Tag: Tina Turner

A Beginner’s Guide To ARTHUR BAKER

Boston-born Arthur Baker began as a DJ, but aspired to be a producer following taking an engineering course at Intermedia Studios. He wanted to make music, rather than play records.

After some early experiences, Baker became wise to the swindling ways of the music industry. He eventually released his first single ‘Kind of Life (Kind of Love)’ under the name NORTH END in 1979.

But his breakthrough as a producer came after he moved to New York in 1981. Working for urban label Tommy Boy Records, where he met engineer and keyboard player John Robie, they came up with ‘Planet Rock’.

Utilising the-then new Roland TR808 Rhythm Composer, in particular its distinctive analogue cowbell, rimshot and snare sounds, its lasting effect on the future of music came about more by chance.

Baker wanted to employ a more mechanised electronic aesthetic in the vein of KRAFTWERK and YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA to the output of Tommy Boy and saw an advert in The Village Voice: “Man with drum machine, $20 a session”… the rest is history. But the programmer of the track’s iconic 808 beat pattern remained unknown, thanks insisting on cash for his services, having declined a cheque.

‘Planet Rock’ featured sampling without a sampler, its ‘Trans Europe Express’ synth parts manually recreated by Robie.

Although Baker did use a Fairlight CMI for the orchestra hits, he considered it “a $100,000 waste of space”. Released in 1982, ‘Planet Rock’ put electro, as it came to be known, on the map.

Never one to waste a good thing, Baker produced ‘Play at Your Own Risk’ for PLANET PATROL, taking unused recorded parts from ‘Planet Rock’. His midas touch continued with the similar sounding ‘IOU’ for FREEEZ, once again maximising the rigid character of the 808.

Always in touch with what was going on at street level, Baker often tried out his rough mixes at clubs like Paradise Garage, The Danceteria and The Fun House. Although missing out on THE BEASTIE BOYS, Baker achieved major worldwide success when he signed NEW EDITION to his Streetwise Records. The label also released Eartha Kitt’s Boystown favourite ’Where Is My Man?’ , while other artists on the roster included Colonel Abrams, Cuba Gooding and Loleatta Holloway.

In 1989 with THE BACKBEAT DISCIPLES, Baker gathered a diverse all-star cast of Al Green, Andy McCuskey, Martin Fry, Jimmy Somerville and Etienne Daho to sing on the ‘Merge’ album, a pop hybrid record tracing his love of soul, synthpop, disco, HI-NRG and Europop.

Reflecting his trailblazing reputation in dance music with an ear for a good tune, Baker was commissioned to provide remixes for a wide range of mainstream artists including Cyndi Lauper, Bruce Springsteen, Neneh Cherry and Tina Turner, as well as more middle of the road acts like FLEETWOOD MAC, HALL & OATES and WET WET WET.

Baker’s varispeeded treatment of ‘Spaceman’ by BABYLON ZOO was used in the 1995 Levi’s TV commercial ‘Planet’, but many were disappointed to be met with the dirge rock original when the track was released as a single.

Now based between London, Miami and Ibiza, Baker continues to DJ while he notably co-produced and appeared in the 2015 documentary film ‘808’ directed by Alexander Dunn about the machine which he helped turn into a cultural icon.

Featuring reminisces by Phil Collins, Jori Hulkkonen, Felix Da Housecat, Richie Hawtin, Rick Rubin and Norman Cook among many, Baker himself interviewed the late Roland founder Ikutaro Kakehashi who had deliberately purchased faulty transistors to create the machine’s distinctive sizzling sound. Continuing his interest in documentaries, Baker is currently making one about NEW ORDER.

With such a varied career, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK presents a Beginner’s Guide to Arthur Baker featuring 18 tracks that cover the breadth of his influential music portfolio.


Recorded by Baker at Intergalactic Studios, the ‘Planet Rock’ synth leadline interpolated KRAFTWERK’s ‘Trans Europe Express’ while the Roland TR-808 drum machine mimicked ‘Numbers’; the track even included a chant of its Japanese count. But where there’s a hit, there’s a writ so when Baker later had to pay up for using elements of KRAFTWERK, he just put up the price of the record to fund the settlement. ‘Planet Rock’ eventually sold one million copies and paid for its debt.

Available on the AFRIKA BAMBAATAA & THE SOUL SONIC FORCE album ‘Looking For The Perfect Beat 1980 -1985’ via Tommy Boy Records


PLANET PATROL Play At Your Own Risk (1982)

More in the vein of classic soul groups like THE TEMPTATIONS, PLANET PATROL offered an electro twist on that five way vocal template and even featured a member named Melvin Franklin! ‘Play At Your Own Risk’ was made from recorded parts that did not make the final version of ‘Planet Rock’, with Baker even saying that both came from the same multitrack. Listening back, it was also the blueprint for Baker’s ‘IOU’ which became a huge hit for FREEEZ.

Available on the PLANET PATROL album ‘Planet Patrol’ via Tommy Boy Records


ROCKERS REVENGE featuring DONNIE CALVIN Walking On Sunshine (1982)

Mechanising Eddie Grant’s funky favourite in the sparkly pulsing vein of D-TRAIN, Baker’s cover of ‘Walking On Sunshine’ was specifically made for the Paradise Garage. Baker assembled ROCKERS REVENGE as a studio project with vocalists Donnie Calvin, Dwight Hawkes and Baker’s wife Tina B. While there an electronic feel, its looseness pioneered a more freestyle form that would later emerge in its own right. Continuing the covers theme, a version of Jimmy Cliff’s ‘The Harder They Come’ came out in 1983.

Available on the ROCKERS REVENGE album ‘Walking On Sunshine’ via Acrobat


AFRIKA BAMBAATAA & THE SOUL SONIC FORCE Looking For The Perfect Beat (1983)

With a funky urban twist over colder European electronics, ‘Looking For The Perfect Beat’ with its freestyling and mighty breakbeats took hip-hop up to the next level. With its self-prophesising title, it was far more complex and varied than ‘Planet Rock’, with nearly a year taken in the making. It showed ‘Planet Rock’ was no fluke, but Baker later remarked that the track was motivated as a taunt at Tommy Boy’s rivals and pioneers of rap, Sugar Hill Records. “Beat Dis”!

