inside Of Me’, a lively track with catchy synth riffs, an infectious bassline and minimal guitar. But come the released version for the Steve Lillywhite produced ‘Sparkle In The Rain’, it had totally been ruined with distorted guitar, overblown drums and yobbish shouting in a pointless attempt to emulate THE SEX PISTOLS!

Available on the SIMPLE MINDS boxed set ‘Sparkle In The Rain’ via Universal Music


TALK TALK Why Is It So Hard? (Kid Jensen 1983)

This session captured TALK TALK after the departure of keyboardist Simon Brenner but before producer Tim Friese-Greene came on board as Mark Hollis’ writing partner. Showcasing at the time four brand new songs, only ‘Call In The Night Boy’ ended up on the next album ‘It’s My Life’ while ‘For What It’s Worth’ and ‘Again A Game Again’ became B-sides. But most interesting was ‘Why Is It So Hard?’ which was only released in Canada on the ‘It’s My Mix’ EP as an Extended Version and didn’t get a UK release until 1998 on the ‘Asides Bsides’ collection.

Not officially released


VISAGE Questions (Kid Jensen 1983)

With only Steve Strange and Rusty Egan now remaining, VISAGE surprised all by recording a BBC session with new members Steve Barnacle and Andy Barnett, featuring previously unheard songs ‘Can You Hear Me?’, ‘Only The Good Die Young’, ‘The Promise’ and the funky standout ‘Questions’. With a more live feel, there was hope that VISAGE would be able to sustain some creative momentum despite the departure of Midge Ure, Billy Currie and Dave Formula but the eventual over-produced ‘Beat Boy’ album was rotten, marred by heavy metal guitar and hopelessly off-key singing!

Not officially released


HARD CORPS Metal + Flesh (John Peel 1984)

Despite the patronage of Rusty Egan, Daniel Miller and Martin Rushent as well as a tour opening for DEPECHE MODE, the industrial pop of HARD CORPS did not breakthrough and by the time their only album ‘Metal + Flesh’ was released in 1990, all momentum had been lost. But the gothic tension and edgy energy of their music was perhaps best represented by their BBC sessions for John Peel and Richard Skinner, with ‘Metal + Flesh’ from the 1984 Peel session far outstripping the eventual album title track studio incarnation.

Available on the HARD CORPS album ‘Radio Sessions’ directly via https://hardcorps.bandcamp.com/album/radio-sessions


BRONSKI BEAT The Potato Fields (John Peel 1984)

For an Autumn session before the release of their debut album ‘The Age Of Consent’, BRONSKI BEAT took the unusual step of recording three solo tracks, with the only band offering being a take on ‘Why?’ B-side ‘Close To the Edge’. Larry Steinbachek presented a HI-NRG instrumental ‘Ultraclone’ while Jimmy Somerville offered the acapella ‘Puit D’amour’. But Steve Bronski contributed the most unusual track, a beautifully new age piece called ‘The Potato Fields’ which took its lead from the Japanese composer Kitaro, a version of which ended up as a bonus on the ‘I Feel Love’ 12 inch.

Not officially available


FIAT LUX Breaking The Boundary (Kid Jensen 1984)

From Spring 1984 to coincide with the release of their new single ‘Blue Emotion’, FIAT LUX stepped into BBC Maida Vale for a session to demonstrate their diversity and musicality as more than just a synth act. As well as ‘Blue Emotion’, there was its Brechtean B-side ‘Sleepless Nightmare’ and an acoustic version of ‘Secrets’. But best of all was ‘Breaking The Boundary’, a glorious burst of uptempo North European melancholy that did not officially see the light of day until the shelved FIAT LUX album ‘Ark Of Embers was finally released by Cherry Red Records in 2019.

Not officially available


ERASURE Who Needs Love Like That? (Bruno Brookes 1985)

With ERASURE, Vince Clarke had found himself back to square one after YAZOO and THE ASSEMBLY. Recruiting Andy Bell as the flamboyant front man capable of falsetto and creating the vocal tones of Alison Moyet, ‘Who Needs Love Like That?’ did sound like a YAZOO outtake and in this BBC session recording, was busier and more percussive than the already released single version. While ERASURE were not an instant success, the song did eventually chart on its remixed re-release in 1992.

