Nick Heyward

TrackAlbum
Favourite ShirtsPelican West
Marine BoyPelican West
Nobody's FoolPelican West (bonus track)
Take That SituationNorth Of A Miracle
When It Started To BeginNorth Of A Miracle
Over The WeekendPostcards From Home
KiteFrom Monday To Sunday
The WorldTangled
Secret GardenThe Mermaid And The Lighthouse Keeper
For AlwaysWoodland Echoes

Nick Heyward photo 1

 

 

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Nick Heyward playlist

 

Contributor: Dave Ross

Around about this time of year, every year since 1982, I have to listen to one album. It’s an album that screams ‘sunshine’, it demands joy, it takes your melancholy and gives it a glorious tickle designed to shake it right off. That album is Pelican West by Haircut 100. It’s become an essential tradition for me to welcome summer into my life each year. My own summer solstice if you like, without Stonehenge or the naked dancing. I heartily recommend it.

Haircut 100 in their original form only lasted one album which is a real shame. There was something about them during 1982 that just made the world feel like a better place. However, despite all that, their frontman Nick Heyward went on to make wonderful solo albums that, while not all matching the commercial success of Pelican West, are of a rare quality showcasing Nick’s ear for an uplifting tune and, for me, leaving Nick as one of the great British songwriters of the last 40 years while always remaining the loveliest man in pop.

So, when I decided to make Haircut 100 and Nick Heyward the topic of my next Toppermost top 10, I had this idea to shake things up a bit. Rather than it being all me blathering on about this and that, I thought why not ask some of Nick’s fans to contribute their favourite songs and personal stories. I’ll just tie it all together and give it some context. Nick is such a man of the people, even more than I realised as I began to collect stories from his fan Facebook Page ‘Nick Heyward’s Group Hug’ where ‘Huggers’ share their lifelong love of Nick and sunflowers 🌻.

Some fans I found through The Afterword or Twitter. Some of the stories I collected are so personal and show such fan empathy and love from Nick that I feel a real responsibility to get this piece right for Nick and those fans. Everyone who contributed did so willingly. Happy to share memories, photos and drawings that describe a song, a moment in time and an enduring love of Nick Heyward and Haircut 100.

Once I’d collected enough stories and was beginning to put everything together, in a moment of pure serendipity a fantastic The Gig Stories Podcast featuring Nick was tweeted on my timeline. It’s warm, insightful, honest and emotional and confirms all I thought I knew about Nick and more. As an accompaniment to this piece it’s well worth your time.

I learned that he grew up in a house surrounded by jazz, thanks to his jazz-loving parents. His first gig was seeing Ray Charles, Oscar Peterson and Count Basie followed by frequent visits to London jazz clubs. As a teenager in the late 70s he saw bands like Talking Heads, Dire Straits, XTC and The Jam all at The Greyhound in Croydon. This made perfect sense of his career as you can pick up those influences along with his love of The Beatles throughout, as these song selections show.

I was introduced to Haircut 100 by my older brother who was a soul boy (if you remember them) from the early 80s; Level 42, Shakatak, Linx, wedge haircuts, belts, slacks and espadrilles. It was a big scene in the south of England and he lapped it up. Playing all these jazz funk tunes while I was trying to listen to The Jam, what did he know? I remember him nicking my cricket jumper to wear when going to see them live. So, my tentative first introduction to Haircut 100 was Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl). It clearly had an effect on ‘Hugger’ Lisa Horton as she explains here. It also becomes the first choice in this selection.

Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl) (Pelican West) – Lisa Horton

I remember seeing Haircut 100 on TOTP early 80s and thought they looked so young and cheeky. I saw them at a Capital Radio Junior Disco and loved them, but that was the only gig I saw them do until 2009. I used to hang around in London and managed to meet Nick. He was absolutely sweet and funny. I also used to meet Graham Jones when he was in Boys Wonder (My Fave Band) but I have far too many tracks that I love to pick just one. If I was pushed to say then Favourite Shirt has to be the No.1, then Nobody’s Fool, Love Plus One, Whistle Down The Wind, Take That Situation, Blue Hat For A Blue Day … so so many.
I don’t think Nick has written one bad track. I’ve been lucky to meet him quite a few times and it always amazes me that he remembers my name.”

