Name five 80s famous UK synth bands who were comprised of a duo?
Got your answer? Great stuff.
I suspect that the majority of the lists would contain the likes of Pet Shop Boys, Soft Cell, OMD, Yazoo, Erasure and Eurythmics. Maybe Tears for Fears would get the occasional shout (see what I did just there??).
But how many of you would have said Blancmange?
They seemed to emerge in the wake of the overnight success of Soft Cell. But while Marc Almond always had something sinister and shady about his persona and Dave Ball looked sort of seedy and weird, Neil Arthur and Stephen Luscombe were always seemingly clean-cut and good-living.
For a brief period between late 1982 and the summer of 84 they were vaguely famous in that they had six singles on the spin reach the Top 40. But prior to their commercial success they were seen by some as cutting edge, so much so there was a session recorded for John Peel which was broadcast in February 1982.
They first came to general attention via a song that just missed being a hit:-
mp3 : Blancmange – Feel Me
Just two months later however, they hit payola with a catchy as fuck ditty which blended synth pop with the music of the sub-continent thanks to the prominent use of sitar and tabla:-
mp3 : Blancmange – Living On The Ceiling
This #7 smash spent almost four months on the chart and when it eventually dropped out altogether, the record bosses cashed in by releasing a re-recorded version of the big ballad from the debut album:-
mp3 : Blancmange – Waves (12″ single version)
All of the above featured on Happy Families, the aforementioned debut album released in September 1982. The sophomore effort, Mange Tout, appeared in May 1984 and included hit singles which were by now a year and six months old respectively, but that didn’t stop fans shelling out and the Top 10 album went ‘Gold’ with more than 100,000 sales in the UK.
But all of a sudden, the bubble burst. The third album, Believe You Me released in late 1985, together with its three singles, proved to be a flop and the duo called it a day not long after. However, like many others from the era, they came back to take advantage of the nostalgia industry around 80s pop but to their credit they went back into the studio in 2011 and recorded and released a brand new album more than quarter of a century on.
And that’s your potted history of a band, who as I say, are more often forgotten about than recalled. Oh and given it was pulling out the Waves single which prompted this piece, here’s its more experimental b-sides for your enjoyment:-
mp3 : Blancmange – Business Steps
mp3 : Blancmange – The Game Above My Head
The latter has a Paul Haig feel to it, certainly from his early 80s post Josef K era.