Available on the ERASURE deluxe album ‘Wonderland’ via Mute Records


PET SHOP BOYS A Powerful Friend (John Peel 2002)

John Peel was not a fan of PET SHOP BOYS or much synthpop for that matter, so it was a surprise when Neil Tennant and Chris Love did a session for him using the back to basics approach that they had adopted for the ‘Release’ tour with guitars, bass and percussion in the line-up. But the bonus for fans was that two of the songs recorded ‘If Looks Could Kill’ and ‘A Powerful Friend’, which had been written in 1983 and shelved, were specially revived for the occasion. Both numbers were particularly energetic with the latter even featuring very loud rock guitars!

Available on the PET SHOP BOYS deluxe album ‘Release: Further Listening 2001 – 2004’ via EMI Records


Text by Chi Ming Lai
2nd January 2021

WANG CHUNG Interview

May sees the release of ‘Orchesography’, an album of orchestra-backed re-imaginings of WANG CHUNG’s best known songs.

The album sees core members Jack Hues and Nick Feldman reunited for the first time since 2012’s ‘Tazer Up!’ and features new versions of staples like ‘Dance Hall Days’ and ‘Everybody Have Fun Tonight’ alongside The Walking Dead featured ‘Space Junk’ and other selections.

Jack Hues kindly spoke about the band’s early years, Hollywood soundtrack experiences and of course, their ‘Dance Hall Days’…

It’s a little known fact that HEAVEN 17’s Glenn Gregory used to be in a band with you prior to you guys forming WANG CHUNG, how did the first incarnation of the band get together?

Glenn Gregory was with us in 57 MEN which was in fact the second incarnation of mine and Nick’s projects together. The first was THE INTELLEKTUALS. I can’t remember how we met Glenn. Word of mouth I think. At that time, Nick and I thought of ourselves as writers really, rather than performers, and Glenn was quite glamorous and could sing….

Were you disheartened that your eponymous debut album failed to make much of an impact?

Probably… but because we hadn’t known “success”, for want of a better word, we didn’t know we didn’t have it… so we just kept going. Also, as an artist, your work is a sort of catalogue of errors so you are not sitting back thinking “this is going to have a big impact”. That first album was such an incredibly steep learning curve, I just wanted to apply the lessons learned to making the next one.

Your breakthrough second album saw you working with Chris Hughes and Ross Cullum who also produced TEARS FOR FEARS’ ‘The Hurting’. ‘Points On A Curve’ was released a few months after that, how did the pair juggle the work on the two projects and what did you learn from working with them?

Chris and Ross had completed their work with  TEARS FOR FEARS so we had their full attention. Working with them was a quantum leap for me and gave me an entirely new way of thinking about music and life. I learnt how to watch television and then talk about it, I learnt how to talk to a sommelier, the best Italian restaurants in London, how any food that is shrink wrapped is not worth eating, that making records takes a long time.

The album was recorded at Abbey Road studio, how was this experience?

Growing up listening obsessively to THE BEATLES as I did, it was a dream come true, quite literally. I loved working there and Chris and Ross were fully aware of what we were doing. I recall it as a magical time.

When you wrote ‘Dance Hall Days’, did you have any inkling of what an important track it would be for you?

No, it was just the next song I was writing. But in retrospect I think I was absorbing so many new influences at that time – really hungry for change and to reach the next level – I was creating the music but the music was also creating me. So the experience with creative work is never a straight line of intention to planned outcome but more like a feedback loop.

There were two different promos made for ‘Dance Hall Days’, the first directed by filmmaker Derek Jarman and the second by Daniel Kleinman. What was the reason for this and do you have a favourite out of the two?

We were signed in the US to Geffen Records in Los Angeles – we weren’t signed in the UK – and when the Americans saw Derek’s video they couldn’t deal with it! So we had to make a “proper” rock video. It was a different time! I liked working with Derek. Again he was a fascinating person, talked about art and literature and theatre and movies in a totally new way for me. He was an artist and very inspiring.

