from Bucketfull of Brains 5, 1982 , pp 4-5


HILLY FIELDS is a beauty spot in Brockley/Ladywell, South London, a district now designated as a conservation area on account of its many late Victorian era houses. In 1888 Hily Fields was opened as a public park from whose heights one can see all across London and Kent. Despite the litter, dog crap etc. there’s something in the air, an atmosphere that’s ominous and other-worldly about the place.

‘Hilly Fields (1892)’ is also the name of 1982’s finest oddball single, a record described by the NME as ‘the best psychedelic record made since the ‘60s – multilayered, lovingly crafted and endlessly complex – it could come straight off ‘Magical Mystery Tour’’. Its perpetrator goes under the unlikely moniker of Nick Nicely, more of whom in a moment. ‘Hilly Fields’’ lyrics are strange, vague but basically relate to a supernatural event that took place there on the hill, the appearance of a UFO maybe or the disppearance of its hero into another dimension. Whatever, go out and buy the record (EMI 5256) and then breathe in its lyrics, its slim storyline as printed below. You’ll then be in the mood to acquaint yourself with Mr Nicely:


Mr C.G. Fields

Lost his job with the Board of Trade [fifteen tons of letters on my desk]

Walking through the fields

he saw things that made others afraid [into the fields] - afraid

YEAH - 1892 - lines are still on you

Hilly Fields

YEAH - 18th of July – someone in the sky

Hilly Fields

18th of July – marked it with a circle of red [...]

He left them all behind

filed under missing or dead [...] – it said

Yeah! 1892

lines are still on you

Hilly Fields

YEAH - 18th of July – someone in the sky

Hilly Fields – Hilly Fields

[Pimply little postboy]

yeah - 1982

lives in me and you

Hilly Fields


The biography that EMI sent me doesn’t reveal to much about Nick. Apparently he was born in Greenland when the plane his parents were traveling on stopped there during a transatlantic flight. He was raised in London though, and as you might have guessed, he spent his formative youth with his ear to to Radio Luxembourg and the sound of the Searchers, Hollies, Shadows, Crispian St Peters and Procul Harum. Surprisingly, he wasn’t particularly appreciative of the Beatles’ psychedelic era until the late 1970s. In person, Nick has something of the chameleon about him: “I like to change my appearance every two weeks!” Indeed on the day we met, had I not been expecting him I would have had to look twice: there wasn’t a trace of the ‘Sicilian hit man’ image or ‘post punk beat’ look that photos of him had suggested. And instead of the reserved intense young man I’d expected, over a few tonic waters he was expansive and only too willing to cast a little bit more light on his music.

Let’s get back to “Hilly Fields [1892]”: Nick regards it as his great masterpiece – “All the feeling I had for the 1960s went into it. Post ‘Hilly’ I lost interest in the Beatles. It started off fairly electronic, then the cellos, weird guitars etc were added, ... it was an incredible effort. There’s a reference to the Beach Boys’”God Only Knows” – the popping drum machine beat in the chorus”. The song was recorded towards the end of 1980 and took over six months to complete, during which time Nick sold practically all of his equipment to finance it, only an acoustic guitar remained! A few more clues: The C.G. (in “Mr C.G. Fields”) are Nicks dad’s initials, “18th of July was a good day very high on Hilly Fields which merited inclusion” (Nick) – the strange talking sounds in the middle of the record, e.g. “pimply little postboy”come from a tape of a girl, Kate Jackson, in the studio at the time of DCT Dreams recording her day into a tape recorder. “Hilly Fields” did receive an amount of radio airplay, but as Nick observes: “The drugs maybe gave the song a sinister edge which wasn’t quite Radio One day time listening”.


The flipside of this single is just as intriguing, as I mentioned last issue, especially the wide-eyed vocal style which recalls the spectre of Syd Barrett’s “See Emily Play” even better than Robyn “Soft Boy” Hichcock can. The song is further characterized by spiralling keyboards that sound akin to Dave Greenfield’s (The Stranglers), fragments of acid-style guitar (George Harrison’s best from Sgt Pepper) with snatches of weird dialogue a la “I am the Walrus” or a more evil “Hole in my Shoe” (Traffic). I asked Nick to elaborate a little: “The inspiration comes from a picture done by Gary G on the back of the Music Business Yearbook of a shark with a cigar sticking out of its mouth. The song was done in one (acid) trip; Rudi Pascal, a French guy – we learnt a lot from each other – had a conversation with a girl on the telephone whilst we were doing the recording and we put that on... all in all it was a fabulous day”. Well amen to that, it’s an incredible song === with a haunting melody, too, that has to be the sister to John Lennon’s epic “Tomorrow Never Knows”. I still can’t believe just how good this is – staggering!


