The end

Right, that’s it.

I was never really happy with the way this blog’s turned out; it’s a bit fast food. The new one will be more home-cooking.  Although there are no posts yet, you can visit it at:

because I intend to go….


Published in: on August 28, 2008 at 8:46 am  Leave a Comment  

“The end?”

I’ve been doing this blog for almost 3 months now, so it’s about par for the course for me that I should start wondering if it’s worth carrying on with it.

Seems to me it’s nothing more than a vanity project; “look at me, I like this and this and this. Do you?”

Does the world really need another such indulgence? After all, in any case, it hasn’t exactly set the ether on fire. 61 posts, less than a dozen comments. I have been and I have figured.

So I won’t post now until the end of August and, if no pleadings for continuance await me then, that’s it.

Question is: will anyone notice?

Published in: on July 28, 2008 at 5:37 pm  Comments (1)  

Some of my role models

Each of the individuals pictured below impacted strongly on my adolescent brain.

Published in: on July 23, 2008 at 8:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

Basil Kirchin 1927-2005

For starters, go here

to find out about this incomparable musical innovator and to peruse his ‘current releases’.

Then go here

to get this








so you can see what all the fuss is about.

Those of an adventurous musical disposition will not be disappointed.

Published in: on July 18, 2008 at 1:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

18th of July

From the Lewisham Borough Council website:

“Hilly Fields is a large park on a steep hill between Ladywell and Brockley. It provides a deceptively green outlook to the northwestern skyline from large parts of Catford and Hither Green.

Octavia Hill, one of the three founders of the National Trust, had a passionate interest in the housing conditions of the London working classes. In 1884 she had assumed responsibility, on behalf of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, for 133 homes in Deptford.

In a poorly furnished room in one of the Deptford homes, she noticed on one occasion a vase of freshly picked wild flowers. On being told they had been picked on Hilly Fields, she set off the same day to see the place; she was concerned not only with the housing of London’s poor but also with the overall environment where they lived. For this reason she campaigned vigorously against the loss of the open spaces that were enjoyed by Londoners, especially the poorest members of society.

Hilly Fields, at that time, was mostly farmland, with an area of game shooting to the south. The latter had already been leased to developers for building, and Deptford Common, just to the north, had also disappeared.

When plans were announced to build over Hilly Fields, Octavia Hill was instrumental in helping local people set up a campaign, and also raise funds, to save the land as a public park. As a direct result of the campaign, Hilly Fields was purchased by the London County Council with substantial donations from a number of sympathetic charities and City companies. Part of the site had been used for brickmaking and this area was levelled and the swampy sections were drained. On 16th May 1896, Hilly Fields was dedicated to the public”.

Lyrics to “Hilly Fields (1892)” by Nick Nicely

“Mr C.G. Fields lost his job with the Board of Trade [fifteen tons of letters on my desk]

Walking through the fields he saw things that made others afraid [into the fields] – afraid

YEAH – 1892 – lines are still on you – Hilly Fields

YEAH – 18th of July – someone in the sky – Hilly Fields

18th of July – marked it with a circle of red […]

He left them all behind…filed under missing or dead […] – it said

Yeah! 1892 – lines are still on you – Hilly Fields

YEAH – 18th of July – someone in the sky – Hilly Fields – Hilly Fields

[Pimply little postboy]

yeah – 1982 lives in me and you – Hilly Fields”

This from ‘Record Collector’ magazine 1997:

NICK NICELY – Jeff Ross finally reveals the true identity of the mysterious 80s psychedelicist

A couple of years ago a friend of mine played me a tape of a Radio Caroline show hosted by Nick Saloman, frontman of psychedelic mischief-makers the Bevis Frond. It included a song called Hilly Fields issued on EMI in 1982 and credited to a certain Nick Nicely. The single was apparently one of only two records ever released by this artist.

To say that Hilly Fields blew me away was an understatement – and the more I heard it, the more enchanted I became.