The photos that Lisa kindly shared for this piece are indicative of that empathy Nick has for his fans – and as for remembering her name …

 

There followed a run of singles from Pelican West as good as uplifting, happy, joyous pop music gets, the best since The Monkees. They made the summer of ’82. Love Plus One was the first tune that really grabbed my attention. Which of us of a certain age on hearing someone say “Where do we go from here?” doesn’t answer in our heads “Is it down to the lake I fear“?

Fantastic Day – the most tweeted two words on Nick’s Twitter timeline as he tweets his vignettes of positivity. “Sounds like you’re having a fantastic day Nick,” replies everyone as if it’s the first time they’ve heard it. What a song though! Name me a more uplifting three and a half minutes of pop music. I’ll wait … I bought the album and it was an absolute joy. I reviewed it here a few years ago and nothing has changed my view since.

It does seem to be one of those 80s albums that is, in fact, timeless. Even more so for fan Paul Howden as he explains here for our second choice …

Marine Boy (Pelican West) – Paul Howden

Although I could choose many for all sorts of reasons I would like to propose Marine Boy which was a fabulous track on Pelican West as well as being the B-side to Love Plus One. I got into the Haircuts right from the start. Apart from the music, the look of the band and the great humour, the other two things that always struck me right from the start were firstly the design – those candy stripe sleeves and record labels for the singles, and also track names that made no sense but were so evocative. Pelican West is full of them (the whole Nick Heyward canon is of course) … in fact every single track name is almost a piece of art in its own right. Anyway, at some point early in the internet age I needed a user name and just grabbed at ‘Marine Boy’ as a homage to all those great titles. I used it everywhere … absolutely everywhere I needed a user name including countless forums. People often ask about it … of course by now referring to my 54-year-old self as any type of boy is not very appropriate but changing user names in so many different places doesn’t go easily either. In the end I am still happy to grab any opportunity to refer people back to that track, and the “canoeist in some peril” record label from the B-side to Love+1 makes a very good avatar!”

I love the fact that a man in his 50s is still being known as ‘Marine Boy’. This song along with songs like Lemon Firebrigade and Milk Film and Kingsize are jazz funk flights of fancy with so much going on. Just great big musical smiles. Showcasing phenomenal musicality and talent. I’ve spent too long on Pelican West but before we move on I just want to share a Haircut 100 story of mine. How I foxed the funkers …

Around 1984/5 I had a group of mates and a couple of them were real jazz funk aficionados; into real heavy jazz funk bands like Paz, they would turn their noses up at my love of chart music, in a very friendly way. Whoever drove to a club on a Friday or Saturday night could choose the music. I would listen and recognise some of the riffs from Pelican West among the endless Paz solos. In the club they would try and “fox the DJ” by requesting songs from obscure bands and find it hysterical, mmmm …. So, one week it was my turn to drive in my Morris 1100 and during the week I carefully prepared a C60 tape of all the instrumental parts of Pelican West, knowing full well that they would never have heard it apart from the singles. Friday night arrived and the funkers were in my car. I told them I’d come across this great new jazz funk band and put the tape on. They loved it and begged me to tell them who it was. I waited till I could see their faces before telling them who it was. You can imagine when I said it was Haircut 100. They never got over it.

I’m still listening to Pelican West more than 30 years later. I wonder if they’re still listening to Paz?

Unfortunately for the band the wheels were starting to come off due to the pressure of being the next big thing, and differences between Nick and the others, including the opportunity to work with Geoff Emerick, recording engineer for The Beatles. Sadly, Nick couldn’t convince the rest. One more non-album single and Haircut 100 in their original form were done. What a single it was as Helen Bull, music lover, ‘Hugger’ and Tweeter of musical treats shares here. Obsessed by the song? Mmmmm, maybe. It’s the third choice. How about this video and car then?

