Tag: The Stranglers

HEAVEN SENT The Rise Of New Pop 1979-1983

Unlike “New Romantic”, “New Pop” was a term that never truly stuck… it was coined by Paul Morley, then a polarising writer for NME. It was used to describe forward thinking music that, while rooted in post-punk, was accessible and looked to overthrow rockist conventions by unashamedly blending a variety of styles.

The acts who found themselves considered as part of this movement included THE CURE, SIMPLE MINDS, OMD, JAPAN, CHINA CRISIS, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, SOFT CELL, HEAVEN 17, EURYTHMICS, TEARS FOR FEARS, A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS, FUN BOY THREE, SCRITTI POLITTI, THE STYLE COUNCIL, ALTERED IMAGES, DEXY’S MIDNIGHT RUNNERS, MONSOON, THE TEARDROP EXPLODES, ABC, HAIRCUT 100, THE PALE FOUNTAINS, EYELESS IN GAZA, BLUE RONDO A LA TURK, RIP RIG & PANIC, JOBOXERS, THE HIGSONS and even THE STRANGLERS.

This was a broad church that many would not have granted a common association but that was the point. Even in what appeared to be traditional band formats, new technology meant synths emulated brass sections or funk basslines while drum machines took the place of conventional sticksmen and it could all be recorded in a DIY fashion with portastudios and the like.

New Pop was about the aspirations of those disenchanted with the Winter of Discontent and then the Conservative government under Margaret Thatcher to pick up musical instruments without any formal training. The intention was to be heard, whether in the clubs, on the radio or in the charts. The ever dependable Cherry Red present ‘Heaven Sent – The Rise Of New Pop 1979-1983’, a 4CD collection compiled by the team who curated the ‘Musik Music Musique’ sets.

Of the artists that ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK would appreciate, there are fine choices that are off the beaten track away from obvious hits; THE HUMAN LEAGUE are represented by the excellent ‘Boys & Girls’ which was the first single after the departure of Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh while the latter pair’s HEAVEN 17 contribute the locomotive snap of ‘I’m Your Money’. OMD have ‘Red Frame / White Light’, the lightweight ditty about the 632 3003 phonebox which served as their office in their formative years.

But synthpop was taken to the next level with the gritty social commentary of ‘Bedsitter’ proving that SOFT CELL were more than a one hit wonders and could chart with self-written material. A sign of how angst ridden youngsters were expressing their existential and political concerns to music came with fine debut offerings respectively from TEARS FOR FEARS and CHINA CRISIS but while ‘Suffer The Children’ and ‘African & White’ were not Top40 hits, they were hints of their mainstream success to come.

A year before they subverted the singles chart with ‘Party Fears Two’, ASSOCIATES were peddling the more challenging ‘Q Quarters’ while on THE CURE lightened up with ‘Let’s Go To Bed’ in the first of their fantasy singles trilogy that would later include ‘The Walk’ and ‘The Love Cats’. And prior to DEAD OR ALIVE becoming a HI-NRG disco act, they were a brooding goth band with ‘The Stranger’ in its original Black Eyes Records incarnation as wonderful evidence of that.

Maturer acts who made an impression during this period like M, THE BUGGLES and NEW MUSIK are all present and correct with their biggest hits while one song that deserved to be a hit was the bizarre but brilliant techno-swing of ‘An Englishman In New York’ from 10CC refugees Kevin Godley and Lol Creme.

Capturing two acts in transition, fresh after departing THE TOURISTS, EURYTHMICS get served by their first German influenced single ‘Never Gonna Cry Again’ while the 7 inch single edit of ‘The Art Of Parties’ by JAPAN and its brass-fuelled exploration of more rhythmic territory makes a rare digital appearance.

The epitome of New Pop has often been seen to be ABC with ‘Poison Arrow’ and with the band plus assorted session musicians tracing the pre-programmed guide track helmed by Trevor Horn with live instrumentation, modern production was born where funk, soul and orchestrations could sit alongside the mechanised synthpop that had achieved a wider breakthrough in 1981.

With New Pop, funk was often a constituent and FAD GADGET’s ‘Make Room’ brought that in spades alongside the synth, while COLOURBOX had a cross of electronics, funk and reggae in ‘Shotgun’, although both were perhaps too idiosyncratic to crossover to wider audiences.

There’s also the inclusion of the first Thomas Dolby single ‘Urges’ co-produced by XTC’s Andy Partridge and the boxed set’s title song ‘Heaven Sent’, Paul Haig’s excellent take on SIMPLE MINDS ‘I Travel’ polished for the New York dancefloor by producer Alex Sadkin; to have the former JOSEF K frontman and his song originally written for the band in this position is fitting as Paul Morley had designated Paul Haig “the enigmatic fourth man” in a quartet of New Pop saviours which also included Billy Mackenzie, Jim Kerr and Martin Fry.

The delight in these boxed sets is to rediscover music that has been largely forgotten over time and one is ‘Dance Sucker’, an electro-funk stomper by SET THE TONE; a combo featuring one-time SIMPLE MINDS drummer Kenny Hyslop, it was he who taped the track ‘Too Through’ by BAD GIRLS off Kiss FM in New York that inspired the band to write ‘Promised You A Miracle’; SIMPLE MINDS themselves feature with the underrated ‘Sweat In Bullet’ from 1981.

