When your world is full of strange arrangements
And gravity won't pull you through
You know you're missing out on something
Well that something depends on you
ABC was one of the most influential bands of the eighties and crashed onto the world's music scene like Fred Astaire in a mosh pit. Before ABC, Pop was just not polished. Jazz was elegant and accomplished maybe, but pop and rock were all but polished. This is the early eighties, remember? We're talking Sheena Easton, Kim Wilde, Blondie, the Clash, Japan, etc. Profound and angry perhaps, but elegant?
So, how did ABC actually happen? Well, at first there was a god-awful electronic trio called "Vice Versa" (reviewed by the NME in 1979 as "...a bizarro trio who show occasional flashes of promise, but whose pretentiousness becomes quite tiresome"). These three were Stephen Singleton, Mark White and David Sydenham and were one day interviewed by journalist called Martin Fry
(for a zine called Modern Drugs). For some weird reason they hired him (most likely the hair or the voice) as their singer, and hey, presto: ABC was found.
For their first album Neutron Records hired them ex-Buggles whiz and future superstar of the recording studio Trevor Horn. The man must have been seriously in love with his Fairlight CMI, as he was able to conjure up the most sophisticated sounding record ever. His Art of Noise partner Anne Dudley arranged the most lavish and dramatic strings around the weird, sometimes dadaistic lyrics that Martin Fry came up with.
This first Album, The Lexicon of Love (1982) was both their creative climax and their nemesis, as they were never really able to repeat that sort of impact they had and people always judged their later albums on this gem.
Most memorable moments: The intro to "the look of love", the London Symphony Orchestra starting off the album with Show me and much more, too numerous too mention.
The effects this album was having was quite staggering: Suddenly men threw their black leather jackets out of the window and went for pastel colours, glittering jackets and Martin Fry hairdo's.
With a big world tour (after which Fry decides to flush his famous gold lametta suit down a toilet in hotel in Tokyo) a 45 minute movie called Mantrap was released, a rather entertaining little spy movie, speckled with live recordings and directed by Julian Temple.
After the departure of various members, ABC was suddenly a trio, sick of their image and desperate to record anything but strings. This resulted in the, ahem, different Beauty Stab (1983), which sounded a bit like Marvin Gay singing on an AC/DC album: crashing guitars and angry crooning. That was then, but this is now the name of the first single, was obviously anathema.
That decision obviously backfired, and nobody really wanted to listen to a buch of angry, guitar-wielding, er, Duran Duran lookalikes.
So Stephen Singleton retired from the band as well, only leaving Fry and White to continue. I don't know WHAT they smoked, but they decided to become, ahem, Cartoon Characters. With the vertically challenged and bald David Yarritu and babe Fiona Russell-Powell (who as I remember both did not musically contribute to any song) they released How to be a Zillionaire (1984) with a couple of cartoon clips, most memorable How to be a Millionaire and Be near me). And now the funny thing: it worked! The album even made them stars in the US of A (which, on the other hand is taste challenged anyway, so it makes sense to display yourself in garish superhero costumes and cartoon strips).
By that time Fry developed Hodgkin's Disease and is close to death, but miraculously recovers and gets back to songwriting.
Now a duo, in 1987 Fry and White come up with Alphabet City: a fictive journey between house (Chicago) and modern soul (Prince + Jam and Lewis's Minneapolis), this had strings, hommages to soul crooners (When Smokey sings) and drama (The night you murdered Love). A truly remarkable album, it makes ABC household names again.
And now the strange thing happens: ABC discovers deep house, release two Albums and vanish in obscurity. Not that the songwriting on Up and Abracadabra was bad, not at all, but Parlophone obviously didn't have any interest in promoting them. So White leaves in 1992 and ABC is defunct after almost 12 years.
Or is it? After a couple of years and relaxation Fry releases Skyscraping (a collaboration with Heaven 17's Glenn Gregory under the old ABC name and: it's actually pretty good. Even the audience and the critics agree, and Fry decides to tour again after 17 years, and that's what he's still doing: catch ABC when they are around, as the quality of the musicianship is impressive, and the set is full of amazing songs.
..and for the encore Fry still puts on that Gold Lametta Suit.
No rhythm in cymbals
No tempo in drums
Love on arrival
She comes when she comes
Right on the target
But wide of the mark
What I thought was fire
Was only the spark
The sweetest melody
Is an unheard refrain
So lower your sights,
Yeah but raise your aim
Raise your aim
Kudos to: http://abcmartinfry.com