This is 1981’s “Happy Birthday,” by Altered Images, now described as a post-punk or new wave band from Scotland. None of their original singles appear to have been released in the US, although their first album was. I’m pretty sure I learned of them from hanging around Modern Records in Syracuse, and I was probably quite taken with the cover of “Bite,” which we’ve talked about. Maybe I even heard the music in-store; who can remember at this remove? This was their first album, but the last one I bought.
The title song is a definite earworm, which went to #2 on the UK Singles chart but, as I said, wasn’t even released in the US — though it does seem to appear on the “Sixteen Candles” movie soundtrack album. “Happy Birthday” is probably the most memorable song on the album. I love Clare Grogan’s voice, but this is very 1981.
There was a time when the only modern birthday song alternative to the traditional one was The Beatles’ “Birthday,” which stands as perhaps not their finest. So I was a little glad when Altered Images gave us something appropriate to play on a birthday. (Since then, however, Cracker stepped up and took over the extremely limited genre with “Happy Birthday to Me.”)
This record had a very ’80s looking picture sleeve, with handwritten credits and colorful art and photographs – quite the comparison, in fact, to the beautiful black and white austerity of “Bite.”
I listened to this again the other day, and for me, it’s the least of their records; had I not loved “Bite” I probably wouldn’t have bought it in the first place (I used to be quite the completist), and I also probably wouldn’t have held onto it in the purges of a few years ago. It doesn’t need much listening.