One nice surprise is THE UNDERTONES’ synth flavoured ‘Beautiful Friend’ where they appear to have actually got THE HUMAN LEAGUE in to advise them while Pauline Murray with THE INVISIBLE GIRLS are delightfully rousing with the Martin Hannett produced ‘Dream Sequence 1’. Another fine inclusion is Edinburgh’s TV21 and their Mike Howlett produced single ‘All Join Hands’ with its combination of sequencers and strings.

By 1983, THE STRANGLERS had shed their more aggressive tendencies with the pretty ‘European Female’ but harking back to those days, Hazel O’Connor’s cover of their ‘Hanging Around’ begins as an enigmatic Casiobeat cover with the ‘Breaking Glass’ star trying to be Grace Jones before morphing into a more routine reinterpretation with synth and sax. And speaking of Grace Jones, her reggae cover of JOY DIVISION’s ‘She’s Lost Control’ has to be heard to be believed.

One hit wonders from THE FLYING LIZARDS, DEPARTMENT S and THE PASSIONS add to the fun but some of the inclusions have not aged well. ‘The House That Jack Built’ by Paul Weller protégée Tracie Young is frankly dreadful while the embarrassing ‘John Wayne Is Big Leggy’ by HAYSI FANTAYZEE only gets a free pass because Kate Garner and Jeremy Healy comically subverted Top Of The Pops by performing this song about anal sex with unambiguous actions to boot!

Not everything on ‘Heaven Sent – The Rise Of New Pop 1979-1983’ will satisfy the majority of listeners but what cannot be denied about most of the inclusions is that they are largely inventive and exciting. It is a period to savour because what then comes after is the bland sophisti-pop and cod soul meanderings of SADE, SIMPLY RED, GO WEST, SWING OUT SISTER, HUE & CRY, CURIOSITY KILLED THE CAT, WET WET WET and LIVING IN A BOX with their far more musically conservative (with a small ‘c’) disposition.


‘Heaven Sent – The Rise Of New Pop 1979-1983’ is released by Cherry Red Records as a 4CD boxed set on 26 July 2024

https://www.cherryred.co.uk/heaven-sent-the-rise-of-new-pop-1979-1983-various-artists-4cd-box-set


Text by Chi Ming Lai
3 July 2024

The Electronic Legacy of EUROPE


Europe is the spiritual home of electronic music, inspiring it not just artistically but forming an important bond with the continent’s classical tradition through the romance of its historical imagery.

Continental Europe is defined as being bordered by the Arctic Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Often considered to be separated from Asia by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas and the waterways of the Turkish Straits, it includes the part of Russia where Moscow and St Petersburg are located.

Mark Reeder was one of the first British music personalities to fully adopt Europe, making West Berlin his home in 1978 and subsequently releasing a number of themed compilation albums such as ‘European’ in 1995 and ‘Assorted (E For Europe)’ in 1999 on his MFS label. His fellow Mancunian and friend Bernard Sumner of NEW ORDER said to The European in 2016: “I feel European, I regard myself as a European… as a musician I’ve always been massively influenced by Europe and its people”.

From Paris to Vienna back to Düsseldorf City, Europe fascinated British musicians who having been open-minded enough to use synthesizers, now embraced many different mindsets, languages, cultures and cuisines, all within a comparatively accessible geographical land mass. Meanwhile, European instrument manufacturers such as PPG, Elka, Crumar, RSF, Jen and Siel found their products in the thick of the action too.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK stands proud of its Eurocentric focus. Esteemed names like Hütter, Schneider, Flür, Bartos, Moroder, Jarre, Vangelis, Plank, Rother, Dinger and Froese have more than highlighted the important debt that is owed by electronic music to Europe.

While the UK may have scored an equalizer with Synth Britannia, it was the Europeans who took that crucial half time lead. So to disengage with the European tradition would be betraying everything that ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK is all about.

Presented in yearly and then alphabetical order with a restriction of one track per artist moniker, here are our favourite 20 electronic tunes that were inspired, either directly or obliquely, by the legacy of Europe…


DAVID BOWIE Warszawa (1977)

‘Warszawa’ was named after the Polish capital city but accurately captured the Cold War tensions in Europe without the need for lyricism. At Hansa Studios where the sessions were being mixed, the watch towers in East Berlin could look into the windows of the building! Tony Visconti’s production only enhanced the collaborative drama between David Bowie’s enigmatic wailing over Brian Eno’s Minimoog and Chamberlain keys. This formed part of an all instrumental suite on the ‘Low’ album’s second side.

Available on the DAVID BOWIE album ‘Low’ via EMI Records

http://www.davidbowie.com


KRAFTWERK Europe Endless (1977)

With KRAFTWERK utilising a customized 32-step Synthanorma Sequenzer and a Vako Orchestron with pre-recorded symphonic string and choir sounds sourced from optical discs, if there was such a thing as a musical European travelogue, then the romantically optimistic beauty of ‘Europe Endless’ was it. This lengthy work influenced the likes of NEW ORDER, OMD and BLANCMANGE who all borrowed different aspects of its aesthetics for ‘Your Silent Face’, ‘Metroland’ and ‘Feel Me’ respectively.

Available on the KRAFTWERK album ‘Trans Europe Express’ via EMI Records

http://www.kraftwerk.com/


THE DURUTTI COLUMN For Belgian Friends (1980)

‘For Belgian Friends’ was written in honour of Factory Benelux founders Michel Duval and the late Annik Honoré. Although not strictly electronic in the purest sense, Martin Hannett’s technologically processed production techniques made Vini Reilly’s dominant piano sound like textured synthetic strings, complimenting his sparing melodic guitar and the crisp percussion of Donald Johnson. This beautiful instrumental was one of Reilly’s best recordings, originally on the compilation ‘A Factory Quartet’.

