Band members Related acts
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- Nickey Barclay -- vocals, keyboards
supporting muciains (1976)
- Bugs Pemberton (RIP 2013) -- drums, percussion
- Jeffrey Rich -- bass
- Waddy Wahctel -- lead guitar
- Fanny (Nickey Barclay)
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title: Diamonds In a Junkyard
Company: Ariola America
Country/State: Washington, D.C.
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Catalog ID: 3184
After her 1974 departure from Fanny, singer/keyboardist Nickey Barclay slid into a solo career. Signed by the newly formed Ariola America label, Barclay's 1976 debut "Diamonds In a Junkyard" teamed her with producer Keith Olsen. Anyone expecting to hear a Fanny-styled collection of rockers was likely to be surprised by Barclay's debut. I certainly was. For starters, stripped from the need to show her tough rock chick credentials, on material like the title track, 'What You're Doing To Me', and 'Lonely Days' Barclay displayed a far more mainstream and commercial orientation. I'm not going to try to convince you this was a classic album. Barclay was clearly testing her new found artistic freedom, taking stabs at a number of interesting genres including country ('Shine'), Jimmy Buffett-styled Carribbean ('You Can't Love Somebody'), New Orleans funky ('Bad Boy'), and even top-40 pop (the glorious 'Lonely Days'). Not all of them were successful, but you couldn't blame her for wanting to try different things while searching for an audience. The biggest surprise remained her voice - warm and gritty, to my ears she sounded like a cross between Carole King and Bonnie Raitt. The album also benefited from sympathetic production from Olsen and a first-rate band in the form of drummer Bugs Pemberton, bassist Jeffrey Rich, and guitarist Waddy Wachtel.
Maybe not in the same class as the best of Fanny's catalog ("Charity Ball" comes to mind), but on a song-for-song basis this was a sterling debut. You had to wonder what would have happened had she been given a shot at a second album.
In a Junkyard" track listing:
1.) Diamonds In a Junkyard (Nickey Barclay - Bill Schwartz) - 4:24 rating: **** stars
Given she was always the Fanny member seemingly trying to portray herself as the toughest of the crowd, the title track surprised me in terms of how pop-oriented and commercial it was. Sounding a bit like something Leon Russell might have tossed off in the mid-'70s, it was also a nice framework for showing off her slightly gruff voice.
2.) Fairweather Friend (Nickey Barclay) - 2:09 rating: ** stars
Employing a sad, little girl voice ensured the ballad 'Fairweather Friend' wasn't one of the most uplifting songs you've ever encountered. The heavy orchestration didn't help the song either.
3.) Lonely Days (Nickey Barclay) - 2:45 rating: **** stars
Ever hear one of those songs that was instant ear candy? Well, I'd suggest 'Lonely Days' was such a creature. Hearing this one you had to wonder why Fanny never recorded something as pop-ready. You also had to wonder how mid-'70s radio managed to miss this great track. Waddy Wachtel's solo was sizzling and the backing vocals were pure top-40 magic. At least the song was tapped as a UK single:
- 1976's 'Lonely Days' b/w 'Fairweather Friend' (Ariola American catalog number AA 104)
4.) Turn On the Light (Nickey Barclay) - 2:45 rating: *** stars
Built on a nice country-rock melody, 'Turn On the Light' has always reminded me a touch of something out of Bonnie Raitt's catalog. Like Raitt, she shared an attractively husky voice. This was another song sporting some nice Wahctel lead guitar.
5.) Baby Don't Let It Mess Your Mind (Neil Sedaka - Phil Cody) - 3:31 rating: ** stars
I'm guessing Barclay was a little short of original material when she recorded the album and with Neil Sedaka enjoying a massive mid-'70s comeback, I can see why someone might have suggested this song. Shame since it was overly sincere schlock.
6.) What You're Doing To Me (Nickey Barclay - Keith Olsen) - 3:02 rating: **** stars
The Meters would have approved of the funky opening ... Another effortlessly commercial tune that made you wonder where these tunes had been a couple of years earlier when she was flying the Fanny flag.
1.) You Can't Love Somebody (Nickey Barclay - Richie Zito - Joey Carbone) - 3:53 rating: *** stars
With the possible exception of Jimmy Buffett (who's made a career out of it), usually when a singer taps into a Caribbean rhythm the results are abysmal. Co-written with Richie Zito and Joey Carbone, 'You Can't Love Somebody' was one of those rare exceptions to the rule. Nah, it wasn't a great song, but Barclay's voice sounded quite good and the chorus was top-40 ready.
2.) Shine (Nickey Barclay) - 3:56 rating: ** stars
Hum, anything opening up with pedal steel guitar is liable to rub me the wrong way and that was certainly the case with the country-tinged ballad 'Shine'. Barclay certainly sounded nice and the big chorus was sweet, but it just wasn't my genre of choice.
3.) Mountains of Madness (Nickey Barclay) - 3:21 rating: *** stars
Opening up with some tasty keyboards, 'Mountains of Madness' was the album's most conventional rocker. Based on the disturbing lyrics you also had to hope it wasn't an autobiographic tale.
4.) Bad Boy (Nickey Barclay) - 2:59 rating: *** stars
With a New Orlean-tinged funk melody, you can only think that Allen Toussaint would have loved 'Bad Boy'.