Available on the AFRIKA BAMBAATAA & THE SOUL SONIC FORCE album ‘Looking For The Perfect Beat 1980 -1985’ via Tommy Boy Records



Originally a jazz funk combo, FREEEZ had fragmented to the duo of John Rocca and Peter Maas when they became fascinated by ‘Planet Rock’. Meeting Baker in New York, he suggested recording his self-penned ‘IOU’. While there was a appearance from the ubiquitous Roland TR808, an Emulator was used for the staccato voice passages but key to the song’s appeal was Rocca’s falsetto. It was co-mixed by John Jellybean Benitez, the DJ at The Funhouse who later worked with Madonna and had a solo career.

Available on the FREEEZ album ‘Gonna Get You’ via Cherry Red


NEW EDITION Candy Girl (1983)

Signing what was effectively the modern electro incarnation of JACKSON 5 to his Streetwise label, Baker hit paydirt with NEW EDITION and their sweet worldwide No1 ‘Candy Girl’. With the tune’s writers Maurice Starr and Michael Jonzun working in the studio with the young quintet, Baker was executive producer and did the final mix with Starr. Unusually for a boy band, Ralph Tresvant, Bobby Brown, Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins and Ronnie DeVoe all went on to have successful careers after the group.

Available on the NEW EDITION album ‘Candy Girl’ via Streetwise Records


NEW ORDER Confusion (1983)

With NEW ORDER’s interest in dance music, having opened the Haçienda with New York clubs in mind, a collaborative union with Baker was inevitable. But Baker wanted to make ‘Blue Monday’ while and the Mancunians wanted to make ‘Planet Rock’, so the result was quite literally ‘Confusion’! Drummer Stephen Morris in particular had admitted frustration during the recording sessions as Baker would not let him alter his Roland TR808’s already-programmed patterns, fearing he would lose his trademark sound.

Edited version available on the NEW ORDER album ‘Singles’ via WEA


ARTHUR BAKER Breaker’s Revenge (1984)

For the film ‘Beat Street’, Baker helped produce its soundtrack and contributed the frantic beat and sample laden instrumental ‘Breakers’ Revenge’ to the score. The movie itself was a based around New York’s hip hop and breakdancing scene, with part of the plot based on the graffiti documentary ‘Style Wars’. Noted figures such as GRANDMASTER MELLE MEL & THE FURIOUS FIVE, THE SYSTEM, DOUG E. FRESH and THE SOULSONIC FORCE all appeared.

Available on the ARTHUR BAKER mix album ‘Breakin’ via Mushroom Records



ARTISTS UNITED AGAINST APARTHEID was formed by Steven Van Zandt and Baker to protest against apartheid in South Africa, while drawing parallels with the plight of Native Americans. “A song about change not charity, freedom not famine”, ‘Sun City’ highlighted the hypocrisy of the South African government allowing entertainment there that was banned in the country, with a call to reinforce the international boycott. It featured Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Miles Davis, U2 and RUN DMC.

Originally from the ARTISTS UNITED AGAINST APARTHEID ‎album ‘Sun City’ via Manhattan Records, currently unavailable


FINE YOUNG CANNIBALS Ever Fallen In Love – Club Senseless remix (1986)

‘Ever Fallen in Love’ was a noted song of punk and disaffection written by the late Pete Shelley and performed by his band BUZZCOCKS. But FINE YOUNG CANNIBALS caused  a stir with a dance friendly version co-produced by TALKING HEADS’ Jerry Harrison for the film ‘Something Wild’. With his Club Senseless remix, Baker exploited the track’s funkier possibilities, his theory being “if you had a really groovy bassline, the drums don’t have to be a straight kick, because people dance to the bassline.”

Available on the FINE YOUNG CANNIBALS album ‘The Raw & the Cooked’ via Edsel Records


PET SHOP BOYS In The Night – Arthur Baker remix (1986)

‘In The Night’ was the B-side for the first single version of ‘Opportunities’ and saw PET SHOP BOYS reusing the same chord progression as its A-side. The lyrics referred to Les Zazous, an apolitical group in France during the Second World War who were disliked by the Nazis and the Resistance. Although Phil Harding produced, Baker did a more percussive 12 inch remix which opened the ‘Disco’ collection. This was later edited and used as the theme music for the BBC’s ‘The Clothes Show’ between 1986 and 1994.

Available on the PET SHOP BOYS album ‘Disco’ via EMI Records


NEW ORDER Touched By The Hand Of God (1987)

Arthur Baker developed an enduring relationship with NEW ORDER, both in the studio and as friends, having co-written ‘Confusion’ and ‘Thieves Like Us’ like he was a member of the band. Working as the music supervisor for the movie soundtrack of Beth B’s parody of televangelism ‘Salvation’, NEW ORDER contributed six tracks. The best known was ‘Touched By The Hand Of God’, its title inspired by the controversial Argentine footballer Diego Maradona and mixed by Baker for singular consumption.

Available on the NEW ORDER album ‘(The Best Of)’ via London Records


WILL DOWNING A Love Supreme (1988)

Will Downing had sung with Baker’s project WALLY JUMP JR & THE CRIMINAL ELEMENT on the single ‘Turn Me Loose’ in 1986. So when the New Yorker signed as a solo artist with 4th & Broadway, the US-based subsidiary of Island Records, Baker was a natural choice as producer. A cover of the John Coltrane jazz piece with additional lyrics by Downing, the arrangement made the most of a soulful deep house vibe that was emanating from the US at the time.

