People are still talking about the Academy Awards from earlier this spring it seems…the best actor was a hit or something? Anyway, the film which won the Best Movie was Coda…critically acclaimed obviously, but not a blockbuster commercially. Looking at it that way, one might be inclined to call it a “B-movie”…which brings us to this month’s Forgotten Gem – 1980‘s “Nowhere Girl” by B-movie.
B-movie were a little bit like Coda – critically well-received but not a box office smash. They formed as a quartet in Nottingham, England in 1979. Steve Hovington was their leader, the main songwriter, singer and bassist. While they did have conventional guitars and drums, their sound was often built around the synthesizers and other keyboards work of Rick Holliday who co-wrote the near hit and they looked largely to Ultravox and New Order for inspiration.
A plea to a lonely, self-isolated girl from a prospective suitor, “Nowhere Girl” offered lyrics like “all functional and neat, Nowhere Girl, in self-imposed exile, Nowhere Girl, a martyr-like denial” which, coupled with clean, sterile synth rhythms, as allmusic put it “became an enduring tale of teen alienation” years before Kurt Cobain caught a whiff of the idea. They put it out as a 12” single on the tiny indie Dead Good Records label, and then re-released it in 1982 when they signed to the slightly larger Deram company off-shot Some Bizzarre. That time around it rose to a modest #67 in their homeland and did make the top 20 in Sweden. It had modest success on some college stations in the U.S., and was especially popular at Toronto’s alt rock station, CFNY. There it finished up ’82 as the 44th top record of the year…and was said to be the most difficult record for the station to keep. Apparently DJs and other staff liked it so much and found it so difficult to locate in local record stores, it kept being “borrowed” from the station library, much to the chagrin of on-air staff who wanted to play it.
Sire Records signed them in 1985, and they put out a full album, Forever Running, for which they re-recorded the song in a slightly more upbeat fashion (which allmusic contend “needless to say is far inferior to the original”) as well as their other minor hit, “Remembrance Day”, but it went…nowhere. Sire dropped them and they disbanded, deciding that maybe they were a “nowhere band.” However, a funny thing happened along the way to obscurity – “Nowhere Girl” suddenly began being remembered by people who seemingly liked it but didn’t buy it first time around. It got issued on more and more ’80s compilation albums and now is “and ’80s classic.”
They kept busy, but didn’t get their names up in bright lights. For instance, guitarist Paul Statham went on to work with Jim Kerr of Simple Minds and Peter Murphy at times; Hovington’s put out a few solo albums (the most recent only a couple of months back, Audience with Myself) and has become an expert sommelier, not only having his own brand of wine but teaching classes in wine appreciation. He now describes himself as “wine maker, author and erstwhile pop star.” But B-movie, like some of those great ’50s 3D films, never quite goes away. They reformed at times in the last decade to tour, and recorded a new album in 2016… which, in case you’re wondering does indeed have yet another version of “Nowhere Girl.” For a “nowhere” girl, she sure does pop up in a lot of places!