China Crisis is an English pop/rock band. They were formed in 1979 in Kirkby, near Liverpool, Merseyside with a core of vocalist/keyboardist Gary Daly and guitarist Eddie Lundon. China Crisis were originally assimilated in the batch of new wave Liverpool acts of the late 1970s and early 1980s, led by OMD and also including The Teardrop Explodes, A Flock of Seagulls and Frankie Goes to Hollywood.
China Crisis had success in the United Kingdom in the 1980s with five Top 40 singles and three Top 40 albums, as well as commercial success in Western Europe, Australia and the Americas.
Early Days and Chart Success
Sharing an affection for Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan, David Bowie, and Brian Eno, Daly and Lundon played with various Knowsley post-punk groups. Daly then spent time tinkering with synthesizers and a drum machine. Along with Lundon, Daly began writing songs. The pair eventually asked drummer and percussionist Dave Reilly to join them in 1981, and in 1982 they released their debut single “African and White” as China Crisis on the independent record label, Inevitable. In June 1982, they backed Tom Verlaine at The Venue in London.
The band was signed to Virgin Records and recorded their debut album, Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms, Some People Think It’s Fun to Entertain, which was released in December 1982. A re-release of “African & White” became China Crisis’ first hit in the United Kingdom, reaching No. 45 in the UK Singles Chart. The follow-up single, “Christian”, made UK No. 12 in early 1983 and brought them to national prominence. By the time of this success; Reilly had left the band, but had remained with the band long enough to co-write and perform on “Christian”, along with session musician Steve Levy playing oboe and saxophone. The album peaked at No. 21 in the UK Albums Chart. During this period the band toured supporting Simple Minds (as discussed in interviews on the DVD Live in Concert at the Paul McCartney Auditorium Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts).
Adding Gary “Gazza” Johnson (bass guitar) and Waterboys drummer Kevin Wilkinson to the line-up, a second album, Working with Fire and Steel – Possible Pop Songs Volume Two, was released in November 1983. Tracks included the singles “Tragedy and Mystery” (released six months earlier) and “Hanna Hanna” as well as the title track, “Working with Fire and Steel”, which became a hit single in Australia. The album was a Top 20 success in the UK, and China Crisis spent 1984 and 1985 making their biggest chart run, beginning with their only UK Top 10 hit single, “Wishful Thinking”, which peaked at No. 9.
Their third album, Flaunt the Imperfection, was produced by Walter Becker of Steely Dan fame and reached No. 9 in the UK Albums Chart in May 1985. China Crisis was so honoured to directly work with Becker that they officially listed him in the group as a quintet consisting of Daly, Lundon, Johnson, Wilkinson, and Becker on the album’s credits. Becker was living on Maui, Hawaii, when he was approached by Virgin to work on this project, and he had to leave his expecting partner Eleanor to assist. He never formally appeared with the band (but made important playing contributions on the album) and the subsequent tour featured new keyboard player Brian McNeill. Johnson was now credited as co-writer with Daly and Lundon.
The album was promoted by the No. 14 UK hit single “Black Man Ray”, which also enjoyed critical acclaim and international success. The follow-up, “King in a Catholic Style (Wake Up)”, was a Top 20 UK single at No. 19, but it would prove to be the band’s last substantial hit. A third release from the album, “You Did Cut Me”, stalled at UK No. 54. They simultaneously released a video compilation, Showbiz Absurd.
In 1986, the band collaborated with producers Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley (who worked with Madness) on What Price Paradise, which included “Arizona Sky”, the album’s first single release, and another Australian hit, “June Bride”. All the band were now credited as songwriters. A second single from the album, “Best Kept Secret”, made UK No. 36 in early 1987. It was to be the band’s final Top 40 hit single.
The five-piece band worked with Becker once more on 1989’s Diary of a Hollow Horse, which earned critical acclaim though little commercial success. It fared slightly better than its predecessor, making the UK Top 60, and spawned the singles “St Saviour Square” and “Red Letter Day”, both achieving the lower reaches of the UK Singles Chart. Becker produced most of the album’s tracks, but this time was not credited as an official band member.
The band’s last studio album, Warped by Success, was released in 1994, following the band’s parting of ways with the Virgin label. The album produced their final studio chart single, “Everyday the Same”, which briefly edged into the UK Top 100. Although Johnson and Wilkinson both made small contributions, the band was now listed as comprising Daly, Lundon, producer Terry Adams and sound engineer Mark Phythian. In 1995 they released a live unplugged album and video entitled Acoustically Yours. This featured a live version of “Black Man Ray”, and also saw a return for Johnson, Wilkinson and McNeill.
Since 1992, there have been four compilation albums of their work for the UK and US markets and three live DVDs. The first of these, entitled Collection: The Very Best of China Crisis, made the Top 40 in the UK Albums Chart in 1990.
