Sunday, March 6, 2016

"I've seen the future, I can't afford it"

Neoliberal premonitions in ABC's "How To Be A Millionaire"  from 1985, sampled on Orbital's "Omen" of  1990

I've seen the future, I can't afford it
Tell me the truth sir, someone just bought it
Say mr. whispers! Here come the click of dice
Roulette and blackjacks - gonna build us a paradise
Larger than life and twice as ugly
If we have to live there, you'll have to drug me
Maybe these luxuries can only compensate
For all the cards you were dealt at the hands of fate
So tell me
Tell me! tell me! How to be a millionaire
Tell me! tell me! How to be a millionaire!
Millionaire! Billionaire! Trillionaire!
Hardly surprising if you might consider
Loyalties go to the highest of bidders
What's my opinion? I'd give you ten to one
Give me a million, a franchise on fun
But there are millions who often get nowhere
And there's just one secret I think you should share

Another phrase from that ABC song -- "you'll have to drug me" - crops up in this darkside tune

I already discussed the strangeness of there even being an a cappella version of "Millionaire" in existence, ABC's blatant heisting of the Shannon sound, and other quandaries here

I suppose "Millionaire" was a sister record to "Everything Counts" by Depeche Mode, wasn't it? But instead of the boys from Basildon (that crucial swing seat) and their desolate melancholy about Thatcher's reelection, this is a brash, outwardly upful and go-getting sound with ironic lyrics - the strategy less critique (as with the failed railing against monetarism on Beauty Stab) than a kind of simulation.

Wall Street was only a few years from coming out

I've almost interested myself enough in How To Be A Zillionaire - which I never bothered with at the time - to pick it up the next time I see it going for $2 here.

Or perhaps there's no need...

I did like the single, though

Another group I had given up on by then - Heaven 17, with How Men Are

Their own Beauty Stab moment had been this tune

One of those albums where the cover warns you off

I'm not honestly sure if I ever listened to this - "Temptation" had been enough of a turn-off to make me steer clear, along with the plodding single "Come Live With Me". Still that is quite fickle given how much I'd caned Penthouse and Pavement only a year earlier. But things moved fast in those days....

Good Christ almighty I have somehow never seen this video or known it existed

This can't be an official video

Actually interviewed H17 in my first year as a music journalist, around this single + the Pleasure One album, by which point they seemed a tentative and vaguely crestfallen bunch, aware their moment had passed.... for that album they'd unwisely switched to a conventional instruments sound.  Single peaked at #80, album at #78....


LCB said...

Interesting music going on here and well worth diving into. Omen comes across to me as one of the few Orbital tracks of the era which sustains well nearly 30 years later.

But my main point is I don't think you give fair dues to the serious dance contribution ABC made, especially to British dance and house. (I can't be the only one who thinks "Chime" turned into a gimmick after the nth time!)

The first point to note is the pretty advanced remixes for the time of the early 80s hit "The Look of Love". The original version was firmly in the New Romantic pop box, but one also definitely in a serious RnB sensibility (not too far away from some of the later stuff of The Style Council, who also "went house"), and still always looking to the dancefloor.
Again, it's the track's remixes which were big dance pulls and were worked into many house years later between 1986 and 1991. Heard in Shoom and even Spectrum!

But you've totally forgotten ABC's turnaround when affected themselves by the new mid to late 80s American house music movement.
Indeed, ABC had a major conversion to the dance scene from their experiences of house music abroad (America principally, but Ibiza's Pasha was also familiar to them), and quite some time before the endlessly touted dance house conversion by the British DJs Dungeons, Oakenfold, Rampling in Ibiza. (Of course everyone else went there too in '87 to '88 from Pickering and Park to, well, you name it, but it's only the three London DJs who get the legend version of this story.)

The massive impression of the earlyish US house dance scene the group tried to express in the hit "Chicago", inspired by and dedicated to Frankie Knuckles (was it '86 or '87?). Some pretty effective remixes of "Chicago", I remember it with nostalgia going in 87 to 88 with British tunes such as a bootleg remix of "Driving Away From Home (100 miles)" and emerging new house from former indie people The Beloved, such as "Acid Love" and "Forever Dancing". (1988 saw an absolute explosion in house and underground dance in the UK, meaning the sheerly huge amount of tracks available. In 87 it was more a case of get what you can find, when there staples played throughout the months in some places which didn't have best access to underground US records. It was good to hear as many British house tracks as possible, though, not just Kraze and Krush.)

The new house scene grabbed ABC and they soon became mostly a soul house act, with their songs remixed by the best, such as "One Better World".

If you can, check out this period of ABC from "Chicago" and that half dance influenced, half lost post-new romantic pop album it was on through to the early 90s.

ABC without the early 80s "Poisoned Arrow" drama were really a significant act on the British house scene up until 90 to 91, and their house songs gave me some of the best times in clubs, fields and warehouses.

Having mentioned another British pop mod soul band turned soul house band, it's worth also mentioning one of their few house classics before they stopped releasing records. A cover of Joe Smooth's "Promised Land". Some people knocked it for being a gravy train phenomenon, and said it had little of the soul of Reverend Smooth's original. Just don't listen to them, it's a cracking house classic cover, with good remixes, worth remembering. (Big in Shoom and, yes, Oakie worked it partly into sets in Spectrum.)

LCB said...

... From 1st comment.

Sorry to barge in and just criticise you for ignoring the serious worth of ABC in dance music, when you weren't even really intending any focussing on ABC at all. You were just making a mention to their "Millionaire / Zillionaire" '85 track from the Omen sample.

I guess, the odd time when it comes over me, I like to see ABC's contribution to serious British dance music appreciated, not just because they were of the very first British musicians, or DJs, to really recognise what a huge thing was starting somewhere else in the world. But also because of their great house music, albeit not too many tracks through those early days.

It's not relevant at all but ABC is having "knock on" memories and some of the things I am relishing remembering from the early British period, the Liebrand mix of Taja Sevelle's "Love is Contagious" from 87.