A man who, in the relatively brief period he was in the public eye, did more for what has been called 'real music' in the early eighties than many others. He came to the forefront in the early eighties, as punk was losing its grip on the public's imagination and the New Romantic 'movement' was peaking. He took the blandness and made it something interesting...the naked chef of music.
Half Pint Hog
Nicholas David Kershaw, not exactly a name that would conjure images of someone who was ,for a while, destined to hide more wallpaper in bedrooms than Adam Ant and
Born in Bristol on 1st March, 1958, Kershaw spent all his formative years in
Ipswich , where he attended Northgate Grammar School. It was here also that his first foray into the music scene occured, with the band Half Pint Hog. One hesitates to assume that the band were named because of Kershaw's diminutive stature1. They played Deep Purple covers but the career of Half Pint Hog was short lived; there appeared to be no impetus and they only played three gigs under that name!
Kershaw left school in 1976 and worked as a shop assisstant and in the Department of Employment for several years, playing in a jazz-funk outfit, called Fusion, in the evenings. They actually released and album and a single, on Telephone Records. The album, ' Til I Hear From You', contained an early rendition of a Kershaw song, 'Human Racing', which was eventually to become the title track of his first album. Fusion lasted until the start of 1982, when the band broke up.
Kershaw, it seems, made a leap of faith, and spent six months wrting songs and music so that he could present himself, with a full portfolio, to different music companies.
He met his manager, Mickey Modern 2, and before too long, he was signed to M.C.A. He was in the studio in early '83, with Peter Collins producing, laying down tracks for his first album 'Human Racing'.
The Music and The Man
The first single and the album were released in 1983; the single, ' I Won't Let The Sun Go Down On Me', only reaching number 47 in the UK charts. However, the follow up single, 'Wouldn't It Be Good', was the one that cracked it for Kershaw, reaching the top 5. Success had arrived and his debut single was re-releaed and got to number 2.
His blend of good, solid pop songs, woven with synthesiser and the more traditional instruments, was, it seemed , just the sort of thing the music buying public had been wating for. But there is more subtlety to Kershaw than that. On the first album, 'Human Racing', the wry lyrics to songs like 'Bogart' and 'Gone to Pieces' give lie to deeper, more introspective writing talent. And whilst he obviously did not eschew the use of the technology available to him in the studio, the use of multi-tracked voice on 'Shame on You' is an eye-opener3,and listen out for the milk bottles on 'Bogart'.
Lyrically, the second album, was growing, whilst keeping his musivcal roots firmly in the pop environment.
'The Riddle' went platinum in the UK and for the next year or so, the radio reverberated to Kershaws distinctive brand of music.
He toured extensively with his band, The Krew, that consisted of:
Keith Airey 4
Sheri Kershaw - Nki's wife
Both first and the second album were released in 1984 and it was two years until the follow up, 'Radio Musicola', was let loose in 1986. It failed to have any where near the success of the first two, and it seemed that Kershaws career was in decline.
He faded from the public domain, but continued to write and play, most notably, in the late 80's, on Elton John's single, 'Nikita'...listen to the guitar work.
The fourth album, ' The Works', released in 1989, made little impression on the charts, but one track in particular, gives flavour of what was to come, whilsr revisiting some of the style of the earlier albums. 'Elisabeth's Eyes' has a depth that was to signal a writing resurgence and was an indicator of what was to come. Although it would be close to ten years until that particular tree bore any fruit.
After the release of 'The Works', Kershaw ceased to play live gigs in 1990. He worked away quietly, behind the scenes, writing and producing. It wasn't too long before he had another foray into the world of the top five: he wrote and produced the phenomenally successful Chesney Hawkes single 'The One And Only', in 19915. This song actually reached the number one slot.
In Kershaw's own words:
" I was basically fed up with the touring and recording. So, the big plan was to sit at home, write songs and send them to my publisher, who'd give them to Tina Turner or whoever."
Kershaw goes on to relate that it didn't actually work out that way, and that writing for somebody else was, really and truly, a totally different kettle of fish. That said, during that period, he worked with many big names, both writing and producing, including Jason Donovan, The Hollies and Tony Banks6.
During this period, whilst in the studio with other performers, Kershaw relates that, when he had some spare time, he work on some of his own material. He still used the technology but, it seems, prefered to utilise the age old method of songwriting, paper, pen and accoustic guitar. Came the point when he had ten opr so tracks laid down and the thought occured that he was actually writing an album.
He got a band together that included his old guitar player, Keith Airey, and gigged in Europe and showcased the new material at the Jazz Cafe in late 1998.
The culmination of all this work was the album 'Fifteen Minutes' , released in 1999.
And here the tree bears the fruit! The promise of the song 'Elisabeths's Eyes' is realised on an album that is intrinsically Nik Kershaw, but a more mature, self-analytical Kershaw; a man who is writing the songs that, as he says himself, he fekt unable to write during the eighties, for fear of being labelled 'self-indulgent'.
A single was released from the album, 'Somebody Loves You'7, and although not receiving an huge amount of attention, across the board, it was mildly successful. Not having a major chart showing seemd not to worry Kershaw unduly; he seems quite happy to let things take their course and continue in the vein of writer / producer / performer.
Some would say that, with 'Fifteen minutes', he is jumping on the 80's revival bandwagon, bewailing the the fact that his initial success was so short-lived...and perhaps they have a point.
But it is, nonetheless, good to hear him singing and playing again and bringing some of that quirky, pop charm back to music.
'Human Racing' - 1984.
'The Riddle' - 1984.
'Radio Musicola' - 1986.
'The Works' - 1989.
'Fifteen Minutes' - 1999.
There have three compilation albums released over the years, but to be honest, they repeat and repeat; better to go and have a look in the archive bins and a true perspective about Nik Kershaw.
There is also a new album being released in 2001. Called 'To BE Frank', it's out in the Spring and will coincide with a nationwide tour...which is hardly suprising!