Available on the WILL DOWNING album ‘A Love Supreme – The Collection’ via Spectrum



A&M Records offered Baker an album deal, but rather than facing the opportunity alone, he recruited a studio collective comprising of John Warren, Tiny Valentine, Mac Quayle, Bobby Khozouri, Philip Damien and Cevin Fisher, several of whom were to become notable in their own right. ‘Merge’ consisted mostly of dance flavoured pop; ‘Mythical Girl’ was an ABC track in all but name, involving not just Martin Fry but musical partner Mark White too, with Baker and his team producing.

Available on the ARTHUR BAKER & THE BACKBEAT DISCIPLES album ‘Merge’ via A&M Records


NEW ORDER 1963 – 95 (1995)

‘1963’ came from the 1987 sessions NEW ORDER had with PET SHOP BOYS producer Stephen Hague that also spawned ‘True Faith’. However, much to the annoyance of Peter Hook, his contributions on ‘1963’ were virtually written out, only making a brief appearance at the end of the original version. Released as a belated A-side in a 1995 remix, Baker took the opportunity to make the bassist’s presence heard throughout the song in this dreamier cinematic reinterpretation.

Available on the NEW ORDER album ‘Singles’ via WEA


TINA TURNER Whatever You Want – Massive Jungle Remix (1996)

Written by Baker with Taylor Dayne and one-time studio associate Fred Zarr who had worked with Baker on several recordings, ‘Whatever You Want’ for Tina Turner was an archetypical production from Trevor Horn in its single variant. Baker’s Massive Jungle Remix though did exactly what it said on the tin, but crucially kept Turner’s mighty vocal while also retaining the key cinematic essence that had made the song appealing within its mainstream context.

Originally from the TINA TURNER 12″ single ‘Whatever You Want (The Arthur Baker Mixes)’ via Parlophone Records, currently unavailable


NEW ORDER Behind Closed Doors (2001)

“I listen to The Coors behind closed doors” suggested Bernard Sumner ominously on this 21st Century NEW ORDER B-side produced by Baker. With its dark cinematics, the introspective tone of ‘Behind Closed Doors’ was very different to the more rocky tension of the ‘Get Ready’ comeback album. Sumner’s observations on domestic violence, lack of parental responsibility and chemical dependency coupled with mournful bass from Hooky made for sinister listening.

Available on the NEW ORDER single ‘Crystal’ via WEA


HURTS Wonderful Life – Arthur Baker remix (2010)

‘Wonderful Life’ had an epic cinematic backdrop with noirish synths and brooding woodwinds that saw singer Theo Hutchcraft telling the story of a suicidal man saved by love at first sight. The sub-six minute Arthur Baker remix took away the big compressed drums and replaced them with the tight electro snap of an 808. Adding a squelchy bassline sequence reminiscent of a 303, Baker kept the song intact and satisfied those who felt HURTS were nothing more than TAKE THAT dressed like ULTRAVOX.

Available on the HURTS single ‘Wonderful Life’ via RCA Records


Text by Chi Ming Lai
14th September 2019

A Beginner’s Guide To TREVOR HORN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ABC Poison Arrow (1982)

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

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


SPANDAU BALLET Instinction (1982)

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

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


YES Owner Of A Lonely Heart (1983)

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

Available on the YES album ‘90125’ via Atlantic Records


THE ART OF NOISE Moments In Love (1983)

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

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


PROPAGANDA Dr Mabuse (1984)

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

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



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

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


GODLEY & CREME Cry (1985)

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

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


GRACE JONES Slave To The Rhythm (1985)

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

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


ACT Chance (1988)

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

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


PET SHOP BOYS Left To My Own Devices (1988)

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

Available on the album ‘Introspective’ via EMI Records


SIMPLE MINDS Wall Of Love (1989)

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

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


SEAL Crazy (1990)

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

Available on the album ‘Seal’ via ZTT Records


MARC ALMOND Jacky (1991)

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

Available on the album ‘Tenement Symphony’ via Warner Music


MIKE OLDFIELD Sentinel (1992)

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

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


TINA TURNER Whatever You Want (1996)

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

Available on the album ‘Wildest Dreams’ via EMI Music


TATU Not Gonna Get Us (2002)

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

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


DELAYS Valentine (2006)

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

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


PET SHOP BOYS I’m With Stupid (2006)

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

Available on the album ‘Fundamental’ via EMI Music


Text by Chi Ming Lai
13th February 2016

A Beginner’s Guide To MARTYN WARE

It was June 1978 when a 7 inch aural artefact dressed in an iconic sleeve was issued by Bob Last’s Edinburgh based Fast Records.

Subtitled ‘Electronically Yours’, it featured the magnificent ‘Being Boiled’ backed with the amazing ‘Circus Of Death’, it heralded a new dawn in pop music.

The band behind it was THE HUMAN LEAGUE; comprising of Martyn Ware, Ian Craig Marsh and Philip Oakey, they stated that their records would feature “synthesizers and vocals only”. Bob Last became THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s manager and so began the illustrious career of Martyn Ware.

With economic recession decimating their industrial heartland in Sheffield, aspirational computer operators Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh experimented with newly affordable synthesizers from Korg and Roland as THE FUTURE with vocalist / guitarist Adi Newton to create sounds would eventually form part of a new musical movement. When Newton departed, Ware recruited his school friend Phil Oakey as his replacement and they became THE HUMAN LEAGUE. And to further reinforce that this was no ordinary band, Philip Adrian Wright joined as the non-playing Director of Visuals.

The band gained enough attention to be signed by Virgin Records. But before their first major label release, ‘The Dignity Of Labour’ was unleashed by Fast Records in May 1979.

Financed and distributed by Virgin, the four part avant instrumental 12 inch EP confused both audiences and the record label who had been expecting another ‘Being Boiled’.

But then, THE HUMAN LEAGUE had that air of provocation about them. Occasionally, their acts of subversion could push a little too far… they were thrown off a support slot for the 1979 TALKING HEADS tour when it was advertised they were intending to feature “specially taped songs and rhythms with synchronised moving pictures and snapshots instead of The League”.

The original line-up of THE HUMAN LEAGUE who would record two albums ‘Reproduction’ and ‘Travelogue’, but the lack of sales success would be frustrating and creative tensions were driving the band apart. Last eventually took matters into his own hands and played a game of divide and rule.

