Tag: Bill Nelson (Page 2 of 2)

A Beginner’s Guide To GARY NUMAN

Photo by Chi Ming Lai

It cannot be denied that it was Gary Numan who became the world’s first synthesizer pop star.

Born Gary Anthony James Webb, he joined Paul Gardiner in THE LASERS at the height of punk although the band soon morphed into TUBEWAY ARMY. Then as now, Webb was shy, so crucially it was Gardiner who handed over a demo tape to Beggars Banquet on learning of the record store chain’s intention to start a label.

Beggars Banquet saw some potential and signed TUBEWAY ARMY to take on GENERATION X with speedy pop punk tunes like ‘That’s Too Bad’ and ‘Bombers’. Webb changed his surname to Valerian and then to Numan after seeing a directory listing for a firm named Neumann in Yellow Pages. But he was starting to tire of punk and began to see electronics as the way to realise his concept of machine rock, having become inspired by the likes of ULTRAVOX, THE HUMAN LEAGUE and THE NORMAL.

Numan’s debut album as TUBEWAY ARMY was not an immediate commercial success, but it was championed by John Peel while his unusual detached vocal style was beginning to attract media attention. In late 1978, he provided the voice to ‘Don’t Be A Dummy’, a song in a TV advertisement for Lee Cooper jeans.

Still using the band name of TUBEWAY ARMY at the behest of Beggars Banquet, the astoundingly long ‘Are Friends Electric?’ with its diabolus in musica structure reached No1 in the UK singles chart in 1979 and became many an electronic music fan’s entry point into the genre. A few months later under his solo moniker, ‘Cars’ followed ‘Are Friends Electric?’ to the top spot and became a huge international hit, even making sinewaves in the more conservative territory of North America where it reached the Top 10. As a result, he won the Best Male Singer category at the 1979 British Rock and Pop Awards, the-then equivalent of the BRITS.

But despite scoring three UK No1 albums in less than two years and having a loyal legion of fans who were dubbed Numanoids, not everyone could accept the synthesizer or the man behind it. This was all beginning to take a toll on the man who had realised most of his musical dreams by the time he was 23 years old. So Numan retired from touring with three spectacular farewell shows at Wembley Arena in April 1981.

Having got his flying licence in 1980, Numan had other ambitions so later in 1981, he followed his dream of flying around the world. His first attempt ended in arrest in India for espionage after an emergency landing, but the second attempt was more successful and completed on Christmas Eve 1981.

Numan subsequently returned to touring in the summer of 1982 with a low-key jaunt in North America before a full blown UK tour in 1983. Since then, he has played live regularly while the rollercoaster ride of highs and lows and highs during his 40 year recording career have been well documented; the recent documentary ‘Android In La La Land’ revealed many of the fears and insecurities that had lingered throughout his career.

Now firmly established as a highly influential music figure with a significant number of artistic contribution awards to his name, his songs have been covered by artists as diverse as Robert Palmer, NINE INCH NAILS, FOO FIGHTERS, Beck, Marilyn Manson and Afrika Bambaataa. Meanwhile SNOOP DOGG, SUGABABES, ARMAND VAN HELDEN and BASEMENT JAXX are among those who sampled Numan’s work.

Not a best of listing, this expanded twenty-two track Beginner’s Guide chronicles the varied musical adventures of Gary Numan through his own work and collaborations, with a restriction of one track per album project.

TUBEWAY ARMY Listen To The Sirens (1978)

Despatched by Beggars Banquet to record his debut album at Spaceward Studios in Cambridge, Numan discovered a Minimoog left behind from a previous session and had that legendary Eureka moment when he tried it. He now turned his punk songs into electronic ones, although essentially ‘Tubeway Army’ was still very much a new wave record; “Mr Webb, there is no way out” was a line from album opener ‘Listen To The Sirens’ that would forever haunt him!

Available on the TUBEWAY ARMY album ‘Tubeway Army’ via Beggars Banquet

TUBEWAY ARMY Down In The Park (1979)

Whereas the TUBEWAY ARMY debut featured punk tunes with synthesizer added almost as an afterthought, ‘Replicas’ would be where Numan would see his Philip K Dick inspired vision become reality with electronic songs to soundtrack his dystopian Sci-Fi stories featuring android characters. Originally written on a second hand upright piano, ‘Down In The Park’ was the first of these songs and while it was not a hit, it was to pave the way for the success of ‘Are Friends Electric?’

Available on the TUBEWAY ARMY album ‘Replicas’ via Beggars Banquet

GARY NUMAN M.E. (1979)

With the success of ‘Are Friends Electric?’, Numan was able to drop the TUBEWAY ARMY moniker and for his next offering, he opted to make an album using no guitars. What this meant was that the power had to be arrived in a more inventive fashion, so synths were fed through guitar effects pedals to add a more sinister metallic tone. ‘M.E’, a story about the last computer on earth where humanity no longer exists, was where this aural desolation was at its most effective.

Available on the GARY NUMAN album ‘The Pleasure Principle’ via Beggars Banquet

GARY NUMAN Telekon (1980)

By 1980, the negative side of fame was beginning to linger into Numan’s occasionally paranoid psyche, and while his songs were never the most cheery, his new material was starting to take on a more personal downbeat nature away from the Sci-Fi nature of the previous work. Held down by a snaky Compurhythm backbeat and squealing synth, the title track of the resultant ‘Telekon’ album captured that neuroticism with a detached hum and some sinister horror flick piano.

Available on the GARY NUMAN album ‘Telekon’

PAUL GARDINER Stormtrooper In Drag (1981)

With Numan’s retirement from live performance, bassist Paul Gardiner opted not to join DRAMATIS with the other band members. Sadly, he went into a downward spiral as a heroin addict. An attempt to give his friend since the TUBEWAY ARMY days something to focus on musically came with this collaboration between the pair, which Numan provided the lead vocal for. Gardiner sadly died in 1984 due to drug related complications; Numan later wrote ‘A Child With The Ghost’ as a tribute.

Available on the GARY NUMAN album ‘Dance’ via Beggars Banquet

GARY NUMAN & DRAMATIS Love Needs No Disguise (1981)

Live band members RRussell Bell, Chris Payne, Ced Sharpley and Denis Haines formed DRAMATIS and signed to Rocket Records to release their only album ‘For Future Reference’. On a visit to see his old band mates, Numan was played a hypnotically percussive song they had recording about their days out on the road. He loved it so much, that he asked if he could do the lead vocal. Some pretty guitar and viola were the final touches to a track that was barer than most Numan fans were used to.

Available on the GARY NUMAN album ‘Premier Hits’ via Beggars Banquet

GARY NUMAN Noise Noise (1982)

After the downtempo nature of ‘Dance’, Numan got more energetic again with ‘Music For Chameleons’ and the subsequent ‘I Assassin’ album. On the B-side was what was considered at the time, a strange collaboration with DOLLAR or more specifically, Thereza Bazar on a track that saw Numan’s first use of sung female vocals on one of his recording. Heavy and electronic, he was back on form and the song would be a mainstay of live sets for several years to come.