Nobody’s Fool (Arista CLIP 4) – Helen Bull

Nick’s The World is in my top 5 singles ever, close to the top, but my best record buying memory is of Nobody’s Fool. I’d bought Pelican West and the first three singles on 7″ and 12″, as you do.
My Mam took me into Newcastle, as Nobody’s Fool had just been released. I bought the 7″ with the poster sleeve in WHSmith. I can remember looking in the bag on the bus on the way home, but didn’t take it out in case the poster ripped.

I’d inherited an orange Fidelity record player from my sister, just like the one in this picture. You could choose to play a record again with one click, so naturally I did. I played the A-side 14 times in a row, and only stopped when I was called down for tea. I went on to buy the 12″ and a further two poster sleeve 7″s. I needed both sides of the poster for my wall and a spare to keep for good! Got the green Flexi disc demo along the way, too. I asked Nick some years later and he told me Nobody’s Fool was never destined to be on the second album. It’s my favourite Haircut single, and video, and sadly, it was their last.”

Nick Heyward 6

Thanks to Helen for sharing photos of her extensive collection. Great memories.

 

So we’re three songs in, some great stories and a bucketload of my waffle and we haven’t started on Nick’s solo career yet. North Of A Miracle was recorded and released in 1983. Working with Geoff Emerick now, and 80s luminaries such as Pino Palladino, the first single release was the sumptuous but melancholic Whistle Down The Wind a change of direction but a sign that solo Nick was a force to be reckoned with. The album was a mixture of upbeat pop straight out of the Haircut 100 catalogue but mixed with a couple of slower more introspective tunes. The Day It Rained Forever for example such a heartbreaking heartbreak song.

But I’m not the sort of guy
who could cry and say goodbye
I wasn’t born to see this die

Not such a fantastic day then? It’s another brilliant pop album and one clearly loved by Nick’s fans. In communication with Rosie Phillips-Leaver, she finally went with the funk monster that is Take That Situation. Her story is one of an enduring love … (I chose the Top Of The Pops video as I’ve never wanted to be a pop star more than I wanted to be Nick Heyward right then.) It’s our fourth selection.

Take That Situation (North Of A Miracle) – Rosie Phillips-Leaver

My brother bought me my very first gig tickets for my 12th birthday. That was Nick Heyward on the “Take That Situation” tour in 1983 at Newcastle City Hall. He really wanted me to see Kid Creole and the Coconuts but he gave me the choice. It was a no-brainer as far as I was concerned. My brother refused to see Nick (if only he’d known the support was The Bluebells, a band he liked), so not only was Nick Heyward my first ever gig but he was also my sister’s first gig too. She also wanted to see Kid Creole but it was my birthday and for once the youngest got a say!
Never mind that’s by the by, zoom forward 38 years and it’s my 50th birthday. What did my brother buy me? A Nick Heyward t-shirt with lyrics from Favourite Shirts on it. The image he chose was of a poster that I had on my bedroom wall, my sister ripped it in a teenage tantrum moment and has never forgiven herself! I like my siblings, we understand each other and they now know better than to ask me to choose between Nick Heyward and ANYONE!”

Nick Heyward 7

Just a lovely, genuine story, written from the heart. Great t-shirt too …

 

I’m very excited that our next fan story comes from DJ, 80s legend, raconteur, style icon and all round bloody good bloke, Gary Crowley. From listening to Gary’s Saturday evening Radio London show it was clear he is a huge fan of Nick and his music. So I thought why not ask if he would contribute and, gent that he is, Gary responded. Of course, he saw Haircut 100 live in 1981. He saw everyone live first in the 80s 😉 – it’s choice number 5.

