Song of the Week – Johnny Come Home, Fine Young Cannibals

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I’ve always found the history of the Fine Young Cannibals to be very strange and confusing – at least the ending.

The band came together in 1984 when The English Beat (“Mirror in the Bathroom”, “I Confess”) broke up and two of its members, Andy Cox (guitar) and David Steele (bass) struck out on their own to form a new band. They auditioned hundreds of singers before they found the unique voice of Roland Gift.

A year later they released their first album which contained a clever reworking of Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds” and their own “Johnny Come Home” which is today’s SotW.

That album and those songs were big hits around most of the world but received little attention in the US other than on alternative rock radio.

It took the band another 3 years to release their second album, The Raw and the Cooked (1989). All they had to show for the time between was a bunch of songs they recorded for the soundtracks to the films Tin Men and Something Wild, a few of which later ended up on The Raw and the Cooked.

That album was huuuuge! It reached #1 in the US, UK and Australia and spawned #1 singles hits with “She Drives Me Crazy and “Good Thing.” (I remember spinning both continuously when I was a club DJ in Boston.)

But this is where the story goes off the rails. The band never recorded a follow up. How could that happen? Was there tension among the band members? Did someone become ill? Were they trying to get out of a bad recording contract? The answer to all of these questions is no.

In a 2014 interview with the Sunday Express, Gift explained:

“I fully expected the band to carry on and make a few more albums, but to be honest, I’m not sure what happened. We just stopped functioning as a band. It was sad, really. There was a lot of pressure from people around us to sell more and more records, but music doesn’t work like that. It has to evolve naturally.”

That’s not a very satisfying explanation but it’s all we have. Too bad, because the band showed so much promise especially on the first disc. Now they’re little more than a footnote in the rock history of the 80s.

Enjoy… until next week.

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