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Songwriting? Simple as ABC

PUBLISHED: 17:07 06 August 2008 | UPDATED: 17:13 16 August 2010

MORE than 25 years after first topping the charts with hits such as The Look of Love and Poison Arrow, Martin Fry, the flamboyant lamé-jacketed front man of 1980s synth pop band ABC,

MORE than 25 years after first topping the charts with hits such as The Look of Love and Poison Arrow, Martin Fry, the flamboyant lamé-jacketed front man of 1980s synth pop band ABC, is pretty happy with his lot, writes Jason Goodyer.

"I feel really comfortable where I am now as an elder statesman of pop," he explains. "When you first start you are writing the first song you have ever written so you throw everything into it but as you evolve you find a style. It is a thrill to write songs.

"It's even better when you are playing them live and you can see the response of the audience. It's weird. Sometimes you can showcase a brand new song and there are some guys at the front singing along with it. I don't know how they do that."

The 50-year-old is back after a long hiatus from the charts with a new record, Traffic, the band's first since 1997's Skyscraping. The album features their signature grandiose combination of swooning strings and bitter sweet balladry and the supporting single, Love is Strong, has been getting some serious air time on Radio 2.

Fry explains the long lay-off was due to the extensive touring schedule brought about by the resurgence of interest in 80s music and his desire to take a break from songwriting.

"I hadn't made a record for a long time so it's good to get back in the studio," he says. "I have been playing live all over the world. I have done five or six years of travelling.

"I have written over 100 songs in ABC and I thought: well, is the world ready for more ABC music? It was nice to step back for a while but I got inspired again and started working with a guy called David Palmer and started writing some songs in Pacific Palisades in Los Angeles and a lot of the songs in the new album come from that."

Over the past decade the band have been one of the 80s groups to profit from the advent of so-called nostalgia tours. They are currently touring the States alongside Flock of Seagulls, Belinda Carlisle, Naked Eyes and the Human League for the Regeneration Tour and will also be touring the UK with fellow Sheffield-based popsters Heaven 17 and The Human League as part of the Steel City Tour in December this year.

"There are a lot of crazy, silly haircuts and silly videos but they are also highly entertaining to look at today. There were a lot of advances in technology and there was some great music made in that period no doubt. I think people are recognising the music that was there, from Tears for Fears or Scritti Politi or Run DMC or Sade or ABC. There's loads of good stuff around. People have gone back and checked it out."

The singer puts the resurgence of interest down to two things.

"Some people got married to the Look of Love and divorced to When Smokey Sings. They kind of want to look back to a time when they didn't have a big mortgage and they didn't have a load of debts on their credit card or a big beer belly. When life was simpler.

"There is also a generation whose parents may have brought them to shows and then others might have seen it through YouTube and MTV and VH1. There are also guys in contemporary bands that want to check out the 80s as a source of inspiration. Our audience is a combination of a lot of different people."

Traffic by ABC is available in shops now.

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