Does the tears theme have no end? Probably not, in fact I have a song from years ago called Here Come The Tears that I never recorded. I digress, in listening to ABC all these years later I came to the conclusion that instrumentation and arrangement can be the deal breaker even if the tune is good. It’s not too hard to imagine, after all image kills your interest in an artist even though they might have a decent tune or two.
In the case of ABC they manage to do everything I don’t want them to but I still like some of their songs. Let’s start with the sound: I can’t stand those eighties synths, the insipid faux brass stabs, the horrible programmed drums, pretty much everything eighties Pop fans like I can’t stand. The videos are awful – expensive productions with a cheap look, terrible acting, annoying personalities, earth shatteringly bad story lines, pretentious sets, hideous fashion and band members that bought into it. In the worst video of all their secret weapon Trevor Horn appears at 3.13 seconds.
It may not have been Tears Are Not Enough that piqued my interest but Poison Arrow, All Of My Heart and The Look Of Love. Martin Fry had a great voice and underneath the sartorial elegance, the considered look, the coiffure and despite the military precision in which Pop stardom was always a goal, the guy and his friends could write a song.
What’s strange is how Punk let this happen? How could they wipe out Yes and replace it with this? Or should I say how could they hate Pink Floyd and be glad that this took over. Ok, I mean how did young people gravitate to this? Was it the short songs, fun, colourful happiness. Culture Club, Haircut One Hundred, Blancmange, but instead of the self indulgence being in the music it was in the videos, the music was taken over by technical people that had more interest in a machine that could make the sound of a parrot by pressing a key. Surely the progressive groups weren’t competing for the same territory and it’s odd that they were a target for the angry outbursts. It’s like a new ice cream parlour suggesting that the local butcher sells rotten meat in order to steal its customers.
When the UK’s best selling single list was released in 1978 Rat Trap by The Boomtown Rats was No.10, Boney M were No.1 with Rivers Of Babylon, John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John were at no.2 AND No.3. Brian and Michael were at No.6 with Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs. Father Abraham and The Smurfs were at No.7 with The Smurf Song, Blondie were at No. 78 and No. 96. Ian Dury was at No.99. The Punks were trying to close down the wrong shop.
Of course you know I loved all those Pretenders singles and all that New Wave Pop song genius from Elvis Costello to The Jam, The Police etc etc – loved it. But I would have preferred that Roy Harper was doing well, that Steve Hillage was doing well, Doctors Of Madness, Be Bop Deluxe, Family, Gentle Giant instead of their audience being brainwashed into thinking they were irrelevant when the real culprits were the middle of the road, not the Progressive underground, not the album bands, not the sixties bands that had got big evolving with long dreamy instrumental sections.
The Lexicon Of Love topped the British charts and spawned four Top 20 singles but unfortunately for them it was all downhill from there. Beauty Stab released in 1983 had smaller hits and only made it to No.12. Trevor Horn was not involved and the band were already faltering. The next album, How To Be A Zillionaire (1984) only made it to No.28. Alphabet City (1987) and Up (1989) continued the decline ending with Abracdabra in 1991. On the other hand Pink Floyd continued on a meteoric rise to stardom with their audio and lyrical experiments without ever really attempting to cater for the market place, rather having the mountain come to Muhammad.
In 1997 Martin Fry resurrected the band as sole member releasing Skyscraping, a tribute to his heroes. A new album of original material appeared in 1997 and failed to chart. Fry continues to tour with ABC into this decade.