Damn it, COVID-19 has claimed another musician who was all over my Record Cell, and as my friend JT suggested, was fully worthy of a New Wave MVP status. Not only for what I already have, but for things that I still need! Of course, it was known last Friday that bass player Matthew Seligman had died but my blogging time is scant while working from home, and today is the first time I’ve been able to hammer out a few words for this maven of the bass guitar who laid productive tracks down all over the Post-Punk map. I first heard of him in 1982 when the pre-fame Thompson Twins first caught my ear in their [preferable] seven-person lineup. But the bands that Seligman had played with were legion. Many [but not all*] are solidly in my Record Cell. To wit:
- The Soft Boys/Robyn Hitchcock
- Bruce Woolley + The Camera Club
- Thompson Twins
- Thomas Dolby
- Gardening By Moonlight
- The Dolphin Brothers
- Sam Brown
- Peter Murphy
- Transvision Vamp
And several other Thomas Dolby-oriented combos around from after the Bruce Woolley era up to Dolby’s established solo career, such as:
- The Fallout Club
- Local Heroes S.W. 9
- Low Noise
So he first met our ears as one of the “Camera Club” featured on Bruce Woolley’s excellent 1979 album. There was where the sub-unit of Seligman and keyboardist Thomas Dolby first bonded for a lifelong partnership; with Seligman playing and even co-writing on most of Dolby’s albums over the years. Dolby became involved with Thompson Twins for their “Set” album and probably paved the way for Seligman to join the Twins for that album and tour.
But not before getting recruited in 1980 into The Soft Boys in time for their sophomore album. Mr. Seligman went on to have a further career with Robyn Hitchcock during his solo career as well. I have to admit that I’m somewhat remiss in never having heard The Soft Boys in spite of their influential role in bringing the influence of Syd Barrett to it’s modern audience during the time of Post-Punk.
1980 was a very busy year for Matthew as he also formed Local heroes S.W. 9 with frequent cohort Kevin Armstrong; with whom he had a long partnership throughout many permutations, bands, and sessions together. I have to admit that I just found out about Local Heroes S.W. 9 and I’m very interested in hearing their two albums or should I say one and a half albums as their 1981 opus was a split album with one side being Local Heroes S.W. 9 [this time with Thomas Dolby guesting] and the other side being a full-on Kevin Armstrong solo album!
1981 also saw the formation of a band whose recordings are sadly absent from the Record Cell, but The Fallout Club had an immense New Wave pedigree with Seligman and Dolby [again] linking up with Robin Simon’s brother Paul and vocalist Trevor Herion. I’ve only ever heard Thomas Dolby’s solo version of “Pedestrian Walkway” [the B-side of “Dream Soldiers] as a bonus track on the 2009 DLX RM of “The Golden Age Of Wireless.” A Dolby album where Matthew Seligman did not appear, with the exception of all of the versions with “She Blinded Me With Science” and “One Of Our Submarines Are Missing.”
1982 brought us to my entry point in this saga. The excellent second album by Thompson Twins, “Set” or as it was known in America, “In The Name Of Love.” It was a crying shame that such a vibrant band were cut loose just when they were firing on all cylinders, but the synthpop trio formation of Thompson Twins certainly hit commercial pay dirt, even if their records were less interesting at first. Becoming far less interesting in almost immediately.
Fortunately, Dolby was there to give him a foothold on the top selling “She Blinded Me With Science” single of 1983 that made Dolby’s fame with also successful EP of the same name for the American market. He also found the time to contribute bass to the astonishing Gardening By Moonlight album “Method In The Madness.” This was one of the finest, if unsung, Post-Punk albums of the era. One all the more amazing for having been made in 1983, the terminus year of Post-Punk.
Seligman stuck with Dolby for his 1984 album, “The Flat Earth” and was also a member of the famous Bowie backing band for Live Aid in 1985 where the Thin White one rounded up Dolby as musical director; giving Seligman, and Kevin Armstrong a historic chance to play the now iconic version of “Heroes” that took the song from obscurity [in America, at least] to finally become the worldwide Bowie smash that it clearly was from the beginning.
That same year, Seligman played on the Waterboys third album “This Is The Sea” that contains the Dylanesque classic “The Whole Of the Moon.” Surely, the one Waterboys song that even I have heads [and enjoyed]. The next year Bowie kept Seligman close at hand as he played on the OST of “Labyrinth,” which is the one Bowie album I still have not heard. In keeping with the soundtrack theme, he was also bass on the “Absolute Beginners” single from the movie of the same name.
JAPAN fans got a taste of half of that band without Mick Karn on bass for the superb Dolphin Brothers album by Jansen + Barbieri. This album rocked my world of 1987 with music that felt like what might have come after the “Tin Drum” album had JAPAN not broken up afterward. Seligman was adept enough in the bass role not have made me not even miss Karn; which says something for the caliber of material and playing on this album.
The next year had the last flowering of non house or indiepop UK music that was still related to New Wave and thus interesting to me hitting the charts. This included Peter Murphy’s clearly excellent second album “Love Hysteria,” as well as the crass glam-pop of Transvision Vamp’s divisive [but I love it whole cloth] debut album “Pop Art.” Going forward Seligman found a lot of session work instead of band roles, with Morrissey, Sam Brown, and Tori Amos all calling on his bass prowess.
The one band situation that did happen in 1990 was something that never surfaced until many years later, and unfortunately I missed as in 2002 I was not above water to notice that Shriekback online finally issued an album of recordings on CD-R of Illumanti. “Thunder Among The Lillies” featured the Post-Punk übergroup formed by a [briefly] post-Shriebkack Barry Andrews along with Jon Klein from The Banshees and Specimen, Kevin Wilkinson [ex-League Of Gentlemen, China Crisis], and one Adrienne Loehry on lead vocals – whom I’d never heard of before. One hopes that Shriekback will remember to reissue this music digitally since damn near everything else they’ve ever released seems to be in their digital webstore.
By the mid 90s, Seligman’s credits stopped as he retrained for a law degree for a second career specializing in human rights legal actions so he’s more than just a musical hero! It seemed like so many of the Post-Punk MVPs got a second wind by moving 180 degrees away from music for something else. If John McGeoch could become a nurse, anything is possible, I guess. But a few musical excursions still happened in the new century. When Thomas Dolby re-emerged in 2011 with the excellent “Map Of A Floating City,” of course Seligman was playing on that. The next year saw Seligman living in Japan and linking up with artrock guitarist Jan Linton on the ambient “Sendai” EP which was named for the city there where he lived at the time and I still need to hear this music.
Thomas Dolby in the last few days had set up a fundraiser for Seligman’s family but as of today, it had been closed by Dolby, who had topped it off at £25,000 after it reached the £20K goal within as little as two days. I see that backing vocalist supreme Tessa Niles was among the final donors under the wire. I am shocked, but pleased that this outpouring of care for Seligman’s wife and two children had been this successful, so soon. I was hoping to pitch in a token as today was payday [and I still have a job] but I just went there to end this posting only to find that the window had been closed.
Below are the Matthew Seligman releases in my Record Cell. Which ones are in your own homes? Discuss below and condolences to Matthew’s partner Mami and children Lily and Deji. I’ll give Thomas Dolby the last word with his online wake for Matthew held among friends and colleagues last Sunday from all over the world.
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