But if you’re just beginning to think of Nick as an acid casualty, then prepare yourself to have your illusions shattered because he’s well and truly in tune with the current electronic pop boom. His debut single, “DCT Dreams” released (in the UK) independently in mid-1980 owes more of the debt to Kraftwerk or more quirky outfits such as Devo or the Flying Lizards than to mid 1960’s psycho pop music; there’s definitely a smattering of Orchestral Manoeuvres’ ‘Electricity’ about it too. However the lyrics are pure 1967 acid whimsy, real ‘Lucy in the Sky’ stuff. The line “DCT dreams with marmelade eyes” was apparently sent to Nick by God when he got to the relevant part of the song and didn’t know what to write next; no further explanation was proffered anyway!! The single’s B-side ‘Treeline’ was slightly more akin to the heady extremes of ‘Hilly Fields’. As Nick recalls: “I was really sold on the Beatles around the time of DCT Dreams" and ‘Treeline’ reflects this a lot more than its A-side, a pure transition of ‘Revolver’ era Lennon & McCartney to the 1980s, and how well it works, right down to the dependable Macca-style bass line, raga guitar notes, Yellow Submarine, odd Lennon talking bits and chorus of ‘You and I’. However the production and sound effects smack of contemporary technology, with layers of synths replacing any idea of a full orchestra or string quartet.


I couldn’t resist asking Nick about this, and about his opinion of current producers, such as this year’s favourite, Trevor Horn (Buggles, Dollar, ABC ad infinitum). He immediately launched into an enthusiastic discourse on the wonders of Fairlight Technology, i.e. the equipment which can sound like an 80 piece orchestra and which consequently got the goat of the Musicians Union. On producers, he admitted to being “upset by one fanzine’s suggestion that Trevor Horn’s influence ‘oozed out of ‘Hilly Fields (1892)’ like a coffee stain’" but countered this with a comment that “the end of ‘Video killed the Radio star” by the Buggles was “comparable to some of the best music ever made”. Well there has been talk of Horn doing a possible production job in the future, but then again Mike Mansfield (who did the chores on Captain Sensible’s smash “Happy Talk”) has also been mooted. The next Nicely record scheduled is “On the Coast” (which should be out by the time you read this). “ ‘On the Coast’ is from the second batch of material after Hilly, thus it’s schizophrenic, in part where I’m going, and in parts Hilly Fields is still with me.” On the strength of the first two, I can’t wait to hear it, and who knows it may well set the top 30 slight – ‘DCT Dreams’ did a respectable No. 32 in Holland!


All in all our lunchtime chat was a pleasure I’ve witnessed with few musicians. To finish off with I asked him about the possibility of some live appearances, and was amusedly informed of the Nick Nicely Band’s one and only gig of a few years ago when Nick (acoustic gtr) and two friends on electric guitar and bass played for the edification of a bunch of bankers; things had been going reasonably well until Nick told a crude joke that killed the atmosphere – and that was it, end of gig. Yet the future’s wide open for him and I can’t imagine that a man of his ingenuity and imagination won’t be wowing all of us on Top of the Pops in the next few months. It’s getting better all the time... for Mr Nicely.

PS: if you aren’t already on the way to the local record shop to acquire the above records, then let me just add that they both come in attractive pic.sleeves with photos by Tina Carr.

PPS: just as we were going to press, I received a letter from Nick, part of which is reprinted below: it’s a wonderfully cryptic note to be finishing on: “as for current developments EMI has resigned me. We decided that all my post-Hilly Fields stuff is crap, part of an extended hangover from it I think. I may be changing my name – Nick Nicely is Hilly Fields y’know. I don’t want to devalue him or it with any change of direction... anyway 2 more singles on EMI next year”.

NIGEL [Cross]


DCT Dreams/Treeline (Voxette 1001 / also on Hansa AHA 569)

Hilly Fields (1892) / 49 Cigars (EMI 5256)

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