A Young Person’s Guide To Shock’s “Angel Face”

Shock hit The Big Apple in 1981

I posted a brief “Song of the Day” post on Shock’s “Angel Face” way back at the dawn of this blog, and now that I finally got the 12″ single of the electro classic, as well as the 2010 remix of its B-side, The time is nigh to turn our lens on to this one again for re-examination!

shock angel face cover art
RCA « UK | 7″ | RCA14 | 1980

Shock: Angel Face- UK – 7″ [1980]

  1. Angel Face [3:15]
  2. R.E.R.B. [2:59]

Having the A-side produced by Glitter Band producer John Hudson, who by 1980 was working closely with Midge Ure and various New Romantics who were building a technological structure on the foundations of Glam Rock made absolutely perfect sense. After all, it was an early hit for the Glitter Band to start with. Though the lyrics sound like grooming in the #metoo era! Thank goodness we ignore the lyrics and focus on the sound.

With drummers Richard James Burgess of of Landscape and Rusty Egan of Visage contributing to this single, it certainly didn’t want for rhythmic power! Its pulsating synthesizers were fat and powerful while sibilant whorls of white noise added pneumatic percussive force to the synthetic glitterstomp. The synthetic drum fills really gave this song a kick that makes me want to work up a sweat.

There’s little melody here save for the toplines of the vocals and the catlike, portamento synth yowling in response to the beat. The rhythm is the lead here. Even the backing vocals, consisting of the ladies singing “comin’ at ‘chaaaaaaa…” function like high-hats of sibilance in the song. The middle eight dropped out the synths for the beat to strut like “Rock + Roll [part 2]” for a few bars before ramping up the intensity into the red zone with a screamed “angel faaaaaaace!!!” and a bass synth swell that would knock the walls down half a beat behind it. When it ended on a reverbed Simmons prototype that Burgess had in his bag of tricks, it was a statement. And that statement was: “play me again, immediately!”

The B-side, “R.E.R.B.,” was only different in that it was an instrumental track written/performed/produced by Burgess and Egan. Named with their initials! But it slotted right into the A-side anyway! What sounded like the same BPM tempo coming from the glittering heart of Glam Rock, but more stripped down than the A-side was. This beast was lean and hard. Relentless. The bass synths and the drum track pummeled the listeners long their swift trajectory while the brittle high notes of electric piano, inhumanly echoed with delay added crystal tension to the track that was finally broken by tattoos of Simmons Drums.

Underneath it all was a sustained choral patch that got the spotlight in the middle eight as it began to modulate; turning from synthetic voices to approaching synthetic horns. Then there was the scantest of a string patch to better stay out of the way of the beat colossus while the decadent tinkling ivories of a Fender Rhodes added the slightest of textures in the coda. It was easy to see how this one became dance floor fodder in its own right, but really… both songs traded in the kind of MoroderMotorik Europulse that gave them a mutant strain of “I Feel Love’s” famous juddering energy. Albeit with a harder, more masculine feel.

shock - angel face UK 12" label
RCA ‎| UK | 12″ | RCAT 14 | 1980

Shock: Angel Face – UK – 12″ [1980]

  1. Angel Face [12″ remix] [6:28]
  2. R.E.R.B. [ext. 12″ ver.] [5:40]

I have wanted a 12″ remix of this song ever since getting a copy in 1981. After a 39 year wait, I finally sourced an affordable copy of the “Angel Face 12″ single, which I bought last May in one of those lovely mass purchases that see 15-20 desirable discs coming at once for a song. The 12” mix opened with a drum breakdown over the big beat that took it much closer to Glam Rock territory. This could be mixed into “Rock + Roll [part 2]” quite easily. But The Glitter Band didn’t have Syndrums at their disposal. And white noise cymbal crashes were still years in the future.

