Rock G.P.A.: Altered Images [part 3]

Altered Images ca. 1982 L-R: Johnny McElhone, Tony McDaid, Clare Grogan, Tich Anderson, Jim McKinven

[…continued from last post]

Side two seemed to get off to a promising start with “Funny Funny Me.” Where else could one heard a song that featured both a rhumba beat and calliope? Clare Grogan swooped and swerved gamely with the song, but the songwriters [and producer] made a fatal error in confusing the song’s hook with its chorus. The first few bars where Ms. Grogan offered the vocal counterpoint to the song’s rhythm with “do-do-I-do-right…do-do-I-do-wrong” was the stuff of Pop dreams, but the incessant repetition of what should have been a sparing seasoning into a reasonably strong song became its Achilles heel. The last 1:27 of the 3:24 song being its repeated chorus made it seem closer to one of those dreaded 4:20 songs. If not moreso.

No such reservations could be made over “Think That It Might.” This was the song that I will always take from “Pinky Blue” as its acme. It’s blend of ebullient emotion and the perfect mixture of the band and singer make a strong argument that it should have been the triumphant third single from the album instead of its [albeit remixed] B-side. Hearing Clare’s giddy venture into the land of Marc Bolan’s bleating delivery on the front chorus by rights should have been off putting, but instead, it primed the listener for her soaring takeoff at chorus’ end. And the song left delightful nooks and crannies for the twin guitarists to shine even in the brief running time of 2:52. What I wouldn’t give for a six minute Martin Rushent Dub mix of this one.

Altered Images - i could be happy cover artThe album’s big hit was the number 7 UK placing of the iconic “I Could Be Happy,” but as far as I can see, all copies of the “Pinky Blue” album contain the 12″ version of the song. There’s a big part of me that thinks that including the 12″ remix on the album and relegating the hit version to the single is a bit unfair. It’s odd that the 3:32 hit version of the song while being perhaps foremost in people’s minds regarding the song revealed the lyrical hook right up front in the first chorus. While in comparison the 12″ version treated the listener to plenty of the Dub technique that Martin Rushent was obsessed with around that time.

Building up layers of sound while exploding and reconstructing the track to allow for maximum space and sonic impact. Only the first verse was injected at the midpoint of the mix while a massed chorus of Clares sang the refrain in unison. While the 12″ mix is not canonical from a Pop song standpoint, one thing that it very successfully achieved was the decision to delay the repeat of the first verse and chorus until the song’s climax. Building up sonic joy with effect after effect and then dropping the lyric’s payload as the ultimate in ironic stingers as the song’s last word. And in that it encapsulated my impression of the band for all time.

…All of these things I’d do,
All of these things I’d do,
To get away from you
Get away, run away far away
How do I…
Get away, run away far away
How do I…
Escape from you

“I Could Be Happy”

“Jump Jump” was the closest thing that “Pinky Blue” had to a throwback to the band’s earlier sound. It sounded like the missing link between the rest of the “Happy Birthday” album and its poptastic title track. Proffering a much less synthetic sounding production with trebly guitars weaving with organ drones for a winsome sound that was a far cry from the firehose of buttercream icing that much of this album could be.

This left the closing “Goodnight And I Wish” as the outlier to nowhere with its dreamy, widescreen ballad sound pointing to a more “mature” Altered Images sound that would manifest very differently in a year’s time. The choral patches of the synths prefiguring the backing vocalists who were yet to come in the band’s story. It made for a contemplative finale to a somewhat hyperactive album.

It was exactly 40 years ago today that I first bought this album on my birthday in 1982. Time has seen the sugary sheen of its prefab excesses dampen my enthusiasm for it, even though I could hardly wait for its release in 1982. Back then I would have listened to anything that Martin Rushent and his new toys were involved in during that post-Dare time. And this certainly did slot in nicely with the incipient technopop of the rapidly approaching MIDI-era as it marked the point where the torch of top producer was in the process of being passed from Rushent to the upstart Trevor Horn.

Today I can at most muster a 2.5/4 rating for “Pinky Blue” on the Rock G.P.A. graph. While the album sold equally well as their debut, with silver disc status in the UK, and three UK Top 40 singles, it didn’t manage to best it in sales. The reviews at the time were an albatross around the band’s neck as the previous Indie darlings had many who had earlier championed the band turn on their pivot to twee, and sometimes saccharine pop. After the album campaign guitarist Jim McKinven and drummer Tich Anderson left the band for something more in line with their tastes. The remaining trio would have to reconfigure if they wanted to move forward.

Next: …Clare Golightly

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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8 Responses to Rock G.P.A.: Altered Images [part 3]

  1. KeithC says:

    Late night at work so I think I read it correctly (3 times): Happy Birthday!


  2. Gavin says:

    Belated Birthday Wishes from your correspondent in Wales!

    I love this album, except for Song Sung Blue..but my favourite from this era is the “Jump Jump/Think that it Might Segued Dance Mix” on the “Pinky Blue” 12″ single.
    I bought this at the time of release and still play it often.
    The House of Rushent certainly did have a signature style when it came to extended versions.. see also his great work with Hazel O’Connor during the “Smile ” period.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Gavin – Thanks, good sir. So it’s official: no one likes “Song Sung Blue?” It took me many years before I could source a 12” of “Pinky Blue!” I had the pink 7” with just the dance mix edit of “Think That It Might” as the B-side from the catalog era of the mid-80s, but I only got the 12” in this century, though I can’t remember where. “Think That It Might” is simply glorious. As for Hazel O’Connor, I’ve still not had the pleasure. She always seemed to be the more Bowiesque Toyah Willcox… and I was already an established Toyah fan.


  3. AndyB says:

    A belated Happy Birthday Monk!


  4. Deserat says:

    Belated Birthday wishes, PPM. I sauntered over to Youtube to sample “Song Sung Blue” by Altered Images. What an assault on the ears – just horrid! I do remember Neil Diamond singing it and singing to it when younger, but sheesh – ouch. Turn on the “Happy Birthday” song instead :-)


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