Friday, February 20, 2015

Soft Cell

Soft Cell
Soft Cell

David Ball and Marc Almond are Soft Cell!

Many years ago I went to school with David Ball, for two years we sat in the same classroom..........okay, okay it was a different David Ball and NOT one half of the duo known as Soft Cell, but it would've made for a great story!

Soft Cell were formed in 1980 and became internationally known for their cult hit single Tainted Love which went to number one around the world in 1981.

Soft Cell consisted of Marc Almond on vocals and David Ball on synthesizers. The group were at the forefront of synthpop along with groups such as Human League, although Soft Cell preferred to show a darker side. Their inspiration was taken from soul music (as were a lot of other early 80s bands such as Spandau Ballet). In fact Tainted Love was a remake of a 60s northern soul song, but we're getting ahead of ourselves.

Soft Cell - The Beginning

Let's go back to 1980s Leeds. Marc Almond and David Ball were both art students and got together to write music for theatrical productions. It was actually a self-financed EP called Mutant Moments that kickstarted their chart career. Funded by a loan of £2,000 from David Ball's mother (a very wise investment) the boys, under the name Soft Cell had 2000 vinyl copies pressed. Copies of this EP are now highly prized collector items.

The EP brought Soft Cell to the attention of the head of Some Bizzare Records who had bands such as Depeche Mode and The The signed to them. He then enlisted Daniel Miller (founder of Mute Records) to produce their first singles - 'A Man Can Get Lost' and 'Memorabilia'.


Memorabilia became a cult club hit, although Soft Cell were still unknowns.

Tainted Love

The next single was 'Tainted Love' and this was to turn the unknowns into International chart toppers. 'Tainted Love' was a reworking of a classic 1964 Northern Soul song sung by Gloria Jones. Tainted Love would make Soft Cell a one hit wonder in many countries around the world.

What many people do not know is that they nearly recorded a different song, but more on that later.....

Soft Cell - The Look

Soft Cell drew on their theatrical and visual arts background when they produced their videos as well as on their live performances. The birth of MTV and their natural theatrical side helped to complete the package so to speak.

Marc Almond with his androgynous look was a flamboyant vocalist whilst David Ball appeared to me the more introverted member of the duo. The andogynous look was very 'right' for the time as the Blitz kids such as Marilyn and Boy George were also gaining fame.

Guyliner was a definate with Marc Almond!


This was one of my favorites, I used to play it up loud and sing along dreaming of living in a bedsitter by myself instead of being a school age teen living at home! - I didn’t really get what the song was saying at the time!

Say Hello, Wave Goodbye

This is a great, great song, another one that I used to play along with Bedsitter and, of course, Tainted Love.

The Night

When the boys were recording Tainted Love they had to chose between Tainted Love and The Night..........obviously they chose Tainted Love, but after they reunited in 2003? They decided that they should, finally release The Night.

They definitely made the right choise as The Night doesn’t have the pull factor that Tainted Love had it’s something about the ‘boom boom’ factor in Tainted Love that gets you bopping in the chair or up onto the dance floor and singing along. My hubby doesn’t like Soft Cell (but I forgive him), but if it comes onto the radio when he’s driving he can’t help but bang the wheel when the ‘boom boom’ part comes on.

If you just buy one synth-pop album in your life, make it this one. The Very Best of Soft Cell is the closest CD I can get which is like the vinyl record I played over and over (Soft Cell- The Singles, released in 1986).

Did you enjoy Soft Cell's dramatic synth-pop style of music, the very dark and theatrical side? Or were you more of a happy 'Walking on Sunshine" style fan?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Wham!, the Story of a Band

1984 Wham! music poster
Wham! was a fantastic group made up of a couple of Young Guns by the name of George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley who wanted to make it big. These bad boys got together to record Wham Rap, the first of their many singles. While staying at Club Tropicana Andrew urged George to Wake Me Up Before You Go Go. Careless Whispers of Freedom caused problems with their Last Christmas and before you know it George is saying I'm Your Man to a solo career. Andrew decides that Everything She Wants will make him happy too and settles down into married life. Fans were devastated by the break-up and have been On The Edge of Heaven waiting for a reunion ever since.

The Origin of Wham!

The pre-Wham History

Born just a day apart George Michael (then Yorgos Panaiotou) and Andrew Ridgeley met when they were at Bushley Meads School, Watford. They first performed together in a band called the Executive which was a rock and roll band.

The change of name coincided with the signing of a record deal and Wham! had taken their first step towards superstardom!

Wham!'s Fantastic Days

The First Album

Their first album was Fantastic and this spawned the singles Wham Rap!,Young Guns, Bad Boys and Club Tropicana.

Their first single released was Wham Rap!(Enjoy What You Do) in June 1982, it was a double A side single with a Social Mix and an Anti-Social Mix. The profanities on the Anti-Social Mix saw it becoming banned in the UK and it only reached number 45 in the UK Single Chart.

Their second single was Young Guns(Go For It), the Wham boys got lucky with this song as the Top of the Pops program in the UK scheduled them for a performance while their single was still outside of the Top 40. With their good looks and their great performance the single climbed the charts climaxing at number 3.

