The Icicle Works in concert tonight – recorded at The Golders Green Hippodrome onJanuary 5, 1987 and broadcast as part of BBC Radio 1’s In Concert Series.
The band was founded in Liverpool in 1980 when bassist Chris Layhe (who had been in a couple of local rock bands including Elanor and Blind Owl) answered an advertisement for a musical collaborator placed by 20-year-old Ian McNabb. The two got together and started writing. They quickly added drummer Chris Sharrock (who had previously drummed for the Cherry Boys), and began playing live shows as “The Icicle Works”.
In 1981, the band recorded a six-song independently released cassette entitled Ascending. In 1982, they released the independent single “Nirvana”, which made it to No. 15 on the UK’s indie charts. The following year, the Icicle Works were signed to the Beggars Banquet label, who issued the single “Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream)” on their subsidiary label Situation Two.
Later that year, The Icicle Works released their biggest UK hit, 1983’s “Love Is a Wonderful Colour”, which was a Top 15 single. Their 1984 eponymous debut album followed shortly thereafter, reached number 24 on the UK charts and entered the US top 40. Appearing on the US top 40 singles charts at around the same time (and hitting the Canadian top twenty) was “Whisper to a Scream (Birds Fly)”, a retitled and slightly remixed version of the band’s Situation Two release of 1983.
By the late 1980s, tensions within the group were increasing, allegedly due to McNabb’s controlling ways. By 1988, in addition to writing virtually all of The Icicle Works’ material (as well as singing and playing guitar) McNabb was producing the group’s records.
Accordingly, shortly after Blind was issued, drummer Chris Sharrock departed to The La’s. Sharrock would later join The Lightning Seeds and World Party, and would drum for Robbie Williams, Del Amitri, Eurythmics, Oasis and Beady Eye. As of 2018 he is the drummer for Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. Layhe additionally departed at this time. Beggars Banquet subsequently dropped the group from their roster.
McNabb continued to perform under the name The Icicle Works for a while. Dave Green was promoted to official membership status, although he left the band within a year. Zak Starkey was added on drums for a time, and various keyboardists, bassists, and guitarists passed through before the band released their final album Permanent Damage (1990), recorded for Epic/Sony. By that time, the band’s line-up was McNabb, bassist Roy Corkill, former 10cc and Jethro Tull drummer Paul Burgess, keyboardist Dave Baldwin, and backing vocalist Mark Revell.
This ‘second-generation’ version of The Icicle Works quietly broke up after Permanent Damage failed to chart, and Epic dropped the band.
To get a better idea of what the band were up to in the late 80s, here is that concert from Golders Green Hippodrome on January 5, 1987.