Altered Images, 80’s Revisited at Manchester Academy 3, Manchester, UK 2/3/2022





“There Was An Amazing Sense Of Love In The Packed Room When The Intro To First Song, “I Could Be Happy” Opened”


There was a time in the early 1980s when Scottish bands, and predominantly, Glasgow bands, were a huge part of my record collection and of the UK’s music scene. Alan Horne’s Postcard Record label and bands such as Orange Juice, The Associates, The Jazzateers, Bourgie, Bourgie, Hipsway and Altered Images were never off my turntable.

Formed in 1979, Altered Images were a very young band fronted by breathtaking singer Clare Grogan, the inspiration for the 80s end of the night  floor filler, “True” by Spandau Ballet. Initially championed by DJ John Peel, they were a post-punk band who didn’t think Pop was a dirty word and produced exuberant and catchy hits such as Happy Birthday, I Could Be Happy and Don’t Talk To Me About Love. Their star shone brightly for three years and then they were gone. Bass player, Johnny McElhone, going on to form the legendary Hipsway and Texas and Clare building on her acting debut in the iconic film Gregory’s Girl. They were a poignant part of my early teenage years so I’m thrilled to be able to finally hear their songs played live tonight at my second home, The Academy in Manchester.

The Manchester University Students Union building is very busy tonight, as there’s another band on downstairs. Walking up to the 400 capacity Academy 3 and past the merch stand I notice how cool the bands artwork, designed by the late, great David Band still is. I remember my original singles and Altered Images poster and think I’ll have to dig them out again.

“I always get nervous, but not as nervous as this” says the infectiously happy Clare after the five-piece get up on stage to rapturous applause. Clare, now the only original member of the band, goes on to say that “it’s strange”, but she’s very happy to be back playing in a student union where it started all those years ago.  I couldn’t agree more, I’m looking forward to hearing undeniable 80s classics in such an intimate space.

There was an amazing sense of love in the packed room when the intro to first song, “I Could Be Happy” opened.  The song had a fuller sound than on the original recording and I found myself mouthing Get away, Runaway, Far away” as the band, not for the first time tonight, shared knowing looks and smiles as the crowd were singing and bouncing along.



Playing one of their most famous hits so early could have easily been a mistake, but when the staccato guitar intro to second song “See Those Eyes” began, I could see this wasn’t the case.  The songs Banshees with baby teeth guitar sound totally perfect. I’m guessing like a lot of the gathering, we were all back in our school discos in an instant. You don’t care about, that she’ll forget about” being sung and mouthed around the audience in unison.

Knowing smiles were being shared once again amongst the band. It was obvious they were really enjoying it and their reaction was infectious. It was an amazing, perfect performance of a bona-fide 80s new wave pop classic and I had the thought that baby teeth could still be sharp when they sunk in for some reason.

“Mascara Streakz”, “Glitter Ball” and “Beautiful Thing” were introduced as tracks from the band’s new album, the first Altered Images music since Bite was released in 1983. The album, produced by former band member (and Clare’s husband) Stephen Lironi features songs co-written with her neighbour, former Suede member Bernard Butler, legendary Bluebells singer Robert Hodgens aka Bobby Bluebell and original Altered Images bass player Johnny McElhone. Three songwriters who definitely know how to write a good tune and “Mascara Streakz”, “Glitter Ball” and “Beautiful Thing” were just that tonight. All songs with sounds so obviously written by their relevant songwriters, well performed and enthusiastically welcomed by the audience. Clare was in a chatty mood and continued talking about her lifelong friendship with the aforementioned Bobby Bluebell. Their love of playing Doctors and Nurses when they were younger bringing much laughter from the crowd.

I never really appreciated how good the bands third and final studio album, Bite was until tonight. Both “Love to stay”and “Bring me closer” , from the album were simply outstanding. The more prominent bass on “Bring me closer” even encouraging the middle-aged men and very cool looking 50 year olds to lose their inhibitions and move and sing “Something that you do to me” along with the smiling singer. It was the first standing up of the hairs on the back on my neck moment tonight. “Love to Stay” was the second and was performed faultlessly. I closed my eyes at this point and was asked if I was Ok? I was lost in the moment and imagining driving along the Italian coast in a convertible sportscar in the 1960s as I listened to the perfect harmonies, the band again exchanging smiles and laughs as I finally opened my eyes. I did have to remind myself that the song was recorded way back in 1983. A song way ahead of its time.

Before beginning the band’s first and slightly controversial single “Dead Pop Stars” Clare mentioned her love for Siouxsie from the Banshees. It was a reminder of the bands post-punk roots and reminded me they were a band happy on both the covers of the cutting-edge music press like NME and teen pop magazines such as Smash Hits. As I looked around the packed audience this appeal still seemed the same and the heavily influenced post-punk, Banshees sound of both “Dead Pop Stars” and Insects” were greatly welcomed. The outro to “Insects” slowing down to its quiet finale to rapturous applause.



“I love this song” chatted Clare, jokingly mentioning her hatred of people misspelling her name with an I before beginning The Ting Tings song “That’s Not My Name”. It was a rapturous version and a great choice in Manchester seeing as The Ting Tings are from Salford, the city just down the road.

During a storming version of “Change of Heart” I smiled to myself as I thought of the lying down dancing scene in Gregory’s Girl as everyone was dancing, middle-aged men included.

Hair on the back of your neck moment three was looking round and seeing everybody also singing the chorus “I see you’ve had a change of heart ah ah ah, I see you’ve had a change of heart ah ah ah, and it’s tearing me apart”. Wow.

For some stupid reason I decided to go to the toilet and subsequently missed my favourite song, Don’t Talk to Me About Love”. Oh well, I’ll just have to catch the band again I suppose. The infectious xylophone induced “Happy Birthday” ended the set, Clare offering the microphone to the audience to join her in singing which we all euphorically did. A perfect song to end a perfect night, the band laughing, smiling and joining hands on stage to say thank you when the song finished.

Tonight was one of those gigs where you leave really, really smiling. Not even lost power to the bass could dampen the spirit and fun and it was a gig much more than reliving the past. Seeing undeniable 80s classics in such an intimate space was obviously amazing, but if the new songs are anything to go by you should be seeing more of the new Altered Images, which is no bad thing. No bad thing indeed.



Set List

1/ I Could Be Happy

2/ See Those Eyes

3/ Mascara Streakz

4/ Insects

5/ Love to Stay

6/ Glitter Ball

7/ Bring Me Closer

8/ Beautiful Thing

9/ Dead Pop Stars

10/ That’s Not My Name

11/ Change of Heart

12/ The Colour of My Dreams

13/ Don’t Talk to Me About Love

14/ Happy Birthday