So here are 45 songs from the era when vinyl was king, that have been lost in the midst of time. Some are B-sides; others are great singles and album tracks that were overlooked at their time of release. But all deserve critical reappraisal. They are listed by year in alphabetical order, all record labels are UK except where stated:
PLASTIC BERTRAND Tout Petit La Planète (1978)
Although best known for his pseudo-punk hit ‘Ça Plane Pour Moi’, the Belgian BILLY IDOL recorded this superb electronic Eurodisco single with vocoders galore that would have done GIORGIO MORODER, CERRONE and SPACE proud. A bit hit in Greece, ‘Tout Petit la Planète’ featured a template that would be later borrowed by many Italo disco records, PET SHOP BOYS and KELLY OSBOURNE. Incidentally, fellow Belgians TELEX released their own robotic cover version of ‘Ça Plane Pour Moi’ shortly after.
Available on the download album: ‘Plastic Bertrand’ via AMC Records
GINA X PERFORMANCE Be A Boy (1979)
‘No GDM’ about the iconic Quentin Crisp was a fairly familiar staple in The Blitz Club and later covered by ERASURE. But less well known is ‘Be A Boy’, a snarly piece of uptempo androgyny from Gina Kikoine where she dreams of gender transformation. Her partner-in-crime on synths incidentally was one Zeus B Held who later produced FASHION, DEAD OR ALIVE, JOHN FOXX and TRANSVISION VAMP.
Available on the CD: ‘Nice Mover’ via LTM Records
DALEK I LOVE YOU Destiny (1980)
Pre-OMD, the main synthesizer based duo on the Wirral Peninsula was DALEK I LOVE YOU. However, by the time their debut album Compass Kumpas was released, OMD were already having hits and keyboards man Dave Hughes left to join their live band. ‘Destiny’ is their most accessible song with a precise KRAFTWERK percussive appeal while Alan Gill’s vocals are eccentrically nasal in that BRIAN ENO fashion. Hughes left OMD to form GODOT featuring vocalist Kevin Hartley who later then joined….DALEK I LOVE YOU! What goes around comes around. Alan Gill briefly joined THE TEARDROP EXPLODES, co-wrote their biggest hit ‘Reward’ and later composed the music for the film ‘Letter To Brezhnev’.
Available on the download album ‘Compass/Kum’Pas’ via Mercury Records
THE DURUTTI COLUMN For Belgian Friends (1980)
Not strictly electronic in the purest sense but 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 A CERTAIN RATIO’s Donald Johnson. This beautiful instrumental was one of Reilly’s best compositions, but in true perverse Factory Records style, ‘For Belgian Friends’ was initially tucked away on their beautifully packaged compilation ‘A Factory Quartet’.
Available on the double CD: ‘The Best of The Durutti Column’ via WEA Records
SHOCK R.E.R.B (1980)
The ‘R.E.R.B.’ is Rusty Egan and Richard Burgess…hence the title for their futuristic composition! Originally a B-Side for the New Romantic dance troupe SHOCK’s debut single ‘Angel Face’, this is Sci-Fi disco set to a Glitter Band beat. Featuring Roland MC-4 Microcomposer programming, Roland System 100M and thumping prototype Simmons SDSV drums, this magnificent instrumental delivers what Roland’s sales slogan once proposed… “Design the future”.
Available on 12 inch single and download via Blitz Club Records
THE SILICON TEENS Just like Eddie (1980)
Daniel Miller established Mute Records with the eerily dystopian ‘Warm Leatherette’ and ‘T.V.O.D.’ under his moniker THE NORMAL. But his next project was his own fictitious teen synth group THE SILICON TEENS and involved covering a set of Rock’n’Roll tunes in an ironic electronic stylee. ‘Just Like Eddie’ is the HEINZ novelty hit that was produced by Joe Meek and one can’t help but smile when Miller robotically deadpans “Beneath the stars I play my guitar…just like Eddie!”. Of course, Miller soon put the musical joke of THE SILICON TEENS aside once he found himself a real teen synth group from Basildon!
Available on the CD: ‘Music For Parties’ via Mute Records
TELEX Eurovision (1980)
TELEX’s manifesto was “Making something really European, different from rock, without guitar”. 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. Participating with the sole intention of ‘Eurovision’ coming last, unfortunately Portugal decided otherwise! Who said the Belgians don’t have a sense of humour?!
