by Keith Valcourt
Most songwriters spend their entire career in search of it. The elusive perfect hit song that defines a career and connects with a mass audience of millions of fans around the globe. For Nick Van Eede of the band Cutting Crew that moment came in 1986 when his song “(I Just) Died In Your Arms” became a worldwide hit, topping the U.S. charts at #1. Over time that ballad served as everything from your mom’s prom theme to pivotal soundtrack moments in “Stranger Things” and “Batman Lego Movie.” Nick and the band followed that with other unforgettable tunes including: “I’ve Been in Love Before” and “One for the Mockingbird.” When the band’s co-founder Kevin MacMichael died in 1992 Cutting Crew called it a day. Van Eede went on to do everything from producing Cher’s demo for “Believe” to co-writing songs with Marillion’s Steve Hogarth to auditioning to replace Phil Collins in Genesis. A gig he lost to Ray Wilson.
In 2005 Nick reconvened a new lineup of Cutting Crew and has since played hundreds live shows around the globe and released several studio albums. 2020 saw Van Eede and his new crew releasing a new album of reimagined versions of the band’s most beloved songs titled: “Ransomed Restored Healed Forgiven.” I caught up with Nick Van Eede via phone from his home in England to discuss that magical song, his time in quarantine and almost joining Genesis.
Q: How are you in this time of the pandemic?
A: Well… Under the circumstances we are doing well. Pretty scary times out there. We are in the bottom right-hand corner of England by the seaside. I’ve got an old farmhouse with a great big garden. Compared to millions of other people I am very lucky. It is brutal out there. But the dreamer that I am I hope the world will tilt on its axis just slightly. And after this we will remember the beautiful things that come out of this.
Q: Are you doing anything creative in the isolation?
A: For many years I have always wanted to make my live show tiny. Always wanted to do “An Evening with Nick Van Eede.” (Laughs) Everybody and their uncle is doing this now online. Yes, I am doing stuff musically but mostly it is time to reflect and look after people.
Q: What do you remember most about your pre-fame days?
A: I started way back as the guy in the corner alone playing the acoustic guitar dangerously positioned underneath the dart board in the pub. I remember playing in the rough end of London and this very drunk guy with great big knuckles came up to me and asked, “Do you know Rhinestone Cowboy”?” Before I could answer he said, “Change that. You fucking know “Rhinestone Cowboy!”
Q: How did the song “Died In Your Arms” come about?
A: You spend all your life waiting for it. I was twenty-six when it was a hit. I had been writing all my life. Something like that comes along. Usually, the good songs are written in about two or three hours. And that one was. The title just came to me. And it was written within a day. We got the right people involved. Terry Brown (famed producer of Rush) came over from Canada. We had already fired three producers and were becoming known as “That difficult Cutting Crew.” Terry flew in and as soon as he took the helm it all clicked.
Q: Did your life change after that became a hit?
A: It did change. But you get this hilarious hiatus between having a hit record and earning any money. We were all playing in working bands earning enough to pay our rents and have money for beer and cigarettes. Then we signed a record deal, and the record company says, “Okay now you have to stop all that and become a popstar.” Then you are broke again. Then you have a hit record and you are still broke. Until the money finally comes in. It was not instant. There was this one time the milkman came by and said, “Hey Nick I saw you on “Top Of The Pops” last night. Fantastic. Well done mate. That’ll be one pound twenty-three.” And I paid him in vouchers (British equivalent to food stamps.) Then of course the money hits and everything was remarkable.
Q: Was having such a huge hit song a blessing or a curse?
A: I never thought of it as an albatross. I always thought of it as a blessing. It opened doors. In the States people may know more than the one song. But in England if you say, “(I Just) Died In Your Arms” they go, “Oh my God!” If you say Cutting Crew they say, “Who?” I am very comfortable with my relationship with that song and have no illusions of Cutting Crew without “(I Just) Died In Your Arms.”
Q: How did you produce the original demo for Cher’s “Believe?”
A: I was contacted by a friend who was in the music business and he said, “I’ve got this song and I could use help.” I went over and sat in a little tiny studio. He said to me, they loved my song, “I’ve Been In Love Before” and they wanted to have the change in their song be like the part in “I’ve Been In Love Before.” I showed them the chords I had used. They played me this song (Singing) “Do you believe in Life…” I went in there and changed the melody of the second chorus. And I got paid a bottle of whiskey. Seven years later I am hoovering the floor of my studio and hear this song on the radio, and I said out loud, “I know that tune!”
Q: Are you disappointed you did not get the gig as Phil Collins replacement in Genesis?
A: I went over to the studio one day and we banged through ten songs. Great fun. Mike Rutherford later phoned me up and said, “Nick you were definitely the most popular chap, but you didn’t have enough high-end crack in your voice.” I laughed. I wasn’t disappointed. I think I would have felt a bit straightjacketed being in that band.
Q: When you play these nostalgia shows is there a sense of competition or camaraderie?
A: By this point in our careers we have all ditched our egos. Richard (Drummie) of Go West put it best describing these tours. He said, “The plane is coming in for a landing now. Not taking off.”
Q: What made you decide to record the new album of reimagined Cutting Crew songs?
A: We got approached by a label. Which was good. I’ve have always though and have been told by fans and good people in your industry, that the songs would work well in different formats. The way we layered them, and the lovely guitar lines Kevin created make them prime for exploration.
Q: Explain the album’s title.
A: The first ever music I heard as a boy were those old hymns. There is one that went (singing) “Praise my soul the king of heaven. To his feet thy tribute bring. Ransomed. Healed. Restored. Forgiven.” When I was looking for a title of the album, I remembered that old hymn from my youth and I thought, Ransomed? Well, they paid me a little advance. Healed and Restored. That’s what we’re trying to do with the songs. And hopefully the fans will forgive me. (Laughs)
“Ransomed Restored Healed Forgiven” is available now on all major platforms. Check out this revisited version of “(I Just) Died In Your Arms.”
Keith Valcourt is a Los Angeles based music and entertainment writer. He has interviewed thousands of celebrities in the worlds of music, film, TV and comedy for dozens of outlets including: L.A. Times, Washington Times, LFP Publishing, ChelseaCommunityNews.com, RetroRoadMap.com LaArtsOnline and more. Much More
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