Category: abc

On this day in music history: November 14, 198…

On this day in music history: November 14, 1983 – “Beauty Stab”, the second album by ABC is released. Produced by ABC and Gary Langan, it is recorded at Sarm East and West Studios, Townhouse Studios and Abbey Road Studios in London from August – September 1983. Having scored major commercial and critical success with their debut album “The Lexicon Of Love”, ABC find the task of following it up a greater challenge than they thought. The band also find themselves without the services of producer Trevor Horn, who is busy elsewhere working with Yes, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and his own side project The Art Of Noise. Instead, ABC work with recording engineer Gary Langan acting as co-producer on their sophomore effort. They also decide to go in a completely different musical direction, eschewing the lush blue eyed soul/new wave atmosphere of “Lexicon”. Many of the tracks on “Beauty Stab” are more stripped down and rock guitar based, recalling “Berlin Trilogy era” Bowie and even attempting to mimick Led Zeppelin. The band are accompanied in the studio by veteran session drummer Andy Newmark (John Lennon, Sly & The Family Stone), saxophonist Howie Casey (Wings) and bassist Alan Spenner (Roxy Music, Joe Cocker, Spooky Tooth). The first taste of ABC’s dramatically revamped sound comes in the form of the first single “That Was Then, But This Is Now” (#18 UK, #89 US Pop), released just ahead of the album in October of 1983. The tepid response the single receives from the public pales in comparison to the full album, released just a few weeks later. Critics and many fans are taken aback by the dramatic change, and are brutally savage in their assessment, literally referring to ABC as having committed “career suicide” and recording one of “the great career-sabotage LPs in pop history”. Though it manages to reach Gold status in the UK, and cracks the Top 20 (#12 UK) on the album chart, it fares far worse in the US. It receives even more negative reviews, and is resoundingly ignored by radio. It spins off one more single in the UK with “S.O.S.” (#39 UK), which ABC’s US label Mercury Records,

(deciding to cut their losses)

does not release but is issued in Canada. The fall out from the album’s failure results in founding member Stephen Singleton leaving ABC, later followed by David Palmer. In spite of the poor performance of “Beauty Stab”, the band survives with Martin Fry and Mark White continuing on, and rebounding with the follow ups “How To Be A… Zillionaire!” and “Alphabet City”. Out of print in any form for many years, ABC’s sophomore album is remastered and reissued CD in 1997 (with the non-LP B-side “Vertigo” added), and again in 2005 with three additional bonus tracks. “Beauty Stab” peaks at number sixty nine on the Billboard Top 200.

On this day in music history: September 13, 19…

On this day in music history: September 13, 1985 – “How To Be A… Zillionaire”, the third album by ABC is released. Produced by Martin Fry and Mark White, it is recorded at Jacobs Studios in Farnham, Surrey, UK from November 1984 – June 1985. Making a major splash with their classic debut album “The Lexicon Of Love”, ABC decide to take a dramatic left turn with the hard edged, guitar oriented “Beauty Stab”. The results are epically disastrous, receiving overwhelmingly negative criticism and poor sales. Following the release of “Beauty”, ABC is reduced to a duo of Martin Fry and Mark White. Looking to recover from those set backs, the pair begin working on new material. Taking note of former producer Trevor Horn’s work on Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s groundbreaking “Welcome To The Pleasuredome”, they reinvent their sound with a slick high tech edge. To assist them with accomplishing this, Fry and White enlist the help of drummer Keith LeBlanc and guitarist Skip “Little Axe” McDonald formerly of the Sugarhill Records house band and of the pioneering industrial funk/dub band Tackhead. Also on board are guitarist David Williams (Michael Jackson, Madonna, Chanson), trumpeter Guy Barker, keyboardist Don Snow (Squeeze, Lene Lovich), drummer Chris Whitten (Paul McCartney, The Waterboys) and former Ikette vocalist P.P. Arnold. Along with that top notch studio talent, ABC also take the visual aspect of the music into consideration as well. They add journalist Eden (Fiona Russell Powell), briefly in the pre-ABC band Vice Versa and musician and photographer David Yarritu. Other than contributing some spoken vocals, Eden and Yarritu are mostly added for their unique look used for the album packaging and music videos. The bright and colorful packaging for the album package and single picture sleeves are designed by ABC along with artist Keith Breeden of the famed British graphic arts company Assorted Images. The artwork is also incorporated into the accompanying music videos. Fairing only modestly in the UK, “How To Be… A Zillionaire” performs much better in the US, restoring the bands commercial fortunes. Led by the single “Be Near Me” (#9 Pop, #1 Club Play, #11 AC), it becomes ABC’s first top ten single stateside. The song also becomes a club smash via a dramatic remix (titled the “Munich Dance Mix”), adding a heavier back beat, wah wah guitars and samples from The Silver Convention’s disco classic “Get Up And Boogie”. The album spins off a total of three singles (four in the UK) including “(How To Be A) Millionaire” (#20 Pop, #4 Club Play) and “Vanity Kills” (#91 Pop, #5 Club Play). When “Zillionaire” is issued on CD, it features altered artwork from the UK and US covers, and contain 12" mixes of four songs as added bonus tracks. It is remastered and reissued on CD in 1998, and again in 2005 with eight additional bonus tracks. “How To Be A… Zillionaire” peaks at number thirty on the Billboard Top 200.

