Act – Snobbery & Decay
If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to grab my attention in a pop record it is a good string section, and Snobbery & Decay contains one of the greatest string sections of all time – especially in its superbly named “Extended for Stephanie Beacham” remix form. Basically, good strings can shore up a rubbish song and when the song is already brilliant, good strings turn it into something sublime.
This is exactly the case with Act‘s masterpiece of a debut single – a relentlessly energetic pop thumper with a swirling maelstrom of strings at its heart. A glance at the sleeve, adorned by both Quentin Crisp and Liberace, tells you that may not be in for an entirely normal pop experience. You most certainly are not.
Act combined the glottal power of Propaganda‘s Claudia Brücken with the faintly sinister, portentous sound of Port Glasgow’s Thomas Leer to quite astounding effect. Had they actually been successful I’d imagine they’d be running the planet by now.
Anyway, let’s have a look and listen shall we?
Overblown, dramatic, fabulous and scathing – and very, very expensive. This is what I loved about ZTT, the label that housed Act, Propaganda, Frankie Goes to Hollywood and many others. They would throw extraordinary amounts of cash at projects that were all but guaranteed to lose them money. But they did it anyway, either because the art was more important than the commerce or because they were all completely blitzed off their heads on cocaine. Either way, I’m grateful.
Snobbery & Decay, while seeming absolutely on point now, came out at a time when overt consumption and gigantic excess wasn’t necessarily seen as a bad thing. While we can now imagine it soundtracking many a documentary on City Tossers of the Eighties, in 1987 it was just too far ahead of its time. It remains, however, a glistening jewel of perfect production.
Before we leave 1987, let’s Extend for Stephanie Beacham, because it is that good.
“Oh, could you organise a small private jet? I’m flying to Las Vegas in the morning.”
Entered chart: 16/05/1987
Chart peak: 60
Weeks on chart: 6
Who could sing this today and make it a hit? Sam Smith, because he’s on a hot streak right now. But not next year, when Duffy syndrome will have set in.