Tuesday, June 20, 2017


This took me back in an instant. Forget what David Hepworth says about 1971, for a brief window 1989 was the year and well nigh wonderful, cranked up by songs like this. So history says the 80s were naff, does it? Since when was history driving along a road on a summer day, windows open, cassette player blaring this out, for the good and the education of all in earshot? I bloody love(d) the Fine Young Cannibals, from their intricate minimalism to the legs everywhere dancing of the guitarists on Top of the Pops. Life affirming and some.

A candle that burnt only briefly, the Cannibals burst into my consciousness in about '84, with 'Johnny Come Home', instantly branding their template of rudimentary drums, spluttery guitar riffs, and whiffs of trumpet and keyboards, all topped by Roland Gift's, if you will, constipated style of vocals. The band had evolved from the break-up of the (English) Beat, with the guitar and bass players, Andy Cox and David Steele, eventually choosing Gift from a shortlist of 500. But no evidence of the ska so representative of that earlier band, pulling in influences from all over, as exemplified by the Elvis cover, Suspicious Minds, that gave their first international hit.

A successful first album was later eclipsed by their second, and last, the Raw and the Cooked, discounting a remixed version and more greatest hits albums than they had actual albums. This was simultaneously more stripped back and more adventurous. Huge worldwide success ensued, with 2 U.S. number one singles in She Drives Me Crazy and Good Thing. I remember being slightly shocked by it when it appeared, the shock of the primitive sophistication taking time to imprint. Then? Virtually nothing. The odd charity song, the  spin-off duo of Two Men, a Drum Machine and a Trumpet, featuring just Cox and Steele, whilst Gift set off to an expected glittering film career. That too faltered after a promising start. Since then occasional promises of a new start, never fully materialising. Gift has said he has merely been happy being a father to his children, possibly the truth. Two years ago he was recording new material. Did it ever appear? And of the other two, Cox seems to have more or less disappeared, Steele occasionally popping up as a producer or sidesman, notably on the debut of british R'n'B maverick, Gabrielle.

A brief word as to the origin of the band name, this being inspired, perhaps only by the title of 1960 movie All the Fine Young Cannibals, arguably a loose bio of jazz trumpet icon Chet Baker, starring Robert Wagner (as jazz trumpeter "Chad Bixby") and Natalie Wood. So maybe that explains all the trumpets!?

I miss this band and I miss that time, with a slew of UK bands pumping out original music that has, largely, stood the test of time.

Buy! (And yes, I had noticed that, whilst the song is called "gets', it sure as hell sound like "is" he is singing.)

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