Category Archives: albums

2021 ➤ Spandau’s Gary Kemp goes solo with a love song for the Radio 2 audience

InSolo, Ahead Of The Game, Gary Kemp, solo, Spandau Ballet, pop music,

Gary Kemp at 61: new suit too on his taster for the solo single

“Don’t you love it when your heart isn’t making sense?
Running on the power of innocence…”

❚ TODAY WE GOT TO HEAR Ahead Of The Game, the new single from singer-songwriter Gary Kemp who goes solo more than two years after his pioneering 80s band Spandau Ballet last performed live. At the age of 61, Kemp describes the song as a love-song for his wife, inspired by Yacht Rock – previously known in the 1970s-80s as West Coast AOR – in other words yuppy escapism with a lush orchestral presence. “I wanted to write a big feelgood song. I unashamedly love elements of Yacht Rock. I don’t like writing songs unless I feel they’ve got a hook in there somewhere so they’ve got hooks. There is a big sound on the album.”

The single was premiered today before Kemp was interviewed by Steve Wright during In The Afternoon on BBC Radio 2 (fast forward online to 2h40m). An album titled InSolo follows on in June on the Columbia label, only Kemp’s second since Little Bruises in 1995.

LISTEN HERE TO Ahead Of The Game


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TWEET FROM CRITIC NEIL MCCORMICK

❏ That was a really lovely dive into Gary Kemp’s very long awaited forthcoming sophomore solo album (just 26 years after the first). Shades of Steely Dan, Pink Floyd & Gary Moore mixing it up with the smooth Spandau prog soul. Lush.

InSolo, Ahead Of The Game, Gary Kemp, solo, Spandau Ballet, pop music,
➢ Pre-order Gary Kemp’s album InSolo at Amazon

➢ InSolo group at Facebook

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2011 ➤ Relive Duran’s 30th-anniversary comeback with All You Need Is Now

10
YEARS
ON

❚ THIS WEEK IN 2011 Duran Duran’s album All You Need Is Now was released as a 14-song CD in Europe and North America. Shapers of the 80s gave extensive coverage to Duran’s glorious comeback tour of North America and their 30th anniversary party for the same week in 1981 when their debut single Planet Earth entered the UK Top 20 where it was to reach No 12. Relive these highlights on the album’s tenth anniversary…

Duran Duran, streaming, live concert, Amex,YouTube, Unstaged, David Lynch, Los Angeles

Duran live on YouTube, 2011: a choice of three camera streams and “Lynchian effects” smothering John Taylor’s performance on All You Need Is Now

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: Crazee or crazed? David Lynch’s view of Duran from within his hellish cave…

❚ WHAT RUM NIGHTMARES DAVID LYNCH must have in bed at night, but then, he did direct Eraserhead after all. For the best part of two hours, today’s much vaunted Duran Duran live web concert in the Unstaged series kept making you want to hurl virtual cabbages at the screen, enraged by a director whose intent was to obscure the act from view with his relentlessly potty toy-box full of widgets. From 2am UK time till almost the dawn chorus, the band onstage in California had no idea what web audiences in 22 overseas territories (432,000 channel views by 6.30am) were enduring as they pushed on through 18 numbers… / Continued inside

Duran Duran, US tour, 2011, SXSW, interview, video

John Taylor and Nick Rhodes at SXSW in Texas, March 2011: Rhodes claimed to have 100,000 photos in his personal archive he’d like to get published somehow

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
Despite some sniffy critics, this is ultimately Duran’s best album since their glory years – Comprehensive round-up

Still hungry after all these years —
Adrian Thrills writes in the Daily Mail:

The band’s 13th album is much better than most of us could have anticipated. The nine new songs benefit from a diverse cast of special guests. Ana Matronic of the Scissor Sisters adds a seductive rap on Safe (In the Heat of the Moment). New York soul diva Kelis impresses on The Man Who Stole A Leopard. But if Mark Ronson’s input provides a creative spark, the most impressive thing is Duran Duran’s return to form as songwriters. The frontman, to his credit, also supplies some wonderful, multi-tracked vocal harmonies, superbly augmented by Rhodes’ clever electronic prompts and the urgent grooves of the rhythm section … / Much more inside

