Reason #486 Why The ’80’s Didn’t Suck: The Lexicon Of Love

So we go from hardcore Cali punk rock to English New Romantic pioneers ABC, eh? This variety illustrates why I love ’80’s music! ABC, like a lot of other ’80’s bands, released one perfect album and then spent the rest of their careers attempting to replicate it. They came close a couple of times, but were never able to match the success of Lexicon, and here’s why: it’s the songs, it’s the production, it was the perfect moment in time. A little history from allmusic:

One of the most popular new wave bands of the early ’80s, the British group ABC built upon the detached, synthesized R&B pop of David Bowie and Roxy Music, adding a self-conscious, campy sense of theatrics and style. Under the direction of vocalist Martin Fry, the group scored several catchy, synth-driven dance-pop hits in the early ’80s, including “Poison Arrow,” “Look of Love,” and “Be Near Me.” During the late ’70s, Fry ran his own fanzine, Modern Drugs, while he attended Sheffield University. ABC formed in 1980, after Fry interviewed Vice Versa members Mark White (guitar) and Stephen Singleton (saxophone) for his fanzine. The two musicians asked Fry to join their band as a vocalist, and he soon became part of the group; the lineup also featured drummer David Robinson and bassist Mark Lickley.

Soon, Fry had taken control of the electronic band, steering them in a more pop-oriented direction and renaming the group ABC. By the fall of 1981, the band had signed a record contract with Phonogram Records, which agreed to distribute ABC‘s own label, Neutron. ABC released their first single, “Tears Are Not Enough,” in November; it peaked at number 19 on the U.K. charts. Before they recorded their second single, Robinson left the band and was replaced by David Palmer in early 1982. Two singles, “Poison Arrow” and “The Look of Love,” became British Top Ten hits in the spring, paving the way for their debut album, The Lexicon of Love, to enter the charts at number one. “All of My Heart” also became a Top Ten hit in the fall of 1982.

Toward the end of 1982, the group began concentrating on the United States. Their American success was helped greatly by the fledgling MTV network, which aired videos for “The Look of Love” and “Poison Arrow” frequently, making both singles Top 25 hits in the spring of 1983.

Lexicon Of Love continues to amaze me in its resilience. It still sounds fresh after all these years and will remain, along with Avalon by Roxy Music, the high water mark for the so-called ‘new romantic’ movement of the early ’80’s. Others would try, and fail miserably, like the odorous Spandeau Ballet,and the reason was, as it always is in the end, the quality of the songs  just wasn’t there.

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