Friday Music

It’s been a very long time since I’ve done a themed entry, but watching the BBC4 documentary Synth Britannia (which I posted about yesterday) really influenced my listening habits during the week. So, this week’s Friday Music is comprised entirely of music featured on the show — groundbreaking electronic music from the late 70s/early 80s:

Depeche Mode’s first hit single, from 1981 — not a lot of folks in the US heard this one, as they didn’t really break over here until mid-85 with “People Are People”. Depeche Mode – “New Life.”

Vince Clark is a brilliant bastard. One of the founders (and chief songwriter) for Depeche Mode, he left the band (before they hit in the US) once he realized he could do all of the synth programming and playing himself. He hired singer Allison Moyet for vocals on his demos, and suddenly found himself in another seminal synth act, Yazoo (renamed Yaz in the US, due to some rock band nobody has heard of, before or since). They were only around for 18 months, and then he went out and found a gay man who sounded like Moyet (Andy Bell) and founded *yet another* major synth group, Erasure. This is my favorite track from Yazoo: Yazoo – “Don’t Go.”

From 1979, one of the first big synth hits, originally recorded by Tubeway Army before their lead singer, Gary Numan, went solo and skyrocketed on the basis of this song and “Cars.” Gary Numan & Tubeway Army – “Are ‘Friends’ Electric.”

The first single from the new-lineup (now with extra GIRLS!) Human League, much less known over here since it hit before “Don’t You Want Me” and “(Keep Feeling)Fascination.” Not bad for a group named after a faction in a TSR-published SPI wargame. The Human League – “The Sound of the Crowd.”

The rest of Human League’s original line-up went on to form Heaven 17, and in fact were recording their debut album, Penthouse and Pavement at the same studio during opposite shifts to the “new” Human League’s Dare. Heaven 17 – “Let Me Go.”

Major early hit from Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, best known over here for providing sappy love songs to John Hughes films. Here, a lovely ode to the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – “Enola Gay.”

Almost entirely unknown in the US, members of Visage went on to form the far-better known bands Ultravox and Siouxsie & The Banshees. This was the big single from Visage in 1980: Visage – “Fade to Grey.”

…and of course, the granddaddy of them all. A track crafted by the former members of Joy Division as an ironic response to what they saw as the cliché of the rock-concert encore. They hit upon the idea of setting up sequencers and synths and then when the de rigeur encore was called for, they would simply hit a “start” button and leave the stage, leaving the sequencers to play out the composed track. It went on to become the biggest selling 12-inch single in history. New Order – “Blue Monday.”

There you go, folks. Enjoy!

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