Available on the download album: ‘Neurovision’ via Le Marquis Records France
BLUE ZOO Love Moves In Strange Ways (1981)
On this atmospheric ballad, singer Andy O comes over in a sharp Ziggy-like tone accompanied by precise drum machine patterns punctuated by beautiful ambient synth washes and minimal guitar lines as the song snaps into the soaring chorus. Later re-recorded for their only album ‘Two By Two’ with an opening incongruous salvo of Simmons drums augmented by some double bass courtesy of folk hero Danny Thompson, it was produced by future TALK TALK collaborator Tim Friese-Greene with a similarity in sound that would later appear on their albums ‘It’s My Life’ and ‘The Colour Of Spring’. What could have been…
Originally released as a single on Magnet Records, currently unavailable
ICEHOUSE Icehouse (1981)
Formally known as FLOWERS, at their best ICEHOUSE could sound like ULTRAVOX mixed with ROXY MUSIC. But on other occasions, these Antipodeans would go all MOR like THE EAGLES with synths! Written by their leader Iva Davies, this eponymous nugget falls into the category of the former and even had a moody Russell Mulcahy directed promo video to go with it. Sounding like the title itself, ‘Icehouse’ is chilling, emotive and dramatic.
JAH WOBBLE, HOLGER CZUKAY & JAKI LIEBEZEIT How Much Are They? (1981)
Although dominated by PiL refugee Wobble’s full-on bass, his icy synth flourishes and Liebezeit’s chattering beatbox are essentials to the wonderful machine dub of ‘How Much Are They?’ while Czukay soundpaints with his abstract French horn and Dictaphone. Originally featured on the 4 track Trench Warfare EP, this was dedicated to JOY DIVISION’s Ian Curtis and is a fitting instrumental celebration of his enigmatic aura.
CHRIS & COSEY October (Love Song) (1982)
THROBBING GRISTLE refugees Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti came up with ‘October (Love Song)’, a delightfully wispy but resigned electronic ditty that was later covered in a pretty Hellenic translation by MARSHEAUX. This tale of Autumn romance was as poppy and optimistic as they got, CHRIS & COSEY kept the TG template and remained exponents of all things dark and experimental.
Originally released as a single via Rough Trade Records. Now available as a download via Conspiracy International
DRAMATIS The Shame (1982)
Consisting of former members of The GARY NUMAN Experience, RRussell Bell, Chris Payne (who co-wrote ‘Fade to Grey’) and Cedric Sharpley were signed to Elton John’s Rocket Records but never truly escaped the shadow of their former boss. ‘The Shame’, a neo-classical Gothic epic about the final days of Howard Hughes was their finest five minutes. Screeching viola and prog guitar merge with synth arpeggios and vocoders over a fat tribal beat. DRAMATIS disbanded when they rejoined GARY NUMAN on his return to touring in 1983.
Originally released as a single on Rocket Records, currently unavailable
E.M.A.K. Filmmusik (1982)
E.M.A.K. stands for Elektronische Musik Aus Köln and was a technology based sound project by Kurt Mill and Matthias Becker. Using strict motorik rhythm programming and incessant pulsing sequences, ‘Filmmusik’ was a fine example of the instrumental blueprint of NEU! synthesized for the new decade. This template was later borrowed by SIMPLE MINDS on ‘Androgyny’ and ORBITAL on ‘Pants’.
PETER GODWIN Images Of Heaven (1982)
A member of the group METRO, Peter Godwin was well placed for success as a regular visitor to The Blitz Club and mate of MIDGE URE who produced his debut solo single ‘Torch Songs For The Heroine’. ‘Images Of Heaven’ was a big potential hit single with chunky synths and dominant Simmons drums from ULTRAVOX’s Warren Cann. Despite not reaching the charts, Godwin had his bank balance enhanced in 1983 when DAVID BOWIE covered his song ‘Criminal World’ on the eight million selling ‘Let’s Dance’ album. He later concentrated on writing with other artists such as CAMOUFLAGE with their big European hit ‘Love Is A Shield’.