What did you think when ‘Dance Hall Days’ appeared as accompanying music for the male stripper scene in the lesser known Tom Hanks film ‘Bachelor Party’?

I thought, that’s a nice synch…

The Godley & Creme directed ‘Everybody Have Fun Tonight’ promo was interesting, innovative and possibly dangerous if you were epileptic! What were your memories of making this?

I remember the video for ‘Fire In The Twilight’ from ‘The Breakfast Club’ entailed me running through West Hollywood all day, so ‘EBHFT’ was a lot easier as I had to sing the song to camera 7 times and move as little as possible. They were interesting guys to work with. They had just made a documentary about the JFK assassination and showed us the trailer which was very powerful. It was a fun video to make and I liked their rigorous way of working.

‘Everybody Have Fun Tonight’ made a big impact in the US and was in the 1997 film ‘Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion’ alongside ‘Dance Hall Days’, did you see this as a sort of artistic vindication after the challenges in the UK?

I never had any sense of needing vindication in the UK or anywhere else. In a way, working in the USA and coming home to my family here and being relatively anonymous was a good scenario. I never felt we were struggling to make it in the UK. It was what it was.

Director William Friedkin was incredibly influential in bringing greater exposure to artists like TANGERINE DREAM and MIKE OLDFIELD by using their music in his films. It must have been an incredible break to get asked to write music for ‘To Live & Die In LA’ in 1985, how did this happen?

It certainly was. Bill phoned us out of the blue at a time when we were struggling with the follow-up to ‘Points On The Curve’. I had an hour long conversation on the phone with him – we were in London and he was in LA. Essentially he was a big fan of ‘Points On The Curve’ and loved the song ‘Wait’. He was using that as a temp track to watch the day’s rushes and he told me he wanted an hour of music like that that he would then edit into the movie.

So Nick and I hired a little studio in London and did all the instrumental tracks – without seeing the movie!

When you watch the opening credits the tempo of our music and the speed of the printing press are almost identical. That was a complete coincidence! Just one of those magical projects where everything fell into place. Working with Bill was amazing and he remains a good friend to this day.

Friedkin’s work with soundtrack composers (and actors) was often notoriously unorthodox, how was the working process with him?

He gave us complete freedom to do what we did best. Like all great collaborative artists, he knows how to get what he wants but doesn’t limit you to his will. He gets right out of the way and somehow attracts what he wants – like Miles Davis. As I said, we were not writing music to picture. He actually edited the picture to the music in places – which is the best way to work. Movies that do that have a much better pace than those that have scores that slavishly try to keep up with the action. He was extremely generous to us and encouraging.

How would you compare writing film soundtrack music to the construction of normal album?

To the extent that soundtrack music doesn’t require lyrics it is much more free. It is very different from making a normal album. Much more freedom to experiment – however the discipline of a song based album can induce creative solutions in the studio. I wouldn’t want to be without either. We were definitely thinking of music on a bigger scale with ‘To Live & Die In LA’.

The song ‘Space Junk’ works superbly at the end of the pilot episode of ‘The Walking Dead’ (and also in lead actor Rick’s final episode, bringing things full circle); how did this particular song find its home here?

Again it was unexpected. ‘Space Junk’ was a bonus track we recorded for a Greatest Hits album in 1998. It’s a great song but received no attention at the time. Frank Darabont, the director of ‘The Walking Dead’, apparently loved the song and always imagined it as the music to the final scene of Episode 1. So we were very fortunate to once again have the attention of a great director.

‘Tazer Up’ brought an end to an almost 20 year hiatus, what focused the band to get back in the studio again?

Various business things came up in the mid-noughties. Nick stopped working in A&R and was therefore more available. I had done a couple of jazz records and so was more ready to do WANG CHUNG again. Nick and I remained great friends through the hiatus so it was nice to think about working together again. Plus we had a bunch of good songs lying around so recording them with Adam Wren (with whom we had recorded ‘Space Junk’) was an exciting prospect. And some touring opportunities came up, so fate drew us back on the WANG CHUNG trail.

‘Tazer Up’ has some superb songs on it like ‘Let’s Get Along’ and ‘Rent Free’, has there been a typical songwriting process within the band?