So in Autumn 1980, Martyn Ware left the band with Ian Craig Marsh joining him and together, they formed a production company called BRITISH ELECTRIC FOUNDATION (BEF).

The idea was to undertake a variety of projects, one of which was a pop group called HEAVEN 17 fronted by singer Glenn Gregory; their first album ‘Penthouse and Pavement’ album was a landmark achievement.

Combining a natural electronic development of ‘Travelogue’ on the ‘Penthouse’ side while an electro funk hybrid emerged on the ‘Pavement’ side, in Ware’s words, it was “a 100% serious attempt to be incredibly popular”.

And indeed it was… following the success of ‘Penthouse & Pavement’, ‘The Luxury Gap’ was accorded a bigger budget. There came the purchase of more sophisticated equipment and the opportunity to hire some of the best musicians in the business.

With their seventh single ‘Temptation’ becoming a huge international hit, HEAVEN 17 took over more of Ware’s time, although he was still able to maintain a lucrative production career that has included TINA TURNER, HOT GOSSIP, ASSOCIATES, THE COUNCIL COLLECTIVE, TERENCE TRENT D’ARBY, JIMMY RUFFIN, MARC ALMOND and ERASURE.

With the latter, the ‘I Say I Say I Say’ album project brought Martyn Ware and Vince Clarke to work together for the first time. It produced a number of hit singles for ERASURE like ‘Always’ and ‘I Love Saturday’, but it also led to some interesting artistic diversions for both parties. They eventually formed Illustrious to explore and market the possibilities of 3D sound systems.

At this point, HEAVEN 17 was in hiatus, but the friendship led to an invitation to support ERASURE on the 1997 ‘Cowboy’ tour and became the band’s entry as a regulars on the live circuit.

While ‘Temptation’ has been ubiquitous on compilation albums and whenever HEAVEN 17 are able to get on TV, be it on ‘Later With Jools Holland’ or a Plusnet advert, there are many examples of Martyn Ware’s work as an artist and producer that also deserve recognition.

Some have been big hits while others have been more obscure but no less valid.

So what tracks would make up an imaginary 20 track double CD retrospective as an introduction to Martyn Ware’s work?

With a restriction of one track per album project, this list is not a best of as such, but a chronological compendium of historic and artistic adventures that capture the career diversity of a man who used technology to realise creative musical ideas as a non-musician, as opposed to using technology for technology’s sake.

Please note, Ware’s work with BILLY MACKENZIE has been covered in greater detail within a separate Beginner’s Guide to the larger than life singer, so is not featured in this list…

THE HUMAN LEAGUE Being Boiled – Fast Version (1978)

The first song Oakey wrote with Ware and Marsh, the original version of ‘Being Boiled’ was recorded in mono using Ware’s Korg 700s and Roland System 100 as the rhythmical powerhouse, intended to reimagine FUNKADELIC’s funky overtones. Oakey’s bizarre lyrics were a result of a confusion between Buddhism and Hinduism. Forming part of a demo tape sent to Bob Last at Fast Records, it impressed enough for him to release the track “as seen”.

Available as a bonus track on THE HUMAN LEAGUE album ‘Reproduction’ via Virgin Records


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Dance Like A Star (1978 – officially released 2002)

THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s early demo tapes were accompanied by a written manifesto and these sentiments occasionally ended up within the music itself. “This is a song for all you bigheads out there who think that disco music is lower than the irrelevant musical gibberish and tired platitudes that you try to impress your parents with” Oakey profoundly announced as part of the preamble to ‘Dance Like A Star’: “We’re THE HUMAN LEAGUE, we’re much cleverer than you!”

Available on THE FUTURE + THE HUMAN LEAGUE album ‘The Golden Hour Of The Future’ via Black Melody


THE MEN I Don’t Depend On You (1979)

“We never wanted to be KRAFTWERK” said Phil Oakey on ‘Synth Britannia’, “we wanted to be a pop band!”. Despite having signed THE HUMAN LEAGUE in 1978, Virgin Records were still having trouble getting their head round the band’s “synthesizers and vocals only” rule and wanted them to use a real drummer. This eventually led to a disco flavoured experiment ‘I Don’t Depend On You’ under the pseudonym of THE MEN, often been cited as  the seed of HEAVEN 17.

Available as a bonus track on THE HUMAN LEAGUE album ‘Travelogue’ via Virgin Records


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Blind Youth (1979)

‘Reproduction’ finally put THE HUMAN LEAGUE into battle against GARY NUMAN, but sales were disappointing. Ironically, with its cry of “dehumanisation is such a big word”, ‘Blind Youth’ was Ware’s attack on the colder, machine-like style of electronic music that was being spearheaded by Numan. The human aspect was an important thing for Ware and it had been with this philosophy that the name THE HUMAN LEAGUE from the Starforce Sci-Fi board game had originally been chosen.

Available on THE HUMAN LEAGUE album ‘Reproduction’ via Virgin Records


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Dreams Of Leaving (1980)

“Some of the best creative work I’ve ever been involved with was writing with Phil, he’s a brilliant lyric and leadline writer” said Martyn Ware of his former sparring partner. ‘Dreams Of Leaving’ was a fantastically emotive slice of prog synth in four distinct movements. The tale of an anti-Apartheid activist escaping persecution in South Africa, but meeting with indifference in their new adopted home, is still sadly resonant today while the final quarter’s sweeps and whistles on Ware’s Roland Jupiter 4 are simply grand.

Available on THE HUMAN LEAGUE album ‘Travelogue’ via Virgin Records


BEF Uptown Apocalypse (1981)

When THE HUMAN LEAGUE split in Autumn 1980, Ware and Marsh formed a production company called the BRITISH ELECTRIC FOUNDATION (BEF) and released ‘Music For Stowaways’, an instrumental album only available on cassette that foresaw the advent of modern day iPod headphone culture. ‘Stowaway’ had been the original name of the Sony Walkman. Illustrating the concept of a rolling film soundtrack to one’s day-to-day life, ‘Uptown Apocalypse’ reunited the pair with former bandmate from THE FUTURE, Adi Newton. This metronomic dystopian piece did exactly what it said on the tin.