Available on THE DURUTTI COLUMN album ‘LC’ via Factory Benelux Records

http://www.thedurutticolumn.com/


FATAL CHARM Paris (1980)

Nottingham combo FATAL CHARM supported ULTRAVOX and OMD in 1980. Their excellent first single ‘Paris’ was produced by Midge Ure and could be seen reflecting the electronically flavoured new wave template of the period. Singer Sarah Simmonds’ feisty passion gave a freshly charged sexual ambiguity to the European love story written in the days before the Channel Tunnel. Instrumentalist Paul Arnall said: “we were able to use Midge’s Yamaha synth which gave it his sound”.

Available on the FATAL CHARM album ‘Plastic’ via Fatal Charm

http://fatalcharm.co.uk/


IPPU DO German Road (1981)

Did you hear the one about the Japanese band impersonating a German band and doing it rather well? Influenced by the motorik backbeat of NEU! and also heavily borrowing form its guitarist Michael Rother’s solo track ‘Karussell’, IPPU DO’s leader Masami Tsuchiya was something of a multi-cultural sponge, later joining JAPAN for their final ‘Sons Of Pioneers’ tour in 1982. Meanwhile IPPU DO are still best known in the UK for their startlingly original cover version of THE ZOMBIES ‘Time Of The Season’.

Remixed version available on the IPPU DO album ‘Essence: The Best Of’ via Sony Music

http://www.ne.jp/asahi/masami/london/


LANDSCAPE European Man (1980)

Electronic pioneer Richard James Burgess said: “I think we all embraced this new direction because of our raw excitement over the new technology… We discussed it in the band and everyone was on board so I started working on the lyrics that became ‘European Man’”. Colin Thurston was the producer assisting in realising this new direction and interestingly, the rear artwork of the first issue of the single featured a very early use of the term “electronic dance music”.

Available on LANDSCAPE album ‘From The Tea-Rooms Of Mars…’ via Cherry Red Records

https://twitter.com/Landscape_band


SIMPLE MINDS I Travel (1980)

“Europe has a language problem” sang Jim Kerr on ‘I Travel’, adding “in central Europe men are marching”. Aware of the domestic terrorist threats that were apparent in every city they were visiting on tour, SIMPLE MINDS captured a claustrophobic tension within its futuristic frenzy like a doomy disco take on Moroder. It was a favourite of DJ Rusty Egan at The Blitz Club where its shadier spectre was highly welcomed by its clientele, reflecting their own discontent closer to home.

Available on the SIMPLE MINDS album ‘Empires & Dance’ via Virgin Records

http://www.simpleminds.com


TELEX Eurovision (1980)

TELEX’s manifesto was “Making something really European, different from rock, without guitar.” Having previously visited a ‘Moscow Disko’ and with tongues firmly in cheeks, they entered the 1980 Eurovision Song Contest with a bouncy electropop song that had deliberately banal lyrics about the whole charade itself. Performing to a bemused audience in The Hague with the sole intention of coming last, unfortunately Finland decided otherwise! Who said the Belgians didn’t have a sense of humour?!

Available on the TELEX album ‘Ultimate Best Of’ via EMI Music Belgium

http://www.telex-music.com/


ULTRAVOX New Europeans (1980)

If there was a song that truly represents ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s ethos, then the synth rock fusion of ULTRAVOX’s ‘New Europeans’ is it! Noting that “his modern world revolves around the synthesizer’s song” in lyrics largely written by drummer Warren Cann, it all pointed to an optimistic way forward “full of future thoughts and thrills” that would later be opened up by direct train travel across the channel with freedom of movement to and from the continent for “a European legacy and “a culture for today”.

Available on the ULTRAVOX album ‘Vienna’ via EMI Records

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


VISAGE Moon Over Moscow (1980)

While in his dual role as DJ at The Blitz Club and VISAGE’s drummer, Rusty Egan had become inspired by the melodic interplay of Japanese trio YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA which had been European influenced: “I liked the album and played it along with TELEX and SPARKS. The sound was an influence on VISAGE. By the time we recorded ‘Moon Over Moscow’, that was to include Russia, Japan, Germany and France in our sound… the drummer was also using the same drum pads as me!”

Available on the VISAGE album ‘Visage’ via Alliance Import

http://rustyegan.net/


ASSOCIATES White Car In Germany (1981)

ASSOCIATES first musical signs of a fascination towards European influenced electronic music came with the funereal pulse of ‘White Car In Germany’. The swirling electronics, cold atmosphere and treated percussion were intended to sound as un-American as possible. Billy MacKenzie’s observational lyric “Aberdeen’s an old place – Düsseldorf’s a cold place – Cold as spies can be” accurately captured post-war tensions under the spectre of the bomb.

Available on the ASSOCIATES album ‘The Very Best Of’ via BMG

https://www.facebook.com/theassociatesofficial/


JOHN FOXX Europe After The Rain (1981)

Foxx admitted he had been “reading too much JG Ballard” and had thawed considerably following ‘Metamatic’. Now spending his spare time exploring beautiful Italian gardens and taking on a more foppish appearance, his new mood was reflected in his music. Moving to a disused factory site in Shoreditch, Foxx set up a recording complex which he named ‘The Garden’ and the first song to emerge was the Linn Drum driven ‘Europe After The Rain’. Foxx had now achieved his system of romance.

