Friday, May 2, 2014

UK Indie Hits: 1980-89 (No. 18)

I'm counting down my top 50 singles from the golden age of the UK Independent Charts.

18. The Icicle Works - "Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream)"

Other Contenders: This was the only single I considered, but there were two other indie tracks that charted. One was a self release before "Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream)," and the other came a couple of years after when the band's old label, Situation 2, had another song up its sleeve. Of course, Situation 2 was a subsidiary of Beggars Banquet. The larger label adopted the idea that it was important to have representation on both singles charts much earlier than its peers (and set itself up that way), but that's a story for another day.

Chart Entry: June 25, 1983

Peak Position: No. 2

Comment: I would love to tell you I was in on this single from the very beginning, but I didn't hear it until it was re-released here in America almost a year later via Arista. By then Icicle Works already had a UK smash under its belt with "Love is a Wonderful Colour." Who knows? Without that No. 15 hit perhaps this single and the self-titled debut album never hit our shores at all, and that would have been a pity since the pop masterpiece "Whisper to a Scream (Birds Fly)" -- as it would be renamed to match the wording of the chorus for us dumb Americans -- turned out to be the band's only Top 40 hit on this side of the pond. Icicle Works are labeled one-hit wonders in the United States, but I can assure my fellow countrymen that there are many other fine gems from these lads worth discovering.

Buy a copy of the original "Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream)" single.


Anonymous said...

Saw them live about 5 times between 86 and 90. This track was always the highlight , they generated such a big manic sound the recorded version always suffered in comparison.

Echorich said...

As much as I love the earliest Icicle Works releases, and I REALLY DO!, it's their album If You Want To Defeat Your Enemy, Sing His Song that is in my top albums of all time list. It's a magnum work by a band that was really on top of their game. Its only problem is that it was released as the British charts were full of mindless pop by artists as props for producers. It's a lost gem of the 80's in my mind and a wonderful part of the 80's Liverpool sound. Evangeline is just brilliant.

Brian said...

Hi, FORW. I remember you touting them on your old blog, and I was impressed you stuck with "them," well, Ian anyway, until the end. Did you ever get any of the solo material? I never heard any of it. This song already sounds so big to me... I do have a live recording of the band from 1984 (King Biscuit Flower Hour, Boston show)... but I can't imagine how great it must have been to be there and hear it. Sounds like a nice memory for you.

Now on to more important things. I got the new Roddy Frame album from AED Records, complete with the bonus live recording, a couple of days ago. Let me know when you have heard it enough to give me your thoughts. You're one of the biggest fans I know.

Greetings, Echorich. Evangeline is probably my second favorite song from Icicle Works, and you may remember us chatting about it when I did my Ian Broudie appreciation post last year. In fact, your mention of the song inspired me to do a followup post featuring the tune. Thanks again. If You Want To Defeat Your Enemy, Sing His Song is such a great album. It's a pity not many have heard it over here.

Uncle E said...

I am one of those unfortunate slobs that haven't yet heard "You Want To Defeat Your Enemy, Sing His Song". I'll have to remedy that. Picked up the 2CD version of the debut, though, and it is fantastic! The B-Sides, BBC recordings, etc, are on a par with the original album. As many have said, they had enough great material to produce a quality double, but this was the '80's, and the intelligentsia back then frowned upon such indulgences.

Brian said...

Good to hear from you, Uncle E. I read about the deluxe edition on your site a little while back, and I know you're big on it. It's on my short list. Good point about doubles in the '80s... not many of those.