ABC (band)

ABC (band)

Infobox musical artist
Name = ABC

Img_capt = The original lineup of ABC: (I. to r.) Stephen Singleton, Mark White, Martin Fry, David Palmer, and Mark Lickley.
Img_size =
Background = group_or_band
Origin = Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England
Genre = New Wave
Pop rock
New Romantic
Years_active = 1980-present
Label = EMI
Associated_acts =
Also Known As =
Current_members = Martin Fry
David Palmer
Past_members = Mark Lickley
Stephen Singleton
Alan Laramee Taylor
David Robinson
Andy Newmark
Alan Spenner
Stephen Singleton
Fiona Russell-Powell (a.k.a. Eden)
David Yarritu
Mark White
Glenn Gregory
Keith Lowndes

ABC are an English pop band that charted ten UK and five US Top 40 singles between 1981 and 1990. The band has a series of live performances scheduled in the U.S. and U.K. in 2008 and released a new album, Traffic, on 28 April 2008.


ABC was formed in 1980 in the city of Sheffield, in South Yorkshire, England after Martin Fry, a music journalist, interviewed the band Vice Versa for his fanzine "Modern Drugs". They adopted Fry as lead vocalist and changed their name to ABC. The revamped band were pigeon-holed as part of the New Romantic movement of the time, which included the likes of Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet. The band would offer many stylistic spins within its career and perhaps they are better labeled as Northern Soul, their obvious inspiration and the most universal element to influence all of their offerings. Perhaps the most distinguishing fact is the band's non-ominous use of synthesizers. Ominous, discordant, or minor-keyed synthesizer parts were something that would unite the majority of true New Romantic bands. Also, ABC from the very beginning incorporated a predominantly funk and soul sound into their compositions. ABC was profiled in a 2004 documentary about bands hailing from Sheffield in the late 1970s-to-early 1980s. Original ABC saxophone player Stephen Singleton was interviewed for "Made In Sheffield," along with members of the Human League, Heaven 17, and others.

In 2004, the VH1 show "Bands Reunited" attempted to get the line-up of Martin Fry, David Palmer, Stephen Singleton and Mark White together for a reunion concert. Martin Fry and David Palmer appeared and played together for the first time in over twenty years. Singleton and White opted not to participate.

Fry still tours as ABC, often in conjunction with other 1980s nostalgia or revival acts. ABC performed a set with other 1980s acts at Retro Fest on 1 September 2007 at Culzean Castle in Ayrshire, Scotland. This appearance included a rendition of "Addicted to Love" with Tony Hadley and Peter Cox of Go West.


ABC toured the U.S. in August 2008, as part of the [ Regeneration Tour 2008] , which also featured Belinda Carlisle, The Human League, A Flock of Seagulls, and Naked Eyes.


:"For more details about their discography, see ABC discography."

"The Lexicon of Love"

In 1982, the band released their debut album "The Lexicon of Love". Heavy on rhyming couplets and tales of unrequited love, the album was a big hit, reaching number one in the UK album charts. Produced by Trevor Horn, it often features in UK critics' lists of favourite albums: it ranked 42nd in "The Observer Music Monthly"'s "Top 100 British Albums" (June 2004) and 40th in "Q" magazine's "100 Greatest British Albums" (June 2000). The album is notable for its uncanny mixture of wit, overall musicality (tightly bound by funk basslines and Palmer's steady drumming), attention to recorded sonics, its magnificent string arrangements by Anne Dudley, and exceptional graphic design.

The first single, "Tears Are Not Enough", made the UK Top 20 in 1981. Soon afterwards, David Robinson left the band and was replaced by drummer David Palmer. The band had three Top 10 hits during 1982: the singles "Poison Arrow", "The Look of Love (Part One)" and "All of My Heart" and shot high-concept music videos that captured a suave Great Gatsby-meets-James Bond aesthetic. "The Look of Love (part 5)", issued only to club DJs, was perhaps the first pop song to be remixed with scratching (courtesy of Trevor Horn). In an Amazon online review of the 2004 deluxe edition of "Lexicon of Love", Stephen Singleton has also claimed it was among the earliest remixes to be based upon samples. When ABC toured the U.S. in 1983 to promote the Lexicon album, at least one show was audio-recorded and is now publicly available on Wolfgang's Vault. [ [ ABC Live Concert at Metro (Boston, MA) December 17, 1982 - Free streaming live music, Live concert recordings, Live music downloads, Classic rock concerts ] ]

"Beauty Stab"