Available on the JOHN FOXX album ‘Modern Art: The Best Of’ via Music Club

http://www.metamatic.com/


JAPAN European Son (1981)

Recorded as a JAPAN demo for the 1979 Giorgio Moroder sessions that produced ‘Life In Tokyo’, this sequencer heavy number was rejected by the Italian disco maestro. Left dormant in the vaults of Ariola Hansa, the song was finished off under the supervision of John Punter and later given a single remix by Steve Nye with redone parts by Mick Karn. ‘European Son’ showed David Sylvian’s vocals in transition from the catty aggression of earlier albums to the Ferry-ish croon most now associated with the band.

John Punter version available on JAPAN album ‘The Very Best Of’ via BMG

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


THE MOBILES Drowning In Berlin (1981)

THE MOBILES’ were from the sleepy shores of Eastbourne; while ‘Drowning In Berlin’ may have come across as a ‘Not The Nine O’Clock News’ New Romantic parody on first listen, its decaying Mittel Europa grandeur was infectious like Hazel O’Connor reinterpreting ‘Vienna’ with The Master of Ceremonies at the Kit Kat Klub. And like ‘Vienna’, ‘Drowning In Berlin’ was inspired by a holiday romance, in this case one that singer Anna Maria had while visiting the divided city.

Available on THE MOBILES album ‘Drowning In Berlin: The Best Of’ via Cherry Red Records

https://www.discogs.com/artist/98916-Mobiles


BERLIN The Metro (1982)

Inspired by acts like ULTRAVOX and KRAFTWERK, Californian band BERLIN with their approach to synthesizers were a far cry from the way they were being used Stateside within rock. And in ‘The Metro’ with its frantic motorik drum machine and Teutonic pulses, songwriter John Crawford aimed to capture the tense filmic romance of Paris despite never having visited the city, a vibrant but detached feeling ably projected by partner and singer Terri Nunn in a similar fashion to FATAL CHARM.

Available on the BERLIN album ‘Best Of’ via Geffen Records

http://www.berlinpage.com/


DEPECHE MODE Oberkorn (1982)

Radio Luxembourg broadcasted pop music to the UK using the most powerful privately owned transmitter in the world. But when DEPECHE MODE played the country in early 1982, they were booked to perform in a small town called Oberkorn. With a glorious ambient instrumental on the B-side of the then soon-to-be-released single ‘The Meaning Of Love’ requiring a title, Martin Gore needed no further inspiration, unconsciously capturing the air of the Grand Duchy’s countryside and oceanic climate.

Available on the DEPECHE MODE boxed set ‘DMBX1’ via Columbia Records

http://www.depechemode.com/


THE MOOD Paris Is One Day Away (1982)

Before the days of the Channel Tunnel, young York based New Romantic trio THE MOOD noted the how long it took by boat and train to get to the French capital. ‘Paris Is One Day Away’ was the hit that got away; reaching No. 42, it secured a slot on ‘Top Of The Pops’. However, it was the 1982 World Cup and a match heading into extra time meant that a hasty edit was made. And it was THE MOOD’s performance as the new and unknown act that ended up on the cutting room floor!

Available on THE MOOD album ‘The Singles Collection’ via Cherry Red Records

http://www.themood.info/


RATIONAL YOUTH Saturdays in Silesia (1982)

After ‘Dancing On The Berlin Wall’, RATIONAL YOUTH mainman Tracy Howe turned his attention towards Poland. “What was it like to be young person behind the Iron Curtain? What did they do on a Saturday night anyway?” he told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK, “Did they have clubs to go to? Probably underground ones. They’d probably break down the door. Apart from the fact that there are no ‘navy docks’ in Silesia, this record makes a jolly racket and may well be the first recorded instance of a Roland TR-808.”

Available on the RATIONAL YOUTH album ‘Cold War Night Life’ via EMI Records

https://www.facebook.com/RationalYouth/


IAN ANDERSON Different Germany (1983)

Fascinated by the likes of Thomas Dolby and Gary Numan, JETHRO TULL frontman Ian Anderson went synth in 1983. Assisted by Peter John Vitesse, ‘Different Germany’ embraced both the electronic and progressive sides of Anderson’s career perfectly with a marvellous middle section featuring a bristling keyboard solo. The end result sounded not unsurprisingly like Tull fronting ULTRAVOX; of course, the circle was completed when Midge Ure covered ‘Living In The Past’ in 1985.

Available on the IAN ANDERSON album ‘Walk Into Light’ via EMI Records

http://jethrotull.com/ian-anderson-bio/


THE STRANGLERS European Female (1983)

Born to French parents in Notting Hill, THE STRANGLERS’ bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel was a loyal European, even releasing a 1979 solo album entitled ‘Euroman Cometh’ where “a Europe strong, united and independent is a child of the future”. Taking lead vocals for the beautiful ‘European Female’, it possessed an understated quality with subtle Spanish guitar from Hugh Cornwell alongside Dave Greenfield’s sparkling synths and Jet Black’s electronic percussion to celebrate the allure of continental mystery.

Available on THE STRANGLERS album ‘The Very Best Of’ via EMI Records

http://www.thestranglers.co.uk/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
18th April 2019

A Beginner’s Guide To MARTIN RUSHENT

Photo by Simon Fowler

Although he became a noted producer during the height of punk, it was with THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Dare’ that Martin Rushent’s reputation as an electronic music pioneer was forged.

Rushent began his studio career as a projectionist where orchestras would synchronise with motion picture images, before eventually cutting his teeth as an engineer for acts as varied as Shirley Bassey and T-REX, working with their respective producers Johnny Harris and Tony Visconti.

