Sad news last Friday night as chasinvictoria contacted me with the news that the great Rupert Hine had died at 72. No cause of death has been mentioned yet. I’d first heard Hine when I managed to see the video for the immense “Surface Tension” on the primordial days of MTV…when they would still play music that great if it had a video to fill out the hours!
Almost concurrent with this time was seeing Hine’s name pop up in a producer’s capacity on other artists albums. I first noticed him on the debut album by The Fixx, who I found attractive enough at the time to invest in a copy of their “Shuttered Room” album. It was decent New Wave, but nowhere near as exciting as “Surface Tension” had been. As the 80s progressed, I saw Hine’s name on many more albums, including some top sellers. But the artists were not really in my wheelhouse. Acts like Howard Jones, Tina Turner, lots more of The Fixx, as well as singers like Chris DeBurgh. While I was glad to see an artist I liked have any level of success at all, much less the multi-platinum certification he attained with the likes of Tina Turner on her “Private Dancer” album, I preferred his own albums to what he produced during his “day job.”
For a couple of years in the early-mid 80s, concurrent with his second and third A+M solo albums, Hine was gigging as a musician on albums that he did not produce and I can only guess he was spending time at Compass Point Studios, since he added his keyboard prowess on albums such as the [perfect] second Tom Tom Club album, “Close To The Bone” and Robert Palmer’s excellent “Pride” album. Still caught up in Palmer’s slipstream, he also played keys on the hit album by The Power Station. I have to say that I much prefer these albums to most of his production jobs as the artists were much more my cup of tea.
I bought his “Wildest Wish To Fly” LP in the radical US edition of it, but didn’t go much further. His music certainly didn’t overflow in the bins where I lived. Once CDs became a thing, I was buying a lot from catalogs of imports from all over and wasted no time in obtaining, finally, the tremendous “Immunity” album. By that time, I had also been exposed to the fantastic Thinkman album via the video for “Best Adventures” which was like the “Max Headroom” film on steroids. With the best possible soundtrack.
It was where Mr. Hine had assembled a “band” to populate the sleeves and videos as actors for hire to perhaps make the socially questioning yet highly technological music a little more “marketable” than were it solely represented by the older and craggier artiste himself, who was actually the “band.” Good lord, we simply cannot have a 40 year old man making “rock music.” It’s not done. I just wanted music that futuristic and driven. When I found out years later that Thinkman was a sly marketing concept instead of an actual band, I thought it a creative approach to what was a marketing issue.
It took a year or two for the Thinkman album to finally get a CD issue but I was on it like white on rice. It’s still an all time best album that we recently looked at in detail. Two more Thinkman albums followed in 1988 and 1990. Around that time I saw that Rush had enlisted Hine to produce their 1989 album “Presto.” Given that Hine was something of a poster child for hi-tech rock music [he was part of the committee that defined the MIDI standard in the early 80s], it was surprising at the time that “Presto” evidenced something of a retreat from the sound that Rush had been steeped in during the 80s until that time.
By the time of “Presto” and 1991’s “Roll The Bones” [which I didn’t hear until this century] that band had begun their retreat from the Police-meets-Ultravox sound that had been their métier throughout the 80s. In that respect, I wonder what the result might have been if the band had gotten to Hine several years earlier. My mind melts down imagining him giving them some of the spicy sauce he was using around the time of the first Thinkman album! But giving his charges his indelible stamp was absolutely not how he rolled. A producer can be anything on the spectrum from a drill sergeant to a therapist, and Hine was inclined toward the latter role.
Also around that time was another of my favorite Hine production jobs; the first Underworld album. I felt that this was one of his more congruent productions to his own though it remained until the late 90s until I finally got the first Underworld album. At the time of issue, a friend gave me a promo CD5 of “Underneath The Radar” and that was it for a decade for me. I had been such a huge fan of the band’s past as Freur, that I held back for years to investigate their more straightforward rock of Underworld [Mk I]. This was a few years before the band radically rebranded as a dance act [or Underworld Mk II].
Viewed today through the rear-view mirror, the album and its singles managed to successfully point to their former glories as Freur while being an album of high-tech rock music that was actually recorded live in the studio! The B-Side, “Shokk The Doctor” was as good as anything from the “Doot Doot” period! And Karl Smith and Rick Hyde returned the favor to Hine by portraying Thinkman members in media appearances for the later albums under that name.
And a few years back, my friend Ron sent me a copy of the Jona Lewie album that Hine had produced. I still need to spin this one but was holding out for the available, but tricky to find DLX RM CDs of that title. Songs I have on 7″ and Lewie compilations reveal an interesting linkup between the technique of Hine and the eclecticism of Lewie, who was never afraid of synths and drum machines for as big a fan of Professor Longhair as he was.
One of Hine’s mid-80s production jobs, his production of the “Better Off Dead” OST, came to my Record Cell years later by way of a cover of the song “Arrested By You” from the Dusty Springfield album “Reputation.” The song had been sung by Hine on the album, along with a mishmash of tracks by Cy Curnin and E.G. Daily – the queen of the mid-80s OST song. What a coup it must have been to have Dusty Springfield sing a song that you had written! I also note today that a rare Thinkman cut is there as well, but the CD is out of my price range! Maybe an LP to get that song but maybe not! Even the LPs of this one are too rich for my blood! So I may have to give up on that complete Thinkman collection [for now].
The last solo album that Hine released was in 1994, probably down to his production career taking all of his time. I only recently found out about “The Deep End” and not surprisingly, it was a German-only release that I’ve not come across in my travelings. Like the later two Thinkman albums, which came down to mail-order sales for me. This one is hard to source, like the other two A+M solo CDs that I also still need, “The Wildest Wish To Fly” and “Waving, Not Drowning.” Actually, all of the Thinkman CDs took work to obtain, now that I think of it. I imagine at no point did the music of Rupert Hine waltz easily into my Record Cell with a minimum of effort. Great things rarely do. Condolences to the artist’s friends and family in this difficult time. Below are the Hine-related recordings in my Record Cell. Surely anyone reading this had been touched by Hine in one way or another, so please discuss.
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