Sunday, March 30, 2014

Altered Images - Happy Birthday

Altered Images were shooting stars in their native Britain, but barely made a dent in the U.S. market.  The Scottish new wave act released 3 top 30 LPs in the U.K. between 1981 - 83 and scored 9 charting singles, including 6 top 40 hits.  However, in the U.S., I don't believe that they had a charting song or album -- the closest thing the band had to a hit was 1982's "I Could Be Happy," which reached #45 on the Dance charts.

The group formed in 1979 and was led by frontwoman Clare Grogan, who also acted (more on that later).  The band was helped by two influential U.K. artists --   Siouxsie and the Banshees (who received a demo tape and liked it enough to have the band open for them on a few dates) and John Peel (the famous Radio One DJ) who had them on his show a couple of times, which led to an Epic Records recording contract.

"Happy Birthday" obviously caught someone's attention on MTV, as the video did manage to pick up some airplay on the channel.  Interestingly, the song is somewhat atypical of the band's music, as most of the songs on the group's debut album (also called Happy Birthday) are a bit darker.  Still, it comes off as a decent new wave/pop song, and one of the better rock birthday songs recorded.

Although Altered Images remained successful, multiple lineup changes seemed to wear on Grogan, and the band broke up in 1983.  Grogan would go on to have a successful career in acting, appearing mostly in British TV shows (notably Red Dwarf and EastEnders).  Some readers may also recall that she had a starring role in the 1981 Scottish coming-of-age film Gregory's Girl, a film that gets ERV's stamp of approval.

Cool trivia fact:  Altered Images are named after the Dutch design firm that did the artwork for the Buzzcocks 1978 "Promises" / "Lipstick" 45 (Single, for our younger readers).


  1. I've always enjoyed this band. I own the first two albums.
    Have to wonder the audience reaction to the band opening for Siouxsie!

    Ting Tings perform a cover on Yo Gabba Gabba
    Almost 6 million views.
    Bet very few viewers know it's an Altered Images song.


  2. Thanks Sam -- yes, very different from Sioxsie, to say the least. Interesting comment on Yo Gabba Gabba -- someone made the same point on our facebook page, too!