Roland Gift has been called many things, and one of those things is “the first black punk in Hull”. He was in a Hull ska band called Akrylykz . It would be easy to think that Roland started his most famous band, Fine Young Cannibals, but it wasn’t quite like that. In Akrylykz he supported the Beat on tour. When Andy Cox and David Steele of the Beat fancied starting a new band, they asked Roland to sing for them, even though he had started off as the sax player for Akrylykz.
FYC are sometimes described as a Birmingham band. Although Roland grew up in Birmingham, his teenaged music-obsessed years were spent in Hull. It is not difficult to see how someone as talented and unique as Roland Gift would make an impact on the Hull music scene.
Gifted by nature as well as by name, Roland belted out the two hits for which FYC are best known, and they are both US number ones: She Drives Me Crazy and Good Thing. Anyone who loves that kind of music probably still loves She Drives Me Crazy. From the opening intro riffs to the chorus and everything in between, it remains a perfect pop record to this day.
Gift recently told the Guardian, in December 2020, that he wished he had done more work with Cox and Steele, and it is clear that FYC suffered from the same malady as the Housemartins: they had too much talent, too much promise, and imploded as quickly as they had exploded onto a global stage at too young an age.
This is not supposed to be a cautionary tale. It is mainly a story about Hull, a rebellious and sarcastic place that just happens to have more pubs, and therefore more pub bands, than any other minor British city. But there is caution here for the next pub band from Hull with big ideas: beware of fickle success.
Before we leave FYC, time for a factoid: Roland Gift’s mum had a clothes’ shop in Hull, towards the Newland Avenue end of Grafton Street, home of Paul Heaton.