When It Started To Begin (North Of A Miracle) – Gary Crowley

Nick Heyward’s songs have been a constant in my life ever since I first saw Haircut 100 at the Embassy Club in 1981. Blown away by their brand of contagious Pop Funk, I immediately knew I’d witnessed something very special that night and the following morning immediately called the band’s manager Karl Adams to ask for a demo tape. I was hooked.
Nick’s songs and sound (like all my heroes) has evolved and twisted and turned over the decades but if I had to choose one song of his today (and it would be a different answer tomorrow) it would be the totally infectious (I’d go as far to say life affirming) When It Started To Begin which was the opener to his eagerly anticipated first solo album, 1983’s classic North Of A Miracle.
When Elliot, the licensing person at Demon Music emailed me and told me the news that we’d got the track cleared for our upcoming Lost 80s Vol.2 compilation, I had a smile as wide as the Thames. It means so much to me to have that song and Nick on this comp.
His fire continues to burn brightly as his last album, 2017’s Woodland Echoes, so wonderfully demonstrated. He is such a special talent as those who know, know. May the nib of his songwriting pen, stay as sharp forever.” Gary Crowley, June 2021

It’s a cracking choice “as those who know, know” – thank goodness I know! (Gary’s Lost 80s Vol.2 compilation is available to pre-order now.)

 

Two more albums followed in the 80s. Firstly, Postcards From Home in 1986 with some of the Haircut 100 gang back on board. It’s another great pop album that didn’t match the commercial success of North Of A Miracle as Nick, like others from that early 80s period, just found themselves outside the zeitgeist. I still think its a fine piece of work with hints to the past but also to what was coming up. Marlene Mackenzie tells a great tale of what it was like to be a fan of Nick Heyward in the mid eighties. With added Alphabites … So many choices but in the end she went with Over The Weekend for our number 6.

Over The Weekend (Postcards From Home) – Marlene Mackenzie

I have many favourite Nick tracks, but one of my most vivid memories is when Over The Weekend was released in 1986. Seventeen-year-old me was a bit obsessed with Nick’s chart placings, and I remember rushing home from school at lunchtime to listen to Gary Davies doing the chart rundown – I was so disappointed when it only made it to number 43 😭. Fast forward ten years and I was again sitting listening to the charts, waiting to see if Rollerblade would make it, and I was elated when it entered at no.37. My flatmate and I then found some Alphabites in the freezer so decided to celebrate by putting them to good use … I showed the photo to Nick when he played at King Tut’s in Glasgow a short while after and he didn’t quite know what to say! 😂
I’ve followed Nick throughout his career and been lucky enough to meet him quite a few times. If I had to choose absolute favourite tracks, they’d be Caravan (perfect pop) and the title track from I Love You Avenue, which blew me away the very first time I heard it ☺️.”

Nick Heyward 10

Nick Heyward 11

These fan stories, like Nick’s music, just make me smile. Such fandom manifesting itself in such crazy ways. As Marlene alludes to, the next album was I Love You Avenue in 1988. As SAW clogged up the charts and dance music morphed towards the rave scene, this gorgeous album again missed public consciousness. More fool the public. If this was wholly my list, Traffic In Fleet Street, an acoustic gem that I really recommend you let into your lives, would have made it and maybe even the title track. But we’re only allowed 10 and we’re heading into Nick’s 90s solo imperial phase …

 

My fellow Afterworder Phil Pelling or @Rigid-Digit as he likes to be known was keen to contribute. He first posted his love for From Monday To Sunday almost 4 years ago to the day as a comment to my review.

Amazingly, the clip he references is also the one Nick chose as his favourite live performance on the Gigs Stories Podcast. Serendipity again … I’ll leave it to Phil to explain all the reasons why From Monday To Sunday is such a great ground-breaking, genre-creating album …

Kite (From Monday To Sunday) – Phil Pelling

Nick Heyward’s 1993 album From Monday To Sunday is (in my ears at least) the beginnings of Britpop. Its full of melody, strong songs, and rooted on this side of the Atlantic. It’s up there with Britpop touchstones Parklife, Definitely Maybe and Stanley Road. Off the back of Stanley Road, Paul Weller was anointed The Modfather Of Britpop. Maybe, just maybe, Nick fired too soon.
I was a fan of Haircut 100 – Fantastic Day remains a perfect pop song for me, and Pelican West is a none too shabby album. But their lifespan was short, and Nick’s later solo career just didn’t click with me.
And then in May 1994, on late night ITV (Bob Mills – In Bed With Me Dinner) Nick Heyward was introduced as the musical guest. A near incendiary version of Fantastic Day flew out of the telly. This was followed by Caravan – a track I didn’t know but I needed to hear again. A cover version of The Jam’s Sounds From The Street finished things off. Strange how 15 minutes of TV can have such an effect and re-launch a career in the viewer’s mind.

