Tag: The Human League (Page 1 of 16)

THE ELECTRONIC LEGACY OF 1979

While 1979 saw a post-punk revolution with new wave and ska emerge as energetic expressions of youth with the likes of JOY DIVISION, XTC, THE SPECIALS and MADNESS, maturer acts with power pop sensibilities such as BLONDIE and THE POLICE dominated the UK charts.

But the synthesizer had become a new tool of creativity for those who weren’t interested in learning chords on a guitar and preferred to use one finger, thanks to its new found affordability with refined technology from Japan. While electronics had been present in disco, progressive rock and esoteric avant garde forms, following seminal records in 1978 such as ‘Warm Leatherette’ b/w ‘TVOD’ by THE NORMAL and ‘Being Boiled’ by THE HUMAN LEAGUE, a new DIY artpop form was developing that would eventually take on KRAFTWERK at their own game.

Among those fledgling electronic acts who released their debut singles in 1979 on independent labels were OMD with ‘Electricity’ on Factory Records and FAD GADGET with ‘Back To Nature’ on Mute Records. Meanwhile on another independent Rough Trade, CABARET VOLTAIRE achieved a wider breakthrough with ‘Nag Nag Nag’, the standalone single accompanying their first album ‘Mix-Up’.

Having experimented with synths on ‘Low’ released in 1977, David Bowie had gone to see THE HUMAN LEAGUE at The Nashville in late 1978 and hailed them as “the future of rock ‘n’ roll”. Alas it was TUBEWAY ARMY fronted by Gary Numan who beat THE HUMAN LEAGUE to the top of the UK singles charts in Summer 1979 with Are Friends Electric?’. However, just a few weeks earlier, SPARKS had taken the Giorgio Moroder produced ‘No1 Song In Heaven’ into the UK Top20. But however history is perceived, a revolution had begun that would lead to the dawn of “synthpop” in 1980.

Here are 20 albums which ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK sees as contributing to the electronic legacy of 1979. They are listed in alphabetical order with a restriction of one album per artist moniker, meaning Gary Numan and Edgar Froese appear twice…


ASHRA Correlations

As ASHRA, Manuel Göttsching released what many consider to be his first ambient masterpiece ‘New Age Of Earth’. On 1978’s ‘Blackouts’, he expanded the line-up to include drumming synthesist Harald Grosskopf and guitarist Lutz Ulbrich which continued on ‘Correlations’. Despite being more rock-oriented, it featured sequenced electronics with ‘Club Cannibal’ almost entering Jean-Michel Jarre territory.

‘Correlations’ is still available via Spalax Music

https://www.electricityclub.co.uk/manuel-gottsching-1952-2022/


PETER BAUMANN Trans Harmonic Nights

Although he had released ‘Romance ‘76’ while still a member of TANGERINE DREAM, Peter Baumann’s first solo album after departing the band was something of an interim record before venturing into electronic pop with ‘Repeat Repeat’. Mostly shorter instrumental compositions using mysterious melodies and occasional vocoder textures, ‘Trans Harmonic Nights’ remains something of an underrated electronic gem.

‘Trans Harmonic Nights’ is still available via Cherry Red Records

https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/trans-harmonic-nights-remastered-edition/


EDGAR FROESE Stuntman

With TANGERINE DREAM taking a misstep with ‘Cyclone’ and perhaps prompted by the success of Jean-Michel Jarre’s electronic symphonies, on his fifth solo album ‘Stuntman’, Edgar Froese was at his most accessible with strong synth melodies, particularly on the title track. Elsewhere, new ages resonances were starting to develop while on ‘Drunk Mozart In The Desert’, there was atmospherics coupled with a rhythmic bounce.

‘Stuntman’ is still available via Virgin Records

https://www.edgarfroese.de/


GINA X PERFORMANCE Nice Mover

Produced and co-written by Zeus B Held, the debut album by androgynous art history student Gina Kikoine featured an array of ARP and Moog synths to signal the birth of a new European Underground. Cult club favourite ‘No GDM’ was written in honour of the “great dark man” Quentin Crisp while other highlights included the detached vocoder assisted robotic soul of the title song and the feisty gender statement ‘Be A Boy’.

Available on the album ‘Nice Mover + Voyeur’ via Les Disques du Crepuscule

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


GIORGIO E=MC²

With Giorgio Moroder acquiring Roland’s new System 700 and an MC8 Micro-composer to control it, ‘E=MC2’ was touted as the first “electronic live-to-digital” album. This allowed for an uptempo funkiness previously unheard on sequencer based music to come into play. With the electronically treated vocals and euphoric energy of the marvellous ‘What A Night’, the sound of DAFT PUNK was inadvertently being invented!

