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ABC (often spelled with three stars) are an Englishmarker New Wave band that charted ten UK and five US Top 40 singles between 1981 and 1990. The band continues to tour to this day and released a new album, Traffic, on April 28, 2008.


ABC were formed in 1980 in the city of Sheffieldmarker, after Martin Fry, a music journalist, interviewed the band Vice Versa for his fanzine Modern Drugs. They adopted Fry as lead vocalist and changed their name to ABC. The revamped band were pigeon-holed as part of the New Romantic movement of the time, which included the likes of Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet. Although the band would offer many stylistic spins within its career, it is best known for combining synthesizers with orchestra to produce a polished, bright pop-oriented sound.

The first single, "Tears Are Not Enough", made the UK Top 20 in 1981. Soon afterwards, David Robinson left the band and was replaced by drummer David Palmer.

In 1982, the band released their debut album The Lexicon of Love. Heavy on rhyming couplets and tales of unrequited love, the album was a big hit, reaching number one in the UK album charts. Produced by Trevor Horn, it often features in UK critics' lists of favourite albums: it ranked 42nd in The Observer Music Monthly's "Top 100 British Albums" (June 2004) and 40th in Q magazine's "100 Greatest British Albums" (June 2000). The album is notable for its uncanny mixture of wit, overall musicality, attention to recorded sonics, its magnificent string arrangements by Anne Dudley, and exceptional graphic design.

The band had three Top 10 hits during 1982: the singles "Poison Arrow", "The Look of Love " and "All of My Heart" and shot high-concept music videos that captured a suave Great Gatsby-meets-James Bond aesthetic.

ABC found it difficult to follow up their debut. Palmer left the band before the second album, Beauty Stab, was released in 1983. It performed poorly in comparison to its predecessor. Beauty Stab was, by design, a dramatic departure from the lush, melodramatic New pop of The Lexicon of Love, with emphasis instead placed on guitar-based rock. Gary Langan (who had engineered The Lexicon of Love) produced the effort. The new sound was underpinned by the presence of the Roxy Music rhythm section of Andy Newmark and Alan Spenner, most notably on "If I Ever Thought You'd Be Lonely". The first single, "That Was Then but This Is Now", a clear attempt to mark a new chapter in the band's career, briefly appeared in the UK Top 20, followed by a Top 40 showing for "S.O.S.". The band eschewed remixes for the project, and the 12" single for "That Was Then but This Is Now" featured the disclaimer "This record is exactly the same as the 7" version. The choice is yours." Stephen Singleton retired from the band in 1984.

Now a duo of Fry and White, augmented by two non-performing band members, Fiona Russell-Powell (known as Eden) and David Yarritu, ABC's chart fortunes in the UK dwindled further with the 1985 album How to Be a...Zillionaire!. It marked another change of style, in this case toying with mid-1980s dance beats and samples. Keith LeBlanc from Tackhead programmed much of the beatbox work for the album. The group did score its first American Top 10 hit with the infectious "Be Near Me" (which made the UK top 30). The album also featured the singles " Millionaire", "Vanity Kills" and "Ocean Blue".

ABC was one of the first bands to do "video scratching" for several videos from the How to Be a... Zillionaire album, including the video for "Be Near Me." This fad was briefly highlighted by MTV News but never caught on.

Following a hiatus while Fry was treated for Hodgkin's disease, ABC returned to the studio to record Alphabet City, which they thought might be their final album. Best known for "When Smokey Sings", a tribute to Smokey Robinson, the album also spawned "The Night You Murdered Love" and "King Without a Crown" as singles. Many critics lauded Alphabet City as a return to form for the group, noting its polished production by Fry and White in conjunction with Bernard Edwards, best known for his work with Chic. For the B-sides of the album's first two singles, the band offered two rhythmic vignettes ("songs" would be a stretch) inspired by their time in the States. One was simply called "Minneapolis" and was a striking homage to the early Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis sound. The other was slightly more abrasive, hard-hitting and titled "Chicago" (presumably after the burgeoning House Music scene). Add in the fact that "When Smokey Sings" was featured in a Motown Doppelgänger called the "Detroit Mix" and it is obvious ABC were in love with American soul music and its many derivations. All three tracks would make the CD version of the group's first anthology.

In 1989, the duo issued Up, their fifth and final PolyGram studio album. This time experimenting with house music, ABC scored a minor UK hit with the single "One Better World", an ode to love, peace and tolerance. They then released another single, "The Real Thing". During this period the group worked on a couple of outside productions aimed at the house music scene. One was Paul Rutherford's (Frankie Goes to Hollywood) solo album and first single release; the other was for signee Lizzie Tear on the group's own Neutron label. The Rutherford tracks made the bigger stir.

In 1990, the band released a comprehensive greatest hits package called Absolutely. This covered all of ABC's albums up until 1990 and featured all of their singles. The compilation made the UK Top 10. A video package featuring promos was also released. One new song, "The Look of Love '90", was released to promote the package, though neither the band nor Trevor Horn (who had produced the original) approved of the mix.

The group then moved to the EMI label (and MCA in North America), where they recorded the 1991 LP Abracadabra, a tightly produced fusion of early 1990s techno sounds and 1970s dance grooves which, despite the enlistment of "precision" producer/mixer David Bascombe, was met with muted critical approval. "Love Conquers All", the first single, barely placed in the UK charts, though Italian production team Black Box (of "Ride on Time" fame) provided remixes of "Say It" which were well received on the U.S. dance charts.

