Red Zoo at the Lion on the Wicker

Nigel’s name may not be familiar to many people, but back in his day, he was a truly amazing drummer. My first awareness of him was with Helsinki 5 Below, who released a single “Jennifer Darling” on Future Earth records. They were played by John Peel in 1979. Guitarist Stuart Arfield has been active in some form to this day. Nigel then hooked up with Worksop band Veiled Threat, who were a big noise locally with their inventive and energised pop.

Like many good bands, “personal differences” split them in half, with Nigel, singler Elaine and bassist Nigel, forming Active Gliders, soon renamed “Red Zoo”. Having been a big VT fan, I persuaded them to let me join and the excitement we felt in the cellar of the “band house” on Violet Bank road is still palpable in the few cassette recordings from the time. By now, Nigel’s drum style was fully developed, based around a large set of tom toms, that he played as much as the snare – he propelled every song along and alongside Derek’s solid basslines, created an amazing foundation for Elaine and I to let loose upon.

Nigel (or “Nigbert”, as we called him) was a caring, generous and kind person, but it has to be said, he was away with the fairies, in the nicest possible sense! He seemed to live in a world slightly parallel to our own, but it was a wonderful world and we were delighted to be part of it. One tale that never hit the headlines; Nigel & I were (unusually) out in a Sheffield nightclub and got chatting to two girls at the bar, giving them the usual “hey, we’re in a band” line. They said “we’re also in a band but we can’t talk about it”. A couple of days later we saw them in the Star, as the new singers for the Human League!

We made some demos out at Fairview (near Hull) with Comsat Kev producing – one of these tracks “Help Me” is the best showcase of Nigel’s drumming that I have. Typically (and sadly) the band didn’t survive our relentless quest for pop stardom. After we broke up, Nigel started a business that he devoted the rest of his life to (perhaps too much so) and it was hugely successful. I managed to make contact with Elaine & Nigel a few years ago and the same Nigel was there, still somehow innocent despite his years of business success. We had some rehearsals, but you can only roll back the years so far and after our bassist walked, Nigel was clearly more focussed on his work and that was that.

A lovely, gentle man and I’m proud to have known him.

Some videos
Helsinki 5 Below
Veiled Threat – Torch
Red Zoo – Help Me
Red Zoo 2020 – I want