26 January 2011

Haysi Fantayzee

From the Daily Mirror, August 14, 1982:

Don't underestimate the hand-me-down appearance of Kate Garner and Jeremiah Healy, singers with rock group Haysi Fantayzee.

For it's their junk shop look that attracted the record companies when the group made their own promotional video.

And it led to a record contract and their current top twenty hit, John Wayne Is Big Leggy.

Jeremiah fondly remembers the video which the group put together for £150.

"I had a bass guitar on the end of an elastic strap."

I spent the whole time bouncing it up and down, just to show that I couldn't really play."

Both Kate and Jeremiah buy their clothes at second-hand shops and wear their hair in West Indian dreadlocks - a million miles away from the clean-cut, all-American style of John Wayne, the subject of their record.

But the group are keen to point out that despite the title, the hit isn't a tribute to him.

"People think because we've written a song with the name John Wayne in the title that we actually like him, but we don't," says the band's keyboard player Paul Caplin.

Kate says that none of the band have any real-life heroes.

"I used to have a few heroes until I met one at a party and suddenly discovered he wasn't very nice."

The kind of characters that the band look up to are fictional ones like Huckleberry Finn and many of Walt Disney's cartoon figures.

Jeremiah said: "People say we look like cartoon characters and we don't mind putting that kind of image across. We like to say serious things but in a cartoon-like way.

"We didn't set out to play cartoon music - it just turned out that way."

'80s Actual On Haysi Fantayzee - The Facts...

Jeremy Healy (or is it really Jeremiah?!) was a former Blitz Kid, and ex-schoolmate of Boy George. In 1981, aged 19, he joined forces with model and fashion photographer Kate Garner and her musician boyfriend Paul Caplin to form the weird and rather wonderful Haysi Fantayzee.

Paul had studied maths at Imperial College from 1975-1978. He had some musical success with New Romantic synth band Animal Magnet in 1981 (Welcome To The Monkey House - remember "I, I, Me, Me, Grab, Grab, Grab!!"?), then left to help set up and become a founder member of Haysi Fantayzee.

The Face
magazine helped Haysi on its way in 1981. Says Jeremy:

"I had begun sprouting dreadlocks, which strangely enough was an excellent career move. It got my mostly imaginary group an article in The Face, and from that we blagged some demo time at EMI. Then we had to write something to record. At this time I was living in West Hampstead with Kate Garner and Paul Caplin in a flat he owned. I was the messiest person in the world with two feet of clothes covering the entire floor. Luckily the look was this Dickensian Rasta hybrid, so it didn't really matter that I was so raggedly turned out.

"Anyway it was here in this chaos that I found a little diamond. I wrote the lyrics for a silly song called 'John Wayne is Big Leggy'. It was an allergy for treatment of which the white settlers used, but on the Native American Indians. However, I wrote it like John Wayne having anal sex with a squaw. I thought this was hilarious! I've often been accused of having a childish sense of humour; I woke up everyone in the flat and announced I'd written our first hit record. We made our demos and shopped them around, and somehow, with our deranged songs and our strange looks, we landed our first record deal on my twentieth birthday."

Kate and Jeremy were the singers and front people of the band; Paul was mostly out of vision, writing songs and playing some instruments.

Quirky from the start, Haysi had traded on their distinctive fashion sense (dreadlocks meets hillbilly, meets circus master meets...) and sent out copies of Shiny Shiny as a low budget video and loads of publicity photographs to record companies. This was probably one of the first bands to win a recording contract largely on the strength of its visual image.

John Wayne Is Big Leggy charted in the UK in August 1982, and reached No 11. Follow-up Shiny Shiny charted in February 1983 and peaked at No. 16. These are the two songs which still haunt me (in the nicest possible way) to this day. But were they simply nonsensical cartoon pop? No, apparently not - it is said that Shiny Shiny was about the aftermath of a nuclear apocalypse and John Wayne has some distinctly saucy and edgy lyrics!

The album Battle Hymns For Children Singing was released to a mixed reception, and finally in late 1983, Haysi split to pursue individual projects.

Jeremy would soon resurface on the popular music scene: in 1987, he and Boy George got into the newly emerging Acid House sensation. The result of this was the E-Zee Possee song Everything Starts With An 'E', released in 1989 and a chart hit in early 1990.

A great unofficial tribute site to Haysi Fantayzee can be found here.

1 comment:

Frank Chickens said...

They were terrible. Aural wankery with two stick insects.

Paul, I'm sorry that 'Welcome To The Monkey House' wasn't a hit, it should of been but to get your own back with this was a bit much.