Stand down, Margaret!: Thrashing Doves and the sorry saga of their “Beautiful Imbalance” video

By on September 20, 2018

“In 1982, brothers Ken and Brian Foreman joined forces with guitarist Ian Button and formed the Climb, an amateur trio who explored electronic technology and combined it with traditional rock ‘n’ roll,” says Night Flight’s Pat Prescott in this special edition of “Flash Tracks,” which originally aired on April 7, 1987, and you’ll now find streaming on our Night Flight Plus channel.

“The Climb reached its last steps and in 1984,” she continues, “recruited drummer Kevin Sargent and re-emerged as Thrashing Doves.”

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Our “Flash Tracks” episode features two of the London band’s best-loved videos, beginning with the Jimmy Iovine-produced “Biba’s Basement,” which Ms. Prescott tells us “is based on the true story of the 1970s trendy boutique, Biba’s, bombed by social terrorists.”

Guitarist/lead vocalist Ken Foreman — deliciously described in the August 1987 issue of Spin Magazine as having “the good looks of a Curiosity, the type you see in those BBC public TV films about an Evelyn Waugh-vian prep-school boy who is so angelically pretty he daily finds himself pushed headfirst into toilets” — and his older-by-two-years brother bassist Brian — he’s described in the same article as cultivating a “more mature image with long black leather coats, Steve McQueen prescription shades, and a prematurely receding hairline” — grew up in the commuter-belt South-East London suburb of Bromley, where Siouxsie & the Banshees, Billy Idol, the Sex Pistols, T. Rex, David Bowie and members of the Rolling Stones were also from.

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Thrashing Doves (L-R): Ian Button, Brian Foreman, Ken Foreman, Kevin Sargent

Their post-punk power trio the Climb signed with the UK indie Pinnacle Records in 1981, releasing three singles.

In the summer of ’84, longtime drummer Allan Fielder left to join another band, the Truth, so the Foremans drafted drummer Richard Newman into their lineup, and added bassist Hari Sajjan, allowing Brian to switch to synthesizers and sequencers.

Their new name, Thrashing Doves, came from the title of a poem penned by beat poet/writer Jack Kerouac, published in Scattered Poems (City Lights).

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In March of ’85, Newman was replaced by drummer Kevin Sargent, and the band played headlining gigs at the Marqeee Club that June, which led to them signing with A&M Records that October.

Their first demo recordings interested quite a few great record producers, namely Chris Thomas (Sex Pistols/Roxy Music) and Jimmy Iovine.

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In the Spring of 1986, Thrashing Doves traveled to the U.S., where they recorded a couple of tracks with Iovine at Rumbo Recorders in the San Fernando Valley. NYC-based re-mix genius Arthur Baker remixed their first single, “Matchstick Flotilla.”

Later the same year, “Biba’s Basement” caused some controversy because it appeared to show sympathy for anti-consumerist terror groups (like Tyler Durden’s gang in David Fincher‘s Fight Club).

Read more about Thrashing Doves below.

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In 1987, Thrashing Doves’ debut album Bedrock Vice found instant critical praise by the UK’s New Musical Express/Smash Hits/Melody Maker music papers.

They seemed poised for even more success when their third single, the anti-nuke themed “Beautiful Imbalance” (produced by Chris Thomas) was released.

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Then, disaster struck: Britain’s then-current Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher expressed her fondness for the Andy Morahan-directed video — featuring the band with their heads literally in the clouds — when when it was played for her on the BBC’s “Saturday Superstore” TV show.

All these decades later, the one thing most ’80s-era music fans remember about Thrashing Doves was how their popularity took a nosedive, a phenomenon which later came to be known as “The Curse of Thrashing Doves” (we previously told you about this sorry saga once before).

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As we mentioned, Thatcher wasn’t well-liked in the music business, and British bands and artists like the English Beat (“Stand Down Margaret”), the Clash, the Blow Monkeys, Elvis Costello and Morrissey were all recording anti-Thatcher-esque songs, and so receiving a rave review from the Iron Lady was seen as a really bad move for the boys from Bromley.

The very next day, UK headlines like “Margaret Thatcher Votes for Anti-Nuclear Song” made it seem as though the band were endorsing her.

When they accepted her approval without tossing in a few negative notes of their own about the job she’d being doing as Britain’s PM, it all combined to help sink the band’s future fortunes.

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The single — with it’s curiously non-scientific chorus: “I know the world is flat, don’t try to tell me that it’s round/I know the world stands still, don’t try to make it turn around/’Cause your beautiful imbalance is gonna let you down” — ended up stalling at #50 on the UK Single charts.

They still managed to score a Top Twenty U.S. dance chart hit later that year with “Jesus on the Payroll,” yet another track from Bedrock Vice, and they also landed an opening band supporting slot on tour with shit-hot Duran Duran in 1988, but to no avail.

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Two years later the band scored a Top 15 hit on the Billboard modern rock chart with “Angel Visit,” from their follow-up album Trouble in the Home, but clearly they were struggling to regain their footing.

They ultimately changed their names to just the Doves (despite the fact that there was already a Mancunian bunch called Doves at the time) and released their final album, 1991’s Affinity, but it failed to fix the band’s problems, so Thrashing Doves (or Doves or whatever they were calling themselves) decided to call it a day.

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This 1987 “Flash Tracks” episode — which also features videos by Amazulu, the Clash, and Big Audio Dynamite — is now streaming on our Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.