5.) Didn't I (Nickey Barclay) - 3:56 rating: *** stars
''Didn't I' was a conventional ballad, but again served to showcase Barclay's surprisingly effective voice. I would have given it an extra star were it not for the intrusive orchestration.
Not sure if if came before, or after the album, but Ariola America also released one non-LP, dance-tinged promotional single, before dropping her:
- 1976's 'That's the Kind of Love I've Got for You' (mono) b/w 'That's the Kind of Love I've Got for You' stereo) (Ariola America catalog number P 7642)
And that was it for Barclay's solo recording career. She apparently toured in support of the album,, including forming the short lived Nicole Barclay Band (featuring guitarist Dave Ball), before retiring from music. I believe she's now living in the Ireland, or the UK where she's returned to music, though under a different identity. Since she values her privacy, I'll refrain from posting a link to her current on-line presence.
For anyone interested, I stumbled on kind of a career retrospective she submitted to the Fanny website: http://www.fannyrocks.com/the-way-it-was/nickey/
I'll take it down if someone has a problem with the material, but here's what Barclay had to say about her life:
Yes, it’s me. The mouthy one. The ‘difficult’ one. The one who’s been asked to contribute a few words to a dedicated Nickey page. See, I’m getting cooperative in my old age.
As usual, I’m not here to play nice, or to make false promises, or to be evasive – no surprise there! But Godmothers of Chick Rock is the only official Fanny site, the only one that guarantees to deliver the facts straight from the original four band members’ mouths, so it’s only fitting that the truth about what became of Nickey Barclay gets told here – by Nickey Barclay
No, I won’t be reuniting with the other members of Fanny, now or ever. I’ve moved on. I was always a very private person beneath the vivacious and often raunchy public persona, and that hasn’t changed; I’ve been well-nigh impossible to find for the better part of 25 years now, and flat-out unfindable for over fifteen of those. And that’s the way I want it. As Nickey, I did the job I came to do, and left when it was done. I left the front-line recording industry altogether at the end of the ’70s and spent the next twenty years gigging at ‘street level’ under the name I was born with (which has no connection to Nickey or the identity behind her), composing music for European television under various aliases, and mentoring several promising young musicians on a one-to-one basis.
I’m none of the following: dead (well duh), in jail, homeless, or on drugs …and time has been unreasonably kind to me. However, I pretty much stopped gigging after the turn of the century, due to a long-running chronic immune system disorder; that’s another reason why I won’t be joining any possible future Fanny reunions.
None of this changes the fact that I am and always will be proud of what we achieved in our history as a major label recording act. And you may as well know this, too: I was a prime mover behind the creation of this website. I suggested it last year to Byron, GoCR webmaster and Designated Keeper of the Flame, and I came up with the name Godmothers of Chick Rock; and he ran with it, digging into his own pocket to buy the domain name and create the site for sheer love of Fanny and our legacy. Alice has been there all the way, with both inspirational and real support, and has made those lovely GET BEHIND FANNY t-shirts possible. The three of us do most of the hands-on work, as it were – June and Jean are on board with us, of course, but the IMA (which I completely believe in and applaud, by the way) and other commitments mean that they’ve not yet had a chance to contribute to GoCR. I do hope they will in future, because it’s good and right that all four of us be heard from here.
A few years ago, the four of us were interviewed individually by journalist Nicole Blizzard for Technodyke online magazine. There’s a story behind that, and it goes like this: Nickey Barclay almost didn’t get interviewed at all, because no one had any idea how to find me. And in fact, I found them, by sheerest accident; a friend of mine had made a comment about ego-surfing, and in a fit of random curiosity I Googled “Nickey Barclay” – I’d been online for years, but the thought of looking up that old, long-abandoned identity simply never occurred to me – and was astonished to find pages and pages of results. Intrigued, I went for a look-see at various sites (Metal Maidens and such) and was appalled at how much incorrect or plain spurious information there was out there about Fanny… and then I came upon one interesting, intelligent fan site… yes, it was Byron’s. So I emailed him to thank him for getting it right. And he replied, telling me that Rhino Records and the other three Fanny members had been trying to find me! And the rest is history.
…but back to that interview. It came as a shock to the system for me, because I really hadn’t thought about Fanny for many, many years (apart from a bizarre and disappointing incident in London at the start of the ’90s, when Brie tracked me down and we met up briefly…urgh). And because I saw the interview as an unexpected chance to set the record straight about how it was for me as a core member of Fanny all those years ago, I held nothing back. The trouble with unvarnished truth, though, is that it can play merry hell with the rose-tinted view of fans, and I’ve discovered since that a number of fans were upset to discover – through my honest replies to Nicole’s questions – that Fanny wasn’t the big happy family we seemed to be on stage. But. But. All that proves is that 1) we were human, and 2) we were very, very good at what we did. What we showed on stage WAS NOT FAKERY. Passion like that CANNOT be faked, and all four of us gave everything we had to our audiences and played to the best of our ability, every time, in every town, on every stage. So June and I never got along? That doesn’t matter. What does matter – the truer truth, if you will – is that our music got along, and what you all saw – the smiles, the laughter, the grinning asides – was a part of it, and therefore was the real thing.
So. No reunions, no apologies, but here I am and I’ll continue to contribute to the site. And I hope Fanny’s music lives on forever…
The Artist Formerly Known as Nickey
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