45. Der Kommisar: The CBS Recordings – After the Fire

DER KOMMISAR: THE CBS RECORDINGS

After The Fire (ATF)

I will admit from the outset that the inclusion of this particular is a bit unfair, but I am including the entire discography of After the fire under one title because it is the only way any ATF music has been released on CD other than a similarly named Best Of compilation that was terribly mastered. And since the only title ever released in the U.S. was actually just a “best of” compilation including this incredible band under these circumstances seems justified. I will primarily focus songs that were on the original U.S. title and other key songs.

After floundering for many years as a “prog” band in the UK sounding more like Genesis and Yes then anything like the music contained on this collection, a young guitarist named Andy Piercy joined the group and things changed. Piercy was one half of the popular British Christian duo Ishmael and Andy. They recorded one project together that I am familiar with. For trivia’s sake it should be noted that the other half od that group, Ishmael, went on to record a wonderful ska/punk project under the name Ishmael United entitled “If You Can’t Shout You’ll Have to Face the Penalty” that barely missed making this Top 50. As a result i will plug that album here and tell the reader to try and find a copy, place your tongue firmly in your cheek and enjoy!

After joining ATF the direction of the band began to change from a prog rock band to a more synth driven new wave. He also appeared to have an even stronger evangelical Christian influence though the entire band (at least the core members) were Christians all well. Their faith was quite clear on many of the their songs like Laser Love, One Rule for You and Take Me Higher.

Ironically to American audience they are simply known as the band that did the English version of Der Kommisar. The true irony is that the band had pretty much broken up by the time that song soared to the top of the charts in the U.S. The often confusing song was a cover of a Falco tune sung originally in German. The anti-drug song became the only hit in the U.S. for the band despite having significantly more success in Europe and the UK. I believe they may be the only artist in this Top 50 that I was never able to see live.

Highlights from the band include the aforementioned Laser love.

Your love is like a laser burning right into my life
You knowing my weaknesses you cut me like a knife
You’re separating all the wrong things from the right

With strong melodies, creative keyboards and new wave Euro vocals the song is immediately likable. And though, like the lyrics above, the majority of content is not deep or overly creative that vibe and joy expressed throughout ATF’s music make them a wonderfully enjoyable listen. But the reader be warned, this is true euro new wave with all the glitz, glam and sugary pop hooks one can muster. But hidden within the simple lyrics and memorable hooks are some very well crafted pop tunes.

Take Me higher is a personal favorite and seems a little bit like an SAT test with all the comparing and contrasting going on.

I am a minute and you are an hour
I am a room and you are a tower
I am a motion and you are the power, you are the power
I am a word and you are the line
I am a poem and you are the rhyme
I am a watch and you are the time you are time

You make my life worth living, you set this world on fire n’ just
When I think its over, you take me higher, you take me higher

Sung about as quickly as one can possibly enunciate, the live version (available n this double disc) is pure energy. And really that’s what ATF brought to their music, a certain energy that was infectious, enjoyable and just plain fun. They even included several instrumentals on their projects showing that the former prog band never lost their musical chops.

Sometimes is a personal favorite and always reminded me of the best pop rock from the Knack. What from the initial listen sounds like a fun rockin’ love song is actually a tune about God’s unending love and His refusal to let us go.

Oddly enough their biggest hit in the UK is actually a song about how an artist can sing about any subject and receive radio airplay until that same artist writes a song about their Christian faith. This truth extended into the public square and how all topics are free game except for Christianity.

They say believe in what you like as long as you can keep it to yourself
I say if what I know is right, it’s wrong if I don’t tell somebody else
What kind of line is that you’re giving me
One Rule for you, one rule for me

Other songs that should been huge radio hits for the time include: Rich Boys, Frozen Rivers, Dancing in the Shadows, Who’s Gonna Love You (When You’re Old, Fat and Ugly) and Love Will Always Make You Cry. But with no real band to promote or tour to support CBS simply let the project die and that was it for After the Fire.

There have been a few reunion shows over the years including a famous “standing room only” performance at the world-famous Greenbelt festival in 2004. There has even been talk of recording some new music or reworking older songs with new arrangements, but unfortunately nothing has materialized.

