Icicle Works – Live At Shelly’s Club, Stoke – 1985 – Live and Loud.com
Icicle Works live tonight. Recorded at Shelly’s Club in 1985 and tweaked, fiddled with and turbo-charged by Flip Martian for my current favorite website, Live and Loud.com (check them out).
Icicle Works 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 Indie Chart. 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 Albums Chart and entered the US top 40.Appearing on the US top 40 singles chart 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.
After the release of their self-titled debut album the Icicle Works struggled to match their initial commercial success. They continued to receive critical acclaim as a live band and secured a loyal fan base both in the UK and abroad. Some have attributed the lack of commercial success to The Icicle Works’ change in sound over the years, from an initial ‘new wave’ feel to a more straight-ahead (but then-unfashionable) rock sound inspired by Neil Young, The Doors, and the Ramones, amongst others.
In September 1984, the band issued the UK-only single “Hollow Horse”, which flopped (though it later became a live favorite in the band’s sets). A series of follow-up singles similarly missed the charts, including the Motown-flavored “All The Daughters” and the folk-rock inspired “Seven Horses”. Added to the live line-up around this time was keyboardist Chris “Tugsie” Turrill; Turrill was not an official member of the band, and did not play on any of their recordings. Prior to Turrill’s arrival, both McNabb and Layhe had previously doubled up on instruments playing guitar, keyboard and percussion at live gigs. Layhe was often seen playing the octobans and McNabb occasionally played an open tuned guitar with his right hand and a keyboard with his left.
The band’s second LP, The Small Price of a Bicycle came out in mid-1985. The album was a UK-only release—their US label, Arista Records, dismissed the album as ‘punk-rock demos’ and declined to release it.
In case you missed them the first time around, here’s a reminder – hit the play button and crank it up. Full of surprises, it is.