(Check out exciting, updated information HERE.)
Most people will recognize Abecedarians from their single 80’s hit called “Smiling Monarchs.” The original band formed in 1983 in Los Angeles and consisted of Chris Manecke (guitar, vocals, keyboards), John Blake (bass), and Kevin Dolan (drums). “Smiling Monarchs” was mixed by Bernard Sumner of New Order and released on Factory Records. The New Order influence is apparent in the prominent use of synthesizer, the magnitude of which is not heard in any of the band’s subsequent recordings. This debut track became instantly popular and is featured on many 80’s various artist collections.
Abecedarians moved to Caroline one year later for their debut EP Eureka. Resin followed in 1987. Two compilations have since been released: AB-CD (1988), which is a collection of nearly all of Eureka and Resin, plus the Factory single “Smiling Monarchs,” and The Other Side of the Fence (which includes unavailable early demo tracks).
Beyond “Smiling Monarchs,” the band had a unique, spare sound that was both genuine and endearing. Chris Manecke’s understated vocals, churning guitar, and accompanying earnest rhythm licks via John Blake’s chugging bass and Kevin Dolan’s thrumming drum kit made the band’s sound larger than a mere trio, yet refreshingly raw á la garage rock. The lyrics are dark, yet delivered in a way that makes the listener think perhaps the intention is more ironic than morose. There’s no denying Abecedarians’ post-punk roots.
Abecedarians recordings are rare and very hard to get. I have heard from John Blake that a box set is planned for release. No date has been set, but I know that such a release will make a lot of Abecedarians fans very happy. It has been a long wait for those wishing to replace lovingly worn vinyl with updated audio tracks. Here’s hoping the long wait will soon be over.
John Blake’s MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/northjohn
“Dinner” via YouTube user missparker0106:
“I Glide” via YouTube user missparker0106:
“Soil” via YouTube user tadeuz30:
“Smiling Monarchs” via YouTube user missparker0106:
SMILING MONARCHS 12″ EP (1985)
01 Smiling Monarchs
02 Benway’s Carnival
EUREKA EP (1986)Tracklist :
03 Beneath the City of the Hedonistic Bohemians
04 I Glide
05 Mice & Coconut Tree
06 The Misery of Cities
RESIN (1987)Tracklist :
02 Spaghetti Western
03 Where Whitie Ain’t Allowed
04 Wild Flowers Grow From the Trash
05 Press Escape
06 Laugh at Yourself
07 Sufferin’ Tarnation
08 Panic in Needle Park
AB-CD (1988) Tracklist :
03 Other Side Of The Future, The
04 I Glide
05 Mice And Coconut Tree
06 Smiling Monarchs
08 Spaghetti Western
09 Where White Ain’t Allowed
10 Press Escape
11 Laugh At Yourself
12 Surf Western
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FENCE 10″ (1990)
01 Beneath The City Of The Hedonistic Bohemians
03 John’s Pop
04 Come Out
06 Spaghetti Western
08 Where’s Karen
10 The Other Side Of The Fence
12 They Said Tomorrow
01 Benways Carnival
02 Beneath The City Of The Hedonistic Bohemians
03 The Misery Of Cities
04 Wildflowers Grow From The Tras
05 They Said Tomorrow
live gig on June 17, 1988 :
06 Where Whitie Ain’t Allowed
07 Press Escape
09 Lift Off
10 Spaghetti Western
12 Laugh at Yourself
Anyone know where Chris is or how he can be reached? Please let me know. An contact information will be respected and appreciated
Your best bet would be to contact John Blake via his MySpace link provided in the article. He may know where to find Chris Manecke. Thank you for visiting and good luck!
That cover of Eureka is from which country/pressing? Mine is quite different.
Hello El Ruyaydong,
There are two album covers for Eureka. The one I have displayed is from Caroline Records, NY, New York USA.
Thank you for writing! Cheers.
