Altered Images – Bite

I’ve been trying to do these the way my records are stored — alphabetically, then chronologically. But my grownkid, a fan of “High Fidelity” and no slouch in the cataloging department, says it only makes sense to do them autobiographically. And in this instance, that’s true. Presenting the Altered Images albums in their proper chronological order has nothing to do with how I experienced them. So, we’re gonna go last first, and start with “Bite.”

Altered Images is a band whose records I’m sure I bought in reverse order. I also bought all their albums after the band had broken up — not that that’s terribly unusual for my collection, but it was so soon after they broke up. The first album I bought was “Bite,” released in 1983 but new to me early in 1984. (I know that because I kept the receipt!)

Altered Images Bite front cover
Altered Images Bite front cover

“Bite” remains a fairly magical album to me. The cover is the definition of elegance, featuring lead singer Clare Grogan seriously dolled up. The cover is black and white, the typography simple. The album is in the vicinity of dance pop — or maybe it’s in downtown dance pop, I’m not sure. In any case, compared to a lot of other music from 1983, this still goes down pretty easily.

Might not be surprising, given my evident tastes, that it is their most pop-like album. Every song on this is excellent and still listenable today. And while they do have synthesizers (because 1983), they’re still much more guitar-driven and don’t sound quite as dated as the other bands of the time . . . or their previous album. From this came the single “Don’t Talk to Me About Love,” which I simply loved. “Yesterdays shatter, tomorrows don’t matter.”

The standout for me was “Change of Heart:”

This is all miles away from where Altered Images started, as a post-punk band from Scotland. The lyrics are very simple, it’s the beat and that voice that make these songs stick. Grogan has a distinctive voice, something of a little girl voice but on the right songs, it really worked.

Modern Records Receipt for Bite

Living like a Rockefeller in 1984, spending $11 on import albums. Dig the hand-written receipt.

Who knows why I kept the things that I did? I kept the receipt for this album (and the single for “Change of Heart”), and tucked it inside the jacket, so I know that I bought this at Syracuse’s Modern Records, a little shop with an insanely great import selection that was tucked in on Trinity Place, just off Westcott (if memory serves). March 28, 1984. (It was a warm day for March in Syracuse, getting up to 48 degrees, though newspapers seem to indicate a blizzard came through the next day bringing eight inches of snow and requiring the deflation of the Carrier Dome’s roof.) $11.00 for the album, and $5.50 for the single – I was living large! That was definitely more than I would have been willing to pay for most new albums at the time.

You want autobiographical? Here:

Given that I know exactly when I bought this album, I can say with some confidence that this is what I looked like at the time. That I’m willing to admit that shows how far I’ve come. Just for the record, “they” did not ever call me “Dr. Type,” despite my insistence.

Why was this album called “Bite”? I’ve never learned.

I forgot one thing when I first posted this: The 12″ single for “Don’t Talk To Me About Love.” It has a simple, lovely cover featuring a painting titled “Big Joe Turner.” However, there is nothing about this record that relates to Big Joe Turner in any way that I can understand. I mean, I’m all for it, but they never covered Big Joe on record, there’s nothing about their music that relates to him. A mystery, like the album’s title. I’d love to know.

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