Available on the BEF album ‘1981-2011’ via Virgin Records


HEAVEN 17 Fascist Groove Thang (1981)

With his hand being forced on leaving THE HUMAN LEAGUE, Ware was fired up. HEAVEN 17’s opening salvo was the now iconic and self-explanatory ‘(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang’. Guest artist John Wilson brought in bursts of bass and rhythm guitar to add a new dimension to a synthesizer sound that was still rooted in THE HUMAN LEAGUE. Banned from Radio1 on its release, the song is still sadly poignant as Europe heads toward being “an unhappy land” again…

Available on the HEAVEN 17 album ‘Penthouse & Pavement’ via Virgin Records


BEF featuring TINA TURNER Ball Of Confusion (1982)

‘Music Of Quality & Distinction’ was conceived as a high-tech covers project featuring guest vocalists with Ware as musical director. ‘Volume 1’ most notably saw the recorded return of TINA TURNER on a blistering reworking of THE TEMPTATIONS’ ‘Ball Of Confusion’, featuring musicians as diverse as guitarist John McGeoch and Paul Jones on harmonica! Although impressively co-ordinated, ‘Volume 1’ did not sell in huge numbers but the working relationship with TINA TURNER gelled.

Available on the BEF album ‘1981-2011’ via Virgin Records


ALLEZ ALLEZ Flesh & Blood (1983)

Belgian pop funk outfit ALLEZ ALLEZ were led by the vivacious Sarah Osbourne who later married Glenn Gregory. Their debut EP ‘African Queen’ had featured a very loose groove, but to polish up their sound for their major label debut on Virgin, Martyn Ware came into the fold as producer. While featuring no synths, ‘Flesh & Blood’ featured an exquisite vocal from Osbourne alongside a catchy chanty refrain by backing vocalist Roland Bindi, augmented by lush orchestrated strings.

Available on the ALLEZ ALLEZ album ‘Promises / African Queen’ via Les Disques Du Crepuscule and the compilation album ‘Methods Of Dance’ (V/A) via Virgin Records


HEAVEN 17 Lady Ice & Mr Hex (1983)

With a Roland MC4 Micro-composer and Linn Drum driving HEAVEN 17’s System 100 and System 100M plus the addition of a Roland TB303 Bassline, the idea of programmed parts inspiring musicians who weren’t used to programmed material to syncopate off them was floated by Ware. Featuring noted sessioners Simon Phillips on drums, Nick Plytas on piano and Ray Russell on rhythm guitar, ‘Lady Ice & Mr Hex’ was a successfully surreal marriage of synthesizers with jazz.

Available on the HEAVEN 17 album ‘The Luxury Gap’ via Virgin Records


TINA TURNER Let’s Stay Together (1983)

One of the songs Martyn Ware had wanted to do on ‘Music Of Quality & Distinction Volume 1’ was AL GREEN’s ‘Let’s Stay Together’. So when the opportunity came to work with TINA TURNER again, Ware suggested it as a way of re-establishing her back into the soul realm. Co-produced by Greg Walsh who had worked on ‘The Luxury Gap’, Linn Drum and Fairlight were used as the programmed backbone while Nick Plytas and Ray Russell were recalled to embellish the soulful electronic hybrid.

Available on the TINA TURNER album ‘All The Best’ via EMI Records


HEAVEN 17 And That’s No Lie (1984)

At over 10 minutes, ‘And That’s No Lie’ was an adventure in sound that threw in everything from Ware’s abstract sonic experiments a la early HUMAN LEAGUE, the jazz inflections of ‘The Luxury Gap’, modern Fairlighted electropop and the gospel tinged vocals of ARFRODIZIAK. Far too short as a single but possibly far too long in its album form, ‘And That’s No Lie’ signalled a creative zenith before a wider dampening of spirit within the graduates of ‘Synth Britannia’.

Available on the HEAVEN 17 album ‘5 Classic Albums’ via Virgin Records


TERENCE TRENT D’ARBY Sign Your Name (1987)

HEAVEN 17’s 1986 album ‘Pleasure One’ used a conventional guitar / bass / drums template and had not been a big success. But Ware found himself reinvigorated from working with a flamboyant former GI named TERENCE TRENT D’ARBY. From an album that featured four hit singles, ‘Sign Your Name’ was a superb bossa nova ballad that captured some of the more sensitive side of D’Arby’s sometimes brash, but loveable persona that had been apparent on ‘If You Let Me Stay’ and ‘Dance Little Sister’.

Available on the TERENCE TRENT D’ARBY album ‘Introducing The Hardline According To…’ via Sony Music


BEF featuring GREEN GARTSIDE I Don’t Know Why I Love You (1991)

HEAVEN 17’s 1988 album ‘Teddy Bear, Duke & Psycho’ was according to Ware “the nail in the coffin; we’d completely lost our way by then!”. Putting HEAVEN 17 into hiatus, he decided to curate his second ‘Music Of Quality & Distinction’ volume, but this time aiming for the mainstream Trans-Atlantic market with an emphasis on his love of soul music. One of the best numbers was a cover of STEVIE WONDER’s ‘I Don’t Know Why I Love You’ voiced by SCRITTI POLITTI’s Green Gartside. “I still play it” says Ware.

Available on the BEF album ‘1981-2011’ via Virgin Records


ERASURE Tragic (1994)

Now imagine if ENNIO MORRICONE and WENDY CARLOS had worked with THE HUMAN LEAGUE and DEPECHE MODE in their fledging years on a collaborative film soundtrack? Then the wonderful melancholy of ‘Tragic’ would have been the end result. With music by Vince Clarke and production by Martyn Ware,  ‘Tragic’ was a fine example of how music did not necessarily need words to convey emotion. Andy Bell did add a vocal for an as live version later but it wasn’t really necessary.

