Nik Kershaw | The Popjustice Forum

Nik Kershaw

Discussion in 'Comeback corner' started by Eric Generic, Mar 6, 2012.

  1. So, the Human Racing deluxe edition is out, he's getting some long-overdue credit for that album and his other 80s work - let's give the man his own thread.

    Just been playing The Riddle (80s CD master) - this was my favourite Nik album at the time; the point where he overtook Howard Jones as the premier UK solo male act of the age. And yet - title smash aside - it's barely remembered. Top 10, 36 weeks on the chart....hardly a let-down after Human Racing's success.

    Part of the answer lies in the comments Nik makes in that recent interview; MCA's strategy for the 2nd album was "crazy" - they rushed it out to cash in on the debut album's popularity, but didn't really think it through. The single was massive, top 5 all through Christmas 1984, so why didn't they hold the album back until ealry 1985, get a certain #1 or #2 entry, and then spend 1985 taking further hits from it?

    True, Wide Boy went to #9, and even Don Quixote sneaked in for a week at #10, but the real fruits of MCA's short-sightedness came when by the end of 1985, they were having to release a totally new track just to keep the momentum up, and yet that flopped at #27.

    The Riddle has the gem of a song called Roses, kind of a flip-side/sequel to I Won't Let The Sun Go Down (but nowhere near as outright catchy, I admit), while Save The Whale is stunning...if HoJo could hit #12 with Hide & Seek, why not try to move Nik Kershaw into the more serious market with something sophisticated as well?

    You feel the label just kept wanting Nik to put out the punchy, hook-laden little songs - from Wide Boy to When A Heart Beats to Nobody Knows (to ever-decreasing chart peaks). I'm not sure that did him any favours in the end; he had material like City Of Angels and Save The Whale, plus Roses, waiting to be exploited.

    Anyhow, I expect I'll dig out Radio Musicola too before the week is out.
  2. I bought "Human Racing" for the bonus material as I already had the original CD. Always loved "Dancing Girls" but had never heard the 12" version. Also adored "She Cries" which I knew initially as a Bucks Fizz song rather than a Nik Kershaw one.

    I was curious how this re-issue would turn out as I have worked on a couple of others in the same series (one imminent and one 'on hold') and I think it was good effort. Great sound on the mastering and Jared (in-house Universal) did a great job on transferring the material. He's really a credit to the company and very dedicated to getting the best from the source material and it is a shame the in-house team aren't name checked for their efforts on the release. I also thought that the artwork was definitely of a good standard and well thought out.

    I know Universal are very keen to see their new re-issues brand be a success so I would imagine if these initial releases do well enough there is certainly scope for other albums that have been applied for by other labels, but rejected, to finally see the light of day again. I'd expect "The Riddle" to be a given, but I have no idea about "Radio Musicola". I don't remember anything from it but I don't remember even registering him having much material out after "The Riddle" singles ran their course. So I take it that it's worth investigating?
  3. They've done an excellent job with Human Racing; it sounds superb, really vibrant yet rounded. I've still to work through the bonuis material, but it's got the basics that I would have wanted - life's too short for multiple mixes, but I understand why people would want them included, especially if there's the space.

    I'll be thrilled if they do get around to The Riddle; listening to the original yesterday reminded me how much better it could sound if they do the same to it as Human Racing. It's a funny little album, since the best songs are all on Side 2 - a flawless run of five tracks.

    Radio Musicola is, in places, even better. The title track is my favourite Nik song of all-time, both musically and lyrically. There are a couple of fillers (James Cagney's a rewrite of Bogart, and What The Papers Say is essentially more anti-media ranting a la Nobody Knows), but the rest is terrific. I love the whole artwork concept too. It's just a pity MCA messed up the planning, by effectively leaving When A Heart Beats orphaned from its single release in 85 until the album came out a year later, and any remaining momentum had vanished.
  4. 'Wouldn't it be good' immediately transports me back to the school playground freezing my arse off listening to the top 40 on a Tuesday (as it was published back then) aged 13. Magic. Any love for 'Somebody loves me' from the late 90s? Great song.
  5. Somebody Loves You was ace, one of the best "comeback" records in the 90s by an 80s fave. I didn't really like much of the "15 Minutes" album, by comparison. Maybe I should revisit that one.
  6. It reminds me of sitting indoors writing (writing!) my application form for tickets for the Thompson Twins tour. If there's a more eighties memory than that, then it eludes me!

    I really must dig out my Nik Kershaw CDs.
  7. SockMonkey

    SockMonkey Guest

    What has struck me in the past week, after revisiting the album from probably a 20 year absence from it, is how little I knew about what was going on with his releases at the time. Granted, I was a kid, but it's so different from now where you know what is coming out when. In those days you just didn't really have easy access to that kind of information.

    To put it in context, the first single of his I bought was Wouldn't It Be Good, on 7". I didn't know about the first release of I Won't Let..., I don't remember Dancing Girls even being a single, and I didn't buy the Human Racing single as I didn't like it at the time.

    Was there really only 4 months between the release of Human Racing and The Riddle albums?! (According to Wikipedia). I thought that interview with Nik posted the other day said 9 months? He was the Rihanna of his day.

    Funny and ridiculous story: my dad bought the Human Racing LP and I made a cassette copy of it, took it over to my best friend's house and for some god unknown reason I told him that my dad had this amazing microphone which made you sound like famous popstars when you sang into it, so apart from the two singles he knew the rest was me and my dad. What the hell? I was so convincing I think he sort of believed me. That was in my Top 10 of 'Most Bizarre Things I Did As A Kid'.
  8. Wiki is wrong, and Nik is correct - Human Racing was released on Feb 27, 1984. The Riddle came out on November 19th, 1984.

