Wednesday 30th June 2010, 9:59AM BST.
Martin Fry, from 1980s band ABC, talks to Andrew Owen ahead of this summer’s Eighties concert in Shrewsbury Quarry:
ABC: All set for Shrewsbury Quarry
If there’s one album that fairly sums up the early 1980s, it’s ABC’s The Lexicon of Love.
Nearly 30 years after release its songs, including Poison Arrow, The Look of Love and All of My Heart, with their synthesizers and orchestral arrangements, still stand out without sounding dated. Lexicon is regularly featured in lists of the top 100 British albums.
The band’s image was very Eighties, too: stylish and aspirational, with singer/songwriter Martin Fry’s gold suit a throwback to Elvis and a complete departure from a Britain mired in industrial decline and unemployment. Listen to the CD and you can almost hear the eyeliner drying.
It’s bright and glamorous but “in Sheffield, where we were forming the band, the post punk scene was definitely not about those things,” says Martin Fry. “We wanted to do something funkier and glossier – probably to get attention, I think. A cry for help,” he laughs.
“But funnily enough across the country a lot of bands were thinking the same thing. Everyone seemed to have a big masterplan.”
ABC came out at the same time as New Romantic bands such as Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran. On reflection some of them looked like a right bunch of jessies, but there was a point to the make-up and the outrageous costumes. Britain didn’t have much of a film industry at the time, says Fry, so bands made their own glamour. “A lot of very flamboyant people, Culture Club and Depeche Mode, they all had a very refined look. It just felt right to be that way.”
Thirty years on Martin Fry is still writing and recording – and enjoying belting out his hits at outdoor venues up and down the country. He has also toured in Europe and America and performed his best-known album with a full orchestra at a sold-out Royal Albert Hall.
“In recent years I’ve played to more people than I ever did in the 1980s,” he says.
On Friday, July 9, Martin Fry will be performing to a few thousand more at the Summer Sessions concert in Shrewsbury Quarry. ABC are on the bill with Spandau Ballet’s Tony Hadley, and artists who came later: Go West, Rick Astley, Howard Jones and Mica Paris. It’s nice, says Fry, to get to know these people after all the rivalry that came with trying to get hit records.
“With the first rush of success there’s never really any time to hang out as friends, so you tend to meet other artists at airports. It’s a bit of mad carousel, but now it’s much more enjoyable.
“All these years down the line it’s a great honour to get on stage. There is a competitive edge to it, everyone’s trying to raise their game. To make for a great show everyone has to work really hard and be good, and not trade on past laurels. That’s very much what I enjoy about performing in 2010, all the years have rolled by but it’s still a great challenge to get on stage and do a really exciting show for the audience.”
Previous Quarry concerts have attracted audiences of up to 10,000 people, although large crowds don’t bother Martin Fry, who enjoys hearing people singing along. “It’s tougher playing to 20 people,” he says. “I cannot work that one out.”
But does he still wear his gold suit on stage?
“The gold suit’s kind of impractical in the British summer time as it gets hot,” he says. “But I’ve got a bit of platinum. I’ve upgraded.”