POP FOCUS: HAYSI FANTAYZEE
If Haysi Fantayzee had never released another record they would
have been assured of Pop immortality on the strength of their hard-to-forget
rendition of John Wayne Is Big Leggy on BBC TV's Top Of The Pops
in August 1982. The song, an alleged debate between John Wayne and
his squaw on how to solve the marital problem posed by the size
of his stomach, deliberately left the final detail of the solution
they arrived at blank in its lyric: "People kept saying we
were writing nonsense lyrics but we didn't explain anything because
if they knew it wouldn't get played." (Kate Garner), but when
Kate and her partner Jeremiah appeared live on 'Top Of The Pops'
the nation was left in no doubt whatever about the technique they
were suggesting the late cowboy employed in order to oblige his
squaw. "By the time people found out what it was about, it
was too late for the radio to stop playing it and too late for people
to stop buying it." (Jeremiah Healy).
In fact, John Wayne Is Big Leggy reached the edge of the British
Top 10 before drooping (sorry...DROPPING) down the chart and provided
a successful debut single for both Haysi Fantayzee and the newly
formed Regard record label. Above all, those TV appearances imprinted
the Haysi Fantayzee image quite indelibly upon the public consciousness.
Kate Garner and Jeremiah Healy were, for one reason or another,
the kind of people you just didn't forget in a hurry. Kate, all
slender exposed flesh and tarantula dreadlocks, and Jeremiah, the
Oliver Twist waif with snake hips and a leering invitation to commit
some kind of offence, presented an image like no Pop duo had ever
Add to this the fascination of a third 'mystery' member -Paul Caplin-
writing and playing all the music yet never appearing in publicity
shots (the one exception being the Holy Joe picture disc where he
completes the Unholy trio) and it is hardly surprising that Haysi
Fantayzee were everybody within the music business' tip for stardom
before they had done much more than pose for photographs.
Haysi Fantayzee were formed early in 1981 by model Kate and her
musician boyfriend Paul -at the time trying to get away from EMI
band Animal Magnet- with the idea of trying to draw together elements
of Pop, Reggae, Jazz, Disco, and Rap musical styles and packaging
the resulting stew with a strong individual image that got away
from the general blandness of the current music scene. At first
this image was intended to rely on Kate's obvious sexyness using
it, not in a coy way like all the other female singers, but openly
and unashamedly: "I like eating and drinking and I love sex.
I can't see what all the fuss is about. They're all perfectly natural
functions- people should enjoy sex instead of being afraid of it."
The game plan was that Paul would remain in the background with
Kate projected as the star, but it quickly became obvious that even
this was not enough to give their music a wide appeal.
Meeting up with Jeremy Healy provided the missing ingredient for
Haysi Fantayzee. Jeremy- soon to be Jeremiah- Healy was 19, seven
years younger than Kate and Paul and had been at school with none
other than George O'Dowd (himself soon to be Boy George, of course)
in South London and shared with ex-school chum George a strong interest
in fashion and aspirations to be a singer and star, not necessarily
in that order. With his white dread plaited hair and eccentric Hillbilly
style of dress, Jeremiah had his own individual visual impact and
his snake-like body provided a male mirror image of Kate which would
give Haysi Fantayzee universal sex appeal.
Through the second half of 1981 and the first half of 1982, the
trio began writing songs and, above all, establishing the Haysi
Fantayzee image from which all else including the music would take
its cue. Dressed as His and Hers dreadlocked Dickensian waifs (with
a touch of fetishism on the side) in clothes designed by Kate, Haysi
Fantayzee were getting features in the music press without having
played a note in public and the visual impact of the front duo was
fully exploited to obtain a recording contract.
Haysi Fantayzee are possibly the first recording artists in the
history of the industry to obtain a contract largely on the strength
of their impact on video rather than on the live stage or demo disc.
Shrewdly, producer/musical director Paul Caplin and manager Graham
Ball decided that Kate and Jeremiah had to be seen as well as heard
and made a low-budget video of the song Shiny Shiny and took that
round to the record companies along with a wad of publicity shots
rather than the conventional demo disc.
It was difficult to ignore the scantily-clad Kate or the gyrating
Jeremiah and several companies offered expensive studio time tryouts
in order to keep Haysi Fantayzee interested in signing for them.
The group took everything they were offered and held out for the
best deal to come along. Even a rumor that David Bowie had expressed
an interest in producing them failed to lure them into the arms
of a record company until, to the surprise of all, Haysi announced
that they had signed a deal not with one of the major lables interested
in them, but with a brand new company that had yet to release it's
first single- Regard.
For that first single the song John Wayne Is Big Leggy was chosen
as an 'A' side. Although widely thought to be a nonsense song, John
Wayne bore all the hallmarks of Haysi Fantayzee and, in particular,
it's lyric writer Jeremiah.
Above all it was fun and it was related to sex and also anti-Americanism
and anti-Hero worship. Anti-Americanisn and anti-hero worship being
Jeremiah's own special obsessions.
The direct inspiration for John Wayne the anti-tribute was the
book Hollywood Babylon by Kenneth Anger, which among other things,
revealed cowboy star John Wayne to have been a man of fairly extreme
right-wing and racist views. This, combined with the fact that John
Wayne figures as a hero for so many Americans, inspired Jeremiah
to write a song ridiculing America's hero as grotesquely as possible.
As expected, John Wayne was a hit and Regard were quick to follow
it with another Haysi single- Holy Joe- but, despite the momentum
of the first hit, an attractive picture disc, and a video, Holy
Joe failed to make any real impression on the charts. A failure
which critics were keen to attribute to a lack of musical substance
in the Super Image group but which Kate blamed on production rather
than any lack of original ideas. "We had a lot on the demo
of the single which was left out. We had lots of High Life guitar
which was chopped out."
Critics were soon silenced, however, when Haysi hit again with
their best song to date -Shiny Shiny- and proved that they were
capable of much more than one novelty song by making an LP of their
Without needing to rely too much on its (excellent) video, Shiny
Shiny repeated the success of John Wayne. Like the earlier song,
there was more to Shiny Shiny than the nursery rhyme chorus.
"'Shiny Shiny' is about the aftermath of the bomb dropping
but it's done in a very flippant way." (Kate Garner).
Such an attitude is typical. Haysi Fantayzee are mostly about having
fun and not worrying too much.
"There are too many people in this country moaning on about
things. It's time we started enjoying ourselves." (Kate Garner).
The spontaneous approach that characterises Haysi Fantayzee's lifestyle
and career is well ilustrated by Jeremiah's explanation of their
first album's apparently significant title.
"We were on a radio show and they asked us what our first
album was going to be called. I hadn't a clue but everybody was
looking at me for the answer. I had to come up with something very
Hence, the first Haysi Fantayzee album became BATLE HYMNS FOR CHILDREN
SINGING. What does it mean? Not even its inventor knows or cares.
And that's typical Haysi Fantayzee.
Haysi Fantayzee may not be stretching the borders of pop music
as an art form but they are having a lot of fun being pop stars
and doing their best to communicate some of that fun through their
music. An attitude perfectly summed up by Kate's comment on the
reaction to John Wayne Is Big Leggy during their first venture into
the America that made him its hero in December 1982.
"I don't think they really understood the words, but it was
good to see them happy."
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