Available on the GARY NUMAN album ‘I Assassin’ via Beggars Banquet

GARY NUMAN My Car Slides 1 (1983)

By 1983, Numan was making a full live comeback after retiring in 1981. To add another dimension to what was to become the ‘Warriors’ album, Bill Nelson was signed up as producer but the two quickly fell out in the studio. One track that the pair completed was ‘My Car Slides 1’, a beautiful ballad featuring Nelson’s distinctive E-bowed guitar. Alas, it was not included in Numan’s revision of the ‘Warriors’ concept while modest sales saw the end of his relationship with Beggars Banquet.

Available on the GARY NUMAN album ‘Warriors’ via Beggars Banquet

GARY NUMAN I Still Remember (1985)

Co-produced with PPG operators The Wave Team, ‘The Fury’ was Numan’s best album since ‘Telekon’. Although very much with the times and in line with acts like FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD and DEAD OR ALIVE, the hard but bright digital sound complimented Numan’s downbeat lyrical outlook. One particular highlight was the haunting closing track ‘I Still Remember’, effectively a vocal reimagining of the 1979 instrumental ‘Random’ and featuring ‘Blade Runner’ saxophonist Dick Morrissey.

Available on the GARY NUMAN album ‘The Fury’ via Eagle Records

RADIO HEART featuring GARY NUMAN Radio Heart (1987)

In an unexpected collaboration, Numan teamed up with Hugh Nicholson, a former member of Scottish soft rockers MARMALADE for his RADIO HEART project. The eponymous song was catchy and got airplay, enough for Numan to attain a UK Top 40 singles chart placing despite, like ‘Change Your Mind’ with Bill Sharpe of SHAKATAK, not having written the song . Two other RADIO HEART singles ‘London Times’ and ‘All Across The Nation’ were issued but failed to make any further impact.

Available on the NICHOLSON / NUMAN album ‘1987-1994’ via The Record Label

SHARPE & NUMAN Voices (1987)

When the excellent ‘Change Your Mind’ was released as a single in 1985, it gained extensive radio play and reached No17 in UK and gave Numan a brief commercial renaissance. A SHARPE & NUMAN album was recorded and ‘Voices’, which had originally been the B-side to ‘No More Lies’ stood up as one of the best songs from what has now been considered to be his wilderness years. Indeed, Polydor in Germany had considered it so good, they released it as a single in its own right complete with a 12 inch mix!

Available on the SHARPE & NUMAN album ‘Automatic’ via Cherry Pop

NUMAN & DADADANG Like A Refugee (1994)

Despite the funk rock excursions of the ‘Metal Rhythm’, ‘Outland’ and ‘Machine & Soul’ albums, the biggest curio in the Numan catalogue has to be ‘Like A Refugee’. Composed again by Hugh Nicholson, it was a rousing number featuring strummed acoustic guitars and Uillean pipes in collaboration with DADADANG, a robotic Italian marching band! “An Intergalactic Close Meeting”, it was melodic number if nothing else and would have actually made a good Eurovision entry.

Available on the NICHOLSON / NUMAN album ‘1987-1994’ via The Record Label

GARY NUMAN A Question Of Faith (1994)

The ‘Machine & Soul’ album in 1992 had all but killed Numan’s career, but then he met Gemma O’Neill, the lady who would become his wife; she made him understand that he needed to become more of a Numan fan to understand what Numanoids saw in him. The final album to be released on his Numa label which he started in 1984 and using DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Songs Of Faith & Devotion’ as its template, ‘Sacrifice’ was his most Numan record since his heyday and ‘A Question Of Faith’ was its dark calling card.

Available on the GARY NUMAN album ‘Sacrifice’ via Eagle Records

DUBSTAR Redirected Mail (2000)

Following recording a sexily deadpan cover of the masturbation anthem ‘Every Day I Die’ for the ‘Random’ tribute album, DUBSTAR actually collaborated with the man himself on one of the B-sides to ‘The Self Same Thing’ EP. Of this almost Beatle-esque number, vocalist Sarah Blackwood said: “I was in Manchester when we recorded ‘Redirected Mail’ but Steve and Chris actually went down to Gary’s and sat and had ham and chips with him. They had a right laugh and had a really good time”.

Available on the DUBSTAR EP ‘The Self Same Thing’ via Food Records

GARY NUMAN Prayer For The Unborn – Andy Gray Mix (2001)

By 2000’s ‘Pure’, Numan had fallen under the spell of NINE INCH NAILS and embraced an intense rock gothique with industrial metal guitar on songs like ‘Rip’ and ‘Listen To My Voice’ that won him a new audience, but there were more delicate moments too. Inspired by his own personal tragedy, the heartfelt blippy cacophony of ‘A Prayer For The Unborn’ remixed by Andy Gray was a triumph that bridged the gap between his classic synth and current rock styles.

Available on the GARY NUMAN album ‘Exposure: The Best of’ via Artful Records


Aside from KRAFTWERK, one of the other key influences on AFRIKA BAMBAATAA & THE SOUL SONIC FORCE was Gary Numan with the drum breaks of the late Cedric Sharpley, who played on ‘The Pleasure Principle’, particularly appealing to the youth of Urban America. So it was no big surprise that the rap and hip-hop pioneer covered ‘Metal’, a key track from the album and even persuaded Numan himself to duet on his meaty electro reworking.

Available on the AFRIKA BAMBAATAA album ‘Dark Matter Moving At The Speed Of Light’ via Tommy Boy Records

GARY NUMAN The Fall (2011)

2006’s ‘Jagged’ had a one-dimensional sound that proved underwhelming and stalled Numan’s momentum after the positive reception for ‘Pure’. But he returned with ‘Dead Son Rising’ which started life as a set of discarded demos from previous projects, but quickly took on a life of its own. Wearing his NINE INCH NAILS influences proudly on his sleeve, the industrial beats and blistering chorus of ‘The Fall’ combined for the beginning of a creative recovery.

Available on the GARY NUMAN album ‘Dead Son Rising’ via Mortal Records

GARY NUMAN My Last Day (2013)

The ‘Splinter’ album took a long time to realise but when it was finally released, it won Numan some of the best reviews of his career. While there was still a heavy rock element, two of the album’s slower numbers ‘Lost’ and ‘My Last Day’ proved to be album highlights. Beautifully dramatic, ‘My Last Day’ pictured blood red skies with the vox humana synths providing a most chilling musical mantra to soundtrack the apocalypse before a chilling close with some lonely casading piano.

Available on the GARY NUMAN album ‘Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind)’ via Mortal Records / Cooking Vinyl

JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS featuring GARY NUMAN Talk (2016)

‘Talk’ has been used by John Foxx to explore different approaches from a singular idea with other kindred spirits. Retitled ‘Talk (Are You Listening To Me?)’, Numan’s take naturally screamed alienation and fully exploited his haunting classic synth overtures. “John Foxx has been a hero of mine for my entire adult life” said Numan, “It was a real honour to finally have the chance to contribute to one of his tracks… it was every bit as creative, unusual, demanding, and rewarding, as I always expected it to be”.