‘E=MC²’ is still available via Repertoire Records

https://www.giorgiomoroder.com/


STEVE HILLAGE Rainbow Dome Musick

As a member of GONG and solo artist, Steve Hillage had a love of German experimental music and ventured into ambient with long standing partner Miquette Giraudy. Recorded for the Rainbow Dome at the ‘Festival For Mind-Body-Spirit’ at London’s Olympia, these two lengthy Moog and ARP assisted tracks each had a beautifully spacey vibe to induce total relaxation with a colourful sound spectrum.

‘Rainbow Dome Musick’ is still available via Virgin Records

http://www.stevehillage.com/


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Reproduction

With a manifesto of “synthesizers and vocals only”, the debut album by THE HUMAN LEAGUE included ‘Empire State Human’, ‘Circus Of Death’, ‘Almost Medieval’, ‘Blind Youth’ and a stark cover of ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’. Produced by Colin Thurston, while ‘Reproduction’ was not a commercial success, Philip Oakey, Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware gained valuable experience that would progress their careers.

‘Reproduction’ is still available via Virgin Records

https://www.electricityclub.co.uk/martyn-ware-the-reproduction-travelogue-interview/


JAPAN Quiet Life

Although considered a 1980 album, the third JAPAN long player was actually released late 1979 in Japan, Canada, Holland and Germany. Featuring the sequencer-driven title song as well as the rockier ‘Halloween’ and a cover of THE VELVET UNDERGROUND’s ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’, despite Roxy rip-off accusations, it was a major artistic step forward as a quality timeless work embracing synths, muzak and orchestrations.

‘Quiet Life’ is still available via BMG

https://www.electricityclub.co.uk/rob-dean-the-quiet-life-interview/


GARY NUMAN The Pleasure Principle

Devoid of guitar but using a flesh-and-blood rhythm section, Gary Numan realised his dream of producing a new form, machine rock. Synths were fed through guitar effects pedals to add a more sinister metallic tone and while there was sombre isolation communicated on all the songs, there was a catchy melodic sensibility to songs such as ‘Cars’, ‘Metal’, ‘Films’, ‘Engineers’ and ‘M.E.’ which turned Numan into the first synthesizer pop star.

‘The Pleasure Principle’ is still available via Beggars Banquet

https://garynuman.com/


ROBERT RENTAL & THOMAS LEER The Bridge

Originally released on THROBBING GRISTLE’s Industrial Records, ‘The Bridge’ album saw Scottish duo Thomas Leer and Robert Rental trading vocal and instrumental duties using early affordable synths such as the EDP Wasp. Comprising of a side of five songs and a side with four ambient instrumentals, ‘Day Breaks, Night Heals’ and ‘Monochrome Days’ both showcased an avant pop sensibility. Robert Rental sadly passed away in 2000.

‘The Bridge’ is still available via Mute Artists

https://www.electricityclub.co.uk/story-of-thomas-leer-robert-rental/


ROEDELIUS Selbstportrait

Best known as a member of CLUSTER with the late Dieter Moebius and working with Brian Eno on two albums, ‘Selbstportrait’ was Hans-Joachim Roedelius’ third solo long player. This was a “self-portrait” reflecting the gentle introspective ambience of the record. Something of a sister record to the 1977’s marvellous ‘Sowiesoso’, it was more accessible than CLUSTER’s own structurally minimal ‘Grosses Wasser’ also issued in 1979.

‘Selbstportrait’ is still available via Bureau B

https://www.roedelius.com/


KLAUS SCHULZE Dune

After the ambitious double opus ‘X’ which also incorporated strings in a record comprising of “Six Musical Biographies” in honour of figures including philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and ‘Dune’ author Frank Herbert, Klaus Schulze conceived an actual album called ‘Dune’. Something of a diversion, ‘Shadows of Ignorance’ featured the eccentric poetry of Arthur Brown while the experimental ambient title track made use of cello.

‘Dune’ is still available via Bureau B

https://klaus-schulze.com/


SIMPLE MINDS Real To Real Cacophony

Stronger than their debut LP ‘Life In A Day’, SIMPLE MINDS started experimenting with more electronics and a very European austere on its swift follow-up ‘Real To Real Cacophony’ with the title song presenting their take on KRAFTWERK’s ‘Radio-Activity’. Underground and pulsating through on ‘Changeling’, that breakthrough single and ‘Premonition’ really were a sign of things to come in their dark avant disco templates.

‘Real To Real Cacophony’ is still available via Virgin Records

https://www.simpleminds.com/


SPARKS No1 In Heaven

Following the inspirational success of ‘I Feel Love’, SPARKS were put in contact with its producer Giorgio Moroder who had aspirations to work with a band. The resultant album saw Russell Mael’s flamboyant falsetto fitting well with the pulsing electronic disco template. ‘The No1 Song In Heaven’ hit the UK Top 20 a few months before ‘Are Friends Electric?’ while the follow-up ‘Beat The Clock’ got into the Top 10.