ABC found it difficult to follow up their debut. Palmer left the band before "Beauty Stab", the second ABC album, was released in 1983. It performed poorly in comparison to its predecessor. "Beauty Stab" was, by design, a dramatic departure from the lush, melodramatic New pop of "The Lexicon of Love", with emphasis instead placed on guitar-based rock. Gary Langan (who had engineered "The Lexicon of Love") produced the effort. The new sound was underpinned by the presence of the Roxy Music rhythm section of Andy Newmark and Alan Spenner, most notably on "If I Ever Thought You'd Be Lonely". The first single, "That Was Then But This Is Now", a clear attempt to mark a new chapter in the band's career, briefly appeared in the UK Top 20, followed by a Top 40 showing for "S.O.S.". The band eschewed remixes for the project, and the 12" single for "That Was Then But This Is Now" featured the disclaimer "This record is exactly the same as the 7" version. The choice is yours." Stephen Singleton retired from the band in 1984.

"How To Be A...Zillionaire!"

Now a duo of Fry and White, augmented by two non-performing band members, Fiona Russell-Powell (known as Eden) and David Yarritu, ABC's chart fortunes in the UK further dwindled with the 1985 album "How To Be A...Zillionaire!". It marked another change of style, in this case toying with mid-1980s dance beats and samples. Keith LeBlanc from Tackhead programmed much of the beatbox work for the album. While the group did score its first American Top 10 hit with the infectious "Be Near Me", at home in the UK it failed to break the Top 20. The album also featured the hits "How to Be a Millionaire", "Vanity Kills" and "Ocean Blue".

The record's greatest distinction would likely be that it is among a handful of 1980s albums that made extensive (almost extreme) use of the Fairlight CMI (and similar sampling synthesizers). Others in this vein would include "Naked Eyes" by the band of the same name, "The Dreaming" by Kate Bush, "Zoolook" by Jean Michel Jarre, "The Flat Earth" by Thomas Dolby, and "Stella" by Yello.

ABC was one of the first bands to do "video scratching" for several videos from the "How to Be a... Zillionaire" album, including the video for "Be Near Me." This fad was briefly highlighted by MTV News but never caught on.

"Alphabet City"

Following a hiatus while Fry was treated for Hodgkin's disease, ABC returned to the studio to record "Alphabet City", which they thought might be their final album. Best known for "When Smokey Sings", a tribute to Smokey Robinson, the album also spawned "The Night You Murdered Love" and "King Without a Crown" as singles. Many critics lauded "Alphabet City" as a return to form for the group, noting its polished production by Fry and White in conjunction with Bernard Edwards, best known for his work with Chic. For the B-sides of the album's first two singles, the band offered two rhythmic vignettes ("songs" would be a stretch) inspired by their time in the States. One was simply called "Minneapolis" and was a striking homage to the early Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis sound. The other was slightly more abrasive, hard-hitting and titled "Chicago" (presumably after the burgeoning House Music scene). Add in the fact that "When Smokey Sings" was featured in a Motown doppleganger called the "Detroit Mix" and it is obvious ABC were in love with American soul music and its many derivations. All three tracks would make the CD version of the group's first anthology.


In 1989, the duo issued "Up", their fifth and final PolyGram studio album. This time experimenting with house music, ABC scored a minor UK hit with the single "One Better World", an ode to love, peace and tolerance. They then released another single, "The Real Thing". During this period the group worked on a couple of outside productions aimed at the house music scene. One was Paul Rutherford's (Frankie Goes to Hollywood) solo album and first single release; the other was for signee Lizzie Tear on the group's own Neutron label. The Rutherford tracks made the bigger stir.


In 1990, the band released a comprehensive greatest hits package called "Absolutely". This covered all of ABC's albums up until 1990 and featured all of their singles. A video package featuring promos was also released. One new song, "The Look of Love 90", was released to promote the package, though neither the band nor Trevor Horn (who had produced the original) approved of the mix. ABC implored fans not to buy the remixed single.Fact|date=October 2007


The group then moved to the EMI label (and MCA in North America), where they recorded the 1991 LP "Abracadabra", a tightly produced fusion of early 1990s techno sounds and 1970s dance grooves which, despite the enlistment of "precision" producer/mixer David Bascombe, was met with muted critical approval. "Love Conquers All", the first single, barely placed in the UK charts, though Black Box ("Ride on Time") provided remixes of "Say It" which were well received on the U.S. dance charts.

ABC split up in 1992, with White leaving the music business to pursue an interest in Reiki therapyFact|date=October 2007. Martin Fry continued to work with EMI in the months thereafter, but he was axed from the label before his solo material was released.