FantasticCheck Price
Following on from the success of Young Guns Wham decided to re-release Wham Rap in January 1983. It was a hit!

Both of Wham!'s singles told stories and the video's told stories which appealed to the audience and contributed to their success. Wham Rap was about a leisurely life with no work or commitments. Young Guns is a story about a guy (played by George) pleading with his friend (Andrew) not to throw his life away on an early marriage.

Before their next single was released George and Andrew lost one of their original back-up singers D C Lee, they replaced her with Pepsi DeMacque. Pepsi and original back-up singer Shirlie Holliman continued to be in Wham until the group split up when they formed the duo Pepsi and Shirlie.

Their third song was about a rebellious teenager and his worried parents. The single was Bad Boys and it reached number 2 in the UK charts and even entered the US Hot 100 at number 60.
In July 1983 Wham! released a send-up of the Club 18-30 scene with their single Club Tropicana. This song made it to number 4 in the UK charts. By the end of 1983 Wham posters were adorning bedroom walls all over the UK and were talked about in the same tone as Duran Duran and Culture Club.

Wham!'s Legal Problems and a Change of Direction

Andrew Steps In

It was around this time that Andrew Ridgeley became conscious of legal problems with their recording contract and Wham! decided to take action against Innervision and Mark Dean (the record company's founder). Eventually Innervision admitted that they had shortchanged Wham! with their royalties and ended up dissolving soon afterwards.

Andrew then decided that Wham! needed a change of image, so out went the denim jeans and leather jackets and in came the more fashionable clothing. The posters also started to show them laughing and smiling instead of the moody, contemplative looks of the "Fantastic" days.

Wham! Make It Big

May 1984 saw Wham! release the first song off of their Make It Big album the song was Wake Me Up Before You Go Go. This song saw Wham! get their first number 1 single and not just in the UK, but in the USA, Australia and Ireland as well.

It also saw George, Andrew, Pepsi and Shirlie in the famous white t-shirts declaring CHOOSE LIFE and GO GO.

The hit song was apparently inspired by a note from Andrew to George. Staying in a hotel, Andrew left a note to George

To George

Don't forget to wake me up up before you go go.


The rest is history.

Up until now George had been the group's songwriter, but the next song released was co-written by Andrew. The song was Careless Whisper and was a solo release for George (although in the US it was released as Wham featuring George Michael).

Careless Whisper was a number 1 hit around the globe as well and rumors of the Band splitting up started to do the rounds

October 1984 saw the band release their next single Freedom. They then released their second album Make It Big which reached number 1 in the Album charts.

In November George Michael contributed to the Band Aid single, although this usurped their own chance of a Christmas number 1 that year.

Wham! at the airport poster

In December 1984 Wham! released a double A sided singe with Last Christmas and Everything She Wants. The single reached the number 2 spot behind Band Aid's Do They Know It's Christmas. It actually made a record for being the highest selling single ever to peak at number 2 in the UK charts. Wham! donated all of their royalties from this single to the Ethiopian famine appeal.

In 1985 Wham! went on a world tour including China. It was reported in the UK at the time as being the 1st Western pop group to ever tour the country, but in fact Wham! were beaten into number 2 space by a little known Kiwi band called Spyz (they toured in 1982).

Both George and Andrew performed at Live Aid in 1985, but not as Wham!.

In November Wham! released the single I'm Your Man, having waited for nearly a year their fans snapped up the single and it went straight to number 1 in the charts. During 1985 the boys had both been busy.

Andrew had met Keren Woodward from the girl group Bananarama. George apparently introduced them and they are at the time of writing still together. Andrew also took up rally driving making the news for crashing a car at the end of this year.

George had started to lend his voice to other singers this year as well, providing backing vocals for Elton John's Nikita and Wrap Her Up.

Last Christmas was re-released again in 1985 and made it's way to number 6 in the charts.

Edge of Reason - Wham!'s final album

In 1986 both Andrew and George decided that they wanted to take their lives in different directions so instead of allowing frustrations to build they decided to end the group and keep their friendship.
Music From the EdgeCheck Price

They released a double A sided single with The Edge of Reason and Where Did Your Heart Go along with their final album, also called The Edge of Reason. They also planned a big farewell concert at Wembley Stadium. June 28th 1986 at Wembley Stadium, London the boys said good-bye in a concert aptly named The Final.

George Michael went on to solo chart topping success, Andrew Ridgeley wasn’t able to find success as a solo artist, but has been lucky in love. Wham’s two back up singers and fellow actors in the videos went on to taste fleeting success as the duo Pepsi and Shirlie.

Wham! Reunion

There were rumors running amok about a Wham! reunion taking place at Christmas 2007, this did not eventuate. According to Wham! fansites Andrew is the sticking point as he is not ready to perform again. Having said that when he was interviewed in 2007 he refused to rule out a reunion ever occurring which just adds fuel to the fire.

Were you a Wham! fan?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The New Romantics

New Romantics - An 80s Music Genre

The New Romantics were a music genre in the 1980s generally considered to be a sub genre of the New Wave movement. Duran Duran were probably the biggest New Romantic band on an international level.