Available on the ERASURE single ‘Always’ via Mute Records


HEAVEN 17 Designing Heaven (1996)

Making their full return with ‘Bigger Than America’, ‘Designing Heaven’ was the first fruit of the reformed trio going back to their electronic roots. It was classic HEAVEN 17, with echoes of ‘Sunset Now’ and ‘Crushed By The Wheels Of Industry’ set to a modern European club friendly format. And as if to make that link more pronounced, Claudia Brücken translated the lyrics into German for a bonus track  entitled ‘Den Himmel Designen’ while Giorgio Moroder contributed a typically throbbing remix.

Available on the HEAVEN 17 album ‘Bigger Than America’ via Cleopatra Records


THE CLARKE & WARE EXPERIMENT The East Is Falling (1999)

Inspired by BRIAN ENO’s ‘Music For Airports’ opus and in particular, the track ‘1/1’, ‘The East Is Falling’ allowed Clarke to indulge in his more ambient fantasies last heard on the B-side ’91 Steps’ while Ware shaped the soundscape into a mind bending binaural format that was best listened to on headphones. With a striking piano motif bolstered by layers of sweeping, synthetic strings, the haunting atmospheres made for a fine development of the environmental music tradition.

Available on THE CLARKE & WARE EXPERIMENT album ‘Pretentious’ via Mute Records


HEAVEN 17 Are You Ready? (2005)

With HEAVEN 17 now playing live on a semi-regular basis, one of the regular band members has been singer Billie Godfrey. ‘Are You Ready?’ was  co-written by her after being presented with a backing track by Ware. Essentially a love song, there were however some darker undercurrents. “There’s a slavish servant to master / penitent soul to preacher idea behind it with the spurned lover almost begging to be redeemed or converted by the object of their desire” Godfrey said in 2010.

Available on the HEAVEN 17 album ‘Before After’ via BEF Records / Alpha Engineering


BEF Featuring KIM WILDE Every Time I See You I Go Wild (2013)

The third volume of ‘Music Of Quality & Distinction’ featured some of Ware’s most starkly electronic work since he was in THE HUMAN LEAGUE. This striking cover of the Northern Soul favourite was best known in a version by JJ BARNES but was written by STEVIE WONDER. Arranged by THE MODIFIED TOY ORCHESTRA’s Paul Duffy, ‘Every Time I See You I Go Wild’ featured just KIM WILDE and a Roland System 100. And what’s there not to like about an electronic Northern Soul cover…

Available on the BEF album ‘Music Of Quality & Distinction Volume 3: Dark’ via Wall Of Sound


HEAVEN 17 Pray (2014)

H17-pray‘Pray’ is sonically closer to early HUMAN LEAGUE in its metronomic first three minutes before regular H17 sidemen Julian Crampton and Asa Bennett cut-in brilliantly with their respective slap bass and rhythm guitar runs. Glenn Gregory continues his recent Bowie impersonation trip with HOLY HOLY, but this time via ’Young Americans’ as a saxophone makes its presence felt to complete the connection. It’s a tremendous avant synth / soul hybrid that undoubtedly outshines much of the material that appeared on ‘Before After’.

Available on the compilation album ‘Fly –Songs Inspired by the film Eddie The Eagle’ (V/A) via Universal Music


Text by Chi Ming Lai with thanks to Martyn Ware
28th March 2015, updated 17th April 2018

MARTYN WARE: The BEF Interview

This Autumn sees the reissue of BRITISH ELECTRIC FOUNDATION’s ‘Music Of Quality & Distinction Volumes 1 & 2’.

Ambitiously conceived as a high-tech covers project with HEAVEN 17’s Martyn Ware as musical director and in a production partnership with bandmate Ian Craig Marsh, ‘Volume 1′ featured guest vocalists such as the late Billy MacKenzie from ASSOCIATES, SANDIE SHAW, MANFRED MANN’s Paul Jones, GARY GLITTER, THE NOLANS, HEAVEN 17’s Glenn Gregory and PAULA YATES.

There were also cameo appearances from MIDGE URE and BOB GELDOF under the pseudonym of THE NANCY BOYS as well as an impressive supporting cast of musicians who included THE SHADOWS’ Hank Marvin, MAGAZINE’s John McGeoch, I LEVEL’s Jo Dworniak, NICK PLYTAS, BEGGAR & CO and JOHN FOXX.

However most notably, ‘Volume 1′ saw the recorded return of TINA TURNER on a blistering reworking of THE TEMPTATIONS’ ‘Ball Of Confusion’. Although impressively co-ordinated, Volume 1 did not sell in huge numbers but the working relationship with TINA TURNER gelled which led to Martyn Ware producing her comeback single, a magnificently moody version of AL GREEN’s ‘Let’s Stay Together’. Becoming a massive worldwide hit, it effectively revived her career.

For 1991’s ‘Volume 2’, she reciprocated by singing the SAM COOKE classic ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ while this collection also saw the return of ASSOCIATES’ Billy MacKenzie on DENISE WILLIAMS’ ‘Free’. The album featured a greater emphasis on Ware’s love of soul which was highlighted by guest vocalists such as SCRITTI POLITTI’s Green Gartside, CHAKA KHAN, TERENCE TRENT D’ARBY, LALAH HATHAWAY and BILLY PRESTON.

Now, a ‘Volume 3’ entitled ‘Dark’ is being completed while the work of BEF is to be celebrated in a live extravaganza at London’s Roundhouse this October that will feature the live premiere of HEAVEN 17’s ‘The Luxury Gap’ in 3-D sound on Friday 14th and a BEF concert on Saturday 15th with guest vocalists ANDY BELL, MIDGE URE, BOY GEORGE, KIM WILDE, SANDIE SHAW, LA ROUX and NOISETTES already confirmed.

Following his interview last year, Martyn Ware was kind enough speak about the whole BEF production concept, ‘The Luxury Gap’ and the forthcoming live weekender.

