David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 212: Nick Garvey (Humming)

December 27, 2022

Despite the volume of music I bought through the 1970s and 1980s, only a few "albums" exist that I still would love to find in CD or downloaded formats. Two albums by Texas' Glass Eye (Margo and Huge) would make this short list, and perhaps will be saved for a future blog. The only other one is Nick Garvey's Blue Skies.

Garvey was best known as a member of The Motors, a late 1970s group that released three albums and had a few hits in England, riding the New Wave wave, even if the band members were in their mid-30's and had been in pub rock bands for the first half of the 1970s. Despite their catchy hits, there were no more Motors after 3 albums, and the grand total for solo albums from their two lead songwriters, Garvey and Andy McMaster, was one (until a few years ago).

Blue Skies was released in 1982 to absolute indifference, not helped by never being released in the United States. In the early 1980s, I circulated a lot of record stores that offered imports, and when I saw Blue Skies, I grabbed it. In the end, am I one of just dozens? The majority of the songs displayed the same pop sensibility of the better Motors' tunes, such as "Airport" or "Forget About You," but it was clear that everything about Blue Skies would quickly be the "you" so forgotten about.

Two tunes made it onto a bunch of my mixed tapes through the 1980s: "Emotional Ammunition" and "Humming." I would probably pay ridiculous money to get at least those two songs in digitized format. However, I would also beg for a lyric sheet.

The Blue Skies album had no lyric sheet, probably because the cost couldn't be justified. If I remember correctly, it was just that disappointing white record sleeve that many albums provided. While Garvey's vocals are pretty distinct on "Emotional Ammunition," they are a mystery on "Humming," and as a result, I end up humming the song, even well before the calculated humming that carries the last minute of the song. (For the record, there's that pun again, no calculated humming can ever compete with the ending of Warren Zevon's "Desperadoes Under The Eaves," where we replicate the "air conditioner hum.")

One can find a YouTube recording of "Humming," which I link to below. The still pictures are fuzzy, the segue to a Julie Andrews picture is insane, and the information is scant, but at least it is there. The song opens with a lovely bass line before the rest of the instruments kick in, and before Garvey begins singing (or humming). One has to hum when the opening line might suggest something about a "window frame," later someone has "random thoughts" (maybe random lyrics, Nick?), then we might be encouraged to "come and play."

The last stanza might provide us some hope. I think I can recreate the whole stanza:

"It's a recent tale of a hard-nosed man/pushing so hard that he hurt his hand/

Maybe you smile as he turns and walks away/and . . . .

Well, never mind, maybe I can't make out that one line. No wonder Garvey goes into the humming for the rest of the song.

Look, I like a good self-referential song as much as the next guy. Joe Jackson's "A Slow Song"?  "Play Us A Slow Song." Yeah, that's a lovely slow song. Talking Heads "Electric Guitar"? "This is the meaning of life/to tune this electric guitar." Yeah, it could use it. "Good Vibrations?" Yeah, The Beach Boys gave that to us.

However, if Garvey simply names the song "Humming" because he has no words (or forgot the words) that's dirty pool. Especially since the song is so damn hummable.

Garvey himself seems to have largely disappeared. He always looked more new accounts receivable than new wave accountable.

Maybe he gave up the rock 'n' roll lifestyle and found himself an office job. I bet his office mates hate it when he starts humming.

Garvey, Nick. "Humming." Blue Skies. Virgin, 1982. Link here.

Day 211: Joan Jett & The Blackhearts "Little Drummer Boy"

Day 213: Styx "Castle Walls"

See complete list here.