‘No1 In Heaven’ is still available via Lil Beethoven Records

http://www.allsparks.com/


TANGERINE DREAM Force Majeure

Still feeling the void left by the departure of Pete Baumann, following the vocal experiment of ‘Cyclone’, Edgar Froese and Christopher Franke opted to retain drummer in Klaus Krüger. While there was also increased guitar and piano usage, the title song and ‘Thru Metamorphic Rocks’ utilised pulsing sequencer passages to signal the future Hollywood direction that TANGERINE DREAM would head in.

‘Force Majeure’ is still available via Virgin Records

https://www.tangerinedreammusic.com/


TELEX Looking For Saint Tropez

The ethos of Belgian trio TELEX was “making something really European, different from rock, without guitar”. ‘Looking For Saint Tropez’ contained ‘Moscow Diskow’ which took the Trans-Siberian Express to Moscow by adding a funkier groove. Also included were funereal robotic covers of ‘Rock Around The Clock’ which was a UK Top40 hit and Plastic Bertrand’s ‘Ça Plane Pour Moi’ as well as their deadpan debut single ‘Twist A Saint Tropez’.

‘Looking For Saint Tropez’ is still available via Mute Artists

https://www.facebook.com/ThisIsTelex


THROBBING GRISTLE 20 Jazz Funk Greats

The title and the group photo on Beachy Head were tongue-in-cheek statements but THROBBING GRISTLE were still deathly uncompromising as shown by ‘Persuasion’. However, there were glints of light with the glorious cascading instrumental ‘Walkabout’ and mutant disco lento of ‘Hot On The Heels Of Love’ as Cosey Fanni Tutti’s whispered vocals competed with synthetic whip-crack and drill noises!

‘20 Jazz Funk Greats’ is still available via Mute Artists

https://www.throbbing-gristle.com/


TUBEWAY ARMY Replicas

Whereas the TUBEWAY ARMY debut featured punk tunes with added synth, ‘Replicas’ would see the Philip K Dick inspired dystopian vision of Gary Numan paired with appropriate electronic sounds as the main melodic component on the now classic UK No1 ‘Are Friends Electric?’. But the earlier singles ‘Down In The Park’ and the lengthy instrumental ‘I Nearly Married A Human’ pointed to a future guitar-free follow-up.

‘Replicas’ is still available via Beggars Banquet

https://www.electricityclub.co.uk/beginners-guide-gary-numan/


VANGELIS China

Although VANGELIS had never been to China at the time the album was recorded, he had developed a passionate fascination for its people, culture and vast landscape, noting a connection between ethnic Greek and Chinese music. Using traditional elements alongside his synthesizers, the centrepieces were the majestic ‘Chung Kuo’ and the meditative pentatonic piece ‘The Tao Of Love’. ‘China’ remains an underrated record in his canon.

‘China’ is still available via Universal Music

https://elsew.com/


YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA Solid State Survivor

The second and best YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA album featured an embarrassment of riches.  It included the glorious Technopop of ‘Rydeen’, the mighty citypop of ‘Technopolis’, the moodier ‘Castalia’ and the Cossack romp of ‘Absolute Ego Dance’.  But it was the iconic ‘Behind The Mask’ originally composed for Seiko which was later covered by Greg Phillinganes, Eric Clapton and Michael Jackson.

‘Solid State Survivor’ is still available via Sony Music Direct

http://www.ymo.org/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
1 January 2024

THE ELECTRONIC LEGACY OF 1980

David Bowie had famously dropped in to see THE HUMAN LEAGUE at The Nashville in late 1978 and hailed them as “the future of rock ‘n’ roll”.

But it was TUBEWAY ARMY fronted by Gary Numan who beat THE HUMAN LEAGUE to the top of the UK singles charts in Summer 1979 with Are Friends Electric?’ while just a few weeks earlier, SPARKS had been become willing conspirators with Giorgio Moroder on ‘The No1 Song In Heaven’ to effectively invent the synth duo.

Although it was the dawn of synth, 1980 was a transitional time when the synth was still the exception rather than the rule. The landscape was changing and the seed of what became the New Romantic movement had been planted.

Following the critical mauling he received for his 1979 album ‘Lodger’ but aware of his burgeoning influence in these futuristic sounds, Bowie headed down to The Blitz with RCA assistant and club regular Jacqueline Bucknell to cast extras including the late Steve Strange for the video of his new single ‘Ashes To Ashes’. It hit the top of UK charts and confirmed that once again “There’s old wave. There’s new wave. And there’s David Bowie…”

While Bowie’s was not an electronic artist in the way some of the next generation of artists had declared themselves, he couldn’t resist a sly dig at the acts that he’d inspired, using the line “same old thing in brand new drag” on the track ‘Teenage Wildlife’ from his next album ‘Scary Monsters’. And he was eventually to beat previous winner Gary Numan to the year’s ‘Best Male Singer’ accolade at the BBC endorsed British Rock & Pop Awards.