From Monday to Sunday was bought very soon after and played A LOT (and still gets regular spins today). The pick of the 12 tracks is Kite – rich, jangling, understated, and glorious. This song says as much to me about the summer of 1994 as Parklife and Live Forever.

Life’s like that, delicious with clause
You never get the truth, just promises galore
Don’t let them shoot your kite down

Wise words indeed. (Is it “clause” or “claws” – either works.)”

So there you have it, 11 years after Pelican West and Nick Heyward was inventing Britpop. I’m with Phil, From Monday To Sunday is as good as anything made in the 90s. Kite really draws on, and seems inspired by, Nick’s love of XTC while Caravan is a love song to The Jam. It really is a tremendous album.

What came next is perhaps even more remarkable. In 1995, Nick released the self penned, self produced Tangled. Why is it remarkable Dave? Well, let me tell you. It’s like a best of Britpop released by just one man, a man who 15 years earlier was producing some of the greatest pop tunes ever made, here he was creating an album where you’ll find nods to Supergrass, Dodgy, Garbage, Oasis, the list goes on. So while Blur and Oasis were battling it out for number 1 with two ordinary songs, Rollerblade and The World were struggling to make the top 40. A travesty? I think so. How bands and artists achieve radio play is a conversation for another day but Nick was an 80s boy and I suspect that stuck in the craw of the uber ‘hip’, self aware radio DJs and music press of the day. These albums just deserved better. Rant over. Normally, if I’m asked the question “Blur or Oasis?” I answer “Pulp”. Should I ever get asked again I’m answering “Nick Heyward”. Give From Monday To Sunday and Tangled a listen and you may end up doing the same. If you think you’ve heard the best of the Britpop era, think again.

‘Hugger’ Tracey Radford is an extraordinary artist and often shares her work on social media. She has selected The World from Tangled as her choice. Just take a few minutes to listen and you’ll understand what I mean.

The World (Tangled) – Tracey Radford

I met Nick Heyward in 1994 in Marcus Recording Studios. My friend Louise and I were allowed to have some time with him before he went into the studio to record his album Tangled. We had 2 hours of chat and giggles with numerous photo opportunities. Nick was so lovely and signed a birthday card for our friend. He also took a liking to my leather jacket and laughed so much as he squished himself into it.
I had drawn a few portraits of him earlier that year and took them to show him and he was kind enough to sign them. He picked one as ‘his favourite’. Just before we were leaving he let us listen to his new single he’d recorded called The World which he had on his Walkman. That single The World holds great memories of that day for me. Thanx Nick for a wonderful 2 hours ☺️.”

Thanks Tracey for your remarkable portrait and story. What a man he is …

How did he follow that? In 1997 he came up with The Apple Bed, at which he clearly decided to throw the production equivalent of the kitchen sink; strings, Beatlesque sounds, Beach Boys harmonies, nods to The Jam, all within a guitar-based rock-a-long with an occasional eye on Glam. Britpop++. The travesty here is that I can’t select any of the 12 tracks. Today, The Man You Used To Be, I Don’t Really Know, Stars In Her Eyes – any of them deserve a place in this list.

The Apple Bed could be the best of his 90s trilogy but how do you choose? The trilogy is that good and should be known well enough to guarantee him Saturday evening at Glastonbury status without having to play a single Haircut 100 track. Yep, that good.

So into the 2000s and, in 2001, Nick released Open Sesame Seed which I’ll confess I haven’t heard. It’s actor Greg Ellis reading poetry to Nick’s musical backing. It’s something I need to put right.