  9. Haha, you must!

    Into The Gap : Live! was the first video I ever bought. 19.99 from WH Smiths just before Xmas 1984...what the heck was I doing, spending my entire savings on it? Though I'd have to admit it was worth every penny, because I watched it several times and it was the nearest I ever got to seeing what was then my favourite band.
  10. SockMonkey

    SockMonkey Guest

    Wiki is very wrong in saying April and August then! I could understand maybe a US release date mix up for the first album, but I suspect he was still recording the second one in August...
  11. I seem to remember the US edition of The Riddle had City Of Angels replaced by Wouldn't It Be Good, so perhaps Human Racing came out later there - although as you say, their date for The Riddle is plain wrong regardless.
  12. Damn this thread!

    I've just spent the last hour watching Nik Kershaw videos I've never seen before (apart from the classic "Wouldn't It Be Good")!
  13. OK I'm going to have to ask. For someone who only knows and likes the big 3 hits what would be the best budget compilation of Nik Kershaw to get?

    I went for this one:
  14. That's exactly what I mean. I think it is understandable for the first issue of "I Won't Let" pass you by, as it did me, it wouldn't register with a pre teen much if it didn't make the top 40. I didn't remember it happening either.

    I think his decline was in part due to market saturation of his product followed by his lengthy absence, add to this a lack of teeny mag coverage when he did come back, as other contenders had risen to fill the pages. Plus I thought the singles from "The Riddle" were average pop songs and didn't have quite the same quality as the initial hits. They were catchy but a bit lightweight. He had established himself as a bit more substantive than that musically with the first album. I don't remember particularly well but I wonder if radio also felt this and started to playlist the material less and less. From what I can gather the third album was a bit more aggressive musically but it was probably too late by then.
  15. You chose well, young jedi, haha. That's got all the hits, plus the standout album tracks from the first 2 albums and Radio Musicola's title track. Not sure if they;re the 7" edits (I've got 2 other Nik comps, and one of those has the edits and one doens't).

    It's true that the Riddle singles weren't as strong as those before, though that was the same for most of his peers (ironically, he fared much better chartwise with Wide Boy and Don Quixote than HoJo did with his 2nd album singles).

    I think the lack of diversity in the chosen singles from 1985-86 didn't help; Wide Boy, When A Heart Beats and Nobody KNows were way too similar.
  16. I remember even less about Howard Jones at the time, other than thinking that he was trying to kill his career with moody funeral music. I vaguely remember the singles from his second album but only really cared for "Look Mama" and maybe "Life In One Day". Of course he became very successful stateside off the back of his second album so maybe he was aiming more for international markets. His ballads certainly seemed to do the business in the US.
  17. Haha! I assume you mean stuff like Elegy, Hunger For The Flesh and Assault & Battery from that 2nd album? Or Hide & Seek off the first album?

    It seems obvious now, but there is/was such a difference between Nik and Howard, in their outlook and the music. HoJo did seem intent on breaking America, and did so quite emphatically. His background was more piano-based, and his love of Steely Dan and West Coast soft-rock eventually shone through. The US loved his upbeat persona and his work ethic. He embraced his popularity, whereas Nik - as he admitted in that recent interview - kind of reacted against it and struggled to balance his ideologies and passion for sophisticated music, with being a teeny-pop star. It didn't help that the US never took to him, even rejecting the rather splendid movie themr he did for Running Scared (eventually replaced with Michael McDonald's nice-but-anodyne Sweet Freedom).

    The thing for me was Nik never made drastic changes to his style, unlike Howard whose shift towards plastic, hippy-dippy pop with shiny suits within the space of one album proved too much too soon for me. Everything about Human's Lib and his persona during 1983/84 got ditched. America loved him for it, but I don't think the Brits ever recovered their respect for his music. Nik, meanwhile, just evolved from album to album, writing consistently clever songs and keeping that slightly detached, cynical veneer (his music always had a real warmth and humanity, though).

    So, tonight it was Radio Musicola. The one that blew it big-time, in 1986. Over the first 5 songs, we get "radio is shit", "the press are bastards", "life's a bitch and then you die", "newspapers are a sick joke", and a song which could be about a deceased girlfriend/wife. Top 40 and TOTP ahoy!

    But that's why this "angry little album" (as Smash Hits wonderfully called it) remains a favourite of mine. I was angry too, am angry still, haha. It appealed to me. Side 2 (as with The Riddle) has some of the strongest songs - Running Scared, When A Heart Beats (should never have been a single, mind), and the closing epic Violet To Blue.

    Sometimes the record sounds like Go West, Level 42 or Living In A Box. Life Goes On, a rare ballad, really ought to have been a single. It might have put him in the charts.
  18. Yes!

    I was going to mention his 90s collaborations. I Wanna Change The Score is absolutely brilliant, one of his very best tracks. LIkewise, the 1999 track Sometimes, with Les Rhythmes Digitales (a #56 smash).
  19. Yes, very much so, he definitely started down the moody path with "Hide & Seek", which is when I began to lose interest in him. But I guess his instincts were right as he will have made a lot more money from being successful in the US than in the UK, so fair play to him.

    The thread got me thinking of Nik and how he went on to be a songwriter in the 90s for Chesney Hawkes. I didn't care for the Chesney hit records, but I do remember and incredible song he wrote for Chesney late '93-ish that I heard in the studio at the time via a producer friend who was working with him. I can't remember the title but I really liked the song. Did Nik have anything released post-'Buddys' with ol' Chesney? Anyone know?
    steveuk likes this.
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