On this day in music history: September 13, 19…

On this day in music history: September 13, 1985 – “How To Be A… Zillionaire”, the third album by ABC is released. Produced by Martin Fry and Mark White, it is recorded at Jacobs Studios in Farnham, Surrey, UK from November 1984 – June 1985. Making a major splash with their classic debut album “The Lexicon Of Love”, ABC decide to take a dramatic left turn with the hard edged, guitar oriented “Beauty Stab”. The results are epically disastrous, receiving overwhelmingly negative criticism and poor sales. Following the release of “Beauty”, ABC is reduced to a duo of Martin Fry and Mark White. Looking to recover from those set backs, the pair begin working on new material. Taking note of former producer Trevor Horn’s work on Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s groundbreaking “Welcome To The Pleasuredome”, they reinvent their sound with a slick high tech edge. To assist them with accomplishing this, Fry and White enlist the help of drummer Keith LeBlanc and guitarist Skip “Little Axe” McDonald formerly of the Sugarhill Records house band and of the pioneering industrial funk/dub band Tackhead. Also on board are guitarist David Williams (Michael Jackson, Madonna, Chanson), trumpeter Guy Barker, keyboardist Don Snow (Squeeze, Lene Lovich), drummer Chris Whitten (Paul McCartney, The Waterboys) and former Ikette vocalist P.P. Arnold. Along with that top notch studio talent, ABC also take the visual aspect of the music into consideration as well. They add journalist Eden (Fiona Russell Powell), briefly in the pre-ABC band Vice Versa and musician and photographer David Yarritu. Other than contributing some spoken vocals, Eden and Yarritu are mostly added for their unique look used for the album packaging and music videos. The bright and colorful packaging for the album package and single picture sleeves are designed by ABC along with artist Keith Breeden of the famed British graphic arts company Assorted Images. The artwork is also incorporated into the accompanying music videos. Fairing only modestly in the UK, “How To Be… A Zillionaire” performs much better in the US, restoring the bands commercial fortunes. Led by the single “Be Near Me” (#9 Pop, #1 Club Play, #11 AC), it becomes ABC’s first top ten single stateside. The song also becomes a club smash via a dramatic remix (titled the “Munich Dance Mix”), adding a heavier back beat, wah wah guitars and samples from The Silver Convention’s disco classic “Get Up And Boogie”. The album spins off a total of three singles (four in the UK) including “(How To Be A) Millionaire” (#20 Pop, #4 Club Play) and “Vanity Kills” (#91 Pop, #5 Club Play). When “Zillionaire” is issued on CD, it features altered artwork from the UK and US covers, and contain 12" mixes of four songs as added bonus tracks. It is remastered and reissued on CD in 1998, and again in 2005 with eight additional bonus tracks. “How To Be A… Zillionaire” peaks at number thirty on the Billboard Top 200.