Reissued on the CD: ‘Images Of Heaven’ via Oglio Records USA, currently unavailable
IGNATIUS JONES Like A Ghost (1982)
Former lead singer with Australia’s JIMMY & THE BOYS, IGNATIUS JONES was an extraordinary creature. Despite Top 5 Aussie success, he went solo. In 1982, Jones released Like A Ghost, a song written by Steve Kilbey of THE CHURCH whose cult hit ‘Walking Under The Milky Way’ later appeared on the Donnie Darko soundtrack. Sounding like GARY NUMAN lost in the Outback, ‘Like A Ghost’ failed to be a hit. However, Jones became a major figure in Australian popular culture, latterly directing the closing ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Originally released as a single on WEA Records, currently unavailable
IPPU DO Time Of The Season (1982)
The success of JAPAN (the band) gave a number of opportunities for Japanese musicians to show off their talents. One of them was Masami Tsuchiya of IPPU DO whose eccentric wailing guitar style coupled with German electronic influences caught the attention of DAVID SYLVIAN who invited him to join JAPAN for their final tour. ‘Time Of The Season’ is a brilliant pentatonic take on the old ZOMBIES hit with mad warbling vocals and frantic percussion to produce one of the most startlingly original cover versions ever.
Available on the CD: ‘Very Best’ via Sony Music Japan
LEISURE PROCESS Love Cascade (1982)
Featuring Ross Middleton ex-POSITIVE NOISE and session player Gary Barnacle with production by Martin Rushent and released on his Genetic imprint, ‘Love Cascade’ is the missing link between PETE SHELLEY and THE HUMAN LEAGUE. The vocals are virtually unintelligible as the clattering LinnDrum, pulsing synths, squawky guitar and sax merge together for a cool dancefloor friendly tune that’s full of the decadent spirit of the times. LEISURE PROCESS released three more singles ‘A Way You’ll Never Be’, ‘Cashflow’ and ‘Anxiety’ before splitting.
Originally released as a single on Genetic Records, currently unavailable. 12 inch version available on the CD: ‘Retro: Active 5’ (V/A) via Hi-Bias Records Canada
SANDII &THE SUNSETZ Living On The Front Line (1982)
Another act getting a leg up from DAVID SYLVIAN was the beautifully voluptuous SANDII and her band of men THE SUNSETZ who supported JAPAN on their final tour. This dreamily percussive ditty features Sylvian’s lyrics and vocals as he harmonises with Sandii’s KATE BUSH-like tones in the ultimate marriage of West and East. Wonderfully cultured and coutured!
Available on the CD: ‘Immigrants’ via Alfa Records Japan
SUSAN I Only Come Out At Night (1982)
Franco-Japanese beauty Susan Nozaki was a protégée of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA’s Yukihiro Takahashi and this highly syncopated rhythmical number was produced and written by him with lyrical assistance from regular YMO collaborator Peter Barakan. Gloriously detuned and pentatonic, this is a fine example of how new technology was allowing the smarter than average drummer to challenge their perceived role in pop music and introduce new varied sounds into the percussive template.
Available on the CD: ‘Complete Susan’ via Sony Music Japan
BOX OF TOYS I’m Thinking Of You Now (1983)
Like a cross between their Merseyside neighbours OMD and CHINA CRISIS, BOX OF TOYS were mix of synths and woodwinds with a prominent percussive attack. The majestic vocals have almost an English choir boy quality and dominate the track. A strange romantic warmth comes across with images of meadows, forests and blue skies. Its moody follow up ‘Precious In The Pearl’ almost thirty years on now sounds like the prototype version of MIRRORS!
Originally released as a single on Inevitable Records, currently unavailable
CARE My Boyish Days (1983)
When Liverpool band THE WILD SWANS split, two thirds formed the basis of THE LOTUS EATERS while its singer Paul Simpson teamed up with ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN producer Kingbird aka Ian Broudie. Combining heavily strummed acoustic guitars with strong synthesizer melodies and melancholic vocals, ‘My Boyish Days’ had a very traditional, almost folkie feel despite the incumbent technology. The mandolin-tinged follow up Flaming Sword almost became a hit but internal strife within the duo meant they split before their debut album was completed. Simpson reformed THE WILD SWANS while Broudie eventually became THE LIGHTNING SEEDS.