Thank you! There isn’t a typical process. We rarely write together these days but we “get” each other and critique each other, make suggestions.

The ‘Grand Theft Auto’ computer game franchise seems to be the de rigueur way of introducing kids to classic pop music. How did you feel when ‘Dance Hall Days’ was featured on the Flash FM channel in ‘Grand Theft Auto: Vice City’ game and have you seen an impact on your fanbase by having it featured here?

Yes, it brought a whole new generation to our music. It was incredibly important in getting into that new generation’s consciousness and I’m sure is significant in accounting for the continuing popularity of 80’s music in movies and with new bands.

With streaming being the main outlet for public consumption of music these days, WANG CHUNG don’t have much material on platforms such as Spotify, is there a specific reason for this?

Neglect – but we are remedying this. This year will see the re-release of deluxe editions of all our albums from the 80’s including our first album, ‘Huang Chung’ and the noughties’ ‘Tazer Up!’ And of course our new orchestral album.

With MIDGE URE, A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS and VISAGE all bringing out orchestral albums, was there one particularly that influenced you to bring out your own?

We know Mike Score from A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS and he was enthusiastic about his experience. It just seemed a good thing to do in and of itself.

John Bryan who runs August Day, the label that has done these projects in the past is a good guy and drives us along to get things done. It’s been an enjoyable process and a fabulous opportunity.

What were the challenges of re-recording the songs for the album?

Singing them was a challenge! Nick and I wanted to really make use of the orchestra rather than doing the songs again with a band and having the orchestra in the background sounding like an expensive synthesizer. Some songs need the energy of the rhythm section but where it works we have let the orchestra take centre stage. Getting the arrangements right was a challenge.

WANG CHUNG have always had an electronic technology-based slant to their music, what sort of kit are you using at the moment, and how does it compare to what you were using back in the day?

With ‘Tazer Up!’, we consciously thought what makes an 80s record? And it’s basically mixing drum machines, synths and guitars. And these days the synths are there on every computer on the planet. It is actually easier to make an 80s record now than it was back in the day when everything was so expensive and difficult to use.

Out of all of the renditions on ‘Orchesography’, do you have a favourite?

We have done a new version of the original demo of ‘Everybody Have Fun Tonight’. We recorded the original on a little 4-track in Nick’s flat on Finchley Road using very basic sounds to emulate an orchestra. Now we’ve been able to realise that with the real thing and it sounds great.

The music industry has changed out of all recognition over three and a half decades, what are your feelings on where we are now with it?

There are lots of things I feel have been lost – music was the absolute centre of my life – still is, more so than ever – and was so for many people, but now it has been marginalised by, in my opinion, vastly inferior forms of creativity.

I also detest the way music is defined by “genre” these days when genres should be merely at the service of artists who are adventurous enough to want to soar way beyond such limitations.

But there are wonderful things about where we are now – I have released a “jazz” album recently – JACK HUES & THE QUARTET featuring Syd Arthur and a version of BECK’s ‘Nobody’s Fault But My Own’. We pressed up some vinyl, it’s on Spotify, we’re doing some gigs in April – so you can get your music out there, have total autonomy in a way that would be inconceivable back in the 80s. Reaching an audience is the challenge, but then it always was…

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to Jack Hues

Special thanks to Lisa Freeman at Quite Great PR

‘Orchesography’ is released by August Day Recordings in a variety of formats on 10th May 2019




Text and Interview by Paul Boddy
29th March 2019


Whoever came up with the idea of putting TEARS FOR FEARS and ALISON MOYET together on a concert bill was a total genius!

They each have scored six Top 10 UK singles and two No1 UK albums while also winning various BRIT Awards, all this without including Moyet’s stint in YAZOO with Vince Clarke which netted a further three Top 5 UK singles and a further No1 album!

Unsurprisingly at London’s O2 Arena, people started taking their seats early for ALISON MOYET’s eleven song opening set. Over the last six years, she has seen something of an artistic renaissance with her two most recent albums ‘the minutes’ and ‘Other’ showcasing a return to electronica, thanks to a new fruitful partnership with Guy Sigsworth.

