Belfast Book Festival


Carpet Burns |  My Life with the Inspiral Carpets – Tom Hingley

Belfast Book Festival | The Black Box 08 June ’15

Tom Hingley was the lead singer with the Inspiral Carpets through their halcyon days in the Madchester Era. Tom read from Carpet Burns: My Life with Inspiral Carpets, a book chronicling his career as a musician, and played an acoustic set of Inspiral Carpet classics, along with material from his solo albums.

He left Oxford for Manchester thinking he had a better chance of joining a Band. He and some friends formed a band called Too Much Texas, supporting New Order at the Hacienda. They also supported the Inspiral Carpets at the time Steve Holt left the band; Tom later auditioned for the singer’s role and got the part.

Tom son of an Oxford Don, didn’t quite fit in with the working class ethos of the Madchester Scene, and this detachment is evident throughout the book. It is written as if viewed from the outside, as opposed to an internal account of the bands dynamic, though this may also reflect Tom’s respect for his estranged friends.

The book is not a Mark E Smith style castigation of band members; it attempts to demystify the rock and roll myth, taking a look under the bonnet and candidly exploring the mechanics of what went wrong. Tom speaks warmly of the happiest days of his life with the band, and in some ways the book is a celebration of this. The Hacienda period included a number of bands that defined the British Indie scene, including The Stone Roses, the Happy Mondays, the Inspiral Carpets and The Charlatans. He also finds it strange that current reflections upon the Hacienda music scene neglect the club’s gay origins.

Tom misses the band’s camaraderie and friendship rather than the gigs and adulation. When the Inspiral Carpets headlined Reading festival, his dad compared the audience reaction to a Mussolini speech in Rome. Tom feels this captures the ludicrous side of being on the fame bandwagon.

It clearly hurt Tom when he was sacked from the band, even more so when the band said he left of his own volition. He finds it hard to listen to Steve Holt singing his songs – songs he sang as opposed to penned- feeling Steve’s vocals are better suited to the band’s earlier garage sound. Tom is also aggrieved that the band forged his signature on Inspiral Carpets T-shirts.

A pre-Oasis Noel Gallagher was a roadie for the Inspiral Carpets, and inevitably crept into the conversation. Tom acknowledged his talent as a singer songwriter, but feels the Inspiral Carpets nurtured his talent with the bands open dynamic and the creative buzz they had at the time. He feels Noel wouldn’t have made it The Stone Roses due to the talented ego-centric nature of the band, and probably wouldn’t have made it in the Happy Mondays without engaging with heroin at some level. Tom recounted a story of Noel completing a written interview on behalf of the band, and when asked what the band’s favourite Happy Mondays song was, he quipped Gods Cop, the Smack-head remix, setting the gentile Sean Ryder on the warpath for Clint Boon.

Tom’s creative spell as an artist did not finish with his departure from the Inspiral Carpets, his solo set which included a number of inventive acoustic classics from the band’s huge back catalogue, as well as songs from his solo albums. His solo material is a mix of blues, punk, soul and ballsy rock and roll. The most striking feature of Tom’s performance, aside from his passionate driving vocals, is his percussive rhythms on acoustic guitar, giving the songs a bouncing funky feel.

Spending an evening with Tom Hingley is hugely enjoyable; clearly a talented musician who remains true to his art. He performed a phenomenal live set to an appreciative crowd in the Black Box, you wouldn’t imagine Tom would have given more to a packed Glastonbury.  His book reflects back on a golden period that defined British music, providing insight into a band that may have been in the shade of the Stone Roses and The Happy Mondays, but who clearly had their own unique sound, and a special place in the nation’s heart.

D. Twain

Click here to see the review on Culture Hub Magazine


Live Review – The Hop, Leeds

Tom Hingley

Former Inspiral Carpets’ frontman Tom Hingley treats a Leeds crowd – and Sean Hornby – to a powerful and melancholy mix of the old and the new. Review for Louder Than War

As the years have gone by the days of watching Harry Secombe warbling his way through an episode of Highway are semi-erased from my psyche. These days Sunday night is the new Friday night. What better way to spend it than in the company of one of the finest singer songwriters/front men of a certain generation? Tom Hingley returned to Leeds, this time to The Hop. The venue opened in 2010, sister to the Wakefield and Sheffield venues of the same name. An intimate enough haunt in a prime location near the train station, serving a fine selection of real ale to whet your appetite, lager if you like that fizzy stuff and food if you’re peckish. A Sunday night gig is always (in my humble opinion) an excellent way to start the week.

