Fiction Factory: Throw The Warped Wheel Out DLX RM – UK – CD 
- [Feels Like] Heaven
- Heart And Mind
- The Hanging Gardens
- All Or Nothing
- Hit The Mark
- Ghost Of Love
- Tales Of Tears
- The First Step
- The Warped Wheel
- Ghost Of Love [Special Dance Mix]
- The Other Side Of Grey
- Old Game Blue Flame
- (Feels Like) Heaven [12″ Version]
- Everyone But You
- This Is
- All Or Nothing [Extended Version]
- Dreaming Of Someone
- I Who Know You
This has been a title that I’ve had on my want list for nine years, and now it’s on the freshly organized CD racks in the Record Cell, thanks to the generosity of a commenter who was weeding it out. While I had the 1993 1st CD issue of this title, this one had a 9 track complement of bonus tracks, including the holy grail that was the 12″ Extended Version” of their big hit, “[Feels Like] Heaven.” A record that I have never seen to buy from a US dealer. I have all of this other Fiction Factory singles. So this tale began with that song.
“[Feels Like] Heaven,” was the snippet of a song that obsessed me for a decade until I finally had a copy. I saw a minute from the video in “MTV’s London Calling” in 1984 and was struck by the dignified sense of melancholy that the song put across. It was reasonably lush pop, not a million miles away from High ABC, and some impressive crooning from lead singer Kevin Patterson; who had an impressive falsetto [just like Martin Fry] to bring to these songs. The instrumentation was shewed towards the traditional here, with a few synth drones standing in for string textures, but with piano, bass, and drums doing the heavy lifting.
But the band were clearly aficionados of the sound that Trevor Horn had brought to ABC as they also copped his technique of fattening a piano melody by doubling on a glockenspiel. This could be laid at the feet of producer Peter Wilson, who produced the bulk of the album. Save for one track where Alan Rankine manned the boards. After the fallout in splitting from Associates, Rankine turned to production, with Fiction Factory joining other Scot acts like The Cocteau Twins and Paul Haig as grist for his creative mill.
The song was a wonder of mixing an embittered lyric with music of almost candyfloss romance. Giving me that cognitive dissonance I love so much in pop songs. The first time I heard it, my mind was drawn to the lyric of “twisting the bones until they snap” as immediately being contrary to the vibe of the track and an example of the hidden lyrical poison pill in a pop song. The track had a feel of ABC with the melodic verve of contemporary China Crisis [the track might have sat comfortably next to “Wishful Thinking”] and a hint of The Walker Brothers in Mr. Patterson’s commanding vocal. And a lyric that went straight for the gut. Who could ask for more?
The other material on side one hewed more closely to a Pop Funk sound redolent of its time period with Graham McGregor getting some beefy bass licks into the mix. Conga support from Mike Ogletree [ex-Café Jaques/Simple Minds] on drums, added to the hint of Haircut 100 seeping into the track.
Until I read the liner notes by Patterson explaining guitarist Chic Medley’s thoughts behind “The Hanging Gardens,” I always enjoyed the track. The combination of muted trumpet from Grant Taylor with the portamento synths from Eddie Jordan gave this song an enviable lilt that always pulled me into its flirtation with Reggae. Little did I know until now that Fiction Factory had an immediate previous history as The RBs with a 1981 Ska album on a Dutch label. So it’s tempting to think f this as the last vestige of Jamaican influence on their songwriting.
Unfortunately, Medley wrote the song to express dismay with Black culture using “Babylon” to express negativity about issues that were seen as being the province of Western culture. Making this song an example of white grievance from a time when we didn’t even have a conception of that notion.
The third single from the album was the crisp “All Or Nothing.” Patterson revealed in the liner notes that he was completely smitten with Associates and wrote this as an homage to Billy MacKenzie at the time. Any Associates… associations were probably not hurt by Alan Rankine using the same string stab synth patch on his keyboard as he had on the 1982 remix of “A Matter of Gender.”
“Side two” opened with the fiery “Hit The Mark;” possibly the most driving track here though the sequencer intro that opened it was initially modest, but as the synth bass joined the drums for lean and hard track, I couldn’t help but thinking that this was a missed opportunity at a single from the band. Especially when the middle eight gave McGregor several bars for a muscular bass [guitar] solo that could have gone even further on the 12″ single mix my mind concocts when hearing this one.
The watery guitar intro to “Ghost Of Love” was also deceptively modest, but once the prize-winning chorus kicked in with able falsetto from Patterson as well as the return of the piano/glockenspiel doubling this really played out like the should have been hit single following on the heels of “[Feels Like] Heaven.” The single had been the initial release by the band to no avail, but once they had a hit with “Heaven,” the notions was to give it another chance. It was an unfortunate pearls before swine event.
NEXT: …The Return Of Mari Wilson?
I have only ever heard that one UK hit (Feels like )Heaven and nothing else. I don’t think I have even seen this album-certainly none of my friends ever had it.
I had no idea Rankine was involved either.
That single certainly had a tremendously lush and classy sound at the time.
Gavin – So you also had a hard time finding this album in the UK too? I haunted the import and used bins for ages to get this. Until CBS UK reissued it on CD in 1993, and I mail ordered one, I could not find “Warped Wheel” for love nor money. I would occasionally see the “All Or Nothing” 12″ in used bins but I didn’t buy it at the time since I was wanting “[Feels Like] Heaven!” Of course, I began buying everything around 1998!
The Cherry Pop CD lacks any creative credits [musicians, production, design] and I assumed that Rankine produced it all. My 1993 CD booklet was severely water damaged almost immediately, so I have not been able to read it for decades. But looking at the LP versions on Discogs revealed that Rankine only produced the single “All or Nothing.” It certainly had that Associates sound. Peter Wilson produced the other 9 tracks on the LP. The cassette and limited LP + 12″ [as well as the 1993 CD] contained two bonus tracks, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Yeah, “Heaven” caught my ear due to the [as you say] lush and classy sound that was very “high-ABC” to these ears. As much as I enjoy this album, [it’s a solid Pop record] it was the more obscure 2nd album where they really delivered for my ears. It was a solid Art Pop record.
A friend of mine had the album and….I simply hated it although, at the time, I liked ‘that’ single. For me it was a bit too smooth & plastic with no real songwriting skills in evidence. So, I save myself from ever having to listen to it again and got the extended version of ‘that’ single on this.
Don’t think I’m being snobby: you should see some of the shit I do like!
alonewithstrangers – It’s smooth, I know. You should give “Another Story” a try. It’s a proverbial “Great Leap Forward.”
If I stumble across a copy at a low price then I just might: always happy to have my prejudices shattered!
alonelonewithstrangers – That’s the spirit! It was recorded at Castlesound with Callum Malcolm, to give an indication of the new direction. Once you drop the needle on “Standing At The Top Of The World” you’ll forget the early stuff.
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“Standing at the Top of the World” is indeed a new direction — a Tears for Fears direction! :D
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