Stop the presses! I just got a note from Gavin alerting me to the frankly astonishing news that Altered Images, the fine Scottish band of the early 80s who snuffed their career far too early for my tastes, are back…Back…BACK! It seems like only yesterday when their divisive third album under performed in the UK charts and the group seemed to break up in a fit of pique over their last three singles from it placing lower, and lower following a solid top 10 success with the sumptuous “Don’t Talk to Me About Love.” That was 1983 when that happened and singer Clare Grogan, attempted a solo career with an unconvincing single and a album ready to go that was shelved. There was one more track released on a sampler, but it was no picnic in the sun.
After leaving Altered Images and her barely launched solo career behind, Clare Grogan spent more time acting in the occasional project. In a charming turn of events, in the early 90s, she ended up marrying her ex-bandmate Stephen Lironi, with whom she had formed the post-Images band Universal Love School to no recorded releases. I wonder if they had a clue as to their fates back a dozen years earlier? The last 20 years have seen her mothering, hosting TV shows, writing a children’s book, and playing the occasional live gig with a band of ladies these days.
This fourth album will be co-produced by Stephen Lironi of the band with…Bernard Butler [ex-Suede] who has co-written with the new band, which in addition to Grogan and Lironi, also features Bobby Bluebell [ex-Bluebells] and a third returning original member – Johnny McElhone. The latter is the musician from Altered Images who’s had the biggest footprint in music, starting with the formation of Hipsway immediately afterward, but certainly reaching the heights with his foundation of the band Texas, who have had a long, stately career with plenty of metallic records on their collective walls. Altered Images have been signed to the vibrant indie Cooking Vinyl and the new album will be out in early 2022. But only if they get the master files to the LP pressing plant…last month! Hopefully there will also be a CD.
I’m intrigued that 60% of the last band lineup are back and the appearance of McElhone was particularly surprising, given his long streak of success with Texas. He clearly didn’t “need” to do this. Their recent opus “Hi,”  was a number three UK album and they are not hurting, but perhaps the outlier to the Altered Images return was the duet that Clare Grogan sang with Sharleen Spiteri on “Look What You’ve Done.” I guess the timing was right to fold into an Altered Images project right afterward.
While I have not been exactly pining for the return of Altered Images, I certainly welcome and anticipate it in this topsy-turvy world we find ourselves in. With members of The Bluebells and Suede [??!!] joining in, there should be lots of good songwriting DNA to surprise us. It bears mentioning that the “Love Bomb” single was written by outsiders. Check this space in “early 2022” when we can hopefully share our thoughts on the as yet unnamed new album.
You could have knocked me down with a feather when Clare tweeted about this earlier today.I recovered my composure in time to email your good self then had to have a lie down.
“Bite” is by far my fave LP by Ver Images and I was left dangling,wanting more for all of these years.Having met Clare in person (adorable) I get all misty eyed whenever I see or hear her. Fingers crossed the new music is more of the mature pop that “Bite” was-I don’t need an 80s rerun,but THAT VOICE is always going to be instantly recognisable.
Color Me Excited.
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Gavin – I just emailed you thanking you for the tip! I was all set to write a post I had already covered in 2014 when your message came over the transom in the nick of time to hand deliver today’s topic… and not a second too late!
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Well, I am gobsmacked! I saw Clare Grogan in concert about a month or so before the lockdown and she was talking about a solo album coming out and performed a handful of new songs, which were actually pretty good. I went to the gig not really expecting much (e.g. performing to backing tapes and depending on the AI hits to keep the crowd happy, etc.) but was blown away by her stage presence and strong musical performance with some of her new stuff as good as or even better than the old hits. All I can guess is that this proposed solo album has morphed into an Altered Images album, which it has to be said is likely to sell more due to the band name than a solo outing. Bernard Butler’s involvement is a real surprise but given he was the brains and sound behind Duffy’s first album its probably not a bad thing. I’ll definitely buy this when it comes out.
PS: I presume you meant to type ‘McElhone’ NOT ‘Lironi’ in paragraph 4.
Richard Anvil – Well, this was obviously what happened! Thanks for your report. It’s good to hear the material was up to snuff as the director of Cooking Vinyl said much the same. E.g. “The new songs sound as good as the hits from the ‘80s and what’s more they sound fresh and contemporary,” quoth Rob Collins. But we’d expect the label head to say such things. Your words carry more weight. And thanks for pointing out the error [since corrected].
Fanboy shrieking here in Boston! Please please please let the material be worthy of the AI name (I too think Bite is their best, altho all the albums charmed me to no end). Maybe the band will even tour, altho the US surely won’t be on the itinerary even if they do. I actually have a ticket to a Human League show (Dare 40th anniversary) in December, with Tom Bailey and Altered Images warming up, but completely unsure if i should attempt the journey ‘cross the ocean.
Taffy – I would not be traveling internationally for some time, personally! Maybe another two years?
I loved Altered Images back then, and still do, although I only really like the 12″ singles from Bite. I saw them live on December 20th 1981. Because it was a Sunday Scottish laws on alcohol in those days meant the venue, a night club, was alcohol-free, and it was an early evening start, which meant there were lots of children running around having a great time. It was probably the most magical rock gig I’ve been to, a bit like a really good family wedding reception with the best band imaginable. It also gave me a (probably) rare triple in that I own Happy Birthday, the rewrite of it as Happy New Year which was on a flexi disc given away with Flexipop magazine (available now on the Pinky Blue … Plus CD) and, live on that somewhere-around-Christmas night, Happy Christmas. A very fond memory from a very cold winter.
David Simpson – “It was probably the most magical rock gig I’ve been to, a bit like a really good family wedding reception with the best band imaginable.” That is poetry, sir. I would much rather attend gigs with children than adults who were drinking. So they performed it as “Happy Christmas” live? What a great band! I also have the flexi which I bought when it came out.
The (mostly) female Altered Images, on a 2019 BBC Scotland programme, went all Christmas on Happy Birthday again, although only at the end. The sheer joi de vivre of the whole band is just wonderful https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07yd6hn
David Simpson Thanks for sharing that. I am amazed that I can see this in America! Usually BBC iplayer material is blocked. I know a little girl who we always play this song and dance with on her birthday who needs to see this.
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