The above poster is the best illustration I could find that China Crisis are still on the go all these years later. They’ve never featured before on TVV, and I can’t recall ever seeing too much about them on other similar natured blogs. The reason they haven’t been part of this little corner of t’internet is down to my not having any of their music on vinyl or CD. But I’ve gone out of my way to get some digital stuff to accompany these words, the next three paras of which come from all music:-
A bit fiery for most in the new romantic camp during the early ’80s, China Crisis were inspired by similar sources but injected their pop songs with occasional political commentary and bluesy reggae rhythms. Comprising the core duo of vocalist/keyboard player Gary Daly and guitarist Eddie Lundon, the group formed in 1979 near Liverpool, England.
The first China Crisis single, “African and White,” didn’t appear until 1982, but it was quickly picked up by Virgin Records and made the U.K. charts. With drummer Dave Reilly on board, their full-length debut, Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms, arrived later that year and also charted. Another single from the album, “Christian,” hit number 12. They recorded their follow-up LP, Working with Fire and Steel: Possible Pop Songs, Vol. 2, with bassist Gazza Johnson and new drummer Kevin Wilkinson. It reached number 20 in the U.K. as well as charting in Canada and across Western Europe. It also produced the Top Ten hit “Wishful Thinking.”
China Crisis’ third album, 1985’s Flaunt the Imperfection, was produced by the sympathetic Walter Becker (from Steely Dan), and resulted in the Top 20 singles “Black Man Ray” and “King in a Catholic Style.” The album was their first to crack the Billboard 200 in the U.S., and it hit the Top Ten in the U.K. and New Zealand. A year later, 1986’s What Price Paradise?, which featured Brian McNeill instead of Becker on synths, reached a career-high 114 in the U.S. but landed outside the Top 50 at home. China Crisis worked with Becker once more on 1989’s Diary of a Hollow Horse, which earned critical raves though not much commercial movement. It proved to be their final record with Virgin. Their sixth studio LP, Warped by Success, appeared on Stardumb Records in 1994 and was followed by numerous compilations, including Virgin’s China Crisis Collection: The Very Best of China Crisis (1997), and a long recording hiatus, though Daly and Lundon continued to tour on and off as China Crisis.
Like many others of their generation, China Crisis have become a staple of the nostalgia festival events in the UK and further afield. A seventh studio album, Autumn In The Neighbourhood, was released in 2015, again on Stardum Records, for which there was an extensive UK tour. As well as performing in China Crisis, Gary Day has released some solo material, while Eddie Lundon teaches songwriting at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (which perhaps explains why the 2022 North American tour took place outside of term time in June and July).
Despite not being all that fond of the band’s music, I can say I’ve seen them play live at least once, and possibly twice. I have vague recollections of them playing at the Student Union at Strathclyde University around the time African and White was in the charts, although I may well be mistaken. I do recall seeing them as support act for Simple Minds at Tiffany’s in Glasgow in late 1982 when the Glasgow band were on the cusp of the huge breakthrough thanks to New Gold Dream.
I thought I’d go digging for the debut single from China Crisis, along with the four songs that took them into the Top 20 between 1983 and 1985.
mp3: China Crisis – African and White
mp3: China Crisis – Christian
mp3: China Crisis – Wishful Thinking
mp3: China Crisis – Black Man Ray
mp3: China Crisis – King In A Catholic Style (Wake Up)
Sorry to say, the music still doesn’t do all that much for me. But hopefully it’s of appeal to some readers.
12 thoughts on “RARELY MENTIONED IN DISPATCHES”
I saw them recently . The lead singer was genuinely hilarious and was as much stand up as a concert . Although not really that big a fan it is one of the most enjoyable gigs I’ve been to . His piss taking if their peers was so spot on . I’ve found I like the music more as I’ve got older and at the heart are some well written songs . All the lps have a couple of songs on I’ve grown to really like . The 3rd lp produced by Walter Becker is a thing to get lost in . Although do tend to need to listen to some shambolic guitar band afterwards for balance
A pal once saw them play a pub in Largs!
I’m actually quite fond of their first 2 albums, the next 2 are OK but maybe a bit too polished. Too me they were somewhere in a similar league as Aztec Camera, intelligent a bit low-key, pop with a heart. The “indie-funk” of the stand alone Scream Down At Me single worked on the indie dance floor. They did do a bunch of quality b-sides to their early singles!
It certainly appealed to me,
I’ve always liked China Crisis… they maybe not essential but their singles always sounded great on the radio. And how ‘Arizona Sky’ wasn’t a bigger hit I’ll never know… it has a perfect/huge pop chorus. I saw them live a couple of years ago (for the second or third time) and Gary’s humour is worth the admission price alone.
I cannot believe that you’ve never posted on China Crisis, but they have been a top PPM band ever since catching a bit of “Working With Fire + Steel” in 1983. I bought that album and found it was a blend of synthesizers and oboe playing that transports me every time I listen to it. I worked backward and bought the debut finding it an Enoesque treat of ambient leanings cheek-by-jowl with sensitive, introverted Pop.
My friend Echorich holds the biggest torch for “Flaunt The Imperfection” but I’ve always been a bit put off by the enormous slickness that Walter Becker obviously brought to it. But the band had a great run of single B-sides as well, and their later years have been marked with the exceptional reunion album “Autumn In The Neighbourhood,” which has since become my favorite of theirs, and the two solo albums from Gary Daly. Daly is currently operating at peak performance as a songwriter now and I also loved his lo-fi synth demo album featuring the instrumental demos for unheard China Crisis songs that came out as “Luna Landings.” File that one on the same shelf as Roedelius.
The emotional warmth their best material has resonates deeply with me, and most of my friends share the love, but famously, one of my oldest friends just thinks they’re “wimpy.” So I get that there’s different strokes for different folks. Maybe one day you’ll hear things differently.
martin – So true on those B-sides! And “Scream Down At Me” was their sole dancefloor moment. An interesting outlier to nowhere.
Also, I’m flummoxed that China Crisis did that extensive of a US tour this year and I’m just finding out about it! They came as close to me as Nashville, which was at the last venue I saw Midge Ure at! I would have gone had I known, and… pandemic.
I’ve seen them live three times in the last 18 months ( a couple of times supporting others). Their 40th Anniversary tour was more PowerPoint presentation than music gig – hugely entertaining and Gary is genuinely hilarious.
I was a fan from the first time I heard African And White (probably on Peter Powell’s show while I was supposed to be doing mu homework). Being a Steely Dan fan, you cannot believe how excited I was when I learned that Walter Becker would be producing their third album. It didn’t disappoint and it’s still a regular play today.
My 40th Anniversary tour T-shirt has drawn out other fans when they’ve seen it – including the mother of one my eldest’s friends and a guy I conversed with at length about them in the Peveril Of The Peak in Manchester.
They played Sale recently. I didn’t go. Anecdote ends.
Underrated the ol’ CC… There is something about ‘Flaunt The Imperfection’ .. it’s not going to change your life but it’s a very good listen if in the right mood…
LNFG have signed a deal to re-release some of their albums on vinyl next year