12 inch version available on the CD: ‘Diamonds & Emeralds’ via Camden/BMG Records
ENDGAMES Love Cares (1983)
The success of ABC and HEAVEN 17 heralded a new age of technologically enhanced blue-eyed soul. One band with aspirations in that field were ENDGAMES. Love Cares was like a funky CHINA CRISIS walking into the recording sessions of ‘The Lexicon Of Love’. By pure coincidence, singer David Rudden had more than a passing resemblance to CHINA CRISIS’ Gary Daly! Previous single ‘Waiting For A Chance’ had been a Top 30 hit in Germany, leading to European support slots with HOWARD JONES, DEPECHE MODE and EURYTHMICS. Follow-up ‘Desire’ helped maintain the standard but following the lack of success of parent album ‘Building Beauty’, it was as good as over for the Glaswegians despite a further album ‘Natural’ in 1985.
Originally released as a single on Virgin Records, currently unavailable
FIAT LUX Blue Emotion (1983)
Their first single ‘Feels Like Winter Again’ was produced by BILL NELSON and was an emotively androgynous tail of failed love. The trio featured singer Steve Wright, Nelson’s late brother Ian on synths/sax and bassist David Crickmore. ‘Blue Emotion’ was their most accessible offering and was lyrically like BUCKS FIZZ’s ‘Land of Make Believe’, a veiled warning on the dangers of Thatcherism! Unfortunately, the rousing tune and the political sentiment went over the heads of most.
Originally released as a single on Polydor Records, currently unavailable
MATT FRETTON It’s So High (1983)
Fans of DEPECHE MODE’s post Vince Clarke pop period may remember a skinny lad in a pink suit who was their support act through 1983 to 1984. But it may have all come too late for MATT FRETTON for prior to this, a support slot with CHINA CRISIS fell through which was eventually taken over by one HOWARD JONES! ‘It’s So High’ was a catchy tune 6/8 time featuring a strong synth bassline and punctuated by the sort of brass section that most A&R’s deemed necessary on any potential pop hit in the wake of DAVID BOWIE’s ‘Let’s Dance’. Backing vocals were provided by FAIRGROUND ATTRACTION’s Eddi Reader, then a jobbing session singer. Alas, Fretton was dropped by Chrysalis after two more singles despite getting a Smash Hits front cover. He now works in classical music.
Originally released as a single on Chrysalis Records, currently unavailable
INDIANS IN MOSCOW Miranda (1983)
Led by the vivacious Adele Nozdar, INDIANS IN MOSCOW were a kind of TRANSVISION VAMP with synths. There are people within The Electricity Club camp who knew Adele and can confirm she was every bit as bonkers as her songs and persona. ‘Miranda’ was a macabre tale about a psychotic girl murdering her criminally minded father. A crisp production came from Nigel Gray who worked with THE POLICE and SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES. An irritating-to-the-point-of-catchy synth portamento combined with Adele’s ghoulish scream provided a unique if polarising take on electronic pop. The B-side ‘Naughty Miranda’ revealed the macabre act with added gory detail!
Originally released as a single on Kennick Records, available on the CD ressiue of Indians In Moscow at Other Voices Records
THE LOTUS EATERS You Don’t Need Someone New (1983)
Unlike ‘The First Picture of You’, this was neither a hit nor originally included on their debut album ‘Sense Of Sin’. More synth dominated than its predecessor, this was produced by Alan Tarney who went on to work his magic on A-HA’s ‘Take On Me’ and ‘The Sun Always Shines On TV’. With hints of CHINA CRISIS, this was wonderfully light and commercial. ‘You Don’t Need Someone New’ even came in a picture disc with a real flower pressed into it! Sadly, THE LOTUS EATERS wanted a purer sound and dropped Tarney as producer.
Available on the CD: ‘No Sense Of Sin’ via Cherry Red Records
MARTHA Light Years From Love (1983)
The stunning MARTHA LADLY was more than just a pretty face; she was a musician, vocalist, artist and designer. Following her stints with MARTHA & THE MUFFINS, ASSOCIATES and doing paintings for Peter Saville’s NEW ORDER sleeve artwork, she teamed up with fellow Canadian Brett Wickens on this charming pop song that echoed THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Open Your Heart’. Peter Hook from NEW ORDER provided his distinctive melodic six-string bass and dynamic production came from Steve Nye of BRYAN FERRY and JAPAN fame. Despite all this and radio play, the single flopped and Martha left music to enter the world of academia. She is currently Associate Professor of Interaction Design at the Ontario College Of Art and Design.