Belatedly looking back to 42 years ago before automatic stations came, here are 20 albums which ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK sees as contributing to the electronic legacy of 1980. They are listed in alphabetical order with a restriction of one album per act.


BUGGLES The Age Of Plastic

Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes met while working with Tina Charles and her producer Biddu. Together they would go on to form BUGGLES and score a No1 with ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’. From the parent album ‘The Age Of Plastic’, ‘Astroboy’ developed on the duo’s sonic adventures while ‘The Plastic Age’ and ‘Clean Clean’ provided further if minor hits. Horn would go on become a top record producer.

‘The Age Of Plastic’ is still available via Island Records / Universal Music

https://twitter.com/Trevor_Horn_


DALEK I Compass Kum’Pas

Before OMD, the electronic duo on The Wirral was DALEK I LOVE YOU. However, by the time their debut album ‘Compass Kum’pas’ was released, OMD were having hits and keyboards man Dave Hughes had left to join their live band. Although Alan Gill’s vocals could polarise opinion, ‘Destiny’ was their most immediate song with a precise percussive appeal while ‘The World’ was eccentric and retro-futuristic.

‘Compass Kum’Pas’ is still available via Mercury Records

http://www.discogs.com/artist/Dalek+I


FAD GADGET Fireside Favourites

The success of the singles ‘Back To Nature’ and ‘Ricky’s Hand’ attracted a loyal fanbase, so a FAD GADGET album  ‘Fireside Favourites’ was eagerly anticipated. Developing on the minimal industrialism of the singles, the superb ‘Coitus Interruptus’ was a cynical commentary on casual relationships while offering his own brand of romantic macabre in the fear of the imminent nuclear apocalypse was the neo-title song ‘Fireside Favourite’.

‘Fireside Favourites’ is still available via Mute Records

https://mute.com/artists/fad-gadget


JOHN FOXX Metamatic

On the ULTRAVOX! eponymous debut,John Foxx announced “I want to be a machine”. On signing to Virgin Records as a solo artist, he virtually went the full hog with the seminal JG Ballard inspired ’Metamatic’. ‘Underpass’ and ‘No-One Driving’ were surprise hit singles that underlined the dystopian times while the fabulous ‘A New Kind Of Man’ and the deviant ‘He’s A Liquid’ were pure unadulterated Sci-Fi driven by the cold mechanics of a Roland Compurhythm.

‘Metamatic’ is still available via Metamatic Records

http://www.metamatic.com/


HARALD GROSSKOPF Synthesist

Having worked with Klaus Schulze and Manuel Göttsching, drummer turned keyboard player Harald Grosskopf took the plunge to go solo with the mind bending album ‘Synthesist’. A work comprising of eight instrumentals that blended a sonic tapestry of synthesizer soundscapes with drumming that provided colour as opposed to dominance, it musically followed in the exquisite tradition of his Berlin electronic friends.

‘Synthesist‘ is still available via by Bureau B

https://www.haraldgrosskopf.de/englisch/home.html


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Travelogue

With THE HUMAN LEAGUE learning lessons from their debut ‘Reproduction’, ‘Travelogue’ had more presence by creatively utilising the harsh screeching frequencies from overdriving their studio desk. ‘The Black Hit Of Space’ had its surreal Sci-Fi lyrics while ‘Dreams Of Leaving’ was a fantastically emotive slice of prog synth. There were glorious cover versions in ‘Only After Dark’ and ‘Gordon’s Gin’. While it was a breakthrough, all was not happy…

‘Travelogue’ is still available via Virgin Records

https://martynwareofficial.co.uk/


JAPAN Gentlemen Take Polaroids

Dropped by Ariola Hansa, JAPAN found a refuge at Virgin Records. The bossa nova driven ‘Swing’ explored exotic grooves while the haunting ‘Nightporter’ was the ultimate Erik Satie tribute. An interest in Japanese technopop produced the brilliant ‘Methods Of Dance’ and saw leader David Sylvian collaborate with YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA’s Ryuichi Sakamoto on  ‘Taking Islands In Africa’.

‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’ is still available via Virgin Records

http://www.nightporter.co.uk/


JOY DIVISION Closer

While not strictly an electronic album in full, half of ‘Closer’ was dominated by polyphonic synthesizers. Featuring an ARP Omni and an early version of Simmons drums, ‘Isolation’ was the most electronic track JOY DIVISION ever recorded. On the second side, ‘Heart & Soul’, ‘The Eternal’ and ‘Decades’ provided the solemn but beautiful Gothic backdrop producer by Martin Hannett for Ian Curtis’ elaborate musical suicide note.