Spandau Ballet, 2009, press conference, HMS Belfast, pop music, free CD

Spandau Ballet answering my question at their own reunion press conference

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s: In 2011 Spandau and Duran square up for battle just like the old days

❚ EVEN AS A UNIQUE CD COMPILATION of Spandau Ballet’s landmark hits was set for massive free distribution with The Mail on Sunday, Duran Duran announced a global concert live online at YouTube, along with their own album release on CD. It could be the 80s all over again when the two arch-rival bands vied for the title of leaders of Britain’s New Romantics movement. So which veteran band scored the bigger hit in 2011?… / Continued inside

Duran Duran, 2011, All You Need Is Now, YouTube, live stream, pop music

Duran Duran earlier in 2011, a year of US and European tours, plus a streamed concert

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2020 ➤ Sade’s 20 songs that ensure she remains a 21st-century star

Sade Adu, album, singer-songwriter, This Far, Sony Music,

“No one does small-hours heartbreak quite like Sade”: The singer photographed in 1990 by David Graves

From aching soul to minimalist funk, Sade and her band don’t make many records but their quality has never waned. As a career box set is released, in today’s Guardian critic Alexis Petridis ranks their 20 best songs…

No 1: By Your Side (2000)

There’s a compelling argument that Lovers Rock is Sade’s masterpiece, a collection of deeply affecting meditations on parenthood, loss and race on which they simultaneously pared down and broadened out their sound: its tracks subtly encompass everything from hip-hop to reggae to singer-songwriter folksiness. And, in By Your Side, it has Sade’s greatest song: its hushed atmosphere not a million miles removed from Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry, its melody so perfectly formed it feels instantly familiar, its lyrics simple but moving. How it isn’t the kind of modern standard that gets regularly murdered on The X Factor is an enduring mystery, although the 1975’s Auto-Tune-heavy cover is nice enough.

➢ Visit The Guardian to read reviews of the other
19 tracks in the Petridis Top 20

➢ Order This Far, a vinyl box set with remastered versions of Sade’s six albums, released today on Sony Music

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
1982, Sade’s new band Pride need a UK record deal – so let’s go and make friends in Manhattan

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
2010, Comeback Shard comfy as ‘Auntie Sade’

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2020 ➤ Yes, Midge Ure has Fleetwood Mac to thank for his landmark hit Vienna

40
YEARS
ON

❚ ON THIS DAY in 1980 Ultravox released one of the three most significant albums of the year that exemplified Britain’s new wave of synthesised electronic music – the others coming from Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark (in February) and Japan (in October). None of them acknowledged any association with the New Romantics movement. Ultravox’s 12-track album Vienna made an immediate impact, though its title track was only its third to be released, hitting No 2 in the charts in January 1981, later winning Single of the Year at the Brit Awards and an age later voted “the UK’s favourite No2 of all time” in a BBC poll.

It was produced by the German Conny Plank with an evocatively romantic landmark video directed by Russell Mulcahy who was creating a stunning visual vocabulary for the then novel music video. Midge Ure can take full credit as lead singer and guitarist for breathing a subtle blend of Roxy Music’s style and krautrock clarity into Ultravox and building them into a credible vanguard for electronica. Even as the word punk was given the heave-ho in favour of the term “new wave”, Ure was probably the first active player of a synth among any of his clubbing pals, having bought his first, the polyphonic Yamaha CS-50, in the summer of ’78.

As one of the most innovative musicians of the new decade, having had fingers in more pop pies than most, Ure is well qualified to stake his claim to have shaped the music of the Blitz Kids (among whom he was very much an honorary member), and here he describes the inspiration for Vienna, in an extract from his eloquent and candid 2004 autobiography If I Was (Virgin Books):

The first time I plugged in and made a noise with Ultravox was in April 1979 at a rehearsal room in the Elephant and Castle. Right from the first minute I knew I had come home. This noise was what I had been searching for, not only could these people make that noise, but they also could teach me how to make it. [These people being Chris Cross, Billy Currie, Warren Cann.]