Fry resurrected the band's name in 1997 for the album Skyscraping, an homage to several of his musical heroes, including David Bowie, Roxy Music, and The Sex Pistols. A collaboration with Glenn Gregory of Heaven 17 and Keith Lowndes, the album again was met with critical approval rather than broad commercial success. However, three singles were released, the muscular "Rolling Sevens", breezy "Skyscraping", and string-laden "Stranger Things", complete with extra b-sides.

In 1999, ABC released their first live album, titled The Lexicon of Live.This live album covered most of their major hits. Although Martin Fry was the only member left, he had a backing band and adorned the album cover in his trademark gold lamé suit.

Look of Love - The Very Best of ABC was released in 2001. Although essentially a reissue of greatest hits package Absolutely (from 1990), the album featured two new songs by Fry titled "Peace and Tranquility" and "Blame". A companion DVD, along with a bonus disc of remixes, was also released.

In 2004, the VH1 show Bands Reunited attempted to get the line-up of Martin Fry, David Palmer, Stephen Singleton and Mark White together for a reunion concert. Martin Fry and David Palmer appeared and played together for the first time in over twenty years. Singleton and White opted not to participate.

Following a tour of the United States in May and June 2006, Fry and Palmer, together with keyboardist Chuck Kentis, put together a new ABC album with the title of Traffic. It was released on 28 April 2008. Gary Langan, who worked on The Lexicon of Love and Beauty Stab, mixed and produced the album. The first single, "The Very First Time", debuted on BBC Radio 2 in January, was added to the station's "A" playlist for the week beginning 29 March, and was released as a download track on 1 April. ABC performed two songs from Traffic during the 2008 Regeneration Tour of the U.S.: "Ride" and "The Very First Time."

On 1 September 2007, ABC performed a set with other 1980s acts at Retrofest at Culzean Castlemarker in Ayrshiremarker, Scotlandmarker. This appearance included a rendition of "Addicted to Love" with Tony Hadley of Spandau Ballet and Peter Cox of Go West.

In the summer of 2008, ABC toured the U.S. as part of the 2008 Regeneration Tour, which also featured The Human League, Belinda Carlisle, A Flock of Seagulls, and Naked Eyes.

In April 2009, ABC performed the Lexicon Of Love live album at the Royal Albert Hallmarker, accompanied by the BBC Concert Orchestra. Anne Dudley of Art of Noise fame, who arranged and played keyboards on the original record, conducted the performance. A music review in the April 13, 2009 edition of The Independent newspaper described the performance as a "glorious night that has placed one of the Eighties' most perfectly constructed albums back near the top of the pop pantheon."

Currently, ABC is touring the U.S. as the headliner of the 2009 "Regeneration Tour[29845]/," which also features Terri Nunn of Berlin, Wang Chung, and the Cutting Crew.



  • ABC (Mercury, 1980)
  • The Lexicon of Love (Mercury, 1982)
  • Beauty Stab (Mercury, 1983)
  • How To Be A...Zillionaire! (Mercury, 1985)
  • Alphabet City (Mercury, 1987)
  • Up (Mercury, 1989)
  • Absolutely (Mercury, 1990)
  • Abracadabra (EMI, 1991)
  • Skyscraping (Deconstruction, 1997)
  • The Lexicon of Live (Blatant, 1999)
  • Look of Love - The Very Best of ABC (Universal, 2001)
  • Traffic (Borough Music, 2008)

Pop Culture Influence

  • In 2009, the song "The Look of Love" was performed by the cast in a full song and dance number on the U.S. CW TV serial drama series Valentine, as part of the plot in which the goddess Aphrodite makes a love match at a karaoke bar.

  • The track "So Hip It Hurts" from How To Be A Zillionaire features in the Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster movie Tough Guys from 1986.

  • ABC have had three number one hits on the US Dance Charts: "The Look of Love" (18 December 1982), "Be Near Me" (28 September - 5 October 1985) and "When Smokey Sings/Chicago" (29 August - 5 September 1987).

  • Fiona Russell Powell, who joined the group for ABC's 1984 album How To Be A Zillionaire, was part of the original line-up of pre-ABC band Vice Versa. According to an article that was published on 7 March 1997, she 'chickened out' of Vice Versa's first live gig, and the job as frontman went to Martin Fry.

  • ABC was profiled in a 2004 documentary about bands hailing from Sheffield in the late 1970s-to-early 1980s. Original ABC saxophone player Stephen Singleton was interviewed for Made In Sheffield, along with members of the The Human League, Heaven 17, and others.



  • Mark White - guitar, keyboards (1980–1992)
  • Stephen Singleton - saxophone (1980–1984)
  • Mark Lickley - bass (1980–1982)
  • David Robinson - drums (1980–1982)
  • David Palmer - drums (1982-1983, 1985-1986, 2004-2009)
  • Fiona Russell-Powell - vocals (1985)
  • David Yarritu - vocals (1985)
  • Glenn Gregory - vocals (1995–1997)
  • Keith Lowndes - guitar (1995–1997)

See also


External links

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