Mid 1990s to 2014
On 17 July 1999, drummer Kevin Wilkinson committed suicide by hanging himself at the age of 41. Wilkinson had played with a wide variety of bands including The Waterboys, Fish, The Proclaimers, Squeeze and with Howard Jones. In 2000, Daly contributed a track to a tribute compilation to Wilkinson, Green Indians.
Since the late 1990s, China Crisis has concentrated on live performances with only original members Eddie Lundon and Gary Daly being constant throughout; the band alternates between performances either as a duo or with a fluctuating line-up of backing musicians, the most notable of which is Manx guitarist Colin Hinds who spent more than ten years with the band in the early 21st century.
In December 2002, China Crisis’ Daly and Lundon held a one night unplugged venue in Manila, Philippines, with the support of a local band, Rivermaya. They toured the UK during January and February 2007 as part of their 25th anniversary. Gary Daly released his limited edition solo album (‘The Visionary Mindset Experience’) in 2007, featuring collaborations with Megan Kovacs (from the band Kovacs) and Jean Weir. In 2008, it was announced they would be the support act for Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’s UK October tour. In February 2009, the band performed a fund raising gig for The Friends of Meols Park.
Additionally, gigs were played at The Robin 2, Bilston, Wolverhampton on 20 February 2009, and in Stone, Staffordshire on 22 February 2009. Daly’s art exhibition ‘How To Live & Love Your Life’ was held at Kirkby Art Gallery, Kirkby, Knowsley, Merseyside from 23 February to 10 May 2009. China Crisis played at Fort Perch Rock on the Wirral on 8 August 2009, and at the Rewind Festival in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, on 22 August 2009. The same month they played at The Mathew Street Festival in Liverpool.
They returned to the Philippines to perform at Eastwood City on 20 January 2011 and played at the Rewind Festivals in Perth (Scotland) and Henley-on-Thames in August 2011. Another concert in the Philippines was held on 9 September 2011 at the SMX Convention Center, together with Ex-Simple Minds with further shows in the Philippines, Singapore and Hong Kong that followed. At recent shows China Crisis’ two lead musicians have been joined by Siân Monaghan on drums.
In 2012, the band performed a series of shows in their native Britain, with shows in Upton-upon-Severn in August, Stratford-upon-Avon, Birmingham and Middlesbrough in October, Glasgow and Gateshead in November, and finishing the tour at the Cavern Club, Liverpool in December.
In 2013, the band toured more extensively, playing dates in the UK and visiting the United States and Canada as a three-piece with Brian McNeil, before returning for more UK dates including their regular Cavern Club Christmas gigs, again held on a Thursday and Friday as a five-piece.
In 2014, the band played another UK tour, culminating again in their annual Cavern Club shows. During those shows, they paid tribute to Nicky Lundon, brother of Eddie, who had worked extensively with the band, and who had died in that year. Their song “Wishful Thinking” was performed in his memory.
2014: New Album
On 16 December 2013, the song “Everyone You Know” was made available as a free download on the Pledge Music website, when pre-ordering the album Autumn in the Neighbourhood announced for release in 2014. On 13 January 2014, the band posted an illustrated account of the track and how it was written and came to be recorded. 87% of the pledge goal had been reached at that time. Ahead of the release of the new album, the track “Being In Love” was premiered on Steve Lamacq’s BBC Radio 6 Music show on 25 April 2014. The band toured in late 2014, playing some tracks from the new album alongside older favourites. As of 5 February 2015, the band had achieved 235% of its pledgemusic target and the album was in final mix and production.
Autumn in the Neighbourhood was released on 3 June 2015 via the Pledge Music website. It was their first studio album for 21 years, and contained 11 songs: “Smile”; “Down Here on Earth”; “Autumn in the Neighbourhood”; “Because My Heart”; “Bernard”; “Joy and the Spark”; “Being in Love”; “Fool”; “My Sweet Delight”; “Tell Tale Signs” and “Wonderful New World”. However, the pre-release taster track, “Everyone You Know”, was not included on the album. The band undertook an extensive promotional tour of the UK from the end of September until December 2015, both as a trio and as a full band. The tour included a special “Flaunt the Imperfection Live” night at The Epstein Theatre, Liverpool on 17 October 2015 to mark the thirtieth anniversary of their 1985 album of that name. The band also played five nights in North America in December under the banner of “North America Merry Christmas Tour”.
