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2023/4 Albums Thing 301 - Secret Affair “Behind Closed Doors”

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“Behind Closed Doors” arrived just 11 months after “Glory Boys”, served up 2 more hit singles (“My World” #16 and “Sound Of Confusion” #45) and saw Secret Affair become genuine pop stars for a brief while. But by the end of 1980 when the album was released the “Mod Revival” was over as a youth cult and that, allied to less than enthusiastic promotion from I-Spy’s parent record company Arista, meant it didn’t perform (in record company world “perform”=“sell”) nearly as well as its predecessor.

It’s a quite different sounding album to “Glory Boys” too, many of the rough edges to their sound had been smoothed off, this is a more polished sounding thing, not nearly as “sweaty nights in a Canning Town boozer” sounding as before. Part of this was a deliberate attempt to highlight the different influences at work in the group and part of it was caused by Ian Page and Davie Cairns writing separately rather than as a team this time around. Page was in the USA remixing “Glory Boys” for seemingly more sensitive American ears and Arista were pressuring the band for a second album, resulting in most of this album being written by Page or Cairns.

Interestingly the two singles were both written by Davie Cairns while the three songs that most obviously signal the change in sound were penned by Ian Page. Those three songs, track 1, side 1 “What Did You Expect ?”, “Life's A Movie Too” and “Streetlife Parade”, are all much more expansive, relying less on Cairns slashing guitars and leaning much more on piano, orchestration and featuring Dave Winthrop saxophone solos that are not unlike those that Clarence Clemons was supplying for a certain Mr Springsteen and his E Street Band (you could say that about some of the piano work and Roy Bittan too). It makes you wonder how much of an influence that trip to America had upon Ian Page. I’d even go so far as to say that album closer “Streetlife Parade” is not entirely dissimilar in form and structure to some of the Boss’s epic album closers, think “Jungleland” but populated by sharp suited Mods and you’re part way there. My other favourite on “Behind Closed Doors” is the Cairns/Page co-write “When The Show's Over” which is a bit of a mash-up between Page’s more orchestrated style and Cairns guitar fired uptempo preferences. 

I lost my original copy over the years and replaced it a couple of years ago with a lovely Purple vinyl re-issue with extra tracks, they being the b-sides from the two singles. Secret Affair ain’t changing anyone’s life 40+ years removed from their heyday, the musical and youth cult landscape are very different now, but I will enthusiastically defend my position that they in no way deserve the ridicule that they still receive to this day.

Streetlife Parade - https://youtu.be/fC1rIGZq3Ww?si=nFsLqItB-CHPFpl0

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