Ian McNabb started his musical career with this cabaret band playing working men’s clubs, weddings etc. Chris Sharrock joined the band at the age of 9. Band also feat; Lynn Newall [bass], David Newall, Peter Newall and Cheryl Leigh [later Word For Word, When It Rains]. At the age of 16, Ian joined another band called CITY LIGHTS. Throughout this time, Chris and Ian remained good friends. Chris and Cheryl worked in a at least two bands later.


The band formed in Summer 1976 featuring James Hughes (keyboards) [later Cherry Boys, Exhibit B], Jimmy Sangster (bass) [later of Black], Kymm Morgan (guitar), John Scott (vocals) and Mark Cowley (drums).
This line up lasted about 6 months and recorded a 3 song demo in Amazon Studios [4 track]. Managerial/parent disputes led to Scott, Cowley and Morgan leaving the band. Scott still sings around Liverpool and Mark Cowley went on to manage Space. 
Enter new guitarist Ian McNabb who answered a Liverpool Echo advert (early 1977) and Howie Minns (drums) [later Cherry Boys, Exhibit B]. The band worked extensively around north England clocking up an average of 170 gigs per year from 1977 to August 80. They recorded several studio sessions feat cover versions, together with the first original songs from McNabb and also Hughes. Demos rel 4 songs (covers) 1977, 13 song demo 1978, 3 song demo 1979, 12 songs prod by Roy White (1979-80). A few bits of film exist of the band from 1978 (silent cine film) and a full gig filmed in 1981. Last performance of the band was at the final night of the Warehouse club in Liverpool where they played as a birthday treat for Dave C empressario and later of Royal Court fame they played The Doors 'Light My Fire' and later that night the club burnt down, a film exists of this event (the gig, not the fire!). Howie became Eddie Shit and had a spell playing drums for The Macc Lads 1989-1992. Keith Gunsun (bass) [Cherry Boys, Caroline 199] also played at some point


Wirral mod band (1980-83) feat; Chris Sharrock (drms) (ex Young World, La’s, Lightning Seeds), John Cherry (guitar,vocals), Keith Gunson (bass,vocals) (ex City Lights, later Caroline 199), James Hughes (keyboards) (ex City Lights, later Exhibit B) & Howie Minns (drums) (ex City Lights, later Exhibit B, Bamboo Fringe, Macc Lads) joined in ’81. Rel 7″ Come The Day on Cherryoza recs, Kardomah Café on Crash Recs (1983), hitting No.17 in UK Indie Charts, also 7″ single Man to Man b/w So Much Confusion on Open Eye Recs OE5 (1981) which came in an embossed pic sleeve, other rel Shoot The Big Shot on Crash, (CRA 604, 1983). They also rel a tape with 6 tracks called “Give it Rice” incl, Kardoma Cafe, Come The Day, Why Don’t You Write, She’s So Young, Phone Call, Don’t Leave Me That Way.


.. were formed out of a school band at SFX college in Liverpool (approx 1976), featuring Chris Layhe (drums, later bass, vocals), John Corner (guitar) [later of Sneex], Alan Redmond (guitar), Roy Martin (drums). Originally called Blind Owl & once Bandito. Songs include 'Sound of the City', 'Nothing’s Right', and covers such as 'Bonie Moronie'. Played regularly at the Sportsman pub in St John’s Precinct every Sunday. Chris interestingly called his daughter Eleanor (with an ‘e’)


- band feat; Jimmy Hughes (voc) (ex Cherry Boys, City Lights), Howie Minns (ex Cherry Boys, City Lights, later Bamboo Fringe, Macc Lads), James Brady (keys), Jimmy Sangster (bass) (ex City Lights, later Black). Rel 12″ Who Killed The Smile? (Pentagon recs May86), 7″ It’s Hypothetical (Pentagon Aug86) & an LP ‘Playing Dead’ (Pentagon Jan88). Howie once said; ‘I’d like to round up all record company employees in a room & machine gun them all down.’. The LP will be re-rel (Jan07) on CD for the first time (with 7 bonus tracks)


- band (formed 1983) feat; Roy Corkhill (bass) (ex Black, Third Man, later Icicle Works), Dave Whittaker (bass) (ex Visual Aids, Jass Babies), Andy Zsigmund (gtr), David Knowles (keys) (ex Achilles, Virgin Dance), Steve Brown (drms) (ex Jazz Babies, Afraid of Mice), Colin McKay (ex Achilles) (voc,gtr) was the main force behind it, writing most or all of the material. Had track on ‘Son of Jobs For The Boys’ comp LP (Natalie recs Jun85) & rel 4 singles on RCA between 1985-86 - I Fall Apart (Jun85), Love You To Death (Mar86), Hellzappopin (Jun86), Idlewild. The band were tipped for stardom but RCA decided to put their money on Fairground Attraction and Here’s Johnny faded away.


