Friday, June 27, 2008

Hipsway Serve Up A Hip Song

Following on from the success of new wave band Altered Images (see future post), guitarist John McElhone (AKA Johnny Mac) looked to form a new group. In 1984 he combined with fellow Glaswegians Grahame Skinner (vocals), Pim Jones (guitar) and Harry Travers (drums), with McElhone himself switching to bass duties. Given McElhone’s track record, and the swiftness of the quartet to hone their own appealing sound, Hipsway were soon signed to a recording contract with Mercury Records.

By mid ‘85 Hipsway released their debut single ‘The Broken Years’ which garnered some airplay but only climbed as high as #72 on the U.K. charts. A second single ‘Ask The Lord’ (#72) fared no better, and the group’s eponymous debut album was a bit of a sleeper during its first few months of release. That was until the release of the third single ‘The Honeythief’ in early 1986. The song featured a slick almost funk-rock sound that, along with Grahame Skinner’s ‘Jim Kerr-like’ vocals, proved the winning formula for chart success. ‘The Honeythief’ climbed steadily up the British charts, eventually peaking at #17. It was released here in Australia but sadly didn’t catch on here, stalling at #91. On the back of the song’s popularity on the U.K. charts ‘Hipsway’ the album started selling and rose to #42 during the latter part of 1986, spending 23 weeks all up on the charts. Also on the back of ‘The Honeythief’s sales, Mercury re-issues the band’s second single ‘Ask The Lord’ with some success, this time reaching #50. ‘Long White Car’ was the fourth single lifted from the album and reached #55 on the U.K. charts in the latter part of 1986.

But ‘The Honeythief’ had the potential to break the band in the U.S., and so in late 1986 it was released Stateside. Quickly it debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 and within weeks found itself positioned inside the American top 20 (peaking at #19). All up ‘The Honeythief’ spent 15 weeks on the charts and it seemed that Hipsway were poised to follow the same successful path as fellow Glaswegians Simple Minds. But alas like so many before and so many since, Hipsway failed to deliver on the promise that one song offered.

Bass player John McElhone left the lineup during 1986 to become a founding member of Texas (‘I Don’t Want A Lover’/‘Say What You Want’). Drummer Harry Travers also departed to be replaced by Stephen Ferrera, and Hipsway limped on for a time as a trio. They released their swansong album ‘Scratch The Surface’ in 1989, but the album sold poorly and the only single lifted from it to chart was ‘Your Love’ (UK#66). Soon after Hipsway decided to pull up stumps and go their separate ways. Grahame Skinner and Pim Jones continued to work together for a time in a band called Witness, before Skinner split to join another Glasgow band Cowboymouth. McElhone has continued to be a key member of Texas to this day.

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