All Ears: Win ‘Dusty Heartfelt (Extended Remix)’
It’s 1988 and I’m a first year art student at Sheffield City Polytechnic, Psalter Lane branch. I’ve recently discovered I was in esteemed company at art school. The ginger lunatic in the year above who made me honk laughing and claimed his middle name was Bernard, turned into renowned Turner Prize nominated painter, George Shaw. He made what I thought was splendidly clever video art – most memorable a visual interpretation of Mel & Kim’s ‘Respectable’. Turns out he could paint all along. The diminutive skateboard-y fella in the year below? The one who could edit video like it was an art form in itself? Turned into film director David Slade didn’t he.
Anyway, I digress. Sheffield popped back into my life recently when I was writing a piece about The Human League’s ‘Dare’. The finished feature is in a very fine publication called Electronic.
Among the folk I interviewed was the band’s manager at the time, Bob Last. He ran Edinburgh’s Fast Product label who released the League’s first single, ‘Being Boiled’. What I didn’t know was that Pop Aural, home to the very magnificent Fire Engines who we’ve mentioned before, was Bob’s label too.
The Fire Engines, fronted by the criminally underrated Davy Henderson, released their first single in December 1980 and burnt out in under a year. This is very much pre-internet, a world where you were at the mercy of the music press and Peel to find out anything. A small Scottish band imploding in 1981? By 1988, Davy Henderson could have been anywhere.
So… I’m getting there, I’m getting there. At college there was this guy called Geoff Davis, I think he was a technician, he lived in a room full of geekboy graphics computers. I spent much time faffing around with them and got to know Jeff quite well.
His wife, Lois, was an aspiring documentary maker and she popped up one afternoon to give a talk about her work. Of most interest was her admission that she was involved in pop video production. She’d worked on a bunch of videos… The Fall, Orange Juice (Derek Jarman-directed ‘What Presence?!’), EBTG. I was gobsmacked as you can imagine. She’d also been involved with a band called Win. From Edinburgh. She showed us a video, can’t recall which one. Took a second or two for the penny to drop, but when it did could my afternoon get any better? Win were Davy Henderson’s new band.
Win were about as far away as you could get from The Fire Engines and the plan was screamingly obvious. Make polished pop and score a ton of hits. I have no idea why they tanked, the very same idea worked for The Lightening Seeds a few year’s later. Two albums in, you got two in those days to try and recoup on the first one, and they sank without trace.
After I’d finished talking Human League with Bob Last, we chatted a bit about what he’s up to. He worked as a music supervisor on films such as Chocolat, Mansfield Park, A Room for Romeo Brass, Little Voice and Backbeat, and as a producer, most notably on Terence Davies’ ‘The House Of Mirth’ (he’s currently in pre-production on Davies’ latest film ‘Sunset Song’) and the Oscar nominated animation ‘The Illusionist’.
Which was all very interesting because I’ve always thought Davy’s music has a certain epic-y soundtrack-y appeal. I asked him about Davy. They’re still pals. Has he then, I asked, considered using him for a film soundtrack? He laughed like a drain, it had never crossed his mind he said, but he’d give it some thought, bear it in mind if something appropriate came up.
I hope something does. I for one can’t wait.
- Mick Scannell’s magnificent Win online history, where I pinched the photo, sorry Mick.
- An potted romp through Davy Henderson’s oeuvre here.
- And Davy Henderson’s most recent outfit, The Sexual Objects.