The New Romantic movement began in the UK right at the beginning of the 1980s. Sparked in part by the influence of television and fuelled by the advent of MTV. The New Romantics are synonomous with the 1980s.

Where Did The New Romantics Come From?

There are some differing thoughts as to why the New Romantic movement started, but there is a general consensus that the movement began in the UK. The London New Romantic movement began with the Blitz Kids.

The Blitz Kids

The Blitz Kids as they became known were a group of younsters that were tired of the punk movement. They were working class, but wanted to look more glamorous.

They dressed to make a statement (although alot of their clothes were handmade) and wore excessive amounts of make-up.

Some of them originally met at a London nightclub called Billys, but they soon migrated to The Blitz nightclub where they earnt the name The Blitz Kids.

Five of the Blitz Kids were Tony Hadley, Gary Kemp, Steve Norman, Martin Kemp and John Keeble who formed the pioneering New Romantic band Spandau Ballet. Both Gary Kemp and John Keeble have said in interviews that they were sick of the way the established music press operated. The Blitz Kids decided to do something about it.

The Blitz Kids all knew each other so when they would say "hey we're doing a gig at so and sos" they would all go along to create a buzz. Spandau Ballet decided that they wouldn't invite the Music Press to their concerts, they would invite the National Press. The Blitz Kids all showed up and the invite only gigs proved to be a success which led to Spandau Ballet getting a recording contract.

The Blitz Kids included Steve Strange, Boy George, Marilyn, Princess Julia and Rusty Egan as well as the Spandau boys.

New Romanticism Around the UK

Clubs emulating The Blitz Club started to pop up in different parts of London as well as outside of London. They included The Regency in Chadwell Heath where two other New Romantic bands got their debut gigs - Depeche Mode and Culture Club.

In Sheffield a group called The Human League had been around for a while. Around the beginning of the eighties when the New Romantics started, their sound had evolved. The Human League were now following the New Romantic blueprint.

In Birmingham a band called Duran Duran had been formed in 1978. They had been playing to the club scene around their city and signed their record deal in 1980. With their looks they soon acquired the term "the prettiest boys in rock." As with other New Romantic bands the Duran Duran boys were very aware of their image and had their own inate sense of style.

The 'fab five' as the press referred to them recorded their first album, the self titled Duran Duran in December 1980. Andy Taylor once commented that the whole band found it hard to concentrate after the assassination of John Lennon at the beginning of December.

The album Duran Duran was released in 1981 and reached up to number 3 in the UK album chart. It didn't do very well in the US until it was re-released in 1983.

Their first single Planet Earth was incredibly catchy and reached into the UK's Top 20. The second single was Girls on Film and it was the video that accompanied this single that really caused a stir.

New Romantics - What a Name

The music press did not know how to classify the Blitz Kid's music, the amalgamation of image and synth pop, catchy dance beat and experimental sounds. In some places the term futuristic as given to them and in others they were merely New Wave.

Face Magazine wrote an article about the early New Romantic groups and also included the groups Adam & the Ants and Bow Wow Wow as though they were the same. The article was entitled The Cult With No Name.

Musician and producer Richard James Burgess is credited with coining the phrase New Romantics. It is said to have been used because of the historical frilly costumes that were popular in the Blitz Club at the time. Also the use of wigs and make-up by some of the groups.

After this any early eighties band that produced main-stream pop with synthesizers who wore make-up or dressed glamorously were classified as New Romantic.

Adam & the Ants V Duran Duran & the Blitz Kids

Although they were all classified as New Romantic Adam & the Ants (and the former Ants that made up Bow Wow Wow) had their roots firmly stuck in the Punk movement.

Adam Ant's previous group had actually played support for the Sex Pistols and Adam & the Ants played support for Souixsie & the Banshees.

Adam & the Ants' album Kings of The Wild Frontier transformed them into the realm of New Romantics. Malcolm McLaren's influence got Adam (a natural showman) to look at his image. The black leather trousers and black t shirts went out and a pirate/highwayman look came in.

His look reflected the romantic historical look that the Blitz Kids were wearing at the time. Coupled with this when Spandau Ballet released their first video they were wearing kilts which Adam Ant had already done.

The industry had lumped them together and as much as they hated it they would forever be New Romantics together.

Were the New Romantics New?

There has been debate about whether the New Romantics were a new musical genre in their own right or whether they were merely a natural progression of the punk era. The fact that it is hard to define the differences between New Romantic, New Wave & Synth Pop does not help the debate.

In the punk corner people say that the New Romantics were simply the natural progression that took place as punk became glamorized. They point to bands such as Adam & the Ants to back up their argument.

In the New Romantic corner they claim that the movement was born out of a working class background that was highly influenced by television. Being brought up on television as opposed to radio led to bands wanting to be the whole package looks as well as sound.

Unlike the punk look, New Romantics wanted to look glamorous and to stand out and shout 'look at me' much as the future rappers would wear their bling, the New Romantics wore their heavy make-up and 'outfits.'