In the early 80s, Haircut 100 were ploughing a joyful jazz-funk type groove, and realeased a clutch of truly great singles ("Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl)", "Love Plus One", "Fantastic Day" and "Nobody's Fool") and one great album ('Pelican West') before falling apart and frontman Nick Heyward starting a sol career with moderate success (moderate compared to the critical and public adoration that Haircut 100 received, and could have continued to receive).
By 1986/87 success had all but dried up and Nick was probably consigned to the "Where Are They Now?" file.
And then in May 1994, snuck away 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.
And here is the performance(s):
"Caravan" was from Nick's latest solo album 'From Monday To Sunday' which arrived in my sweaty little hands the following weekend (yes, this is a time when a trip to Our Price - or often other record shops if looking for something in particular - was a necessary pert of the process) and was probably played solidly for about a month (or more).
Although his solo career had never hit the heights investors hoped he was capable of, he'd somehow wound up signing to a major label (Epic) and was releasing his fourth solo set (something of a comeback, as it was his first album for 5 years).
There was a slight departure in sound too - the funk-edges of his previous work were replaced with Rock-centric tropes. The melody and songcraft of old remained, but there was an injection of energy and jangle too.
At the time I first heard this album, Britpop was gathering pace, and it fitted the mould. In fact, I see it now as one the pre-cursors - a sort of proto-Britpop, alongside names such as Boo Radleys, Primal Scream, Elastica, Gene, SMASH, These Animal Men, Menswear and Shed Seven
And to these ears 'From Monday To Sunday' is the beginnings of Britpop. Its full of melody, strong songs, and rooted on this side of the Atlantic. It takes near nostalgia such as The Stone Roses and blends with The Beatles, Squeeze and The Jam to fill out the picture.
A trick repeated by many a Britpopper.
And to my eyes, the album cover is a picture of a Full English Breakfast served in a greasy spoon cafe (completed with chequered vinyl tablecloth) - the type of British Culture celebrating image that would become a common site, most notably the pictures of Blur at the Dog Racing on the inner cover of 'Parklife'
For me, it’s up there with Britpop touchstones 'Parklife', 'Definitely Maybe' and 'Stanley Road'.
And off the back of 'Stanley Road', Paul Weller was anointed The Modfather Of Britpop.
I'm not suggesting that Nick Heyward is the equal of Paul Weller, but they are certainly contemporary.
And who knows? With a little more luck and recognition, he could be making guest appearances on albums and/or playing larger venues. Instead, Nick remains on the 80s nostalgia circuit.
Maybe, just maybe, Nick fired too soon.
Quality is high across the album's 12 tracks - there is a danger that it can be seen as front-loaded with "He Doesn't Love You Like I Do", "Caravan", and "Kite" filling 3 of the 4 opening solts.
But no, there is more than enough of equal calibre filling the space.
The pick of the bunch for me is "kite" - it's rich, jangling, undertated and plain glorious. This song says as much to me about the summer of 1994 as Parklife and Live Forever.
Also vying for attention of the yearning "How Do You Live Without Sunshine", the jumping (almost echoes of Haircut 100 past) "January Man", and closing track - the almost epic and yearning (again) "Everytime"
Life's like that, delicious with clause.
You never get the truth, just promises galore.
Don’t let them shoot your kite down