Released today in 1985: Don’t Fall In Love (I Said)

Portrait A6160

Portrait A6160

Don’t Fall In Love (I Said) was Toyah Willcox’s first single as a solo artist; until 1985, the name ‘Toyah’ had referred to the band, not its singer. When the band split in 1984, Willcox also left the independent record company Safari and signed her solo deal with the major, CBS.

At the time, the chairman of CBS was Maurice Oberstein. In her autobiography Living Out Loud (2001), Willcox states that he had tempted her with the offer of being the first British signing to a new label that would soon boast all the biggest female names in the music industry. Towards this aim, Oberstein had arranged the reactivation of the semi-dormant CBS subsidiary, Portrait. Launched in 1976, Portrait had been the home of American artists such as Joan Baez and Heart, but by the 1980s the only act left still on its books was the latter. When they went on hiatus, Portrait was mothballed. The arrival of New Wave provided an opportunity to re-launch the Portrait brand; in the US, Altered Images’ records appeared on Portrait.

The attractive design of the record centres was a brown label with silver-grey titles and an orange script-style logo.

The attractive design of the record centres was a brown label with silver-grey titles and an orange script-style logo.

In the liner notes to the reissue of Don’t Fall In Love (I Said)’s parent album Minx, Willcox said for the third incarnation of the label, Oberstein “went out into the world in 1984 with a shopping list of names from Dionne Warwick to Pat Benetar to Tina Turner to Debbie Harry and tried to buy them all.” How realistic this plan was is a matter of debate; regardless, before he could carry it out Oberstein left CBS the following year after twenty years’ service when he fell out with its American arm, Columbia, threatening to leave and go to rival PolyGram. Columbia’s president Walter Yetnikoff called his bluff and announced Obie’s “retirement” at a sales conference. (This forced Oberstein’s hand and he did indeed go on to join PolyGram; he was instrumental in their acquisition of A&M and Island before his real retirement from the industry.)

One In A Million was issued on Portrait in 1985.

One In A Million was issued on Portrait in 1985.

Nevertheless, by that point Portrait had Cyndi Lauper in America and her successful debut album was a hit for the company on both sides of the Atlantic. Other artists signed were R&B acts Nicole McCloud and Angela Clemmons, and Polish singer-songwriter Basia, although the latter’s records were issued by Epic in America. The opposite was true for Sade Adu’s band, Sade: Epic here, and Portrait there. With Oberstein’s departure, the idea of a subsidiary reserved for women was shelved; Hugh Cornwell couldn’t be considered feminine by any stretch of the imagination. In 1987, Portrait was wound up again and the remaining artists dropped by CBS Group altogether or transferred to Epic. This didn’t affect Willcox: unhappy, she had already jumped ship to EG.

Shortly after this, Sony Music acquired the CBS Group, and several attempts to re-launch Portrait have been made. In 1992, it reappeared briefly, specializing in jazz reissues; in 1999 it became associated with metal bands for a few years; and in its current form, from 2012, it has concentrated on classical crossover artists.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Apr. 15
1983
The BEAT Can’t Get Used To Losing You (Go Feet FEET17)
The CREATURES (Siouxsie Sioux) Miss The Girl (Wonderland SHE1)
The HUMAN LEAGUE (Keep Feeling) Fascination (Virgin VS565)
SPANDAU BALLET True (Reformation SPAN1)
1985
TOYAH Don’t Fall In Love (I Said) (Portrait A6160)
Kim WILDE Rage To Love (MCA KIM3)

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