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Haircut 100

Idioma disponible: inglés
In the early half of the 1980s, few bands could blend the high gloss of sophisticated, jazz-influenced pop with the carefree breeziness of the incipient new wave as well as Haircut One Hundred. They were able to juxtapose horn sections, sax solos, skittering guitars, funky breakdowns, and sunny vocals into a sound that captured listeners' attention instantly. The group's single "Love Plus One" and album Pelican West -- both released in 1982 -- are touchstones for that era, and even a difficult second album, 1984's Paint and Paint, couldn't tarnish their reputation and actually deserved a better reception. Though the band split in 1984 after not even lasting five years, their legacy as pop savants was firmly established, and "Love Plus One" became a deathless staple of retro collections and upbeat playlists. The group was formed in 1980 after guitarist/vocalist Nick Heyward and bassist Les Nemes played together in a series of bands. None of them gained much of a toehold, and they were between situations when they met up with guitarist Graham Jones and formed Haircut One Hundred. The trio added drummer Patrick Hunt, then recorded demos where they were joined by sax player Phil Smith and percussionist Marc Fox. With a full lineup intact and their stylishly bouncy sound established, the group garnered interest from a variety of labels. They signed with Virgin after impressing the head of the label with an impromptu performance of a newly written, barely learned new song called "Fantastic Day." Soon after, they headed into the studio to begin work on an album. The first music to be released was their debut single, the very funky "Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl)." It was the only record the band released with Hunt on drums as he was replaced by Blair Cunningham for the rest of the album sessions. Working with producer Bob Sargeant, the tunes the band recorded were a mix of previously written songs and those that were written on the spot in the studio. "Love Plus One" was the second single to be released, and it was an instant hit thanks to its lightly swinging feel and Heyward's yearning vocals. It reached number three in the U.K. singles charts, broke the Top 40 in America, and became a classic of the new wave era. The album, titled Pelican West, followed a month later in February 1982 and featured a mix of smooth pop songs, lite funk dance tracks, and melancholy guitar rock. It proved a hit in the U.K., cresting at number two and eventually reaching platinum status. One more single -- "Fantastic Day" -- was released in April, and it broke the U.K. Top Ten as well. As their records continued to sell, Haircut One Hundred were busy touring the globe and performing on television shows. Back home, the label wanted new music. The group dutifully returned to the studio with Sargeant to record the glimmering pop song "Nobody's Fool," which was released in August 1982. It also proved a success on the U.K. charts, hitting number nine. The band rushed back into the studio to begin work on a second album, but the sessions were fraught with frustration and stress. Eventually, Heyward stopped going and the band were left with a handful of songs in various states of completion. Although a single, "Whistle Down the Wind," was scheduled for release in early 1983, it was canceled when an exhausted Heyward left the group. A re-recorded "Whistle Down the Wind" became his first solo single when it was released in March 1983. The rest of the group decided to carry on, with Fox taking over the vacant vocalist position and the group composing the songs together. After managing to hold on to the Haircut One Hundred name after a court battle, they released Paint and Paint in 1984. The album was again produced in part by Sargeant and followed the template established with Pelican West, only with a slicker, less idiosyncratic approach. The release didn't catch on with the record-buying public, and the band soon dissolved. Cunningham became an in-demand session drummer, Nemes and Jones formed Boys Wonder, Smith played with artists ranging from ABC to Pixie Lott, and Fox took a gig in A&R where he worked with the Spice Girls. Heyward's solo career continued long after his departure from the group, and he evolved from a hitmaker to an esteemed elder statesman of Brit-pop and an occasional oldies tour participant who sporadically releases albums made up of sophisticated guitar pop. Haircut One Hundred reunited a few times over the years, famously as part of the VH1 show Bands Reunited in 2004, then again in 2009 when they performed together at a Heyward solo show. A more involved re-formation seemed in the cards during the early 2010s when they played a show in 2011 and a rumor sprang up claiming that new material might be in the works. Nothing came of it, however, and the band went dormant again. Pelican West was honored with an expanded reissue in 2016, then got the box-set treatment with the 2023 release of Pelican West 40. It included the previously unreleased sessions for the never-finished second album and a live set recorded in early 1982 at the Hammersmith Odeon. To celebrate the collection's release, Heyward, Nemes, Jones, and Cunningham performed on the BBC Radio 2's Piano Room with the BBC Orchestra, then planned a show in May at London's O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire, followed by a tour.
© Tim Sendra /TiVo
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