Record Review: Clare Grogan – Love Bomb

London Records | UK | 12″ | 1987 | LONX 134

Clare Grogan: Love Bomb UK 12″ [1987]

  1. Love Bomb [ext.]
  2. Love Bomb [dub]
  3. I Love The Way You Beg

This was a record that surprised me when it appeared out of nowhere in 1987. I had been a fan of Altered Images, the Scottish New Wave band from the days of their debut in 1981 throughout the length and breadth of their brief, two year career arc. It saw them begin as almost gothic indie darlings, produced by Steve Severin and beloved by John Peel, eventually conquering the pop charts with Martin Rushent produced sugar-pop, and ultimately they were boosted into the Ejection Seat Of Pop® by the time of their Blondie-esque final album. After all, when your singles are barely scraping into the Top 40 it’s time to throw in the towel, right? Or so the thinking was in 1983! When a solo single from ex-singer Clare Grogan finally appeared in 1987, I would imagine that many might have asked, “Clare who…?” And rightly so. Four years after your last single is an eternity in Pop.

Unfortunately, this record failed to measure up even to the disappointing, schizo pop of the divisive third Altered Images album that saw their fortunes flag four years earlier. “Love Bomb” was a Mark Kamins production of a Henderson/Martin song and though I’ve looked for answers, I still have no idea who the writers were. Based on the evidence here, this may have been their only shot at the charts, and it was unquestionably something of a dud. The busy, clattering sound of the production may have been down to producer Kamins or perhaps to remixer Zeus B. Held. I’ve not heard the 7″ mix to compare. It’s not an easy record to find. Kamins I only knew from his production on the first Madonna album*, so there’s nothing to write home about there. Ususally Held can be depended on for some admirably smooth Euro sound, but this is the furthest thing from that.

The song was poor, the arrangement was overly busy, and the performance was completely missable. Grogan was just doing work for hire here. As with the last Altered Images album, the decision was made to drown the, uh, uniquely voiced Ms. Grogan in backing singers, this time of the masculine variety. This is an inadequacy that always tries to draw attention away from Ms. Grogan’s idiosyncrasies of delivery, overlooking the fact that her unique vocal qualities are actually a plus, as long as the material bears scrutiny. In fact, the juxtaposition of her helium girly vocals with the right [emotionally darker] material is fascinating. Unlike the hookless and perfunctory dance pop here. This record fairly reeked of mis-80s malaise; where technology was seen as a panacea for weak compositions bereft of ideas. Tsk.

The dub mix was a typical example of the form as practiced in the UK in the mid-80s. Can we finally admit that dub technique used on music that has zero connection with reggae = 100% FAILURE? The B-side here was a Grogan/Lironi composition, but not much better for it, actually. It sounded like a demo produced with just a Casiotone keyboard for accompaniment, and graciously, it’s over before it even seemed to start at a merciful 1:48. Unsurprisingly, the single failed to chart and that was almost it for Clare’s singing career. She’s only acted ever since, apart from the odd guest spot or [shudder] one of those retro cavalcade package concert horrors. Her album for London was shelved and has not managed to escape from whatever locker it’s been tucked away in. In the cold light of day, this single is a low point for both Grogan and Lironi [who married years later after being professionally linked], Zeus B. Held, and even mixmaster Phil Harding, who was definitely working overtime in 1987. On this record, it showed.

– 30 –

* The story of how I first heard Madonna is almost worth relating one day.

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4 Responses to Record Review: Clare Grogan – Love Bomb

  1. Echorich says:

    Big Grogan/AI fan here, but this song was truly tragic. Mark Kamins will never be more than an NYC dj who slept with a real go-getter who would create herself into Madonna. By 1989 he was still just an overpaid dj who had no business in the recording studio.
    I have a soft spot for Zeus B. Held. He’s not always been sucessful, but there are some gems in his CV. Work with Dead or Alive, Pete Wylie’s Sinful, his production with Fashion are all highlights. I think here he couldn’t really save something that was hours off life support.
    Monk, I tell ya what, I’d love to hear your Madonna story and I will offer up mine in return.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – I first encountered the Madonna phenomenon just several months after her debut album was released to the sound of crickets. I was in Crunchy Armadillo records land was sifting through the dollar bin and saw that record with a sticker on it that said fifty cents. Being that it was on the then-holy Sire Records label; the home to much of America’s finest New Wave, I bought it for the four bits asked. I took it home and played it only to found that it was just a disco album! As was my penchant at the time, I recorded the albums to a C90 so that I would only play the actual album once. In this case, I felt normal bias was justified! About six months later, “Holiday” began to gain some traction in the pop charts, and the horrifying steamroller of Madonna’s career began without pity. By the time that “Lucky Star” was going top 10 I flipped the record at Murmur Records and received $3.00 in trade-in value for it; a profit of 500%! So I am one of the few who can say they made money off of Madonna [instead of the other way around].

      I felt that the record was very mediocre. With the exception of “Borderline,” there were few good songs on it and her singing was one dimensional and nasal. Our friend Mark Kamins was responsible for the exceptionally flat and lifeless song “Everybody!” Madonna’s music was poor, but when she moved up to phenomenon status after her desperate appearance on the MTV awards, her rapacious and heartless inner self actually repelled me in the worst way. It’s been unpleasant seeing her reign in our culture; truly an empress without a stitch of clothing.

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  2. Taffy says:

    I too love Altered Images’ output (including Bite; which perhaps you think a misstep, or am i trying too hard to read between the lines?), and was saddened by their demise. Never even knew of the existence of Clare’s solo single til the internet age, and I’ve still never laid eyes on it. But I do own a digital copy of the 7″single thanks to some anonymous file sharer years ago. This version of “Love Bomb” clocks in at 3:39, which presumably makes it more tolerable than an extended one! Yeah, I’m in total agreement on this one, “Love Bomb” is a dud on all counts. How anyone could suck the charm out of Clare is beyond me. I will admit a perverse desire to hear the entire shelved album (it couldn’t be all “Love Bombs,” could it???).

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Taffy – I like all three AI albums almost equally, but “Bite” is one of the weirder schizo albums out there. Up with Spandau’s “Diamond.” A record clearly indicative of a problem.

      Like

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