Monday, March 5, 2007

ABC


Look Of Love


Poison Arrow

ABC is an English New Romantic band that charted eleven Top 40 singles between 1981 and 1990. ABC was formed in 1980 in Sheffield after Martin Fry, a music journalist, interviewed the band Vice Versa for his fanzine Modern Drugs. They adopted Fry as lead vocalist and changed their name to ABC. The revamped band were pigeonholed as part of the New Romantic movement of the time, which included the likes of Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet and The Human League. The band would offer many stylistic spins within its career and perhaps they are better labeled as Northern Soul, their obvious inspiration and the most universal element to influence all of their offerings. Perhaps the most distinguishing fact is the bands non-ominous use of synthesizers. Ominous, discordant, or minor-keyed synthesizer parts were something that would unite the majority of true New Romantic bands. Also, ABC from the very beginning incorporated a predominate funk and soul sound into their compositions.

Their first single, "Tears Are Not Enough", made the UK Top 20 in 1981. Soon afterwards, David Robinson left the band and was replaced by now-revered drummer David Palmer (no relation to keyboardist David Palmer). The band had three Top 10 hits during 1982: the above videos "Poison Arrow" and "The Look of Love (Part One)". Also a top 10 hit was "All Of My Heart" and shot high-concept music videos that captured a suave Great Gatsby-meets-James Bond aesthetic.

Later that year, the band released their debut album The Lexicon of Love. Heavy on rhyming couplets and tales of unrequited love, the album was a big hit, reaching number one in the UK album charts. Produced by Trevor Horn, it often features in UK critics' lists of favourite albums: it ranked 42nd in The Observer Music Monthly's "Top 100 British Albums" (June 2004) and 40th in Q magazine's "100 Greatest British Albums" (June 2000). The album is revered for its uncanny mixture of wit, overall musicality (tightly bound by funk basslines and Palmer's steady drumming), attention to recorded sonics, and exceptional graphic design. In 2002, the song "Poison Arrow" was featured on the soundtrack to the video game "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City".

ABC found it difficult to follow up their debut. Lickley and Palmer left the band before Beauty Stab, the second ABC album, was released in 1983. It performed poorly in comparison to its predecessor. Beauty Stab was, by design, a dramatic departure from the lush, melodramatic pop/funk of The Lexicon of Love, with emphasis instead placed on guitar-based rock. Gary Langan (who had engineered The Lexicon of Love) produced the effort. The new sound was underpinned by the presence of the Roxy Music rhythm section of Andy Newmark and Alan Spenner, most notably on "If I Ever Thought You'd Be Lonely". The first single, "That Was Then But This Is Now", a clear attempt to mark a new chapter in the band's career, briefly appeared in the UK Top 20, followed by a Top 40 showing for "S.O.S.". The band eschewed remixes for the project, and the 12" single for "That Was Then But This Is Now" featured the disclaimer "This record is exactly the same as the 7" version. The choice is yours." Stephen Singleton retired from the band in 1984.

Now a duo of Fry and White, augmented by two non-performing band members, Fiona Russell-Powell and David Yarritu, who were chosen for their unusual looks,[citation needed] ABC's chart fortunes in the UK further dwindled with the 1985 album How To Be A...Zillionaire!. It marked another change of style, in this case toying with mid-1980s dance beats and samples. Keith LeBlanc from Tackhead programmed much of the beatbox work for the album. While the group did score its first American Top 10 hit with the infectious "Be Near Me", at home in the UK it failed to break the Top 20. The album also featured the hits "How to Be a Millionaire", "Vanity Kills" and "Ocean Blue". The record's greatest distinction would likely be that it is among a handful of 1980's albums that made extensive (almost extreme) use of the Fairlight CMI (and similar sampling synthesizers). Others in this vein would include "Naked Eyes" by the band of the same name, "The Dreaming" by Kate Bush, "Zoolook" by Jean Michel Jarre, "Stella" by Yello.

