How Modern English “I Melt With You” Turned a Cold War Protest into a Perennial Anthem at Prom

Ruby Gray from Modern English in 1983 (Photo: Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

Ruby Gray from Modern English in 1983 (Photo: Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

“How many times we’ve been told that people got married with our song, and fell in love with that song for the first time… Whatever it is, it’s beautiful. But the lyrics are about a couple making love like Drop the atomic bomb And it kind of melts together,” says modern English frontman Robbie Gray with a chuckle. “But that’s so good. I love the fact that it has layers – that people can get whatever they want out of it. …I like the fact that it’s more like a love song, but with a darker lyric.”

Gray speaking to Yahoo Entertainment /SiriusXM volume About one of the biggest new waves of the British invasion of the 1980s, “I Melt With You,” released 40 years ago this week. The single was released around the same time as other Cold War pop bands (Nina “99 Luftballons”, Frankie Goes to Hollywood “Two Tribes”, Time Zone’s “World Destruction”, Men at Work “It’s Wrong”, Prince” 1999,” The War Song of the Culture Club), because, as Gray notes, “that was exactly what was happening in the world at the time. It was a strange time – and it was particularly bleak in England. There were a lot of strikes Nobody has any money. So, it was great to have a pop song with a darker edge.”

The doomsday lyrics, which Gray says were written in three minutes (“When you can do it, you pretty much know you want something good”), weren’t necessarily a departure from Essex’s moody band. But the track was so upbeat and deceptively romantic that its nuclear message crossed the heads of most listeners—so much so that it became an unexpected concert song of the ’80s. She even played during the post-prom ending credits for one of the era’s most beloved teen rom-coms, valley girl.

Gray says the song, from the album Tur Modern English after snow, the “confused” British fans who “didn’t know how to take it”; Surprisingly, the album did not receive many positive reviews and did not sell well in the UK when it was released in 1982. But thanks to valley girl Early on in the placement and heavy broadcast on MTV of the enchanting lo-fi video “I Melt With You’s” (the entire filming cost $1000, and a close-up of non-special-effect flames created using a Bunsen burner), modern English became unbearable in the States. United Pop Stars.

Modern English in 1983. Anticlockwise from left: guitarist Gary McDowell, singer Robbie Gray, keyboardist Stephen Walker, drummer Richard Brown, bassist Michael Conroy.  (Photo: Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

Modern English in 1983. Anticlockwise from left: guitarist Gary McDowell, singer Robbie Gray, keyboardist Stephen Walker, drummer Richard Brown, bassist Michael Conroy. (Photo: Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

“It’s kind of a different culture in England,” Gray explains. “We’ve always been bigger in America. In England, we’re more underground, independent, and still kind of left-handed. In America, we’ve been mainstream, which we didn’t expect at all. It was a real shock to us. One minute, We play dark clubs and some kind of art party [in Europe]And the next day, we sign autographs in record stores and do big radio interviews [in the States]. First party we played in America, we got off the plane in Daytona Beach to play Spring Break! We were still wearing our coats, and it was 90 degrees outside. We didn’t even know what we were doing. We’ve never played outdoors before.”

On that trip across the United States—through Southern California, specifically, not far from the San Fernando Valley itself— Gray and his colleagues realized just how far they had become, when they got a special offer of a tour bus. valley girl. “We were walking around America like rabbits around the clock and then we pulled over to the side of the road and our tour director said, ‘You should see this!’” Gray recalls. “.” He set a VHS tape — remember that? – On the tour bus TV. And there was valley girl. We’d watch it, and say, ‘Wow, the song’s in it three times! It was in the credits. He was in love scenes. And the role of Nicolas Cage was also a bit of a breakthrough. It was kind of exciting, all over.”

It was an extraordinary development for a band that was one of the first signings to the influential label 4AD Records. You come from a scene where “You were going to play Nick Cave and the Christmas party one week, the Bauhaus the next, and Johnson died from The next”; And his first album in 1981, mesh and lacewas much more experimental and artistic than after snow. Gray recalls with a laugh that when 4AD co-founder Ivo Watts Russell invited record producer Hugh Jones to a recent English concert at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts (“a very artistic event”), when Jones was asked, “What do you think of the songs?” he replied, “Not You have anything!” But the band “immediately fell in love with him” and hired him because they “didn’t want to do the same thing twice”. Gray credits Jones, who was “very much listening to Simon & Garfunkel at the time”, as being “a big part of after snow It seems.”

Hugh showed us how to write songsreally,” says Gray. “Before, in mesh and laceWe were just writing pieces of music. We haven’t figured out how to make a choir and tie it together. We were the Underground band, and we were proud of that, but once we started to relax in our music and understood what we could do, we became more open to ideas and kind of understood how to write songs – which is not an easy thing to do when you’re starting out and you can’t really play. I mean, with so many bands out there in that period, that’s why you hear so much juggling and so much noise – not everyone was great players. Hugh helped us with that. And for the first time, I didn’t scream into the microphone. Plus, we were in the countryside in Wales, so the lyrics were very pastoral based on nature. … I would say that Hugh made us softer, but in Good way, because it was cool to use guitars and acoustic things.”

Gray admits somewhat shyly that at first, “the band didn’t even like ‘I Melt With You,’ because it was so different from their previous vocals: ‘We’d listen to it, and think, ‘Well, that also sounds commercial!”’ but they adopted in end its commercial appeal—it was even licensed for an actual Burger King commercial in the mid-’90s, when it wasn’t a common practice for alternative rock artists. (“I think the amount of money they gave us was too much, to be honest with you,” Gray jokes. .) The classic Modern English made a comeback in 2016 with the critically acclaimed album Take me to the treeswhich boasted more and more sharply mesh and lace-The sound reminds us, and the new material they hope to release by the end of 2022 will be very much in this vein. But four decades later, “I Melt With You” still resonates against the backdrop of a new era of the Cold War — even if its words are still overlooked most of the time. “The song in general makes people very happy,” says Gray.

In 2020, the modern English vocal home quarantine performance of the song “I Melt With You” went viral, and in the same year they played after snow In full for the first time during a live concert at the O2 in London. Recently reissued after snow It’s even back on the college radio charts, and this year Modern English toured America to celebrate the album’s 40th anniversary. During their group, the band mostly plays after snow From start to finish, but they saved “I Melt With You” – which was originally the fifth track – at the end of the show, “So people have to wait for it!” However, Gray, who makes sure to play some of the more obscure stuff while appearing, has no problem with that.

“I don’t have a problem with this song at all,” Gray insists with a smile. “When we play it every night, everyone goes crazy. As someone on stage that looks and sees that, it never gets boring. It’s really exciting to see an audience singing and jumping up and down. As a band, you really can’t ask for more.”

The above interview is from Robbie Gray’s two appearances on SiriusXM “Volume West”. The full audio of those conversations is available on the SiriusXM app.

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