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One of the most popular new wave bands of the early '80s, the British group ABC built upon the detached, synthesized R&B pop of David Bowie and Roxy Music, adding a self-conscious, campy sense of theatrics and style. Under the direction of vocalist Martin Fry, the group scored several catchy, synth-driven dance-pop hits in the early '80s, including "Poison Arrow," "Look of Love," and "Be Near Me." During the late '70s, Fry ran his own fanzine, Modern Drugs, while he attended Sheffield University. ABC formed in 1980, after Fry interviewed Vice Versa members Mark White (guitar) and Stephen Singleton (saxophone) for his fanzine. The two musicians asked Fry to join their band as a vocalist, and he soon became part of the group; the lineup also featured drummer David Robinson and bassist Mark Lickley. Soon, Fry had taken control of the electronic band, steering them in a more pop-oriented direction and renaming the group ABC. By the fall of 1981, the band had signed a record contract with Phonogram Records, which agreed to distribute ABC's own label, Neutron. ABC released their first single, "Tears Are Not Enough," in November; it peaked at number 19 on the U.K. charts. Before they recorded their second single, Robinson left the band and was replaced by David Palmer in early 1982. Two singles, "Poison Arrow" and "The Look of Love," became British Top Ten hits in the spring, paving the way for their debut album, The Lexicon of Love, to enter the charts at number one. "All of My Heart" also became a Top Ten hit in the fall of 1982. Toward the end of 1982, the group began concentrating on the United States. Their American success was helped greatly by the fledgling MTV network, which aired videos for "The Look of Love" and "Poison Arrow" frequently, making both singles Top 25 hits in the spring of 1983. Palmer left the band in the summer of 1983, as ABC were recording their second album. Featuring a harder, rock sound driven by guitars rather than keyboards, Beauty Stab was released late in 1983. Supported by the number 18 single "That Was Then But This Is Now," the album didn't perform as well as the debut, peaking at number 12; the record was also a commercial disappointment in the U.S. Late in 1984, ABC -- now consisting solely of Fry and White augmented by various session musicians -- released "(How to Be A) Millionaire," which failed to put a halt to their commercial slide. Following its release, the duo moved to New York, where they added David Yarritu and Eden to the group; neither member could play or sing -- they were added for the visual effect. Released at the beginning of 1985, the light, catchy "Be Near Me" became a hit single in Britain, climbing to number 26. Due to the single's success, How to Be a...Zillionaire! became a Top 30 hit in both the U.K. and U.S. "Be Near Me" was released as a U.S. single toward the end of 1985 and it became the group's first American Top Ten hit. Even though they had a fair amount of success in 1985, ABC's subsequent singles stalled on the charts. Fry was also ill for most of the latter half of the year; he recovered in 1987 and began writing and recording with White. In the summer of 1987, ABC released "When Smokey Sings," which was a major hit, reaching number five in the U.S. and number 11 in the U.K. Alphabet City followed that fall, peaking at number seven in the U.K. and number 48 in the U.S. Two years later, they released Up, which only charted in the U.K. Absolutely, a greatest-hits collection, made it into the British Top Ten upon its release in 1990. Following the release of Up, Fry took an extended break from the music industry, returning in 1997 with a revamped ABC and a new album, Skyscraping, which was only released in the U.K. Shortly before ABC's comeback, England experienced a short-lived new romantic revival called Romo, which increased Fry's exposure substantially, in turn helping Skyscraping to earn good reviews and respectable sales. A live album followed in 1999, and several ABC reissues appeared during the 2000s, including a double-disc deluxe offering of Lexicon of Love. The drummer from that album, David Palmer, returned to the ABC lineup in 2004, and the band released an album of original material in 2008 entitled Traffic. They continued to play concerts and festivals, and in 2009 they played the entirety of Lexicon of Love at Royal Albert Hall with the BBC Orchestra conducted by album collaborator Anne Dudley. They did the same thing in 2012 to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the album, performing again with Dudley, only at London Theatre Royal Drury Lane instead. That night while on-stage, Fry was struck by the idea that the album needed a sequel and soon after he began to assemble the songs and players to help make it a reality. Enlisting Dudley and producer Gary Stephenson, the album captured the sound and feel of Lexicon of Love, while Fry's ageless voice and wry lyrics made it feel like nary a moment had passed since 1982. The album was titled Lexicon of Love II and released by Virgin/EMI in May of 2016. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Albums by

Top Songs by

  1.   Song
  2.   Be Near Me
  3.   The Look of Love (Part One)
  4.   When Smokey Sings
  5.   Poison Arrow
  6.   How to Be a Millionaire
  7.   All of My Heart
  8.   The Real Thing
  9.   Date Stamp
  10.   Valentine's Day
  11.   The Power of Persuasion
  12.   4 Ever 2 Gether
  13.   S.O.S.
  14.   Living in My Heart
  15.   High & Dry
  16.   Surrender
  17.   Rhythm on the Radio
  18.   Satori
  19.   Chicago
  20.   Avenue A
  21.   King Money
  22.   Between You and Me
  23.   15 Storey Halo
  24.   Vanity Kills
  25.   Ocean Blue
  26.   Fear of the World
  27.   One Better World
  28.   The Greatest Love of All
  29.   A Christmas We Deserve
  30.   The Love Inside the Love
  31.   Letter by Ali
  32.   Viva Love
  33.   Into the Valley of the Heathen Go
  34.   Overture
  35.   A to Z
  36.   This Must Be Magic
  37.   All That Matters
  38.   Welcome to the Real World
  39.   Say It
  40.   Unlock the Secrets of Your Heart
  41.   Who Can I Turn To?
  42.   Stranger Things
  43.   Skyscraping
  44.   Rolling Sevens
  45.   Paper Thin
  46.   I'm in Love With You
  47.   Where is the Heaven
  48.   Never More Than Now
  49.   The Look of Love, Pt. 4
  50.   Many Happy Returns
  51.   Show Me
  52.   Minneapolis
  53.   Avenue Z
  54.   One Day
  55.   Bad Blood
  56.   Ark-Angel
  57.   Rage and Then Regret
  58.   Think Again
  59.   What's Good About Goodbye
  60.   Love Conquers All
  61.   United Kingdom
  62.   Unzip
  63.   Bite the Hand
  64.   Hey Citizen!
  65.   Beauty Stab
  66.   If I Ever Thought You'd Be Lonely
  67.   Love's a Dangerous Language
  68.   So Hip It Hurts
  69.   Tower of London
  70.   Alphabet Soup
  71.   King Without a Crown
  72.   The Night You Murdered Love
  73.   That Was Then But This Is Now
  74.   Tears Are Not Enough
  75.   North
  76.   Loca
  77.   Me Gustas
  78.   Theme from "Mantrap"
  79.   Peace and Tranquility
  80.   Answered Prayer
  81.   By Default by Design
  82.   Jealous Lover
  83.   Lo Fundamental by Big Metra
  84.   Blame
  85.   Spellbound
  86.   Sensual

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