i_could_be_happy The huge success of Happy Birthday was more than maintained with the fourth single from Altered Images. I Could Be Happy, a brand new song, was almost like a nursery rhyme in its structure as Clare reels off three unrelated things that make her feel good about life – climbing a tall tree, heading over the sea to Skye or going for a lengthy dip in the River Nile.

But it turns out that she doesn’t want to do any of these things just for any sheer unadulterated joy; nope, these are all on her radar to let her bring a relationship to an end. It was, tune wise, also just about the simplest thing they had written and recorded so far and, thanks to a very crisp and clear production from Martin Rushent, it was unashamedly pop in its approach and style with the aim of getting regular radio play.

It was a record that had the feel and sound of a summer record and yet it was released in the depths of winter at the beginning of December 1981 at a time when the big hit single was still riding high in the charts. None of this mattered as I Could Be Happy proved to be every bit as enduring, spending twelve weeks in the charts including nine successive weeks in the Top 30, helped no doubt by some Top of the Pops appearances in which viewers could not have done anything other than be enchanted by Claire.  The single was released in 7″ and 12″ form.


mp3 : Altered Images – I Could Be Happy

mp3 : Altered Images – Insects

As I mentioned the other week in the Saturday series, I’m a huge fan of Insects which is one of their most enduring songs; and depsite being one of their most ‘Banshees by numbers’ efforts it was Rushent and not Severin who was in the producer’s chair.


mp3 : Altered Images – I Could Be Happy (extended)

mp3 : Altered Images – Disco Pop Stars

The use of 12″ vinyl to offer extended and remixed versions of the three minute pop single was becoming increasingly popular around this time. More often than not the extended versions didn’t work all that well and seemed to take aWay from the radio friendly versions – the likes of Soft Cell were very much an exception as they managed somehow to turn the 12″ single into an art form. Altered Images weren’t the worst offenders though and the 12″ of I Could Be Happy is bearable.

The bonus track on the 12″ made me laugh out loud at the time and still does. It’s a band re-production of the sinister flop debut single but in a way that makes it instantly disposable. And it’s not been down in any shape or form that would see it put on the turntables of any discotheque that I can think of.

Oh and I’d like to dedicate today’s post to Carlo Zanotti. Many thanks for your kind words of encouragement and appreciation the other night at the Belle & Sebastian post-gig bash at The Admiral.



  1. I’ve missed a part of this series, I need to skip back to catch up. While I’m here though, I’ll take a moment to big up the Altered Image 12″ mixes in general and, since we’re here, ‘I Could Be Happy’ in particular – it’s aged considerably better than many other extended mixes from the same era and is my go-to version of the song. You’re spot on about several of Soft Cell’s 12″ers though, they really did nail the format.
    I’d forgotten all about ‘Disco Pop Stars’, what a hoot!

  2. A family favorite, JC. I had this on a mix tape that lived in the car. When my kids were young, all four of us would sing along. Nothing like a three year old yelling “get away, runaway, far away, how do I, escape from you.” He is nine now, and he still asks for this one. No need to weep for the future.

  3. Disco Pop Stars is a wonderful laugh – and a nice stab at Blondie-esque integration of Disco rhythms in a New Wave setting…maybe a missed opportunity – wonder if they could have gotten Mike Chapman in on this one and then they would have had some experience with him before the not so well received Bite…yes I know I’m just Dreaming (see what I did there?)…

  4. Re: ‘Insects’ – it’s one of my favourite Altered Images songs too but I’m not sure that Rushent can take any credit for it: the track did appear on their first album, all of which was produced by Steve Severin with the exception of the track ‘Happy Birthday’ (plus intro/outro, presumably).

    You’re right about Soft Cell getting the 12″ format right – I wonder if they actually wrote the 12″ version first and then edited it down for the 7″ version, as opposed to just stretching a 3 minute song to within an inch of its life. I guess that might explain the extra verses you sometimes get in their 12″ singles?

  5. That’s what I thought too Paul but the credits for ‘Insects’ on the 7″ single state that it was produced by Martin Rushent….

  6. So either the LP or the 7″ has it wrong; but my money is still on Severin being the producer – it just doesn’t sound like anything else that Rushent produced at that time.

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