Berlin Blondes: Berlin Blondes UK LP 
- Train To Istanbul
- Secret Days
- Neon Probe
- Zero Song
- Framework 12
- Zero Song 12
This album was, until recently, a personal béte noir. I first became aware of it in 1980, the year of its issue, via a review in Dogfood, a New Wave paper which I read carefully during my youth to the point of submitting content for near the end of its lifespan. It sounded like a record I would like. It featured lots of synthesizers and it was labeled “futurist” by the reviewer, one Craig Michaels. So I looked for this record. And looked.
In 1997, seventeen years later, I finally found it [along with the remixed 12” single from it] in a rather good record store in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I then had the record in my possession in the “to be digitized” mental slush pile for the next eleven years! So a span of 28 years unfurled between wanting to hear this record and actually achieving that. It’s safe to say that the 28 year gulf represents virtually half a human lifespan. Having finally done this, I am free! Free, I tell you! I will no longer progress to my deathbed with the regret that I have never listened to this album. But what’s it like?
In 1980 the sound of Gary Numan cast a long shadow over the UK music scene. He picked up the sound of Ultravox and managed to make hits with synthesizers that sounded au courant, pushing him up to the top of the charts. Unsurprisingly, a host of fledgling bands ensued in his wake. The Blondes, as produced by Mike Thorne, also feature a lot of rich Polymoog sound not unlike what was making Gary Numan a fixture in the UK charts of the time, but other influences were at work here. Since the group hailed from Glasgow, the home town heroes Simple Minds also figure in the mix here. The strong influence of their first album, “Life In A Day” can be heard on many of these tracks in terms of their composition and arrangements. The final influence to be detected here is in the vocal style of Steve Bonomi, and this was an influence even on the first Simple Minds album: Sparks. The whiff of Sparks vocalist Russell Mael certainly informs Bonomi’s vocal style.
James Spender played keyboards here but he was soon to be hitting the heights in Scot ginch-poppers Altered Images. Their original bassist David Rudden was not the player on this album. By the time this recording was made, he had left to form Endgames and was replaced with Nick Clark from the Cuban Heels; the infamous Glaswegian postpunk combo formed by the other half of Johnny & The Self Abusers who didn’t go on to become Simple Minds! Though Clark, it must be said, was never a Self-Abuser. Still, the inbred Glasgow scene gets tightly wound, eh?
There were three singles by Berlin Blondes. Their first single was on 7″ only. “Science” appears on the album and is b/w “Mannequin.” I don’t have this single yet, but the cuts are reputed to be remixed from the album. I do have the 12” single of “Framework” b/w “Zero Song.” Paradoxically, the 12″ version of “Zero Song” is a bit shorter than the album version! Though the album version sports lyrics, it must be said.
Their sales weren’t high and the group got the cut from EMI who were about to hit the New Romantic motherlode with Duran Duran. For their part, The Blondes soldiered on with an indie 7” “Marseille” b/w “The Poet” before packing it in. In retrospect, this LP captures that mad moment just as synthesizers were about to all but take over New Wave as we knew it. The group’s few releases are now sought-after examples of “minimal synth” music, as the kids today call it.
– 30 –
I remember this album when it came out. I must’ve already moved on to French, Dutch and other European music, because…it did little or nothing for me. Some folks wanted to hear every Scottish band, but…I like some of that music better now than I did them. My favorite SM album is #2. I like Josef K. In the beginning of 1981, my two favorite bands were The Swingers and The Nits.
I didn’t hear the Berlin Blondes again until you sent me the Revo CD issue, somewhat recently. Better than I remembered it, but still not on my “classic” list. It made perfect sense for Revo to re-issue this album.
You know me. I’m a whore for Scot music. More or less.