In November 2015, a compilation album, 80s Recovered, featuring many 1980s-related artists was released on the Music Brokers label. China Crisis contributed a cover of Carole King’s “It’s Too Late”, with both a regular version, and an extended remix.
click here to close
Live Albums and compilations
Collection: The Very Best of China Crisis V 2613, Virgin, UK – 1990 – UK No. 32
Diary: A Collection CD VVIPD 117, Virgin, UK – 1992
Acoustically Yours (Live) TLG CD 005, Telegraph, UK – 1995
Collection: The Very Best of China Crisis (US-Only Reissue) CD CAROL 1117-2, Caroline, US – 1997
The Best of China Crisis CLP 0350-2, Purple Pyramid, US – 1998
Wishful Thinking (Repackaged Acoustically Yours and Warped by Success) SMDCD 117, Snapper Music, UK – 1999
Scrap Book Vol. 1 (Live at the Dominion Theatre) (Concert from 1985) CHVP101CD, Crisis, UK – 2002
Diary: A Collection (Copy-protected reissue, changed album art) 7243 5 95404 2 1, EMI Gold, EU – 2003
Singing The Praises of Finer Things (Live at Liverpool LIPA) CD CRIDE 75, Secret Records – 2006
China Greatness Live (Souvenir disc, available only for the Philippines 2011 SMX Concert fan signing session) and at after-gig sales during the 2014 UK tour
Ultimate Crisis MCDLX152 Music Club Deluxe 2-CD Demon Music Group/EMI Records – 2012
Fine and Also Rare China (Souvenir disc available at after-gig sales in the UK in 2013)
“African and White” INEV 011, Inevitable, UK – 1981 UK No. 45, AUS No. 75
“Scream Down at Me” VS 495, Virgin, UK – 1982
“No More Blue Horizons” VS 521, Virgin, UK – 1982
“Christian” VS 562, Virgin, UK – 1982 UK No. 12
“Tragedy and Mystery” VS 587, Virgin, UK – 1983 UK No. 46
“Working with Fire and Steel” VS 620, Virgin, UK – 1983 UK No. 48, AUS No. 47 US Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs No. 27
“Wishful Thinking” VS 647, Virgin, UK – 1983 UK No. 9, AUS No. 57
“Hanna Hanna” VS 665, Virgin, UK – 1984 UK No. 44
“Black Man Ray” VS 752, Virgin, UK – 1985 UK No. 14, AUS No. 30
“King in a Catholic Style (Wake Up)” VS 765, Virgin, UK – 1985 UK No. 19
“You Did Cut Me” VS 799, Virgin, UK – 1985 UK No. 54
“The Highest High” VS 829, Virgin, UK – 1985 UK No. 82
“Arizona Sky” VS 898, Virgin, UK – 1986 UK No. 47, AUS No. 52
“Best Kept Secret” VS 926, Virgin, UK – 1987 UK No. 36
“St. Saviour Square” VS 1168, Virgin, UK – 1989 UK No. 81
“Red Letter Day” VS 1188, Virgin, UK – 1989 UK No. 84
“African and White (The Steve Proctor remix)” VS 1197, Virgin, UK – 1990
“Everyday the Same” 12STA001, Stardumb, UK – 1994 No. 99
“Black Man Ray (Live)” tlg cd 006, Telegraph, UK – 1996 “Everyone You Know” – December 2013, digital download only via Pledge Music
click here to close
China Crisis – A special case history
“Difficult shapes and passive rhythms”
Founded in Liverpool, England by Gary Daly and Eddie Lundon. The two started working together in 1979 after leaving school.
China Crisis debuted in 1981 with the single “African and White”, then followed another single “Scream down at me” in 1982. Both these releases were on a small Liverpool independent label, Inevitable Records.
The band was then signed by Virgin Records who re-released “African and White”, which then became a minor UK hit, reaching number 45 in the singles chart.
The debut album “Difficult shapes and passive rhythms, Some people think it’s fun to entertain” surfaced in late 1982 and hit the number 21 spot in November. Production credits were shared by Pete Walsh, Steve Levine, Gil Norton and Jeremy Lewis. At this stage the band consisted of Gary Daly (vocals, synths and bass guitar), Eddie Lundon (guitar and vocals) and Dave Reilly (percussion).
The album spawned two more singles “No more blue horizons” and “Christian”, the latter peaking at number 12 in the UK singles chart.
“Working with fire and steel”
In 1983 the singles “Tragedy and mystery” (UK no. 46) and “Working with fire and steel” (UK no. 48) preceeded the second album, “Working with fire and steel, Possible pop songs volume two”, this time with Mike Howlett behind the wheel. The album was released in November.
At this stage Kevin Wilkinson (drums) and Gary “Gazza” Johnson (bass) had joined the band. Kevin Wilkinson will further on in his career share his time between his commitment to China Crisis and playing together with The Waterboys, Proclaimers, Squeeze etc.
The guests performers on “Working…” included Steve Levy on oboe and Anthony Thistlethwaite (The Waterboys) on saxophone. The oboe sound of Steve Levy became some sort of a China Crisis “trademark” during this period.
