Sunday, December 4, 2016

"Whisper to a Scream (Birds Fly)" by Icicle Works

Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  1870
Date:  04/21/1984
Debut:  85
Peak:  37
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Alternative Rock

Pop Bits:  This UK trio got together in 1980 and soon after issued an indie EP that spawned a minor hit on the UK Indie song chart. A follow-up single titled "Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream)" did even better getting to #2. It would also scrape the basement of the UK Pop chart. This got the attention of Beggars Banquet Records who ended up signing the band. A full-length self-titled LP was recorded and its first single "Love Is a Wonderful Colour" became a hit reaching #15 on the UK chart. It would end up being their biggest hit at home. With a little good fortune under their belt, it was decided that the band would try their luck in the States. A deal with Arista ensued and an altered version of their debut LP was issued. This song served as the first single. It did well getting to #13 at Dance and #18 at Rock while making an appearance just inside the Pop Top 40. Unfortunately, it would be the band's only single to get on those charts. In the UK, the song would be reissued as a follow-up to their first hit, but the single would only get to #53. The band would go on to secure a few more lower charting singles in the UK, but would eventually breakup in 1991.

ReduxReview:  Back when this song came out, I remember many folks commenting about the lyrics. It seemed that no one could figure out what the damn song was about! I freely admit that I had (and still have) no idea as to what they were trying to say. And frankly, I didn't care because I absolutely loved the music and production of this song. It's one of those soaring college rock anthems that could easily be a key track in some hit coming-of-age flick. The driving drums are spectacular and it has a chorus that anyone can sing along with - even if you have no idea what it means. It is absolutely one of my favorite tracks from the 80s and one that I still continue to play on a regular basis. I just wish it had done better on the chart. What's funny is that I don't like anything else from the band. I bought the album based on this song and was highly disappointed. But that's okay. Sometimes one blast of brilliance is all that is needed.


Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) In order to get this song released in the US, Arista demanded a few changes. First was the band's name. In the UK they were known as The Icicle Works, however, the label wanted to drop the leading article and have them simply go by Icicle Works. Next, the song's title. You may have noticed above that I first call the song "Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream)." That is the original title. Arista wanted to reverse the two title sections because "Whisper to a Scream" is prominent in the chorus and it would help consumers identify the single in stores. Lastly, they wanted a slight remix of the song. In the original UK single, a woman's voice does a small spoken word part over the opening. The label wanted that gone. The band agreed to everything and it seemed to work out for them - well, at least for one song.  2) The band's unusual name came via a work by American sci-fi writer Frederik Pohl. Best known for his award-winning 1977 novel Gateway and its sequels, Pohl also was a magazine and book editor. He wrote many short stories and several were collected into books. It was his 1960 collection, The Man Who Ate the World that contained the story "The Day the Icicle Works Closed." It was that short that inspired the band's name.


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