Fine Young Cannibals Biography

This sophisticated English pop trio from the Midlands appeared after the demise of the Beat in 1983. Former members Andy Cox (25 January 1956, Birmingham, Warwickshire, England; guitar) and David Steele (b. 8 September 1960, Cowes, Isle of Wight, England; bass/keyboards) invited Roland Gift (b. 28 April 1961, Birmingham, Warwickshire, England; vocals, ex-Acrylic Victims and actor for the Hull Community Theatre) to relinquish his tenure in a London blues combo to join them. Taking their name from the Robert Wagner movie of similar name (relinquishing the ‘All The’ prefix), the trio was quickly picked up by London Records after a video screening on the UK music television show The Tube. ‘Johnny Come Home’ was soon released on single, with the band joined on percussion by Martin Parry and on trumpet by Graeme Hamilton. Dominated by Gift’s sparse and yearning vocal, it reached the UK Top 10 in June 1985 and defined the band’s sound for years to come. The follow-up ‘Blue’ set out an early political agenda for the band, attacking Conservative Government policy and its effects.

After the band’s debut album rose to UK number 11, the first of a series of distinctive cover versions emerged with the UK Top 10 single ‘Suspicious Minds’. Backing vocals were handled by Jimmy Somerville. It was followed by a surprise, and radical, rendition of ‘Ever Fallen In Love’, which the Buzzcocks’ Steve Diggle claimed he preferred to his band’s original. Meanwhile Gift’s parallel acting career got underway with the parochial Sammy And Rosie Get Laid, after all three members of the band had appeared in the previous year’s Tin Men. While Gift’s commitments continued Cox and Steele became involved in the release of an opportunistic house cut, ‘I’m Tired Of Being Pushed Around’, under the title Two Men, A Drum Machine And A Trumpet. On the back of regular club airings it became a surprise Top 20 hit in February 1988. More importantly, it attracted the interest of several dance music acts who would seek out the duo for remixes, including Wee Papa Girl Rappers and Pop Will Eat Itself.

Before the unveiling of Gift’s latest film, Scandal, the band scored their biggest hit to date with ‘She Drives Me Crazy’, a US number 1 single. The second album duly followed, featuring cultivated soul ballads to complement further material of a politically direct nature. It would top the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. Of the five singles taken from the album ‘Good Thing’ was the most successful, claiming a second US number 1. In 1990 they won both Best British Group and Best Album categories at the BRIT Awards, but felt compelled to return them because: ‘... it is wrong and inappropriate for us to be associated with what amounts to a photo opportunity for Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative Party’. It led to a predictable backlash in the right-wing tabloid press.

In 1990 Gift appeared in Hull Truck’s Romeo And Juliet stage performance, and left Cox and Steele to work on a remixed version of The Raw And The Cooked. Still with the ability to bounce back after long pauses, the band’s 1996 compilation included new track ‘The Flame’. Gift began performing solo in the late 90s and issued a solo album in 2002.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.