The third single from the album, “Wishful Thinking” became China Crisis’ biggest hit, reaching number 9 in the UK and charting all over Europe. It was voted most popular song of the week on the swedish radio show “Poporama” in the spring of 1984. Later in the spring “Hanna Hanna” reached no. 44 in the UK charts.
China Crisis toured with Simple Minds in Europe during 1984, not recieving that good reviews for their live performance (at least not in Sweden).
“Flaunt the Imperfection”
With a growing reputation after the success of “Working with fire and steel”, China Crisis attracted the interest of Steely Dan founding member, Walter Becker.
Becker came to produce their third album “Flaunt the imperfection”, released in april 1985. Becker has claimed that he was not the band’s first choice as producer, they apparently wanted Brian Eno but he wasn’t available.
The result became very smooth and slick, and very “steelydanish”. The album was to be the bands greatest success to this date, reaching no. 9 in the UK charts and sending them on an extensive tour.
Featured singles are: “Black Man Ray” (UK no. 14), possibly their best song. “King in a Catholic Style” (UKno. 19) with a very entertaining video clip to back it. “You Did Cut Me” (UK no. 54) and “The Highest High”. At the time of the release of “You Did Cut Me” (September 1985) a video, “Showbiz Absurd”, was released, including the promo clips for “Christian”, “Working with Fire and Steel”, “Wishful Thinking”, “Hanna Hanna”, “Black Man Ray” and “King in a Catholic Style”.
“What Price Paradise”
With Brian McNeill (keyboards) having joined the band, they recorded “What Price Paradise” with Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley producing. The album was released in November 1986 and reached no. 63 in the UK. The album is in my opinion the bands best to this date, sadly underated by critics and the public.
“Arizona Sky” (UK no. 47, november 1986) and “Best Kept Secret” (UK no. 36, early 1987) was the only singles from this album.
“Diary of A Hollow Horse”
After a lengthy absence from the limelight, China Crisis resurfaced in May 1989 with the single “Saint Saviour Square”. The single’s lack of success didn’t help rocket the following album “Diary of a Hollow Horse” to any commercial heights. With Walter Becker back as main producer (8 of 11 songs) and recorded on Hawaii, in Los Angeles, New York and London it has the scent of summer and Steely Dan! In retrospect a very good album.
Mike Thorne produced the remaining tracks including both singles off the album “Saint Saviour Square” and “Red letter day”.
China Crisis toured the UK with support act The Highlanders, following the album.
Compilations, leaving Virgin and splitting up
In August 1990 the first China Crisis compilation album was released, “Collection, The very best of China Crisis”. Featuring almost exclusively singles, a lot of essential material is left out from this offering. Though, this compilation was released also as a limited edition double CD featuring some of their best B-sides on the second disc. This double compilation is a truly wonderful sum up of their career from 1981 to 1989. A remix of “African and White” preceeded the album as a single. This remix by Steve Proctor gave the song a completely new flavour, excellent!
“Diary – a collection” from 1992 features a few more album tracks and B-sides and is a more interesting compilation than the first one. This one also has some nice liner notes.
After Virgin wanting only Daly and Lundon to stay on the paylist, China Crisis left Virgin since the band was so important to the members after playing together for eight years. The band actually split at this point in time because of financial reasons, being a pop band without a contract didn’t pay any bills for the five family men.
“Warped by Success”
In September 1994 China Crisis returned, now with Terry Adams and Mark Phythian being new additions. Kevin, Gazza and Brian no longer with the band. Kevin and Gazza contribute to one song each though and one song, “Hard to be Around”, is dedicated to Kevin.
The album, “Warped by Success” is far from their best moments but still a welcome return. A few songs show that they still have the ability to write wonderful pop songs, the only (?) single “Everyday the Same”, “Without the Love” and “Hard to be Around” in particular.
“Warped by success” was released by Stardumb Records.
Following another change of record company now being with former OMD member Paul Humphrey’s label Telegraph Records, China Crisis set off to record a live album, “Acoustically yours”.
Released in the autumn of 1995 to critical aclaim, it showed a China Crisis as brilliant as ever, being confident about the power in the songs. Showing that though the sound on some of their earlier offerings are quite dated, their songs are not! Most of their “greatest” hits are here and a some more recent songs all in splendidly revamped versions.
The highlights are “Wishful Thinking”, “It’s Everything”, “Black Man Ray” and “Diary of a Hollow Horse”. The album was recorded at the Neptune theatre in Liverpool and a tour followed.
“Black Man Ray” was the single of the album, released in 1996. On the single there was a version from the Neptune theatre show of “Here come a Raincloud” (from “Working…”) that features Pete Coyle from The Lotus Eaters on vocals.
There is also a video from this show available.
One hopes that the success of “Acoustically yours” will inspire to further efforts from China Crisis, but to this date, this is the story of China Crisis, a very special case history!
click here to close