Wang Chung in concert tonight. In 1981 they were just getting started, and at the time of this concert were known as Huang Chung.
At the beginning of Huang Chung’s career, all the members performed under pseudonyms. Jeremy Ryder was “Jack Hues” (a play on Emile Zola’s 1898 French open letter J’Accuse…!), Nick Feldman was “Nick DeSpig”, and Darren Costin was “Darren Darwin” (and later, just “Darwin”). The band were signed to a label called 101 Records. The first Huang Chung release, “Baby I’m Hu-man”, appeared on a 101 compilation album in 1980. Three live tracks were subsequently released on another 101 Records compilation in 1981.
Later in 1980, the independent record company Rewind Records signed the band for a two-single deal. Huang Chung’s debut single for Rewind Records was “Isn’t It About Time We Were on TV”, followed by “Stand Still”. Neither single charted, but the group had begun to attract the attention of Arista Records, who signed them on a two-album deal in early 1981. Around the same time, the group expanded to a quartet, with the addition of sax player Dave Burnand. In keeping with the all-pseudonymous nature of the band, Burnand was known as “Hogg Robinson” for the first Arista single, and later, simply as “Hogg”.
Under the direction of producer Rhett Davies, Huang Chung issued two singles on Arista in 1981, neither of which charted. A third single, produced by Roger Bechirian, appeared in early 1982; it too failed to chart. The band’s first album was issued in 1982. Self-titled, it compiled the three non-charting Arista A-sides, one of the Arista B-sides, and six other new tracks. Like the associated singles, the Huang Chung album failed to chart.
At the time the band’s self-titled album was issued, Hues, DeSpig and Burnand also contributed to the lone LP by the mysterious pseudonymous group Blanket of Secrecy. Hues and DeSpig wrote the song “Lovers” for the album, and Hues scored the strings for that song, while Burnand played sax on the album. Despite some speculation at the time, no member of Huang Chung was actually a member of Blanket of Secrecy — that band consisted of Roger Bechirian, Andrew Howell and Pete Marsh, operating under the pseudonyms Tinker, Soldier, and Tailor.
In late 1982, Huang Chung returned to the studio to start work on their second album for Arista Records. A new single, “Dance Hall Days”, was produced by Tim Friese-Greene and appeared as both a 7″ and 12″ single in October, but did not chart. The band were still a quartet at this point, with Feldman dropping the assumed “De Spig” surname and billing himself simply as “Nick”.
After the failure of “Dance Hall Days”, the group’s manager, David Massey, convinced Arista to close their contract with Huang Chung, and instead placed the band with American label Geffen Records, making the group the second UK-based act to be signed to Geffen worldwide after Asia (not counting then-New York-based John Lennon in 1980). Burnand left the group around this time, citing “musical differences”.
At this juncture, according to Hues, the band changed their name to Wang Chung at Geffen’s suggestion to make the pronunciation easier for English-speakers. (This explanation of the group’s name change is consistent with the claim by VH1’s Pop Up Video that they changed it because people kept calling them “Hung Chung”.)
So, as a reminder that bands don’t achieve success and recognition overnight, here is Huang Chung (before the name change) – recorded for BBC Radio 1’s In Concert series on April 1, 1981.
Enjoy – and apologies about the somewhat iffy sound during the last couple of minutes – tapes get old, strange and creaky – just like some people.