Happy Families (album)

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Happy Families
Blancmange - Happy Families.jpg
Studio album by Blancmange
Released 24 September 1982
Recorded February–August 1982
Studio CBS and Battery Studios, London
Genre Synthpop, new wave
Length 40:29
Label London Records
Producer Mike Howlett
Blancmange chronology
Happy Families
(1982)
Mange Tout
(1984)
Singles from Happy Families
  1. "I've Seen the Word"/"God's Kitchen"
    Released: 26 March 1982
  2. "Feel Me"
    Released: 9 July 1982
  3. "Living on the Ceiling"
    Released: 15 October 1982
  4. "Waves"
    Released: 21 January 1983

Happy Families is the debut album by British new wave synthpop duo Blancmange. Originally released in the UK in September 1982, it reached number 30 on the UK albums chart, aided by the success of the album's third single, "Living on the Ceiling", released the following month and which became Blancmange's breakthrough hit, reaching number 7 in the UK singles chart.

Release[edit]

Initial pressings of the album in 1982 contained the original version of "Waves" – on later pressings and on the subsequent CD issues this version was replaced by the 7" single version, which had been remixed by Denis Weinrich and the band's manager John Owen Williams, and included re-recorded vocals and a string section arranged by Linton Naiff. The original version remained unavailable on any format until its inclusion on the 2012 compilation album The Very Best of Blancmange. The Canadian release of the album had a slightly rearranged running order and included a special mix of the song "Blind Vision", released as a single in May 1983 and which appeared on the group's second album Mange Tout in the UK in 1984.

In 2008 Edsel Records reissued Happy Families as a remastered and expanded version titled Happy Families... Plus. This version of the album added six bonus tracks to the original ten-track album: the extended versions of the singles "God's Kitchen", "Feel Me" and "Living on the Ceiling"; two instrumental mixes of "Feel Me"; and the instrumental track "Business Steps" (originally the B-side of "Waves"). However, Happy Families... Plus featured the 7" single versions of not just "Waves" but also "Living on the Ceiling", rather than the original album versions.

Melody Maker flexidisc[edit]

Excerpts of the songs "Living on the Ceiling" and "Sad Day" featured on one side of a flexidisc given away free with the issue of Melody Maker dated 24 April 1982. The other side of the disc featured the song "Born Every Minute" by The Passage.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[1]
Melody Maker average[2]
NME favourable[3]
Smash Hits 7/10[4]

Critical reception for Happy Families was mixed, with many reviewers feeling the album trod a sometimes unsuccessful path between experimental aspirations and commercial sensibilities. Melody Maker stated that "touting the chalk and cheese, odd couple image, [Arthur and Luscombe]'s misfit marriage of experimentalism and unprepossessing pop was always in grave danger of belittling itself into an English Eighties parody of Sparks, parodying Joy Division, aping Depeche Mode... Happy Families, their debut album, is every bit the entertaining disappointment that anyone familiar with Blancmange's nervous live shows had a right to expect... Their brave schizophrenia is invariably self-defeating, their adventurously varied song treatments befuddling where a more open, honest approach could have unearthed brilliance."[2] NME said that "Happy Families is a calmly assured collection of work: maybe not stamped with greatness, quite, but there's not a number in the whole ten that's without appeal, intelligence and warmth... There's impressive, though never overstated, drama in their delivery and winning ingenuity in their arrangements: a nicely controlled excitement... the flaws are minor and the merits are major."[3] Smash Hits felt that the album "occupies a curious no-man's land between near criminal stylistic nicking from a cast of thousands (everyone from OMD to Yazoo, from Simple Minds to Talking Heads) and [the] nagging near-certainty that the guilty pair have real talent... meanwhile their good taste in pilfering is well worth investigating."[4]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Neil Arthur and Stephen Luscombe.