- band of mid-late 80s, feat; Pete McPartland (voc) (ex Jactars, now Rash), Elaine Harris (voc), Roy Corkhill (bass) (ex Black, Here’s Johnny, later Icicle Works), and briefly Terry Jones (bass) (ex Blue Forest) who left after a couple of rehearsals, also had Paul Jones (bass) (later of Catatonia). Joey Musker (drms) (ex Wah!, Dead or Alive). There was a demo made and played at the Café Berlin. Band morphed into The Big I Am


- 3-pc band, feat; Colin Vearncome (guitar,vocals), Roy Corkhill (bass) (later Third Man, Here’s Johnny, Icicle Works), Martin Green (sax) (ex Numbers 28, White Russians, China Crisis), Jimmy Hughes (drms), Dave ‘Dix’ Dickie (keys) (ex Last Chant). Rel 7″ Wonderful Life on Ugly Man Recs (1986), then Colin went solo & signed to A&M & the song became a huge hit (#8 in UK Charts), following Sweetest Smile (also #8). Continued making the Top 75 until 1991 with Paradise, Big One, Now You’re Gone, Feel Like Change & Here it Comes Again. Colin & Roy also did live work for Grown Up Strange (1986-87). Also feat; Jimmy Sangster (ex City Lights) who joined 1983. Dave Dix now works at the Kashmir Klub and has produced and engineered many chart acts.

The Early Years [1980 - 1984]

The band was founded in Liverpool in 1980 when bassist Chris Layhe (who had been in a couple of local rock bands including Elanor and Blind Owl) answered an advertisement for a musical collaborator placed by 20 year old Ian McNabb. The two got together and started writing. They quickly added drummer Chris Sharrock (who had previously drummed for the Cherry Boys), and began playing live shows as "The Icicle Works".

In 1981, the band recorded a six-song independently released cassette entitled Ascending that was primarily sold at Liverpool's Probe Records, they didn't make their official debut until October 1982, when the independent "Nirvana" single was issued on Troll Kitchen. It reached number 15 on the U.K. independent chart.

The following year, the Icicle Works were signed to the Beggars Banquet label, who issued the single "Birds Fly (Whisper To A Scream)" on their subsidiary label Situation Two.

Later that year, The Icicle Works' released their biggest UK hit, 1983's "Love is a Wonderful Colour", which was a UK Top 15 single. Their debut eponymous album (1984) followed shortly thereafter, reached number 24 on the UK charts and entered the U.S. top 40. Also appearing on the U.S. top 40 singles charts at around the same time (and hitting the Canadian top twenty) was "Whisper to a Scream (Birds Fly)", a retitled and slightly remixed version of the band's Situation Two release of 1983. 

The Banquet Years [1985 - 1988]

After the release of their self-titled debut album the Icicle Works struggled to match their initial commercial success. However, they continued to receive critical acclaim as a live band and secured a loyal fan base both in the UK and abroad. Some have attributed the lack of commercial success to The Icicle Works' change in sound over the years, from an initial 'new wave' feel to a more straight-ahead (but then-unfashionable) rock sound inspired by  Neil Young, The Doors and The Ramones, amongst others.

In September 1984 the band issued the single "Hollow Horse", which continued to be a live favourite and the folk-rock inspired "Seven Horses". The band continued to enjoy acclaim in the UK, US and Japan but struggled to reclaim their initial chart success.

Beginning in 1986, though the band was still officially a trio, keyboardist Dave Green became an auxiliary member of The Icicle Works, playing at live shows and contributing to the band's recordings. Prior to Green's arrival, Chris "Tugsie" Turrill played live keyboards for about 18 months. Both McNabb and Layhe had previously doubled up on instruments playing guitar, keyboard and percussion at live gigs. Layhe was often seen playing the octobans and McNabb occasionally played an open tuned guitar with his right hand and a keyboard with his left.

In early 1986, Beggars' Banquet compiled all the 12" mixes of the band's singles onto a UK-only LP entitled Seven Singles Deep, which hit number 52 on the British album charts.

In July 1986, The Icicle Works had a top 75 chart hit with the almost punk-sounding "Understanding Jane", which peaked at number 52. The pop-oriented follow-up single "Who Do You Want For Your Love" peaked at number 54, and January 1987's "Evangeline" peaked at number 53. All three songs found their way on to the 1987 album If You Want to Defeat Your Enemy Sing His Song, produced by Ian Broudie. The album was released in both Britain and North America and hit number 28 on the UK charts. 

