Post-Punk MVP – Matthew Seligman: 1955-2020

Matthew Selligman Seligman was exceptionally active in the UK Post-Punk scene when it mattered most before becoming a lawyer in recent years

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
  • Morrissey*

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

bruce woolley + the camera club english garden coverSo 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.

the soft boys underwater moonlight coverBut 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.

local heroes S.W. 9 drip dry zone cover1980 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!

the fallout club wonderlust cover1981 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.”

thompson twins in the name of love cover1982 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.

the waterboys - this is the sea coverThat 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.

the dolphin brothers catch the fall coverJAPAN 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.

peter murphy love hysteria coverThe 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.

illuminati - thunder among thr e lillies coverThe 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.

jan linton matthew seligman - sendai coverBy 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.


– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

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28 Responses to Post-Punk MVP – Matthew Seligman: 1955-2020

  1. SimonH says:

    Very sad news.
    I suspect you will very much appreciate the Fallout Club stuff! For some reason at the time I had them mixed up with Peter Godwin and only actually bought anything a couple of years back when I ordered a CD-R from Robin Simon’s brother’s website.

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      SimonH – Yeah, the Ajanta Music website has disappeared in recent years, but I see all of their issues are available in iTunes. [memo to self…] I also need to complete my Robin Simon collection with the Ajanta Music albums.

      Like

  2. djjedredy says:

    As usual concise and very interesting. Thank you ! Did he not feature in Dolby’s “Live Wireless”, I seem to recall him with Kevin Armstrong.

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      djjedredy – Yes, you are absolutely correct. The “Live Wireless” concert had the Seligman/Armstrong dynamic duo for sure. Time to give the DVD in the DLX RM of “Golden Age Of Wireless” a spin, methinks.

      Like

      • Tim says:

        I think that Samson & Delilah is one of the standout tracks from Live Wireless.
        Sadly it’s cut up with the persistent back and forth from the stage to the projection room.

        I found the Fallout Club reissues on Amazon over the weekend, there’s an album and two singles with some duplication of tracks across the three. Does anyone here have them and is able to comment on them? I already have the original material from vinyl, some of the mix singles, specifically Pedestrian Walkway, have my interest,

        Like

        • Tim says:

          Re your lineup, you don’t have Absolute Beginners in your cell?
          It’s a nice soundtrack, especially if you snag the UK version which has many more tracks (like Bowie’s cover of Volare). You get the best Style Council track ever, non album Sade, non album Davies, some Bowie….the title track is one of my favorite songs by him.
          Fun soundtrack, too bad about the movie.

          Like

        • postpunkmonk says:

          Tim – Ah yes, the early 80s scourge of “conceptual” live concert videos. Ultravox cut to their videos when I wanted to see them sweating bullets trading off sections of the song before MIDI. Eurythmics had stop motion puppets no one asked for.

          Like

  3. slur says:

    Sad we’re reaching the age where faster than we hoped well known and not so well known but present musicians from our ‘good old times’ leave earth one after another.
    That said, I have a few of the records of your cell actually (but not because of his participation);
    Dolby’s ‘Flat Earth’, Whodini, Transvision Vamp’s Debut, The Dolphin Brothers, Peter Murphy’s ‘Love Hysteria’ and the Labyrinth Soundtrack. None of these with the sole exception of Peter Murphy really made an impact on me and some are really let-downs like The Flat Earth where ‘Hyper Active’ is like an Alien guest or The Dolphin Brothers (not the calibre of their earlier collaboration ‘Worlds In A Small Room’ sadly)…. for me the only real LP showing the direction Japan could have taken is David Sylvian’s ‘Secrets Of The Beehive’ but to each his own opinion.
    Time for another try of the Labyrinth now…

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      slur – Can’t approach “Labyrinth.” Having been scarred by exposure to the film (in a theater on 1st release as chasinvictoria [Bowie and Python fanatic] cajoled me into joining him and his girl friend into seeing where I only went to be with friends. For good reason. A low water mark for all concerned. I never heard “Worlds In A Small Room” but bought “Stories Across Borders” on release and it made zero impact at all on me. For decades “Hyper Active” and “I Scare Myself” cover colored my dislike of “The Flat Earth.” I’m prepared to give it a little slack today that I was not in 1984. Even Dolby agrees that it was a rush job thanks to his burgeoning American fame.

      Like

      • Tim says:

        I’d say boot Dissidents and keep I Scare Myself for a more consistent album but that’s just me. There’s a nice version of ISM out there that is the original artist (Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks) with special guest Rickie Lee Jones that is also earworthy.

