16 December 2008

The Pre-Curve Toni Halliday Entry

The Uncles - What's The Use of Pretending?

Label: MCA
Year of Release: 1984

Ah, Toni Halliday... it's impossible for her name to be mentioned without my eyes glazing over in a dream-like state as I remember my adolescent fondness for her. When the band Curve were at the peak of their powers (in 1992) I had a poster of her on my wall which stayed put for many years. Besides being involved with some of the more interesting, dense and adventurous alternative pop of the period, where clattering drum patterns, effects laden guitars and revving bass lines all collided, she also coated the singles with her own gentle, honey-sweet singing voice, delivering lyrics which were frequently barbed and defiant.

At the time, though, they were greeted with a great deal of suspicion. Far from being fresh, naive young souls on the indie block, Curve had a history which was considerably less credible. Not long before their first EP found its way out into the world, Toni Halliday had been releasing very middle of the road pop singles - this lead to accusations that she was "cashing in on alternative rock" from some sources. I still find this somewhat unbelievable. "Alternative Rock" - in its truist, non-Kaiser Chiefs, non-Ting Tings form - is a particularly tricky beast to cash in on, seldom paying a musician's rent. Had Halliday and Dean Garcia wanted to make a fast buck, it seems more logical to me that they'd have tried releasing some novelty dance singles sampling children's TV theme tunes, or perhaps attempted some cynical cover versions. Playing with effects pedals on guitars and releasing songs with lyrics like "It's never enough to swallow those pills/ Now I'm sick, and always will be" is an odd way to approach multi-platinum success.

Nonetheless, to have some understanding of where the cynicism came from, it's really worth listening to some early Halliday singles. The first proper release she was involved with was The Uncles "What's The Use of Pretending" which is actually a piece of utterly forgettable pop music with cheap, brassy synth noises and Tears for Fears inspired electronic oriental instrumentation. Toni's voice doesn't yet have any subtlety, yelping the vocals in a jerky, eighties style rather than the soft but savage approach she later developed. The B-side "Deep Water" even goes so far as to be outright crap - it's a long, long way from here to the "Doppelganger" album, and that's for sure.

At the tail end of her solo career in 1988, not long before Curve came into being, "Love Attraction" saw the light of day on Dave Stewart's "Anxious" label...

Toni Halliday - Love Attraction

....and in terms of ideas and range it's a huge improvement, albeit not one which is likely to have set many Curve fans' pants on fire. There's not a big difference between this and a great deal of the middle of the road solo artist pop that scattered itself throughout the lower half of the Top 100 in Britain at the time, but there's a confidence about it which is impossible to entirely dismiss.

Of course, all of this begs the question of how the giant leap from middle-of-the-road solo artist to alternative hero was achieved so quickly, and I'm afraid my answer isn't very interesting - it was probably a case of somebody with a varied musical taste suddenly deciding to do her own thing after years of having a rather unimpressive solo career filled with compromises (see also: Tori Amos). Feel free to download the above two examples below, although I apologise for the scratches on "Love Attraction" and its B-side "Child":


Probably the best thing I can do is leave you all with a YouTube video of Curve's "Coast is Clear" just to remind you of what we're talking about...


Anonymous said...

Do you have The Light Sound Dimension, with Bev Bivens, ex-We Five)? More sixties, please!

Chris Rice said...

It is weird how ten Little Girls fell, almost perfectly formed, when you compare it to the other stuff.
They were my first love musically, the first band that I adored and no-one else had heard of. Hear TLG on Snub, and managed to be in London for their first ever gig at the Underworld (I went to Australia for 6 months 2 days later, and had to tape Frozen & Cherry off Aussie radio).

Anonymous said...

thank you, WMG, for stepping up and removing a video for an item which is no longer in print, and unavailable for purchase even if someone WANTED to spend money on it! you've accomplished absolutely nothing! that is, unless you count contributing to destroying what's left of the legacy of one of the greatest acts of the last two decades. it's nice to know it's still about the music!

23 Daves said...

... but when was it ever just about the music for these people, anonymous?

I've completely lost track of how many videos I've uploaded which WMG have pulled down, and I failed to notice this was one of them. It's a complete waste of time for everybody, because I've no doubt somebody will re-upload it under a coded name soon, inconveniencing all parties involved - the fans who want to find the bloody video, me (who uploaded it in the first place), and themselves (who'll have to find it all over again and delete it as before, only for somebody else to try and navigate around the system all over again).

Still, it keeps the lawyers in wages...

Anonymous said...

"What's The Use Of Pretending", "Throw Of The Dice" and "Deep Water" are the only tunes by The Uncles that i am missing in my "Curve etc." collection. Any chance to share those?

Anonymous said...

any chance of a re-up of this one?