I have just acquired two tickets for one of the most exciting events this year (if you’re over forty): three of my perennial favourites of electronic music are doing a short tour of the UK, celebrating not only their timeless music, but also their hometown, Sheffield. ABC, Heaven 17 and the Human League are certainly not the purveryors of groundbreaking electronica that they once used to be (although THL has had more successful comebacks than you can shake a stick at and ABC just released a new album -“Traffic” – which isn’t half bad), but for me these three still have enormous pulling power.
Penthouse and Pavement was the first song that confronted me with the concept of Electrofunk, and I was fascinated. Just as danceable as the embarassing disco that was around at that time but with much better lyrics (and the coolest album cover ever, mocking the new neo-capitalist thatcherite city drones populating London at that time. Nothing has changed much. These days they’re just getting more drunk) and with a political statement, Heaven 17 was the ultracool dancefloor choice for every discerning DJ, and I played it incessantly on my first Sony Walkman (borrowed from a close associate, as I couldn’t afford one for myself).
My love for ABC has been thoroughly documented over the years. No other album has ever fascinated me as much as The Lexicon of Love, and no other album has been played that ofen on the various incarnations of music players I owned. Trevor Horns production (using his revolutionary fairlight sampler) Anne Dudley’s strings, Fry’s lyrics and the excellent music were such a revelation that for some time I toyed with the idea to buy a gold lamee suit. Having seen them numerous times live (in varying outfits) Martin Fry continues to be an excellent show man, and the strength of the songs hasn’t diminished over the decades (26 years. bloody hell).
Last, but not least another chameleon of electronic music. Just like ABC, the Human League have reinvented their sound again and again. From sparse electronica to stadium rock (with ‘The Lebanon’ on Hysteria), Minneapolis soul to house they probably ahad the longest and most successful run of those three sheffieldian bands. I still have an impressive collection of THL 12″ vinyl lying around, with the latest probably being ‘Heart like a wheel’. I always heard they were rubbish live (mainly due to the fact that none of the vocalists can hold a tune), but when I saw them in Glasgow some years ago, they were absolutely riveting.
So, the big unknown will be Heaven 17. Will Glen Gregory and his mates be able to live up to the same standards as the other Sheffieldians?
Actually, I don’t care. They could play the singles of these acts back to back on abig ghettoblaster and I’d be jumping up and own the isles.
It’s going to be a good night.