Kevin MacMichael

Guitarist with Cutting Crew

Tuesday 07 January 2003 01:00
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Kevin Scott MacMichael, guitarist and songwriter: born Saint John, New Brunswick 7 November 1951; married (two daughters), died Halifax, Nova Scotia 31 December 2002.

In 1987, the London-based rock band Cutting Crew topped the American charts with "(I Just) Died In Your Arms Tonight". The following year, the group, led by the English vocalist Nick Van Eede and the Canadian guitarist Kevin MacMichael, was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best New Artist category.

While not exactly one-hit wonders, Cutting Crew never recaptured the heights of this first success and split up after three studio albums. However, MacMichael enjoyed a notable second career. As sideman with the former Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant, he co-wrote several of the songs on the album Fate of Nations in 1993 and toured the world.

Kevin MacMichael was born in Saint John, New Brunswick, in 1951. The young Kevin was encouraged to indulge his passion for music; he mastered most of the Beatles catalogue and played in cover bands around New Brunswick and Nova Scotia throughout the Seventies, joining a group called Spice and recording two singles, "Prisoner of Love" and "Beautiful You".

By the early Eighties, MacMichael was a member of the band Fast Forward and touring with the Drivers, another Canadian group fronted by Nick Van Eede. The pair formed a strong friendship. In 1984, they cut several demo tapes in Toronto, and MacMichael eventually agreed to leave his wife and family behind and relocate to the UK with Van Eede in 1985.

With a bassist, Colin Farley, and a drummer, Martin Beadle, they called themselves Cutting Crew and signed to Siren, an offshoot of Virgin Records. In 1986, Cutting Crew's début single, "(I Just) Died In Your Arms Tonight", co-written by MacMichael, became one of the hits of the summer, eventually reaching No 4. But the follow-up, a plaintive power ballad, "I've Been in Love Before", featuring some lovely gliding guitar from MacMichael, struggled to make the Top Thirty, despite two re-releases, and Broadcast, Cutting Crew's first album, stalled at 41.

By 1987, the group had begun a worldwide campaign in earnest and were making headway in continental Europe and in the United States. Support slots on tours by Huey Lewis & the News, Starship and the Bangles helped establish Cutting Crew, who eventually topped the US singles listings in May with "(I Just) Died in Your Arms Tonight". Later that year, "One for the Mockingbird" also charted in the US while "I've Been in Love Before" earned another American Top Ten placing, helping their début album to become a million-seller.

However, the group took a long time to complete their second album, The Scattering, which eventually appeared in 1989. The single "(Between a) Rock and a Hard Place" was only a minor hit and, when EMI took over Virgin Records, the Compus Mentus album issued in 1992 sank without trace. Cutting Crew called it a day after the obligatory Best of . . .

MacMichael remained in Britain and auditioned for Robert Plant. "I went down to a rehearsal hall in Devon and Robert put me on the spot right off the bat," remembered the guitarist:

"Play me something," he said. He's about my age so the first things that came to mind were songs by Buffalo Springfield and Moby Grape. His jaw just dropped and he picked me up off the sofa and said: "Never leave me."

MacMichael worked on Plant's album Fate of Nations, one of the most successful of Plant's post-Led Zeppelin solo career. In particular, the guitarist shone on a superior version of Tim Hardin's "If I Were a Carpenter" and the single "Calling to You" and also co-wrote three of the pivotal tracks on the Grammy- nominated album. He acted as musical director for Plant throughout 1993, but found himself at a loose end again when Plant starting working once more with the guitarist Jimmy Page, his former colleague.

In October that year MacMichael moved to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, where he joined his brother Reg and began producing local acts. "The nine years in England were almost like going to college. Now I'm divorced from all that. I'm not looking at the charts in Billboard every week," he remarked philosophically.

Pierre Perrone

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