Sunday, June 1, 2008

Hip, Shake, Jerk To The Rhythm Of The Jungle

Two of my favourite songs form the early 80s era came from the one artist. U.K. synth-pop duo The Quick comprised vocalist Colin Campsie and bassist/keyboardist George McFarlane, who had formerly gone under the moniker of Grand Hotel. They met originally in California in 1978 but upon returning to England in 1978 took on the name The Quick. Acclaimed Roxy Music producer Rhett Davies oversaw the duo’s first demo and through that they were signed to Epic Records. They released their debut single ‘Sharks Are Cool, Jets Are Hot’ in 1979 but it failed to garner enough airplay in the U.K. to chart.

Epic Records released The Quick’s debut album ‘On The Uptake’ in 1980 and the single ‘Hip Shake Jerk’ broke the band in Australia. A major contributing factor was the regular airing of the video clip on the ABC’s Countdown show in Australia. It’s impossible to overstate just how much influence Countdown had on the record buying habits of the Australian public at that time. That’s not to take anything away from how good a synth-driven dance track ‘Hip Shake Jerk’ was, it was brilliant. The song fell just short of the Australian top ten (#12) in mid 1981, but it put The Quick on the map down under.

On the basis of the Australian success Epic Records repackaged the album ‘On The Uptake’ and launched a new assault on the global market. The album was released as ‘One Light In A Blackout’ in Canada and ‘Fascinating Rhythm’ in Europe. From that album The Quick broke into the U.S. market with the single ‘Zulu’ reaching #1 on the U.S. Hot Dance Music chart in 1981 (though this didn’t translate to mainstream chart success).

Then came the single ‘The Rhythm Of The Jungle’ in 1982. It was without doubt one of my favourite tracks of that year (and 1982 remains my favourite year in popular music), coming at the height of the new wave movement and featuring the best elements of all that was new wave embellished with a strong disco-based rhythm. ‘The Rhythm Of The Jungle’ reached #13 in Australia and was a hit in various European markets, though only made it to #41 in the Quick’s native U.K.

But The Quick’s second album ‘International Thing’ proved to be anything but and didn’t capitalise upon the promise of the duo’s earlier work with just one minor chart hit ‘Down The Wire’ (UK#88). McFarlane and Campsie had already been working with other musicians on various studio projects and produced the 1983 album ‘Building Beauty’ for fellow new wave act Endgames and the single ‘Girls Can‘t Help It‘ by Baby Doll. The Quick shifted to a new label A&M Records in 1986, in time to release their final album ‘Wah Wah’ produced by Cure bassist Phil Thornalley.

Campsie and McFarlane would reinvent themselves in 1988 as Giant Steps, with a slightly less frenetic yet still catchy dance style. The duo enjoyed their greatest mainstream success in America under their new guise, ‘Another Lover’ reaching #13 in late ‘88, with a follow up single ‘Into You’ falling just short of the top 50 (#58). Both songs came from Giant Steps only album release ‘Book Of Pride’. For some reason this success didn’t translate to their native U.K. or more strangely to Australia the scene of their greatest success in the early 80s as the Quick.
Campsie has also written songs for Natalie Imbruglia and Chantelle Houghton.

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