History - The Story - Die Geschichte der Band

Vice Versa

ABC emerged from the ashes of synth-pop act Vice Versa formed in 1977 in Sheffield by Stephen Singleton, Mark White and David Sydenham. They founded their own label Neutron Records, releasing the EP Music 4 - the label for the future ABC. Martin Fry had been recruited as the band's synth player after interviewing them for his Modern Drugs fanzine; as Vice Versa inevitably fizzled out, the flamboyant Fry moved over to lead vocals and ABC was born. They had similarities to The Human League, who they supported in 1978. The revamped band were pigeon-holed as part of the New Romantic movement of the time, which included Duran Duran, Visage, Heaven 17, Ultravox and Spandau Ballet.

ABC 1981 By the fall of 1981 ABC had signed a record contract with Phonogram Records, which agreed to distribute ABC's own label Neutron.

The original ABC quintet released just the debut single together: "Tears Are Not Enough" - that single made with its shuffling white funk sound the UK Top 20 in 1981. So "Tears Are Not Enough" highlighted a remarkable evolution.

Soon afterwards, David Robinson left the band and was replaced by drummer David Palmer.

In 1982 ABC released their debut album "The Lexicon Of Love", which reached number one in the UK Album Chart (see old commercial here). Produced by Trevor Horn, it often featured 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). ABC had three Top 10 hits during 1982: the singles Poison Arrow, The Look Of Love, All Of My Heart.

In November 1982 ABC issued a movie called "Mantrap" as a visual summary of "The Lexicon Of Love". Toward the end of 1982 ABC 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. Palmer left the band in the summer of 1983, as ABC was recording their second album.

ABC_BeautyStab ABC's second album "Beauty Stab" was released in November 1983. The album didn't perform as well as the debut.

Gary Langan who had engineered The Lexicon of Love, produced the effort. The first single That Was Then But This Is Now, 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.

Testbild Now a duo Martin Fry and Mark White, augmented by two non-performing band members, Fiona Russell-Powell (known as Eden) and David Yamitu, ABC's chart fortunes in the UK dwindled further with the 1985 album 'How To Be A Zillionaire'. The group scored its first US Top 10 hit with 'Be Near Me' (which also made the UK Top 30). The album also featured the singles 'How To Be A Millionaire, 'Vanity Kills' and 'Ocean Blue'. ABC was one of the first bands to do video scratching for several videos from the 'Zillionaire' album, including the video for 'Be Near Me'.

ABC returned with "Alphabet City", named so in reference to a section of Manhattan. In May of ‘87, the lead out Smokey Robinson tribute single "When Smokey Sings" was released, and within weeks was surging up the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. The brilliantly crafted track was an unabashed homage to the legendary Smokey Robinson, and Motown soul in general.

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It combined the finest elements of ABC’s pop-savvy melodies, sleek and stylish production values, and Fry’s impassioned vocal delivery. ‘When Smokey Sings’ deservedly became ABC’s biggest selling single in the U.S. (#5), and re-established the band’s profile at home (UK#11/OZ#25). Once more, ABC’s collective finger was on the pulse of popular music vogue, with Northern soul enjoying a resurgence during 1987.  The Night You Murdered Love hit the British charts in September of ’87, and once more offered up a very catchy soul-pop number, with a mischievous funk edge (featuring the vocals of Tessa Miles AKA Contessa Lady V). The clever, and witty promo clip also showed that both Fry and White were enjoying this latest resurgence in ABC’s fortunes. The album’s third single, King Without A Crown (UK#44), was released late in ‘87, and stuck to the same soul infused pop feel of its forerunners.

ABC_BeautyStab 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. 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 Rutherfod's (Frankie Goes To Hollywood) solo album and first single release; the other was for Lizzie Tear on the group's own Neutron label.

Vid In 1990, the band released a Greatest Hits compilation album, Absolutely. This covered all of ABC's albums up until 1990, and featured all of their singles. The compilation made the UK Top 10. A video package featuring promos was also released. One new song, "The Look of Love 1990", was released to promote the package.

Abracadabra The group then moved to the EMI label (and MCA in North America), where they recorded the 1991 LP Abracadabra. Love Conquers All, the first single, barely placed in the UK chart, though Italian production team Black Box provided remixes of "Say It" which appeared in the US dance chart. 

Skyscraping Martin 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 "Rolling Sevens", "Skyscraping", and "Stranger Things", complete with extra B-sides.

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

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"The Look Of Love - The very best of ABC" 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.


vh1 reunitedIn 2004 the VH1 show Bands Reunited attempted to get the line-up of Fry, Palmer, Singleton and White together for a reunion concert. Martin Fry and David Palmer appeared and played together (with help from Nick Beggs of Kajagoogoo) for the first time in over twenty years. Singleton and White opted not to participate.

TrafficLogo Following a tour of the United States in May and June 2006, Martin and David together with keyboardist Chuck Kentis, put together a new ABC album, "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 thestation's "A" playlist for the week beginning 29 March, and was released as adownload track on 1 April. ABC performed two songs from Traffic during the 2008 Regeneration Tour of the US: "Ride" and "The Very First Time".

In April 2009, ABC performed the Lexicon Of Love album live at the Royal Albert Hall

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accompanied by the BBC Concert Orchestra, Anne Dudley of Art of Noise, who arranged and played keyboards on the original record, conducted the performance. A music review of The Independent newspaper, described the performance as a "glorious night that has placed one of the Eighties' most perfectly constructed albums back near the top of the pop pantheon".


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(Thanks to Mandy for partial text sharing)