8 July 2020

Claire Hamill - First Night In New York/ Ultaviolet Light

70s singer songwriter stares down the eighties with a firm eye

Label: WEA
Year of Release: 1981

Claire Hamill's career has been a fascinating and varied one, but in terms of actual "units shifted" as they say in "the biz", way beneath everyone's expectations. Signing to Island in 1971 and being launched as the UK's answer to Joni Mitchell, she found critical acclaim and appreciation from her peers easy to come by, but mainstream success eluded her.

In 1975 she left Island and signed to Ray Davies' Konk label, who was unable to push her any further despite the period revealing beautiful, rich storytelling songs like "All The Cakes She Baked Him" which Davies himself would surely have been proud to write. A long gap then emerged before this, a 1981 comeback (or should that be "relaunch"?) single on the mighty WEA.

It marries her previous seventies singer-songwriter style (an accurate cliche, I'm afraid) to a more adult, eighties sheen. In the case of the A-side this brings her closer to the similar 'grown up' style artists like Carly Simon adopted as the new decade arrived, with "First Night In New York" having a sly sassiness about it, a Marhall Hain styled wink at the bright city lights.

The flipside "Ultraviolet Light", on the other hand, happily plays with Numan-esque synth soundscapes while funky guitars chikky-wah to their heart's content in the background. If this had been put out under a pseudonym, it would have been very easy to assume it had been created by an unknown synth-pop group. She's nothing if not versatile.

Sadly, her luck didn't change as a result of this or any future singles and nor did her career on WEA stretch beyond this one 45, but her versatility continued to be apparent as she moved towards New Age and neo-classical sounds. Her 1984 LP "Touchpaper" would signify the first major shift in that direction, and she continues to record and perform to this day, with her 2019 LP "Over Dark Apples" continuing to pick up appreciation. 

Somewhat more unusually, she also performs as the lead singer in the Yes tribute group Fragile.

Thanks to reader Neil Nixon for sending this files and scans over to me. 

1 comment:

23 Daves said...

Somebody's just left a comment on the Facebook page to say it actually IS Gary Numan on the flipside. Which certainly explains a lot.