The Icicle Works

The Icicle Works are an English rock band led by guitarist–songwriter Ian McNabb. They emerged in Liverpool’s post-punk scene and released four albums between 1984 and 1988 on Beggars Banquet. Their self-titled first album spawned the UK hit “Love Is a Wonderful Colour” and the transatlantic staple “Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream).”

Members: Ian McNabb (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Chris Layhe (bass, keyboards, vocals, 1980-88), Chris Sharrock (drums, percussion, 1981-88), Roy Corkhill (bass, 1988-present), Zak Starkey (drums, 1988), Dave Green (keyboards, 1988), Dave Baldwin (keyboards, 1988-90)


The Icicle Works formed in 1981 when Ian McNabb teamed with drummer Chris Sharrock and bassist Chris Layhe.

McNabb (born Robert Ian McNabb, November 3, 1960) grew up as an only child in Mossley Hill. He worked as a child model and became a lifelong space enthusiast via 2001: A Space Odyssey, the 1968 sci-fi epic by director Stanley Kubric. As a teenager, McNabb studied guitar and music theory; inspired by the 1972–73 rock films Born to Boogie (with T. Rex) and That’ll Be the Day (starring David Essex).

At fifteen, McNabb joined the showband Daybreak, which auditioned for the ITV talent show Opportunity Knocks. Daybreak renamed itself Young World and hired Sharrock, who befriended McNabb before the latter departed for City Lights, a cabaret act that auditioned for ITV’s New Faces.

McNabb attended Mabel Fletcher College of Music and Drama while Sharrock surfaced in the Cherry Boys, which released the 1981 single “Man to Man” (b/w “So Much Confusion”) on Open Eye Records. They formed the Icicle Works and found Layhe through a musician’s wanted ad.



In 1981, the Icicle Works self-released Ascending, a promo cassette with hand-drawn art and six songs.

A1. “Are We Dreamers”
A2. “A Cure For Something”
A3. “Lunar Holiday”
A4. “Artificial World”
B1. “All In the Gleam of a Scientist’s Eye”
B2. “When Winter Lasted Forever”

They subsequently re-pressed Ascending with a track titled “Sympathy” in lieu of “Artificial World.”

Peel 1. Recorded 1982-01-11, first broadcast 26 January 1982. Repeated: 10 February 1982.
“In the Cauldron of Love” / “A Factory In the Desert” / “All Is Right” / “When Winter Lasted Forever”

Nov 1982 self-press Troll Kitchen (WORKS 001)
A1. “Nirvana”
B1. “Lovehunt”
B2. “Sirocco”

Peel 2. Recorded 1983-02-26, first broadcast 02 March 1983, repeated 28 March 1983, 29 December 1983.
“Love Is a Wonderful Colour” / “Reverie Girl” / “Reaping the Rich Harvest” / “In the Dance the Shaman Led”

The Peel and Jensen Merseyside Music Show (1983-03-15) from the Royal Court Theatre. Liverpool, also feat. It’s Immaterial and Wah!.
“Love Hunt”
“Birds Fly”
“Love is a Wonderful Colour”
“Reaping the Rich Harvest”
“Factory in the Desert”

10 Apr 1983 Situation Two UK SIT 22
A. “Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream)”
B. “Reverie Girl”

Oct 1983 Beggars Banquet UK BEG 99
A. “Love Is a Wonderful Colour”
B. “Waterline”
C. “In the Dance the Shamen Led”
D. “The Devil On Horseback”

The Icicle Works

The Icicle Works released their self-titled debut album on March 23, 1984, on Beggars Banquet.

A1. “Chop the Tree” (4:43)
A2. “Love Is a Wonderful Colour” (4:13)
A3. “Reaping the Rich Harvest” (4:07)
A4. “As the Dragonfly Flies” (3:58)
A5. “Lover’s Day” (4:49)
B1. “In the Cauldron of Love” (3:50)
B2. “Out of Season” (4:46)
B3. “Factory in the Desert” (3:11)
B4. “Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream)” (3:49)
B5. “Nirvana” (5:07)

Ian McNabb — vocals, guitar, keyboards, songwriter
Chris Layhe — bass guitar, vocals
Chris Sharrock — drums, percussion
The Icicle Works — arrangements

Hugh Jones — producer, arrangements, mixer
David Lord — producer

2 Mar 1984
A. “Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream)”
B. “In the Cauldron of Love”

Peel 3. Recorded 1984-08-08, first broadcast 15 August 1984, repeated 29 August 1984.
“Hollow Horse” / “Deep In the Woods” / “Conscience of Kings” / “When You Hear the Mission Bells”

Sep 1984
A. “Hollow Horse”
B. “The Atheist”

The Small Price of a Bicycle

The Icicle Works released their second album, The Small Price of a Bicycle, on September 1, 1985, on Beggars Banquet.

