Friday, 3 August 2012

Feargal Sharkey 'A Good Heart'

Chart Peak: 1 (2 week)


'Listen To Your Father' and 'Loving You' were Top 30 hits, but it was the 3rd solo single 'A Good Heart' that gave Feargal his first British Top Ten hit since 1983 when he took the lead vocal on the Assembly track 'Never Never'.

Presumably the sleeve notes had already gone to press by the time this single actually topped the chart, though it was already an almost unprecedented success for him: only his third Top 10 hit and his second Top 5. Like Nik Kershaw, Sharkey only managed a relatively short time in the pop spotlight: he only released three solo albums and the other two only managed one hit single between them. Whereas Kershaw made a more or less conscious choice to step away from fame, and has continued to tour and release the odd album, Sharkey seemed to suffer a fairly abrupt loss of audience during 1986 and, not being much of a songwriter, he seemed to run out of steam as a performer and thus began the backroom career in the music business that continues to this day. He notably refused to take part in the reunion of the Undertones in 2003.

For a brief moment back there, he was a genuine star, with this massively successful rendition of the song written by Maria McKee about her relationship with Benmont Tench, one of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers (she didn't get round to recording her own version of the song for another 20 years); famously, he went on to record Tench's answer song 'You Little Thief' as the follow-up to this, and was rewarded with another Top 5 hit (though no Now appearance). Doubtless he relished having the level of stardom that allowed for such in-jokes; you can see in the videos to both singles that he was keen to push his image as a big headliner, commanding a brightly-lit stage in a sharp suit, with a backing group who seem to have been chosen for their lack of resemblance to the Undertones. Whatever you think of this approach, with hindsight it doesn't quite pay off in this case. Sharkey's voice still impresses, conveying brilliantly the vulnerability and fear of the protagonist: he always sounds small and by the end of each verse he feels reluctant to sing at all, as if he's trying to hide the emotion, whilst he's following the lead of the backing singers on the chorus; but it's all undermined by Dave Stewart's booming production, and the proto-Robert-Palmer moves in the video. It's somehow worse to do that to a record that could have been better had it sounded more intimate. That's why I didn't buy the copy I saw selling for 50p the other day. 

Also appearing on: Now 4
Available on:Feargal Sharkey

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