It’s amazing to think now that back in 1981, Virgin Records were prepared to finance such an ambitious project by a then comparatively unknown musician / producer…

There were visionary people, it’s only in the fullness of time that you realise how visionary. I have to give Virgin a lot of respect because initially when I left THE HUMAN LEAGUE, I signed to them as BEF, not HEAVEN 17. They were really bought into the idea, big style. I said if I was really going to make it real as opposed to some fancy marketing fluff, I wanted to really organise it as a proper production company and make it work by bringing forward lots of different projects.

And the manifesto for that was the ‘Music Of Quality & Distinction’ album, it was like a calling card really for our production style. I was ridiculously gung ho I think… I’d just ring people up, they didn’t know who the hell I was!

How did the idea first come about?

I really wanted to get up to speed in terms of putting myself and Ian Marsh up on the map as a production team that people would be interested in. I couldn’t think of a better way of doing it than appealing to people’s artistic nature.

Was the seed of this in THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s live act when you used to do covers?

Yeah, there’s always been the element of the curator in me I suppose, wanting to reinterpret things and try to change people’s perceptions through the medium of reinterpretation… and that’s a very pretentious way of saying “doing cover versions”!

The point is, applying the skills and palette of sounds that we’d used with THE HUMAN LEAGUE, adding some real instruments in there and seeing what would come out. And it turned out to be the palette of sounds that we used for ‘Penthouse and Pavement’.

At the time, many were expecting the songs to be arranged in the style of HEAVEN 17 but with other vocalists. But the arrangements were quite varied from glam rock to big ballads plus a variety of conventional instrumentation. How did decide how the recordings would actually sound?

It started out with the idea that it was going to be electronic really, and then it quickly became apparent that it was just restricting ourselves too much. It turned into something that in the same way I wanted to put ourselves on the map in terms of vocalists, I also wanted to do it in terms of musicians as well. Hence getting people like John McGeoch who I had massive respect for, Neville ‘Breeze’ McKreith and David ‘Baps’ Baptiste from BEGGAR & CO and other musicians from the funkier end of the spectrum.

These weren’t old session players we were using, these were young guys with an average age of 22. We had older musicians too like Paul Jones from MANFRED MANN playing harmonica on ‘Ball Of Confusion’ just generally mixing and matching and mashing styles up. It all seems straightforward now because that sort of thing has been done so much in the last few years but at the time it was pretty cutting edge. It was like being a demented puppet master, but a friendly Northern version.

The one that stands out for me is Bowie’s ‘The Secret Life Of Arabia’. Not only was Billy MacKenzie amazing but so were the funk musicians juxtaposing with your Linn Drum programming and Roland Vocoder choral pads…

I love that! What an incredible talent, I loved what he did and how he appeared right from the second I heard ASSOCIATES’ ‘Party Fears Two’ on some late evening music show. He just looked like a Hollywood star. I am not gay but if I was… I thought he was utterly beautiful and stellar! *laughs*

What was he like to work with?

We got on really well, he was the first on the list of people that I rang up. Everybody knows he was bonkers and had a particular take on things but musically, we fitted together very well. He lacked a little in terms of understanding the production process and how sound fitted together but what he lacked in that respect, he made up for in his arrangement ideas. I was, if you like, kind of filling in the missing parts for him. But he turned round to me after we’d done a couple of tracks on the ‘Perhaps’ album and he said “Martyn, you’ve got a pop heart” which I though was the nicest compliment anyone’s ever paid me.

There was a group called THE HEREAFTER credited with backing vocals on Volume 1. Was that you and Glenn Gregory?

Yeah! I just love the name… HEAVEN 17 and THE HEREAFTER… c’mon! I might revive that for the live show *laughs*

What inspired the Volume 1 album artwork?

We always liked the whole notion of packaging for different types of goods. So Ian Marsh had a shirt box which said “shirts of quality & distinction”. It was literally a box in black and white of people getting out of an E-Type Jag in front a big posh hotel. So I thought “we’re going to recreate that photo and call the album Music Of Quality & Distinction”!

You used the Synclavier 2 quite a bit on the album but when HEAVEN 17 eventually acquired a computer musical instrument, you settled on a Fairlight. What were your operational reasons for this?

The operational reasons for moving to the Fairlight were that Ian had bought one without asking anyone and with his own money… £40,000! I was going “Are you sure about this Ian?”, it seemed a little extreme but he was keen so… those days have gone!

But I was very keen on the Synclavier from the point of view in that the purity of the sounds was so amazing. There was also another machine, I can’t remember what it was called now but it had a green computer screen built-in. It was like an early graphic visual representation programmer.

We also used a PC called an Osborne which we used for programming sequence parts just before we got into Macs and everything. We just hired stuff in and tried different things, it was being in a giant toy store. The LinnDrum was just brilliant, we wanted everything to be as good that was at rhythm. We thought that merging it with the human aspects of live players was pretty unique at the time.

Did you use the Synclavier on ‘The Luxury Gap’?

No, we’d moved on by then to programming using the Roland MC4 Microcomposer, so there was a lot of numeric programming on that album. That drove my System 100 and Ian’s System 100M.

The original demos are really just the programmed parts which then got layered over with real instruments. The programmed parts, as you’d expect, combined with the LinnDrum sounded extremely robotic and not necessarily in a good way, it sounded too ‘white bread’ for me.

By that time, I’d moved into a different headspace. It was the idea of programmed parts inspiring musicians who weren’t used to listening to programmed material to syncopate off them and that was interesting. On ‘The Luxury Gap’, Simon Phillips came in and played on ‘Lady Ice And Mr Hex’. He played the most amazing syncopated, polyrhythmic thing on a giant drum kit with three bass drums and twenty toms… that was all inspired by the nuts nature of the original LinnDrum programme.

Volume 2 finally appeared in 1991 and had much more of a soulful live feel didn’t it?

It was more aiming for the mainstream market , it wasn’t really meant for the cognoscenti. It was almost Trans-Atlantic rather than European, it’s got quite an American feel but not in a detrimental way. I saw Green Gartside from SCRITTI POLITTI the other day who did ‘I Don’t Know Why I Love You’ which I really like, I still play it.

