The band formed in Sheffield and was originally called Vice Versa. Interestingly, Stephen Singleton and Mark White (both synthesizer players) met Martin Fry (also a synthesizer player) when he interviewed them for his Modern Drugs fanzine (which may have been about synthesizer players). Fry was asked to join the band, the name was changed and before too long they had a recording contract.
By 1987, the band had been through several ups and downs. Singleton left the group in 1983 due to their lack of touring, and Fry spend several years in the mid-1980's being treated for Hodgkin's lymphoma. Their '87 album release, Alphabet City (named after the area in NYC when Fry and White lived for a time) became a modest success, and featured one of our favorite ABC songs, "When Smokey Sings."
Upbeat and nostalgic, "When Smokey Signs" would go on to be a hit, reaching #5 on the U.S. charts and #11 in the UK. The Alphabet City album would also do well, reaching #7 in the UK and #48 in the U.S. Unfortunately, this marked the end of the band's major commercial success, and they broke up in 1991. Fry resurrected the name in 1997 (White has left the industry) and remains active as of this writing.
By the by, we managed to find the rare extended intro version of the song:
Cool trivia fact: "When Smokey Sings" is of course about Smokey Robinson, whose song "More Love" was covered by Kim Carnes (and featured on ERV in December 2012).