After nearly a minute of skeletal buildup, the vocalists heralded the crux of the song, but the EQ and mix was much more spacious. The mix was a little more laid back in contrast to the more frantic sounding 7″ mix. Song elements were aired out more and that seemed to dissipate the pent up energy I was familiar with from the 7″ version. The middle of the song was the chorus aired out with a little more space. It almost reached the intensity I was used to but the portamento synths seemed to be further down in the mix here.

Fortunately, the percussive breakdown in the middle eight did a lot to regain my respect. The sequencers dropped out leaving only the glam stomp for a bar, before the dubbed out drum fills took this to another plane. The brutal tattoos before the sequencers returned. Then the portamento synths really got the spotlight; getting right in your [angel] face before the vocals came ripping back with the scream of the title and the door-busting synth swell that roared to life even stronger than before.
The coda dropped the vocals for an instrumental climax punctuated by reverberant Syndrums that stopped on a dime.

At first I was not entirely convinced as the buildup was at odds with the frantic, thrashing energy of the go-for-the-throat 7″ version, but by the song’s midpoint I was enjoying the percussive action and if the vocalists were sidelined a bit here in comparison, it was made up for by the creativity of the remix, which for a 1980 single, was phenomenal! This song was reconstructed from the ground up using the same elements of the original in a very different manner than we were accustomed to. In terms of its peers, this remix [arranged by Egan and Burgess] was years ahead of its time. It had the vitality that most of the rather tentative 12″ remixes of 1980 [and even up to, let’s say… 1982] clearly lacked. Amazing.

I was thrilled to see that the B-side had also been extended as well, but the 7″ was clearly an edit of the full length as on this 12″ single. The differences happened at the 3:00 mark as the fade we were used to didn’t happen. The choral patches, bass synth and delayed piano keys circled back for another go at the motif of the song, which was what this circular energy clearly needed to do for a few more minutes. But instead of a fade, the song got a proper coda where the drums dropped out to leave the choral patches skidding ahead for a few bars. Nothing radical, as was the A-side, but where “R.E.R.B.” was concerned, can there ever be too much of this monster of a track?

Blitz Club Records ‎| UK | 12″ | BZCR001 | 2010

Rusty Egan Presents Shock: R.E.R.B. – UK – 12″ [2010]

  1. R.E.R.B. [orig. ext. ver.] [5:40]
  2. R.E.R.B. [2010 ext. ver.] [7:43]

Not really! Which is why 30 years later, in 2010, there was a new remix of “R.E.R.B.” that was the first manifestation of the Blitz Club label that ultimately saw Visage returning from deep freeze. But first, it was time for a revisit of this consistently popular club electro classic. I might point out that by 2010, I became aware of the 12″ single of “Angel Face” on Discogs, but the $50 and up price point moderated my intake. In that environment, it made perfect sense that the track might get a much-needed reissue. And they threw in a Post-Modern version of the track for good measure. Would they desecrate a classic?

Not really! It still had the same stomping beat that was its essence. And into that beat went drop ins of the drum fills from “Angel Face” which we noted was at the same tempo, so this was a seamless fit that worked like crazy. I also liked the phased sequencers panning until the Syndrums dubbed out into dubspace.

The delayed piano was still there adding crystalline energy. The bass synth was EQed differently and the string patches were all there and accounted for. As were the holy choral patches. And it was two minutes longer! So what we have here is now, for my money, the ultimate mix of “R.E.R.B.”

The drop where the synth patches bottomed out and the sequencers were phased as the elements dropped back in made this even better. The new coda was a phased version of the original end of the 12″ from 1980.

As buying this 12″ was always expensive due to the UK shipping, I dawdled, and now it will set one back as much as the original did 10+ years ago. Fortunately, the track was still on iTunes as a DL so that’s what we’re rocking today. Though the 12″ is still on the want list of course.

With a mime troupe as the “band” it’s a wonder that Shock managed to release two records in their brief career, but Tik + Tok records as well as more of Tim Dry’s oeuvre beckons to me and one day, I must capitulate. When the records of a New-Ro mime troupe are this dynamic and powerful, it could be a Marcel Marceau record and I would still want this glorious electro-trash goodness in my Record Cell.


