Those First Impressions: Altered Images – Dead Pop Stars

Epic | UK | 7" | 1981 | EPC A1023

Altered Images: Dead Pop Stars UK 7″ [1981]

  1. Dead Pop Stars
  2. Sentimental

I remember reading about Altered Images after their first album was released in the UK, but it remained until I heard the 12″ mix of “See Those eyes” on Trouser Press flexidisc #8 that I actually heard the group. Since that track was produced by Martin Rushent in his post-Human League brand of electrodub genius, I naturally thought that I needed to hear more of this band, so I went out and bought their first album, which was all that was available in the summer of 1982. By September, “Pinky Blue” I’d see as an import, but I held on to my cash for the inevitable US pressing.

The “Happy Birthday” album was produced largely by Steve Severin of The Banshees, with just two cuts being produced by Martin Rushent; the “Happy Birthday” single and “Insects.” The difference in the recordings couldn’t have been more pronounced! The Steve Severin sessions [i.e. the bulk of the album] are dark, minor chord epics, rife with teenaged angst that don’t sound any more than spitting distance from Siouxsie and The Banshees, whereas Rushent ladles on the sunshine with his Linn drum and the Roland Microcomposer and their shiny, synthetic surfaces.

By the time that “Pinky Blue’ entered my Record Cell, I realized that the band drew its strength from its careful playing of both emotional extremes; sometimes unified in the same song if you were lucky! I am definitely drawn to bouncy music that expresses dark sentiments. I love the emotional contrast! But when it came to dark sentiments, none were more stygian than the debut single from the band.

I didn’t buy this until I started buying music via mail order catalogs in those pre-internet days of the mid-80s. I think it was in the Main Street catalog that I ordered the now legendary debut single by the group. “Dead Pop Stars” wasn’t on their debut album, and remained a non-LP treat. The record suffered from coming to the market in the weeks following John Lennon’s murder, so its commercial prospects were limited. If anything though, listening to it brought to mind the late 70s hyping of Jim Morrison [“He’s Hot! He’s Sexy! …And He’s Dead!] and I’d not be surprised if the whole ghoulish campaign was in fact the impetus for the song.

Because if it was, the band hit the nail right on the head with this dirge-like screed decrying the trend.

“dead pop stars rotting in the studio
pretty bodies make the little girls scream
dead pop stars hear them on the radio
pretty bodies every little girls dream”

And who better to produce this caustic little ditty than Steve Severin? It sounds not a million miles away from “Happy House” except that it’s sung by the girlish Clare Grogan, which creates lots of nifty emotional friction. The band would revisit this song within a year and re-record a merely ironic version retitled “Disco Pop Stars” and heavily laden with sugar sparkles of the Rushent variety as the B-side to their ultimate single, “I Could Be Happy.” In the present, this single and its B-side have been amended to the 2005 CD remaster of “Happy Birthday,” though that disc is now OOP and unavailable.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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3 Responses to Those First Impressions: Altered Images – Dead Pop Stars

  1. ronkanefiles says:

    Bring on The Passions!


    • postpunkmonk says:

      ronkanefiles – Were it so easy. One of my MAJOR problems in writing this blog is that in spite of all of the wonderful records I have; there’s no time for me to play them. I have no free time. I only get to listen to CDs commuting to and from work. How can I write about something if I haven’t heard it in 30 years? Or never in the case of “Michael + Miranda,” which I only bought while in Portland going on… gasp – four years ago! Deathbed regrets! Deathbed regrets!! Rear their ugly heads.


  2. Echorich says:

    Love Dead Pop Stars!!! One of my favorite singles of the 80’s!!
    @ronkanefiles – The Passions! …German Film Star is another of my favorite tracks of the 80’s and truely a one hit wonder if ever there was one!!!


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