Originally released as a single on Island Records, currently unavailable
S.P.K. Metal Dance (1983)
Blue Monday meets EINSTÜRZE NEUBAUTEN in this electronic metal bashing extravaganza. Robotic sequencers and found objects were both equally prominent. More musical than their German counterparts, this group of Aussies led by singer Sinan Leong provided a danceable interpretation of musique concrete and collapsing new buildings. Stark and scary!
Originally released as a single on Desire Records, currently unavailable. 12 inch version of ‘Metal Dance’ available on the double CD: ‘Trevor Jackson Presents Metal Dance Industrial / Post-Punk / EBM : Classics & Rarities’ (V/A) via Strut Records
B-MOVIE A Letter From Afar (1984)
With brilliant songs such as ‘Remembrance Day’ and ‘Nowhere Girl’, B-MOVIE are the great underachievers of the era. They were signed to Phonogram who considered their potential so high, their manager Stevo of Some Bizzare fame got a deal for SOFT CELL as a condition of signing the Nottingham quartet! Splitting with Stevo and Phonogram, their first single on WEA was this wonderful sequencer and beat box based number produced by John ‘Jellybean’ Benitez. Melodic echoes of ULTRAVOX’s ‘Visions In Blue’ set at 128 beats per minute ring throughout and although this was a promising start, the band withdrew from this electro direction, preferring to be a more conventional rock act. Incidentally, guitarist Paul Statham later collaborated with BAUHAUS’ Peter Murphy and formed lost Mute synthpop trio PEACH with Pascal Gabriel before collaborating with DIDO and RACHEL STEVENS.
Available on the CD: ‘The Platinum Collection’ via Warner Platinum
EYELESS IN GAZA Sunbursts In (1984)
Nuneaton’s artful musical duo of Martyn Bates and Peter Becker described their music as “veering crazily from filmic ambiance to rock and pop, industrial funk to avant-folk styles”. ‘Sunbursts In’ was their most commercial offering, sounding like a cross between prime TEARS FOR FEARS and OMD. A synthetic brass riff compliments a strong if nasally vocal driven by a stuttering drum machine sound.
Available on the CD: ‘No Noise – The Very Best of Eyeless In Gaza’ on Cherry Red Records
FASHION Twilight Of Idols (1984)
A beautiful long instrumental closing the album of the same name that was reminiscent of VANGELIS, there are some Spanish and progressive guitar inflections thrown into the mix. FASHION were at one time in their home city of Birmingham actually considered more likely to break than DURAN DURAN. But despite early promise with moody funk laden songs such as ‘Love Shadow’, line-up changes ensured momentum would be lost trying to regain the dynamic chemistry of the group.
Available on the CD: ‘Twilight Of Idols’ via Cherry Red Records
FATAL CHARM Summer Spies (1984)
Another synth based act from Nottingham, Sarah Simmons and Paul Arnall had several flirtations with the big time having supported ULTRAVOX (their first single ‘Christine’ b/w ‘Paris’ was produced by MIDGE URE) and OMD. ‘Summer Spies’ is musically a mix of the two; atmospheric, melodic and driven by an incessant beat with Sarah’s vocals providing a then unusual female fronted counterpoint on a synth record that was neither blues nor soul based like YAZOO or EURYTHMICS. Despite being played on national radio and used as a jingle, Summer Spies sadly never gained the recognition it deserved.
Available on the CD: ‘Plastic’ via www.fatalcharm.co.uk
ROBERT GÖRL Mit Dir (1984)
Slow stark Teutonic electro from the DAF drummer but this is considerably less harsh than his band’s pioneering electronic body music. On his first solo album ‘Night Full Of Tension’, Görl had lightened up considerably, so much so he was even attempting pop music with contributions from EURYTHMICS’ Annie Lennox who he was involved with at the time. Dark, brooding but accessible, ‘Mit Dir’ is a moody cult classic.
