The A Cappella Fella

I first saw the Flying Pickets at the Woolwich Tramshed in about 1982. They were supporting Lenny Henry and stole the show. Lenny did his funny voices and squawks, his Trevor McDonut skit, occasionally inviting the audience to shout “yeah!” at the top of their voices – you know, the same act as he does today. “The Pickets” went through their short card, performing every number with wit, charm and precision – Lenny’s act differed in just three ways.

A year or so later I met them in again in a photographic studio where they were being snapped for a spread in a newspaper, having made number 1 in the charts with “Only You”. Three things I remember very clearly: They all seemed very old indeed (probably in their late 30s), the lead singer was a rough-looking welshman, and they were all, to a man, very very charming indeed.  One of the more unlikely hits to come out of the post-punk confusion that was the early 80s and named after the National Union of Mineworkers (that’ll cheer you lot up) they had a couple of hit singles and a few albums and gathered a considerable following having introduced the country to a cappella – singing without the accompaniment of instruments (not to be confused with The Smiths who sang without the accompaniment of tune).

Well, the rough-looking Welsh lead singer died today. Brian Hibbard was 65 and had become a familiar face on tv , having made himself a very decent character actor. But I shall remember him as that rather scary looking bloke who, along with his weird-looking old mates, tramped into our studio one afternoon and got themselves photographed while singing “When You’re Young and in Love”.

Great sound. Nice blokes.

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