Paul Haig

TrackAlbum / Single
Heaven Help You NowThe Warp Of Pure Fun
Something GoodChain
Lagondola 1Cinematique
I Believe In YouCoincidence vs Fate
My KindCoincidence vs Fate
Listen To MeMemory Palace
Take A ChanceMemory Palace
Round And RoundRelive
Eyes Wide OpenRelive
I Heard MusicThe Wood
Bonus Track
The Only TruthIsland Records 12IS-198


Paul Haig playlist


Paul Haig Chain



Contributor: Andrew Shields

Paul Haig first came to prominence with the 1980s Scottish cult band, Josef K. During his time with them, he established himself as a very fine songwriter and a highly effective, if unorthodox, frontman. With Josef K, he had also gained a reputation for being opposed to the excesses of rock stardom and for pursuing artistic integrity even if this meant sacrificing the prospect of immediate commercial success. It was something of a surprise, then, that when his solo career began, it was very much focused in a synth-pop direction. This represented a sharp shift away – in many respects – from his earlier musical style. Nevertheless, there were some continuities underneath the glitzier surface of his new work. Haig had, for example, always stressed his love of funk and disco (particularly James Brown and Chic). He was also a long-time fan of David Bowie and there was a clear line from the latter’s ‘plastic soul’ period to Haig’s early solo work. He had also often expressed his admiration for Joy Division’s music and there was a close connection between the transition in his musical style and the similar one undertaken by New Order in the years after Ian Curtis’ death. Other musical touchstones for Haig were the more experimental electronic groups like Kraftwerk, Suicide and Cabaret Voltaire.

The demise of Josef K led Paul Haig to an enforced re-evaluation of his future musical direction. One of the consequences of this was that his early solo work was very clearly ‘transitional’ in its nature. This period also saw him experiment with various musical approaches, occasionally with varying degrees of success. It was not until the release of the album, The Warp Of Pure Fun, which Haig co-produced with the late great Alan Rankine of Associates fame, that he settled on a relatively fixed musical solo style. To quote Simon Reynolds on New Order, this centred on a merging of “post punk and New York electro” and “white angst…[with] black groove”.


My choice from The Warp, Heaven Help You Now, suffers slightly from its now dated sounding 1980s production, but it is a strong enough song to surmount this. It also has that sense of rhythmic propulsion which drove some of Josef K’s best work. The live version of the song, recorded in Japan in 1985, which appears on the 4CD Les Disques du Crépuscule reissue of the album, is also well worth checking out. Indeed, as the blogger, Post-Punk Monk has put it, it is “transformational to hear this material being performed as if Josef K had never broken up and this was album number four from that post-punk band!”

With the next selection, Something Good, Haig wrote the pop masterpiece which he had been threatening to do since the beginning of his career. It is also by far the most commercial song he had written. If there was any justice in the world, it should also have been a major hit but alas this was not to be the case. For comparison’s sake, here is a relatively recent live performance of the song. One of the main features of this performance is the beautifully understated and tasteful guitar-playing by Paul. Among the key factors in Haig’s relative lack of commercial success, however, is his general distaste for the business of touring and playing live.


From his early career onwards, Haig always had a keen interest in ambient music. Indeed, he chose Brian Eno’s 1975 album, Discreet Music, as one of the ten albums that changed his life in a piece in Peek-A-Boo music magazine in 2015. The next pick, Lagondola 1, comes from the Cinematique album which Haig released on LTM Recordings in 1991. It is based around three separate suites which function as soundtracks to ‘imaginary’ films. Lagondola itself is a beautiful, atmospheric and almost classical sounding piece which also demonstrates Haig’s willingness to experiment with his music. Since its release, Haig has recorded two other excellent albums along the same lines.



Haig’s 1993 album, Coincidence vs Fate, also reflected the diverse character of his musical interests. These ranged from high-quality upmarket funk-pop like the next pick I Believe In You to the grittier jazz-influenced and Latin flavoured My Kind. This kind of versatility also meant that Haig was a very difficult artist to categorise and this has made it difficult for record labels to find easy ways of ‘selling’ his music.

Paul Haig’s close friendship with the great Scottish singer Billy Mackenzie was a long-standing one. They had first met when they were the frontmen with Josef K and the Associates, respectively. Their shared a strongly held belief in the importance of musical independence and this also meant that they both regularly had problems with their record companies. As a result, when they began collaborating in 1993, they did so without any formal record label support. This gave them the freedom to experiment and to make the music they wished to do without being bound by commercial constraints.