1982 UK LP and cassette[edit]

Side One[edit]

  1. "I Can't Explain" – 4:00
  2. "Feel Me" – 5:07
  3. "I've Seen the Word" – 3:00
  4. "Wasted" – 4:17
  5. "Living on the Ceiling" – 4:11

Side Two[edit]

  1. "Waves" – 4:07 (original version on early pressings of the album is 4:25 long)
  2. "Kind" – 3:56
  3. "Sad Day" – 4:05
  4. "Cruel" – 4:52
  5. "God's Kitchen" – 2:54

1982 Canadian version[edit]

Side One[edit]

  1. "Waves" – 4:07
  2. "Feel Me" – 5:07
  3. "I've Seen the Word" – 3:00
  4. "Wasted" – 4:17
  5. "Living on the Ceiling" – 4:11

Side Two[edit]

  1. "Blind Vision" – 4:20
  2. "I Can't Explain" – 4:00
  3. "Kind" – 3:56
  4. "Sad Day" – 4:05
  5. "Cruel" – 4:52
  6. "God's Kitchen" – 2:54

2008 Happy Families... Plus CD[edit]

  1. "I Can't Explain" – 4:03
  2. "Feel Me" – 5:07
  3. "I've Seen the Word" – 3:00
  4. "Wasted" – 4:17
  5. "Living on the Ceiling" – 4:02
  6. "Waves" – 4:09
  7. "Kind" – 3:58
  8. "Sad Day" – 4:04
  9. "Cruel" – 4:52
  10. "God's Kitchen" – 2:57
  11. "Living on the Ceiling" (Extended Version) – 5:40
  12. "God's Kitchen" (12" Mix) – 4:29
  13. "Feel Me" (Extended 12" Version) – 7:01
  14. "Feel Me" (7" and 12" Instrumental) – 5:10
  15. "Business Steps" – 4:28
  16. "Feel Me" (US 12" Instrumental) – 5:22

Personnel[edit]

Blancmange

Additional musicians

  • Madeline Bellbacking voices on "Feel Me" and "Waves"
  • Deepak (aka Deepak Khazanchi) – sitar on "Living on the Ceiling"
  • Dinesh (aka Pandit Dinesh) – tabla on "Living on the Ceiling"
  • James Lane – drums on "Living on the Ceiling" and "Kind"
  • Stevie Lange – backing voices on "I Can't Explain", "Feel Me", "Waves" and "Kind"
  • David Rhodes – guitar on "I Can't Explain", "Feel Me", "Wasted", "Kind", "Cruel" and "God's Kitchen"
  • Joy Yates – backing voices on "I Can't Explain" and "Kind"

Production

  • Engineered by Walter Samuel, Roberto Arendse and Mark Chamberlain (CBS)
    Nigel Green and Andrew Warwick (Battery)
  • "Living on the Ceiling" and "Kind" remixed at Odyssey Studios by Denis Weinrich
  • "Waves" remixed by Denis Weinrich and John Owen Williams, strings arranged by Linton Naiff
  • Painting by Michael Brownlow after Louis Wain
  • Management by Paul Smith and John Owen Williams

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1982/1983) Peak
position
Australian Album Chart (Kent Music Report)[5] 17
Canadian Albums (Billboard)[6] 98
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[7] 13
UK Albums (OCC)[8] 30

Release history[edit]

Region Date Label Format Catalog
United Kingdom 24 September 1982 London Records LP/picture disc LP SH 8552/SHPD 8552
cassette KSAC 8552
1987 CD 810 123-2
1 September 2008 Edsel Records remastered and expanded CD EDSS 1026

References[edit]

  1. ^ Cassel, Bill. Blancmange - Happy Families > Review at AllMusic
  2. ^ a b Sutherland, Steve (2 October 1982). "Review: Blancmange – Happy Families". Melody Maker. London, England: IPC Media. p. 21. 
  3. ^ a b Du Noyer, Paul (2 October 1982). "Review: Blancmange – Happy Families". NME. London, England: IPC Media. p. 38. 
  4. ^ a b Cranna, Ian (30 September 1982). "Review: Blancmange – Happy Families". Smash Hits. London, England: EMAP. p. 25. 
  5. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. 
  6. ^ "RPM 100 Albums, July 2, 1983". RPM, Vol. 38 No. 18. Canada: Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 18 September 2012. 
  7. ^ "Charts.org.nz – Blancmange – Happy Families". Hung Medien. Retrieved 18 September 2012.
  8. ^ "Blancmange | Artist | Official Charts". UK Albums Chart Retrieved 18 September 2012.