Later in 1987, The Icicle Works issued the single "High Time". It just missed the British top 75 (peaking at number 76) but in 1988 it hit number 13 on the newly created US Modern Rock charts. 

The band's fourth studio album, Blind, was produced by McNabb and issued in 1988. The album featured 13 tracks in the UK and Canada, but the US version of the album featured a different track listing, slightly edited versions of a few songs, and a different cover. Still, both versions of the album contained "High Time" and the minor British hit "Little Girl Lost", which peaked at  number 59.  

The Epic Truth and Beauty [1989 - 1993]

By the late 1980s, tensions within the group were increasing, allegedly due to McNabb's controlling ways. By 1988, in addition to writing virtually all of The Icicle Works' material (as well as singing and playing guitar) McNabb was also producing the group's records.

Accordingly, shortly after Blind was issued, drummer Chris Sharrock departed to The La's. Sharrock would later be a member of The Lightning Seeds and World Party, and would also drum for Robbie Williams, Del Amitri, Eurythmics and Oasis. Layhe also departed at this time and Beggars Banquet dropped the group from their roster.

McNabb continued to perform under the name The Icicle Works for a while. Dave Green was promoted to official membership status, although he would leave the band within a year. Zak Starkey was added on drums for a time, and various keyboardists, bassists, and guitarists passed through before the band released their final album Permanent Damage (1990), recorded for Epic/Sony. By that time, the band's lineup was McNabb, bassist Roy Corkill, former 10cc and Jethro Tull drummer Paul Burgess, keyboardist Dave Baldwin, and backing vocalist Mark Revell.

This 'second-generation' version of The Icicle Works quietly broke up after Permanent Damage failed to chart, and Ian split with Epic that same year. 

McNabb's solo career officially began in 1991 with the release of the single Great Dreams of Heaven.

In 1992, a compilation called The Best of The Icicle Works was released, containing the best of their work from the Beggars Banquet years. Two years later, a live recording of a 1987 concert was issued.

Over the next few months he began preparing songs for what would become his first solo album Truth and Beauty. Self-financed, and released on Andrew Lauder’s new label ‘This Way Up’ in March 1993, the album was rapturously received by both fans and critics alike, finding its way into magazine end of year polls, and even making it into Q magazine’s ‘best albums released during Q’s lifetime’!

The Solo Years [1993 - 1997]

Following the split of the Icicle Works in 1990, and the subsequent dissolution of The Wild Swans, McNabb issued two 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."

The next single pulled from the album ("I'm Game") failed to chart, so This Way Up went for a different strategy. "(I Go) My Own Way" was re-recorded with Stone Roses producer John Leckie at the helm, but it too failed to significantly impact on the UK charts. Still, This Way Up stuck with McNabb and vice versa.

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".

Now on both a creative and commercial roll, Ian and his new record label knew they had to up the ante for the next release. Ian had written a song called “Fire Inside My Soul” which musically resembled the sound of Neil Young & Crazy Horse. Andrew Lauder had suggested to Ian that it might a good idea for him to record his next album with producer John Porter, who lived and worked in Los Angeles. Ian didn’t relish the idea of recording out of his native surroundings, undeterred, Andrew insisted his idea was a sound one. Rather facetiously, Ian suggested that if the services of Neil Young’s band could be assured, he would gladly make the long journey to California.

When Crazy Horse eventually met with Ian in November of 1993, they all got on famously and spent five days creating the music which would end up being exactly one half of the new record. Released in July 1994, Head Like a Rock was an immediate success. The album returned Ian to the upper reaches of the top forty once again, cementing his position of a great British singer-songwriter in the minds of both the public and the industry. Further weight was given to this fact when the album was deemed worthy of a nomination for the prestigious ‘Mercury prize’. Ian ultimately lost out to ‘M people’ but reckons he had more fun at the party than they did.

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 #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 number 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 number 29. 

Molina and Talbot toured with McNabb in 1994, featuring on the short live bonus CD which accompanied his next album, Merseybeast. This performance also featured Noel Gallagher of Oasis on uncredited rhythm guitar as the group covered The Seeds' "Pushin' Too Hard". Gallagher's refusal to be credited reportedly inspired the later McNabb composition "Don't Patronise Me", although McNabb has always denied this accusation.

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 number 72. The second single, the album's title track (which saw McNabb exploring his scouse roots and merging them with West Coast Americana) fared even worse, hitting UK number 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. 