Available on the JOHN FOXX album ’21st Century: A Man, A Woman And A City’ via Metamatic Records


For his ambitious ‘Electronica’ project, Jean-Michel Jarre sought out collaborators and worked with them in person as opposed to remotely online. The unlikely friendship that developed between Jarre and Numan resulted in ‘Here For You’. Possibly the darkest thing that the French maestro had ever recorded, he described it as “Oscar Wilde Techno”. Significant in its absence of the crunching guitars that characterise much of Numan’s later work, the track wonderfully combined the best of both artists.

Available on the JEAN-MICHEL JARRE album ‘Electronica 2: The Heart Of Noise’ via Columbia / Sony Music

TITÁN Featuring GARY NUMAN Dark Rain (2016)

In collaboration with Mexican electro rockers TITÁN, the resultant ‘Dark Rain’ was a brilliant slice of electronically assisted Gothic disco. Propelled by a superb syncopated bassline and thunderous drums while layered with classic vox humana lines, interestingly the guitars only appeared about two thirds of the way through before a magnificent burst of foreboding synth into the final chorus! Numan himself was in great form, “waking like wings upon your shoulder”.

Available on the TITÁN album ‘Dama’ via ATP Recordings

GARY NUMAN And It All Began With You (2017)

With a lot less goth metal guitar and much more prominent use of synths, ‘Savage’ successfully outstripped ‘Splinter’. And it was the haunting ‘And It All Began With You’ that stopped all in its tracks, with an exposed and soulful vocal. Borrowing Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’ for its chorus, the subtle orchestrations and a gentle shuffling beat coupled to a steadily discordant electric piano riff to close, it beautifully brought out the best in classic Numan while maintaining forward momentum.

Available on the GARY NUMAN album ‘Savage (Songs from a Broken World)’ via BMG

For further information on GARY NUMAN, please visit his social media platforms





Text by Chi Ming Lai
11th November 2017

30 Lost Obscure Alternatives Of The 45 RPM Era

Vinyl still holds a special affection with the emotional attachment given to a piece of music captured on bit of plastic almost unparralled.

So here are 30 synth friendly obscure alternatives from the era when vinyl was king, which for whatever reason, have been lost in the mists of time. These are great but obscure singles and album tracks from places as far flung as Australia, Japan and Canada that were overlooked at their time of release in the UK.

Please note that acts who nearly made it but have since been featured on ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK like B-MOVIE, BLUE ZOO, DRAMATIS, THE FALLOUT CLUB, FATAL CHARM, FIAT LUX, HARD CORPS,  THE MOOD, OUR DAUGHTER’S WEDDINGVICE VERSAVIENNA and WHITE DOOR along with solo artists Robert Marlow and Paul Haig have not been included on this list.

The songs which all deserve critical reappraisal are listed by year and then in alphabetical order…

PLASTIC BERTRAND Tout Petit La Planète (1978)

Although best known for his pseudo-punk hit ‘Ça Plane Pour Moi’, the Belgian BILLY IDOL recorded this superb electronic Eurodisco single with vocoders galore that would have done Giorgio Moroder and Cerrone and SPACE proud. ‘Tout Petit La Planète’ featured a template that would be later borrowed by many Italo disco records. Featuring Dan Lacksman of fellow Belgians TELEX on synths, they released their own robotic cover of ‘Ça Plane Pour Moi’ shortly after.

Available on the album ‘Greatest Hits’ via Horvergnugen Records


DALEK I Destiny (1980)

Pre-OMD, the synth duo on The Wirral was DALEK I LOVE YOU. However, by the time their debut album ‘Compass/Kum’pas’ was released, OMD were already having hits and keyboards man Dave Hughes left to join their live band. Shortening their name, ‘Destiny’ was their most accessible song with a precise KRAFTWERK percussive appeal, while Alan Gill’s vocals were eccentrically nasal. Hughes left OMD to form GODOT with Kevin Hartley who later joined DALEK I LOVE YOU!

Available on the album ‘Compass/Kum’Pas’ via Mercury Records


DIE DORAUS & DIE MARINAS Fred Vom Jupiter (1981)

The project of German musician Andreas Dorau, ‘Fred Vom Jupiter’ was a quirky curio released as a single in the UK by Mute, created during a project week at the Otto-Hahn-Gesamtschule in Hamburg. The then 16 year old Dorau composed the music while fellow students Natalia Munoz Valderrama, Nicole Kahl and Birgit Mensur provided the lyrics about a “very attractive and also very muscular” Kosmonaut; the vocals came from a quintet of school girls during a far more innocent time.

Available on the album ‘Hauptsache Ich – Retrospektive 1981-2014’ via Bureau B


FOX Electro People (1981)

FOX were Kenny Young and kooky Australian singer Noosha Fox. They had numerous hits like ‘S-S-S-Single Bed’ but disbanded in 1977. The pair reunited for ‘Electro People’, written as the theme music for ‘The Kenny Everett Show’ which came over like a quirky Middle Eastern flavoured synthpop take on ALTERED IMAGES in a tribute to Synth Britannia; altogether now: “Ultra-Human-Depeche Mode-Tubeway-Kraftwerk-Soft-Manoeuvres-Gary-Orchestal-Army-Duran-League”!

Available on the album ‘Images ’74-’84’ via Cherry Red


IPPU DO Time Of The Season (1981)

The success of the band JAPAN gave a number of opportunities for Japanese musicians to show off their talents. One was Masami Tsuchiya of IPPU DO whose eccentric wailing guitar style coupled with German electronic influences caught the attention of David Sylvian who invited him to join JAPAN for their final tour. ‘Time Of The Season’ is a brilliant pentatonic take on the old ZOMBIES hit with mad warbling vocals and frantic percussion to produce a startlingly original cover version.

Available on the album ‘Essence: The Best of’ via Sony Music Japan



Comprising of Claude Arto and Edwige Belmore, the pair emerged from the Parisian club scene with their arty nouveau music. On ‘Disco Rough’, pulsing synths and staccato vocals were punctuated by unusual stabs of sax. Their only album ‘Les Visiteurs Du Soir’ fused filmic strings and brass sections with electronic backing and baroque melodies. Sadly both Arto and Belmore have passed away, but have left their mark via Gallic tinged duos STEREO TOTAL and MISS KITTIN & THE HACKER.

Available on the album ‘Les Visiteurs Du Soir’ via Celluloid Records



Although dominated by PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED refugee Wobble’s full-on bass, his icy synth flourishes alongside Czukay’s chattering beatbox and Dictaphone were essentials to the wonderful machine dub of ‘How Much Are They?’ while Liebezeit added some abstract avant garde trumpet. Originally featuring on the ‘Trench Warfare’ EP, the music was dedicated to JOY DIVISION’s Ian Curtis and a fitting instrumental celebration of his enigmatic aura.

Available on the album ’12” 80s Alternative’ (V/A) via UMC



E.M.A.K. Filmmusik (1982)

E.M.A.K. stands for Elektronische Musik Aus Köln and was a technology based sound project by Kurt Mill and Matthias Becker using a similar visual aesthetic to NEU!  Using strict motorik rhythm programming and incessant pulsing sequences, ‘Filmmusik’ was a fine example of the instrumental blueprint of Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger synthesized for the new decade. This template was later borrowed by SIMPLE MINDS on ‘Androgyny’ and ORBITAL on ‘Pants’.

