Gorge Yourself On Disco: Spandau Ballet’s “Diamond” Boxed Set Edition [part 3]

Spandau Ballet oil up in loincloths in the not at all homoerotic video for ‘Paint Me Down’

[…continued from previous post]

The next track on the program was the upbeat dance track “Instinction.”I think I had already seen the video on MTV by the time I had this, so having heard the superhuman Trevor Horn remix of the 4:51 album track, It took me a while to normalize to the more diffuse [to say the least] Richard Burgess album production. For the re-mix included in this set, Burgess relied on more traditional production gambits to effect the remix. For a start, the EQ on most of the track elements wildly differs.

Steve Norman’s percussion was way up in the mix with the bass and drums. The Simmons accents on the track [John Keeble played mostly acoustic kit here, from the sound of it] were dryer and flatter here than on the LP mix. Keeble’s skittering, jazzy rhythms here were a delight to hear. Especially with the syncopation between Steve Norman’s timbale solo in the middle eight and Keeble’s complex drum pattern. Just the sort of accomplished, unique rhythms that you typically didn’t hear in a top ten UK single. Tony Hadley’s vocals still had reverb common to the LP mix, but he was further down in the mix here. Just one element of several, with rhythm winning out in the end, as evidenced by Martin Kemp’s in your face that was emphasized at various points in the mix, like a Greek chorus throughout the song.

The synths here stood in for the horn section that appeared everywhere else on the first side of this album. Who knows why they didn’t have Beggar + Co. ply their trade on “Instinction” as well, but it’s the one song here that had some of the synth appeal that had been all over their debut album. Still, Beggar + Co. really added a lot to the rest of the album. I wonder how they would have worked on this track? Ultimately, Burgess used more conservative means to extend the song here from 5:51 to a 6:58 running time. There was a long instrumental buildup and a couple of drops where the melodic elements stepped aside for the all important beat. It’s got a good beat, and you can dance to it, but at the end of the day we all wish for a seven minute Trevor Horn remix of this song, yes?

As “Paint Me Down” had been a pre-release single, complete with a 7:05 12″ mix already released, Burgess made another unique re-mix of the track for this box. The shorter 6:24 mix was a bit shorter, but he compensated by making the mix more tumultuous. Specifically, tape edit scratch effects of the time were used here to shake up the beat and backwards loops were used rhythmically to confound listener expectation. The EQ of the track didn’t differ too much from other mixes here, but the editing gambits insured that you knew that this was a different mix from the get go. I like how the edits break up the big, fat, stupid beat on this one. Makes it swing a bit more.

Finally, the last song from side one of the album was “Coffee Club” and if I were in charge of Chrysalis Records, this would have been the third single from the album instead of “She Loved Like Diamond.” Beggar + Co. are smoking hot on this cut as they vie with Gary Kemp’s rhythm guitar and Keeble’s rhumba rhythms for dominance on this track. Where the 5:36 album track was mixed for clean separation, Burgess threw caution to the wind here and heavily layered the mix on this re-mix to achieve a breathless sort of Latin Delirium where the density of elements, coupled with the repetition of the rhythms, actually achieve a trance-like effect on this listener. The re-mix is only a bit longer at 6:48 but which one do we want to hear on the dancefloor at the end of the day? Absolutely this one!

“Coffee Club” may have been the sound of Spandau Ballet taking their cues from their friends Blue Rondo A La Turk, but the only Blue Rondo track in my Record Cell, “Me + Mr. Sanchez” was tepid stuff that showed that the only arena in which they could successfully compete with Spandau Ballet was in the cut of their zoot suits. The 1981 UK Latin Salsa trend seemed to materialize on the UK ascendence of the ahead-of-the-game Kid Creole + The Coconuts, who the whole mini-trend can probably be blamed on. Quite frankly, “Coffee Club” wiped the floor with Blue Rondo’s tentative faux-salsa. The production, sining and arrangements of the Blue Rondo material hadn’t a patch on the sort of work that Spandau [admittedly, with Beggar + Co. contributing mightily] was achieving on this track.  This was one smoking hot, frenzied track that attained almost a psychedelic density of rhythms and syncopation.

Next: …The Elephant In the Bowie-Shaped Room


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5 Responses to Gorge Yourself On Disco: Spandau Ballet’s “Diamond” Boxed Set Edition [part 3]

  1. Echorich says:

    I’ll have none of this diminishment of Blue Rondo A La Turk!! But I know they were not everyone’s cup of tea.
    Coffee Club is really Post Punk Funk – if you want to give it a tag. It’s bold, brash, syncopated and just a bit unapproachable. Kinda brilliant really…
    I’ve already made my case for why Trev Horn’s “remix” of Instinction is so important. But I’ll go as far to say that for every Dollar and Yes album he may have been involved with at this time it was this mix and the production on the opening track of ABC’s Lexicon Of Love, Show Me, that would become so integral to the direction he took pop with Frankie Goes To Hollywood.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Oh, I’m not completely naysaying Blue Rondo. If a copy of the DX RM of “Chewing The Fat” were to be at my fingertips, I would surely purchase it! On principle! Just saying that “Coffee Club” wipes the floor with “Me + Mr. Sanchez” nine ways to Sunday! We all know that Mark Reilley and Kito Poncioni went on to do sterling work with the great Matt Bianco. Another group I find whose output wiped the floor with “Me + Mr. Sanchez.” It’s entirely possible that Blue Rondo got much better than their debut single indicated to me. I’ve just not gone there yet.

      As far as TCH and FGTH, I will be the fly in the ointment and say that nay, brother! Twas’ his production of the crucial second Buggles album, “Adventures In Modern Recording” that truly laid the FGTH foundations to these ears! The gauntlet has been thrown, let the shock and eyebrow raising begin!


      • Echorich says:

        I won’t disagree with your assessment of the import of Adventures In Modern Recording, but it still has one foot in the 70s to my ears, a foot in a prog bog in some cases. Horn moved pretty far away from that sound in a short time – as a producer and some of that has to be down to an investment in technology and a deft hand at manipulation of the latest studio that led to the sound he would curate from 82 – 85. The scale of sound he began creating with artists from 82 was nothing less than a synth pop wall of sound.


        • postpunkmonk says:

          Echorich – I always thought that FGTH had a lot of Prog shoehorned into the sound. Good gravy, the title track was a 15 minute Prog opus! “Ballad of 32?” Sheer Pink Floyd. The ZTT era was a paradoxical fusion of Prog/dance values, as a whole I think. Prog chops with an eye for the dance floor.


          • Echorich says:

            I get your impression on the prog influence, but I never recognized it as such. Horn could be seen as pulling some of the drama that prog traded in, but without all of the twisted and knotted up ‘virtuoso-ism’ that tended to spoil most prog for me – and certainly made it a bore for me.
            There’s a youthful bravado, a spark of pure energy in the new sounds that Horn was trading in – as if he too recognized the prog of the past was not the sound of the future.


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