        Like

        • postpunkmonk says:

          Tim – Oh no. I want a whole album of “Dissidents.” The one track that came later and was in the same vein but even better was the “Long London Mix” of “Field Work.” My fave rave Dolby track of all time, and one of my fave Sakamoto cuts as well. Only a slight step down from the best-of-breed stunners of “Neo Geo.”

          Like

          • TIm says:

            You would like my home made mix of Dissidents then. I think it clocks in around ten minutes.
            One of my non-musical interests is the Cold War and there is this great box set of music related to the Cold War but the content ends before the 1980’s. I often think of making my own extension disks to it and Dissidents is one of the songs that I think of including. I don’t radically dislike the song, I just don’t think that it fits with the others. Remove the bookending tracks and there’s an improvement.
            I agree that Field Work is a great track. I heard about it but couldn’t find it for ages and when I did it was on the Dolby VHS video collection. A year or two later I finally found an importer that could connect me with the cd single. Neo Geo is a fine Sakamoto album. I am fond of Heartbeat, too, although there are parts of that one that haven’t aged well. Sweet Revenge is really good, too. I have the standard US release of that one and then I have one from Japan that is in a 12” case with a booklet and some of the tracks that have someone performing them in English on the US release are sung in Japanese if my memory is right.

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            • postpunkmonk says:

              Tim – I have the “Field Work” UK 7″ and a Japanese compilation of “Field Work/Steppin’ Into Asia/The Exhibition” [the latter with Robin Scott] on CD that’s quite delightful. I have a large, but vastly incomplete Sakamoto collection that needs more attention.

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              • Tim says:

                There’s a whole album with Robin Scott, it’s quite good. One of the first Sakamoto releases that I bought when I found myself in a market with a steady source of imports.
                The Arrangement + Singles if you don’t have it and are inclined to check it out on discogs.

                Like

    • Fred van de Peppel says:

      Worlds In A Small Room, absolute stunner but instrumental apart from the Japanese-CD-only Move in Circles https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wll5Lh5bSn4 where you will find that it’s a shame that Japan didn’t continue with Steve taking care of the vocals :-) A great addition to any Dolphin Brothers collection (let’s not forget the Face To Face 7”, another Japanese-CD-only track)

      Like

      • postpunkmonk says:

        Fred van de Peppel – Don’t you think it’s due time for a definitive Dolphin Brothers DLX RM with all of the loose tracks like “Face To face” on it with the single mixes?

        Like

  4. jsd says:

    First of all, I can’t believe you’ve never heard Underwater Moonlight. You need to get on that, stat!

    I was of course gutted by the news of Matthew’s passing. Thomas has put together a photo montage set to a new track by Bruce Woolley: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FAoXKC_w8p0

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      jsd – The first time I heard Robyn Hitchcock was when I saw the videos for “The Man With The Lightbulb Head” and “Raymond Chandler Evening” on (was it) “IRS Records The Cutting Edge.” If memory serves. That would put it at 83-85. Sad, I know.

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  5. I sent this along to the Monk privately, but I appreciated the words of Bruce Woolley in remembering Seligman: “On Friday night, Matthew Seligman left us – too soon. He and I became great friends in 1979 when Archer David Birch and I, on a tip from producer, label boss and DJ, Charlie Gillet, ‘poached’ him from the Bobby Henry Band to join The Camera Club – soon to be joined by Thomas Dolby. Fast forward to 1996; after Matthew had helped to form The Radio Science Orchestra, we finally recorded our song “The Brightest Star” (the writing of which is another story).”

    Like

  6. Echorich says:

    We all seem to inhabit a space that takes heed of album credits, to a point of getting to know the artists behind or supporting the artist, the men and women helping to realize another artist’s vision. Matthew Seligman has been a name I have noted on so many albums and songs for the last 40 years. One of my favorite tracks he is featured on is Runaway from Thompson Twins Set. That anchoring, yet somewhat subtle bass is just marvelous. The other that always comes to mind is The Shining by The Dolphin Brothers. You are correct Monk in stating that Seligman’s bass work on this album is of a calibre to not miss the possibility of Mick Karn in that role. It is rubbery, slippery and bends at will.

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Wow! You just nailed my two favorite Seligman performances. On “Runaway,” he managed to tell quite a story with that bass. I’d love an instrumental version as his playing made Bailey’s lyrics redundant.

      Like

  7. Zach says:

    As if the deaths of Cristina Monet, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, Gabi-Delgado Lopez, and Andy Gill (to name but 4 musical figures I admire who have departed this mortal coil in 2020) haven’t disappointed me enough this year, now we’ve lost a tremenous musician in Matthew Seligman. His CV is one of the most impressive from the punk/new wave/post-punk era, and goes to show how valued and respected Matthew was among his peers.