Available on the album ‘A Synthetic History Of’ via Soul Jazz Records


PETER GODWIN Images Of Heaven (1982)

A member of the group METRO, Peter Godwin was well placed for success as a regular visitor to The Blitz Club and mate of MIDGE URE who produced his debut solo single ‘Torch Songs For The Heroine’. ‘Images Of Heaven’ was a big potential hit single with chunky synths and dominant Simmons drums from ULTRAVOX’s Warren Cann. Despite not reaching the charts, Godwin had his bank balance enhanced in 1983 when David Bowie covered his song ‘Criminal World’ on the ‘Let’s Dance’ album.

Available on the album ‘Images of Heaven’ via Phoenix Recordings


IGNATIUS JONES Like A Ghost (1982)

Despite Australian Top 5 success in JIMMY & THE BOYS, Ignatius Jones went solo and released ‘Like A Ghost’. Like Gary Numan lost in the Outback,  the song was written by Steve Kilbey of THE CHURCH whose ‘Walking Under The Milky Way’ appeared on the ‘Donnie Darko’ soundtrack. He also recorded a cover of Jules Shear’s ‘Whispering Your Name’ which was a hit for Alison Moyet in 1994. Latterly, Jones directed the closing ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Originally released as a single by WEA Records, currently unavailable


LEISURE PROCESS Love Cascade (1982)

Featuring Ross Middleton and Gary Barnacle with production by Martin Rushent, ‘Love Cascade’ is the missing link between PETE SHELLEY and THE HUMAN LEAGUE.  The vocals are virtually unintelligible as the clattering LinnDrum, pulsing synths, squawky guitar and sax merge together for a cool dancefloor friendly tune that’s full of the decadent spirit of the times. LEISURE PROCESS released three more singles on Epic Records before splitting.

12 inch version available on the album ‘Retro: Active Vol 5’ (V/A) via Hi-Bias Records Canada


POEME ELECTRONIQUE The Echoes Fade (1982)

The project of David Hewson, POEME ELECTRONIQUE was very much a family affair, as it also involved brother Les Hewson  plus cousins Julie Ruler and Sharon Abbott. The spacey synthpop coupled to a vocal template crossing Grace Jones and ABBA caught the ear of John Peel. Returning in 2007, the material they recorded back in the day was finally issued, while members of the combo also appeared as part of Anglo-German collective TWINS NATALIA.

Available on the album ‘The Echoes Fade’ via Hwesonics


SANDII &THE SUNSETZ  Living On The Front Line (1982)

Another Japanese act who got a leg up from David Sylvian was the beautifully voluptuous Sandii O’Neale and her band of men THE SUNSETZ whose first album together ‘Heat Scale’ was produced by Haruomi Hosono of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA. Opening for JAPAN on their final tour in 1982, this dreamily percussive ditty featured Sylvian’s lyrics and vocals; when he harmonised with Sandii’s KATE BUSH-like tones, it was the ultimate marriage of West and East, both wonderfully cultured and coutured!

Available on the album ‘Immigrants’ via Alfa Records Japan


BOX OF TOYS I’m Thinking Of You Now (1983)

Like a cross between their Merseyside neighbours OMD and CHINA CRISIS, BOX OF TOYS were mix of synths and woodwinds with a prominent percussive attack. The majestic vocals have almost an English choir boy quality and dominate the track. A strange romantic warmth comes across with images of meadows, forests and blue skies. Its moody follow up ‘Precious In The Pearl’ almost 34 years on now sounds like the prototype version of MIRRORS!

Originally released as a single by Inevitable Records, currently unavailable


CARE My Boyish Days (1983)

When THE WILD SWANS split, two thirds formed THE LOTUS EATERS while its singer Paul Simpson teamed up with producer Ian Broudie. Combining strummed acoustic guitars with strong synthesizer melodies and melancholic vocals, ‘My Boyish Days’ had a very traditional feel despite the incumbent technology. But the duo split before their debut album was completed. Simpson reformed THE WILD SWANS while Broudie became THE LIGHTNING SEEDS.

12 inch version available on the album ‘Diamonds & Emeralds’ via Camden/BMG Records


ENDGAMES Love Cares (1983)

The success of ABC and HEAVEN 17 heralded a new age of technologically enhanced blue-eyed soul. One band with aspirations in that field were ENDGAMES. The Glawegian combo had European support slots with Howard Jones and EURYTHMICS. ‘Love Cares’ was like a funky CHINA CRISIS walking into the recording of ‘The Lexicon Of Love’. By pure coincidence, singer David Rudden had a passing resemblance to CHINA CRISIS’ Gary Daly!

Originally released as a single on Virgin Records, currently unavailable


MATT FRETTON It’s So High (1983)

Fans of DEPECHE MODE’s post Vince Clarke pop period may remember a skinny lad in a pink suit who was their support act through 1983 to 1984. ‘It’s So High’ was a catchy tune 6/8 time featuring a strong synth bassline, big band brass and backing vocals by Eddi Reader. Alas, Fretton was dropped by Chrysalis despite getting a Smash Hits front cover. He became a classical music promoter, but sadly took his own life in 2013 following the tragic passing of his partner Sussie Ahlburg.

Originally released as a single by Chrysalis Records, currently unavailable


INDIANS IN MOSCOW Miranda (1983)

Led by the vivacious Adele Nozdar, INDIANS IN MOSCOW were a kind of TRANSVISION VAMP with synths. ‘Miranda’ was a macabre tale about a psychotic girl murdering her criminally minded father. A crisp production came from Nigel Gray who worked with THE POLICE and SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES. An irritating-to-the-point-of-catchy synth portamento combined with Adele’s ghoulish scream provided a unique if polarising take on electronic pop.

Available on the album ‘Indians in Moscow’ via Planet Of Sound


THE LOTUS EATERS You Don’t Need Someone New (1983)

‘You Don’t Need Someone New’ was neither a hit nor originally included on THE LOTUS EATERS’ debut album ‘Sense Of Sin’. More synth dominated than ‘The First Picture of You’, it was produced by Alan Tarney who went on to work his magic on A-HA’s ‘Take On Me’ and ‘The Sun Always Shines On TV’. With hints of CHINA CRISIS, this was wonderfully light and even came in a picture disc with a real flower pressed into it! But the band wanted a purer sound and dropped Tarney as producer.

Available on the album ‘No Sense Of Sin’ via Cherry Red Records


MARTHA Light Years From Love (1983)

The stunning Martha Ladly was more than just a pretty face; she was a musician, vocalist, artist and designer. Following her stints with MARTHA & THE MUFFINS, ASSOCIATES and doing paintings for Peter Saville’s NEW ORDER sleeve artwork, she teamed up with fellow Canadian Brett Wickens on this charming pop tune that echoed THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Open Your Heart’. Peter Hook provided his distinctive melodic six-string bass and dynamic production came from Steve Nye.

