30 December 2020

Arena - You Call This Love/ With Or Without You


Vanity pressed hooky eighties rock from who knows where

Label: Arena
Year of Release: 1986

There's a simplistic tendency to assume that between 1976-86, most DIY or vanity pressed singles were the work of awkward spiky types desperate for John Peel or early evening Radio One airplay. In reality, life continued much as it did before punk, and the majority of self-financed releases were from acts either wanting to sell records directly to the audiences they played to (social club and holiday camp performers, for example) or bands believing that having something immortalised in wax in local shops might get more attention than a bog-standard demo tape. Have I said this on the blog before? I've a feeling, readers, that I may have done. Forgive me. 

Anyway, in common with many of the DIY releases of the day, this one came and went without leaving a strong mark in the media. I have no idea who Arena were, where they came from, or what they went on to do next, but this record has steadily become a moderately sought-after curiosity.

Both sides reveal an accomplished group of performers and some surprisingly slick production given the self-financed nature of the release. None-more-mid-80s squeaky keyboards mix with powerful, boyish vocals, and some hair-metal styled guitar work. The group sound as if they're going for the sweet spot between mainstream pop and hard rock, in common with other bands of the era like Europe. There's a pop suss here that isn't quite powerful enough to have got the attention of record labels - "You Call This Love" sounds more like a convincing follow-up to a hit single rather than the big hit itself - but indicates that better things might have been ahead.

But no! This seems to have been their only offering, and it's impossible to find any more information about them through the usual channels. If anyone knows more, please do drop me a line or leave a comment. 

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Webbie - FootieAndMusic said...

I liked You Call This Love with the early part, but as the song went on I became annoyed with it and by the end I didn't want to hear it again.

With Or Without You - played that to my (American) missus, she left high school in '86 and says this fits exactly in with what she heard back then. If the song was released in the USA it might have made the Billboard chart. Surprised that it didn't appear on a movie soundtrack somewhere back then.

For me though it was the same as the A side. It was pleasant enough at the beginning but it began to drag and drone on a bit.

I do hope you are able to track down some more info as to who was behind it though. Love a mystery.

23 Daves said...

My best guess is that this was a band who had good (or at the very least monied) management behind them - the high production values and the professional layout of the labels on this release point towards that - who just didn't get signed. Let's see what we find out, though.

Anonymous said...

I was guitarist and keyboard player in this band. This was indeed a self-financed single and we made a video to accompany it. It was aired on a UK TV show called MusicBox a couple of times and the singer and bass player were interviewed on TV. EMI paid for demo time for a couple of other songs but I guess we weren't sufficiently different from all the other Bon Jovi wannabees at the time. Happy times and fond memories.

23 Daves said...

Thanks for sharing that! Would you mind if I asked your name and also who the other members of the band were?

I'm surprised you all weren't picked up by a label, tbh.