What we were doing was radical and new: synthesisers, drum machines and electric guitar mixed together, synth bass with regular drums playing on top of it, the electronic and the organic. It had never been done before. Our sound was massive, this weird crossover between Kraftwerk and the guitars, bass and drums that belonged to every rock band in the world…

I might have been a one-time teeny-bop guitarist but once I was behind the technology, the music that made me famous was the darkest, most serious stuff I’d ever done. Those early days in Ultravox were the best time of my life. The result was a complete crossover, maybe that’s why it worked. The music came from all of us: everyone contributed and we split all the songwriting credits four ways. The classic example of all of us working together was Vienna.

Midge Ure, Ultravox, pop music, Swinging 80s,

The day job: in 1979 Midge Ure (moustachioed) resurrected the name of Ultravox along with Billy Currie, Chris Cross and Warren Cann. © Getty

One night I was sitting having a conversation with my old manager, Gerry Hempstead, who had co-managed the Rich Kids, when his wife Brenda said to me: ‘Midge, what you need to write is a song like that Vienna.’ I looked blank and she went, ‘You know, the Fleetwood Mac song.’ I looked blanker. ‘No, it wasn’t Vienna,’ said Gerry, ‘it was Rhiannon.’ That was the night I went home with Vienna lodged in my brain.

The next morning it was still there. I walked into the kitchen in my little flat and said to Billy, who was staying over, ‘I’ve got a line running around in my head I can’t get rid of, “this means nothing to me, this means nothing to me, Vienna”.’ We built the song from that one lyric. Every component element came from all four of us. It wouldn’t have been Vienna without Warren’s heartbeat drum sound, and it wouldn’t have been Vienna without the bass synth notes and Billy’s eerie viola… / Continued in Chapter 10 of If I Was

➢ Buy Midge Ure’s If I Was: The Autobiography

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
1978, Midge stakes his claim as the weathervane of synth-pop who helped shape the British New Wave

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
110+ acts who set the style for the new music of the 1980s

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2020 ➤ Bowie on Kraftwerk and his tribute to Florian Schneider

Kraftwerk, Florian Schneider, Ralf Hütter, pop music, 1970s

Kraftwerk at Düsseldorf station, 1977: Florian Schneider at left. (Photo, Frähling)

➢ Extracts from some vintage interviews republished
yesterday at David Bowie’s website…

❏ You’ve no doubt heard the sad news regarding the passing of Kraftwerk founder, Florian Schneider, aged 73. A spokesperson said he “passed away from a short cancer disease just a few days after his 73rd birthday”, his birthday being April 7. Schneider formed Kraftwerk with Ralf Hütter in 1970 and remained a member until his departure in 2008. He is pictured bottom left in our photo at Düsseldorf Hbf station with the rest of the band.

In a Kraftwerk feature for MOJO magazine Ralf Hütter responded to the question “How important was David Bowie’s infatuation with you?” thus:

“That was very important for us, because it linked what we were doing with the rock mainstream. Bowie used to tell everyone that we were his favourite group, and in the mid-Seventies the rock press used to hang on every word from his mouth. We met him when he played Düsseldorf (April 8, 1976) on one of his first European tours. He was travelling by Mercedes, listening to nothing but Autobahn all the time.”

In 1978 Bowie recalled the meeting in an interview: “I like them as people very much, Florian in particular. Very dry. When I go to Düsseldorf they take me to cake shops, and we have huge pastries. They wear their suits. A bit like Gilbert and George… When I came over to Europe – because it was the first tour I ever did of Europe (1976), the last time – I got myself a Mercedes to drive myself around in, because I still wasn’t flying at that time, and Florian saw it. He said, “What a wonderful car” and I said, “Yes, it used to belong to some Iranian prince, and he was assassinated and the car went on the market, and I got it for the tour.” And Florian said, “Ja, car always lasts longer.” With him it all has that edge. His whole cold emotion/warm emotion, I responded to that. Folk music of the factories.”

