The inclusion of The Nightingales on the Scared To Get Happy compilation allows me to finally find a reason to get my finger out of my backside and feature them on the blog for the first time. I’m actually a wee bit surprised nobody has ever come up with the suggestion of an ICA for a band that, over the years, has released eleven studio albums, (three in the 80s and the others since they reformed in 2004), either as a stand-alone effort or incorporating the short-lived solo career of frontman Robert Lloyd.
One of the purposes of this series is to enable me to go to other websites to cut’n’paste bios to save me thinking for myself. This is from the official website of The Nightingales:-
Birmingham’s original punk group The Prefects had been part of The Clash’s ‘White Riot Tour’, recorded a couple of Peel sessions, released a 45 on Rough Trade and, years after splitting up, had a retrospective CD released by NY label Acute Records to all-round glowing reviews – from Rolling Stone to webzines.
The Nightingales was formed by a few members of The Prefects following that band’s demise in 1979.
Described in John Robb’s definitive book on post-punk (“Death To Trad Rock”) as “The misfits’ misfits” and comprising an ever-fluctuating line up, based around lyricist/singer Robert Lloyd, the Nightingales enjoyed cult status in the early ’80s as darlings of the credible music scene and were championed by John Peel, who said of them – “Their performances will serve to confirm their excellence when we are far enough distanced from the 1980s to look at the period rationally and other, infinitely better known, bands stand revealed as charlatans”.
The group recorded a bunch of critically acclaimed singles – pretty much always ‘Single Of The Week’ in the music press – and three albums, plus many radio sessions for their great supporter Peel. They also regularly toured the UK and Northern Europe, as headliners and supporting acts as diverse as Bo Diddley and Nico.
In the late Eighties, the Nightingales stopped working but, following the occasional gig between times, they re-grouped in 2004.
After fucking about with various part-timers, starry-eyed wastrels, precious sorts and mercenaries the group arrived at the current line up, which features Lloyd, Andreas Schmid from Faust on bass, ex Violet Violet drummer Fliss Kitson and on guitar James Smith, who Lloyd had spotted playing with Damo Suzuki.
Since restarting the group have been more productive than ever – releasing six 7″ vinyl singles, two 10″ EPs and eight studio albums, touring England, mainland Europe and USA numerous times, playing various festivals and recording many radio sessions along the way.
The band continued and continue to operate with no manager, booking agent, publisher, et al, but they get by. And they work equally well with pop musicians, rock n rollers and the avant-garde. The group is independent, maverick, diligent, daft, blah blah.
Until recent times the Nightingales made one record for a label and then, by choice or otherwise, moved on. But since 2017 they have been going steady with Tiny Global Productions.
The first TGP release was a 10” EP, followed in 2018 by a 45rpm collaboration with Vic Godard – “Commercial Suicide Man”- and another critically acclaimed ‘Gales album “Perish The Thought”.
To support “Perish The Thought” the group toured Europe extensively, from Scotland to Serbia.
2019 saw the filming of a feature-length Nightingales documentary film, “King Rocker” -written by brilliant stand up comedian Stewart Lee, directed by Michael Cumming (‘Brass Eye’, ‘Toast Of London’, etc) – and the recording of a new album.
The album, “Four Against Fate”, was released in May 2020 but the accompanying UK and Euro tours had to be postponed until 2021.
Plans for “King Rocker” were also disrupted but the film will have theatrical & TV premiers later this year.
Before too long there will be assorted reissues and records of previously unreleased material. Plus a bunch of other stuff, maybe? Either way, by hook or by crook, more adventures will follow.
Paraffin Brain is the track included on Scared To Get Happy. It was the band’s third single, released in 1982 on Cherry Red but not included on debut album Pigs on Purpose, released the very same year – indeed the album was originally issued minus any of the four singles from that same era, very much in keeping with the punk ethos, although a subsequent re-issue on CD in 2004 included the 2nd, 3rd and 4th singles, plus b-sides.
Both are reminiscent in places of The Fall and the angular guitar sounds of Fire Engines/Josef K. The single did make a very small dent on the indie charts but deserved better. The b-side gives an insight into what, for many, made The Nightingales stand out from the crowd, namely the way that Robert Lloyd conceived his ideas and lyrics. This particular effort is him imagining what the final ten entries in the diary of Elvis Presley might have looked liked as he grew increasingly disillusioned and tired of everything going on around him. Day 10, the final entry, is witty and sad in equal measures.
I mentioned Robert Lloyd’s short-lived solo career which consisted of two singles on an indie-label before Virgin Records took a chance on him in 1989. There would be two singles and the brilliantly-named Me and My Mouth album, released in 1990 before he retired from music for just over a decade. I don’t have a copy of the album*, although I do have the two singles on 12″ vinyl:-
And finally, a track which Jacques once included on a tape for me. It’s a song that was included on Me and My Mouth and it’s taken from a Peel Session.
The Nightingales are a band I should have followed more closely, especially since the reformation, but I can only spin so many plates at the one time. If anyone reading all this wants to offer up a guest posting or two, then you would be very welcome.
*I didn’t have a copy of the album when I typed this up about a week or so back, but I’ve since picked one up – it’s waiting on me finding time to give it a listen!