Unlike the output of psychedelic revivalists like the Dukes of Stratosphear (XTC’s alter ego) and The Bevis Frond, this single is, I believe, the most important piece of psychedelia since the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever”.

(It’s MUCH better than the stupid Beatles! – LSAB)

There were, however, a few things that puzzled me. Why would a major record company like EMI release just this one Nick Nicely single? There was no follow-up, no album, no publicity, and the single sank without a trace. And who was this Nick Nicely anyway? Could it be a pseudonym for someone mega famous? I decided to try to track down this mysterious character and get a few answers.

Because ”Hilly Fields” has been issued by EMI, I assumed it had been recorded at Abbey Road. A letter from that studio proved me wrong, but it did suggest that I contact the EMI music archives in Hayes. This I did, and a man called Paul Coldwell wrote back several weeks later giving me Nick’s address. After what seemed like an eternity, Nicely eventually contacted me, and on a bright autumnal afternoon we finally met up at his home in South London. This is his story . . .

After an exotic entrance into the world – he was born Nickolas Laurien, in Greenland during a stopover on a transatlantic flight – Nicely was raised in the rather more prosaic environs of Hitchin, Hertfordshire. Later, he moved to London and he currently lives in Catford just a stone’s throw away from Hilly Fields Park in Lewisham. Yes, just like ”Itchycoo Park”, it really does exist.


As a child, Nick used to tune into the 60s radio favorites of the day – the Beatles, the Hollies, the Searchers – but he suddenly turned his back on mainstream pop after hearing the Cuff-Links’ 1969 single, “Tracy” (MCA MU 1101). This led him to explore the underground sounds of the time like Deep Purple, Jethro Tull, King Crimson, and Spooky Tooth.

Aged 10, Nick began playing harmonica before progressing to guitar six years later. Together with several close fiends he then formed the Nick Nicely Band, a knockabout combo which mainly played college gigs. When the other members lost interest, Nick was left alone with the recording equipment they clubbed together to buy.

By 1978 Nick was working on his own demos and soon had around 60 songs, with titles like “Woolwich” and “Lazy Days”. Hawking them around London he found some success with the West End publishing firm Heath Levy, who also handled Steve Miller and the Eagles. They thought Nick’s songs could be covered by other artists.

Upon signing a deal, Nick received a small advance and some free studio time which he used to record his first single “DCT Dreams”/”Treeline”. A friend called Jeff Leach joined him on keyboards. “He was a key part of that single”, says Nick. “He was a classically-trained keyboardist and it was with him that I started to do this abstract stuff when I returned from a visit to America in early 1980. It was a very liberating period”.

Nick started to shop around for a label to release DCT Dreams, with Charisma at one point showing a keen interest. In the event, he opted to release it himself establishing his own imprint Voxette, funded by the swift sale of his recording equipment.

Nick plugged the record from Heath Levy’s office: “I went to Radio 1 again and again” he recalls, “then after a while the bastards started playing it”.


With support from DJs like Peter Powell and Mike Read, the single began to take off and Nick negotiated a distribution deal with Ariola who demanded that the 900 Voxette copies be returned to them. However, by the time the fresh pressing reached the shops in January 1980, Radio 1 had removed the record from its playlist and it faded without a trace.

Meanwhile, Ariola licensed DCT Dreams across Europe, gifting Nick with a hit in two overseas territories [the Netherlands & France – WS]. Around this time the track was also penciled in for inclusion on the Some Bizarre compilation (SBL 1) -now famous for its early Soft Cell and The The recordings. However, the label’s boss Stevo left the track off at the last minute when he realized the song was still readily available on the continent.

Spurred on by the single’s success as a Euro pop record, Nick then began work on his next project. “I don’t know where “Hilly fields” came from” he admits. “I’ve got some of the very early demos which all have that hook, but originally it was more ‘Euro’. The cello appeared because in Christmas 1980, I was sitting by the fire and asked my mum if she’d seen that cello player I’d known as a kid . . . his name was Rickman Godlee, and he never did another session after mine. Later on, Trevor Horn told me it was some of the best cello playing, pitch-wise, he’d ever heard.”