Originally released as a single by Island Records, currently unavailable


RATIONAL YOUTH Holiday In Bangkok (1983)

The classic RATIONAL YOUTH line-up of Tracy Howe, Bill Vorn and Kevin Komoda gained acclaim for their 1982 debut album ‘Cold War Night Life’, which became one of the biggest-selling Canadian independent albums at the time and secured a deal with Capitol Records. However, Vorn left to continute his university studies, but contributed synth programming to this typically overwrought warning about the dangers of drug running.

Originally released on the EP ‘Rational Youth’ by Capitol Records, re-recorded version available on the album ‘Heredity’ via Capitol Records


SEONA DANCING More To Lose (1983)

Pre-fame Ricky Gervais with his university pal Bill McRae came up with a pretentious name, donned New Romantic togs and delivered the kind of stereotypical synthpop that was being satirised by ‘Not The Nine O’Clock News’. While it’s not exactly the most original work of the period, it fared well in the tuneage department and became a cult favourite in The Philippines! Comedian Paul Merton later sarcastically remarked to Gervais on ‘Room 101’: “David Bowie’s nicked all your stuff!”

Extended Mix available on the album ‘Retro: Active Vol 5’ (V/A) via Hi-Bias Canada


S.P.K. Metal Dance (1983)

‘Blue Monday’ met EINSTÜRZE NEUBAUTEN in this electronic metal bashing extravaganza featuring vocals by Sinan Leong. Robotic sequencers and found objects were both equally prominent in the mix of ‘Metal Dance’. Much more musical than their German counterparts, this group of Aussies named after the radical Marxist group Sozialistisches Patientenkollektiv provided a danceable interpretation of musique concrete and collapsing new buildings. Stark and scary!

Available on the album ‘Trevor Jackson Presents Metal Dance’ (V/A) via Strut Records


EYELESS IN GAZA Sunbursts In (1984)

Nuneaton’s artful musical duo of Martyn Bates and Peter Becker described their music as “veering crazily from filmic ambiance to rock and pop, industrial funk to avant-folk styles”. Always more of a cult proposition, ‘Sunbursts In’ was EYELESS IN GAZA’s most commercial offering, sounding like a cross between prime TEARS FOR FEARS and OMD. A synthetic brass riff compliments a strong if nasally vocal, driven by a stuttering drum machine sound.

Available on the album ‘The Cherry Red Vintage Collection’ on Cherry Red Records


THOMAS LEER International – Global Mix  (1984)

THOMAS LEER InternationalLeer was a reluctant electro pioneer who first came to prominence in 1978 with ‘Private Plane’. A song called ‘International’ was its B-side but this was a completely different composition altogether. ‘International’ appeared to be a pleasant song about jetsetting, but was actually a social commentary about the trafficking heroin across the continents, telling of “travelling across the world, selling it to boys and girls… a secret compartment holds the Chinese white”.

Available on the album: ‘Scale Of Ten’ via BMG Records


BILL NELSON Acceleration – US Remix (1984)

The former BE BOP DELUXE guitarist took an early interest in synths and drum machines after going solo and while he always had the legacy of David Bowie hanging over him, he was a fine exponent of the E-Bow. This allowed solos to merge in with electronics without standing out in a clichéd rockist manner. ‘Acceleration’ was his energetic flirtation with the dancefloor and benefited from this US remix by John Luongo.

Available on the album ‘Chimera’ via UMC


VITAMIN Z Circus Ring (1985)

TEARS FOR FEARS and A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS had demonstrated that a rock guitar oriented sound seasoned by modern electronics could do wonders across the Atlantic on MTV. Sheffield’s VITAMIN Z were one of the bands who showed some spark, ‘Circus Ring’ sounding like a cross between TEARS FOR FEARS and ICEHOUSE. A support slot with Midge Ure raised hopes of success but it was not to be. However, vocalist Geoff Barradale now manages ARCTIC MONKEYS!

Available on the album ‘Rites Of Passage’ via Renaissance Records USA


PSYCHE The Saint Became A Lush (1986)

Hailing from Ontario, darkwavers PSYCHE comprised of brothers Darrin and Stephen Huss who  were one of the main trailblazers for independent electronic music in North America. The magnificent sweeping blip drama of ‘The Saint Became A Lush’ was probably the pinnacle of their creative partnership with a suitably detached vocal performance from the older sibling. Stephen sadly passed away in 2015 but Darrin Huss, now based in Germany, continues as PSYCHE with Stefan Rabura.

Available on the album ‘Unveiling The Secret’ via Artoffact Records


TWO PEOPLE Heaven (1987)

An earlier single ‘Mouth Of An Angel’ had been produced by Martin Rushent, but TWO PEOPLE’s sound was more typical of a conventional duo dressed with synths like CHINA CRISIS. ‘Heaven’ sounded like THE LOTUS EATERS fused with THE TEARDROP EXPLODES. With punchy brass, aspirational lyrics and modern production by Chris Porter, this was a perfect pop song in anyone’s ears but failed to catch the imagination of the record buying public despite radio airplay.

Originally released as a single by Polydor Records, currently unavailable


WHEN IN ROME The Promise (1988)

WHEN IN ROME were vocalists Clive Farrington and Andrew Mann with keyboardist Michael Floreale. The oddly styled trio’s ‘The Promise’ was a glorious cross between ULTRAVOX and THE WALKER BROTHERS. It failed to gain a UK chart foothold, but was used in the 2004 cult movie ‘Napoleon Dynamite’. However, the renewed interest only heightened tensions between the estranged vocal and instrumental factions, with each laying claim to the name…

Available on the album ‘When In Rome’ via Virgin Records



Text by Chi Ming Lai
14th September 2017

FIAT LUX Interview

FIAT LUX celebrate the 35th anniversary of their formation with the release of ‘Secrets 2017’, a new recording of the single which came out in early 1984.

Dedicated to the memory of band member Ian Nelson who sadly passed away in 2006, ‘Secrets 2017’ is the first FIAT LUX release to be officially available to buy on digital platforms.

The new version respectfully recaptures the essence of their sound with its emotive mix of dual vocals, synths and woodwinds. Despite critical acclaim for their 1982 debut single ‘Feels Like Winter Again’ and a near miss with their biggest potential hit ‘Blue Emotion’ in Spring 1984, record company politics at Polydor Records sadly dictated that their debut full-length album was never to see the light of day.

Bizarrely, a VHS video and laserdisc release entitled ‘Commercial Breakdown’ comprising of their Mike Mansfield directed Channel 4 showcase did emerge; yet-to-be-released songs on it such as ‘The Moment’ confirmed that FIAT LUX could have crossed over into the same audiences that had embraced BLACK following the success of ‘Wonderful Life’.

Despite there being no FIAT LUX album, a collection entitled ‘Fac Ut Vivas’ comprising of songs from those recording sessions leaked over the internet. It gave followers of the band access to some previously unheard songs like ‘Breaking The Boundary’ and ‘Embers’.

There was obviously a demand but while other acts that met the same fate as FIAT LUX like THE MOOD have had their recordings released, the FIAT LUX material is still sadly under wraps in the Universal Music Group’s vaults.

The duo of vocalist Steve Wright and instrumentalist David P Crickmore kindly chatted to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about FIAT LUX and what could have been…

What has been the impetus for FIAT LUX to record again?

