Book Review: David Richards – ABC The Annotated Discography

Ninthwave Publishing | USA | 2015 | 157pp.

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.

Vice Versa ca. 1980: L-R: Martin Fry, Mark White, Stephen Singleton

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.

Neutron Records | UK | 7″ | 1981 | NT 101

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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About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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13 Responses to Book Review: David Richards – ABC The Annotated Discography

  1. tim says:

    Thanks, very much. I was unaware of the existence of this.
    Just bought the kindle version prior to leaving the comment.

    Like

  2. Tim says:

    I had, years ago, a book that was sheet music for both Lexicon of Love and Beauty Stab. Interesting pairing, I know.

    Like

  3. Rob C says:

    Does PPM like Level 42? They put out something like this a few years ago.

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Rob C – Oh yeah. There’s plenty of L42 in the Record Cell. With the US/UK versions of singles often different, a book like this one would be very helpful in negotiating a successful collection.

      Like

  4. negative1ne says:

    I’m sorry. But i made the mistake of buying this book. Fortunately it was very cheap.

    It’s not very well written, and is missing many key items, and releases.
    I’ve compiled a much more thorough listing, and much more updated
    version on my own.

    This is a basic start, but not very well written. Can’t recommend it all.

    later
    -1

    Like

    • dhrichards says:

      Hi
      Would you be willing to share the list? As a fan, I am always keen to see what I have missing.

      Like

      • Tim says:

        I thought that it did fine for confining itself to a set of criteria. A lot of the mixes have been used again and again and again on various comps and there’s no need to go into the minutia of all that, then there’s the mix services stuff which Neg1 has already commented that he isn’t much of a fan of (I agree with him on a lot of that).

        The part that will make anyone nuts is the fanmade stuff shared on the internet. I know there’s a Pet Shop Boys site that tries to catalog this sort of thing, some of it is good, some excellent and a lot of it awful. Dreamtime made some fantastic ABC mixes but has taken most of his work offline.

        By the way, if I am understanding correctly you were with Lexicon magazine. I really enjoyed it while it was printing, I even scanned my favorite issue into a pdf…had ABC with Skyscraping, a helpful Thomas Dolby discography and an interview with Julia Fordham.

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        • dhrichards says:

          Thanks Tim- I am cool with Neg 1- he’s been around for years. Actually most of the ABC “community” have been fine with the book- not taking it as exactly a heartbreaking work of staggering genius but more of a fan writing about his fave band, lol.
          Agree about the mixes services- some are ok, Razormaid did some decent ones, but most are awful.
          I did work with Lexicon (if you think the book has typos…) thanks- it was fun until it wasn’t.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      negative1ne – I don’t consider myself a hardcore ABC collector. More of a “functional” collector. I try for one copy of any tracks or mixes with no expenditure to buy singles for “the collection” that bring nothing new to the table musically. No matter how cool the sleeve may be. But with any discography there will always be new things popping up over time. I thought this was a good base for my absolutely incomplete ABC collection. As a fan it was interesting to see David’s take on their stylistic changes over the years.

      Like

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