‘Closer’ is still available via Rhino

http://joydivisionofficial.com/


LA DÜSSELDORF Individuellos

LA DÜSSELDORF were fronted by the late Klaus Dinger of NEU! There was a greater presence of electronics and the first half of ‘Individuellos’was dominated by variations on ‘Menschen’, a grand statement sounding like a blueprint for Phil Lynott’s ‘Yellow Pearl’. ‘Dampfriemen’ was a quirky slice of synth oompah with comedic chants and a kazoo section while the piano laden ‘Das Yvönnchen’ provided a beautiful closer.

‘Individuellos’ is still available via Warner Germany

https://www.discogs.com/artist/152540-La-Düsseldorf


NEW MUSIK From A To B

Time has shown that Tony Mansfield and NEW MUSIK with their strummed guitar alongside pretty synth melodies were underrated. Featuring the hits ‘Living By Numbers’, ‘This World Of Water’ and ‘Sanctuary’ as well as ‘On Islands’ which was later covered by CAMOUFLAGE, the band were dismissed as a novelty act due to the silly voices in their songs. Mansfield went on to produce A-HA, NAKED EYES and VICIOUS PINK.

‘From A To B’ is still available via Lemon Records

https://www.new-musik.co.uk/


GARY NUMAN Telekon

The negative side of fame got into the psyche of Gary Numan and his new songs took on a more personal downbeat nature away from the Sci-Fi dystopia of his previous work. ‘This Wreckage’ and ‘Please Push No More’ summed up the self-doubt but while ‘Remind Me To Smile’ could have been a single, ‘Telekon’ suffered from not having the hit single ‘We Are Glass’ and ‘I Die: You Die’ included on the original LP release.

‘Telekon’ is still available via Beggars Banquet

https://garynuman.com/


OMD Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark

OMD released two albums in 1980 but their self-titled debut captured Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys using the most basic equipment, the duo not even having a polyphonic synth at the time. With energetic post-punk synth numbers such as ‘Electricity’ and ‘Bunker Soldiers’, on the other side of the coin were ‘Almost’ and ‘The Messerschmitt Twins’. An early version of ‘Messages’ pointed to hit singles.

‘Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark’ is still available via Virgin Records

http://www.omd.uk.com/


ROBERT PALMER Clues

Although rooted in the blues via his previous band VINEGAR JOE, Robert Palmer took an interest in synths having become a fan of Gary Numan. That led to two collaborations including a version of ‘I Dream Of Wires’ released before Numan’s own recording and the Eastern flavoured ‘Found You Now’. The electronic centrepiece was the beautifully world weary ‘Johnny & Mary’ while ‘Looking for Clues’ added synthy art funk to the mix.

‘Clues’ is still available via Island Records / Universal Music

http://www.robertpalmer.com/


SILICON TEENS Music For Parties

Following the acclaim for THE NORMAL, Daniel Miller undertook a new project SILICON TEENS as a fictitious synth group where rock ’n’ roll standards such as ‘Memphis Tennessee’, ‘Just Like Eddie’, ‘Let’s Dance’ and ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’ were enjoyably reinterpreted in a quirky synthpop style with Miller adding his deadpan monotone vocal. Frank Tovey aka FAD GADGET played the role of lead singer “Darryl” for videos and press.

‘Music For Parties’ is still available via Mute Records

https://mute.com/artists/silicon-teens


SIMPLE MINDS Empires & Dance

Tours opening for Gary Numan and Peter Gabriel took SIMPLE MINDS around Europe to experience Cold War tensions at closer hand. Their wired mood was captured on ‘Empires & Dance’. With its speedy Moroder-esque influence, ‘I Travel’ was a screeching futuristic frenzy and ‘Celebrate’ brought some industrial Schaffel to the party. ’30 Frames A Second’ took a trip down the autobahn but ‘Twist / Run / Repulsion’ messed with the headspace of listeners.

‘Empires & Dance’ is still available via Virgin Records

https://www.simpleminds.com/


SPARKS Terminal Jive

Following the Giorgio Moroder steered album ‘No1 In Heaven’, SPARKS were despatched by Virgin Records to record a swift follow-up. Although Moroder was still nominally at the helm, Harold Faltermeyer took the majority of production duties on ‘Terminal Jive’. ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll People In A Disco World’ seemed to reflect the confused direction but ‘When I’m With You’ was a massive hit single in France, leading to the Mael Brothers’ relocation.

‘Terminal Jive’ is still available via Repertoire Records

http://allsparks.com


TANGERINE DREAM Tangram

After experiments with vocals on ‘Cyclone’ and live drums on ‘Force Majeure’, with the recruitment on keyboards with Johannes Schmoelling to fill the difficult to fill void left by the departure of Peter Baumann, Edgar Froese and Christopher Franke got back on track, combining a more immediate sequencer drive with the melodic New Age resonances on the two part ‘Tangram’ set that would characterise TANGERINE DREAM’s later work.

