Singer reveals story of his life in the Inspiral Carpets

Tom Hingley. Photo Ian Robinson
Tom Hingley. Photo Ian Robinson
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In his new book former frontman Tom Hingley talks about his life with the Inspiral Carpets and the ‘Madchester’ era. He talks to Chris Bond.

BY the end of the 1980s, British rock and pop music had reached its nadir.

The innovation and experimentation that marked the beginning of the decade had given way to a dull cacophony of mediocrity.

But just as it seemed we were disappearing into the sonic mire, stirrings of a new sound started to reverberate across the country from its epicentre in Manchester.

The ensuing “Madchester” scene that revolved around raves, Factory Records and the Hacienda, has become part of our cultural folklore.

But of the so-called “Holy Triumvirate” that rescued British pop, the Inspiral Carpets have somehow been squeezed out of the picture.

Perhaps it was an image thing, for while The Stone Roses and The Happy Mondays had the swagger and velocity, the Inspiral Carpets seemed more like a collection of bad haircuts united by musical talent. But part of their charm was the fact they weren’t cool and when it comes to music their output far outweighed that of their rivals.

Over a four year period from 1990, the Inspiral Carpets produced four albums including their debut Life, which reached number two in the charts, as well as a string of great songs including Dragging Me Down, Two Worlds Collide and their shoegazing anthem – This Is How It Feels.

Despite this the band has been pushed into the margins of the story about the Manchester scene, which is one of the reasons why former frontman Tom Hingley decided to write about his time with the band and the people and players who made it happen. “I felt the Inspiral Carpets were being airbrushed out of the story by lazy journalism,” he says.

“If you watch 24-Hour Party People there’s almost no reference to us at all. Nobody else was coming forward to tell our story, the story of one of the best and most fascinating bands I think this country has produced. So I thought if someone’s going to do it, why not me?”

Carpet Burns, My life with Inspiral Carpets, is his account of being in a band caught in the eye of a cultural storm, but it’s also about his own story, charting his unlikely journey from rural Oxfordshire to becoming a pop star.

Hingley, who will be at the Morley Literature Festival next month, was the youngest of seven children. His father was a renowned Oxford University don who translated works by Chekhov and Solzhenitsyn, but it was music, rather than literature, that he turned to and after watching Ian Dury and the Blockheads play in 1977 he set out to become a musician.

He moved to Manchester in the 80s to study English at the former Polytechnic and got a job working at the Hacienda. By this time he had formed a band, Too Much Texas, and in February 1989, he joined the Inspiral Carpets. His book charts the band’s rise and offers an intriguing glimpse into the music business at the time and what happens when the hits start to dry up and the arguments kick in.

Since leaving the band last year he has concentrated on writing his book and touring as a solo artist with his band The Lovers.

“It doesn’t pay as well but I really enjoy it,” he says.

Tom Hingley is appearing at the Morley Literature Festival on October 7. For more information visit www.morleyliteraturefestival.co.uk

Carpet Burns, published by Route, is out now priced £12.99.

Tom Hingley: This is how it feels

Tom Hingley was born in Abingdon, Oxford, the youngest of seven children.

His father, Ronald, was a don at St Antony’s College, Oxford, who translated Chekhov’s entire works 
for the Oxford University Press.

Tom studied English at Manchester Polytechnic in 
the mid-80s and formed a band, Too Much Texas.

He joined the Inspiral Carpets as lead singer in 1989 and left last year.

He is a visiting lecturer at Salford University and tours as a solo artist and with his band The Lovers.

Carpet Burns was published in July.