ABC were part of the Sheffield sound that overran the charts in 80s and included their contemporaries Heaven 17 and Human League. They actually started in 1977 as band called Vice Versa but they were missing one vital ingredient – the man who would become their iconic singer Martin Fry. He met the group when he interviewed them for a fanzine he ran called Modern Drugs. When he was invited to join them he agreed. He changed their name and sound and ABC was born. It’s hard to believe, given how integral his unique vocals are to their sound, but he was originally the synthesizer player before moving over to vocals!
The group signed a record deal in 1981 and were a hit from the off. Their debut single Tears Are Not Enough made the UK top 20 that same year. However, they didn’t chart in Ireland until the release of their second single Poison Arrow in March 1982. It hit number 14 and spent four weeks in the chart.
The song featured on their 1982 debut album Lexicon of Love which is widely lauded as one of the seminal albums of the 80s. It was produced by none other than Trevor Horn and is still hugely acclaimed. In 2004 it ranked 42nd in The Observer Music Monthly’s Top 100 British Albums and in 2000 it was listed 40th in Q magazine’s 100 Greatest British Albums. It yielded two more hit singles The Look Of Love and All Of My Heart, which reached numbers 12 and 3 respectively in the Irish charts.
Their videos were just as stylish as their music and even by 80s standards they were incredibly lavish productions. However, despite the extremely MTV friendly shorts they had yet to hit the top ten in the US. This was rectified with a single from their third album How to Be a … Zillionaire!, released in 1985. The single Be Near Me finally cracked US top ten hitting number 9 while it reached number 19 in Ireland.
It would be two years before they released another album, Alphabet City. The lead single When Smokey Sings, a tribute to soul legend Smokey Robinson, capitalised on their US success reaching number 5 in the Billboard chart. It reached number 11 in Ireland. The album would produce two more hit singles The Night You Murdered Love and King Without A Crown.
Throughout their career ABC had undergone several line-up changes and by 1997 Martin Fry was the sole member of the band. He continues to fly the flag (and wear the gold lame suit) for the band. In 2016 he revisited the bands Opus and released Lexicon of Love II.
Recent years have seen five successful American tours, four sell-out UK Orchestra Tours, a sell-out Steel City Arena Tour with The Human League and Heaven 17, and a string of Country House Shows in the UK. Just last year he marked the 40th anniversary of the release of The Lexicon of Love, by performing the album in its entirety at Sheffield City Hall.
We can’t wait to hear some tracks from that classic album when Martin takes to the stage at this year’s Forever Young festival.
ABC play the ‘Forever Young’ festival in Palmerstown House Estate on Sunday July 16th, 2023. ‘Forever Young’ is a three-day celebration of the music of the 1980s featuring artists such as Andy Bell (Erasure), Bananarama, Squeeze, Billy Ocean, Tony Hadley and many more.
Full line-up and tickets are available here