The New Jersey Times 17th August 2008
Where are they now? Right here

Hitmakers from the 1980s share bill on Regeneration Tour in Trenton Thursday

Michele Angermiller

Heaven will indeed be a place on Earth at the Sovereign Bank Arena Thursday as the the Regeneration Tour 1980s music extravaganza storms into Trenton.

The tour, which features Be linda Carlisle, of The Go-Go's, ABC, The Human League, Naked Eyes and A Flock of Seagulls, begs the question: "Don't You Want Me Baby?"

"So what do you make of this in 2008?" asks ABC lead singer Martin Fry in an overseas call. "All these bands, a lot of them British, going out on the road. What's that all about?"

Fry then answers his own question.

"I think it's going to be like climbing inside a jukebox, a big human jukebox, and there will be competition between the bands. Healthy competition," he says.

Fry is right about the jukebox aspect of the Regeneration Tour: Each act has its own personal jukebox of hit songs that will catapult 30- and early 40-somethings back to their high school days.

Those early years featured "flamboyant" videos such as ABC's "The Look of Love," which flaunted a nun flying over the band in an at tempt to ape the humor of bawdy British comedian Benny Hill.

"We wanted to do something visual and kind of slapstick. I don't know how we got away with it," laughs Fry. "I did the second verse with a parrot on my shoulder and a little straw boater. But you could do that reckless abandonment back in the '80s. Nobody cared. Record companies weren't aware of what was going on anyway. You can't do that stuff today if you're a brand new band."

Let's not forget the fashion of the decade, which may or may not be recreated at the show.

"Big shoulders, big hair, hairspray ruled. We didn't realize we were destroying the Earth's atmosphere back then, or care," Fry says.

The group's other hits -- "How to be a Millionaire," Poison Arrow," "Be Near Me" and "When Smokey Sings" -- will be recreated live for all to enjoy without embarrassment.

"I think the United States is ready for some flamboyance, and some of that manic charm that was the 1980s again," says Fry, a father of 17-year-old twins. "I was out playing some dates and there is a generation of people who remember and hold their memories dear -- a pre-credit crunch time when life was good. But there is also a younger generation that watched a lot of VH-1. I think the time is right for the tour."

ABC hasn't' been exactly idle since the '80s. Fry has continued under the ABC moniker. Original drummer David Palmer rejoined the lineup after ABC was featured on the VH-1 show "Band's Reunited." The group released the CD "Traffic" in April. Fry will perform at least one or two songs from that offering on this tour.

Members of ABC will back Be linda Carlisle during her performance, as well.

Carlisle says her set will be a fair representation of her solo material and some chestnuts from her work with The Go Go's.

"The focus is going to be on my thing, since I haven't really toured the States in seven or eight years," she says. "The Go Go's don't really tour anymore, but we do dates here and there. We don't' work as much as a band anymore but we have a great time when we do."

Carlisle, who still has a healthy career in Europe, has recently added "judge" to her resume thanks to her involvement on MTV's "Rock The Cradle," a show where the offspring of famous celebrities competed for a career in the music industry. She said her spot on the show was somewhat of a fluke.

"I came out to California to get my driver's license and wound up staying and doing a TV show," she says. "So that was kind of an accident, but it was a great accident because it was a lot of fun."

Carlisle said that in addition to her television work, she still records and performs internationally.



"I work all over the world," she says, noting that she had just wrapped up an acoustic tour of Japan. "I'm lucky that I can work as much or as little as I want, and this year I have worked quite a bit, so I have been busy."

She says she loves doing 1980s-themed tours like Regeneration.

"I did similar shows in Europe and it's an easy and fun thing to do for the artists because the audience loves it. It's instant gratification. There's no B-sides or filler material. They just get hits and everybody leaves satisfied and happy. It's just a great evening," she says.

Don't expect any new songs from Carlisle's recent offering, "Voila," on this tour. The album, a series of cabaret songs recorded in French, was something the singer had long wanted to do.

"My French is pretty good, but singing in a secondary language is challenging," she says. "It was difficult but it's what I really wanted to do."

The California-born singer splits time living in France and Austria with her husband of 22 years, Mor gan Mason, who famously ap peared in the videos for Carlisle's solo records "Mad About You" and "Heaven Is A Place on Earth." The couple has a teenage son, James Duke.

"I am really lucky I didn't have a teenager like me," Carlisle says of Duke, who is serving as a congressional aide in Washington D.C. "I don't know what I did to deserve such an amazing kid. He's doing great. I'm still married and my husband's great, so we make it all work. I'm really lucky I have a good home base to work from. Without that things will be a lot harder for me."

Phil Oakey of The Human League says audiences can expect a greatest-hits package when his band hits the stage, including "Don't You Want Me?" a song that's a nod to the Judy Garland film "A Star is Born," which coincidentally starred James Mason, Carlisle's father-in-law.

"(It was that film) together with a few lines I nicked from a magazine article somewhere," Oakey says of the inspiration behind the song that still dominates '80s radio play lists. "That was our third LP. I had already written lyrics for about 30 songs and you do get to a point where you put down (any lyrics) you can.

"I never thought that it would get to people the way it did. It's not a very personal song. I've not had a very exciting life really."

Oakey says he is still working on fresh songs, but will not perform them this week.

"Although we are writing new material, we really have never tried to sway people towards music that they have not yet heard, so we go out and do a live show to keep people as interested as long as we can," he says.

Oakey will be joined by longtime singers Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley, who have been with the group since 1980.

"They have been brilliant partners," says Oakey. "A lot of people look at pictures of us and think, well there's the lead singer and the backing vocalists. That doesn't really convey what happened. We managed to keep this going be cause we are an equal threesome.

"Sometimes I feel inferior, like the way Joanne looks after the money and Susan is much better at promotion and publicity and things," Oakey continues. "We al ways can depend on each other. From my point of view, I couldn't have had two better partners."

The Human League will use seven video screens as a backdrop to its songs, which include "Mirror Man," "(Keep Feeling) Fascination" and "Human."

"It was a big hit in America," Oakey says of "Human." "We're very proud to have sung the song and we'll be out trying to desperately try to remind people that it was us."

Although Oakey now performs in a black trench coat, he looks back at his former image with fondness.

"We were quite daring and now everyone is very boring," he says. "Now when people get up in the morning, they decide which pair of blue denim jeans they should put on, where we used to go and get a pair of scissors out and make a pair of trousers."