It's tough being a one-hit wonder - even tougher when that one hit wasn't all that big. Liverpool's Icicle Works are best known for "Whisper To A Scream (Birds Fly)," a song that charted on the U.S. Top 40 and the Canadian Top 20.
Bassist Chris Layhe answered a music ad placed by vocalist/guitarist Ian McNabb. They started writing together, eventually bringing in drummer Chris Sharrock. Icicle Works' self-titled full-length debut dropped in '81 and contained "Birds Fly (Whisper To A Scream)" and "Love Is A Wonderful Colour," a Top 15 single in the U.K.
A series of failed singles preceded the U.K. only sophomore album, "The Small Price Of A Bicycle." The group's U.S. label termed the set 'Punk-Rock demos' and declined to release it. While that was going on, Icicle Works added keyboardist Chris "Tugsie" Turrill to their touring line-up. But he was replaced by Dave Green who also participated in studio sessions.
Though Icicle Works singles continued to peak well out of the Top 40, their third full-length effort, "If You Want to Defeat Your Enemy Sing His Song," was released in both the U.K. and U.S. in '87. While the single "High Time" typically occupied the lower reaches of the pop chart, it did peak at #13 on the newly created U.S. Modern Rock chart.
"Blind" dropped in '88, just before the band imploded. McNabb's total control - he wrote, sang and produced nearly every track - caused the fissure. Sharrock split landing in the Lightening Seeds before joining World Party.
Though Icicle Works' label, Beggar's Banquet, dropped the group, McNabb continued to work under the name with a new line-up. But after "Permanent Damage," issued in '90, failed to chart the group was once again dropped by their label, this time Epic Records. McNabb went solo.
Two years later, a compilation titled "The Best Of The Icicle Works" wrapped the Beggar's Banquet years into a tidy package.
Sporadic attempts to revive Icicle Works came and went but in '11 Layhe joined McNabb onstage during the latter's concert. It was the first time the duo had performed together in 23 years.
1984 The Icicle Works
1985 The Small Price Of A Bicycle
1987 If You Want to Defeat Your Enemy, Sing His Song
1990 Permanent Damage