#541 ‘(How To Be A) Millionaire’ by ABC (4 June)

Album: single, 1984; How To Be A… Zillionaire!, 1985


Justification: Dammit, I can’t get this out of my head at the moment.

Zillionaire was ABC’s third and least successful album, although it did give them a US hit with ‘Stay With Me’. That was basically the only other song on this album – seriously, it’s a remarkably slapdash disc – which was made more or less entirely by singer Martin Fry and keyboardist Mark White after the original line up of the band disintegrated.

And look, the artwork's pretty amazingly garish too.

And look, the artwork’s pretty brilliantly garish too.

Ostensibly there were two other members of ABC at this point: US photographer David Yarritu and Eden (aka UK style journalist Fiona Scott-Morgan). They were both musicians, but that wasn’t why they were there: they were recruited purely because they looked hip and stylish, especially in the cartoon form that was to be the look of this project. Indeed, there’s some doubt as to whether either actually appeared on the album at all: most if not all of the album was completed before they were on the payroll and their supposed vocal appearances on ‘A to Z’ sound to me suspiciously like Fry’s voice sped up.

Their involvement was also to be very short-lived since Fry was diagnosed with Hodgins’ disease while on the promotional trail for this album, forcing the band into hiatus while he underwent treatment before he and White returned with Alphabet City two years later.

ABC still exist, sort of: it’s now just Fry and occasionally original drummer David Palmer doing the nostalgia circuit, with White having apparently left the music biz to concentrate on reiki: the well-known science of pretending to have magical energy healing powers.

I’m not even entirely sure this album was released in Australia – I certainly looked for it at the time without success, which might say more about the stocking priorities of suburban Adelaide record stores in 1985 than it does about Mercury’s hopes for the disc locally – and only stumbled across it in a secondhand place down the road a few months ago.

I was near-pathetically excited since I’d built it up in my head as being Their Lost Masterpiece rather than, as it turned out, ABC’s Learning-To-Use-A Fairlight Album For Which They Forgot To Write Any Proper Songs.

It’s frustrating that …Zillionaire is so patchy because its lead single single is utterly glorious: Fry and White’s over-the-top 80s production perfectly suits the song’s simultaneous celebration of and disgust in the artificiality of wealth, and Fry’s wryly distracted delivery works beautifully on couplets like ‘Larger than life and twice as ugly / If we have to live there, you’ll have to drug me”.

And let’s face it: living in Sydney and being in the demographic that obsesses over whether or not ever owning a house is even remotely possible, the opening and closing line “I’ve seen the future / I can’t afford it” does have a certain frustrating resonance.

SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE REDISCOVERED THIS TIME IN 2012: Goth went briefly mainstream with Siouxsie & the Banshees’ ‘Kiss them for Me’.


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