Released today in 1985: Laura

Arista HEY8

Arista HEY8

It all seemed to happen at once for Haircut One Hundred: in a period of something less than a year, they had Top 10 hits with all four of the singles they released and the album they were taken from, Pelican West, earned them a platinum disc and came close to topping the LP chart. There was success outside the UK too, and to help sales abroad two American tours and one European tour had been completed in the first half of 1982. By the end of the summer, the band members had barely had a day off in the past year. And before the end of the year, they had a second album to record and British tour dates to play throughout November and December. And there was a plan to visit Japan and the Far East in the New Year.

No wonder Nick Heyward wanted a break. Back in the UK in August 1982 to promote that fourth Top 10 single, he spoke to Record Mirror (11 September 1982) to explain why he had changed the band’s plans to record album number two in France: “I cancelled it. I decided we just weren’t going to Paris. I got so sick of going abroad to work that I decided that we would make the new LP in Britain. It may sound corny, but there’s nothing I like more than sitting in my house watching television and making cups of tea. I don’t even want to go out!” The band were now having a few weeks’ holiday before the sessions for the new album began, and that was as much as anyone knew at the time. But Record Mirror would follow the band’s progress closely over the next few months, and as the rest of the year progressed, so would most of the gossip columns in the music and tabloid press: the rumour was that Haircut One Hundred, despite the hits, was about to break up.

In an interview for the free newspaper Metro on 26 January 2011, two days before a Haircut One Hundred reunion where they performed the whole of Pelican West at the Indig02 in London, Heyward gave more detail about that point in the group’s career. “We came back to Britain and decided to be a four-piece again, chucked out Mark [Fox, percussion and backing vocals] and Phil [Smith, saxophonist], went into the studio. I started to get ill as I’d worked a year without sleeping properly and was feeling really depressed. I felt suicidal and went into hospital. While I was there Mark and Phil came back into the band and started writing. I went back to rehearsals, heard what they were doing, said, ‘Is this the new stuff I’m singing?’; they said, ‘No. Mark’s singing,’ and I said, ‘Well, there’s not much for me to do then, is there?’”

This was not common knowledge at the time. In the issue of 20 November 1982, Record Mirror reported that those previous planned live dates in the UK were to be postponed due to difficulties with the recording of the album, which no one was satisfied with. “‘We want to make an album with 12 hits on it, not just three or four good tracks,’ said one member this week,” the magazine stated, without identifying which “one member” had spoken. The UK tour was moved to February and March 1983, but it was hoped that the dates between Christmas and New year would still go ahead. In the event, they didn’t, but press interviews were set up for January in anticipation of a new single.

In the issue of 29 January 1983, though, the headline in the news section was “The full story behind the split!”. The story said that Heyward “couldn’t face up to meeting his fellow band members before finally quitting the band last week. Since Record Mirror exclusively revealed that the group’s studio work was in shambles back in November, he had recorded just three songs with the band. The heart-throb singer was said to be suffering from severe nervous strain at the end of last year with the pressure of being at the top. ‘It seemed like a total lack of confidence,’ said sax player Phil Smith this week. ‘Most of the band had finished the album tracks and we were just waiting for Nick to finish the vocals. We started the album way back in September, and we kept saying to him that he should get in there. We’ve only seen him intermittently over the past couple of months. It’s been very frustrating and very expensive to keep waiting for him to put down the vocals.’”

The report confirmed that Haircut One Hundred was continuing with Fox taking over lead vocals, but that the UK tour dates were now cancelled. “I think Nick found it hard to get on with Mark. It was particularly noticeable as they both do vocals,” Smith said. For his part, Fox said: “Nick’s departure is a timely exit for us. We are basically glad he’s left, because the rest of the band couldn’t get anything together.” A separate piece in the same issue confirmed recent press speculation that Heyward was going solo and quoted him as saying, “I’m really excited about my new project. The single is just me with session musicians. It is almost finished and it is going to be very different – you’ll see what I mean when it comes in February.”

This turned out to be Whistle Down The Wind, which was rumoured to be the cancelled Haircut One Hundred single from January. It was the first of three Top 20 singles from Heyward, all of which appeared on his Top 10 debut album North Of A Miracle. Haircut One Hundred had a less successful 1983: they just made the Top 50 with their first post-Heyward single and thereafter, there were no further hits. Paint And Paint, their 1984 album, flopped, and by the time Heyward released today’s featured single Laura, Haircut One Hundred was over. But Heyward’s career was also suffering by this point. Laura made #45, which was representative of the type of chart placings he could command for the rest of the Eighties.

NEW SINGLES on sale from May. 24
1985
BON JOVI In And Out Of Love (Vertigo VER19)
Nick HEYWARD Laura (Arista HEY8)
The JESUS AND MARY CHAIN You Trip Me Up (Blanco Y Negro NEG13)

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