David Richards: ABC – The Annotated Discography
In a world without the gatekeepers we grew up with, we have few limitations. Anyone, with the determination [and modest funding], can carve out a niche in which to build their own personal, media empire. One can pursue their interests and possibly gain n audience along the way; whether it’s with a blog like this one, or in the now common area of self-publishing. David Richards started up the Ninthwave Records label of neo-synthpop bands as an outgrowth of Lexicon Magazine around the turn of the century. Anyone who names their New Wave centric magazine after the ABC debut album, must be quite an ABC fan. And we know that fans have collections. And after curating such a collection, what else is there but to create elaborate discographies, examining the depth and breadth of such collections? So that brings us to this book, written by David Richards and published in 2015.
One of the good points about the timing of this discography was that it came just after the surprise 2014 issue of the never anticipated Vice Versa “Electrogenesis” boxed set of god that compiled four LPs worth of more Vice Versa material than anyone ever dared to imagine. The book began, logically with the Vice Versa story that led into the radically different mutation that became ABC within two years. Of most interest here was the listing for a 2010 Vice Versa bootleg compilation album called “1979-1980” from Dance Beat Records. This was one that had slipped through the cracks and compiled everything that we thought we knew was out there, including the cassette not in my Record Cell.
Then the book moved on tot he ABC releases from 1981 to 2015. The coverage of the discography is mostly focused on the UK and US singles, with excursions into other territories when needed. Of course, Richards covers promo items which hare the bane/delight of every hard-core collector of a band. In the remix era that ABC flourished in, these promos often could include exclusive mixes that only one territory would receive.
Meanwhile, in the margins, Richards recounted the band’s history concurrent with each release. There are sometimes quotes from players like Stephen Singleton or press quotes from Martin Fry in the margins as release after release, format after format, are duly recounted. Beyond the rather dry [but necessary] areas of discographical research, it’s the annotation that makes this a fun [but quick] read. As you may be aware, hearing a real fan analyzing the output of a favorite band can be an interesting thing.
The most significant compilations that the band had of their music are also covered along with the contemporary releases, that over time, became fewer and fewer. As a collector, I like knowing when a compilation CD had an otherwise not available on CD track as a potential bait for purchase. I have several ABC collections that were must-buys and they are all here. There is a complete appendix in the end of the book that lists them all, even when their contents did not merit inclusion as a discrete entry. So this is a “working” but not canonical discography. Sort of like my own entries in this format since goodness knows, there are no groups that I can claim to have utterly complete collections of.
As the ABC story wound down and went into second gear after the fissure of Fry and White following the “Abracadabra” album, the last pages of the book begin to cover albums that don’t really have anything but promo CD-Rs. Lean times for collectors in the new millennium! Richards goes on to cover sheet music, videos, DJ service remixes [always a tricky area] as well as productions made by Fry and White for other artists. I think that Lizzie Tear might have cropped up in the comments here at some time. The David Singleton Bleep + Booster projects covered in depth were completely new to my eyes. You learn something new every day!
The one bad point of this book’s timing, was that it appeared in the very end of the murky period between 2008’s “Traffic” and the guns-blazing return of Fry with 2016’s “Lexicon of Love II.” I’m betting that Richards may have been gnashing his teeth at his timing to publish; I know I would have! But since nation-states have been known to rise and fall between ABC albums, one can’t flagellate oneself too terribly. At the end of the day, this book is a fun thing for any ABC fan serious to be still reading this review for to have. The book is currently available to Kindle Unlimited readers as a free perk, or if you’re curmudgeonly like myself, a good old fashioned print-on-demand paperback might have your name on it. I must say I was impressed by the rubberized paper on the cover that had a great feel to it. Until the ABC coffee table book gets green-lighted, this will be a good start.
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