His first major production was for CURVED AIR on their ‘Air Cut’ album. Engineered by Paul Hardiman who was later to produce THE THE and LLOYD COLE & THE COMMOTIONS, it also featured Jim Russell on drums who became later became one of Rushent’s engineers and joined THE HUMAN LEAGUE for their ‘Crash’ tour.

He then secured a lucrative role working for United Artists, the company famously founded by Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks Junior, Mary Pickford and DW Griffith, as an in-house producer with A&R responsibilities.

It was in this position that he found major success working with THE STRANGLERS on ‘(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)’, ‘Peaches’ and ‘No More Heroes’ as well  as BUZZCOCKS on ‘Evere Fallen In Love’ and ‘Promises’. Meanwhile his freelance clause allowed him to also produce bands like GENERATION X, 999 and THE REZILLOS whose guitarist Jo Callis was later to join THE HUMAN LEAGUE.

It was in 1978 at the height of his punk success that Radar Records, an offshoot of Warners who had Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe on their roster, offered Rushent an opportunity to start his own label and production company. Radar had been founded by the team that had hired Rushent for United Artists and the offer included funding to build what was to become his Genetic Sound Studios complex at his home in Reading.

With his new office based above The Blitz Club and a desire to move away from guitar bands, Rushent became fascinated by the New Romantic movement and its electronic soundtrack provided by their resident DJ Rusty Egan. Egan had started a project with Midge Ure named VISAGE fronted by the now sadly departed Steve Strange. Their demos had been offered to EMI but were turned down…

“Martin Rushent turned punk into pop with THE STRANGLERS and BUZZCOCKS and was the hottest punk producer in 1977-78. He had no idea about synths, he was a rock producer but knew ULTRAVOX, MAGAZINE and RICH KIDS were disbanded.” Rusty Egan told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK,  “But his musical hunch was ‘they must come up with something’”.

Sensing that something was in the air, Rushent invited VISAGE to use his studio to see what they came up with. These sessions, which also featured ULTRAVOX’s Billy Currie plus MAGAZINE’s Dave Formula, the late John McGeoch and Barry Adamson, intrigued Rushent. “We came with our equipment and no drum kit” recalled Egan about that visit to Genetic Sound Studios which was still being built.

“I had the CR78 and the Simmons SDS3 prototype which Richard Burgess gave us; Midge had a Yamaha CS50, Billy had an RMI Electra Piano, Elka Rhapsody 610 and the ARP Odyssey while Dave brought his Yamaha CP30, ARP Odyssey and Yamaha string machine. We ran sequenced drums and layered, we had SMPTE timecode as MIDI did not come in for years, so we triggered and I hit drum pads and we created the sounds… Martin had never seen this type of recording”.

Despite the promising material coming from VISAGE, Warners pulled the plug on Radar and immediate plans for Genetic Records became stillborn. In hindsight, this move was extremely short sighted on Warners part as it was rumoured Rushent had been in discussions with JOY DIVISION, ULTRAVOX and SPANDAU BALLET.

Despite this set back, this experience helped Rushent realise that music production moving towards being more computer-driven, so he bought a Roland MC8 Micro-composer along with a Roland System 700 and Jupiter 4.

A strong advocate of clarity in instrument voicing and as a former drummer, how drum sounds were achieved, the availability of the Linn LM1 Drum Computer in 1981 was the final piece in the jigsaw and the set-up helped Rushent realise his vision. The rest as they say, is history and THE HUMAN LEAGUE scored a No1 with ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ on both sides of the Atlantic…

Rushent won the 1982 Brit Award for best producer and went on to produce THE GO-GO’S third album ‘Talk Show’ released in 1984. However, while recording the follow-up to ‘Dare’, a breakdown in his personal life, coupled to deteriorating relations with THE HUMAN LEAGUE led to Rushent leaving the sessions and walking out of his own studio! The eventual ‘Hysteria’ album was lukewarm, audibly missing Rushent’s touch.

Following his divorce, Rushent was forced to sell Genetic Sound Studios to avoid bankruptcy. Despite reducing his workload to more occasional studio recordings with ASSOCIATES, HARD CORPS, THEN JERICO and TWO PEOPLE, Rushent was suffering from depression; realising his heart was no longer in music, he effectively retired from the industry.

Taking time out to raise his family as a single parent, he eventually made a steady return to full album productions with Hazel O’Connor in 2005 and THE PIPETTES in 2010. Buoyed by the huge developments in computer technology, he even presented his own DISCO UNLIMITED project with a track called ‘Itchy Hips’ inspired by his daughter Amy, as well as working with his son James’ band DOES IT OFFEND YOU, YEAH? But just as momentum was returning to his music career, Rushent sadly passed away in June 2011, aged 62.

Remembering working with Martin Rushent, Clive Pierce of HARD CORPS said: “Personally I felt overwhelmed when in the studio with him as it did feel at times that your precious baby was being bounced around in a manner you would never dream of doing yourself. His deft production work magnified what we were attempting to do ourselves and that’s exactly what great producers do”.

THE PIPETTES’ Ani Saunders who now makes music as ANI GLASS and recently tweeted a photo of project notes from recording with Rushent as she prepared to record her first solo album added: “One of the greatest lessons I learnt from Martin was to only spend your time working on music you believe in and not to be afraid to change / amend / cut parts or songs if they’re not good enough. Of course the production and engineering skills I gained working with him were invaluable but I also learnt about how to create the right atmosphere for and during recording, something which I think is often overlooked. When I’m writing pop songs I always ask myself ‘what would Martin do?’ – it helps to keep me in check”.

