This page has spring into existence (well, actually, I wrote it) to try to remedy the appalling lack of web-based information on the musician and his band who made the greatest ‘lost’ album of the 1980s (IMHO). Although they released an album and two singles on a major label, Virgin (see the discography, below), The Indian Givers, vehicle for the song-writing talents of Nigel Sleaford in the synth-pop era, have disappeared almost without trace. I suppose that, since neither the album nor the singles made it into their respective charts, that’s only to be expected, and there seem to be two recent bands in USA who have chosen the same name (one in New York and one in Los Angeles, both appearing on MySpace), but in early 2009 I couldn’t find anything about the ‘original and best’(!).

As I wasn’t following the rock and pop press at the time the ‘real’ Indian Givers were around – I didn’t catch up with Q [magazine] until 1990 – I don’t have any articles to refer to, although it seems, from my subsequently acquired back numbers, that Q didn’t carry any features on the band, just the, customarily, brief review of the album in September 1989 (see my short bibliography). For the band’s history all I can do is reproduce (without permission) the text of a publicity piece I found on the world wide web in August 1999. It was on the site of a company called Ncompass Music, now apparently defunct (at least, I can no longer track down a website for them). I have no idea how accurate this stuff is, but I had no reason to doubt their veracity at the time. Here’s what they said (with my amplifications differently coloured and in square brackets, and an album sleeve illustration instead of the three images on their site, which I didn’t have the foresight to keep) :

“Born in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, Nigel Sleaford (The Indian Givers mainstay) moved to Edinburgh in 1977 and played in the time honoured tradition in a succession of student bands. 1982 saw Nigel as a regular attendee at JJ’s club run by Allan Campbell and Sam Piacentini who allowed and encouraged impromptu Sunday night events featuring Nigel and a cast of other misfits including James Locke (the Chimes), Gordon Kerr (Botany 5), Callum McNair (The Apples, The Syndicate) [and] Paul Haig (The Fire Engines). One of Campbell and Piacentini’s odd nights feature[d] Messrs Sleaford, Locke and McNair in dinner jackets performing Kurt Weill numbers such as September Song and My Ship. This “festival of weird” was seen by the manager of The Human League (Bob Last of Fast Records) resulting in the dinner jacketed trio (then called the McNaires) supporting the League in the UK and Europe on their Dare tour. League audiences everywhere took great delight in throwing their spare change as hard as possible at the McNaires - occasionally providing enough for them to at least have breakfast in style. The trio also toured Europe with Paul Haig’s Rhythm of Life in a package organised by Crepescule Records of Brussels.

“The period 1983‒86 was taken up with impromptu material with outpourings at Edinburgh’s Hoochie Coochie Club and Manifesto (run by the Fire Engines). In 1984 Nigel, James Locke and Gordon Kerr organised A Month of Sundays; four Sunday performances each featuring a different band concept but using the same personnel:

“Most of the material for all four concepts was penned by Nigel, inspired (according to him) by ‘different guitars in a growing collection’. Rational Records released a Juggernauts album [actually only a single] Come Throw Yourself Under the Monstrous Wheels of the Rock and Roll Bandwagon as it Faces Destruction and many gigs and a John Peel session resulted.

[Yes, Ken Garner’s book In session tonight : the complete Radio 1 recordings (BBC, 1993, ISBN 0-563-36452-1) has an entry for ‘The Juggernaughts’ [sic] showing that Nigel Seaford [sic] (bass, vocals), Gordon Kerr (rhythm guitar, vocals), Paul Haig (lead guitar) and James Locke (drums) recorded ‘Mystery train’, ‘The body of the kirk’, ‘One thousandth part’ and ‘Made my first million’ at the Maida Vale studios on 1984-12-11, recordings which were broadcast on John Peel’s show on Wednesday 1985-01-02. ‘My first million’ was the b-side of the ‘Come throw yourself…’ single.]

illustration of 'Love is a lie' by The Indian Givers - LP/CD cover

“In 1985 Nigel decided to concentrate on the Indian Givers with the line up of Nigel (double bass, voice), James Locke (drums), Gordon Kerr (vibes) and Graham Muir (guitar). The Indian Givers took to that well known gig circuit of Central Scotland. The early 80s jazz bubble was long burst already so no A&R interest was forthcoming. By 1987 The Indian Givers had become Nigel’s solo writing project, now using MIDI sequencers and recorded two demos for EMI. Manager Dave Ramsden oversaw the newly emerging Givers with a new line up of Nigel with Avril Jam[i]eson (backing vocals) and Simon Frazer (guitars and keyboards). After a great deal of promotional gigging, the re-vitalised Indian Givers were seen by Virgin A&R man Danny Van Emden and subsequently signed to Virgin in 1988. Nigel also signed a publishing contract with Blue Mountain Music.

