Quickfire question.

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.


10 thoughts on “SYNTH-POP DUOS

  1. I didn’t know about the 2011 release. They also released an album in 2015, of which I recently picked up a copy, although I’m ashamed to say I’ve not had the time to listen to it yet.

  2. I quite liked Living on the Ceiling, and also Blind Vision and Don’t Tell Me. For the life of me I can’t remember any other songs than those three, and perhaps never heard any others.

  3. Feel me did it big time for me back then, and Living on the ceiling too. Their Abba cover, The day before you came, is decent. can’t remember very much more though.

  4. ‘I’ve Seen The Word’ has always been their highlight for me, a great band indeed!!

  5. The latest releases are, in chronological order:
    Blanc Burn – 2011
    Happy Families Too – 2014 (a re-recorded version of their first album)
    Semi-Detached – 2015
    Nil by Mouth – 2015 (an instrumental LP)
    Commuter 23 – 2016

  6. Conrad – thanks for that comprehensive and welcome update. I;m guessing you’re a fan. How about an ICA????

  7. Glad to see some love for Blancmange. Always been a fan and caught them live on the Blancburn tour – really impressed with Neil Arthur’s stage presence – very David Byrne. Happy Families is in my top 20 anyday.

  8. After Soft Cell, I would always say Blancmange next. I had the pleasure of actually getting to see them in NYC in early 1986 at The Ritz and they were off the wall live. Happy Families and Mange Tout are classic 80s pop to these ears.
    Blanc Burn in 2011 built nicely on their more recognizable sound of years past and sounded both familiar and contemporary. Although, Stephen has chosen to step back from the band because of ongoing health issues, Neil Arthur is still at it with Stephen’s blessing and 2015’s Semi-Detached was pretty good as well.
    I have to echo JC here – we need a Blancmange ICA!!

  9. They had a subtle charm. Not cool, cutting edge or in any way dark unlike say Soft Cell but great songs and melodies and a generally amiable presence coming through the speakers.
    As well as tracks mentioned by others I also fondly remember Whats the Story and an accapello teack off the second album called I think See The Train. Don’t Tell Me and Blind Vision are my absolute faves of theirs though. I would like to see and hear your ICA, Conrad.

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