Thursday, November 13, 2008

Real Life's Flame Flickers - The Descent

Over the next two years Real Life spent more time overseas than at home, a strategy than in hindsight may have worked against them. Rather than consolidating their standing on the Australian scene, Real Life spent time touring overseas to mixed success, and during the first half of 1985 recorded their sophomore album in Berlin. Meanwhile, the likes of Pseudo Echo and Kids In The Kitchen (see future posts) had become regulars inside the Australian top 10 and had overtaken Real Life in the pecking order of Australian pop-rock bands. Whilst previously second tier acts such as QED (see future post) and Machinations (see previous post) were attracting more attention in an Australian music press, that perhaps perceived Real Life as having turned their backs rather too quickly on the local scene.

The next single to appear from Real Life was ‘Face To Face’ which was released in October 1985 and peaked at #32 on the Australian charts. But it was the only single to chart from Real Life’s sophomore album ‘Flame’. The follow up single ‘One Blind Love’ didn’t see any chart action, whilst ‘Flame’ lacked the fuel to burn above #42 nationally. By early 1986 it appeared that the Australian music scene had fallen out of love with Real Life, whilst for the time being at least the band couldn’t repeat their earlier success in the U.S., though they did score a hit on the U.S. alternative charts with the single ‘Babies’ (included on the U.S. titled album ‘Down Comes The Hammer’). Steve Williams replaced Richard Zatorski on keyboard duties later in 1986, but his schedule with Real Life wasn’t exactly hectic, as the band largely retreated from view for the next couple of years. Apparently Zatorski returned to law studies and is now a practicing solicitor (that may have come in handy amidst the reported contractual issues that plagued Real Life during the late 80s/early 90s).

Real Life sprung back to life in mid ‘89, albeit with a remix of an earlier hit. ‘Send Me An Angel ‘89’ actually out performed its original incarnation on the American charts, when it peaked at #26, but the remix only managed #51 in Australia. The return to the charts attracted enough attention to gain Real Life a new recording contract in 1990 with BMG. The album ‘Lifetime’ came to life in October 1990 (OZ#95) and received a release Stateside on the Curb label. It yielded the minor hit singles ‘God Tonight’ (OZ#47) which also sold well in selected U.S. territories (US#9-Club Play chart), and ‘Kiss The Ground’ (US#27-Club Play) but sadly didn’t answer Real Life’s prayer for another major hit.

During the first half of the 90s you could have been forgiven for thinking Real Life had called it a day, but they never actually broke up, rather just kept a low profile. In the mid 90s they became not only one of the first Australian acts, but first mainstream pop acts across the globe to set up their own dedicated site on the internet, again reflecting the mindset of Sterry and Co. to embrace new technology. Real Life released the limited edition ‘Like A Ghost’ EP via their website in 1996 (maybe they were comparing notes with Marillion who were doing likewise at the time). Their internet profile came to the attention of the Texas-based independent recording label Monument. Real Life found themselves with a new recording deal and during October 1997 released their first album of new material in seven years with the more guitar focused ‘Happy’. The band featured a new keyboardist in George Pappas during this period, who co-wrote several songs on the ‘Happy’ album.

Over the ensuing decade Real Life continued to write and record new music, though as a live act their profile wasn’t high, and was mostly restricted to playing in specific territories across Europe and the U.S. where their fan base had stayed loyal. The days of major label and mainstream media support were well behind them as the 00’s dawned, but mainstay David Sterry and keyboardist George Pappas kept the flame burning for Real Life. Working from their own home studios (the increased accessibility of which has proven a godsend for musicians in recent years) Sterry and Pappas put together the tracks for an album of new material in July 2003, titled ‘Imperfection’, which saw a return to Real Life’s signature synth imbued sound, and a new single titled ‘Oblivion’.

Sterry has continued to front the live version of Real Life over recent years, who have toured with the likes of fellow 80s synth-pop heroes Pseudo Echo on the thriving nostalgia music circuit. I read with interest that on a recent overseas tour (2008) to perform Real Life songs, singer/guitarist David Sterry was supported by When In Rome (or a version of), who I published a post about several months back. Real Life have remained one of those curiosities on the Australian pop-rock scene, who have enjoyed considerably more success overseas than at home.

Real Life still contribute to their long running website, which is worth checking out:
Thanks to YouTube user gnowangerup for uploading the video for Real Life's 'Catch Me I'm Falling'


Jimmy is the boy said...

Great Site, lots of info... but no mp3 downloads.... bugga, damn shame, keep up the good work though!!

A. FlockOfSeagulls AKA Rhys Jones said...

Thanks Jimmy, appreciate the feed back. As far as offering MP3 downloads goes - for the first six months or so I was including two or three MP3 tracks with each post. I'd still be doing that except that the DMCA (Digital Music Copyright America) organisation flagged Blogger that I was infringing copyright. After an initial warning, Blogger threatened to shut my blog down completely. Rather than risk losing all of my hard work I took the decision to remove all links to MP3's from my posts and not to include them anymore. To be honest, given some of the other sites out there, which offer entire album's of material, I'm pretty dirty about the fact that I was targeted. But, such is life - the blog is still going which is the main thing, and I'm glad that people like yourself continue to get some enjoyment out of what I write.