‘Tangram’ is still available via Virgin Records

https://tangerinedreammusic.com/


TELEX Neurovision

The second TELEX album ‘Neurovision’ continued with the trio’s tradition of deadpan electronic covers and a gloriously metronomic take on ‘Dance To The Music’ showcased their penchant for mischievous subversion. But this mischief came to its head with their lampooning self-composed number ‘Euro-Vision’, a bouncy electropop tune which they actually entered for 1980 Eurovision Song Contest, coming seventeenth!

‘Neurovision’ is still available via Mute Artists

https://mutebank.co.uk/collections/telex


ULTRAVOX Vienna

Following the first VISAGE sessions, Midge Ure was invited to join Billy Currie, Chris Cross and Warren Cann in ULTRAVOX. Providing a sonic continuity from the John Foxx-led era was producer Conny Plank while the robotic spy story ‘Mr X’ voiced by Cann provided another link. Opening with the mighty instrumental ‘Astradyne’ and closing with the synthesized heavy metal of ‘All Stood Still’, the ‘Vienna’ album was a triumph.

‘Vienna’ is still available via Chrysalis Records

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


VISAGE Visage

Formed as a reaction to the shortage of new electronic dance music to play at The Blitz Club, ex-RICH KIDS members Midge Ure and Rusty Egan recruited its figurehead Steve Strange to front the project under the name of VISAGE. Billy Currie, Dave Formula, John McGeoch and Barry Adamson joined later and captured a synthesized European romanticism that boasted the German No1 ‘Fade To Grey’ as well as two other hits in ‘Mind Of A Toy’ and the eponymous title track.

‘Visage’ is still available via Rubellan Remasters

https://www.therealvisage.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
29 December 2023

MUSIK MUSIC MUSIQUE 3.0 1982 | Synth Pop On The Air

Cherry Red’s ‘Musik Music Musique’ series now reaches its third volume and 1982 when there was “Synth Pop On The Air”.

From the team behind the ’Close To The Noise Floor’ compendiums, the excellent ‘Electrical Language’ set but also the rather confused ‘Music For New Romantics’ box, this 3CD collection documents the year after SOFT CELL hit No1 with ‘Tainted Love’ in the summer of 1981 while THE HUMAN LEAGUE did likewise with ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ to bag that year’s Christmas topspot. 1982 began with KRAFTWERK belatedly reaching a No1 too with ‘The Model’, a track from 1978’s ‘The Man Machine’.

It was as if the world had caught up with the sound of the synth. The period was also notable for affordable silicon chip based polysynths such as the Roland Juno 6 and Korg Poly 6 entering the market. In tandem with the improvement in quality of cassette-based 4-track Portastudios, electronic music became more accessible with basic home studios now a hive of musical creativity.

While the big hitters such as SOFT CELL, OMD, BLANCMANGE, THE HUMAN LEAGUE and ULTRAVOX are represented by album tracks and B-sides alongside breakthrough singles by NEW ORDER, FASHIØN and HEAVEN 17, the curiosity value of ‘Musik Music Musique 3.0’ is boosted by a greater proportion of lesser known tracks and acts compared with the first two compendiums.

Often dismissed as a MOR act thanks to the Giorgio Moroder produced ‘Take My Breath Away, BERLIN are provided a platform for the provocative and more classically Moroder-esque ‘Sex (I’m A….)’. Meanwhile with a not dissimilar throbbing template, DEAD OR ALIVE’s ‘What I Want’ in previously unreleased demo form captures the band in transition from proto-goth to HI-NRG disco and sounding like both simultaneously.

Wonderful lost synthpop jewels include the melodramatic ‘Juliet’ from PASSION POLKA and the bouncy SPANDAU BALLET inspired instrumental ‘Profile Dance’ by SERGEANT FROG, an early alias of PWL mixmaster Phil Harding. Echoing the slightly overblown vocal styles of the period, ‘Future Shock’ by COMMUNICATION falls under the spell of ASSOCIATES while both ‘Climb Down’ from THIRTEEN AT MIDNIGHT and ‘Instant Feeling’ by AERIAL FX are percussively anxious.

The two best rare highlights both come with links to Glasgow; fronted by David Rudden, ENDGAMES played with a brand polished synthpop funk of which ‘First Last For Everything’ is a good example. Meanwhile, LEISURE PROCESS were the duo comprising of Ross Middleton and Gary Barnacle whose small portfolio of singles were all produced by Martin Rushent; although the vocals were virtually unintelligible over the clattering Linn Drum, pulsing synths, squawky guitar and sax, ‘Love Cascade’ remains a cool dancefloor friendly number reflecting the decadent spirit of the times.

