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.