11
Dec 03

Weedy Eighties White People Singing About Soul Stars #1: ABC – “When Smokey Sings”

I Hate MusicPost a comment • 1,734 views

The history of quiffs in pop is a surprisingly long one, possibly the fault of Elvis Presley an apparently noted rock’n’roll singer. (Noted by me for future appearances here). And whilst it is a singularly ridiculous ‘do, no-one wore one dafter that the singer of ABC – Martin Fry. Blonde quiffs are risible, and Mr Fry obviously got his surname from what the best use of all the grease in his hair would be. With his gold lame suit (accent nixed purposefully from that word) he was truely one of the most sartorially criminal people in pop in the early eighties.

Not only all of that but there was obviously something wrong with his ears. For in ABC’s tribute to Motown’s Smokie Robinson, When Smokie Sings, he appears to hear something quite different to the rest of us. When I hear Smokie Robinson sing I hear a sub-par soul crooner who even Motown did not rate much and who only became famous because of Motown rationing in the early seventies meant the UK got whatever crap the US did not want. What does Martin hear? ‘I hear violins,’ sez chip-fat bonce.

How strange. Is this some sort of synesthesia at work. Some sort of bizarre version of tinitus. Rather than hear a human voice he hears the scraping of cat gut on wire. I hear the screaming of a cat on vinyl but it does not sound like a violin. Perhaps the truth is more mundane. As a practical joke the other members of ABC steamed the label off of a Stefan Grapelli recording and replaced it with the label for Tears Of A Clown. What Martin thought was Smokie Robinson, was actually some Parisan rag from the 1930’s.

Invoking sixties soul singers was a staple of the early eighties pop poser insecure about their own voices; as this limited series will show. Nevertheless a new reading of When Smokie Sings is even more unpleasant. You see these days, When Smokie Sings I hear “Living Next Door To Alice”. And of course the oh so clever comedy version, Who the Fuck is Alice? It is enough to drive woman to gin. If she wasn’t already there…

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