Focussing primarily on his work with synthesizers and technology, here is a look back at the post-punk career of Martin Rushent. With a limit of one track per album project and presented in chronological order, here is a Beginner’s Guide to the late, great man…


THE STRANGLERS Nice N Sleazy (1978)

Making his fortune producing the key tracks of THE STRANGLERS’ career such as ‘(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)’, ‘Peaches’ and ‘No More Heroes’, the mutant punk reggae of ‘Nice N Sleazy’ saw a diversion into synthesizers with Dave Greenfield’s spacey blast of swirling Minimoog during the instrumental break. At Battersea Park in September 1978, the band courted controversy when accompanied by strippers for the song’s visual embellishment!

Available on THE STRANGLERS album ‘The Very Best Of’ via EMI Records

http://www.thestranglers.net


JOY DIVISION Ice Age (1979 – Released 1997)

Recorded in March 1979, JOY DIVISION spent a day at Eden Studios in London with Martin Rushent recording a 5 track demo with the view to signing to his Genetic Records label. The tracks included ‘Transmission’, ‘Insight’ and ‘Ice Age’, But afterwards, the band made the decision to go with Factory Records and headed to Strawberry Studios in Manchester to record their debut long player ’Unknown Pleasures’ with Martin Hannett. However, Rushent always reckoned his version of ‘Ice Age’ was better than the speedier version that ended upon the posthumous ‘Still’ double album collection in 1981.

Available on the JOY DIVISION boxed set ‘Heart & Soul’ via Rhino Records

http://joydivisionofficial.com


VISAGE Tar (1979)

At Genetic Sound Studios, VISAGE started recording an album. Rusty Egan recalled: “we agreed to use the studio for a weekend with Martin engineering”; the first track from those sessions was ‘Tar’, a cautionary tale about the dangers of smoking. After numerous contractual issues, it was finally released as a single on Genetic Records but within days, Warners closed down his funding source at Radar Records.

Available on VISAGE album ‘Visage’ via Polydor Records

http://www.visage.cc/


PETE SHELLEY Homosapien (1981)

‘Homosapien’ came about after sessions were aborted for BUZZCOCKS fourth album. Rushent and frontman Pete Shelley worked on new material using the Roland MC8 Micro-composer and System 700. Now seen as Shelley’s coming out song, a cacophony of synths and 12 string guitar combined for a wonderful futuristic snarl. However, the lyric “Homo Superior in my interior” got it a BBC Radio1 ban.

Available on the PETE SHELLEY album ‘Homosapien’ via Active Distribution Ltd

http://www.buzzcocks.com/_peteshelley/peteshelley.html


THE HUMAN LEAGUE The Sound Of The Crowd (1981)

When presented with the demo of ‘The Sound Of The Crowd’, Rushent’s response was “Well, that’s going in the bin”… Phil Oakey objected but the producer snarled back: “You came to me, so I assume that’s because you want hits?”… triggering bursts of System 700 white noise from the Micro-composer for the rhythm track, the combination of obscure lyrics from Ian Burden like “Stroke a pocket with a print of a laughing sound” and a screaming chant gave THE HUMAN LEAGUE their breakthrough hit.

Available on THE HUMAN LEAGUE album ‘Greatest Hits’ via Virgin Records

http://www.thehumanleague.co.uk


ALTERED IMAGES Happy Birthday (1981)

While Steve Severin from SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES produced the majority of the ‘Happy Birthday’, the job of turning the title track into the Glaswegian quintet’s breakthrough hit fell to Rushent. Tight ‘n’ bright thanks to Rushent’s modern production and Glare Grogan’s helium fuelled cutesy vocals and nursery rhyme lyrics, the song was denied the No1 spot for 3 weeks by a synth cover of ‘It’s My Party’ and later on, the might of THE POLICE.

Available on ALTERED IMAGES album ‘Happy Birthday: The Best Of’ via Music Club

https://www.facebook.com/ClareGrogansAlteredImages/


ALTERED IMAGES I Could Be Happy (1981)

Combining the precision of programmed technology with live instrumentation, ‘I Could Be Happy’ was one of Rushent’s best productions. Despite being shrouded in melancholy, it was catchy and danceable enough to be a UK Top 10 hit. Rushent produced the parent album ‘Pinky Blue’ but it was given a lukewarm reception, ultimately causing the original line-up of ALTERED IMAGES to implode.

Available on ALTERED IMAGES boxed set ‘The Epic Years’ via Cherry Red

https://twitter.com/claregrogan2


LEISURE PROCESS Love Cascade (1982)

Featuring Ross Middleton and Gary Barnacle with production by Rushent, ‘Love Cascade’ was the missing link between Pete Shelley and THE HUMAN LEAGUE. The vocals were virtually unintelligible as the clattering Linn Drum, pulsing synths, squawky guitar and sax merge together for a cool dancefloor friendly tune that’s full of the decadent spirit of the times. Barnacle went on to become one of the top session saxophonists.

12 inch version available on the album ‘Retro: Active 5’ (V/A) via Hi-Bias Records Canada

http://www.discogs.com/artist/Leisure+Process


THE LEAGUE UNLIMITED ORCHESTRA Do Or Die (1982)

“The most creative experience I’ve ever had in my life” was how Rushent described the tracks from ‘Dare’ specially remixed and re-edited by him. Pre-sampling, the material was remixed from the mixing board using a multitude of effects with vocal stutters created by cutting up and splicing portions of tape with the aid of his custom-made ruler. The percussive dub laden barrage of ‘Do Or Die’ was one of the highlights.