“In 1989 the band recorded the LP Love is a Lie and two singles Hatcheck Girl and My [sic] Fake I.D. were released. Tours supporting Frazier Chorus and Danny Wilson followed but despite healthy sales of the LP and singles the band were dropped by Virgin in March 1990.

“From 1992 onwards Nigel entered a period of solo writing, doing production for[,] and playing with, local bands. He collaborated with Simon Frazer on an album called Youarewhatyoueatme which was described as ‘subdued, understated and unreleased’. There was also a collaboration with B Percy on an album called Night of No Surprises which is currently unreleased. 1997 saw Nigel sign a new publishing contract with Ncompass Music. He has recently relocated to North Scotland to continue his music career.”

So there the ‘known’ history breaks off, but a web research reveals Nigel Sleaford appearing as guest musician with: The Kiltearn Fèis Rois Fiddlers on a home-grown album Earth wind fire (in Easter Ross, in the far north Scotland, no date); as part of a band The Deaf Heights on Heart songs, which Amazon says was released in July 2007; and playing with Christopher George Henderson. From feedback generated by this page it seems that Nigel also trained as a teacher and has worked in schools and as a guitar tutor in the north of Scotland. However, I don’t intend to make my way there specially to find the man – the recorded legacy of The Indian Givers will do me for now.

What of the other two members of the recorded band? Well, with the benefit of the internet and feedback from this page, I’ve tracked some of Avril Jamieson’s subsequent activities. She worked with Scottish songwriter and folk musician Jackie Leven and appears on his 1995 album Forbidden songs of the dying west. (I hadn’t made the connection until researching this page, despite my having had Leven’s album in my collection since compiling my discography of Eddi Reader, who recites Emily Dickinson on it.)  Avril sings on the opening track Young male suicide blessed by invisible woman and speaks with Jackie in the dialogue intro to Stornoway girl. Earlier she had provided lyrics for the Sciennes Primary School (Lothian region) in their recording of a single, Better world, music by Graham Weir, for the special events leading up to the European Council Summit in Edinburgh, December 1992. Thanks to a contact who saw this page I now know that at some stage Avril got married and, as Avril Somerville, she now runs her own training company providing ‘bespoke holistic courses aimed at the recruitment, business and media sectors’. For Simon Frazer, we are probably entitled to assume that the person with this name who co-engineered a 1989 album by a band called Herb Garden, titled Bulldozer Jones (and re-released by Bristol Archive Records in April 2010), was the same man, but I’ve had no luck in tracing any subsequent musical career for him.


That is the story as up-to-date as I can make it, but why am I interested at all? Well, I wasn’t a big fan of pop music in the 1980s. I had been into progressive rock in the 70s: Gentle Giant, Gilgamesh, Greenslade, and the aforementioned Gryphon (any band with a name beginning ‘G’ really!… apart from Hatfield and the North, obviously), as well as the more mainstream Genesis and Yes. So the advent of punk turned me off – I gave up buying NME when it ‘turned’ – and the new romantics did nothing to capture my attention again. It was my interest in hi-fi (I’m also a big classical music enthusiast) which got me back into pop and rock. The maverick magazine Hi-fi answers reviewed selected albums, chiefly from a sonic point of view, and pointed me to such diverse bands as Prefab Sprout, The Cowboy Junkies and Wang Chung. I also picked up on Japan through overhearing them played during our ‘closed for stocktaking’ week. On top of these things, I got involved in helping to wire up the first electronic music studio at Birmingham University, and subsequently to experiment with their Fairlight CMI.