Available on the download album: ‘Night Full Of Tension’ via Mute Records
PAUL HAIG The Only Truth – 12 inch version (1984)
‘Never Give Up (Party Party)’ from PAUL HAIG’s previous album ‘Rhythm Of Life’ had showcased his interest in sophisticated synthesized dance music following the disintegration of JOSEF K. But he had felt detached from its recording with producer Alex Sadkin relying on outside musicians including THOMPSON TWINS’ Tom Bailey and funk master Bernie Worrell. For ‘The Only Truth’, NEW ORDER’s Bernard Sumner and A CERTAIN RATIO’s Donald Johnson were recruited as producers to give a drier electronic sound with more guitars in the mix. The result is a brilliant cross between ‘Blue Monday’ and ‘Temptation’… and almost as long!
MARCEL KING Reach For Love (1984)
Another one of Bernard Sumner’s productions for Factory in what turned out to be a busy year for him, FAC92/FBN43 featured the late MARCEL KING who was a member of SWEET SENSATION, a vocal group who won New Faces (the X-Factor of its day!) and had a No1 with ‘Sad Sweet Dreamer’. ‘Reach For Love’ was a cult electro disco classic that couldn’t have been more different. Layered with synths and bassline programming, HAPPY MONDAYS’ Shaun Ryder remarked that if this had been released on a label other than Factory, it would have been a hit!
THOMAS LEER International – Global Mix (1984)
Leer was a reluctant electro pioneer with links to Mute Records who first came to prominence in 1978 with ‘Private Plane’. A song called ‘International’ was its B-side but this later take was a completely different composition altogether. Seeking to challenge the listener and playfully subvert expectation, ‘International’ appeared to be a pleasant song about jetsetting but is actually a social commentary about the trafficking heroin across the continents, telling of “travelling across the world, selling it to boys and girls…a secret compartment holds the Chinese white”. He later formed ACT with Claudia Brücken where more playful subversion was part of the glamorous package.
Available on the download album: ‘Scale Of Ten’ via BMG Records
BILL NELSON Acceleration – US Remix (1984)
The former BE BOP DELUXE guitarist took an early interest in synths and drum machines after going solo and while he always had the legacy of DAVID BOWIE hanging over him, he was a fine exponent of the E-Bow, a device which could sustain a guitar note infinitely. This allowed solos to merge in with electronics without standing out in a clichéd rockist manner. ‘Acceleration’ was his energetic flirtation with the New York dancefloor and benefited from this US remix by John Luongo who worked with VISAGE and BLANCMANGE.
Available on the download album: ‘Chimera’ via Mercury Records
BLAINE L REININGER Mystery & Confusion (1984)
A student of electronic music at San Francisco City College, the Colorado born singer from cult avant-gardists TUXEDO MOON left for a solo career from which this misty synthesized cacophony was the undoubted highlight. Having already settled in Europe, ‘Mystery & Confusion’ was released on the ultra-hip Les Disques Du Crépuscle and was steeped in the arthouse drama that was very much part of the label’s aesthetic. Incidentally, Reininger released a neo-tribute to KRAFTWERK called ‘Rolf And Florian Go Hawaiian’ in 1987!
Available on the download album: ‘Night Air’ via LTM Records
SECTION 25 Looking From A Hilltop (1984)
In a change of direction where founder member Larry Cassidy stated “you can’t be a punk all your life”, Factory Records stalwarts SECTION 25 recruited vocalist Jenny Ross and keyboardist Angela Cassidy to go electro. Produced by Bernard Sumner, the clattering drum machine dominates the mix of FAC108, accompanied by doomy synth lines and hypnotic sequenced modulations. Way ahead of its time, imagine Blackpool’s other synth act LITTLE BOOTS covering ‘Looking From A Hilltop’ in her bedroom using her Tenorion… it would be magical! Larry Cassidy and Jenny Ross have sadly since passed away but keeping up the family tradition, their daughter Bethany now fronts SECTION 25.
