Cold War Synthpop & Me

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Here’s a heart warming cold war synthpop tale for you. We’ll pick it up one night in 1979. I was a guitarist in a new wave band at the time. Iggy Sane, mate and roadie, played a cassette over the PA while packing our gear after rehearsal.

From the speakers descended a confronting futuristic, post-human sound. As a ’70s rock musician I suddenly realized a sense of threat. I feared everything we were musically doing becoming redundant. The cassette blasted “Are Friends Electric?” by Gary Numan. With THAT synth motif from another world!

Hitting radio stations soon afterwards was a perky synthpop song about a plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. It was insanely infectious though I didn’t want to acknowledge it. “Enola Gay” by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.

More of the same bombarded me. The cold, stark machines of John Foxx’s 1980 “Metamatic” album; “Fade to Grey” by Visage. By the time I saw the frontman with half a hair cut singing “Love Action” on Top of the Pops I was into it hook, line and sinker. (Phil Oakey, The Human League).

It became goodbye ’70s rock band conventions and forward into a brave new synthpop mania I possess as strongly as ever today. My erstwhile bandmates took a dim view of my new found enthusiasm and we soon parted ways.

Depeche Mode, with Alan Wilder, nailed it for me once and for all. This was it, this was the future, my future.

I bought up synths I could hardly play or afford. Drum machines and sequencers I could hardly programme. With these I formed Strange Silence with Glaswegian singer Stephen Beckett. We experimented and frantically wrote songs so we could gig Melbourne clubs. One of these songs, “Walk On Water” I re-recorded in 2017 for my nineth Alien Skin CD album, 1980 REDUX.

Some shows were what fond memories are made of. Others narrowly avoided blood shed. Synth lovers became a target for rock-bred red-necks after a show. We were always cautious leaving a venue after a gig late at night.

A cold war was now heating up in the music industry between old school heartland rockers and a new, small electronic army. If you’re from my generation and depending where you’re from you may have experienced this first hand.

If you’re younger it may seem ironic that the 80s were often very hostile to what is now remembered as ’80s music. Even Morrissey of The Smiths once stated that “there was nothing more repellent than the synthesizer.”

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NB…I have more memories of the era, the music, the audiences and the equipment I used to produce our early synthpop. How I joined Real Life and that multi-million 80s synthpop classic “Send Me An Angel”. Memories of sharing a stage with the likes of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark & others. But I prefer to leave this for my concluding post in a couple of days time.

If you enjoyed reading the story so far I know you’ll enjoy the rest. And I offer a new FREE download from my 2019 album “P.O.P. POP”. So don’t miss it!

If you’re a subscriber I’ll email you the moment the blog post is uploaded, so please keep an eye on your inbox (or ‘Promotions’ tab if you use Gmail. If you don’t see it check your spam folder).

I’m looking forward to telling the full story!
~George

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