Saturday, April 26, 2008

BLUE PETER - Rockin' Canadian New Wave

I have to thank Uncle E of the always entertaining Uncle E's Musical Nightmares for turning me onto Blue Peter, a rather obscure Canadian new wave band of the early 80s.

Blue Peter's output consists of two LPs, Radio Silence (1980) and Falling (1983), as well as two EPs, Test Patterns for Living (1979) and Up to You (1982). The releases are quite different, with the early EP and LP focusing on a straightforward power pop sound and the later releases introducing more of a new wavey synth-pop sound.

In fact, Test Patterns for Living brought on Blue Peter with a stripped-back sound that would completely transform by the time the band reached its later stages. The EP is full of energetic, short power pop tunes that are enjoyable, but not necessarily instantly memorable. The two exceptions are the manic, bizarre Do the Robot and the closer, Factory Living, which features the memorable line, "it's no fun starving for artistic integrity/better to work in the big old factory."

Radio Silence
is a progression of the EP's sound, kicking off with the infectious Video Verite, one of the band's strongest tracks and a definite lost power pop classic. Other highlights include AWOL, Where's My Angel, Attraction and Shell Shocked. The kind of power pop on the album is not the warm, romantic kind you might expect from acts such as Shoes or Dwight Twilley. I'd call it "futuristic power pop," with its occasional use of synths and the sometimes deadpan delivery of lead singer Paul Humphrey. Other times it brings to mind the harder-edged pop of bands such as Red Rockers and fellow Canadians Payola$.

The second LP, Falling, sounds for the most part like a different band. The songs are more tuneful and produced, the overall ambiance is more nostalgic and reflective and Humphrey's vocals show a greater range of emotion. The result is an arguably stronger collection of songs, beginning with the pretty, open-sounding title track. The lead single, Don't Walk Past, was the band's most commercially successful song. It is very much a product of its time, with its slinky dance-pop sound. Head Over Heels is another cool dance track, this one more dance rock than synth-pop. Other highlights include the soft, romantic Red Filters, as well as All Your Time and Right Stuff, which along with the title track are the album's most melodic moments.

Blue Peter began recording tracks for a planned third LP, Vertigo, which was never completed. The band broke up in 1985, but has recently reformed for occasional gigs in Canada.

In 2007, Blue Peter made its entire catalog is available in the form of three CD reissues - Test Patterns for Living and Radio Silence on one disc, Falling and the unreleased Vertigo on the second and Up to You plus an assortment of rare and unreleased tracks on a compilation called Burning Bridges. All three sound great and are available on

Mike Bambrick, Paul Humphrey, Rick Joudrey, Geoff McOuat, Jason Sniderman, Owen Tennyson, Ron Tomlinson, Chris Wardman

Red Rockers, Payola$, Japan, Duran Duran, Maurice & the Cliches

- Blue Peter official site
- Blue Peter on MySpace
- Don't Walk Past video on YouTube
- Blue Peter on Wikipedia
- Interview with Paul Humphrey


Uncle E said...

I always thought they were a cool hybrid of late 70's Roxy Music, Duran Duran and ABC. Maybe 'cause they were the first concert I ever saw in my early teens (along with The Spoons, another ignored Canadian new wave band), but I always thought they wrote some of the best pop songs of the 80's.
Mr. Humphries also worked at one of the worlds largest record stores on one of the worlds largest streets: Sam The Record Man, on Younge Street in Toronto.
Thanks for posting, Frank. Now, your next assignment: Teenage Head!

Uncle E said...

Oh, by the way: EXCELLENT job on the history, man.

Franko6677 said...

Thank you! And thanks again for the suggestion. They're right up my alley!

... said...

You've forgotten their other EP - "Version" 1983/84