 

On to 2006 and he released The Mermaid And The Lighthouse Keeper with actress India Dupre. I only discovered this a couple of years ago and it’s just such an uplifting thing, beautifully written, beautifully sung and just, beautiful. I promised myself I would save a selection for this top ten from it. It deserves to be heard, except that I now can’t find it on Spotify but there is this on YouTube. Off to Discogs now to find the CD. Anyway, trust me on this, it’s worth your time if you can find it. This is my choice for this Top Ten …

Secret Garden (The Mermaid & The Lighthouse Keeper) – Dave Ross

In 2017 Nick released his last album to date, Woodland Echoes, although he is working on new music as we speak. Woodland Echoes carries on Nick’s legacy. It’s an eclectic mix of sounds and influences with an outdoors feel as the title might suggest. I reviewed it here. A couple of the singles – Baby Blue Sky and The Stars – achieved some radio play but sadly it wasn’t the commercial success it deserved to be.

All I can say, again, is seek it out, maybe even treat yourself to a vinyl copy and enjoy.

Our last choice is from Woodland Echoes and chosen by Catherine Cubbin, a lifelong Nick Heyward fan who shares another very personal story.

For Always (Woodland Echoes) – Catherine Cubbin

My favourite is For Always from Woodland Echoes. I had waited 35 years to see Nick play live and I finally got to see him in 2018. It was everything I could have hoped for and more. I was literally leaning on the stage and a little bit shell shocked for the first 20 minutes or so through a few old favourites. Then he sang For Always and suddenly I was struck by the realisation that I never ever thought I’d get to see him live and here I was, also having had the amazing luck of actually meeting him before the show by complete accident. He was so wonderful and so kind and funny. I asked him for a cwtch (a Welsh word for a cuddle) and he thought I said the word ‘clutch’. But in that moment of seeing him sing for always, the emotion of 35 years hit me and I cried all the way through the song, and each time I hear it now I still feel the same emotion.”

The power of music eh? Bloody hell …

 

So, in summary, the prevailing emotion throughout this process is one of joy. Whether his music, in conversation, his fans, these stories, they all reek of joy. Nick Heyward has brought that joy for nearly 40 years, even when the gods weren’t necessarily on his side. His light still shines as brightly. His Patreon chats throughout lockdown have kept that fan engagement alive. If you think Facebook is a cesspit not for you then I suggest you become a Hugger at ‘Nick Heyward’s Group Hug’.

It’s a great antidote to the worst of social media, bring sunflowers and leave your cynicism and world weariness at the door. That’s not a bad legacy, is it? Knowing that just hearing your name or one of your songs and it will light a memory in people that brings a smile. On top of that he is a fine musician, imaginative, creative and in many ways unique.

I’d like to thank all the contributors for being so honest, open and sharing these stories. It has made this a wonderful experience for me. It’s also reminded me that trying to choose just 10 from this back catalogue would have been impossible. I can pass on the blame now for those songs I’ve left out 😊. After the last 18 months we’ve all had, go and discover them for yourselves if you haven’t already. Feel that joy.

Where do we go from here …? I suggest anywhere from Pelican West to Woodland Echoes – it’s always a fantastic day if you let Nick Heyward and his music in. Just don’t forget the sunflowers …

 

Nick Heyward photo 2

 

Nick Heyward Smash Hits

 

Nick Heyward official website

Nick Heyward’s Group Hug Group (Private Facebook Group)

Nick Heyward/Haircut 100 at Discogs

Nick Heyward biography (AllMusic)

Dave Ross lives nr Windsor and hides under his online pseudonym Dave Amitri to talk mainly about cricket and music. He has written a drama, “Jimmy Blue”, featuring the music of Del Amitri and is currently writing a series of posts on listening to David Bowie albums for the first time. For updates you can follow him on twitter @DaveAmitri. His previous posts for this site are on The Associates, Tears for Fears, Thompson Twins.

TopperPost #969

2 Comments

  1. David Lewis
    Jul 16, 2021

    Another fantastic Toppermost. Love Plus One was a fairly irresistible single ‘ring and a ring and a ring’. A very fine songwriter and impeccable production in this list.

  2. Andrew Shields
    Jul 17, 2021

    Such a great Toppermost and such infectious joy in the music and the responses to it here. Great stuff…

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