Released today in 1984: My White Bicycle



‘Neil’ (full name Neil Wheedon Watkins Pye, credited on his singles with a lower-case N) was a character in the BBC sitcom ‘The Young Ones’. This was a show that generated a significant amount of merchandise in the mid-80s, with the character of Neil being the focus of a lot of it. A book, Neil’s Book Of The Dead, was published, but his appearance on the cover of Smash Hits (5 July 1984; Neil gave that his date of birth because “Today is the first day of the rest of your life and it could get WORSE!”) was prompted by his cover of Traffic’s Hole In My Shoebeing released as a single. There were two problems with this, as Mark Ellen discussed with Neil in the Smash Hits interview.

1. Neil had died before the single was released. Everyone had seen it happen in the final episode of ‘The Young Ones’ on 19 June 1984, and the single didn’t come out until July. “You will remember to tell them that I’m dead, right, and this was recorded before I died? Because otherwise I’ll get into real trouble…I just went along to this studio to, like, do some of my poetry and sing some of my songs and have a really mellow experience and then they got this really heavy producer in who said, you know, that we had to use tape-recorders and things and then, you know, the whole thing kind of escalated from there and just became , like, a real hassle.”

2. Neil didn’t like the blatant commercialism of making a record anyway. “I think it’s a sell-out. And all the films and books and everything and all the t-shirts and all the little mugs and everything that are going to come out to promote the single, the jungles on the radio and everything, all the ‘sell-out’ stuff, right, was all done, like, before we died and we’re all going off to a special island that’s a tax haven… oh, no, we’re not. Oh no. I’ve blown it already… a special tax exile island where we can rest up and watch the royalties come in.”

Despite these two pressing problems, the single very nearly reached the top of the chart; both it, and its follow-up My White Bicycle, were taken from Neil’s Heavy Concept Album; and Neil’s recordings ended up winning a special award at the 1985 BPI Awards, for comedy recording of the year. But thereafter, his career as a recording artist came to an end and he returned to being dead.

It wasn’t the end of actor Nigel Planer’s sideline as a singer. The following year, there was another release, this time under his own name. He sang the theme song to the ITV television series ‘King And Castle’, in which he also starred. The song was Rough With The Smooth, written by High Cornwell of The Stranglers.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Dec. 7
NEIL (Nigel Planer) My White Bicycle (WEA YZ30)
Samantha FOX True Devotion (Jive FOXY13)
The SMITHS Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody (Rough Trade RT200)


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