So by the end of the 1980s I was again buying pop… but only albums. Tracking down my LP of Love is a lie reveals that I bought it in the local HMV store for £5·99 on 1989-12-07. I was probably directed to it by the Hi-fi answers review in that month’s issue, which would have been out a couple of weeks earlier. As well as the positive review, it was on the (then) reliable Virgin label – home of XTC, Peter Blegvad, Steve Hillage, Kirsty MacColl and Frazier Chorus to name but several. The cover and track titles would have played a part too, although I have a sneaky feeling I may also have assumed from the cover photo that there would be female lead vocals – always a weakness of mine. However, like Prefab Sprout, the female member of the band is there because of the importance of backing vocals to the writing. (In my defence, I knew about the Sprouts from the reviews before buying Swoon – I don’t always fall for this trick – and Swoon doesn’t show the band on the cover, anyway; plus, Avril does take lead on one track here.) But with all my previous exposure to synth-pop, I wasn’t at all disappointed by the ten wonderful songs on my LP copy of Love is a lie. I was so impressed that I bought the CD as a birthday present for my sister! After getting my own first CD-player in the early 1990s, I tracked down a secondhand CD copy of the album in 1996 at Birmingham store The Plastic Factory, and was able properly to catch up with the two bonus songs on that format.

My listening seems to go in cycles, but there have always recurred periods when I feel the need to listen to The Indian Givers every week. You’ll have noted that I was trawling the web in 1999, when I found the Ncompass piece quoted above, and it was 2002 when I tracked down the natty 3-inch CD single Hatcheck girl in Swansea. And it was only March 2009 when I got hold of the other CD-single Fake I.D., which is even better than the first – the best five pounds I’d spent on music for quite some time! What else can I say to persuade you to try these great lost sounds. Perhaps, even as I write, someone is putting them on a download service as part of a bulk conversion, but, honestly, until they do, it just won’t be worth considering iTunes or Spotify!

If you happen to share my enthusiasm, and, let’s face it, you won’t have read this far just for the hell of it, please contact me and let know I’m not their only fan left on the planet. I’ve had just over a dozen responses so far, in the eighteen months since first publishing this page.

Adrian Dover – March 2009, revised September 2010


discography

key to producers in track lists below :
dj = David Jacob
pt = Phil Thornalley
ig = The Indian Givers
ij = The Indian Givers, remix by David Jacob
jt = Jon Turner


album :

Love is a lie

label : Virgin
release date : September 1989
catalogue nos : LP V 2593
cassette TCV 2593
CD CDV 2593
recorded : Palladium Studios, Edinburgh
mixed at : Rak, Olympic, Advision and Palladium studios
personnel
the band
Nigel Sleaford lead vocals, keyboards, programming
Avril Jamieson backing vocals
Simon Frazer guitars, keyboards
guest musicians
Steve Christie piano on Hatcheck girl, Under the rose
George Jeffrey percussion on all tracks
John Thirkell trumpet on Hatcheck girl, Under the rose
Gavyn Wright violin on Hatcheck girl
track list

all tracks written by Nigel Sleaford, published by Blue Mountain Music Ltd

– – track – – title time prod. my comments (quotations are from lyrics)
LP/c. CD
a1 1 Hatcheck girl 4:35 pt marching orders; “she said I like good loving but it must be clean / and I sure don’t know where that heart of yours has been”, “hang up your heart with the hatcheck girl”; the first single
a2 2 Fake I.D. 3:41 dj escapologists anonymous; I’ll show you mine if you show me yours; triple time for the second single
a3 3 Unthinking you 5:05 dj slow, burner; “life’s like that / when you think you’ve got it cracked / tables will turn / fingers get burned / no more holidays”; classic first inversion of root chord; string-synth background to the fore
a4 4 Under the rose 3:15 pt gated enclosure; “paradise: the last place that an Englishman should be”; are they really “pad-’em on cotton shoes”?; other thoughts are sub rosa (of course)
a5 5 Head happy 4:51 jt “I read so many books / because I’m looking for a light / to shine upon the world”; but it does touch my heart; deprecate “spinnin-gout my line”; xylophone phils
6 Some kind of mover 2:49 dj smoky self-pity : “I want to be some kind of mover / just to help me get this life over”; nice sight rhyme there
7 It’s a wonderful life 4:46 ij jazzy piano, preachy organ, stringy strings; “I’m happy to say”; builds rather like Never too late
b1 8 Love come down 3:15 dj shades of Wang Chung; “while I spoke your name and rhapsodized’; definite middle-eight; the non-existent third single
b2 9 Not my line 4:06 dj “a little imp inside of him had scrambled up his notions”; “believe me, I beg you, believe me”; ha-ha! super sequenced bass
b3 10 Caprice 3:20 dj Avril lead, Kate-like oboe; “the answers that these folk provided / did in fact give some relief / but only when we had decided / science was the thing we'd believe”; did you spot the twelve-eight?
b4 11 Love is a lie 3:20 jt “this guy won't be sold on that lie” “any sane man knows he cannot lose his heart and keep his mind”; alto flute; nice rallentando
b5 12 Never too late 5:43 dj answering layered vocals build to the big finish; “it’s never too late to learn” about The Indian Givers
total time (CD) : 48:48

singles :