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This entry was posted in A Young Person's Guide, New Romantic, New Wave Compilations, Record Review, The Great B-Sides and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to A Young Person’s Guide To Shock’s “Angel Face”

  1. Echorich says:

    I remember the video being a sort of Hot Gossip/Sarah Brightman affair.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – I may have seen clips from the video once on that very early Nickelodeon show hosted by Fred Newman doing a piece on this new “Rock Video” craze in 1981. Shock were Hot Gossip with even better music. And a better sense of direction.


  2. Gavin says:

    “R.E.R.B” is an absolute STOMPER of the first order and a regular in my DJ sets over the years.
    I have had the honour of being on a dance floor with Steve Strange and three of the members of Shock whilst their music was played.
    I still dont have the 12″ single,but have all of their tracks on the “Rarities from the time Capsule” compilation which Tim Dry put together.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Gavin – I remember when Tim Dry compiled that CD-R/DVD-R combo and made yet another mental note for the want list that I failed to follow up on in time. I still need the “Dynamo Beat” 12” single, but I guess I’ll never have the Shock version of “Screen Me, I’m Yours.”


  3. Vlad says:

    Thank you for this!

    Can you clarify, please, if that’s not too much trouble? You once reviewed this compilation: https://postpunkmonk.com/2014/02/04/redux-terpischore/ It features “R.E.R.B.”, but the rip I have has it sped up, or sounds like it. Is it really so on an actual record?


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Vlad – I’m happy to give any information. I digitized my copy of “R.E.R.B.” from “Terpsichore.” It was a clean copy, bought [possibly sealed] ages ago. My “Angel Face” 7″ bought even earlier [early-mid 80s] was pretty badly treated. In fact, a radio station copy. I think I played it once to hear “R.E.R.B.” but the copy on the LP was infinitely better sounding. I made sure my strobe showed a steady 33.33 before digitizing. My DAW showed the edited file at 2:58. I should digitize the 7″ B-side to see if there were mastering differences between the 7″ and the “Terpsichore” LP. My reference materials for both sides of the “Angel Face” single were always the masterings on the “Blitz” and “Terpsichore” compilations. I’m guessing any correct speed version of “R.E.R.B.” should be close to 3:00. Plus or minus a few seconds for the end fade.


      • Vlad says:

        I’d really appreciate if you could compare those two versions, even if only by ear. I definitely hear the speed difference, but maybe it’s the crappy mp3 rip I have. Still, this bugs me for years. And must admit I actually like the Terpsichore version better :)


        • postpunkmonk says:

          Vlad – I just compared and contrasted the masterings on the “Angel Face” B-side as well as on “Terpsichore,” and the track is a sturdy 2:58. If your MP3 is anything else, that’s your issue right there.


          • Vlad says:

            Thank you very much for taking your time! Now I can be sure :)

            By the way, M.A.O.’s song is just perfect, it’s one of my new favourites, just what the doctor’s ordered! Wish Mick did more, but perhaps his energies were concentrated on Classix…


            • postpunkmonk says:

              Vlad – Glad to help you out. I’ve been listening to “Terpsichore” a lot recently. It’s really one of the best curated compilations from that period I’ve heard. It had a very creative international mix to it, though all of the disparate acts [apart from Die Fehlfarben] were still singing in English. I enjoy everything on there, but the unique Classix Nouveaux side projects to that album were superb. I was never moved by Classix Nouveaux too much. Maybe it was Sal Solo’s voice that I couldn’t get past.


  4. Rusty Egan says:

    It produced by RJB and RE . Recorded by John Hudson who also Recorded Mike Leander in Mayfair Studios
    Read the credits.

    Liked by 1 person

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Rusty Egan – Thanks for the note [and all of the great work]. I’ve made a slight edit to give credit where credit was due on “R.E.R.B.” as it was ambiguous earlier; crediting Hudson for the “single.” It now says “A-Side.” Also, the labels are now fully legible.


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