Beginning with ‘I Germinate’ from ’Other’, there was a format change from that tour in 2017 with the inclusion of Paul Jones on electronic percussion alongside regular Moyet multi-instrumentalist Sean McGhee. As some of the audience pondered whether she would play any YAZOO material, Ms Moyet introduced a song that she wrote when she was just 16. With its iconic burst of synth, the crowd roared their approval for a the wonderfully melancholic ‘Nobody’s Diary’.

‘Beautiful Gun’, Moyet’s gusty attack on the NRA showed her old classmates in Basildon a thing or two about authentic blues while on ‘All Cried Out’, McGhee was particularly superb in his falsetto harmonisation with his boss’ deeper gutsy growl. Following on, ‘The Rarest Birds’ celebrated Moyet’s recent rejuvenation thanks to a relocation to Brighton while there was a surprise with a rendition of ‘The Sharpest Corner (Hollow)’ from 2007’s ‘The Turn’.

As the crowd held their breath for more YAZOO, Moyet delivered with ‘Situation’ as the first pockets of the audience cautiously stood up before a practically Vince Clarke faithful ‘Only You’ initiated the first massed singalong of the evening. The spectre of her former YAZOO bandmate continued to loom during a superb synthed-up arrangement of the saucy ‘Love Resurrection’, while the distinctive meaty tones of ‘Don’t Go’ put a now nearly full O2 on their feet with our heroine even pulling a few dance moves herself.

Of course, the crowd were there for TEARS FOR FEARS, but there was a time ten months ago when all that was thrown into doubt due to “unforeseen health concerns” which postponed the original May 2018 tour. More recently, Roland Orzabal undertook rehearsals with the band alone while Curt Smith made cryptic comments on social media about possibly not being on board and all not being well! Certainly their split back in 1990 was fractious.

However, the pair got back together in 2004 for the ‘Everybody Loves A Happy Ending’ album which attracted mixed responses from fans and critics alike, but re-established TEARS FOR FEARS in their classic duo guise.

The pair certainly didn’t mess about with the start of their biggest ever UK show, launching straight into ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’ following a taped intro of Lorde’s cover version. One of the most perfect driving songs, Smith and Orzabal seemed to be in good spirits although any onstage chemistry between them was notably absent.

From ‘Everybody Loves A Happy Ending’, ‘Secret World’ featuring a section of Paul McCartney’s ‘Let ‘Em In’ went down well, the song getting better over the years like a fine wine. Continuing THE BEATLES themed vibe, the rousing ‘Sowing the Seeds Of Love’ also did the job.

Meanwhile the classic ‘Pale Shelter’ recalled the emotional angst that was part of TEARS FOR FEARS’ original appeal with drummer Jamie Wollam remaining largely faithful to the original, but providing the necessary dynamic bite for the occasion by substituting the programmed synthetic claps towards the end with snare rolls.

This approach didn’t work all night however, with Wollam having a bit of a Christian Eigner moment during ‘Memories Fade’ which did not suit the solemn electronic goth at all, but at least it was mercifully short!

‘Break It Down Again’ from the solo Orzabal incarnation of TEARS FOR FEARS got an airing but suffered from the quality of material around it. ‘Change’ got the squeaky audience vocal treatment but as mighty as ever, ‘Mad World’ had everyone mesmerised, although Orzabal eschewed his iconic jerky dance from the video which was often ridiculed but captured the song’s percussive intensity.

A huge surprise came with a stripped down piano version of ‘Suffer The Children’ sweetly sung by backing singer Carina Round; covered in more recent times by MARSHEAUX, the song certainly suits a female voice although Orzabal joined in for the closing title refrain.

Carina Round also did a wonderful job replicating Oleta Adam’s part in ‘Woman In Chains’ while Smith took the lead again on ‘Advice For the Young at Heart’.

Defeat was almost snatched from victory with the inclusion of the dreadfully self-indulgent ‘Badman’s Song’ which promoted much of the audience to sit down, but everything got back on track with the anthemic ‘Head Over Heels’ before the band left the stage to the frantic rock of ‘Broken’.