After disbanding the members went off into several different directions. The drummer Ivor Twydell went on to record three solo albums with christian theme with one those releases, Duel, receiving a pretty decent distribution into the U.S. by the same company that introduced the CCM scene to bands like Servant and stronghold. His style was similar to After the Fire sound with some of the prog influence included as well.

But it has been Andy Piercy that has made the greatest impact on the Christian Music scene. In fact Piercy has been more important to the growth of CCM’s most popular format of music than possibly any other artists though many fans have no idea who he is. As the leading proponent, producer and developer of modern worship talent in the UK Piercy is responsible for introducing to the marketplace artist like Split Level, Delirious and Matt Redman. He was one of the originators of the famous Soul Survivor worship conferences.

So, despite the short shelf life of ATF their impression has been a lasting one and clearly deserving of their inclusion in this Top 50.

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7 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Rupert on February 7, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    Hi.
    Andy was involved in After the Fire well before they went ‘new wave/synth’, as evidenced by the fact he is present for their Signs of Change LP. The change in direction was mostly brought on by the departure of the bass player Nick Battle . After playing for a couple of months with a doubleneck bass/guitar, Andy moved to bass. The drums, bass, keyboard line-up, along with the way music was changing in the late 70s was what precipated the move toward a faster, new-wave sound.

    Ivor Twydell joned the police force and becama buddhist.

    Peter Banks and John Rusell are currently in ATF2 who *have* recorded a couple of CDs of new music, and tour each year. They ahve also reissued Signs of Change and a version of an unreleased ATF album.

    Reply

    • Posted by low5point on February 7, 2010 at 2:49 pm

      I knew that Andy was around for the Sings EP but was noting how many songs Andy wrote or co-wrote that have a much stronger pop feel to them. I find his songs are closer to the pop, jazzy feel of the Ishmael and Andy sound (though not as acoustic but still poppy)…I was considering the songwriting over the instrumentation. I have a list of the different line-ups and it is pretty lengthy 🙂

      I had read about Ivor’s move into law enforcement, but was am trying to keep things relating to music so didn’t mention. I was unfamiliar with the Buddhism, I have his three solo projects and really liked the Tunesmith one.

      I have the reissue of Signs as well, but not the unreleased material that I had heard was supposed to come out. I read that there is a recent version of One Rule For You amd would love to hear what they did with it. Thanks for the comments and clarifications

      Reply

  2. Posted by Steve on February 8, 2010 at 4:20 am

    Glad to see ATF made your list, though they’d be much higher on mine! Talk about a Christian band that had mainstream appeal (not to mention a worldwide top 10 hit)! Yes, ATF2 is still going strong, and is still an incredible witness. If anyone’s interested, the band’s keyboardist, Peter Banks, has a blog at http://banksyboy.blogspot.com/.

    Andy PIercy, the lead singer, is now a worship leader in the U.S., and has a site at http://www.andypiercy.com/.

    Reply

    • Posted by low5point on February 8, 2010 at 4:43 am

      I probably would have listed them higher if they would have made a bigger impact on CCM and if all of their music would have made it to the states back then rather just the best of that hit the market…hopefully you will see that all of the Top are deserving in their own way. Plus this really is about single albums and they never had one great record but three very, very good records.

      Reply

  3. Posted by notmanbig on February 8, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    Excellent writing! I would love to have seen what would have happened in the early 80s with ATF had the circumstances been different. It could have been a Jars of Clay phenomenon ten years earlier!

    Reply

  4. Peter Banks and John Russell had previously been members of a short-lived UK Christian folk/prog band called Narnia whose lone album, Aslan Is Not A Tame Lion, was released by MyrrhUK but never licensed by MyrrhUS. That alone should tell you how good an album it is. The singer/songwriter of the band was Pauline Filby, who had released a folk album, single, and EP in the British Xtian market. The Narnia record is probably my favorite 1970’s Xtian record.

    Reply

  5. Posted by Brent on November 9, 2013 at 1:43 am

    Starflight is the ultimate rapture tune…I still have my vinyl in mint condition.

    Reply

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