Some might say the past few years have been a difficult period for the former Inspiral Carpets frontman. The reasons for his ousting from the band are still unclear. His heart-on-sleeve biography Carpet Burns portrayed him as the outsider in his own band. An emotive read and, particularly in the latter stages, a difficult one. With Tom out and original frontman Stephen Holt back into the fold tensions ran high. As a fan it seemed that you were obliged to either be in CampHingley or CampHolt, although some rather diplomatic fans actually had/have a foot in both. Thankfully, the caustic tension – especially when it came to online fans – appears to have abated. As is so often the case in the world of music, it’s already old news.

His 2011 appearance at Cavfest with several members of James performing tracks by both bands was memorable for all the right reasons. His continued support of charities like Shelter reveals a conscience for often misunderstood and overlooked social groups. And everyone loves a grafter right? An underdog you say? Pfft, as if…

Tom recently announced he’d recorded two brand new albums – Sand and Paper – released via Pledgemusic. The pledge targets were duly smashed in a very short space of time, demonstrating there is still much love for the now grizzled Oxford musician. But I’d be hard pressed to describe the Leeds gig as a tour date in support of the new albums. He’s played Leeds many a time down the years but the circumstances have changed somewhat with this release of new material. Sure, fans will always still want to hear the old Inspirals’ hits but Tom has released enough solo LPs to stand on his own merit. Indeed, one of his finest moments is All the Good Things from his solo Thames Valley Delta Blues album.

Starting with the sublime Leaving it All Behind the high standard is set for the evening ahead. By its title alone its melancholy in nature and drifts along in a wistful manner reflecting upon Tom’s journey through life. Biblical references are dropped in although thankfully without him coming across as a misguided preacher man – ‘when your life isn’t yours, and you’re closing too many doors, when the river isn’t flowing your way, and your heart is drifting away, leave it all behind’.

It’s a stunning song that really displays his writing talent, rapturously  received and powerful enough to stop the chatterers in the audience mid-flow.

Nobody’s Friend swiftly follows, another touching song perhaps reflecting upon the people that come and go in your life – ‘you can’t be everyone’s friend, try to be everyone’s friend, you can’t be anyone’s friend, anyone’s friend’. Another Hingley classic – sad, wise, something we can perhaps all relate to.

Throughout the night Tom is as chatty as ever and receptive to the audience, dropping in amusing and poignant anecdotes. As a blues musician he’s no BB King (for obvious reasons!) but his own interpretation of the genre is sincere enough, his guitar battered but clearly well loved.

The short set includes a handful of songs from earlier solo albums before concluding with a couple of well-known Inspirals tracks. Saturn 5 sounds just as good stripped back to the bare bones and This is How it Feels brought one attendee to the brink of ecstasy. Speaking to her after the show she commented that the song had been the soundtrack to her youth – those of a similar age will certainly know where she’s coming from. Tom appeared to enjoy playing the classics but the evening was not all about nostalgia. It’s certainly okay to look behind you once in a while but don’t get too caught up in the past otherwise you’ll find yourself stuck in a time you can never truly replicate. Tom appears to hold this value close to him, perhaps more so now than ever.

This performance really demonstrated how Tom was never just the singer in another Manchester band and how as a solo artist he deserves to stand alongside the likes of Lou Barlow and Bob Mould. It’s a testament to his voice, songwriting and warm and affable character that his fans haven’t lost faith in him.

Whether he’s the flavour of the month or not I firmly believe Tom Hingley will be creating music for a long time ahead. Who needs reunions anyway? Get yourself along to one of his shows, speak to the man, follow him on Twitter and continue to support ‘proper live music’.

See review on Louder Than War website.

Click here for a review of Tom’s albums Sand and Paper.


Sand and Paper CD review – Louder Than War

Tom Hingley Albums

Stuart Ralston gets stuck into two solo releases from Inspiral Carpets former front man Tom Hingley – solo and full band – they’re both very special. Reviewed for Louder Than War.

November saw the release of not one but two albums from Tom Hingley. His third solo acoustic LP  – Sand  – is out now as is Paper, a compilation that brings together full band versions of his new songs with alternate takes and remixes.

Signaling a new beginning for Tom on more than one level, this acoustic long player is the follow up to 2009′s Thames Valley Delta Blues. Continuing in the same vein as its predecessor, we are treated to nine new solo compositions from the former Inspiral Carpets front man.