Following a hiatus while Fry was treated for Hodgkin's disease, ABC returned to the studio to record Alphabet City, which they thought might be their final album. Best known for "When Smokey Sings", a tribute to Smokey Robinson, the album also spawned "The Night You Murdered Love" and "King Without a Crown" as singles. Many critics lauded Alphabet City as a return to form for the group, noting its polished production by Fry and White in conjunction with Bernard Edwards, best known for his work with CHIC. For the B-sides of the album's first two singles, the band offered two rhythmic vignettes ("songs" would be a stretch) inspired by their time in the States. One was simply called "Minneapolis" and was a striking homage to the early Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis sound. The other was slightly more abrasive, hard-hitting and titled "Chicago" (presumably after the burgeoning House Music scene). Add in the fact that "When Smokey Sings" was featured in a Motown doppleganger called the "Detroit Mix" and it is obvious ABC were in love with American soul music and its many derivations. All three tracks would make the c.d. version of the group's first anthology.

In 1989, the duo issued Up, their fifth and final PolyGram studio album. This time experimenting with house music, ABC scored a minor UK hit with the single "One Better World", an ode to love, peace and tolerance. They then released another single, "The Real Thing". it is during this period that the group worked on a couple of outside productions aimed at the House music scene. One was Paul Rutherford's (Frankie Goes to Hollywood) solo album and first single release, the other was for signee Lizzie Tear on the group's own Neutron label. The Rutherford tracks made the bigger stir.

In 1990, the band released a comprehensive greatest hits package called Absolutely. This covered all of ABC's albums up until 1990 and feaured all of their singles. A video package featuring promos was also released. One new song, "The Look of Love 90", was released to promote the package, though neither the band nor Trevor Horn (who had produced the original) approved of the mix. ABC implored fans not to buy the remixed single.

The group then moved to the EMI label (and MCA in North America), where they recorded the LP Abracadabra, a tightly produced fusion of early 1990s techno sounds and 1970s dance grooves which, despite the enlistment of "precision" producer/mixer David Bascombe, was met with muted critical approval. "Love Conquers All", the first single, barely placed in the UK charts, though Black Box ("Ride on Time") provided remixes of "Say It" which were well received on the U.S. dance charts.

ABC split up in 1992, with White leaving the music business to pursue an interest in Reiki therapy. Martin Fry continued to work with EMI in the months thereafter, but he was axed from the label before his solo material was released.

Fry resurrected the band's name in 1997 for the album Skyscraping, an homage to several of his musical heroes, including David Bowie, Roxy Music, and The Sex Pistols. A collaboration with Glenn Gregory of Heaven 17 and Keith Lowndes, the album again was met with critical approval rather than broad commercial success. However, three singles were released, "Rolling Sevens", "Skyscraping", and "Stranger Things", complete with extra b-sides.

In 1999, ABC released their first live album, cleverly titled The Lexicon of Live. This live album covered most of their major hits. Although Martin Fry was the only member left, he had a backing band and adorned the album cover in his trademark gold lamé suit.
Look of Love - The Very Best of ABC was released in 2001. Although essentially a reissue of greatest hits package Absolutely (from 1990), the album featured two new songs by Fry titled "Peace and Tranquility" and "Blame". A companion DVD, along with a bonus disc of remixes was also released.

Fry still tours as ABC, often in conjunction with other 1980s nostalgia or revival acts. In 2004, the VH1 show Bands Reunited attempted to get the line-up of Martin Fry, David Palmer, Stephen Singleton and Mark White together for a reunion concert. Martin Fry and David Palmer appeared and played together for the first time in over twenty years. Singleton and White opted not to participate.

Having completed a tour of the U.S. in May and June 2006, Fry and Palmer, together with Chuck Kentis, are putting the finishing touches on a new ABC album with a working title of Traffic, scheduled for release in 2007. Gary Langan, who worked on The Lexicon of Love and Beauty Stab, is producing.

Members
Current
Martin Fry - lead vocals (1980— )
David Palmer - drums (1982, 2004— )

Former
ABC, phase two. (I. to r.:) Mark White, David Yarritu, Martin Fry and Fiona Russell-Powell (a/k/a Eden)
Mark Lickley - bass (1980–1982)
David Robinson - drums (1980–1982)
Andy Newmark - drums (1983)
Alan Spenner - bass (1983)
Stephen Singleton - saxophone (1980–1984)
Fiona Russell-Powell (a.k.a. Eden) - vocals (1985)
David Yarritu - vocals (1985)
Mark White - guitar, keyboards (1980–1992)
Glenn Gregory - vocals (1995–1997)
Keith Lowndes - guitar (1995–1997)
Alan Laramee Taylor - bass (1982,1985-1987)

External links
Official website of ABC and Martin Fry


1 comment:

Eileen said...
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