Kraftwerk immortalised the Düsseldorf meeting on the title track of the band’s 1977 album, Trans-Europe Express, in its lyric:

From station to station, back to Düsseldorf City,
Meet Iggy Pop and David Bowie…

David returned the compliment later the same year on the “Heroes” album, when he paid Florian the ultimate tribute by using his name for the title of V-2 Schneider.

❏ Bowie also spoke in some depth about Kraftwerk in an UNCUT interview several years back…

UNCUT: Many reasons have been suggested for moving to Berlin. Can you remember why the city appealed?

DB: Life in LA had left me with an overwhelming sense of foreboding. For many years Berlin had appealed to me as a sort of sanctuary. It was one of the few cities where I could move around in virtual anonymity… Since my teenage years I had obsessed on the angst-ridden, emotional work of the expressionists, both artists and film makers, and Berlin had been their spiritual home. This was the nub of Die Brücke movement, Max Rheinhardt, Brecht and where Metropolis and Caligari had originated. It was an art form that mirrored life not by event but by mood. This was where I felt my work was going. My attention had been swung back to Europe with the release of Kraftwerk’s Autobahn in 1974. The preponderance of electronic instruments convinced me that this was an area that I had to investigate a little further.

Much has been made of Kraftwerk’s influence on our Berlin albums. Most of it lazy analysis, I believe. Kraftwerk’s approach to music had in itself little place in my scheme. Theirs was a controlled, robotic, extremely measured series of compositions, almost a parody of minimalism. One had the feeling that Florian and Ralf were completely in charge of their environment, and that their compositions were well prepared and honed before entering the studio.

David Bowie, Station to Station, album sleeve , pop music

Bowie’s album Station to Station: it preceded Trans-Europe Express by a year

My work tended to expressionist mood pieces, the protagonist (myself) abandoning himself to the zeitgeist (a popular word at the time), with little or no control over his life. The music was spontaneous for the most part and created in the studio.

In substance too, we were poles apart. Kraftwerk’s percussion sound was produced electronically, rigid in tempo, unmoving. Ours was the mangled treatment of a powerfully emotive drummer, Dennis Davis. The tempo not only “moved” but also was expressed in more than “human” fashion. Kraftwerk supported that unyielding machine-like beat with all synthetic sound-generating sources. We used an R&B band. Since Station to Station the hybridization of R&B and electronics had been a goal of mine. Indeed, according to a Seventies interview with Brian Eno, this is what had drawn him to working with me.

One other lazy observation I would like to point up is the assumption that Station to Station was homage to Kraftwerk’s Trans-Europe Express. In reality Station to Station preceded Trans-Europe Express by quite some time, ’76 and ’77 respectively. Btw, the title drives from the Stations of the Cross and not the railway system.

What I WAS passionate about in relation to Kraftwerk was their singular determination to stand apart from stereotypical American chord sequences and their wholehearted embrace of a European sensibility displayed through their music. This was their very important influence on me.

UNCUT: V-2 Schneider – a tribute to Florian?
DB: Of course.

So long Florian.


❏ ABOVE: Kraftwerk playing Autobahn in 1975 on the BBC science strand Tomorrow’s World to demonstrate their “Machinemusik”. This was their first UK appearance on British television.


❏ ABOVE: View the long-haired radicals in Kraftwerk reinventing German music from “Stunde null” in the BBC Four documentary Krautrock: The Rebirth of Germany.

➢ Florian Schneider: the enigma whose codes broke open pop music – Alexis Petridis in The Guardian – “Schneider had kept such a low profile after leaving Kraftwerk that rumours of his death had circulated before, only to be revealed as erroneous.”

➢ How Florian Schneider and Kraftwerk influenced five decades of music – Mark Savage at BBC News

➢ How Kraftwerk’s synth wizard Florian Schneider rewired the world – Rob Sheffield at Rolling Stone – “It’s all electric energy, anyway,” Schneider said, summing up a sonic philosophy that upended the Seventies rock ideal, and influenced everyone from Depeche Mode to Derrick May.

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