Heavily influenced by the birth of his daughter at the start of the year, an emotional Tom delivers a set of songs he can be proud of. A pounding baby’s heartbeat on Sand’s cathartic opener Leaving It All Behind is augmented beautifully by Pete Whitfield’s strings. He then showcases his ever-powerful voice on Soul High and Sometimes I Talk To The House before there is a change of style to the blues-y Dog Suit in which he features on banjo. Live favourite Landfill laments the inevitability of life but manages to stay upbeat. Tom is still unafraid of voicing his hatred of the current government and does so on the thought provoking New Slums before attacking contemporary pop culture on Suckcess. Cool slows the pace down a little before Nobody’s Friend (again featuring Whitfield’s superb string arrangements) ends the acoustic album. A fine collection of songs that is light years away from his Inspirals work and, for me, his best solo album to date. Credit also to Hingley’s co-producer and engineer Gary Hadfield.

Paper features long-time collaborators Kelly Wood, Steve Hanley, Paul Hanley and – for the first time – Blair Murray (Twisted Wheel).

Rather than simply replicating the solo album, a majority of these songs are complete reworkings. The opening four tracks see Tom perform as a trio with The Fall legend Steve Hanley and drummer Blair Murray reinterpreting Suckcess, Nobody’s Friend, Soul High and Landfill.

Nobody’s Friend has a Lennonesque vibe and Landfill features some ace guitar work from Tom with a touch of Lydon on his vocals too. Steve’s bass has never sounded better. He certainly can’t be accused of going through the motions and on this he augments the songs superbly, often taking lead bass. Over the two albums, this quartet of tracks are the real highlight.

Tom may famously be on a never ending acoustic tour but his partners here work incredibly well together and it would be a real shame if the three of them don’t get together to take these songs on the road.

Kelly Wood joins the trio on Leave It All Behind and we almost have a Lovers reunion. Dog Suit sees Tom reunited with the Hanley brothers to great effect. The album ends with alternate takes and mellow remixes of Nobody’s Friend and Leave It All Behind.

Sand cements Tom’s reputation as an accomplished singer/songwriter whilst Paper showcases Tom the frontman, although given the solid contributions from his friends and family, it’s a  real team effort. Paper may be the junior partner here but it’s a superb album in its own right and must not be overlooked.

The long wait for new material was worth it.

See review on Louder Than War website

By the CDs here


Tom performs ‘Leaving It All Behind’ at Deer Shed Festival on 21.07.13.

A review of the festival Q&A session in The Northern Line.

‘A question and answer session between TOM HINGLEY (former singer with the Inspiral Carpets) and DAVE SIMPSON (Author and journalist from the Guardian). This event drew a huge crowd showing that Tom’s claims that the Inspirals were a great band are true. They had number one albums, they sold out arenas, they were part of the Holy Madchester Trinity. Yet their place in pop history seems to be as the band a certain Noel Gallagher roadied for. This is very unfair as Tom points out. He also reminds us that on this very day 23 years ago his band had sold out the GMEX Centre in Manchester. I was there and at the time they were one of the biggest bands on the planet. Time may not have been kind to their legacy and the fact they have re-formed without their lead singer probably doesn’t help. Tom, at times, does seem a little bitter but always stops short of being too critical. After the talk, which was excellent, he performs a few tunes. He does 3 or 4 Inspirals hits which go down a storm. What I took away was a yearning to listen to “Life”, the superb debut from 1990, and a thought that my time machine had only managed to move two years!!!’

Tom Reviews Life (Extended Edition)

Signed inlay Life Extended

In 2011 I was ejected from Inspiral Carpets, a band for whom I had sung, composed and recorded with over a twenty-two year period. I had joined the Inspirals in February 1989, four months after their first lead-singer, Stephen Holt, had left. I hit the ground running by helping to promote the band’s first 2 EPs, Plane Crash and Trainsurfing, which Holt had supplied the vocals to. We then recorded the Life album, which reached No. 2 in the UK charts in April 1990, kept off the No. 1 spot by a heavily TV-advertised compilation by The Carpenters.

In 2013 my ex-bandmates and EMI Records re-issued the debut album Life in an extended format (imaginatively titled Life: Extended Edition), encompassing the songs from the original album plus pre-Hingley tracks taken from the band’s 1988 John Peel session and the two EPs: Plane Crash and Trainsurfing. The repackaged album also includes a DVD of our seminal gig at Manchester’s GMEX centre, 21790.

Relations between my former bandmates and myself had become so poor that the reissue was put together without my involvement (and without me even knowing about it until it was announced publicly), despite my contribution to the original material i.e., lead vocals and co-writer on the Life album and accompanying live performance DVD.

The new record credits the 13 original album songs as having been sung by me. There are then a further 13 extra tracks sung by Stephen Holt, which were not originally on the (1990 release) Life album, and do not therefore represent material from the era of that record. With this in mind, this album isn’t so much Life: Extended Edition as Life: Re-imagined.

