❉ This is a compilation worth serious consideration, writes Ange Chan.
In 1982, the UK pop charts were at a turning point. Punk was over and the budding post-punk bands were in bloom. Bands such as Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Soft Cell, Duran Duran, Heaven 17 and Human League had all formed in the latter half of the 1970s when the world wasn’t yet ready for them, but quickly became household names and by 1982 were on the verge of international success.
1982 was also the time when many of the late ‘70s synth pioneers were also gaining recognition, championed by national radio DJs such as John Peel, Annie Nightingale and Janice Long. These grassroots acts included the likes of Die Krupps, Fad Gadget, Telex, Fiat Lux and Omega Theatre, all of whom are featured on Musik Music Musique 3.0 – 1982: Synthpop On The Air, the latest volume in Cherry Red Records’ Musik Music Musique series, due for release 17 February 2023.
The set contains three CDs stuffed with tracks from popular acts through to grassroots synth outfits and commercial underdogs, giving a comprehensive overview of what the electronic music of that year was really all about, accompanied – as with the previous two Musik Music Musique volumes – a glossy, full colour 24-page booklet with detailed information on the artists and tracks featured.
With the launch of MTV the previous year, the video age was well underway by 1982, and it soon become necessary for any act to produce a video to accompany their singles in order to gain exposure and a chart placing. The world of pop music was fast becoming more of a commercial enterprise than it had ever been, as it moved firmly into the realm of ‘the music business’. Disc one kicks off with the inimitable Thomas Dolby and Radio Silence from his album The Golden Age of the Wireless, which is very representative of the year in pop with its busy synths and the obligatory arty video made to promote its release.
The first disc contains many personal favourites by bands who are still recording and performing today including Tears for Fears’ Pale Shelter, Ultravox’s Monument, and Blancmange’s I’ve Seen the Word. A lesser-known highlight comes in the form of Poeme Electronique’s V.O.I.C.E. – a wholly synth-driven track punctuated with staccato vocals and uncomplicated lyrics that was the blueprint for many songs around that time. Also present is Colourbox with Breakdown which uses a simple synth loop as its backing track but manages to be a catchy track nonetheless, largely thanks to Lorita Graeme’s captivating vocals.
With Disc Two we move into more familiar territory with successful artists like New Order, Toyah, Soft Cell, Human League and Dead or Alive, opening with a band closely linked to synthpop superstar Gary Numan – Dramatis, who as Tubeway Army had been his backing band for his calling card, Are ‘Friends’ Electric, and the number one smash hit Cars, released under his own name as a solo track. The band are here represented with The Shame from their album For Future Reference.
Moving along the electronic music spectrum, we have the much-missed Frank Tovey’s band Fad Gadget, with Life on the Line from their excellent album Under the Flag, a track which I personally haven’t heard in many, many years! This sojourn down memory lane provides a welcome interlude amidst some of the more familiar, mainstream offerings of that year.
Some of the tracks chosen here to represent those more successful bands include popular tracks which were not released as singles, such as The Human League’s You Remind Me Of Gold from their Fascination mini-LP, and Soft Cell’s “single that never was” Sex Dwarf, from the band’s Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret album and infamous for its controversial video with its slabs of meat, chainsaws, blood, dwarves and much writhing. Can’t imagine for one minute why it was banned! Meanwhile, Kevin Coyne’s Tell the Truth, with its spoken word vocal over an electronic backing track, captures the DIY ethos that anyone in the early 1980s with access to a synthesizer could make a record.
Opening with the excellent Let Me Go! by Heaven 17, Disc Three is a similar mix of artists, with lesser-known ones having the edge, such as Local Boy Makes Good with Hypnotic Rhythm, a versatile song that demonstrates a number of synth sounds, cleverly melded together in a purposeful way.
French band Mikado, who produced a number of singles in their native language before disbanding in 1990, feature with their song Par Hasard (which translates as By Chance). The continental theme continues with Maschine Brennt by German band Falco, highly reminiscent of their hit Rock me Amadeus with its staccato vocal delivery, and Those French Girls whose Sorry Sorry which is uncannily similar to King in a Catholic Style by ‘80s stalwarts China Crisis.
Still recording and touring today, Kim Wilde makes a welcome appearance on this disc with Child Come Away which only reached number 43 in the UK charts when released as a single in October 1982. It was more successful on the continent, particularly in Switzerland and Sweden where the track reached the Top Ten in both countries.
The compilation ends with Julie and the Jems and their cover version of 1-2-3, originally a hit in 1965 for Len Barry and subsequently recorded by Al Stewart. Ending this compilation with a cover version demonstrates how music can be enduring, and as long as the cover brings something new to the musical interpretation, it’s all good.
More than just an exercise in nostalgia and reminiscence, with its vast array of diverse tracks from 1982 Musik Music Musique 3.0 is a compilation worth serious consideration, serving as a reminder that although this is a compilation from forty years ago, the music contained within is just as relevant and cutting edge today as it ever was. This is essential for fans of the electric pop genre, especially if they have enjoyed the other compilations in this series.
❉ Various Artists – “Musik Music Musique 3.0: 1982 Synth Pop On The Air” 3CD Clamshell Box Set (Cherry Red CRCDBOX140) is released 17 February 2023 by Cherry Red Group, RRP £23.99. Click here to pre-order. Cherry Red Records have been releasing and reissuing the most innovative and independent thinking music since 1978. Follow them on Twitter or visit their site.
❉ A lifelong lover of music and prominent contributor to Me and the Starman (now available by Cult Ink on Amazon), Ange Chan is a Freelance Writer, having produced two novels and six volumes of poetry.