Available on THE LEAGUE UNLIMITED ORCHESTRA album ‘Love & Dancing’ via Virgin Records

http://www.muzines.co.uk/articles/human-league-in-the-studio/4246


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Fascination (1983)

Tensions were running high with creative differences during the recording sessions for THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s follow-up to ‘Dare’, with Rushent losing enthusiasm due to conflicts in the studio with Phil Oakey and in particular, Susanne Sulley. The weirdly catchy ‘Fascination’ was the last track to be recorded with Rushent, but he departed before it was mixed. The eventual ‘Hysteria’ album was lukewarm, audibly missing Rushent’s touch.

Extended version available on THE HUMAN LEAGUE album ‘A Very British Synthesizer Group’ via Virgin Records

https://www.facebook.com/thehumanleague/


PETE SHELLEY Telephone Operator (1983)

With Shelley and Rushent developing on ‘Homosapien’ with a more fierce sound, ‘Telephone Operator’ could be seen an extension lyrically to the themes of its predecessor. The original parent album ‘XL-1’ had a novel bonus track in a computer program for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum which printed lyrics in time with the music and displayed graphics with a locking groove before the code so that its bleeps and squeaks could not be played accidentally.

Available on PETE SHELLEY album ‘XL-1’ by Active Distribution Ltd

https://www.discogs.com/artist/28754-Pete-Shelley


HAZEL O’CONNOR Don’t Touch Me (1984)

When endorsing Korg’s PSS-50 Programmable Super Section, Rushent was enthusing about a record which “apart from voice” was “all written and performed on one synth” – that album was HAzel O’Connor’s ‘Smile’. From it, the moody single ‘Don’t Touch Me’ was very art school Weimar Cabaret with some very passionate vocals from O’Connor, constructed around a Synclavier with its distinct period bass and brass sounds.

Available on HAZEL O’CONNOR album ‘Smile’ via Cherry Red

http://www.hazeloconnor.com


ASSOCIATES Breakfast (1985)

Rushent worked with Billy Mackenzie on five tracks for ‘Perhaps’, the much anticipated recorded return of ASSOCIATES. ‘Waiting For The Love Boat’ was one of those songs, but the recording which stood out was the epic string laden drama of ’Breakfast’. It is possibly Mackenzie’s greatest single moment, the melancholic piano motif setting the scene for an entire film noir in five minutes with its widescreen dramatics and mournful tension.

Available on ASSOCIATES album ‘Singles’ via WEA

http://www.billymackenzie.com


HARD CORPS ‎Je Suis Passée (1985)

Clive Pierce said: “HARD CORPS, having traditionally self-produced tracks at our resident studio in Brixton relished the prospect of working with Martin on ‘Je Suis Passée’ having been admirers of his work on ‘Love & Dancing’. It was difficult but never the less a total education. That’s the trouble being so close to something it’s difficult to let go. In retrospect I now listen to ’Je Suis Passée’ in awe of what he achieved. The baby was fine”.

Originally released as a single by Polydor Records, version available on the album ‘Clean Tables Have To Be Burnt’ via Minimal Wave Records

https://www.facebook.com/hard-CORPS-217860235015406/


THEN JERICO The Big Sweep (1985)

Pop rockers THEN JERICO were fronted by the handsome if volatile Mark Shaw; their debut single ‘The Big Sweep’ was recorded with Rushent and some help from his new Synclavier. However, due to the track’s anti-tabloid lyrical subject matter, the band’s label London Records initially declined to release the track. So it was self-released as a 1000 limited edition, although the track eventually resurfaced in its club mix on the 12 inch of ‘Muscle Deep’ in 1987.

Available on the THEN JERICO album ‘The Best Of’ via London Records

http://www.thenjerico.com


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Heart Like A Wheel (1990)

Jo Callis told ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK: “With ‘Heart Like A Wheel’, when The League came to thinking about the follow up to ‘Crash’ (which would become ‘Romantic?’), I thought there might be a good opportunity to try and get ‘the old team’ back together again, which I did manage to achieve for a couple of tunes at least”. With Rushent at the helm again, the result was a tune that recalled the classic pop era of THE HUMAN LEAGUE.

Available on THE HUMAN LEAGUE album ‘The Very Best Of’ via Virgin Records

http://jocallis.com


GRAFTON PRIMARY Relativity – Martin Rushent remix (2008)

Australian electro-noir duo GRAFTON PRIMARY balanced in the divide between art and science on their debut single ‘Relativity’. Benjamin and Joshua Garden utilised sharp synthpop hooks and solid basslines in a classic Synth Britannia vein manner not dissimilar to THE HUMAN LEAGUE, which naturally made them perfect for a remix by Martin Rushent; three of his mixes were included on the ‘Relativity – Reinvented’ collection.

Available on GRAFTON PRIMARY single ‘Relativity – Reinvented’ via Resolution Music ‎

https://www.facebook.com/graftonprimarymusic/


THE PIPETTES Our Love Was Saved By Spacemen (2010)

From Rushent’s final album production, ‘Our Love Was Saved By Spacemen’ was a celestial Latin flavoured pop tune by the MkII variant of THE PIPETTES, fronted by sisters Gwenno and Ani Saunders. The partnership was to prove inspirational with Gwenno’s next solo long player ‘Y Dydd Olaf’ being one of the best albums of 2014, while Ani recently tweeted a photo of project notes from recording with Rushent as she recorded her first solo album.