Hilly Fields was recorded at Heath Levy and Alvic Studios in Barons Court, West London. Aiding Nick were Ian Pierce on drums, Jeff Leach on keyboards, and the mysterious ‘Kate’. A few years ago, it was rumoured that this enigmatic figure was none other than Kate Bush (a familiar-sounding female voice sings the line ”pimply little postboy”), but Nick will neither confirm nor deny this. So at least one Nick Nicely mystery remains . . .

With Nick yet again selling everything he owned in order to pay for studio time, Hlilly Fields took six months to record. At times, Nick worried that he was throwing away good money after bad. “The first Hilly Fields session was in December 1980,” he recalls, “and I was still tidying up in May 1981. Then we did some post-production work and it still sounded shit. I was in a terrible mess, because I had invested so much money in it”.

But after a month of EQ-ing & generally cleaning up the recording, the final mix of the song eventually emerged from the speakers. “It was a real moment”, says Nick. “I knew I had improved it massively, and from then onwards, people sat up when they heard it”.

Because of the success of DCT Dreams, Nicely was courted by several management companies, but initially declined their services. “I got the EMI contract myself, but then I thought, well look, I can’t deal with EMI directly, so I went through the phone book and ended up with this disastrous manager. It turned out he’d had some dealings with EMI in the past, and they totally blanked him. Basically, it ended up with just me talking to the label”

Originally, a track called ‘6 B. Obergene’ was scheduled for the flip, but just three days before the record was due to be cut, Nicely replaced it with a brand new song, “49 Cigars”, on which he played everything except drums. It was mixed in one day, and the first time EMI heard it was in the cutting room. “It was a wondrous track” smiles Nick. “I feel very warm towards it because it was so easy to do”.

Over a year after it was first conceived, “Hilly Fields (1892)” was finally issued in January 1982. However, Nick believes that, because of the bad feeling between his label and management, little effort was put into promoting it. He claims that Radio 1 weren’t even given a copy, and the record sold largely by word-of-mouth.

“I took a couple into Broadcasting House myself, but they seemed a bit embarrassed”, remembers Nick. “I think they wanted me to make a Kajagoogoo-type record”.

Today, Nick thinks that going with EMI was possibly his biggest mistake: “The process at the time was to get a lot of mud, chuck it at the wall and see how much sticks. But it was difficult for me at the time – I was seeing other major labels, but it obviously seemed to fit EMI and Abbey Road and the little psychedelic revival that was going on at the time”.

Following the Hilly Fields debacle, Nick started work on a follow- up, On The Coast. Like its predecessor, it was recorded at Alvic and Heath Levy, but Nicely wasn’t happy with the results, and the tapes were shelved  – despite EMI’s interest in releasing the song.

It was around this time that Trevor Horn got in touch, with a view to producing Nick’s next project. “It would have been really interesting”, says Nicely, “but he wanted to be in total control and I wasn’t convinced that he was a really tripped out kind of guy. His stuff sounded very clear, and clarity wasn’t what Nick Nicely was about”. Shortly after Hilly Fields came out, Nick fell ill, and for the rest of the 80s, his musical projects were put on the back burner.

Meanwhile, his psychedelic masterpiece quietly grew into a cult classic and, today, copies change hands for around GBP 8. (DCT Dreams is worth the same.)

With influential fans like XTC’S Andy Partridge, and, of course, Trevor Horn, it’s a wonder that Nick’s work has never been anthologized. However, the artist is currently talking to one of the majors about releasing a compilation CD, featuring the material on his two singles, plus some new songs – so there’s hope for a Nick Nicely album yet.

Fifteen years on, it seems incredible that a record as astonishing as “Hilly Fields” should have flopped, but without any radio play, it stood little chance of charting. Nevertheless, the continuing interest in Nick Nicely will no doubt ensure that this wonderful psychedelic jewel remains a sought-after item well into the next century. And you never know, Nick’s new material may even gift his Nicely alter ego with a surprise hit . . .