He said he really likes it now but he wasn’t so sure at the time. I had to push him hard to do that track because he doesn’t really see himself as a soul singer. And I think he’s got an incredibly soulful voice, although it’s not necessarily in the purist genre based sense of soul. I always think that about KATE BUSH as well. Essentially, some people have got soulful voices whether they choose to sing what we regard to be soul music or not. PETER GABRIEL fits into that bag as well.

What are your favourites from the first two volumes?

‘Secret Life Of Arabia’ was very successful as far as I was concerned. I really like ‘Wichita Lineman’, that’s an interesting version of that song and Glenn sings it really well. I also really like ‘It’s Over’ with Billy MacKenzie, it’s so completely over the top and kind of operatic. Of course ‘Ball Of Confusion’, it was very successful and led to me working with TINA TURNER.

On the second album, I like the Green track. I personally, although I’ve never heard anyone else say it, really like ‘Someday We’ll All Be Free’ sung by CHAKA KHAN and I’m very fond of ‘Family Affair’. LALAH HATHAWAY’s got a great voice, I don’t know what really happened to her. I also loved MAVIS STAPLES doing ‘A Song For You’.

When we last spoke, you revealed that you’d just finished the backing track to DELFONICS’ ‘Didn’t I Blow Your Mind?’ for ‘Dark’. Are you able to reveal any more of the other tracks that will be on the finished album and any of the vocalists?

ANDY BELL’s going to do ‘Breathing’ by KATE BUSH; KIM WILDE is going do a minimalist System 100 only arrangement which I’ve done with Brian Duffy of MODIFIED TOY ORCHESTRA of a song called ‘Everytime I See You I Go Wild’ by JJ BARNES, it’s a classic Northern Soul tune co-written by STEVIE WONDER.

Billie Godfrey who sings with HEAVEN 17 has done a version of the BRONSKI BEAT song ‘Smalltown Boy’ which is really interesting, it’s like an epic eight minute version and quite cinematic. POLLY SCATTERGOOD who’s on Mute has done a version of DUSTY SPRINGFIELD’s ‘The Look Of Love’. With Glenn, I’m going to be working on ‘It Was A Very Good Year’ by FRANK SINATRA, an electronic soundscape version of it. If you think about the original fantastic orchestral arrangement, it’s like a series of little episodes of a short story and I want to do the same but using electronics instead. I think it will work really well.

So is ‘Dark’ much more of an electronic album than any previously in the BEF covers series?

Yes, the basic premise is dark, minimalist electronic versions of previously normal songs. It’s expanded a bit since that original theory because I realise now is that what I really want to do is either minimalist or soundtrack-ish type things but none of it is going to be normal, just pure electronic.

You’re going to celebrate the legacy of BEF with a two day live event featuring HEAVEN 17’s ‘The Luxury Gap’ on day one and BEF on day two. How are the arrangements coming along?

It’s a massive amount of work, it all seems very simple when you’re talking about it in a meeting. Just contacting people and getting them to respond to emails, these generally aren’t people you can just ring up out of the blue however much you get on with them, they’re just not available a lot of the time.

It slows the whole process down. I’m doing this and the BEF album with no finance or record company support. You’re asking for people’s faith and for them to approach it as a good idea from an artistic point of view, and therefore trying to leverage my reputation over thirty years amongst people who know.

It’s tricky but it’ll all come out in the wash. I’m sure that it’s going to be an extraordinary night. I’m very happy that people have agreed to do it so far in advance. There’s already been three months of hard work from all concerned to try and get this together. I’m lucky to be getting these people for one night. It’s genuinely not going to happen anywhere else, it is a one-off!

What are your sound challenges for these two shows at The Roundhouse?

The challenge for the HEAVEN 17 Luxury Gap performance is to create a show that’s never been created before which is equipping the entire auditorium in 3-Dimensional sound. I do with my other hat on with Illustrious so I’m not freaking out as it’s what we do for a living.

But I don’t think people are going to be quite ready for it, they’re going to be gobsmacked. No rock band has ever done this before and that includes PINK FLOYD… they’ve done quadraphonic but this is the next level up. So that in itself plus programming in an entire album. And we’ll be doing songs that aren’t on ‘The Luxury Gap’, like with the ‘Penthouse and Pavement’ show.

And then the challenges for the BEF night are just the logistics, programming it all, getting everybody in and there at the right time, and the rehearsals… can you imagine that? *laughs*

Are the HEAVEN 17 regulars like Billie Godfrey, Asa Bennett and Joel Farland going to be the house band for the BEF show?

Yes, and we’re getting a great looking girl keyboard player Berenice Scott, because there are a lot more parts on ‘The Luxury Gap’ and the BEF albums than on ‘Penthouse and Pavement’.

That’s an impressive line-up of guest vocalists you’ve gathered so far. Can you say who will be doing what song?

ANDY BELL’s going to do ‘Secret Life Of Arabia’, I can’t think of a better person to take it on. SANDIE SHAW will do ‘Anyone Who Had A Heart’ and Glenn will do ‘Wichita Lineman’. For the live show, the idea is that each of the artists on ‘Dark’ will do one of the tracks of their choice from Volumes 1 and 2, and then the new track that they’re doing.

Any chance you could get Phil Oakey to do ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’ or ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Part 1′ for old times sake?

I’m working on it, that’s all I can say!

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to MARTYN WARE

Special thanks also to Peter Noble at Noble PR

BEF ‘Music Of Quality & Distinction Volumes 1 & 2’ are due for release as a remastered boxed set by EMI in Autumn 2011

HEAVEN 17 perform ‘The Luxury Gap’ on Friday 14th October 14th 2011, followed by BEF ‘Music of Quality & Distinction Live ‘on Saturday 15th October 2011 – the event takes place at The Roundhouse in Chalk Farm, London. Day tickets cost £23.50 while weekend tickets are £42.50 subject to booking fee.



Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
20th May 2011