David: For me it is twofold:

1/ frustration at many failed attempts by a number of interested specialist labels to get our “lost” 1984 Polydor album licensed from Universal Music who hold the master tapes.

2/ During my work as a record producer on other artiste’s projects, I have increasingly been asked to produce sounds that are evocative of the FIAT LUX era.

I realised that I still had all the equipment and the knowledge of how to use it. This made the recreation of one of our legacy tracks possible, thus bypassing the impasse with Universal Music. We hold our own publishing rights now, so it is only the mechanical copyright for the actual 1980s recordings that Universal retains. Make new recordings and there isn’t an issue.

Steve: The opportunity to get together with David again, and have a bit of fun working in the studio. There were no preconceptions or demands, and that freedom was very attractive.

Has FIAT LUX ever felt like unfinished business?

David: Yes, in the sense that our major label career happened at just the point when the level of spending on recording projects was so high that an unwritten rule had developed at Polydor that if you didn’t get a Top 20 hit single, your album release would be delayed. So far, ours has been delayed by about 32 years!

There were a number of times when we were in the studio, crafting our LP “masterwork” with producer Hugh Jones, when the phone would ring and it would be someone from Polydor saying “you know that hit single we were working on? – well it’s dropped down the charts rather than up as we predicted – can you pack up on the album and write another potential hit instead please?”

This was soul destroying for us, especially as we always had such good radio play support from the likes of BBC Radio 1 and reasonable press backing too. If there was any one factor that killed the band off, this was it!

Steve: Yes. Because the potential was vast. We were inhibited by the commercial attitudes of the time. Given that Polydor spent a small fortune on the recording costs for our LP, it seems odd that they didn’t spend that little bit extra to actually put it out. It’s no coincidence that our long form video that was released in 1985 was called ‘Commercial Breakdown’.

Did you stumble into the synth based direction by accident for FIAT LUX?

David: Sort of, yes. We’d all been captivated by punk, especially as that developed into the New Wave and our own first bands tended to be guitar bass and drum affairs in the spirit of BUZZCOCKS, THE CLASH, THE RUTS and the like.

However I was also a fan of Bowie, Eno, KRAFTWERK and various 1970s synth based outfits and the interesting thing was that, (unlike all the other pop and prog stuff that came immediately before punk), you were not wrong if you still liked that sort of stuff in 1979.

Indeed, I remember that kind of music forming the bedrock for the alternative club scene in Wakefield and Leeds in the very early 80s before there were many new acts providing the soundtrack.

Gradually things like THE NORMAL, BILL NELSON, TUBEWAY ARMY, a revamped JAPAN, ULTRAVOX and early Dindisc released OMD material surfaced and added to the mix of influences and made us realise that the DIY approach facilitated by punk was now open to new possibilities.

Steve: I just sang the stuff, David and Ian played IT.

How significant was BILL NELSON in the realisation of ‘Feels Like Winter Again’ and giving you the profile to be signed by Polydor?

David: Very. We were poverty stricken ex-students with barely any equipment. We made a demo for Bill on a borrowed reel-to-reel machine using a Casio keyboard and a Electo-Harmonix organ style drum box fashioned into a guitar pedal. We attended the studio sessions on Steve’s motorbike. It was the only form of transport we had between us. Bill was shocked when we turned up with no gear.

Luckily he had turned up with loads of it – including a Minimoog and a TR808 drum machine. The sound of the prototype FIAT LUX was formed as a result of being exposed to this richness of equipment and Bill’s expert production and musical guidance.

By the time we got to the point of doing the recording for Bill, it had already been decided that the result would come out on Bill’s Cocteau Record label, so we had the backing we needed to get noticed and indeed we did with an NME Single of the Week and some early radio play which saw the song rise into the Top 5 of the Indie Chart, which was very influential at the time. It wasn’t long before most major labels were beating a path to our door.

Steve: Bill provided the vehicle for the release of ‘Feels Like Winter Again’, as well as his expert studio craft. He had the vision and faith that we could succeed. He was empathetic to our sound and sympathetically added his own unique marque to the songs. I was in awe of him in the studio, having been a massive fan of him and BE BOP DELUXE.

You met Ian separately and not via Bill? How did he come to join FIAT LUX?

David: When we were making an early start playing local gigs around Yorkshire with only our Casio keyboard and electric guitar and our rather primitive backing tapes, we were keen to encourage extra musicians to come and add weight to the sound.

The Wakefield alternative music scene was a fairly tight knit affair – we all knew each other and went to each other’s gigs and often played at each other’s gigs. Ian was one of a number of people who used to get up jam along with us from time to time. As FIAT LUX became a more definite proposition after we made the disc with Bill, he seemed like the obvious person to invite to join us permanently.

Steve: The first time we met Ian was when he came to an early gig David and I did in a Wakefield pub. He told me that he liked the sound of the music, but thought we were “very brave” to just stand there in front of a reel-to-reel tape recorder with such minimal equipment! He asked if he could work with us at some point. And that was it. And we loved him for it.

Although you were seen as an electronic pop band, you used a lot of organic instruments like sax, clarinet and marimba as well as guitars, bass and drums. How important was that to your ethos?

David: Very. I think that by the time we got properly going, the novelty of “synthesisers only” was beginning to wear off and we felt we needed a bigger palate to play with if our sound was to develop.

The atmosphere of the time was always to be forging ahead and looking for new sounds, you couldn’t stand still. I’m glad we went this way as, although the very early 80s synth only acts sounded pioneering at the time, in my opinion they haven’t dated as well as those who used a broader brush stroke.

You also can’t underestimate the childhood influence of the 1960s on 80s acts – the post ‘Sgt Pepper’ psychedelic era with all its timbres and the big voice sound of the likes of SCOTT WALKER provided a vital template.

Steve: I don’t think there was much “ethos” going on, it just sounded right. It took the recordings beyond the purely electronical. We never branded ourselves as “synthpop”; it was the media at the time that found it convenient to do that.

FIAT LUX had a distinctive Vox Matrimonium dual vocal style, what influenced that?

David: Again I think the 60s sound of THE WALKER BROTHERS and THE RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS had a lot to do with it. In the early days I remember we did a tongue-in-cheek pastiche of all that called ‘Hold Me’. We were still doing it on the BLANCMANGE tour I think.

Steve: I think it was a natural desire to make the tracks feel full. And with Hugh Jones mixing and producing, it worked a treat.

You had recorded ‘Photography’ with BILL NELSON producing as your first major label single. But Polydor weren’t happy with the results and made you re-record it with Hugh Jones. Why was that?

David: Simply, Polydor didn’t like it. To be fair to Bill, he followed their brief to “make it like ‘Feels Like Winter Again’” and we even used the same local Leeds studio, which probably wasn’t “state of the art” in Polydor terms.

The next thing we knew, they were saying “Here’s your new producer – Hugh Jones”.

Lucky for us, as things progressed, Hugh turned out to be our George Martin and on the rare occasions we attempted any future recording without him, the magic was missing. The hours and hours of detailed crafting he put into our album is one of the reasons I regret it is not out there in the public domain.

Steve: What David said. I have to say though; I was upset for us and Bill, who after all had put SO much effort in at the very beginning.

