Martha and the Muffins: Danseparc (Every Day It’s Tomorrow) (Canada, 1983)

In a crowd, in a city I call my home
Undercover, on the edge I move alone

The Canadian New Wave band Martha and the Muffins are better known for their 1980 international hit Echo Beach (the name a reference to the 1977 Ultravox song Hiroshima Mon Amour, itself a reference to a 1959 French film – it’s references all the way down!)

It’s a great video, by the way. Aren’t they all so young??!

But strangely, I never actually heard Echo Beach at the time.

During the mid 1980s, the Muffins dropped to a duo and renamed themselves as M+M. (Definitely NOT to be confused with Eminem.) This was happening even by 1983 – Danseparc was titled with both band names.  But like many of their peers, they made a comeback in the synthpop resurgence of the 2000s and their latest album, Delicate, was released in 2010.

There are still some gems for me from the 1990s period; 1992’s Rainbow Sign is one. Capturing perhaps that newfound sense of optimism in the wake of cancelled Armageddon that was so rare and precious to see in 90s media (which usually went for the dark, bleak and weird). It reaches my soul. But it’s a different feeling from a different time.

 

No, the Muffins song that haunted my 80s was 1983’s Danseparc (Every Day It’s Tomorrow). I probably only heard it a couple of times; almost certainly on AM radio. It has all the cyberpunk elements though… urban mystery,  science, future shock, a hint of romance… and what is that face laser scanner thing?

In a crowd, in a city I call my home
Undercover on the edge I move alone
Faces stare across at me
With eyes that look but cannot see
Out of reach, out of love, stepping out of bounds.
Every day it’s tomorrow and I never know what tomorrow will be
Every day it’s tomorrow and I feel someone move close to me
Every day it’s tomorrow and I never know what tomorrow will be
Every day it’s tomorrow and to dance with you is all I need.

(Into the thick, into the night, into your arms in the failing light.)

Danseparc!

In a park, in a city I call your name
Will the way that we dance always be the same?
Hold me fast, draw me near
Don’t let love disappear
Come to life, come together, steal me from my sleep.

Every day it’s tomorrow and I never know what tomorrow will be
Every day it’s tomorrow and I feel someone move close to me
Every day it’s tomorrow and I never know what tomorrow will be
Every day it’s tomorrow and to dance with you is all I need…

(Into the thick, into the night, into your arms in the failing light.)

Fay Ray: Different Morning (Wales, 1982)

Warning warning can’t you hear it
Leave your dreaming yesterday

The Welsh New Wave band Fay Ray (another media reference, this time to the King Kong actress Fay Wray; and completely unrelated to the current Japanese singer fayray ) appear to have released one album, Contact You, in 1982. But they must have made airplay in New Zealand because I distinctly remember shivering to the nuclear apocalypse imagery of “Heatwave”.

I watch the mushroom
As it rises in a cloud
We see the heatwave
But we hear no sound

But it’s the heartbreaking live performance of “Different Morning”, which I only know from this Youtube clip, which sells the band to me. It feels like the perfect description of the Reagan/Thatcher era – an era that feels all too close again.

I live in a country
Where the cold and bleak winds blow
Storm clouds are gathering
Sometimes i wish i didn’t know
We’ve been building a castle
To protect us from the fight
But castle walls will never,
Never keep us safe at night

Warning warning can’t you hear it
Leave your dreaming yesterday
This is a different morning
And we’ve got to break away

Warning warning can’t you hear it
Leave your dreaming yesterday
This is a different morning
Watch the future slip away

Something is changing
Look at everyone you meet
Down in the city
They’re counting numbers in the street
A thousand empty eyes
Looking for trouble in the heat

Warning warning can’t you hear it
Leave your dreaming yesterday
This is a different morning
And we’ve got to break away

Warning warning can’t you hear it
Leave your dreaming yesterday
This is a different morning
Watch the future slip away

Aphrodite’s Child: Rain and Tears (France, 1968)

Rain and tears are the same
But in the sun you’ve got to play the game

The Greek electronic composer Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou, better known as Vangelis, is one of the defining sounds of the early 1980s, after his scores for 1981’s Chariots of Fire and – that nexus year again – 1982’s science fiction masterpiece Blade Runner. He of course continued to have a strong career through the 1990s and 2000s and is still (as far as I know) active today.

But let’s set the time circuits fourteen years earlier and look at a song from 1968. Aphrodite’s Child was Vangelis’s first band (as keyboard player, with three other Greek musiciabns) and Rain and Tears was the band’s first hit single. Based on Pachelbel’s Canon, it was covered by bands in many countries including New Zealand. I have memories of hearing a version of it in the 1970s-80s, but I don’t recall whether it was the Vangelis original. But it sticks in the mind.

Was that famous Blade Runner line a deliberate injoke, a reference to the soundtrack composer? I would love to know for sure, but it seems more than a coincidence to me.

There’s nothing special about the lyrics, but I love the formal beauty of the canon structure and the pure, wavering tones of the keyboard. What IS it that Vangelis is playing? Something electronic, I think, but I can’t trace what it might have been. The 60s were the dawn of synthesis; even Pink Floyd from 1968 can sound surprisingly like the late 70s or early 80s.

Rain and tears are the same
But in the sun you’ve got to play the game
When you cry in winter time
You can pretend it’s nothing but the rain

How many times I’ve seen
Tears running from your blue eyes
Rain and tears are the same
But in the sun you’ve got to play the game

Give me an answer love
I need an answer love

Rain and tears in the sun
But in your heart you feel the rainbow waves

Rain or tears both are shown
For in my heart there’ll never be a sun
Rain and tears are the same
But in the sun you’ve got to play the game

Moments Lost in Time: A Synthpop Retrohistory

It’s 2015! And I’m writing this from my flying car pocket cyberspace deck. And 80s retro is as much a thing as 50s retro was in 1985. So let’s do some.

I was a teen in the 1980s, but my memories of the music of the era are fringe and fleeting; songs heard in passing the radio, cassette tapes found without context, cryptic references in magazines. But in the last few years, thanks to Youtube, I’ve been digging back thirty years into the music that still resonates with me, that seemed then (and still seems now) to carry a sense of the strange, science-fictional future we felt crashing into us. A future that has now at least partly arrived.

The centre of gravity for me is 1982. Reagan and Thatcher had reignited the Cold War. FM synthesis and 8-bit microcomputers were on the rise. The Space Shuttle had launched and Star Wars was politics as well as art. Keyboards were the new guitars. Between the embers of Disco, the rage of Punk and the art-school alienation of New Wave, a tiny, futuristic sound appeared. By the mid 80s it had faded and stadium rock and rap replaced it. But briefly, in that window of a few years, something magical, alien and crystalline, burned in the neon night.

And because Youtube isn’t the most stable archival platform in the world, and beautiful songs vanish daily, I want to blog some of my rediscoveries, before they’re lost in time forever.