On this day in music history: August 25, 1982 …

On this day in music history: August 25, 1982 – “The Lexicon Of Love”, the debut album by ABC is released (UK release date is on June 25, 1982). Produced by Trevor Horn, it is recorded at RAK Studios, Good Earth Studios, Sarm East Studios, Advision Studios and Abbey Road Studios in London from July 1981 – April 1982. Formed in Sheffield, UK in 1980 out the remains of the band Vice Versa, ABC consists of Martin Fry (lead vocals), Mark White (guitar, keyboards), Stephen Singleton (saxophone), Mark Lickley (bass) and David Robinson (drums). Originally part of the New Romantic movement in their previous incarnation, ABC moves away from their minimalist electronic-synthesizer based sound, toward a more lush sophisti-pop and new wave style. The band record “Tears Are Not Enough” (#UK 19) with producer Steve Brown (Wham!, Haysi Fantayzee, Elton John), which becomes their first hit single in late 1981. While ABC are working at a rehearsal space in West London, they meet Trevor Horn. Speaking to Horn, the band realize that they and the former Buggles bassist and vocalist turned producer, have similar musical ambitions and agree to work together. When recording begins on their first album, ABC are also joined by other studio musicians including Anne Dudley (keyboards, orchestration) and J.J. Jeczalik (synthesizer programming), who with Horn later form the basis of the Art Of Noise. The production of the album featuring live instrumentation by the members of ABC, is augmented with strings and state of the art technology including drum programming, sequencing and sampling utilizing the Fairlight CMI synthesizer. Led by the singles “Poison Arrow” (#6 UK, #25 US Pop) and “The Look Of Love” (#4 UK, #18 US Pop, #1 Club Play), the album is released in the Summer of 1982 to rapturous critic reviews and public response. Hailed as a groundbreaking album, “Lexicon” not only establishes ABC as one of the top bands in their home country, but also as leaders of the second “British Invasion” of the US. It also turns Trevor Horn into a world class and highly in demand record producer throughout the 80’s and beyond. “Lexicon” is also supported by a nearly hour long video album titled “Mantrap”, directed by Julien Temple, which is commercially released, and becomes a best seller. One of first commercially issued CD’s by Mercury/Phonogram in 1983, the album is remastered and reissued in 1998. It is reissued again as a double CD Deluxe Edition in 2004 (Europe only). The two discs include the original ten song album, single versions, demos and a live performance of the album in its entirety recorded at the Hammersmith Odeon in London in November of 1982. It is also reissued as a 180 gram vinyl LP in 2014. “The Lexicon Of Love” spends four weeks at number one on the UK album chart, peaking at number twenty four on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the UK by the BPI, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