As the lights went down to tease an encore, the audience began to chant the chorus of ‘Shout’, a moment which Smith decided to capture on his phone as he returned. And with blood red visuals and shots of confetti, a brilliant performance of the lead track from ‘Songs From The Big Chair’ complete with Drumulator and live rhythmic interplay concluded a professionally slick presentation where the songs were the stars.

But it must be said that things appeared tense between Orzabal and Smith. There was certainly none of those hand on shoulder moments that are commonly associated with band mates but then, TEARS FOR FEARS have never been that kind of band.

That aside, it was fabulous that the pair were able to remind the wider public of their enduring catalogue and whatever the state of their personal relationship, the evening mostly delivered and entertained.

TEARS FOR FEARS rescheduled 2019 UK tour with special guest ALISON MOYET continues:

Leeds First Direct Arena (9th February), Glasgow SSE Hydro (11th February), Birmingham Genting Arena (12th February), Nottingham Motorpoint Arena (13th February)

Other UK dates in 2019 include:

London Hampton Court Palace (18th – 19th June), Northwich Delamere Forest (21st June), Woodstock Blenheim Palace (22nd June)





ALISON MOYET reunites with TEARS FOR FEARS at Munich Sommer Tollwood (12th July)





Text and Photos by Chi Ming Lai
7th February 2019


DUBSTAR are back and after eighteen years since their last album ‘Make It Better’, ‘One’ is their first long playing offering as a duo.

Now comprising of Sarah Blackwood and Chris Wilkie, with the guitarist now taking on the songwriting duties, the new numbers naturally have more of a six string slant although that wonderfully forlorn vocal presence is still very much there.

Having sat on the bridge between Britpop and Synth Britannia under the auspices of PET SHOP BOYS and NEW ORDER producer Stephen Hague for their debut album ‘Disgraceful’, ‘One’ has been produced by Youth, whose credits include CROWDED HOUSE, THE CHARLATANS, EMBRACE and THE VERVE.

Suitably melancholic, opening song ‘Love Comes Late’ sees Sarah Blackwood cynically pondering within a midlife narrative, at last finding love but being too old to truly appreciate it. With a live sounding drum feel and a superb synthetic bassline, this will please those who might have first discovered DUBSTAR via a ‘Shine’ compilation.

Psychedelic overtones linger all over ‘One’, especially on THE BEATLES-esque ‘Torched’ and ‘Please Stop Leaving Me Alone’ with its frenetic Hammond organ and Wilkie’s guitars… dare one even mention the ‘O’ word!

With trumpet from Michael Rendall who also contributes keyboards throughout ‘One’, the classic brass infused pop of ‘I Hold Your Heart’ takes Blackwood on Northern Soul journey but in the truest geographical sense.

‘Waltz No9’, the introspective synth-less tune that launched DUBSTAR’s return is the album’s ‘Just A Girl She Said’, while also maintaining the aura of classic DUBSTAR is ‘You Were Never In Love’, coming over all dreamy and uplifting despite its downcast tone.

The most electronic number on ‘One’ is the gorgeous ‘Locked Inside’, with elements of KRAFTWERK creeping in and even TEARS FOR FEARS as Blackwood tells of how “my hands are tied”; more of Roland and Curt’s spectre looms on the shuffling swing of the bittersweet ‘Why Don’t You Kiss Me?’

The lovely three-part vocal harmonic of ’Mantra’ punctuates another psychedelic flavoured number to close ‘One’, and it’s an brilliantly epic song that one could imagine John Lennon coming up with if he had collaborated with THE HOLLIES!

DUBSTAR’s appeal has always been their down-to-earth kitchen sink dramas and there are certainly no shortage of those on ‘One’.

With more of a guitar driven aesthetic, Blackwood and Wilkie have revitalised DUBSTAR and long standing fans who also loved ‘Goodbye’ and ‘Make It Better’ will not be disappointed at all with this long-awaited comeback album.

Is it asking too much to be given time? Not at all, the new DUBSTAR album has been well worth the wait.

‘One’ is released on 12th October 2018 by Northern Writes in CD, vinyl LP, cassette and digital formats, pre-order direct from https://dubstar.tmstor.es





Text by Chi Ming Lai
26th September 2018

« Older posts