Nick Heyward, legendary Eighties Pop Boy, walks through the door carrying a guitar, a change of shirt and a banana skin. "Hello," he says, holding out the banana skin. Is this some kind of Fruit Freemasonry handshake? An awkward pause ensues. "Let me just find a bin," he says, and disappears.
If you're over 25 you might remember Nick Heyward as the lead singer and songwriter of Haircut 100, one of the original boy bands. The Haircuts had four top ten hits in late 1981 and 1982, then they split up. They were a gonky, poppy, breath of fresh air in a music scene exhausted from chasing the tail end of punk. Kiddies and their mums liked their happy, skippy tunes and everyone else laughed at the intentionally daft lyrics. Heyward was a pretty boy with a big guitar and a woolly-jumpered elegance that was part fledgling Val Doonican, part Sebastian Flyte. He had a briefly successful solo career and disappeared.
Now he's released a new album called World's End on Creation Records, wonderful in all its singalong, feel-good loveliness, and an obligatory thrashy single called Today. His lyrics are just as quirky. Gone are "Where do we go from here?/Is it down to the lake I fear?" from Love Plus One, now we have "You're like a Safeway's new price/ You're Mr Ever So Nice" from In Every Place. "That was going to say 'You've gone down on every prize guy' but I had to take it out," he explains on his return, minus banana skin. "That was my Joe Orton song, that one, it was about dubious things in parks," and he disolves into giggles.
You can see "Creation plc", the label Oasis are signed to, at work on the Heyward image, from the Gallagher Bros shirt he wears on the CD cover, to the suitably laddish quotes he's given to music papers. A lesser man might have believed his own hype, but Heyward returns all smiles and twinkly eyes. Nick the Man is handsomer than Nick the Boy. Gone is the blond urchin haircut, now his hair is naturally dark and plastered, rather unflatteringly, to the sides of his head. He seems to be that rare thing, a talented person with a content, uncomplicated soul.
Oasis and Heyward already had some things in common: Nick Heyward went out with the 15-year-old Patsy Kensit (spot her in old Haircut videos), has the same birthday as Noel Gallagher's idol Burt Bacharach (20 May) and enjoys the brothers' same obsession with the Beatles.
"It's funny, because I look to Creation as producing pop music for the Nineties," he says. "Pop wasn't in the charts in the late Eighties or early Nineties. It was either dance music or Billy Ocean. I had stuff turned down by people saying, 'They're good songs, but can't you take the guitar off and put a dance loop on it?' Then suddenly, pop music became main stream. Before that, guitars were the kiss of death."
He has resigned himself to the Haircut 100 tag, although he gets desperately bored by the H-word. "People think I've worked in a reservoir for 15 years or something," he complains. He has, in fact, released three solo albums, which were well-received by the music press but largely ignored by the public. "I saw a thing on Channel 5 the other day which said that I had legendary blond flicks. I think that's quite funny, but I don't really care."
So how long has Nick Heyward been around? "I was just 20 when I had a hit," he recalls. "I didn't have a burning ambition to be in a band, I just wanted to prove to my girlfirend that I could do it after she ruthlessly dumped me. I wanted to settle down and get married - I was conditioned that way - but she wanted to get on. I remember I wrote 'Fantastic Day' around that time. I was in the bedroom one afternoon and I said to her 'I've got this silly song,' and she thought I'd never do anything with it. That was the original drive."
Heyward was never a naughty pop star. Even when he took a dive around 1985, his addictions were wholesome. "I gave up smoking and just started eating everything in sight. The first thing I did was eat a bowl of fruit. When I got too fat, I started going to the gym four or five times a week." It's hardly the stuff of rock legend. What about sex and drugs? "Instead of taking full advantage of having eight women at once, I spent all my time trying to find a real girlfriend." He succeeded: he has been married for 10 years and has two children. There was the legendary time when he was found in his underpants in a car park in Camden at the height of his fame. He puts it down to youthful enthusiasm and an inability to cope with hallucinogenic substances. "That intolerance has stood me in good stead," he says.
In fact, his parents seem to have acted more oddly than him when he went back to live with them during his chart success. "The thing with fame," Nick recalls, "is that it changes everyone except you. My parents went from chucking me out as a lazy 15- year-old to inviting fans into the house. When I got home, there were often queues of people going into my bedroom. I would be stepping over sleeping bags to get into my room. I found people in our front room holding things of mine that my parents had given them." There is no resentment in his voice, just mild amusement.
Although they sound like the parents from hell, Heyward had a happy childhood. "We were happy, but really, really poor," he recalls. "My dad made toys for the council, so we had two or three years of moving to Beckenham and living in a nice new house. Then that fell through, so we moved into rough pubs around south London. I remember trying to get to school from some dodgy pub in Camberwell. I painted this picture of suburban people in my songs which was a complete lie really. It wasn't me, but an idea that I'd seen through having spent a couple of nice years in Beckenham."
Even Haircut 100 didn't make him that wealthy. "I never saw a penny from record sales (Pelican West, their only album, sold more than one million copies worldwide), I made my money from publishing deals and advances on my solo albums," he explains. "I feel sorry for the other members of the band, because they didn't care about money at the time." Heyward has lost touch with the other band members, but has called in former Haircut Phil Smith to play saxophone on the new album.
Some say that Haircut 100 was the original boy band, so what advice does he have for boy bands today? "I'm a 36-year-old man," he says, suddenly looking a bit cross and grown-up. "I'm not in the pop world anyway. It's not like this is even my living in a way, I don't make enough money to live on pop music."
And what are his ambitions for the next 15 years? "I want to make money out of music again. I write songs and people seem to like them. I enjoy making records, it's easy, I could do it with my eyes closed." In the current climate for jolly acoustic melodies a la The Cardigans, Dodgy and Teenage Fanclub, perhaps we'll open our eyes to Nick Heyward. Again.
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