This was inspired by occasional guest contibutor and regular commentator, FlimFlanFan, who in passing mentioned that he was a huge fan of Fad Gadget.

For those otherwise unfamilar, Fad Gadget was, initially, the stage name of the late Frank Tovey (8 September 1956 – 3 April 2002), one of the pioneers of electonica here in the UK. He wasn’t one who ever chased commercial success at any point in his career but he was namechecked by almost everyone who was anyone in the genre over the ensuing decades.

In 1979, Fad Gadget became the first (outside of label founder Daniel Miller) to release a single on Mute Records. He would be part of the label for the rest of his life, at no time ever being under the threat of being dropped. From 1984 onwards, he recorded under his own name. Anyone who happened to catch Depeche Mode on stage at various times could have chanced upon Fad/Frank as he occasionally went on tour as the support act. His death was caused by a heart attack, at the age of 45, which ultimately was no surprise as he had suffered from heart problems from a very early age.

I don’t actually have much in the way of Fad Gadget songs in the collection, although I know a lot of his material as a former flatmate from student days was a huge fan. One of my favourites, and it was the one mentioned by flimflanfan, was Ricky’s Hand, the second single recorded for Mute Records in 1980.

It actually has a substantial wiki page devoted to it:-

“Ricky’s Hand” is a song by Fad Gadget, released as a single in 1980. It was the second Fad Gadget single, following “Back to Nature” the previous year. The track was not included on any studio album, predating a debut LP by several months, but does appear on several compilations. Mute Records founder Daniel Miller collaborated on the writing, playing and production.

Lyrically the song was a sardonic cautionary tale on the perils of drink driving: “From the pocket it pulled five pound / Ricky bought another round… Ricky contravened the highway code / The hand lies severed at the side of the road”. The cover of the original vinyl single showed the hand in question being burnt by drops of beer in the fashion of a corrosive warning symbol.

The music was in a predominantly industrial style with an insistent electronic beat. A plaintive motif opened the track and recurred during the chorus, occasionally augmented by a distinctive ‘choir girl effect’, as it was described in the credits. An electric drill was also listed among the instruments; it can heard on the recording punctuating each mention of the song’s title.

mp3 : Fad Gadget – Ricky’s Hand

Great stuff, even if I say so myself and nobody other than FFF agrees!



  1. My first encounter with Fad Gadget was later, with the single Swallow It, which is an awesome track. Made me dig deeper and started a life long lasting following of his art. Great artist!

  2. I agree. Be thankful I am in a location of reduced internet access otherwise I would have waxed lyrical – not only in this post but also the recent Bowie Diamond Dogs posting.

    Fad Gadget, and later Frank Tovey incarnations, are at the heart of my own personal musical journey. Frank was never afraid to experiment or take a risk. Ricky’s Hand combined a household drill and a chorister (sung by BJ Frost). I’d say that’s unusual – it”s also a great pop single.

    His initial live stage antics are well documented. The most recent live shows show just what a superb live artist he was.

    On hearing Swallow It (a live version on the b-side to Saturday Night Special) I was just dumbstruck. I wonder if this is the same version Martin alludes to or the later remix?

    Family and fans alike have done a great deal to keep the Fadget Gadget flame alight; the latest release is a vinyl version of The Best of …

    I will always be indebted to Frank for the manner in which he helped shape my future listening. I am chuffed to see this great song / magnificent artist appear within TVV. Thanks, to JC.

  3. I am shamefully remiss on the Fad Gadget front. I only ever had the US “Snakes + Ladders” LP, to my eternal shame. I remember seeing the import LP of “Incontinent” in 1981, but not much else over the years.

  4. FFF – Reading your comment I tried to search my memory in more detail, at first I wouldn’t recognize a live b-side but on the other hand I’m pretty sure it was not a later remix. Probably I must have listened to the album at a friend’s and Swallow It was the track that stuck immediately. Sigh, it’s almost 40 years ago…

  5. Martin, I apologise … I should have also mentioned the studio version; this appeared on the LP Incontinent.

    If it was a single (almost, ahem, 40 years ago) then I suspect it will be the glorious live version. It speaks volumes that it made such an impression.

  6. PPM, I bought Incontinent after hearing ‘Swallow it’. For the life of me I can’t imagine where I would have heard that tune, but I do still have the LP. Criminally overlooked artist–pretty much unknown in the States.

  7. Well, I saw the record, but the cover put me off, to put it mildly! I was not going to buy a $10 import without having heard anything from it, and especially not with Punch on the cover!

  8. JTFL – Fad Gadget got a lot of airplay on WNYU in the afternoon show with Evan ‘Funk’ Davies back in the very early 80s.
    That was my introduction to him and I remain a fan to this day! I think I saw Fad Gadget’s one and only show in NYC at The Underground in either 81 or 82. I will admit to not remembering too much from it, but definitely heard Ricky’s Hand and there were some “non traditional” musical instruments onstage.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.