Fairfield Records Era [1998 - Present]

On returning to performing his own material, McNabb focused on acoustic music, leading to a residency at the Birmingham club of Ronnie Scott. The material arising out of this became the low-key drummerless album A Party Political Broadcast On Behalf of The Emotional Party, released by McNabb on his own Fairfield label in 1998. Aside from McNabb, the only other musicians on the album were Waterboys Mike Scott and Anthony Thistlethwaite, and legendary bassist Danny Thompson.

McNabb followed APPBOBOTEP with a live acoustic album, Live at Life (2000), compiled from a pair of Christmas gigs in 1999. The album included one newly-written track, "Why Are the Beautiful So Sad", which continued to chronicle McNabb’s dislike of celebrity culture as noted earlier in "Don’t Patronise Me". The stark confessional nature of the songs, combined with the stripped down approach produced a work of dazzling intensity.

Ian McNabb (2001) marked McNabb’s full-band return, and was issued by Sanctuary Records. The album's opening track, “Livin’ Proof [Miracles Can Happen]”, was written for The Go-Go's reunion which had recently taken place, but was declined by that band. McNabb's version was pressed as a promo single.

The album was moderately received critically, with reviewers complaining of a lack of variety in the rock bombast of the record as compared to its two predecessors. 2001 also saw the issuance of a demos and outtakes collection, Waifs and Strays, which included previously unreleased material and alternate versions of familiar McNabb chestnuts.

McNabb returned to his own Fairfield label in 2002, and issued the low-key The Gentleman Adventurer. Best described as a semi-acoustic album, it is similar in spirit to his first solo album, Truth and Beauty, with occasional use of the drum machine to accompany more upbeat numbers such as "Ain’t No Way to Behave". Almost entirely performed by McNabb (with help from his long-time collaborator and bassist in the latter-day Icicle Works Roy Corkill), the album takes in a variety of styles from rock, through ballards, a touch of funk, and acoustic storytelling.

Another “bits and pieces” collection, Boots followed in 2003, the title being both McNabb’s nickname (after his penchant for wearing Beatles-style boots in the mid-80s while with The Icicle Works), and a reference to the ‘official bootleg’ nature of the release. The double disc set includes some very hard to find items, demos, and alternative versions. 

2004 saw McNabb issuing a second 'Best Of' album, Potency. This covered his whole solo oeuvre, showcasing his eclectic musical taste and output.

In 2005, McNabb successfully pushed a single, "Let The Young Girl Do What She Wants To" to #38 on the UK charts. This was McNabb's highest-ever chart placing as a solo artist, and his biggest hit since The Icicle Works' "Love Is a Wonderful Colour" reached #15 in early 1984, a span of over 21 years. This unexpected chart success was assisted considerably by his loyal fanbase buying several different formats of the single in an attempt to gain greater publicity and recognition for his then-current album, Before All of This. But despite support from a number of prominent DJs such as Jeremy Vine and Janice Long on BBC Radio 2, further widespread success continued to elude McNabb.

Later in 2005, McNabb released People Don't Stop Believin', an album of b-sides and outtakes from Before All of This.

In December 2007, McNabb's second live album (How We Live - At The Philharmonic) was issued. The album was culled from two June 2007 shows at Liverpool's Philharmonic Hall.

In January and February 2008, McNabb was involved with "The Number One Project", a concert and compilation album celebrating Liverpool's fifty-six #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.

McNabb's latest 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. 

The Anniversary Waltz [2006 - 2011]

In October 2006, after 15 years as a solo artist, McNabb unexpectedly revived the name "The Icicle Works" for a series of UK concerts. However, this new version of McNabb's old band did not feature any original members other than McNabb himself. This version of the band consisted of McNabb, former 'second-generation' Icicle Works bassist Roy Corkill, and two new members: keyboard player Richard Naiff and ex-Dodgy drummer Matthew Priest, both of McNabb's long-time solo touring band. Original drummer Chris Sharrock had been invited to play with the revived group, but declined to participate.

In essence, McNabb seemed to be re-branding himself, using a somewhat more successful trade name in order to give his work increased exposure. Throughout 2007 and into early 2008, McNabb played dates as both a solo artist and with The Icicle Works. 

The Icicle Works later appeared at GuilFest 2007 and played a nine-date UK tour in December 2007. However, certain shows on this tour were heavily criticized by fans on the Message Boards at for their allegedly disorganised nature, especially with regards to McNabb's performance. Perhaps by way of an apology, McNabb and company played two free shows as 'The Icicle Works' in Liverpool in January 2008. Thereafter, The Icicle Works name was once again retired until the next anniversary, and McNabb reverted to playing gigs strictly as a solo artist. 

A further reformation under the name The Icicle Works, has been confirmed by a series of planned 2011 30th Anniversary gigs.

Make a Free Website with Yola.