The underrated COLOURBOX are represented by the 1982 single version of ‘Breakdown’ while DRINKING ELECTRICITY’s ‘Good Times’ explores a synth art funk hybrid that threatens to turn into ‘The Locomotion’. An actual cover version, JULIE & THE JEMS take on ‘1-2-3’ is a reflection of how commercial pop had become synthed up, especially when it is learnt that front woman Julie Harris was part of the line-up of TIGHT FIT that got to No1 later in 1982 with ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’; incidentally that rework was produced by Tim Friese-Greene who later became Mark Hollis’s writing partner in TALK TALK who themselves are represented on ‘Musik Music Musique 3.0’ by their slightly underwhelming debut single ‘Mirror Man’.

There is a surprise in that Arthur Brown of ‘Fire’ fame with his synth experiment ‘Conversations’ and it is suitably crazy and enjoyable in the manner of early FALCO. The late Austrian himself is represented by ‘Maschine Brennt’ while German neighbours DIE KRUPPS’ ‘Goldfinger’ is a welcome inclusion that exposes their more DAF-like origins.

Adding a less confrontational continental tone, ‘Par Hasard’ by MIKADO is a slice of delightful electro-lounge, while Belgium’s TELEX bring swing into the mix with ‘Sigmund Freud’s Party’ and Switzerland’s YELLO exude their quirky playfulness on ‘Heavy Whispers’, albeit with a darker disposition.

It is interesting to look back at the lesser remembered Kim Wilde single ‘Child Come Away’ and Toyah’s 1982 re-recording of ‘Ieya’ which were both synth dominated but failed to crack the Top 40 despite the sound being ubiquitous on the airwaves. There was the beginning of a notable synth backlash after the triumph of 1981 and DEXY’S MIDNIGHT RUNNERS fiddly ‘Come On Eileen’ becoming the best-selling UK single of 1982 was a surefire sign. And that was without the Musicians Union motion to ban synths from recording and live performance.

Cult acts of the period FAD GADGET, THE PASSAGE, FIAT LUX, SECTION 25 and POEME ELECTRONIQUE along with the two Thomases, Dolby and Lang don’t miss out on the party, but notably absent are bands who had been part of earlier sets such as NEW MUSIK and VISAGE whose 1982 albums have worthy material to mine.

Closing with OMEGA THEATRE and the quite bizarre but entertaining ‘Robots, Machines & Silicon Dreams’, its classic pop theatrics are not entirely surprising as its creator John Carter co-wrote the 1970 Eurovision runner-up ‘Knock, Knock Who’s There?’ for Mary Hopkin, ‘Let’s Go to San Francisco’ for THE FLOWER POT MEN and ‘Beach Baby’ for THE FIRST CLASS.

However, as before, there are minor quibbles; while the correct 1982 versions of NEW ORDER’s ‘Temptation’, TEARS FOR FEARS ‘Pale Shelter’ and Paul Haig’s ‘Justice’ feature, ‘European Son’ by JAPAN comes in the earlier John Punter B-side version rather the snappier 1982 Steve Nye single remix. And then having mentioned in the booklet that OMD’s ‘She’s Leaving’ was released as a slightly remixed 1982 single in Benelux territories, the compilation goes with the familiar 1981 ‘Architecture & Morality’ album cut. Meanwhile the inclusion of ‘Sex Dwarf’ from 1981’s ‘Non Stop Erotic Cabaret’ is a head scratcher when the 1982 SOFT CELL B-sides ‘Insecure Me’, ‘….So’ or ‘It’s A Mug’s Game’ would have been more interesting.

Lessons have still not been learnt from previous booklets with photos of OMD from 1984 and DEAD OR ALIVE from 1985 appearing. Again, the booklet notes are a mixed bag; why bother to bang on about the John Foxx-era of ULTRAVOX with the limited word count when by 1982, the Midge Ure-led version were an established hit machine? Also, why does the story of JOY DIVISION need to be repeated ad nauseam  in the context of NEW ORDER?

Meanwhile, DRAMATIS (who are represented by their best single ‘The Shame’) returned to being Gary Numan’s live backing band in 1983, not 1982! Then with the biggest gaff in the TEARS FOR FEARS section, Curt Smith played bass NOT guitar and vice versa for Roland Jaime Orzabal de la Quintana to give his full name!

