Listening to the Music the Machines Make - Inventing Electronic Pop 1978 to 1983: Inventing Electronic Pop 1978-1983

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Listening to the Music the Machines Make - Inventing Electronic Pop 1978 to 1983: Inventing Electronic Pop 1978-1983

Listening to the Music the Machines Make - Inventing Electronic Pop 1978 to 1983: Inventing Electronic Pop 1978-1983

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I love music equally across the genres and, although my tastes are definitely weighted towards electronic artists, at any one time I’m just as likely to be listening to Buddy Holly as I am to Orbital! So much of the text feels like it was written by an AI programme that had been fed the contents of the music press from the period in question with little of no colour added by the author.

Then in 2019 I had a little bit of space to take on a new project and I decided that I would use it to put together a book proposal which I could show publishers as a way of seeing if there might be actual interest in a book on this subject. I don’t know how many days I spent at the British Library – it was a lot – but I ended up with literally thousands of photos of pages from the music and popular culture press from the late seventies and early eighties and I started to compare and contrast the various accounts and opinions and link everything together into a giant timeline. Obviously, I have to say Erasure because I’ve worked with them for so long, but if I put them to one side then maybe OMD. NEW MUSIK have been popping up on these Cherry Red boxed set collections and its obvious now with the passage of time that they were pretty good! There’s also the ongoing nostalgia circuit which allows these artists to continue to perform and those performances also provide a financial base from which acts can record and release new material.Your book captures a period, I don’t know if you listen to much modern day pop, but do you think there is an electronic pop legacy today, whether direct or indirect from this 1978-1983 era? Using many sources the author details a month by month evolution of the popular British electronic Music scene starting in 1978. Also reading her, I liked her… I’ve never met her or anything but I liked her style, she wrote a lot like a fan so she wasn’t out there grinding her axe in attempts to look clever, lofty and intellectual. Things that Vince Clarke was listening to like SPARKS, things that OMD were listening to like Brian Eno, things that THE HUMAN LEAGUE were listening to like Giorgio Moroder.

I originally thought that the book would be more or less a complete account that would cover all the electronic pop releases from 1978 to 1983, the period the book covers, but I quickly realised that would be impossible, particularly across those last few years when electronic pop became such a huge part of the charts and everyone started putting out electronic records, or incorporating electronic elements into their records. By the time late 1983 comes around, the electronic pop that I have been writing about over this 5-6 year period starts to become indistinguishable from everything else in the charts. I went through all these things, page after page after page and every time I saw something that I attained to this story like a news item, review or interview, I took a photo of it on my phone.

Listening to the Music the Machines Make is the enthralling, explosive story of electronic pop between 1978 and 1983—a true golden age of British music. I think SOFT CELL had more of an edge, their image was a lot more together, they looked meaner and a little bit more credible I suppose.

There are two reasons for it; one is this period started 45 years ago, you’re not going to remember these details. Like you said, the 80s came with a bad rep at that point in time and imploded quite messily with lots of non-credible aspects emerging and dominating it. I am the oldest of my siblings so I didn’t have anyone playing stuff in their room that I could hear. The chapter also discusses the importance of Brian Eno and his work with bands like the original line up of Ultravox! From the gritty and experimental to the camp and theatrical, this book charts the careers and impact of electronic pop’s earliest innovators and luminaries, from Devo, The Normal, Telex and Cabaret Voltaire to Soft Cell, Gary Numan, OMD, Duran Duran, Depeche Mode.

Lots of these records, I didn’t really hear until later and some much later… one or two of them, and I’m not confessing which ones, I didn’t even listen to until I started writing the book. For me, it was like 1998, DURAN DURAN had the ‘Greatest’ CD out and were touring, OMD had a new singles compilation and CULTURE CLUB had reformed for shows with THE HUMAN LEAGUE and ABC supporting… but I think it took a long time for something to develop. Like you say, there’s a stigma towards it, that it’s not “proper music”, that you are not a proper music fan if you listen to it, but a victim of some sort of a commercial heist! There is a brief section at the beginning within the context of the whole book that joins together some of the dots, things that people were taking in their early electronic experiments. I really hope that people who already know a lot about this subject will find things in the book which they didn’t already know, and I hope that people who go into it not knowing so much will discover new music that they will enjoy, but my biggest hope is that I haven’t disappoined anyone by missing out anything crucial to them, or by interpreting or reporting any of the facts wrongly.

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