Hatcheck girl

label : Virgin
release date : August(?) 1989
catalogue nos : 7-inch VS 1187
12-inch VST 1187
CD 3-inch VSCD 1187
recorded : Palladium Studios, Edinburgh
mixed at : Rak and Palladium studios?
track list

all tracks written by Nigel Sleaford, published by Blue Mountain Music Ltd

– – – track – – – title time prod. my comments (quotations are from lyrics)
7" 12" CD3
a 1 Hatcheck girl (7" mix) 3:53 pt see above; title printed as ‘Hatcheck (7" mix)’ on the actual CD3 disc; this mix has a shorter introduction and fades before the emphatic final “hang up your heart with the hatcheck girl” of the album version
b b1 2 Some kind of mover 2:52 dj see above
b2 3 The hate song 4:11 jt with splashy introduction and backgrounds provided by honky piano, harp and synth sounds; “my thoughts in all directions fly but always I’m aware it’s you I hate”; a good b-side
a 4 Hatcheck girl (extended mix) 4:38 pt see above; this is actually the album version
total time (CD) : 15:36

Fake I.D.

label : Virgin
release date : September(?) 1989
catalogue nos : 7-inch VS 1199
12-inch VST 1199
CD 3-inch VSCD 1199
recorded : Palladium Studios, Edinburgh
mixed at : Rak and Palladium studios?
track list

all tracks written by Nigel Sleaford, published by Blue Mountain Music Ltd

– – – track – – – title time prod. my comments (quotations are from lyrics)
7" 12" CD3
a a 1 Fake I.D. 3:42 dj see above
b b1? 2 It’s a wonderful life 4:48 ig see above
b2? 3 Suffocate yourself 4:02 ig they can do heavy guitar riffs and massive drums!; “a function of the digital explosion”; definitely worth the price of admission
4 Not my line (extended version) 6:20 dj a real re-mix: a ‘mini-track’ intro with different loops and different harmonies; then one nasty juxtaposition and we’re into a extended remix of the original album track (see above); this is their line and with Suffocate yourself makes the single a ‘must-purchase’
total time (CD) : 18:54

gigography

I don’t have any firm information on live appearances of The Indian Givers, but the dates for the autumn 1989 tour by Danny Wilson, presumably the one mentioned in the Ncompass history of the band (above), on which The Indian Givers were the support act, were listed in the October 1989 Q [magazine] number 37 as :

1989-09-11 M Ayr Pavilion
1989-09-12 Tu Stirling Albert Hall
1989-09-13 W Aberdeen Ritzy
1989-09-14 Th Inverness Eden Court Theatre
1989-09-16 Sa Dundee Caird Hall
1989-09-17 Su Edinburgh Queen’s Hall
1989-09-18 M Glasgow Pavilion
1989-09-20 W Nottingham Rock City
1989-09-22 F Manchester International II
1989-09-23 Sa Liverpool Royal Court
1989-09-24 Su Birmingham Town Hall
1989-09-26 Tu Bristol Studio
1989-09-29 F Leicester Polytechnic
1989-10-01 Su London Town & Country Club
1989-10-05 Th Sheffield Octagon
1989-10-06 F Newcastle Polytechnic
1989-10-07 Sa Leeds University
1989-10-08 Su Norwich UEA
1989-10-09 M Cambridge Corn Exchange

I don’t know whether these dates actually happened as planned. As the issue of Q [magazine] containing this list was the first to carry their, subsequently regular, summary of concert dates, I haven’t been able to trace the Frazier Chorus gigs, which I believe took place before the Danny Wilson ones.


bibliography

reviews of the album:
advertisements:

PS: I can’t leave without giving you the obligatory explanation of the band’s name. An Indian gift is one for which the giver expects a return, either the return of the gift or another gift in return. Martin Aston, in his Q review, tells us that Sleaford intended the name as a metaphor for love.   – AD