www.bbc.co.uk 6th October 2003

OLD ROMANTICS

Sheffield was a pop phenomenon in the 80s! Inside Out looks back at the highs - and lows - experienced by some of Sheffield's stars.

 

"I was working as a waitress in a cocktail barÖ..", "Shoot that poison arrow through my hea-a-a-art"Ö...


If you know the words, you were around in the 80s, and if you lived in Sheffield at that time, chances are you were a pop star.

 

Look through any early 80s pop chart and you see the same names. The Human League, Heaven 17, ABC. They all came from Sheffield, and they were all phenomenally successful.

 

Heaven 17ís Penthouse and Pavement spent over a year in the charts without ever once being promoted.


ABCís Lexicon of Love entered the album charts at No 1, and the Human Leagueís Donít You Want Me was a number one single all over the world.

 

Unhappy Time


Despite phenomenal success, the 80s were an unhappy decade for the Human Leagueís Suzanne Sulley.


Suzanne says, "We felt a bit like phoneys. We all went into music because we loved the music, it wasnít about celebrity and being in OK Magazine, we didnít go into it to become famous".

 

For her band member Philip Oakey, they might have been number one, but they felt out of their depth.


Philip says, "We didnít really understand the business and we were just very confused for ten or fifteen years".

Pop prospects


Sheffield was a fertile place for pop talent in the 80s because there were poor job prospects in the declining steel industry and only a few entertainment venues.

 

This result in there being a lot of young people in dead end jobs forced to make their own fun.


Many formed bands - Cabaret Voltaire, The Comsat Angels, and ABC all emerged out of that early 80s music scene.


No one was remotely surprised when ABCís Stephen Singleton handed in the day job, "I was working in a hospital doing a bit of hospital portering and two days later I was on Top of the Pops".

 

Now


Over 20 years on, the bands are all still in business and getting plenty of gigs on the 80s revival circuit.


Martyn Ware works as a top international record producer, but takes time out to go on the road with Heaven 17 as part of the 80s package Here and Now tours.

 

Heís joined by ABCís Martin Fry, who is also the star of 80s revival weekends at holiday camps.


The Human League this year have fitted in tours of America and Australia, and are releasing a new Greatest Hits CD at Christmas.

 

Philip Oakey, is more at ease with his bandís present life as jobbing musicians, "After 25 years itís just fantastic that weíre still doing music, we never expected to, and I donít think anyone else expected us to, but we fit in."