REALLY FLOGGING A DEAD HORSE

Don’t worry…..I’m not trying to squeeze in another posting about the bloggers weekend or Coldplay. The image above does give the game away somewhat….

I’m not sure what the world record is for most singles lifted from an LP, but in terms of % then the 7 out of 10 associated with The Raw and The Cooked, the 1989 sophomore album from Fine Young Cannibals must be up there.

Of the seven singles, four went Top 20 and only one of them failed to chart – possibly because the record buying public really had no excuse to shell out any further. The album itself was one of the best-selling of the era – it has been certified triple platinum in the UK and double platinum in the USA – and is estimated to have sold more than three million copies worldwide.

Unusually for such a popular and huge-selling record, it has quite a bit going for it, successfully bringing together a number of genres such as pop, rock, soul and funk to good effect, albeit it also has a rather dreadful cover of a hit single by Buzzcocks.

It was actually quite surprising to see Ever Fallen In Love? on the album as the FYC version was already more than two years old having been recorded for the film Something Wild (directed by Jonathan Demme) and had been released as a single in its own right in early 1987. Indeed, film buffs might have thought that there was very little new about The Raw and The Cooked as three more of its songs had featured in the 1987 movie Tin Men (directed by Barry Levinson) in which the band appeared and performed within a film that was set in 1963…..

But I digress.

As with all hit albums, it was preceded by a strong single, one that dominated the airwaves in early 1989:-

mp3 : Fine Young Cannibals – She Drives Me Crazy

This unusual but fine sounding single was released in the first week of January and spent almost three months in the charts, peaking at #5, setting the tone for what would be a triumphant year for the band. Just as it dropped out of the Top 75, the folk at London Records released this in April:-

mp3 : Fine Young Cannibals – Good Thing

This had been one of the songs featured in Tin Men and so it is deliberately retro sounding. It is toe-tappingly and hand-clappingly catchy but in a way that avoids becoming annoying. It spent more than two months in the charts, peaking at #7. The label then waited until August to issue the next single:-

mp3 : Fine Young Cannibals – Don’t Look Back

Unlike the previous two singles, this one has dated pretty badly. It’s a run-of-the-mill and indistinct effort that doesn’t have all that much going for it. The record buying public obviously agreed as they didn’t part with their cash in the same way – it spent just four weeks in the charts and peaked at #34.

In most instances, a poorly selling single would lead a label to decide to call it quits on that particular album and to look to persuade the singer or band that it was time to get some fresh songs out there. However, the big problem was that FYC were not the slightest bit interested in doing anything new. Lead singer Roland Gift was determined to pursue an acting career and was certainly not the slightest bit inclined to rush back to the studio – it was also the case that the band weren’t tied to any rigorous and demanding contract and so could take things at their own pace.

The pre-Xmas boost for 1989 came via a fifth single in November, one that highlighted in particular the soulful nature of the lead singer:-

mp3 : Fine Young Cannibals – I’m Not The Man I Used To Be

This spent ten weeks in the chart, peaking at #20 in mid-December.

All told, it meant that FYC had seen singles occupy a slot in the Top 75 in 33 of the weeks during 1989. The parent album, having entered  at #1 in the first week of its release in mid-February remained in the chart throughout the rest of the year, and indeed was still as high as #18 at the end of December 1989.  Sales wise, it was only out-performed by the toe-curlingly awful giants of the pop world like Phil Collins, Jason Donovan, Gloria Estefan and Simply Red.

The album would stay in the charts for a further five months – boosted by it winning Best Album at the Brit Awards in February 1990 (at which FYC were also named as Best UK band) – and only dropping out at the end of May 1990 by which time two further singles – I’m Not Satisfied and It’s OK – had been released with the former reaching #46 but the latter being a complete flop.

FYC never made another album after The Raw and The Cooked, although in 1996 they got together one last time to record two new songs to include on a 14-track ‘best of’ effort which, despite including no less than six tracks from the Raw and The Cooked, still went Top 10 and sold more than 300,000 copies in the UK alone.  On that basis, it is somewhat baffling that they never wanted to take advantage of their continuing popularity and make more records.

JC

14 thoughts on “REALLY FLOGGING A DEAD HORSE

  1. I saw them live around the time the album came out. They were very good but, literally, only played the album as they didn’t know any other songs. At 40 minutes it was probably the shortest set I’ve ever seen from a headline act.
    Support was the excellent WIN.

  2. Maybe they didn’t do anything else due to Gift relocating to Roberton in Lanarkshire where John Martyn also resided.

    There is also a rather splendid offshoot remix album The Raw and The Remix with mixes by the likes of Nellie Hooper, Smith& Mighty and Monie Love worth the asking price for the wonderful Jazzie B and Nellie Hooper mix of I’m Not The Man I Used To Be alone. But strangely omitting the Norman Cook piano solo intro

  3. Roland Gift was an, er, unusual vocalist, it has to be said. A mate once described Elvis Costello’s singing as sounding like he had swallowed his own tongue, much to my chagrin, but there is some substance in the allegation. Applies even more so to Mr Gift. I used to do a good impersonation of him at the time.

    There was also an appalling Elvis (Presley) cover I seem to remember.

  4. Thanks for this! I loved their debut album much more, but enjoyed this one as well. Here in the US, we caught hints of the the musicians previous affiliation with the Beat, and a love for 60s soul — especially on the first album. We loved Roland’s interesting voice and pronunciation. The girls just loved him. Period. Saw them on a tour with UB40.

  5. I thought Roland went to live in a little wine making island in New zealand ……
    (like the other guy from Frankie goes to hollywood and tom from the thompson twins)

  6. A really good album at the time it was released, but it’s not one I have spent any time listening to for more than 25 years. I do like The Raw And The Remix as it has a few very, very good remixes including that Jazzie B/Nellie Hooper remix of I’m Not The Man I Used To Be – also the best track on the album IMHO.

  7. Better than most chartbusters of the era, but that’s not saying a lot, is it? Never offended me, but I was never gaga over them either. I take that back. Ever Fallen in Love was offensive. Johnny Come Home from the first album was probably my favorite.

  8. Roland is back living in Hull. He played a gig at the Welly (ace local venue) in December and was excellent. Still got the voice and the moves.

  9. Can’t say I was ever a fan. Alex’s comment about Gift sounding like he’d swallowed his on tongue hit the nail on the head for me. Sort of like Johnny Mathis, only worse. Just thinking about him singing compels me to yawn in much the same way that stepping out into bright sunlight compels me to sneeze. It’s just how my body responds to singers who sound as if they are opening their mouth widely. Weird, huh? I’ve been yawning uncontrollably since writing this comment, dratted power of suggestion!

  10. It is one of the great “what ifs”…had The English Beat had made one more album together instead of splintering into Fine Young Cannibals and General Public. That album would have been a monster!

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