Available on the CD: ‘From The Hip’ via LTM Records
SEONA DANCING More To Lose (1984)
Pre-fame Ricky Gervais with his university pal Bill McRae came up with a pretentious name, donned New Romantic togs and delivered the kind of stereotypical synthpop that was being satirised on Kit Kat adverts and comedy shows like ‘Not The None O’Clock News’. While it’s not exactly the most original work of the period, it is good fun and above average in the tuneage department. And strangely, it became a cult favourite on college radio in North America! But as Paul Merton sarcastically remarked to Gervais on ‘Room 101’ after the promo video of SEONA DANCING’s other single ‘Bitter Heart’ was shown: “DAVID BOWIE’s nicked all your stuff!”
Originally released as a single on London Records, currently unavailable. Extended Mix available on the CD: ‘Retro: Active 5’ (V/A) via Hi-Bias Canada
THE WAKE Talk About The Past (1984)
Often compared unfavourably to their famous Factory label mates, THE WAKE are probably what NEW ORDER would have continued to sound like had they not discovered the joys of the dancefloor. A dour Scottish four-piece who also had a female keyboard player Carolyn Allen in their ranks and even PRIMAL SCREAM’s Bobby Gillespie as drummer in an earlier line-up, their music was often claustrophobic and energy sapping. ‘Talk About The Past’ however showed a brighter, more dynamic side with scratchy rhythm guitar, shiny synths, melodica flourishes and barely audible vocals which recalled the earlier six string driven template of NEW ORDER around ‘Movement’. Featuring Vini Reilly of THE DURUTTI COLUMN on piano, FAC88 was their career peak.
VITAMIN Z Circus Ring (1985)
TEARS FOR FEARS and A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS had demonstrated that a guitar based sound seasoned by modern electronics could do wonders across the Atlantic. So with the lure of the Yankee dollar, many UK acts attempted to follow suit. Sheffield’s VITAMIN Z were one of the bands who showed some spark, ‘Circus Ring’ sounding like a cross between TEARS FOR FEARS and ICEHOUSE. A support slot with MIDGE URE raised hopes of success but it was not to be. However, vocalist Geoff Barradale now manages ARCTIC MONKEYS!
Available on the download album: ‘Rites Of Passage’ via Renaissance Records USA
STEVE JANSEN & YUKIHIRO TAKAHASHI Stay Close (1986)
Two drummers drumming with the sticksmen from JAPAN and YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA getting together for a brilliant one-off single. Perhaps not surprisingly, ‘Stay Close’ sounds like something off Tin Drum or Naughty Boys with Jansen doing a very able impression of his older brother DAVID SYLVIAN while Takahashi provides his usual will he make it – won’t he? mannered Ferry-ish vocals. With rhythm guitar provided by DAVID BOWIE cohort Carlos Alomar, this is lovingly crafted and realised; a true lost classic.
12 inch version available on the YUKIHIRO TAKAHASHI download abum: ‘Once A Fool?’ via Pony Canyon Japan
TWO PEOPLE Heaven (1987)
Another lost Liverpool act, Heaven sounded like THE LOTUS EATERS being eaten by THE TEARDROP EXPLODES. An earlier single ‘Mouth Of An Angel’ had been produced by Martin Rushent but TWO PEOPLE’s sound was more typical of a conventional duo dressed with synths like CHINA CRISIS. With punchy brass, aspirational lyrics and modern production by Chris Porter, this was a perfect pop song in anyone’s ears but failed to catch the imagination of the record buying public despite extensive radio airplay.
Originally released as a single on Polydor Records, currently unavailable
CAMOUFLAGE Klingklang (1989)
Call it DEPECHE MODE-lite but Bietigheim-Bissingen’s CAMOUFLAGE took over the mantle of delivering the heavier synthpop blueprint which the Basildon Boys started during ‘Construction Time Again’ and ‘Some Great Reward’ but left behind with ‘Black Celebration’. When their debut single ‘The Great Commandment’ was first aired, many mistook it for a DEPECHE MODE B-side but it became a US and European dance hit in its own right. ‘Klingklang’ actually was a B-side to their single ‘One Fine Day’. This was not only a tribute to KRAFTWERK but in a rarity for CAMOUFLAGE, it was also sung in German. But try to keep a straight face as it is so rigidly authentic, it inadvertently sounds like a Bill Bailey musical comedy skit.
Available on the double CD: ‘Archive#1’ via Universal Music Germany
Text by Chi Ming Lai
5th April 2012, updated 29th June 2013