Amazing there’s still such interest in Abecederians after so many years. We’ve all got to be, well, geezer age by now. I knew Chris, once. I went with him to see New Order the first time anyone saw them in OC. (AB-CD were not a Los Angeles crew, BTW. We all try to dodge our OC roots!) I lost contact with him shorty thereafter so it’s interesting to read that they eventually got Bernard Sumner to mix the song. I saw AB-CD by accident one night in 1989 at Bogart’s (was that the name?) in Long Beach, they followed John Cale, I believe. I chatted briefly to Chris as best as one could over the blaring club noise. Their performance was slight at best. Not being familiar with much of their recorded output the sound struck me as a stoner’s take on The Cure: Long, droning tunes that plodded like large beasts. (CM admitted before going on that he was really stoned. After hearing some of the mind-altered performance–I left before they finished, my girlfriend at the time wasn’t feeling it–I was offended that he didn’t seem to care enough to at least wait until afterwards.) Not to sound unfair, their recordings proved to be much more interesting. Even more, I saw them rehearse in a garage before any of their recordings and I thought the band was really on to something. CM was deep into Bauhaus and owned no synths at the time, which for my tastes was a good thing. Kevin was a good drummer, CM could drop some great psychedelic guitar, and Johnny had an eight string bass at the time; To give that all up for electronics still seems a shame to me, but those were the times. Anyway, after knowing them back in the day it’s interesting to hear them again. Thanks for posting.
Hi Dieter – count me in among the legions of old geezers 🙂 I enjoyed reading your recollections of the band.
I don’t feel that they gave up anything for electronics, other than on “Smiling Monarchs.” It was a wise business move because that’s the sound that was making or breaking groups at the time. Everything else I’ve listened to by the ABs has that wonderfully spare, signature garage-sound which has endeared me to them. If it wasn’t for the success of Smiling Monarchs, a lot of people throughout the world would never have gotten to experience the unique and moody music that the ABs recorded – and that would have been a shame.
Thank you for your memories – it keeps the band alive and makes them seem all that much more real.
These guys had a great sound that has never grown old to me. I can say all live recordings i have seen did not hold up to studio. Still wish they had lasted longer.
I was roommates with Kevin and friends with “Minky” and Blake back in the Newport days.They played at a Friday the 13th Birthday party for me in ’81 in Huntington Beach amongst broken mirrors and underneath a ladder. The local High School was having a football game that night so the crowd ballooned and the cops busted what turned into a block party.
I too would like to get in touch with them again
Hi Alan – your best bet is to use the MySpace link to John’s page and contact him there. He is the only one from Abecedarians that I have ever spoken to, and we touched base through MySpace. Good luck and I’d love to know the outcome!
I am an old friend of the band from Newport Beach days (I am also a friend of Alan Schwarz, the poster above me) when Chris Maneke worked at Peer Records by 18th St. I recorded them through the soundboard at their Beyond Baroque show (dubbed “Beyond BBQ”) on June 30th 1985. I still have the tape and will someday get around to transcribing it to digital form.
I ran into Chris several years after the demise of Abs in Silver Lake, doing sound for a Halloween party. I haven’t seen him since, but Zabasearch tells me he is still in that area.
John Blake is on Facebook nowadays and he is on my FB friends list. I promised to send him a copy of this tape as soon as I get a roundtuit.
A release of that tape would be fantastic! I, too, am friends with John Blake on MySpace and have spoken to him via telephone. He’s a great guy – they deserve all the recognition they can get.
Thank you for your comment.
i listen to them since the ’80 when i used to buy records from IPR.
I remember another band from the same scene using bagpipes.
Who remebers the name of the band?
Abecedarians were most definitely one of the most underrated bands of their time. So brooding and almost gothic. In fact my goth friends loved them. Very sad and kinda shoe-gazing music with their muted tones.
I agree – they definitely appeal to the Goth fan in me. Thanks for your comment.
I live in the UK and had a surf film back in the 80’s. Billabongs surf into summer. I loved the track of theirs on the video but have found it hard to follow them nowdays obviously. I will keep looking to see if I can get my hands on some of their great music!!
I’m currently in contact with Chris Manecke and Kevin Dolan. I’ve met Chris a few times and he’s actually has a new CD of deep ambient material that he gave me a copy of. Check out the Stealing History page on Facebook to find out more about what the Abecedarians have been up to nowadays!
Thanks so much for the update. So glad to hear things are going well for Chris. I will definitely check it out. All the best xo
AB-CD one of my favourite albums of all time =) I would like if someone knows the lyrics. Greetings from Chile.
Paburin has great taste!
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To a commenter above, the band that used bagpipes…Big Country? “In a big country / dreams stay with you / like a lover’s voice / ‘cross the mountainside”
Thank you for that–it has been a long time (nearly 7 years) since Marco asked the question, but hopefully he will see this. Again, many thanks!
AB-CD is absolutely one of my favorite albums! Not to pose like it is a representative statistics, but all my younger friends (doomer and zoomer gen) absolutely loved it too.
Thank you for this–I can see how it would appeal across the generations.
AB-CD is absolutely one of my favorite albums! Pretty much every track except maybe two strikes really close to my heart. // Coming from someone born a few years after the disband.
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