1. “Hollow Horse” (McNabb, Chris Layhe) – 4:00
2. “Perambulator” (McNabb, Chris Layhe) – 4:02
3. “Seven Horses” – 4:12
4. “Rapids” – 4:32
5. “Windfall” – 4:13
6. “Assumed Sundown” – 5:53
7. “Saint’s Sojourn” – 4:33
8. “All the Daughters (Of Her Father’s House)” – 4:40
9. “Book of Reason” – 3:45
10. “Conscience of Kings” – 4:48

Producer Hugh Jones, Wally Brill, The Icicle Works, Geoff Muir

Robert Ian McNabb – guitar, lead vocals, keyboards
Chris Layhe – bass, backing vocals, keyboards, violin
Chris Sharrock – drums, percussion

May 1985
A. “All the Daughters (Of Her Father’s House)”
B. “A Pocketful of Nothing”
B2. “Mr Soul”

19 Jul 1985
A. “Seven Horses”
B. “Slingshot”
C. “Beggars Legacy”
D. “Goin’ Back”

Oct 1985
A. “When It All Comes Down”
B. “(Let’s Go) Down to the River”

Jan 1986 promo
A. “Rapids”
B. “I Never Saw My Hometown ‘Til I Went Around the World”

Jul 1986
A. “Understanding Jane”
B. “I Never Saw My Hometown ‘Til I Went Around the World”

1986 12″
A1. “Up Here In the North of England”
A2. “It Makes No Difference”
B1. “Sea Song”
B2. “Nature’s Way”
B3. “Waylaid”

Live At The Albert Lark Lane Jul 1986
A. “Hollow Horse”
B. “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”

Sep 1986
A. “Who Do You Want For Your Love?”
B. “Understanding Jane (Live)”

If You Want to Defeat Your Enemy Sing His Song

The Icicle Works released their third album, If You Want to Defeat Your Enemy Sing His Song, in March 1987 on Beggars Banquet.

1. “Hope Springs Eternal” – 4:06
2. “Travelling Chest” – 4:40
3. “Sweet Thursday” – 4:17
4. “Up Here in the North of England” – 5:12
5. “Who Do You Want for Your Love?” – 3:54
6. “When You Were Mine” – 4:37
7. “Evangeline” – 4:05
8. “Truck Driver’s Lament” – 5:18
9. “Understanding Jane” – 3:21
10. “Walking With a Mountain” – 4:44

Producer Ian Broudie
Robert Ian “Boots” McNabb – guitar, vocals, keyboards, harmonica
Chris Layhe – bass, vocals, keyboards
Chris Sharrock – drums, percussion

Dave Green – keyboards
Mike Timmoney – keyboards
Ritchie Close – keyboards
Ian Broudie – keyboards; guitar solo on “When You Were Mine”
Alison Limerick – backing vocal on “Evangeline”

CD version contained four bonus tracks: “Everybody Loves to Play the Fool”, “I Never Saw My Hometown ‘Til I Went Around the World”, “Into the Mystic” and “Don’t Let It Rain on My Parade”.

Jan 1987
A. “Evangeline”
B. “Everybody Loves to Play the Fool”

16 Nov 1987
A. “High Time”
B. “Broken Hearted Fool”


The Icicle Works released their fourth album, Blind, in 1988 on Beggars Banquet.

1. “Intro” – 0:29
2. “Shit Creek” – 4:01
3. “High Time” – 3:34
4. “Little Girl Lost” – 4:44
5. “Starry Blue Eyed Wonder” – 4:12
6. “One True Love” – 1:51
7. “Blind” – 5:30

8. “Two Two Three” – 2:23
9. “What Do You Want Me to Do?” – 3:12
10. “Stood Before Saint Peter” – 5:25
11. “The Kiss Off” – 4:23
12. “Here Comes Trouble” – 4:03
13. “Walk a While With Me” – 4:19

UK and Canada, the US version loses four tracks (“Intro”, “One True Love”, “What Do You Want Me To Do”, and “Two Two Three”) edits one track (“Shit Creek” is edited to end much earlier), and adds two tracks (“Sure Thing” and “Hot Profit Gospel”).

Feb 1988
A. “The Kiss Off”
B. “Sure Thing”

Apr 1988
A. “Little Girl Lost”
B. “Tin Can”

11 Jul 1988
A. “Here Comes Trouble”
B. “Starry Blue-Eyed Wonder (Live)”

Permanent Damage

The Icicle Works released their fifth and final album, Permanent Damage, in May 1990 on Epic.


  • The Icicle Works (1984)
  • The Small Price of a Bicycle (1985)
  • If You Want to Defeat Your Enemy Sing His Song (1987)
  • Blind (1988)
  • Permanent Damage (1990)

Non-album singles/EPs:

  • Ascending (EP, 1981)
  • Seven Horses Deep (EP, 1986)


1 thought on “The Icicle Works

  1. Draft intro (2018) “The Icicle Works are an English rock band The Icicle Works are an English rock band led by guitarist–songwriter Ian McNabb that released  that were initially active as a recording unit between 1981 and 1988. Essentially a vehicle for frontman/guitarist Ian McNabb, the band has specialized in a lyrical brand of alternately folksy/dramatic martial-tinged rock — a combination heard most widely in the storming verses and exuberant chorus of the band’s signature song: “Birds Fly (Whisper to a Scream).””

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