So out of all your songs, why record ‘Secrets 2017’? How did you approach it 35 years on?

David: We chose ‘Secrets’ because it seems to be the one that has captivated people the most in the intervening years. Annie Nightingale consistently named it as one of her favourite songs, even long after most of her tastes had changed to favour dance music. BBC 6 Music tend to favour the track on the occasions that they break out one of our oldies. Also it was an easier one to recreate without Ian, as there is no major saxophone break in it. We thought it was the best calling card to say “hello, we’re back”.

Steve: Honestly, we approached it pretty much as we did in 1983. For my own part, I guess I was pretty nervous. I didn’t want to be found out as a fraud!!! But the voice still works it seems, and with coaching from David and time, we ended up happy!

‘Blue Emotion’ is still a poignant song, especially in the current political climate. What inspired the song originally?

Steve: It was all inspired by the Falklands invasion. Basically people I knew, who I thought were fairly level headed, were expressing the view that they would “Deffo go and fight” if they had to. There was this potential queue for the blue Tory emotion of the time. Let me just say, that I have nothing but respect for the armed forces and those that serve, they are brilliant men and women. It wasn’t particularly a pacifist song, I was just amazed at the seeming blood lust amongst acquaintances.

David: Musically I think I had a sort of Motown–like figure going on with the bass line and on top of this, Ian put his lovely Holst inspired Moog line which really compliments the lyric and its melody and helps makes it distinctive.

‘Hired History’ is the document that represents FIAT LUX’s major label output, but how close did you get to actually releasing a full-length album?

David: We got very close every time one of our singles looked like it was going to get on Top Of The Pops. When it didn’t, we went back to being very far away again.

Steve: Well put David!

‘The Moment’ which appeared on the belated video and laserdisc collection ‘Commercial Breakdown’ is a lost jewel. It seems unbelievable with songs like that and ‘Breaking The Boundary’ that Polydor shelved the album?

David: It was a symptom of the times. If we’d been a band recording in the 1970s, we’d probably have put a number of albums out without need of a big hit.

Steve: ‘The Moment’ is indeed a lost jewel, as is ‘Hold Me While You Can’. Such a shame they never really got onto the airwaves.

When BLACK achieved mainstream success, did you ever think “that could have been us?”

David: No, other people tended to say it to me – I didn’t really cross my mind at the time. It’s easier to look back now with some perspective and catch nuances of our sound or our look in some of the mid-80s acts that followed us and wonder if it was a coincidence or not. More often, I reflect on what would have happened if we had chosen to take up with a different label other than Polydor. The very imprints that had the successes with the later names we are thinking about, were among those chasing us in 1982.

Steve: BLACK never appeared on my radar. I appreciate it NOW but back then, I hardly noticed it.

So how did an unreleased album called ‘Fac Ut Vivas’ end up on the internet?

David: What puzzles me more than the idea that some tapes were leaked is how this collection (which loosely resembles the “lost” Polydor album in a fairly lo-fi form) got its name. It is certainly not a title that was ever considered by us. In fact I don’t think we ever got to the point where a title for the proposed album was ever discussed. We certainly wouldn’t have gone for more Latin – “FIAT LUX” is quite enough of that!

Steve: I have no idea… really! Nothing to do with Universal that’s for sure.

The FIAT LUX back catalogue has not been reissued despite your efforts and interest from fans. Why do you think Universal have been so difficult? They won’t put it out, yet won’t let you, the band, do something with it…

David: I don’t know. The label I am involved with, Splid Records which is putting out the newly recorded ‘Secrets 2017’ has certainly tried, as have others. In the past, I began to believe that the master tapes must have been lost, but recently I have come by an inventory that shows that Universal have all our stuff properly catalogued and stored safely and securely, so that’s not it.

I am beginning to put it down to one person in their licensing office who never sits at his desk and doesn’t return any voicemail calls or emails!

Steve: Maybe it’s just down to one guy who hasn’t got the time to deal with minnows like us when they’re dealing with the likes of U2’s global licensing issues.

Looking back, which FIAT LUX songs were your favourites?

David: Because they are less in the public domain, I favour some of the lost album tracks – ‘The Moment’, ‘Hold Me While You Can’ and ‘Embers’ which Hugh Jones reckoned was the slowest song he’d ever recorded, are the ones I wish more people could experience. I’m very proud of the songs in general and, of the ones that are known, ‘Secrets’ and ‘Blue Emotion’ I think stand the test of time.

Steve: ‘The Moment’, no doubt. So proud of it. Fabulous arrangement.

David: The singing isn’t bad on that one either Steve!

Steve: Also ‘Embers’ for the atmosphere and memories.

If ‘Secrets 2017’ achieves its aims, what do you hope to do next as FIAT LUX?

David: Well we’re not exactly poised with a new album waiting in the wings just yet, but Steve and I have enjoyed recording together again and I hope we will continue to do so now we know it can still work. I imagine some more recording sessions with some new ideas could emerge in due course. It’s a matter of finding the time amongst our other ongoing commitments – musical and otherwise.

Steve: Continue the fun… and the sound. Always remembering Ian’s contribution, being mindful of what he might have done. That’s important!

So is there the possibility of live gigs in the future?

Steve: The suggestion kind of scares me. It’s been a LONG time. I don’t want to let David down, I don’t want to let myself down, but most of all I wouldn’t want to let an audience down. That old chestnut!

David: It’s not out of the question but what you have to remember is that, while I have been playing live music at a professional level consistently in the intervening years, Steve has not, so it’s a big ask for him to come back onto that platform after so long away. At least after the new ‘Secrets’ recording, we now know he’s still got THAT voice.

The other thing of course is that we’d need someone to fill Ian Nelson’s shoes in the live role – not an easy thing to contemplate.

It’s only after sifting through the old material that it has properly dawned on me how good his playing was. I have to admit I kind of took it for granted in my twenties. As Neil Ferguson, who mastered the new single said to me “You’d be hard pressed to find another Ian – there aren’t many sax and wind players that are not jazzers – and Ian never played in a jazz style”. I have also come to appreciate that his lovely clarinet tone was not run of the mill either!

FIAT LUX have recently created a Facebook page with information, photos and video clips old and new – please visit and like the page: www.facebook.com/Fiatluxofficial – also we acknowledge the work done to keep the band’s name alive by such as ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK and Hired History website.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to FIAT LUX

‘Secrets 2017’ is released as a download single by Splid Records through Proper Music Distribution on 24th February 2017, available from iTunes, Amazon and other digital retailers





Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
2nd February 2017

Missing In Action: FIAT LUX

Named after the Latin phrase meaning “let there be light”, FIAT LUX were one of the most promising of the new synthesizer based acts that emerged following the success of DEPECHE MODE and SOFT CELL in 1981.

Founded in 1982 by drama graduates Steve Wright (lead vocals) and David Crickmore (guitars, bass, keyboards, backing vocals), the pair had met at college in Wakefield. They formed JUVENILES, a new wave band that had two songs on a 1980 independent compilation called ‘Household Shocks’; Crickmore was the more flamboyant of the pair, wearing make-up and dying his hair regularly although Wright was no less outrageous, with the visual persona of a more butch Marc Almond!

