Reload Festival interview: Martin Fry of ABC
09:00 29 August 2014
It may be more than 30 years since ABC’s debut album, Lexicon of Love, was released, but great songwriting stands the test of time.
And there’s a chance to enjoy the nostalgia rush of Poison Arrow and The Look of Love when the band play the inaugural Reload Festival, which is being held at the Norfolk Showground from September 5-7. Emma Lee meets frontman Martin Fry.
“I came and played in Norwich last year and had a really good time,” says ABC frontman Martin Fry. “It was just our own show that time - this time I’m back with a cast like a pop army.”
And the roll call reads like a who’s who of 70s and 80s pop with Kool And The Gang, Soul II Soul, Human League, Billy Ocean, Rick Astley, Sister Sledge, Hot Chocolate, Five Star, Aswad, From The Jam, Heaven 17, Go West, The Real Thing, Jason Donovan, Bjorn Again, Odyssey and Imagination heading to the Norfolk Showground for a weekend of pure, unashamed nostalgia.
“I’m looking forward to seeing Mr Astley and all my pop buddies,” says Martin. “I’ve toured a lot with the Human League, and I think I’ve played with Sister Sledge. These shows are like doing Top of the Pops all over again. Everyone’s very focused and on top of their game, because you want to play a great show in front of your contemporaries.
“I’m looking forward to coming back to Norwich - especially as I’m a big Alan Partridge fan,” he adds.
ABC formed in Sheffield, and were part of the steel city’s experimental post-punk music scene, which also produced the Human League, Heaven 17 and Cabaret Voltaire.
“Sheffield was brilliant in the early 80s, you could get on a bus and go anywhere for 10p - it was the Socialist Republic of Sheffield and it was a great place to live with no money,” says Martin. “I went to study at Sheffield University and then got a job at the Batchelors factory.
“It was a brilliant place to develop and hone your skills. There was a real emphasis on being as original as possible,” he says.
Martin met his future bandmates Mark White and Stephen Singleton in 1978, when he interviewed them for a fanzine. Mark and Stephen, who were then fronting a band called Vice Versa, invited Martin to join as keyboardist.
Vice Versa became ABC, embracing a polished pop sound and gold lame suits and quiffs, and on its release in May 1982, The Lexicon of Love, which was produced by Trevor Horn, went straight into the UK charts at number one.
“It’s indescribable. One minute you’re signing on, the next you’re doing Top Of The Pops,” says Martin.
The band went through several line-ups and recorded another five studio albums – Beauty Stab, How to be a…Zillionaire, Alphabet City, Up and Abracadabra and released a greatest hits compilation, Absolutely.
The band split up in 1992, but in 1997 Martin resurrected the ABC name and has released two more albums. As well as being regulars on the festival circuit, in recent years ABC have performed The Lexicon of Love in its entirety accompanied by an orchestra and conducted by Anne Dudley, of Art of Noise, who arranged and played keyboards on the original record.
“To get on stage in 2014 is a great feeling - and that goes into making a great show,” says Martin.
Reload is being held at the Norfolk Showground from September 5-7. Day tickets cost from £39 (£18 children), weekend admission tickets cost from £70 (£30 children) and weekend camping tickets cost from £99 (£42 children). Tickets are available without booking fees from Eastern Daily Press offices in Norwich,
Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft, Diss, Cromer and Dereham.