Record Review: Hot Gossip – Geisha Boys + Temple Girls

Repressed | UK | CD | 2007 | repeat4

Repressed | UK | CD | 2007 | repeat4

Arlene Phillips Hot Gossip: Geisha Boys + Temple Girls UK CD [2007]

  1. Circus of Death
  2. Morale
  3. Word Before Last
  4. Geisha Boys + Temple Girls
  5. I Don’t Depend on You
  6. Houses In Motion
  7. Burn For You
  8. Soul Warfare

When you least expected it, it’s time to dive into the B.E.F. bucket again! Back when Martyn Ware was separated from The Human League, his crafty manager, who engineered the split [twice the fees] fed his ego in the maneuvering by saying that he should cut a deal with Virgin as a production company instead of an artist [even more fees for Bob Last!] and Ware took the bait. The upshot of this contract was that Ware could deliver as many as six albums under his B.E.F. production umbrella per year to Virgin. Having been freed from the crashing and burning politics of The Human League, he and Ian Marsh hit the ground, laying rubber. When did they find time to sleep?

hot-gossip-A-zoetropeIn 1981-2, there was the “Music For Stowaways” tape, “Penthouse + Pavement” by Heaven 17, “Music of Quality + Distinction Vol. 1” and this curio, ostensibly by the TV dance troupe Arlene Phillips Hot Gossip. For those not familiar, it’s as if DEVO had produced an album for The Solid Gold Dancers! [note: this almost, sort of, did happen – see “Word Of Mouth” by Toni Basil!] Ware, no chump himself on the royalty front, top loaded the disc with material he had a hand in writing; old Human League songs from the pre-“Travelogue” era. The only holdouts were a pair of songs from Sting and Talking Heads that the group had already recorded in pre-production. Even the odd single by The Men was revisited.

The old Human League material benefits the most from the re-recording here if one is looking for new kinds of kicks in these interpretations. Three songs from “Reproduction” get a new coat of paint right up front. “Circus Of Death” get’s a new whipcrack beat and environmental sound effects added into the mix. The vocals are handled by the dancers gamely, but the material is so weirdly contrived, the cognitive dissonance the whole thing generates is considerable. The lyrics are so deeply enmeshed with the strange mind of Phil Oakey, the notion of a cover version seems ridiculous.

“Morale” appears here shorn of its partner, “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.” The arrangement differs the least of all of these songs. It just has a new vocalist, Kim Leeson. Other than that, it’s pretty much the same track you know and love. “Word Before Last” is transformed by the addition of Synclavier and Linn Drum to the trusty Roland System 100 and Jupiter 4 that Ware and Marsh used on the original cut. Once again, the sound of anyone but Phil Oakey singing this deeply weird music is jarring.

The title track was ripped screaming from the then current Heaven 17 album and the Wendy Carlos styled intro is intact, but for this track only, live drummer to the stars, Simon Phillips is added to the mix. Vocalist Richard Lloyd King does better at standing in for Glenn Gregory. But the killer revision here is the revisit of the odd one-off single by The Men [Human League operating incognito out of embarrassment]. I always liked “I Don’t Depend On You” and here it gets a big makeover that only serves to make it sparkle more brightly. The vocalists are much better suited for this song since it’s reasonably conventional in terms of its lyrics. Roy Gale actually sounds pretty good here! He’s definitely an improvement over Phil Oakey on the original. The addition of Linn Drum makes the syncopation pretty funky but the funk-o-meter seriously pegs with the addition of bass and guitar from Heaven 17’s secret weapon, John Wilson. He adds tremendously to this cut and it manages to outshine the already great original version handily.

“Houses In Motion” also works well since Richard Lloyd-King stays within the parameters set by David Byrne. Geoff Westley produced this track instead of B.E.F. because it was recorded before Ware became attached to the project. It’s out of sorts to the rest of the album in sound, but it’s all so weirdly eclectic, it doesn’t matter much. The brief version actually ends before you expect it to. A cover of Sting’s “Burn For You,” from the “Brimstone + Treacle” soundtrack goes on for what seems forever! It actually manages to become even more pretentious here. Finally, Heaven 17’s “Soul Warfare” ends the album in a version not very dissimilar from the Heaven 17 version, save for the vocals.

This album is an odd curio that I can recommend to Human League/B.E.F. fans with an open mind. I know I saw this album but once in my life, in a record store used bin some time in 1981-1983. After taking a look at the cover, I demurred. It just didn’t look like a record that would give me any pleasure. It wasn’t until Cherry Red’s Repressed sub label rose to the occasion, that I decided to put it on my want list. Having finally purchased it, I can state that it’s worth having for the curiosity factor alone. About half of it is a fascinating take on an alternate universe version of H17/Human League. Even the worst of it is better than several Human League albums that followed.

