Album: The Flat Earth
. . .
Thomas Dolby’s follow-up to the surprise smash The Golden Age of Wireless, 1984’s The Flat Earth, went two directions at once. While the album itself was more calm and measured and musically diverse, the lead single, “Hyperactive!” doubled and even tripled down on the quirkiness and funk of “She Blinded Me With Science,” to the point where if you could pass it off as a great lost Fishbone single.
A lot of this is due to the fantastic bass-playing of Matthew Seligman, who’d spent the previous few years playing with the Thompson Twins, Dolby and Robyn Hitchcock, including his debut (which Dolby played on) and the eternal Underwater Moonlight. Seligman’s bass is all over the opening of “Hyperactive!” underpinning Dolby’s lyrics about, well, being hyperactive.
At the tender age of three
I was hooked to a machine
Just to keep my mouth from spouting junk
Ha, must have took me for a fool
‘Cause they chucked me out of school
‘Cause the teacher knew I had the funk
But tonight, I’m on the edge
You better shut me in the fridge
‘Cause I’m burning up
Ow, I’m burning up
With the vision in my brain
And the music in my veins
And the dirty rhythm in my blood
While guitarist Kevin Armstrong has started to chickenscratch during this verse, it’s Seligman’s bass, jumping and stuttering and practically bouncing out of the speakers, that you’re listening to, finally giving it up just in time for the chorus.
Hyperactive when I’m small
Hyperactive, now I’m grown
Hyperactive and the night is young
And in a minute, I’ll blow
That chorus is basically dominated by backing vocalist Adele Bertei, one of those people who was pretty much everywhere in underground culture without ever making it big on their own. Her wikipedia page is a helluva read. Anyways, along with Seligman, she basically owns “Hyperactive!” despite all of the various trumpet solos, flute solos and sound effects they throw at her. You basically just wait to her her sing again.
While it took a minute for me to love “She Blinded Me Science,” I loved “Hyperactive” from the jump and thought it would be as big of a single. Wrong!!
While it was his biggest hit single in the U.K, topping out at #17, it only made it to #62 in the U.S., making Dolby the second one-hit wonder I’ve written about this week! The Flat Earth only made it to #35 on the album charts, and the follow-up, 1988’s Aliens Ate My Buick, only made it to #70, and that was basically all she wrote for Thomas Dolby’s career here, though I was going to joke that he invented the Dolby sound technology, but of course, he didn’t. He invented Dubly.
Matthew Seligman, continued to play with Dolby, as well as musicians like The Waterboys, David Bowie, Stereo MCs, Sinéad O’Connor, as well as participating in the Soft Boys early 2000s reunion. He sadly passed away during the early days of COVID in 2020.
“Hyperactive!” Official Music Video
“Hyperactive” Live on the Old Grey Whistle Test, 1984
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