So full marks for the amount of lesser known material gathered on ‘Musik Music Musique 3.0’, but please get the accompanying booklet sorted out for ‘Musik Music Musique 4.0’ as there have been enough opportunities now to get that side of the operation right. Roll on 1983…


‘Musik Music Musique 3.0: 1982 – Synth Pop On The Air’ is released by Cherry Red on 17th February 2023 as a 3CD boxed set

https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/musik-music-musique-3-0-1982-synthpop-on-the-air-3cd-box-set/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
13tn February 2023

THE ELECTRONIC LEGACY OF 1983

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


CABARET VOLTAIRE The Crackdown

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

‘The Crackdown’ is still available via Mute Artists

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


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

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

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

https://www.facebook.com/chinacrisisofficial


DEPECHE MODE Construction Time Again

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

‘Construction Time Again’ is still available via Sony Music

https://www.depechemode.com/


DURAN DURAN Seven & The Ragged Tiger

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

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

https://duranduran.com/


ENDGAMES Building Beauty

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

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

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


BRIAN ENO Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks

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

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

http://www.brian-eno.net


EURYTHMICS Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)

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

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

https://www.eurythmics.com/


JOHN FOXX The Golden Section

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

‘The Golden Section’ is still available via Edsel Records

http://www.metamatic.com/


PAUL HAIG Rhythm Of Life

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

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

http://www.paulhaig.com/


HEAVEN 17 The Luxury Gap

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

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

https://www.heaven17.com/


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Fascination!

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

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

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


NAKED EYES Burning Bridges

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

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

https://www.nakedeyesmusic.com/


NEW ORDER Power, Corruption & Lies

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

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

http://www.neworder.com/


OMD Dazzle Ships

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

‘Dazzle Ships’ is still available via Virgin Records

http://www.omd.uk.com


SOFT CELL The Art Of Falling Apart

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

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

http://www.softcell.co.uk


TEARS FOR FEARS The Hurting

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

‘The Hurting’ is still available via Mercury Records

https://tearsforfears.com/


THOMPSON TWINS Quick Step & Side Kick

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

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

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


WHITE DOOR Windows

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

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

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


YAZOO You & Me Both

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

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

https://yazooinfo.com/


YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA Naughty Boys

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

‘Naughty Boys’ is still available via Sony Music

http://www.ymo.org/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
19th January 2023

25 SONGS NOT SUNG BY THE LEAD VOCALIST

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

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

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

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

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


ULTRAVOX Mr X (1980)

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

Available on the album ‘Vienna’ via Chrysalis Records

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


DEPECHE MODE Any Second Now (1981)

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

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

https://www.depechemode.com/


DRAMATIS Turn (1981)

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

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

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


NEW ORDER Doubts Even Here (1981)

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

Available on the album ‘Movement’ via Rhino

http://www.neworder.com/


KISSING THE PINK Watching Their Eyes (1982)

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

Available on the album ‘Naked’ via Cherry Red Records

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


CHINA CRISIS Wishful Thinking (1983)

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

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

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


TEARS FOR FEARS The Hurting (1983)

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

Available on the album ‘The Hurting’ via Mercury Records

https://tearsforfears.com/


YAZOO Happy People (1983)

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

Available on the album ‘Three Pieces’ via Mute Records

https://yazooinfo.com/


BERLIN Rumor Of Love (1984)

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

Available on the album ‘Love Life’ via Rubellan Records

https://www.berlinmusic.net/


OMD Never Turn Away (1984)

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

Available on the album ‘Junk Culture’ via Virgin Records

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


PROPAGANDA Dream Within A Dream (1985)

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

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

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


KRAFTWERK The Telephone Call (1986)

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

Available on the album ‘Techno Pop’ via EMI Music

https://kraftwerk.com/


PET SHOP BOYS Paninaro (1986)

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

Available on the album ‘Alternative’ via EMI Music

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


NITZER EBB Let Beauty Loose (1987)

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

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

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


BOOK OF LOVE With A Little Love (1988)

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

Available on the album ’Lullaby’ via Noble Rot

https://www.bookoflovemusic.com/


CAMOUFLAGE Sooner Than We Think (1989)

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

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

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


KON KAN Move To Move (1989)

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

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

https://www.facebook.com/konkanofficial


THE HUMAN LEAGUE One Man In My Heart (1995)

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

Available on the album ‘Octopus’ via EastWest

https://thehumanleague.co.uk/


DURAN DURAN Medazzaland (1997)

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

Available on the album ‘Medazzaland’ via Tape Modern

https://duranduran.com


LADYTRON True Mathematics (2002)

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

Available on the album ‘Light & Magic’ via Nettwerk

https://www.ladytron.com/


KID MOXIE Medium Pleasure – Marsheaux remix (2009)

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

Available on the album ‘Selector’ via Undo Records

https://www.facebook.com/kidmoxie


DE/VISION Kamikaze (2012)

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

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

http://www.devision-music.de


TWINS NATALIA I Avoid Strangers (2014)

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

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

https://www.facebook.com/twinsnatalia


CHVRCHES High Enough To Carry You Over (2015)

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

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

http://chvrch.es/


APOPTYGMA BERZERK Nearest (2019)

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

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

http://www.theapboffice.com/


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

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