Thursday, July 2, 2020

"When Smokey Sings" by ABC

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3182
Date:  07/04/1987
Debut:  86
Peak:  5
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Sophisti-Pop, Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits:  The UK band scored their first US Pop Top 10 with 1985's "Be Near Me" (#9), a track from their third album How to Be a...Zillionaire! After things with the album wrapped up, lead singer Martin Fry had to take time off for treatment of Hodgkin's lymphoma. Following his recovery, Fry picked back up with ABC, which had been reduced to the duo of Fry and Mark White. The pair would then co-produce their next LP, Alphabet City, with Bernard Edwards. This first single would be released and it would end up becoming the band's biggest hit in the US reaching #1 Dance, #2 AC, and #5 Pop. A follow-up single, "The Night You Murdered Love," would be another Dance hit getting to #3, but it would fail to make the Pop chart. A third single failed at Pop as well. Without more to promote it, the album stopped at a minor #48. Unfortunately, this song would end up being the band's last to reach the Pop chart. Fry and White would release two more albums as ABC in '89 and '91, but neither charted in the US. The pair split after that. Fry would comeback on his own under the ABC moniker for albums in '97 and 2008. In 2016, Fry would record The Lexicon of Love II, a sequel to ABC's gold-selling 1982 debut album.

ReduxReview:  With Alphabet City, the band returned to the sophisticated pop sound of their '82 debut album that spawned hits like "The Look of Love" and it paid off. This was the album that they should have released as a follow-up instead of the darker, rock-leaning Beauty Stab. It took them five years to get back to basics, but it was worth it. This track was such a pleasurable listen. Its retro Motown sound updated for the 80s was just the right combination for the time. Add on to that the Smokey Robinson connection, who was back on the charts again (see below), and there was little doubt that this would go Top 10. It's still a great track. It's a shame "The Night You Murdered Love" didn't chart. It was a worthy follow-up. It was also a shock that ABC never made the Pop chart again especially after scoring their biggest hit. Some of their songs stay in rotation on my playlists and every so often I revisit their first four albums. They were a bit underrated in my opinion.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  This song, written by Fry and White, was a tribute to R&B/soul superstar Smokey Robinson. Robinson would have a long string of hits as a solo artist and as lead singer/songwriter of The Miracles, whose first major hit came in 1960 with the #1 R&B/#2 Pop "Shop Around." The bass line of "When Smokey Sings" was created as an homage to The Miracles' 1970 #1 "Tears of a Clown." When ABC's song came out, Robinson was experiencing a comeback. Earlier in the year he scored a #1 AC/#2 R&B/#8 Pop hit with "Just to See Her," his first major crossover hit since 1981. It's follow-up, "One Heartbeat," would debut on the Pop chart just two weeks after "When Smokey Sings." For a week in October, both songs would hold positions in the Pop Top 10.


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