Ian McNabb & Cold Shoulder *now at Barrowland 2
SATURDAY 13TH DECEMBER 2014
McNabb became the lead vocalist and songwriter for the band, which was founded in 1980 and named "The Icicle Works". The band's other members were Chris Sharrock on Drums and Chris Layhe on Bass guitar and backing vocals.
The Icicle Works had success in the UK with the top 20 single "Love Is A Wonderful Colour" in 1983. They also hit the top 40 in North America with the single "Whisper to a Scream (Birds Fly)" in 1984.
The Icicle Works continued recording through the 1980s with limited success. In the UK, several of the band's follow-up singles charted, although none reached higher than No. 52. In the US, they briefly made the Modern Rock charts in 1988, but achieved no further mainstream recognition and were regarded in North America as a one-hit wonder.
The original line-up of The Icicle Works broke up in 1988. McNabb put together a new "second generation" Icicle Works line-up in 1989, which released one album in 1990. However, the album was commercially unsuccessful and the band broke up the following year.
Around the time of the split of the Icicle Works in 1990, McNabb spent some time as a de facto member of The Wild Swans, playing guitar and singing background vocals. The Wild Swans dissolved in late 1990, and McNabb then issued two solo singles in 1991 to little notice. He then resurfaced in 1993 with a collection of demos which would form the basis of his first solo album, Truth and Beauty. Recorded on a shoestring, it won him a record deal with Andrew Lauder's new 'This Way Up' Label.
The album's first proper single If Love Was Like Guitars became a minor UK hit in 1993. Following this, the 1991 single Great Dreams of Heaven was re-released, but failed to gain much airplay, possibly due to lyrical references such as "babies being born H.I.V."
Post-Truth and Beauty, McNabb was allegedly inspired to a rockier sound by the engineer who mastered that record, telling him "Aye, Ian, your rocking days are behind you." Legend has it that McNabb went back to his home in Liverpool, and recorded a demo of what would become the coruscating opener of Head Like a Rock, "Fire Inside My Soul".
Label boss Andrew Lauder then suggested that McNabb go to record in America, which McNabb was skeptical about. He facetiously suggested to Lauder that his new material sounded like Neil Young and Crazy Horse, and if Lauder could get Crazy Horse to play on the record, he would go to America. A few phone calls later, McNabb found himself in a Los Angeles studio with Crazy Horse drummer Ralph Molina and bassist Billy Talbot. This cast-iron rhythm section appeared on four of the ten tracks on Head Like a Rock, including the No. 54 UK hit "You Must Be Prepared to Dream". The album's other single, "Go into the Light", did not feature Crazy Horse and peaked at UK No. 66.
Head Like a Rock was subsequently nominated for the 1994 Mercury Music Prize, and although M People would end up taking the award home, the attendant publicity surrounding the award-nominated album propelled Head Like A Rock into the UK album charts, where it peaked at No. 29.
The 1996 album Merseybeast saw McNabb with a new backing band called "The Afterlife". But despite high expectations for the new CD, the album's first single, the fierce "Don't Put Your Spell on Me" only hit UK No. 72. The second single, the album's title track (Merseybeast, which saw McNabb exploring his scouse roots and merging them with West Coast Americana) fared even worse, hitting UK No. 74.
Although generally well received by critics and fans, in the end Merseybeast failed to capitalize on the commercial success of its predecessor. This led to a two-year hiatus on McNabb’s part from both touring under his own name, and recording full studio albums.
In 1997, This Way Up parted company with McNabb, and released a 'best-of' collection entitled My Own Way: The Words & Music of Ian McNabb.
In January and February 2008, McNabb was involved with "The Number Ones Project", a concert and compilation album celebrating Liverpool's fifty-six No. 1 singles on the UK charts. McNabb played at the January concert, and subsequently appeared on the album, released in February, with his studio cover of John Lennon's "Woman".
In late 2008, McNabb participated in a concert reunion of City Lights, an early pre-Icicle Works band of which he had been a member as a teen. At the end of the year, McNabb released his autobiography, entitled Merseybeast: A Musical Memoir.
McNabb's eighth studio album, Great Things, was first made available at gigs in September, 2009. As of November, it was made available for sale on McNabb's website. His ninth album, Little Episodes was available exclusively through his website beginning in February, 2012.
McNabb's tenth studio album, Eclectic Warrior, was created as a pledge music project, and was released on Monday, 18 March 2013.