“How Cutting Crew made the popular song (I Just) Died in Your Arms after facing the ultimatum, ‘If you release that, I’m leaving’.”

Estimated read time 5 min read

Nick Van Eede, singer, songwriter

The Drivers, my musical group, achieved success in Canada until our record label became embroiled in a scandal. Our manager instructed us to quickly pack our belongings within 10 minutes. As a result, I returned to residing with my parents in Sussex.

“I just died in your arms tonight” was a line among lots of titles and ideas I had written on a sheet of wallpaper. I put it to some chords, sang phonetically and then used other lines I’d written on the wallpaper to write the song. I wrote for three or four hours before I worked out what I was singing about. I’d split up with my girlfriend, we’d got back together for one night and there’s a lot of guilt because I should have kept my distance.

I created a sample performance in my friend Pete Birch’s living room, with him providing harmony vocals. While in Canada, I had met an incredibly talented guitarist named Kevin MacMichael and we had made a pact that if our respective bands were to disband, we would collaborate on something together. When he arrived at Heathrow airport, my mother gave him a place to stay in the spare room. There, he proceeded to stack a tall pyramid of Heineken cans. Kevin was quite the character – humble and never predictable in his playing. Together, his King Crimson-esque orchestral chords and my influences from XTC and The Police resulted in a unique sound for us.

Colin Farley, the most skilled bassist I have ever performed with, worked as a freelance musician. Therefore, he was familiar with all nine of the drummers we tried out before Martin “Frosty” Beedle arrived wearing headphones and announced, “I’m listening to the test match” – and then proceeded to amaze us all.

The name of the band was inspired by a statement made in an interview with Queen. When asked why they were not touring, the band replied that they were solely focused on creating records in the studio. The name gained attention and many inquiries, leading Kevin to print the explanation on a T-shirt. This angered an Italian journalist who responded with profanity and left the room.

Following our signing, we recorded in New York, but the results were not satisfactory. I expressed to the record company that if they were to release the recording, I would leave the band. We attempted some pre-production in London with John Jansen, but even with the addition of a session singer, we could not achieve the desired harmony. It was only when John asked about the vocalist on the demo that my friend Pete stepped in and delivered a flawless performance in just four minutes. Since John had already left, our previous producer Terry Brown stepped in to help us finish the recording.

The track reached number one on the US charts and gained widespread popularity, being featured in various media such as Lego Batman and Stranger Things. Despite having 99 songs released, only one was successful, but I am content with that. I recall the record label expressing concern about the inclusion of “I Just” in parentheses in the title, but the tape operator intervened and suggested ” (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction?” The label ultimately agreed to keep the parentheses.

Terry Brown, producer

In the 1960s, I began working as a tape operator for recording sessions with artists like Marianne Faithfull and Barbra Streisand. Despite the low pay, it was a valuable learning opportunity. My first experience as a rock engineer was on the Who’s song Substitute. This led to me being flown to Toronto for a session, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I then went on to produce Rush and even built a studio in my own home where I produced the Drivers.

I stayed in contact with Nick and he unexpectedly contacted me while they were working on (I Just) Died in Your Arms. He asked, “I require your assistance. Could you come over?” Without hesitation, I flew to London.

We utilized preexisting keyboards and vocals, but otherwise reworked the entire song. My focus was on the drums, following the same process used for Rush records. The band would play together, creating a lively atmosphere, but we would not keep the guitar or bass parts. Those would be added in later on. We then added overdubs and carefully adjusted each note to ensure precision. Unlike today, where mistakes can be easily fixed by moving individual notes, our band had to be incredibly cohesive and precise, which was the case with Cutting Crew.

I had anticipated that it would be successful, but I never imagined it would become as huge as it did. It is my only record to reach No 1 in the US and it completely changed my life. Even now, when I am making lunch, the song “(I Just) Died” will come on the radio and I will call Nick to catch up. It seems to always be playing somewhere.

  • Records

    The 3CD box set “All for You – The Virgin Years 1986-1992” by Cutting Crew is now available through Cherry Red Records.

Source: theguardian.com

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