Following Mackenzie’s death in 1997, Haig put together the album Memory Palace from the demos which they had recorded together. From it, I have chosen two tracks which have Haig as the lead vocalist. The first, Listen To Me, is one of Paul’s most beautiful songs and it gains even more resonance from Billy’s ethereal backing vocal:

The second, Take A Chance, is another fine example of the special quality of the combination of their two very different voices:


My next two selections come from Paul Haig’s 2009 album, Relive. This is one of my favourites from his solo career, in part at least because it is the most guitar-driven one. It is also one of his most consistent both in its sound and in the quality of the songs. Round And Round, the first choice from it, was co-written with his ex-Josef K bandmate Malcolm Ross in the early 1990s. Like other songs on the album, such as the excellent title track, it features a type of whiplash guitar and synth sound which is reminiscent of Haig’s early work.

The album also features a fine synth-driven version of Listen To Me which, however, does not quite the match the splendour of the one recorded with Billy Mackenzie discussed above. My second choice from the album, Eyes Wide Open, is an excellent Velvet Underground-esque song. It is also based on one of Haig’s best riffs since Josef K days.

Paul Haig’s most recent album, The Wood, released in 2018 is yet another innovative and experimental work. He moves further towards creating aural soundscapes based on samples – interspersed with his own instrumentation – and ‘found music’ to use John Cage’s term. It is a masterly record which stands as one of the best of his career to date. My choice from it, I Heard Music, is a superbly atmospheric piece, brilliantly put together by Haig. The album also demonstrates that over four decades into his musical career, he remains a mercurial, enigmatic, and elusive – and, at his best, brilliant – artist.


Bonus Track

This is the 12″ version of Paul Haig’s 1984 single, The Only Truth. The extended fade-out on this version features some superb guitar playing by Bernard Sumner of New Order:


Some Notable Covers

During his career, Haig has recorded several very interesting cover versions of songs by artists he admires. I have listed five of these below:

Running Away (Sly and the Family Stone) – Les Disques du Crépuscule TWI 088

Ghost Rider (Suicide) The Warp Of Pure Fun – a live version can be seen here.

Surrender (Suicide) Coincidence vs Fate

Horses (Mayo Thompson) Relive

Atmosphere (Joy Division) with Outernationale (self-released – see below)




Paul Haig Bandcamp

Paul Haig Linktree

Paul Haig Discography (Wikipedia)

Paul Haig records at Les Disques du Crépuscule

New Wave Photos: Paul Haig

Post-Punk Monk
The Warp Of Pure Fun boxed set review Pt.1
The Warp Of Pure Fun boxed set review Pt.2
The Warp Of Pure Fun boxed set review Pt.3
The Warp Of Pure Fun boxed set review Pt.4

An Imaginary Compilation Album (The New Vinyl Villain (2021)

Saturday’s Scottish Song #238: Paul Haig (The New Vinyl Villain (2020)

A Short Conversation with Paul Haig ( 2018)

Paul Haig interview ( 2016)

Paul Haig interview (Is This Music? 2009)

‘At Twilight’ – 2CD Paul Haig compilation album 1982-1991

Haig/Mackenzie ‘Memory Palace’ (Uncut review 1999)

10 Albums That Changed My Life (2015)

Hungry Beat: The Scottish Independent Pop Underground Movement (1977-1984) by Douglas MacIntyre & Grant McPhee (White Rabbit 2022)

The Glamour Chase: The Maverick Life of Billy Mackenzie by Tom Doyle (Polygon 2011)

Rip it Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984 by Simon Reynolds (Faber 2006)

Josef K website

Toppermost: Josef K

Paul Haig biography (AllMusic)

Andrew Shields is a freelance historian, who grew up in the West of Ireland and currently lives in Sydney, Australia. Along with an interest in history, politics and literature, his other principal occupations are listening to and reading about the music of Bob Dylan and, in more recent years, immersing himself in the often brilliant and unduly neglected music of Phil Ochs.

Andrew has also written about Orange Juice, Edwyn Collins, Aztec Camera, Roddy Frame, Paul Quinn, Josef K on this site

TopperPost #1,073


  1. Wally (The Beautiful Music)
    Aug 2, 2023

    This is a great overview of a brilliant artist and I love your song choices!

  2. Andrew Shields
    Aug 5, 2023

    Thanks for the kind words Wally. I think Paul deserves a lot more recognition both for the excellence of his music and for how versatile and inventive he has been over the years.

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