The Pale Fountains

The Pale Fountains were an English sophisti-pop band that released three standalone singles and two albums on Virgin between 1982 and 1985.

Members: Michael Head (guitar, vocals), John Head (guitar), Chris McCaffery (bass), Thomas Whelan (drums), Andy Diagram (trumpet)


Formed in 1980 Liverpool, The Pale Fountains were part of that city’s post-Deaf School musical renaissance. The band was led by singer/guitarist/songwriter Michael Head and his guitarist brother John Head, both newcomers to the scene. The rhythm section of Chris McCaffery (bass) and Thomas Whelan (drums) rounded out the lineup.

Trumpeter Andy Diagram (The Diagram Brothers, Dislocation Dance) served as the band’s fifth wheel while moonlighting with other acts.

Early Singles

The Pale Fountains debuted with the single “Just a Girl” (b/w “(There’s Always) Something on My Mind”) in mid-1982 on Operation Twilight/Les Disques du Crépuscule. As on all subsequent recordings, both sides were composed by Michael Head. That October, the band signed to Virgin and issued their second single, “Thank You” (b/w “Meadow of Love”). The sleeve shows the members canoeing in their trademark 1930s attire.

In 1983, the band released their third single, “Palm of My Hand” (b/w “Love’s a Beautiful Place”). It was issued in 7″ and 12″ versions, the latter containing a bonus instrumental version of the a-side. The single was produced by Greg Walsh (The Bible, Then Jerico) and Associates guitarist/keyboardist Alan Rankine.

1984: Pacific Street

The Pale Fountains released their debut album, Pacific Street, in February 1984 on Virgin Records. It features nine proper songs, including “Southbound Excursion,” “Beyond Fridays Field,” “Abergele Next Time,” and a re-recorded “Something on My Mind.” Side two is bookended by the two-part miniature “Faithful Pillow.”

Production was handled by Townhouse Studio engineer Howard Gray (ABC, Fischer-Z, Judie Tzuke, OMD, Scritti Politti, Split Enz, UB40, XTC). Two singles were issued from the album: “(Don’t Let Your Love) Start a War” (b/w “Love Situation”) and “Unless” (b/w “Natural”). The cover uses an image from the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, taken by photographer Mario De Biasi.

1985: …From Across the Kitchen Table

In 1985, The Pale Fountains released their second album, …From Across the Kitchen Table. It features six songs per side, including “Shelter,” “Bruised Arcade,” “Hey,” “Limit,” and “It’s Only Hard.” The title-track and “Jean’s Not Happening” were issued as singles.

The album was produced by Ian Broudie (Bette Bright, Original Mirrors, Echo & the Bunnymen, The Colourfield) and engineered by Gil Norton (China Crisis, Twelfth Night) and Ian Caple (Simple Minds, Anne Clark).

The Pale Fountains disbanded in 1986 and the Head brothers returned with a new band, Shack, the following year. McCaffery died of a brain tumor in 1989.


Non-album shortplayers:

  • “(There’s Always) Something on My Mind” / “Just a Girl” (1982)
  • “Thank You” / “Meadow of Love” (1982)
  • “Palm of My Hand” / “Love’s a Beautiful Place” (1983)


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