No serious claims towards the inclusion of the pre-Life tracks on the basis of them being collectable for the completist record buying fan stand much scrutiny, with the majority of the Holt-era tracks having already received an airing on the 2003 Cool As…  compilation disc, Rare As… Plus, to my ears, mixing material from the two different vocalists makes for a messy, incoherent feel and sound to the record. Given that Stephen Holt returned to the band after I was ejected, it seems to me that Life: Extended is an attempt to re-invent the album to suggest greater involvement by the departed Holt. I’m not for one second suggesting that Holt didn’t play an important part in the early days of the band, but this didn’t stretch to the Life album, which is why you won’t find mention of him in the original album sleeve notes.

The genuine highpoint of this reissue, and worthy due to its relation to the Life album, is surely the 21790 DVD – spectacular footage recorded during our triumphant hometown gig at the GMEX in July 1990. This performance is stunning and it signifies what Inspiral Carpets represented when I was one fifth of that classic line-up: romantic, drawn on a big scale, explosive, punk driven and inspired. The songs that I wrote, and that the other members wrote for me as their vocalist and muse, were made successful by all five members, through our individual and collective contributions.

In the early days, Inspiral Carpets were a good band who were on the gigging circuit, had built up a following and – like me before I joined them – recorded a Peel session, but the truth is they/we only became that mad pop mongrel, mixing the Garage elements with the Romance of soaring scales of ‘This is How It Feels’ when I was brought into the fold. And that’s not, by any means, to take all of the credit for our commercial success, but to recognise the five of us that were in the band when it enjoyed its heyday.

There is a footnote in the artwork for Life: Extended Edition stating that the line-up of the band features Stephen Holt, but no mention of myself – whilst this may be true of the current time, it’s certainly not true of the Life album line-up. With this in mind, I can’t help but feel that my former bandmates have gone some way to consciously airbrush me out of the band’s long, medium and recent history.

There is an image in Milan Kundura’s novel The Book of Laughter and Forgetting where a Communist leader is airbrushed out of a propaganda photo after falling out of favour with the men in charge. Ironically his hat, which he passed to his friend, still remained in the photograph for posterity:

 In February 1948, the Communist leader Klement Gottwald stepped out on the balcony of a Baroque palace in Prague to harangue hundreds of thousands of citizens massed in Old Town Square. That was a great turning point in the history of Bohemia. A fateful moment of the kind that occurs only once or twice a millennium.

Gottwald was flanked by his comrades, with Clementis standing close to him. It was snowing and cold, and Gottwald was bareheaded. Bursting with solicitude, Clementis took off his fur hat and set it on Gottwald’s head.

The propaganda section made hundreds of thousands of copies of the photograph taken on the balcony where Gottwald, in a fur hat and surrounded by his comrades, spoke to the people. On that balcony the history of Communist Bohemia began. Every child knew that photograph, from seeing it on posters and in schoolbooks and museums.

 Four years later, Clementis was charged with treason and hanged. The propaganda section immediately made him vanish from history and, of course, from all photographs. Ever since, Gottwald has been alone on the balcony. Where Clementis stood, there is only the bare palace wall. Nothing remains of Clementis but the fur hat on Gottwald’s head.

 With this in mind, I feel like I’ve left my hat on the Inspirals tour bus!

Tom Hingley


Gig Review – York


THE homely surroundings of The Fulford Arms on a Saturday evening was the perfect setting for former Inspiral Carpets frontman Tom Hingley’s solo acoustic show.

It may have been sub-zero outside but Tom, with only a guitar, a beard and a largely appreciative audience, managed to create a very cosy glow.

In a preview I wrote for the gig last week I told fans not to expect too much from the Inspiral Carpets’ back catalogue.

I was proved wrong right from the outset when Tom took the brave decision to open up with guaranteed crowd pleaser Saturn Five, followed by This Is How it Feels and three other Inspiral classics.

The power of the performance comes from Hingley’s voice, which appears to have increased in range over the years and is startlingly acrobatic.

That’s not to take anything away from his guitar playing – indeed his ability to bash out some of the dirtiest delta blues this side of Salford was the biggest revelation of the night and served as tempting showcase to his last solo album, Thames Valley Delta Blues.

Hingley put on a non-stop show of almost two hours, engaging his audience and leaving everyone wondering what he would pull out of the bag for his next trick.

As a massive Inspiral Carpets fan, I was thrilled when, after the show, the man himself took a seat next to my fianceé and I and, without coaxing, gave us his views on everything from UKIP to the modern music industry and even spilled the beans on his ups and downs with his former Inspiral bandmates. Why can’t all gigs be like this?

Review written by Richard Catton for The York Press