Fry resurrected the band's name in 1997 for the album "Skyscraping", an homage to several of his musical heroes, including David Bowie, Roxy Music, and The Sex Pistols. A collaboration with Glenn Gregory of Heaven 17 and Keith Lowndes, the album again was met with critical approval rather than broad commercial success. However, three singles were released, the muscular "Rolling Sevens", breezy "Skyscraping", and string-laden "Stranger Things", complete with extra b-sides.

"The Lexicon of Live"

In 1999, ABC released their first live album, titled "The Lexicon of Live".This live album covered most of their major hits. Although Martin Fry was the only member left, he had a backing band and adorned the album cover in his trademark gold (fabric)lamé suit.

"Look of Love - The Very Best of ABC"

"Look of Love - The Very Best of ABC" was released in 2001. Although essentially a reissue of greatest hits package "Absolutely" (from 1990), the album featured two new songs by Fry titled "Peace and Tranquility" and "Blame". A companion DVD, along with a bonus disc of remixes, was also released.


In late 2004 Universal UK re-issued a "Deluxe" double-CD version of "Lexicon of Love" with 31 tracks, including demos and live tracks from the time of the original release. In 2005, Universal Music issued remastered versions of the group's five PolyGram albums, complete with previously unreleased tracks and elaborate booklets with pictures and album/single covers. EMI followed suit with a reissue of "Abracadabra", again featuring unreleased songs, demos, and remixes via music download services such as iTunes and 7-Digital.


Following a tour of the United States in May and June 2006, Fry and Palmer, together with keyboardist Chuck Kentis, put together a new ABC album with the title of "Traffic". It was released on 28 April 2008. Gary Langan, who worked on "The Lexicon of Love" and "Beauty Stab", mixed and produced the album. The first single, "The Very First Time", debuted on BBC Radio 2 in January, was added to the station's "A" playlist for the week beginning 29 March, and was released as a download track on 1 April. ABC performed two songs from Traffic during the 2008 Regeneration Tour of the U.S.: "Ride" and "The Very First Time." One site where the album is available for sampling or purchase (MP3 download) is [] .


* A different band called ABC released a 7" single titled "Rhythm On The Radio" in 1979 in the United States. That band played country & western music.

* A young hip-hop band called Another Bad Creation referred to themselves as ABC. They were a product of ex-New Edition band members.

*Chicago electronic band [ Microfilm] name-checked the ABC album "The Lexicon of Love" in the lyrics for their song 'Non-Stop Dreaming' off of their 2007 album "After Dark", as did singer George Michael, who name-checked the band ABC, along with The Specials and The Jam, in his single "Round Here" from the 2004 album "Patience".

* The track "So Hip It Hurts" from "How To Be A Zillionaire" features in the Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster movie "Tough Guys" from 1986.

* ABC have had three number one hits on the US Dance Charts: "The Look of Love" (December 18, 1982), "Be Near Me" (September 28 - October 5, 1985) and "When Smokey Sings/Chicago" (August 29 - September 5, 1987).

* Fiona Russell Powell, who joined the group for ABC's 1984 album "How To Be A Zillionaire", was part of the original line-up of pre-ABC band Vice Versa. According to an article that was published on 7 March 1997, [] she 'chickened out' of Vice Versa's first live gig, and the job as frontman went to Martin Fry.



*Martin Fry - lead vocals (1980— )
*David Palmer - drums (1982, 2004— )


*Mark White - guitar, keyboards (1980–1992)
*Stephen Singleton - saxophone (1980–1984)
*Mark Lickley - bass (1980–1982)
*David Robinson - drums (1980–1982)
*Fiona Russell-Powell (a.k.a. Eden) - vocals (1985)
*David Yarritu - vocals (1985)
*Glenn Gregory - vocals (1995–1997)
*Keith Lowndes - guitar (1995–1997)

ee also

*List of Number 1 Dance Hits (United States)
*List of artists who reached number one on the U.S. Dance chart


External links

* [ Official website of ABC and Martin Fry]
* [ Official MySpace of ABC and Martin Fry]
* [ Unofficial ABC Discussion group for fans and collectors]
*Discogs artist|artist=ABC
*imdb title|id= 0262602|title=Mantrap "(1983)
* [ 2006 Interview with Martin Fry by Brad Walseth]
* [ Made in Sheffield] documentary, featuring ABC
*audio recording of ABC concert in Boston, Massachusetts, 14 March 1983
* [] features current news about ABC and other '80s bands

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