Released today in 1988: The Right Combination

MARES47

Nightmare MARES47

Another single, another Seventh Avenue line-up. The idea of a boyband with an ever-changing membership was not unique (Spanish outfit Menudo debuted in 1977 and had nearly three dozen members in 20 years) but an act that changed personnel with almost every release certainly was. In a number of ways, the British market simply wasn’t ready for Seventh Avenue and the group never scored a charting single.

Seventh Avenue was created by DJ and producer Ian Levine in the late 70s. The original group recorded an album around the theme of gay romance set against a backdrop of the American Dream – a product ready to market on both sides of the Atlantic. Unfortunately, it was released just at the point where America was falling out of love with disco and in the UK it was issued on the Pye label, which would fold within a year of the release. Regardless, the concept itself was ahead of its time and the project was shelved.

In 1983, though, Levine reactivated the name, altered the musical direction to Hi-NRG and recruited a new line-up to front it. The format was different from a typical ‘boyband’ of the 1980s – Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran et al – young men who wrote and performed their own music. As Tori Amos pointed out in a 2001 interview with Attitude magazine, “Vocal groups aren’t bands! They don’t play anything or write anything!” 1 (The interviewer had disallowed her answer of Coldplay when asked who her favourite boyband was.) Technically Seventh Avenue wasn’t even a voal group – public facing members were generally models or dancers, vocals being provided by studio-based session singers (lead on most tracks Alan Carvell). Consequently, when American George Mangrum’s work permit came up for renewal in 1986, the Department of Employment refused to extend it, arguing he wasn’t an ‘essential part’ of the act. A bit harsh: especially as he was part of the incarnation that did feature a member who sang on one of the records (Steven Harper, also known as Steve Stafford, who took the lead vocal on Love’s Gone Mad) and one that, with fellow members John Crabtree and Andrew Darby, stayed together for all of two singles.

Not only were this line-up not a ‘band’, they were also not ‘boys’: it was put to me recently that they looked rather mature by today’s standards. Of course, given that they were specifically marketed at gay audiences, all the members had to be over 21 at that point in the 1980s to have got into the clubs they’d have been doing their PAs at. Or perhaps, just as policemen seem to look younger to us these days, maybe our boybands do too.

After Seventh Avenue was finally wound up in 1991, a raft of boybands managed by gay Svengalis emerged; an acquaintance who worked at Radio 1 at the time said that “you can’t move without bumping into someone with an orange suntan and a t-shirt that’s too small for him” at the station. But how old were their personnel, exactly, when they released their first UK singles?

Group Manager First single Average age
Take That Nigel Martin-Smith Do What U Like
15th July 1991
20 years, 4 months, 1 day
East 17 Tom Watkins House of Love
10th August 1992
19 years, 9 months, 23 days
Bad Boys Inc Ian Levine Don’t Talk About Love
2nd August 1993
20 years, 10 months, 13 days
Boyzone Louis Walsh Love Me For A Reason *
28th November 1994
19 years, 5 months, 14 days

* Boyzone had released a single in their home country Eire six months earlier.

And are boybands getting younger, or are we imagining it? It seems so; cf today’s most successful boyband:

Category Information
Group One Direction
First single What Makes You Beautiful, 11th September 2011
Average age 18 years, 4 months, 24 days

1 Mattera, Adam. “Any queries?”, Attitude, Northern & Shell Network Ltd, September 2001.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Jan. 11
1985
The ASSOCIATES Breakfast (WEA YZ28)
BIG COUNTRY (Stuart Adamson) Just A Shadow (Mercury BCO8)
1988
SEVENTH AVENUE (Big Fun) The Right Combination (Nightmare MARES47)

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