FROM VINYL MAGAZINE, THE NETHERLANDS, spring 1982, p.20-22 [probably February or March]
by Harold Schellinckx*

Nick Nicely looks a bit lost as he sits there, slouched on a couch in the promo headquarters of EMI. Somebody happens to mention that his single, Hilly Fields (1982), made it into the tip parade in The Netherlands. Broad smile from Nick. Sip of coke. Cigarette. "Hilly Fields" is Nicks second single, and his first for EMI. A catchy, solid piece of work in the tradition of psychedelic Beatles songs like "Strawberry Fields" and "I am the Walrus".

"It's really just like the Beatles, don't you think?", Nick grins. " The strange thing is, I never used to like the Beatles' psychedelic stuff until I heard it again in '78 or '79 and discovered how fantastic and inspiring this music really is". Nick started to make music about five years ago, a bunch of demos on a 4track in his room. He managed to place them with a music publisher after some time. But since he didn't get any further than that, he decided to release something on record himself. "It was a really strange time, nobody believed in me, they thought I was a little weird. So I arranged with a studio technician who was a friend of mine that I could use the studio at night. It was very exciting, I had to sneak in and find out how everything worked myself, and then get out again before six in the morning, when the cleaners came." Nick releases the songs he recorded in that period, "DCT Dreams" and "Treeline", on his own label, Voxette Records. Later, the single gets a wider release by the German Hansa label. Proof for Nick that he's on the right track. Also DCT Dreams and Treeline show Nicks interest for psychedelic pop, daydreams, Alice-in-wonderland-music. "Far from the shore/ Tresillian skies/DCT dreams/with marmelade eyes". "DCT doesn't really mean anything, for me it has a lot of meanings. It could mean anything.... and basically, all my songs are about drugs. When I was recording, I had all the lyrics except the line "DCT dreams". And when I started singing, "DCT dreams" came up all by itself, I didn't have to think about it. It fitted perfectly, and I immediately knew that it had to be the title".


After the modest success of DCT Dreams, Hansa gives Nick two days recording time in a studio. He starts recording a new song, and then presents the result of those two days to Hansa. "Hansa didn't like it one bit. Not surprising, if you consider how much production time and work I need to make a song sound the way I want it. I really believed in it, but they couldn't find anything interesting in this rough mix, and decided not to spend any money on it. I then borrowed some money and sold part of my equipment, and worked an additional six months on the song to finish it, and then EMI released it". Hilly Fields is a large park in South London, close to where I live. It's a beautiful place. And the area where I live still retains a lot of the atmosphere of the 1890s - all late Victorian houses, really wonderful. All the songs I wrote are situated in this part of London, Brockley. And Hilly Fields... I used to go there a lot in various stages of high, stoned, tripping, and that's where the song comes from. It's about someone who goes to hilly Fields and then disappears.... and that someone could very well be me, tripping out".
[VINYL:] Why do you specifically name the 18th of July in the lyrics?
[NN:] "Ahhhhhh... that was a fan-tas-tic day we spent on Hilly was really hot.... and '1892, the lines are still on you' means it still looks like 1892. I have a lot of photos and drawings of Hilly Fileds from that time at home. I'm also fascinated by impressionist painters, and if you look at the sleeve... it has a picture of a girl, and she's taking a photo with a special lens that makes the photo look like a painting ... like an impressionist painting, and that's why I wanted this photo on the sleeve. Around 1890, a lot of impressionist painters came from France to England, and they worked a lot in South London. Although I don't think they painted Hilly Fields. But the atmosphere... for me, it all fitted exactly, the 1890-ish photo, the music... it was a lot of fun to do."


[VINYL:] The big charm of Nicks music is the amount of time, trouble and ingenuity he invests in the arrangement. A way of working that undoubtedly brings benefits. But also an extremely costly one, if you mostly work alone.

[NN:] "Exactly, and that's the problem I'm having with EMI at this moment. When I start recording, I know that I'll need weeks to finish it. And they give me four days for three songs. Of couse I don't finish even one of them, all I produce is rough demos, and then they listen to it and say ‘Well Nick, that's not very good! Why not try something else'. They won't let me work on the songs. They are so damned stupid. I think that, also in this case, there is no other option but to invest some of my own money again. Unless Hilly Fields becomes a hit in The Netherlands. Ahhh, Holland..... I love Holland. A few years ago, I had some friends in Utrecht. I did some ‘silly stoned jingles'for a radio station. Do you know that it was in Utrecht where I got into touch with drugs for the first time? It was a fan-tas-tic time... we went to this lovely park. Totally cool.... it was really hot. I lost all contact with those people. I wonder what they're doing nowadays. They're probably a bunch of boring doctors or something."


[VINYL:] As we are walking through EMI headquarters, looking for a copy of the single, Nick continues to grumble at ‘the company'.
[NN] "Everything has to be done on the cheap, and they are doing everything wrong. They're too stingy to spend a couple of pounds on a decent sleeve. But for me, it's the only way to do something that looks like what I want to do. I suppose all I can do is hope for the best."
A promo guy hands me a picture of Nick. Nick roars with laughter. "Terrible, isn't it? I look like a convict. And look! Same jacket. I can't afford anything else.". [VINYL:] I point out my own worn jacket to Nick, which I bought at a flea market some years ago for 10 guilders. "Ha!", he says, "that's nothing! Mine cost only one." I've met my match. I'm starting to like Nick Nicely. "What do you think?", he finally asks, "is it wise to mention that I'm doing a lot of drugs these days? It could be bad for my image". We agree that we will not mention drugs anymore as soon as his singles hit the Top 10. Until then, it can't really hurt, we decide.   And a hit, well, he's certainly welcome to it as far as we're concerned. It would be a great change from what's usually in the charts. Who knows, the Tip Parade is a start.

As I walk down sunny Oxford street, I find myself humming Nicks song. "Hilly Fields, 1892, lives in me and you...". Depression? What depression? Stretched out in the sun, in the park, eyes closed, smoking a big joint... "Hilly Fields, 18th of July, Hilly Fields, 1892..."- the perfect scenario for a careless summer in 1982.  

*WEBMASTER NOTE: I couldn't track any copyright owners down – the mag doesn't exist anymore. If you somehow think you have copyright to this text, please drop me a line through the email link on the main page


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