Go to this place for that which cannot be found here (the aforementioned 45 and much more):

and marvel at the wonders therein. One of my all-time favourite singles.

We have much to thank The Cuff-Links for, methinks.

Published in: on July 18, 2008 at 9:11 am  Comments (1)  

This Heat

57 posts it’s taken me! What was I thinking?

When I was 14 it was Roxy Music, King Crimson, Van Der Graaf Generator and Soft Machine. When I was 18 it was PiL, Television, Pere Ubu and The Residents. This was always a source of discomfort. The year zero mentality of punk rock bothered me. Where was the connection? Was it just me? Was I wrong somehow? I needn’t have worried.

When I first heard about This Heat I was interested. When I then heard that their drummer was Charles Hayward I felt a huge wave of vindication sweep over me. He’d been the drummer in Quiet Sun, Manzanera’s pre-Roxy group (which also featured Bill McCormack out of Matching Mole). Their posthumous ‘Mainstream’ LP had been a jolt of enormous proportions to me; all the wibble of Canterbury allied to the savagery of early Roxy. And here was the link. I loved the ominous, blurry photos and guarded interviews in the music press and thirsted after recorded sound. Finally I got my chance when their eponymous debut appeared on Piano Records. I loved the now iconic blue and yellow sleeve and the label name but nothing could have prepared me for the music.

It made Quiet Sun sound like one of Rick Wakeman’s Henry VIII on ice jobbies.

Truly astounding musicianship (not technically, rather in terms of ‘what the fuck are they doing there & how are they getting that sound’) coupled with an approach that gave no immediate clues to these ears as to what was improvised and what was composed blew my head off. And Hayward’s singing on ‘Not waving’ was as moving as any I’d ever heard. I couldn’t wait to see them live and eventually made it to the Scala cinema, London on 20 December 1979 where they supported media darlings and 100% no-marks Throbbing “paedophilia and Charles Manson are cool as long as you use them in an ironic way, maaaaaaaan” Gristle. Never was the gulf between the real deal and people ‘playing at it’ more clinically illustrated.

Don’t imagine for a second this ends here. More banging on about This Heat on these pages real soonish. In the meantime, go here for evidence of same which cannot be found here

Published in: on July 15, 2008 at 9:11 am  Leave a Comment  

Gimme back my dulcimer

This was the title of a song what I wrote after an ex-colleague in a group I once played in borrowed my dulcimer and then we lost touch.

It looked rather like this:

I never did get it back. Curses.

It’s a beautiful instrument. You can hear it on recordings by the wondrous Shirley Collins such as “The sweet primeroses” and “The power of the true love knot“; it’s also employed by Dave Cousins to very different ends (i.e. electrified through a fuzzbox) on the Strawbs’ classic LP “Grave new world“.

And yes y’all, I copped the above song title in part from Lynryd Skynryd’s “Gimme back my bullets“. Ah, the folly of youth.

Published in: on July 11, 2008 at 2:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

Ghost slug

Gory details here:

Selenochlamys ysbryda” ? Sounds like a Gorky’s track to me…watch yer backs, y’earthworms…

Published in: on July 11, 2008 at 2:35 pm  Comments (1)  

Jerry ‘Boogie’ McCain

Not him


Go here for info plus that which cannot be found here:

Yea verily this man rocketh like th’proverbial and was not nicknamed ‘Boogie’ fer nowt.

Published in: on July 7, 2008 at 3:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

James Finlayson (August 27, 1887 – October 9, 1953)

The more magnanimous of my acquaintances tell me if I shifted about 5 stone and grew a ‘tache I’d look a lot like JF. Perhaps they’re right, perhaps they’re wrong; but irrespective I wouldn’t be able to do what he did. Which, needless to say, utterly defies description. To say he used to close one eye and glare gets one not even close.

File under ‘legend’ with all the rest.

Published in: on July 3, 2008 at 2:20 pm  Leave a Comment