After over 38 years in the music business – and with a credit list longer than both your arms – in 2009 Henry Priestman (having not sung since 1981!!) reinvented himself as a singer-songwriter, and released his debut solo CD “The Chronicles of Modern Life” (on legendary Island Records) to critical acclaim. Never one to rush things, 5 years later, in Feb 2014 Proper Records released the eagerly awaited follow-up entitled “The Last Mad Surge of Youth”, which garnered Henry the best reviews he’s had in his many years of releasing albums.
Both albums are the sound of a man who’s seen the music world explode from punk (his band Yachts supported the Sex Pistols in ’77, and The Who on European Tour in ‘79) via pop (three million albums with The Christians; a top five single for Mark Owen) through to the digital age (soundtracks for James Bond/Xbox, BBC’s Wildlife on One, Natural World), writing/production duties with the likes of singer/songwriters Amy Wadge, Lotte Mullan and 10cc’s Graham Gouldman (3 co-writes with Graham on his latest “Love and Work” album) and still has something worth singing about.
So in this age of genre’s, niches and “tribes”, where does Henry fit in? Amazon.com seem to think he’s folk (“Chronicles…” topped the Amazon “Folk and World” charts on it’s release), Radio 2’s Johnnie Walker described Henry’s new direction as “music for grumpy old men”, The Daily Mail said he is “a master of the rueful observation”, the late Robert Sandall in The Sunday Times called it “rough hewn charm“, and elsewhere the phrase “post-punk-folk-protest” has been bandied about.
Henry Priestman’s “got form,” his “previous” including Yachts (described in Gene Sculatti’s U.S. book The Catalog of Cool as “Cole Porter Punk”!), It’s Immaterial, The Christians (writing all songs on their 1987 triple-platinum debut), sharing a mic and a number one single with Paul McCartney, and composing the title song for London West End musical “Dreamboats and Petticoats”. To say nothing of a roll call of sessions for fellow North West luminaries including Lightning Seeds, Johnny Marr, Ian McCulloch, Pete Wylie, Ian McNabb and Echo & The Bunnymen, plus vocals on Jools Holland/Tom Jones’ 2004 CD.
Despite all the above typical trumpet-blowing biog bluster & twaddle, it’s actually since going solo that Henry feels he’s really found his feet, albeit in a cottage industry-type setting, existing virtually outside the music biz, happily releasing the odd bit of “merch”, and gigging almost constantly to a small but committed fanbase. He’s discovered a new found love of live work (mostly with his partner-in-crime “Loved- Up Les” Glover) mixing ramshackle chaos & tear-jerking poignancy in equal measure