ABC Biography

Purveyors of ‘perfect pop’ in the early 80s, ABC’s sound has always been dominated by the stunning vocal range and lyrical songwriting skills of lead singer Martin Fry (9 March 1958, Manchester, England). The band was formed after Fry had interviewed Mark White (b. 1 April 1961, Sheffield, Yorkshire, England; guitar) and Stephen Singleton (b. 17 April 1959, Sheffield, Yorkshire, England; saxophone), two members of Sheffield-based electronic outfit Vice Versa, for his fanzine Modern Drugs. Accepting the invitation to join as vocalist, Fry took artistic control of the act, changing the name to ABC, as well as altering the musical direction towards a more pop-orientated course. The band was completed by the arrival of temporary bass player Mark Lickley and drummer David Robinson, although the latter was soon replaced by David Palmer (b. 29 May 1961, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, England).

ABC’s debut single ‘Tears Are Not Enough’, featuring Robinson, was released on their Neutron label. The song made the UK Top 20 in late 1981, but it was the following year that cemented ABC’s reputation, with three UK Top 10 hits in a seven-month period: ‘Poison Arrow’, ‘The Look Of Love’ and ‘All Of My Heart’. Their pristine pop songs were nowhere better showcased than on the superb The Lexicon Of Love. This Trevor Horn-produced album remains a benchmark of 80s pop, and a formidable collection of melodramatic love songs assembled in one neat package. The album reached number 1 and stayed in the UK charts for a year, and broke into the US Top 30. The follow-up Beauty Stab was recorded as a trio following Palmer’s defection to the Yellow Magic Orchestra. The relative failure of the album to emulate the debut’s success resulted in further personnel upheaval, and by 1984, only Fry and White remained from the original line-up. They continued as ABC, using session musicians and undergoing a change of image for the promotion of How To Be A... Zillionaire!, almost to the extent of becoming caricatures. This image, particularly in videos, gave the band some success in the USA with ‘Be Near Me’ reaching the Top 10 in 1985 and ‘(How To Be A) Millionaire’ peaking at number 20 the following January.

Fry became seriously ill in 1986 and was absent for over a year while he received treatment for Hodgkin’s disease. He teamed up with White once more for 1987’s memorable UK Top 20/US Top 5 hit, ‘When Smokey Sings’, although the attendant Alphabet City failed to match the success of their debut album. A move to Parlophone Records at the start of the 90s failed to revive ABC’s fortunes. By the middle of the decade, only Fry remained from the original line-up with White having departed to become a Reiki master. His voice remained intact but in desperate need of songs of the standard of ABC’s 80s heyday. Skyscraping (1997) was a good attempt at recreating the ‘classic’ ABC sound, but sounded dated in an era dominated by urban music.

Since the album’s release Fry has continued to lead ABC on the 80s revival circuit. He reunited with Palmer in 2004 and after an exploratory period of live work, the duo returned to the studio to complete a new album.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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