When you think of 80s “supergroups,” the British band Asia is probably the one that comes to mind first for many folks (at least it did for me), which included John Wetton (King Crimson), Steve Howe (Yes), Carl Palmer (Emerson, Lake & Palmer) and Geoff Downes (The Buggles, Yes). Other 80s “supergroups” included The Power Station, The Firm, GTR (also with Steve Howe), Bad English, the 4AD “supergroup”This Mortal Coil and probably the biggest heavy-hitter supergroup of them all, The Traveling Wilburys (with George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne of ELO).
All-star artist collaborations like Band Aid, USA For Africa, Dionne & Friends, or Artists United Against Apartheid don’t count as “supergroups” because they were one-off groups who got together for a benefit, tribute or protest single.
At the tail end of the 1980s and the start of the 1990s, another supergroup found its way to me, and I’m so glad it did – the supergroup based out of Manchester, England – Electronic.
Electronic was formed by Manchester’s own Bernard Sumner (of New Order) and Johnny Marr (of The Smiths, who had broken up a couple of years before, in 1987). Together, along with Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant providing backing vocals, future Academy Award Winner Anne Dudley (from Art of Noise, providing the lovely string arrangement) and ABC’s David Palmer on drums, the song “Getting Away With It” was born.
Released in December 1989, “Getting Away With It” (written and produced by Bernard Sumner, Johnny Marr and Neil Tennant) was a gorgeous alt-dance gem whose lyrics actually parodied the moody stereotype of Johnny Marr’s ex-Smiths bandmate, Morrissey.
“Getting Away With It” reached No. 12 in the U.K., and the Top 40 in Australia and New Zealand, and was a Top 40 radio hit in Canada. Here in the U.S., “Getting Away With It” spent a week at No. 38 on May 19, 1990, the same week Madonna’s “Vogue” replaced Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” at No. 1. It also reached No. 4 on BILLBOARD’s Modern Rock chart and No. 7 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart.
In 1991, Electronic’s long-awaited, self-titled debut album was released, reaching No. 2 in the United Kingdom and selling over a million copies worldwide (about a quarter of which were sold in the U.S. alone). Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr continued with Electronic for 2 more albums, RAISE THE PRESSURE in 1996, and the excellent TWISTED TENDERNESS in 1999. They would also hit the Top 10 on the U.K. singles chart with 1991’s “Get The Music” (from the debut album), and 1992’s “Disappointed” (from the film, COOL WORLD, and the even better soundtrack, SONGS FROM THE COOL WORLD).
Though the “supergroup” Electronic was short-lived (like most “supergroups” are), they’ll always be a “supergroup” to me. Hell, they’ve been getting away with it for more than 25 years…