– 30 –

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11 Responses to Record Review: Hot Gossip – Geisha Boys + Temple Girls

  1. Echorich says:

    I bought the original in Metro Records in Little Neck, Queens (that’s NYC for those wondering) when it came out. I have to say that the cover and the fact that it was Kenny Everett’s dancers performing was a bit embarrassing, but I had to have anything HL or H17 at the time. It took me weeks to listen to because I was so afraid of hating something Martyn Ware had worked on…Well I didn’t hate it – I didn’t go around sharing it with a bunch of friends either, but I certainly didn’t expect to like it as much as I did…I Don’t Depend On You is sort of a middle ground, sound wise, between P+P and Luxury Gap. The vocals and the funk workout of John Wilson are pretty brilliant. I skip Burn For You completely and Houses In Motion is too special a song for me to listen to ANYONE else perform it. The title track seems a bit faster paced than the original and it is a much tougher funk workout than the original. There are a few interesting electronic flourishes that, along with warmer vocals, make it distinctly different from the original.
    In all it’s good effort and I’m glad I own it on vinyl and cd.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – You’re a better man than I am! I wimped out for at least 25 years, but I’m glad I got over my reluctance. By the way, I made the animated GIF in the post from images of their zoetropic pic disc of their early single “Super Casanova.” It tells almost all one needs to know about Hot Gossip.


  2. Echorich says:

    My fave Hot Gossip moment was watching Kenny Everett back in the late 70’s when some stations showed it in syndication and the troop performing in leather, bondage and chains to Sleazy by The Village People…Gary Numan performing I Die: You Die was on the same episode if I recall correctly…


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Kenny Everett was shown Stateside? I recall a pilot episode, which I watched, but nothing else. The show I saw seemed to be only comedy bits. Lots of Sid Snot, no Hot Gossip and no music. But that was a dog’s age ago! Trust me, I would have remembered the likes of Numan at that time and only saw him on SNL, apart from his video for “Cars,” which I remember seeing on Casey Kasem’s America’s Top Ten!


  3. Echorich says:

    I honestly can’t remember what station in NYC showed it – there was a lot of late night syndication in NYC back then. I’m wondering if it was more like 82 or 83 and syndication of the Kenny Everett Compilation shows…I even remember seeing Sir Cliff Richard perform Devil Woman with a lion and a caged Hot Gossip dancer back then… I must research further…


    • Echorich says:

      Well that didn’t take long…it was shown as a syndicated show in NYC on NBC after Saturday Night Live…maybe my 50 year old memory isn’t as bad as I thought…


  4. VersionCrazy says:

    There was also a Hot Gossip video album on VHS with many of the same songs and a few other cover oddities – Adam and the Ants ‘Press Darlings’, for example – I’m sure some of the versions were different though, ‘Circus of Death’ for example was definitely different somehow – I would have to dig it out again now to check, I did copy it to DVD from the tape a while back.

    The story behind the Kenny Everett appearance for Gary Numan and ‘I Die: You Die’ was that is was supposed to be on the 1979/80 new year show along with Bowie, but he used his influence with the show’s producers to have Numan excised from the show. The performance did get shown on a later edition and is a different mix from the one that was released some months later down the line. It finally saw an official release on last year’s ‘Machine Music’ DVD collection release by Gary Numan.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Version Crazy – Yeah, Bowie pulling rank on Numan back then was a bit of a legend. When I finally got Machine Music and saw the “I Die, You Die” Everett clip, that was a definite highlight of the package!


  5. Gavin says:

    Words cannot describe how much I love this album.
    Growing up in England as a huge fan of The Mighty League AND Kenny Everett(therefore exposed to Hot Gossip via his show and Top of the Pops) it was a match made in heaven,though alas it was some years before I actually got to hear it.The vinyl record was incredibly hard to find here in those pre-internet days and it got lost in the mists of time.
    i love the new arrangements of the HL and H17 material,as well as the covers,its just a treat from start to end for me.
    Hot Gossip also did a single produced by Richard James Burgess of Peter Godwin’s track “Criminal World” which sadly I still do not have on 12″..


  6. Gavin says:

    I absolutely ADORE this album – one of my fave League-related works.
    It took over 30 years for me to actually hear it though.I have the LP and CD versions and play it a lot.


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