In the New Wave scene, Fiction Factory’s “(Feels Like) Heaven” remains one of the most distinguishable and loved among the genre’s enthusiasts. Unfortunately, its massive popularity eclipsed the band’s other equally lovable tracks, even making many journalists and casual listeners dismiss Fiction Factory as a one-hit wonder. What a shame!
Formed in 1983, in Perth, Scotland, Fiction Factory was Kevin Patterson (vocals), Eddie Jordan (keyboards), Grant Taylor (trumpet), Chic Medley (guitar), Graham McGregor (bass), and Mike Ogletree (drums/percussion). The album where their most popular song came from was Throw the Warped Wheel Out, also the Scottish band’s debut offering.
Released in 1984, via Columbia Records, Throw the Warped Wheel Out opened straightaway with the pristine and precious gem “(Feels Like) Heaven,” whose first-four keyboard notes were enough a signature that made the song easily recognizable. This was followed by the big bass thumps and synth-drenched sway of “Heart and Mind.” The ensuing “Panic” was among the album’s New Romantic ballads, whose Medley’s cyclical guitar ad-lib, Jordan’s sparkling keyboard lines, McGregor’s bouncing bass parts, Ogletree’s subtly syncopated drum beats, Taylor’s trumpet interlude, and Patterson’s snowy baritone and timbre and yearning yelps were the ingredients that comprised Fiction Factory’s trademark sound. The narrative then continued with the slow buildup of the melodramatic “The Hanging Gardens.”
Fiction Factory then returned the listener once again to the center of the dancefloor of many an ’80s promenade nights as “All or Nothing” played next—a showcase of Patterson’s low vocal register and high-pitched voice reminiscent of that of the mighty and legendary David Bowie (“China Girl”) and fellow Post-Punk New Wave luminaries such as Andy Overall of Blue Zoo (“Love Moves in Strange Ways”), Paul Simpson of The Wild Swans (“Whirlpool Heart”) and Care (“Whatever Possessed You”), Adrian Borland of The Sound (“Total Recall”), Cy Curnin of The Fixx (“Red Skies”), and Stephen Fellows of The Comsat Angels (“You Move Me”).
The mid-album track, “Hit the Mark” was a game changer with its steely percussive elements and Worldbeat sensibilities. Another shift in style came next with the Gothic gloom and slightly funky guitar strums and bass lines of “Ghost of Love.” Patterson and the rest of Fiction Factory then turned poignant again with the consecutive mid-tempo tracks, “Tales of Tears” and “The First Step,” dimming the lights and merging teenage bodies into one as the mirror ball spun more slowly than usual.
Finally, Fiction Factory finished off their debut album with the graceful and classy sentiments of “The Warped Wheel,” which prominently featured the bubbling bass slaps of McGregor and the ornate synthesizer arrangement of Jordan.
Thirty-five years later, Throw the Warped Wheel Out has truly earned its right to belong to the treasure chest of classic ’80s New Wave gems. Its finesse and beauty simply continued with the band’s sophomore album released the year that followed, but that was for another story. For the meantime, spin Fiction Factory’s wheel of time once again back to the heyday of this kind of music.