Available on THE PIPETTES album ‘Earth Vs The Pipettes’ via Fortuna Pop

https://www.facebook.com/thepipettes/


In memory of Martin Rushent 1948-2011

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Rusty Egan, Clive Pierce, Ani Saunders and Jo Callis

A Facebook tribute group to Martin Rushent run by his son Tim can be viewed at
https://www.facebook.com/groups/216490505038835/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
12th February 2018

WESTBAM Götterstrasse

German techno DJ legend WESTBAM celebrates 30 years in the music business with an intriguing mature collection of songs under the title of ‘Götterstrasse’.

Literally translated as ‘Gods Street’, the 14 tracks feature a varied and impressive cast of vocalists. These include THE PSYCHEDELIC FURS’ Richard Butler, NEW ORDER’s Bernard Sumner, Iggy Pop, Brian Molko of PLACEBO, ex-member of THE STRANGLERS’ Hugh Cornwell and even rappers such as Kanye West and Lil’ Wayne! ‘Götterstrasse’ sounds heavenly and while the theme of the album centres on the joy and euphoria of underground nightlife, it also reflects on the consequences of comedown.

Indeed, the album’s magnificent launch single ‘You Need The Drugs’ voiced brilliantly by Richard Butler is not actually celebration of illicit substance use. “There’s been practically no interview in the last 30 years in which I wasn’t asked about drugs” said WESTBAM, real name Maximilian Lenz. “So the song ‘You Need The Drugs’, sung by Richard Butler, vocalist of new wave band Psychedelic Furs, is the first explicit electronic appeal AGAINST the use of drugs, with a clear message: drugs are a bore! Drugs destroy relationships! Drugs are always counterproductive!”

‘Kick It Like A Sensei’ featuring Lil’ Wayne follows and the sparse soundtrack held together by symphonic bursts of synth strings and metronomic rhythms provides a dramatic listen. The New Orleans hip-hop star’s “Like a Sensei” mantra becomes quite hypnotic and draws the listener in. Meanwhile, Katt Rockell provides a raspy and soulful feminine edge to yet another metronomic percussive base on the superb ‘Rebel Heart’ which musically builds with tinkling sequences and further synth string stabs.

Whereas the diverse selection of vocalists make on paper an unlikely cohesive album, WESTBAM keeps the musical thread together with a consistent adventure in sound. Instrumentally the songs are the same, yet different and the singers have been given the freedom to shape the songs melodically to provide the necessary variation. Interestingly, dominant staccato bass pulsing is largely absent from proceedings as are banging beats; this in turn makes ‘Götterstrasse’ sound almost cocoon-like.

Iggy Pop’s baritone provides an album highlight with ‘Iron Music’, the tense militaristic framework being highly Teutonic as the former James Newell Osterberg recalls his own period in Cold War Berlin with echoes of ‘Aisha’ his 1999 collaboration with DEATH IN VEGAS.

It all sounds strangely like JOY DIVISION gone techno, so the track which pops up next is highly appropriate. ‘She Wants’ sees the return of Bernard Sumner on a new electronic dance composition and it’s great to hear him in fine voice again on something approaching the sound of synth centred NEW ORDER.

Meanwhile, more sombre synthetic strings decorate the beautiful ‘Götterstrasse No 1’ which sees Ina Humpe’s vocals sampled and scatted over a suitably abstract slice of dance art. Humpe’s other contribution ‘To The Middle of Nowhere’ provides a gently autotuned sheen to the pretty Eurocentric backing.

Unsettling Wagnerian overtones dominate ‘Sick’ with Brian Molko and ‘Radio Siberia’ with Kanye West. While Molko gives it some angsty Gothic gloom, West is more typically urban with the expected “MF” profanities throughout. After an impressive eight track run of consistent quality, it is from here that ‘Götterstrasse’ starts to flounder a little.

A change in the instrumental timbre comes with some bass guitar on ‘We Feel Love’ featuring Afrika Baby Bam but this, like ‘Radio Siberia’ suffers from comparison with the first half of the album. ‘Solid Sound’ featuring Southern Blues singer/ songwriter Andrew Tyler returns to the template set earlier on ‘Götterstrasse’ but by now the momentum is lost and in retrospect, the following downtempo ‘Where We’re From’ with Katt Rockell sounds really out of place. However, ‘Götterstrasse’ snaps back to the wondrous feel of its first half with an appearance by Hugh Cornwall on the penultimate offering ‘A Night to Remember’.

It’s the most frantic track of the collection but that’s not to say it doesn’t have a serene quality, the metallic textures are complimented by piano and soothing ARP Solina reminiscent of the close of ROXY MUSIC’s ‘If There Was Something’. The ambient instrumental ‘Reprise’ brings the set to its conclusion.

Overall, ‘Götterstrasse’ is a fascinating listen, full of character if just a bit too long. A fabulous 9-10 track album nests within its steadfast beats, melancholic strings and vast array of singers. The deluxe 2CD edition incidentally features the dub mixes where the comparative simplicity of the backing tracks is highlighted. It has to be said that while the album’s rhythms are repetitive, they are unobtrusive and compliment the various stages carrying the lead characters.

Haunting, lively and enigmatic, some of the best electronic music of 2013 can be found on ‘Götterstrasse’.


With thanks to Mark Reeder

‘Götterstrasse’ is released by Vertigo / Universal Germany as a CD, deluxe 2CD and download

http://www.westbam.de/dt/en/

http://www.facebook.com/westbam


Text by Chi Ming Lai
6th May 2013