Saturday, August 23, 2008

Living The High Life On The Charts

The 80s were overrun with feel good bands playing feel good music, and that’s one of the reasons I still return to the music of that era twenty plus years later. One of the groups that played fun and catchy music without any pretence was Modern Romance, not to be confused with new wave acts Modern Talking or Modern English (well the 80s were very modern, compared to the 70s).

British group Modern Romance formed during 1980, with lead vocalist Geoffrey Deane and bassist/vocalist David Jaymes having played previously together in the East London tongue in cheek punk outfit The (Leyton) Buzzards (‘Saturday Night (Beneath The Plastic Palm Trees)’ - UK#53 1979). Rounding out the original line-up were Andy Kyriacou (drums), Paul Gendler (guitar), Robbie Jaymes (keyboards) and John Du Prez (trumpet). The band took a hybrid mix of straight pop and funk, with a strong injection of Latin American style, not dissimilar to the likes of Miami Sound Machine or Kid Creole & The Coconuts. Appearance wise Modern Romance were every bit graduates of the same new romantics fashion school that produced Spandau Ballet and Ultravox - but that was where the similarities ended.

They released their debut album ‘Adventures In Clubland’ in mid 1981. The first single ‘Everybody Salsa’ peaked at #12 on the U.K. charts, with its follow up ‘Ay Ay Ay Ay Moosey’ cracking the top 10 in the U.K. in time for Christmas ‘81. Listening to a Modern Romance song was like a night out on the town with good food, good friends and good times. The song ‘Can You Move’ encapsulated that mood perfectly and reached #2 on the U.S. Club Play Singles chart in 1981. ‘Adventures In Clubland’ yielded one more minor hit single with one of the longest titles to ever chart, ‘Queen Of The Rapping Scene (Nothing Ever Goes The Way You Plan)’ (UK#37).

Geoffrey Deane surprisingly departed from the band during 1982, going on to pen the 1984 Divine hit ‘You Think You’re A Man’, and later becoming a writer and producer in television with shows such as ‘Birds Of A Feather’. He also wrote the 2005 hit film musical ‘Kinky Boots’. Michael J. Mullins was recruited as the new lead vocalist on Modern Romance’s next hit. ‘Cherry Pink And Apple Blossom White’ (a cover of the 1955 #1 hit for Perez Prado and Eddie Calvert) reached #15 in the U.K., but was out performed by the next and biggest hit single of their career ‘Best Years Of Our Lives’ (UK#4/OZ#89) in late 1982.

The next single ‘High Life’ (UK#8) was the first song I recall hearing from the group. It was featured on an episode of Countdown in around March ‘83. I thought it was a great song that featured an infectious rhythm but I couldn’t find it on vinyl 45 at the time. Not surprising because Modern Romance really didn’t make an impact here in Australia, in fact inexplicably most of their success was restricted to the U.K. Their second album ‘Trick Of The Light’ (UK#53) was released in April ‘83 and featured the previous three hit singles as well as the next two ‘Don’t Stop That Crazy Rhythm’ (UK#14) and the seemingly out of place ballad ‘Walking In The Rain’ (UK#7 - making Modern Romance one of the few multi-hit artists to have their last chart hit make the top 10).

A Christmas celebration themed compilation album ‘Party Tonight’ (UK#45) was released late in 1983 but the single lifted ‘Good Friday’ missed the charts.

Modern Romance then decided on a radical change of image, dispensing with the slick suits and slick hair in favour of a more ‘of the streets’ image. Their next and last album ‘Burn It’ featured the new band’s image on the cover, and many Modern Romance fans could have been forgiven for not recognising the band, though the music within belied the cover art, being an uninspired mix of disco and soul based pop that lacked originality. The single ‘Move On’ missed the charts altogether, as did the album. Modern Romance released one more single with their cover of the Baltimora (see future post) hit ‘Tarzan Boy’, but the single bombed and soon after the band called it quits. In 2001 drummer Andy Kyriacou put together a revamped line-up of Modern Romance, in which he was the only original member, and the band have since toured regularly on the lucrative 80s revival circuit.

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