Ever since the dawn of MTV and Friday Night Videos, the music video has significantly impacted musical tastes and pop culture. It might not be as extreme as when the Buggles declared that "Video Killed the Radio Star", but there is no arguing that the music video certainly could make or break a song's popularity. So this regular Flashback Video feature will serve to remember some of the music videos from the great '80s decade that made an impact on me in one way or another. This issue we will cover "When Smokey Sings" by ABC. The song's title and lyrics are a tribute to the great Smokey Robinson (who, as a member of the The Miracles and as a solo artist, has delivered 37 Top 40 hits for Motown between 1960 and 1987). ABC is a British new wave band led by singer Martin Fry. They had two other hits during the '80s that I quite like as well, “The Look of Love” from 1982’s The Lexicon of Love and “Be Near Me” from 1984’s How to Be a Zillionaire. “When Smokey Sings” was from their Alphabet City album and released as a single in May 1987. It was the band’s most successful and last single to chart in the U.S.
"When Smokey Sings" peaked at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in September of 1987. Somewhat coincidentally, this song was a hit just as Smokey Robinson was enjoying a career resurgence. In an interesting occurrence, both "When Smokey Sings" and a song by Smokey Robinson himself were in the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 simultaneously. In early October, "When Smokey Sings" had fallen to #8 as Smokey Robinson’s own single “One Heartbeat” was peaking at #10. That instance of having a tributor and tributee in the Billboard Top 10 at the same time was a rarity if not a unique event. "When Smokey Sings" also reached #2 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart and spent two weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Chart while reaching the Top 20 in at least seven other countries. Here is the music video for “When Smokey Sings” by ABC…
It had been about two years since their last hit. ABC had to take a hiatus while Martin Fry was being treated for Hodgkin's lymphoma. After his recovery, ABC reconvened as a duo to release the Alphabet City album which included "When Smokey Sings". Not surprising, Smokey Robinson himself praised the song, saying, "Well, of course, that’s a form of flattery, and I really appreciate it."
Hope you enjoyed another trip back to the '80s thanks to Flashback Video!