On this day in music history: May 8, 1970 – “A…

On this day in music history: May 8, 1970 – “ABC”, the second studio album by The Jackson 5 is released. Produced by The Corporation and Hal Davis, it is recorded at The Sound Factory and Hitsville USA West in Hollywood, CA from August 1969 – March 1970. Issued only five months after their debut album, it is a mixture of original songs written for the group as well as covers of songs originally recorded by Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross & The Supremes, The Delfonics, and Funkadelic. It spins off two singles including “The Love You Save” and the title track (both #1 R&B and Pop). In time it is widely regarded as the groups best album, selling over five million copies worldwide. The albums iconic cover art (photographed by Paul Slaughter and Joseph Hernandez) features a shot of the group taken at the beach in Malibu, CA posing with oversized letters spelling out the album title. The final image airbrushes out the original background, placing it against a solid blue background. The back cover features a photo college of the group. Originally released on CD in the mid 80’s, it is remastered and issued in 1998. The vinyl LP, out of print for more than twenty years, it is reissued on 180 gram vinyl as part of Universal Music Group’s “Back To Black” vinyl series in Europe in 2009. “ABC” spend twelve weeks (non-consecutive) at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart and peaking at number four on the Top 200.

On this day in music history: April 4, 1970 – …

On this day in music history: April 4, 1970 – “ABC” by The Jackson 5 hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 4 weeks, also topping the Hot 100 for 2 weeks on April 25, 1970. Written and produced by The Corporation, it is the second consecutive chart topping single for the Gary, IN based family group fronted by lead singer Michael Jackson. The basic track for “ABC” is recorded in December 1969 at The Sound Factory in Hollywood, CA. When they begin formulating the follow up , the writers form the basis for “ABC” out of the chorus section of “I Want You Back”. Recorded with the same group of musicians (including Wilton Felder (bass), Gene Pello (drums), David T. Walker, Louie Shelton, and Don Peake (guitars) ), the track is cut live in a single take. The single sells over a million copies in under twelve days, eventually selling over 2.2 million copies. To commemorate this achievement, Motown Records re-services DJ’s with another promotional 45 pressing of “ABC” pressed on clear gold vinyl, and packaged in a title sleeve. These 45’s become highly sought after by collectors, and are among the rarest Jackson 5 promotional items. An alternate mix of the track (with a slightly longer running time and different vocals not included in the original mono and stereo mixes) appear on the Japanese quadraphonic stereo LP of the groups first “Greatest Hits” album released in 1975. “ABC” also makes Billboard chart history as one of the shortest song titles to top the charts. One of The Jackson 5’s most popular and beloved songs, “ABC” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2017, becoming the group’s third single (after “I Want You Back” and “I’ll Be There”) to receive that honor.

March 14, 1970 – 48 Years Ago Today: The Jacks…

March 14, 1970 – 48 Years Ago Today: The Jackson 5 had the Hot Shot Debut at No. 41 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart with their single, “ABC.” This was the second single release for the five brothers following their No. 1 smash debut, “I Want You Back,” which dominated the pop & R&B charts for four weeks. “ABC,” would enjoy two weeks at No. 1 beginning April 25, 1970 as well as four weeks atop the R&B chart. The Jackson 5 were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. The single was written by “The Corporation” which consisted of Berry Gordy, Jr., Freddie Perren, Fonce Mizell and Deke Richards. Please click the following link to view the accompanying video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ho7796-au8U

March 14, 1970 – 48 Years Ago Today: The Jacks…

March 14, 1970 – 48 Years Ago Today: The Jackson 5 had the Hot Shot Debut at No. 41 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart with their single, “ABC.” This was the second single release for the five brothers following their No. 1 smash debut, “I Want You Back,” which dominated the pop & R&B charts for four weeks. “ABC,” would enjoy two weeks at No. 1 beginning April 25, 1970 as well as four weeks atop the R&B chart. The Jackson 5 were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. The single was written by “The Corporation” which consisted of Berry Gordy, Jr., Freddie Perren, Fonce Mizell and Deke Richards. Please click the following link to view the accompanying video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ho7796-au8U

Born on this day: March 9, 1958 – Martin Fry, …

Born on this day: March 9, 1958 – Martin Fry, songwriter and lead singer of ABC (born in Stockport, Cheshire, UK). Happy 60th Birthday, Martin!!

The Jackson 5 with little brother Randy backst…

The Jackson 5 with little brother Randy backstage in London, 1972.