    I have the Blinded By Science mini-LP and The Flat Earth on CD in my collection, plus The Golden Age of Wireless and Underwater Moonlight on mp3s from library loans (I have the 2009 CD/DVD RM of TGAOW in my Discogs wantlist, which I will purchase eventually). Bruce Wooley and the Camera Club have been on my radar for over 3 years, though I’ve to hear any of their work, save their original recording of Video Killed The Radio Star.

    I love Thomas Dolby’s work, and Matthew Seligman’s contributions are one of the main draws for me (and many others, I imagine). One of the joys of Seligman’s bass playing with Dolby is his ability to be both languid (The title track off The Flat Earth, I Scare Myself, Screen Kiss) and funky (Hyperactive!, Dissidents). I can hear a slight Mick Karn influence in Seligman’s playing on mellower tracks like I Scare Myself, though Seligman was far from imitative as a bassist. For me, Seligman knew how to compliment his fellow musicians without either falling into the background (as is far too often the case in rock/pop music) or overly dominating the sound. Dolby really allowed Seligman to flourish on their many collaborations; it’s no surprise that the two were friends for over 30 years. There’s a true sonic depth to many of Seligman’s basslines/notes on The Flath Earth. Hyperactive! really lets Seligman run wild with his heavy funk impulses. Seligman only shows up on 2 tracks for the BBS mini-LP, She Blinded Me With Science and One Of Our Submarines, but he proves that a bass synth can sound as thick and whole as any “real” bass.

    I’ve never been a great admirer of Robyn Hitchcock due to his shallow Syd-isms and pretensions to literary merit (most songwriters’ work doesn’t stand up as literature, even some of those who I admire; the problem is that lyrics are intended to be accompanied by music, and seldom work outside of that context because of the lack of collaboration with the music). The Soft Boys made some good work, but they hardly deserve the cult status they earned Stateside with R.E.M. and their ilk. The Soft Boys suffered from a problem common to most guitar-driven bands in that their rhythm sections are often subordinate to the guitarist(s). On Underwater Moonlight, Seligman is mainly relegated to a supporting role, only showing rare flourishes of his talent (mainly on Insanely Jealous and Old Pervert, and even on those songs, he only shows spurts, not fully-fleshed-out exercises of his work). I’d be curious to read your thoughts on the Soft Boys when/if you make it around to hearing them, though I wouldn’t rush to seek out their work. If you’re looking for an act who actually transfers Syd Barrett influences (and other English psychedelia) to then-contemporary sonics, you’re better off tracking down Renaldo & the Loaf. They’re exactly what Robyn Hitchcock could’ve been if he had the imagination to make sonically experimental music, rather than write peculiar lyrics with mostly standard musical accompaniment.

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Zach – Renaldo + The Loaf were some deeply strange stuff! I can’t forget the video for “Songs For Swinging Larvae!!” I would try “psychotic” before “psychedelic” with that band. Bruce Woolley was a long time coming for me to hear, as well, but once chasinvictoria sent me the DLX RM CD I was duly impressed. He was the other half of the coin that had The Buggles on the other side. And Matthew Seligman, like Mick Karn, was also a Cypriot. What did they have in the water to turn out such great bass players?

      Like

  8. Jan Linton says:

    Am terribly depressed and sorrowful about this as you can imagine, my only tiny comfort is he did an edit called “Matthew’s edit” on my “I Actually Come Back” album which I will always treasure and we got to compose the “Sendai” EP for a good cause.
    There will be an extended re release of “Sendai” featuring a track celebrating Matthew’s birth in Cyprus shortly.

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Jan Linton – So sorry to hear of the loss of your friend. He was merely a great bass player to us but obviously more than that to you. At least you had numerous projects to work creatively with him; particularly when his focus was largely on his legal practice, so it wasn’t just session work. We look forward to hopefully hearing the revised “Sendai” project once it happens.

      Like

  9. negative1ne says:

    Hi Mr. Monk,
    Yes, it is very sad news to hear, as I’ve enjoyed many of the
    tracks he’s done with and for Thomas Dolby along with a few other
    projects.

    I recommend these podcast interviews:
    https://thehustle.podbean.com/e/deep-dive-matthew-seligman-on-thomas-dolby-the-flat-earth-1984/

    https://thehustle.podbean.com/e/episode-127-matthew-seligman-of-the-soft-boysthompson-twins/

    later
    -1

    Like

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