Still intent on pursuing an acting career after his studies, Wright joined the Yorkshire Actors theatre company where he met noted musician Bill Nelson who had been the leader of cult prog rock band BE BOP DELUXE and scored a UK Top 10 solo album called ‘Quit Dreaming & Get On The Beam’ in 1981.

Suitably impressed by a demo Wright had given to him, Nelson produced two tracks ‘Feels Like Winter Again’ and ‘This Illness’ for release on his Cocteau Records label in November 1982. This was an important symbol of recognition as only the year before, Nelson had produced A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS ‘(It’s Not Me) Talking’ and its release on Cocteau had brought the Liverpool quartet to the attention of Jive Records. The subsequent deal eventually led to them breaking America with hits such as ‘I Ran’, ‘Space Age Love Song’ and ‘Wishing (I Had A Photograph Of You)’

As a calling card, ‘Feels Like Winter Again’ was musical triumph. Driven by Nelson’s resonant drum machine, the cutting mix of synth and treated guitar over an electronic pulse juxtaposed with real bass guitar made an emotive statement, even without Wright’s sombre tale of broken love affairs. The song didn’t just feel like winter, it sounded like winter… chilling and resigned but simultaneously pretty with a glint of light in the darkness. The B-side ‘This Illness’ was more moody and featured Bill Nelson’s distinctive E-bowed infinite guitar alongside some sparkling synth work.

Wright and Crickmore had been performing live as a duo under the name HE’S DEAD HERMAN but had wanted to expand their line-up as FIAT LUX. The musician they enlisted was Bill Nelson’s sax and keyboard playing brother Ian who they had met independently on the Wakefield gig circuit. The bolstered line-up was timely as ‘Feels Like Winter Again’ had gained radio airplay from notable DJs on BBC Radio1 such as Peter Powell, Kid Jensen and Janice Long.

This attention also got them a support tour with BLANCMANGE and led to them signing to Polydor Records in March 1983. With a £60,000 advance for the first year, among the new equipment purchased were a Roland Jupiter 8 and a Roland TR808 drum machine while the next recording sessions were produced again by Bill Nelson. However, Polydor’s A&R were unhappy with his take on ‘Photography’ which had been agreed as the band’s first major label release. This was a particularly unfortunate period for Bill Nelson as later in the year, he had his cutting, trebly mixes rejected by GARY NUMAN for his ‘Warriors’ album. However, Numan later admitted in hindsight that Bill Nelson’s production vision may well have been “ahead of his time”.

A brand new version of ‘Photography’ produced by Hugh Jones, who had worked with SIMPLE MINDS, THE TEARDROP EXPLODES and ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN, was issued that summer. Less immediate than ‘Feels Like Winter Again’, ‘Photography’ took several listens to appreciate as its structure was unconventional. But the interplay between Wright’s crooning lead vocal and Crickmore’s repeat staccato harmony was a total delight. The song’s climax was led by a bursting lift from Nelson’s sax but despite its steadfast power, ‘Photography’ lacked an obvious hook for it to be a hit and didn’t chart.

In a softening of the blow, FIAT LUX went on a well received tour opening for Howard Jones in December 1983. On a crest of momentum from that particular success, a new single ‘Secrets’ was readied for the start of 1984. This beautifully haunting ballad was bolstered by what appeared to be a violin solo; it was actually performed using a Yamaha CS80 by Mike Timoney, a musician who had played on ‘Are We A Worker?’ from CHINA CRISIS’ first album. ‘Secrets’ reached No.65 in the UK so progress was gradually being made.

In Spring 1984, the band issued their outstanding fourth single ‘Blue Emotion’. In an age of greed and “self help – help yourself”, the song was, like BUCKS FIZZ’s ‘Land Of Make Believe’, a veiled warning on the dangers of Thatcherism! Musically, this was their most accessible offering yet with a fabulous sweeping ‘2001’ theme from Ian Nelson via a MemoryMoog and the now trademark Wright/Crickmore Vox Matrimonium. Unfortunately, the rousing tune and the political sentiment went over the heads of most. It only reached the heady heights of No. 59 in the UK singles chart despite an appearance on an Old Grey Whistle Test synth special also featuring KRAFTWERK, Jean-Michel Jarre and Howard Jones.

Sensing stagnation and with the debut album still not ready, Polydor swiftly issued a six track EP ‘Hired History’ containing ‘Photography’, ‘Secrets’ and ‘Blue Emotion’ plus their corresponding B-Sides as a stop-gap. All the singles were sequenced onto the first side thus exposing the trio’s penchant for less accessible theatrics on the second side.

hired-history ‘Sleepless Nightmare’ in particular sounded like Bertolt Brecht gone electro although the funky ‘Aqua Vitae’ (which ironically sounded like something from Gary Numan’s ‘Warriors’) showed some promise for the upcoming album. Autumn 1984 saw the release of the disappointing ‘House Of Thorns’ but this blip was nicely overcome by the brilliantly superior pop of ‘Solitary Lovers’ not long after. However, neither made an impact on the charts and the album shelved by Polydor.

Disillusioned, Crickmore departed FIAT LUX shortly after. Wright and Nelson soldiered on briefly but without the chemistry of the founding Wright/Crickmore axis, FIAT LUX were not the same and they quietly disbanded.

After FIAT LUX, Crickmore rediscovered his love of folk music and founded THE DURBERVILLES. The combo went on to present a folk show on BBC Radio Leeds and still tour regularly. Meanwhile, Steve Wright joined cult electronic act CAMERA OBSCURA (not the Glaswegian hipster faves) but eventually left music altogether to work in television. Ian Nelson continued to work with his brother Bill. However, he sadly died in April 2006 on his 50th birthday.

But with the accessibility of the internet, in around 2008 several music bloggers were offering a FIAT LUX compilation entitled ‘Fact Ut Vivas’ for free download… this turned out to be a high quality rip from master tapes of their shelved debut album, allegedly leaked by FIAT LUX themselves after their contract with Polydor ended.

commercial1From it, the brooding uptempo North European melancholy of ‘Breaking The Boundary’ was easily as good as BLACK’s ‘Everything’s Coming Up Roses’ while ‘Embers’ came over like a distant cousin of PINK FLOYD’s ‘Wish You Were Here’. FIAT LUX were always keen to combine electronics with real instruments such as sax, marimbas, drums, bass and guitars so here they were going virtually the whole acoustic hog. Featuring all the Polydor singles minus ‘House Of Thorns’, ‘Fact Ut Vivas’ would have made an impressive debut flaunting FIAT LUX’s instrumental versatility and diversity. Alas, this missing album is why FIAT LUX are still one of the forgotten acts of the Synth Britannia era.

Apparently, discussions between reissue label Cherry Red and Universal Music (who now own the FIAT LUX tapes) to release ‘Fact Ut Vivas’ began in 2009 but have so far come to nought. The band only officially released 13 songs in their recorded career and none are presently available even digitally! However, anything is still possible; but until a formal release is sanctioned, make Google your friend… there could a nice surprise 😉

Dedicated to the memory of Ian Nelson 1956-2006




Text by Chi Ming Lai
7th September 2013, updated 16th December 2016

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