Record Review: The Passions – Africa Mine

Polydor | UK | 2×7″ | 1982 | POSP 384

The Passions: Africa Mine UK 2×7″ [1982]

DISC 1

  1. Africa Mine
  2. I Feel Cheap

DISC 2 – Live At The Venue, London

  1. The Square
  2. Why Me?
  3. Snow
  4. I’m In Love With A German Film Star

There was one final year when I listened to the radio in my home*, having given up on commercial radio some time in 1980. And that’s when I realized that the local college radio station WPRK-FM had undergone a huge sea change during the dawn of the 80s. When I first encountered WPRK-FM, a few years earlier, they were still riding the tail end of prog rock, much like myself. Deep ELP album cuts and the like were their stock in trade around 1977. So I never really paid too much attention to them. I can’t remember why, but when I next crossed paths with WPRK-FM in 1981, they were a very modern college radio station, working that New Wave action! After giving up on commercial FM-Rock, it was exciting to hear music I might want to buy on the airwaves; even with a paltry 100 watts to their signal.

One of the records that I heard in 1982 haunted me for years. “Africa Mine” by The Passions, was the only song I ever heard from this group from about 1982 – 1992, but it stuck with me like glue. The lyrics are a scathing riposte of capitalism and imperialism [now more timely than ever] set paradoxically to the most dreamily melodic musical backing imaginable. Clive Timperley’s famously echoplexed guitar contributes pealing riffs that scatter outward like ripples on a pond while the subtle polyrhythms not unlike those found of “My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts” anchor the song, giving vocalist Barbara Gogan a foundation upon which her vocals can soar in the air.

This song obsessed me for years afterward, and bear in mind, that I never heard their monster single hit, “I’m I Love With A German Film Star” until some point in the 90s! That I managed to get through 1981 without hearing that still boggles my mind, but I never heard The Associates back then either! By the early 90s, when I saw this 2×7″ on sale in a catalog I just had to have it, so I ordered! Being that The Monk is somewhat less than rigorous in playing his records, I only recently got around to playing more than the sublime A-side. “I Feel Cheap” is a strong B-side that recalls Romeo Void’s seminal “Never Say Never” in the rhythm department. Ultimately though, The Passions have an airiness to their sound that no matter how driving the rhythms, or desperate the sentiments [in the case of “I Feel Cheap”], they can’t avoid having a lack of gravitas that purely comes down to their sonics.

The live EP is problematic, in terms of sound quality. With 4 songs on a 45 there is substantial groove cramming, and this being a French MPO pressing for Polydor with silver injection labels, that means that the discs sound pretty horrible. This was the nadir of vinyl, as far as I’m concerned. So much so that when I digitized this 2×7″ set for a Premaster disc, I skipped the live tracks because they lacked so much and were shot through with substantial surface noise and pops. A visual inspection would be VG+ but in practical terms the record was Fair, and the low end of that as fas as I’m concerned.

To date there have been only two Passions CDs; a compilation [“Passion Plays”] ca. 1995/2004 and a Cherry Red DLX RM of their “Thirty Thousand Feet Over China” album from whence “Film Star” came, but not this single. Ironically, the live B-side, “The Square” was included on the Cherry Red disc as a bonus track. One hopes sincerely that it was not remastered from vinyl! I have one album [“Michael + Miranda”] and another 12″ single [“Skin Deep”] by The Passions, and without fail, every one of these Polydor pressings sound just as awful as this single. Hopefully, one day “Michael + Miranda” will make it to CD so I can listen to music and not noise. But that album in on Fiction and seems to be MIA due to legal rights to the master recordings.

 – 30 –

* I always listened to WPRK in my car while I lived in Orlando, FL since I did not have a CD player and had eschewed tapes by the mid-90s..

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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5 Responses to Record Review: The Passions – Africa Mine

  1. Echorich says:

    …Film Star is one of my all time favorite tracks. I discovered The Passions listening to WNYC college radio and DJ Evan “Funk” Davies, who was also the drummer of The Bush Tetras, afternoon show from 4pm – 8pm.
    With the short lived WPIX-FM flirtation with New Wave and Punk returning to early 80’s AOR, college radio became my bastion of new music.
    The Passions did have a really sparse, delicate feel…something that Robin Guthrie would explore a few years later with Cocteau Twins. Their guitar sound was crystaline, and shimmery. Not jangly…that would come from Manchester and Liverpool in the following few years. They were sometimes dark, like on Into Night, but there was something so very “indie” about their sound…to me in those days “indie meant something released on Rough Trade, like The Raiincoats or Scritti Politti, or Delta 5. But i digress, or I will certainly begin to if I get much more into this…

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  2. chas_m says:

    This song has always haunted me as well. I had a Ronco (UK) comp that had “German Film Star” on it so I was clued into these guys at the time, but we had so much good stuff being thrown at us at the time that I don’t think I ever got any of their full albums, more’s the pity.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      chas_m – You hit the nail in the head! We did have an embarrassment of riches for a good five years there and one couldn’t keep up with it all. Especially on the student budget I had at the time. Twenty years ago, the combination of a boring contemporaneous scene coupled with the dozen years too late discovery of The Associates lit a fire beneath me that hasn’t abated since. To find and explore all of the great music of that era that I had missed or neglected for one reason or another.

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      • Echorich says:

        When I left NYC in late 2005, I took the first real stock of my vinyl collection as I knew I could not afford to move all of it and some would have to be passed on to others.
        The first thing I let go of was my dubious dabbling in Techno House of the early 90’s. Vinyl and cd’s were easily sold away. Next was music from the 90’s which didn’t grab me…Soup Dragons, James, Blur, Oasis…bands I thought I should like but really never managed to impress me past a few singles which I was happy to have digitally.
        I can honestly say that I did not let go of anything I purchased from 1976 – 1987. Keep in mind by 1985, I was much more refined in my purchases so my record buying was not as prolific.
        In the end I let go of about 20% of my vinyl and maybe 10 % of cd’s but it made enough room for a chair in the container and got me out of the doghouse with my partner. When we drove down in our car, I actually had the back seat of the Dodge Intrepid filled with all my collectible box sets, specialty cased cd’s and 7″ singles.
        The first thing I sought out when we got to Tampa and were settled in were indie record stores.

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        • postpunkmonk says:

          Echorich – Your tale reminds me about how I wanted to buy 16 MB of additional RAM for my Quadra 840 AV in the mid-90s. I traded in a hundred CDs primarily of 2nd rate Industrial/EBM material [NIN, Ministry, FLA, Skinny Puppy – “ogre music” as I call it] I haven’t missed since for that $200! The Cab Volt, F242, and Nitzer Ebb didn’t go anywhere.

          Oh yeah. Take that the valuable vinyl with you and treat it like you would your elderly grandmother. Perhaps better. It’s been a dozen years since I hit Tampa indie stores for kicks. Vinyl Fever in the 80s was a freaking mind blower. Even in the 90s, as a ghost of its former self, it was nothing to sneeze at. Ybor City, before it entered it’s ugly as sin, post-gentrification, strip-club/frat-bar phase by the late 90s, had a few nice stores. What are the good stores in Tampa currently?

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