Gary Barnacle

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Gary Barnacle
Gary Barnacle playing with Big Band at Rochester Castle in 2011
Gary Barnacle playing with Big Band at Rochester Castle in 2011
Background information
Born1959 (age 62–63)
Dover, Kent, England
OriginLondon, England
  • Saxophonist
  • multi-instrumentalist
  • arranger
  • producer
  • composer
  • Saxophones
  • flutes
  • keyboards
Years active1977–present

Gary Barnacle (born 1959[1] in Dover, England) is an English saxophonist, flautist, brass instrument arranger, composer and producer, primarily noted for session work and live work, including various Prince's Trust Concerts at Wembley Arena, the Royal Albert Hall and the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham. Also, the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute at Wembley Stadium in 1988 and television/video appearances during the 1980s and 1990s with many popular music acts including The Clash, The Ruts, Level 42, Visage, Paul Hardcastle, Kim Wilde, Holly Johnson, Marilyn, Derek B, Eternal, Soul II Soul, Jamiroquai, Jimmy Ray, Tina Turner, General Public, Soft Cell, Elvis Costello, Del Amitri, Shed Seven, T'Pau, Love and Money, Mike Rutherford, Roger Daltrey, David Bowie, The Big Dish, The Cross, Pet Shop Boys, Stock Aitken Waterman and Paul McCartney, among others. He was also in an electropop duo called Leisure Process from 1982 to 1983, with ex-Positive Noise singer Ross Middleton.

Biography and Career[edit]

The early years (1977–1980)[edit]

Gary Barnacle was born in Dover, England in 1959.[1]

He started playing in bands in and around the Dover area with his father Bill Barnacle, his brothers Steve Barnacle and Pete Barnacle, and their friend (Nick) Topper Headon. Then, along with his two brothers, he moved to London in 1976 and began a career as a session musician.

Barnacle performed the saxophone part in many songs and albums by The Clash. Early examples are "City of the Dead", B-side of "Complete Control", "1-2 Crush on You", the B-side of "Tommy Gun" released as a single on 24 November 1978 and their version of Booker T. & the M.G.'s' classic "Time Is Tight", released on the 1980 extended play Black Market Clash. Both songs can also be heard on the 1993 compilation album, Super Black Market Clash.[2] He also played on their later albums Sandinista! released on 12 December 1980 as a triple album, the single This Is Radio Clash released on 20 November 1981 and Combat Rock released on 14 May 1982 through Epic Records. He was introduced to The Clash through their drummer and school friend of Barnacle's, Topper Headon and reportedly became involved in The Clash's infamous 1978 "pigeon shooting" incident.[3]

Barnacle formed a horn section in 1978, with trumpeter Luke Tunney, called the Hit And Run Horns (named after the band that they were members of at the time). In 1979 they added Annie Whitehead on trombone. These three played on many sessions together for the next three years or so until Pete Thoms came in on trombone in 1982. Barnacle collaborated with The Ruts on their first two albums, both on Virgin label, The Crack, released in September 1979 and Grin & Bear It, released in October 1980. After the death of their frontman, Malcolm Owen, found dead from a heroin overdose on 14 July 1980 at the age of 26,[4] the band continued as Ruts D.C. (where "D.C." stands for the Latin term "Da Capo", meaning "back to the beginning") in a different musical vein.[5] Barnacle became a stable member of the band and they released two other albums, Animal Now in May 1981 on Virgin, and Rhythm Collision released in July 1982 on Bohemian Records. Ruts D.C. split in 1983.[6][7][8] During 1979–1980 he also contributed to M's debut album, New York • London • Paris • Munich, released in 1979 and to Sanity Stomp, released by Kevin Coyne in 1980.[9]

The 1980s (1981–1989)[edit]

In 1981, Barnacle contributed to the debut albums by Positive Noise - Heart of Darkness, Stray Cats and In Trance as Mission by Simple Minds plus "Power and the Passion" by Midnight Oil and also performed saxophone on Rick Wakeman's 1984, a solo concept album based on the classic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell.[9] That year he also played saxophone on the Black Snake Diamond Röle debut solo album by former Soft Boys frontman Robyn Hitchcock. But one of Barnacle's longest associations has been with Level 42, with whom he has played on several albums, including the band's 1981 debut, the 1984 True Colours, the 1985 World Machine, and the 1987 Running in the Family. From 1990 to 1994 Barnacle toured with Level 42 and recorded two of the band's albums, Guaranteed and Forever Now.[9] The horn section he formed for Level 42, with British trumpet and fluegelhorn player John Thirkell, was known as The Hen Pecked Horns.[10] Since then, Barnacle and Thirkell have provided the horn section for many recordings. Along with trombonist Peter Thoms, they formed The Phantom Horns, one of the UK's most respected horn sections which appear on a number of recordings from 1987 onwards.[11] They also recorded a widely acclaimed brass-sample CD Phantom Horns, which was re-issued by Zero-G as a double CD-ROM in 2011. Equally impressive and more comprehensive was Brit Horns brass-sample CD featuring Gary Barnacle, Peter Thoms, and Stuart Brooks, which was re-issued as a double audio/WAV CD by AMG in 2010. Both of these sample CDs have and continue to be, widely used on commercial recordings worldwide.

In 1982, he and ex-Positive Noise singer Ross Middleton formed a electropop duo called Leisure Process. The band released four singles on the Epic label, two in 1982, "Love Cascade" and "A Way You'll Never Be", which featured Mark King and Phil Gould of Level 42 and two in 1983, "Cashflow" and "Anxiety". All four singles were produced by Martin Rushent.[9] In 1982, Barnacle also collaborated on Julien Clerc's Femmes, Indiscrétion, Blasphème, Mike Rutherford's Acting Very Strange, Marius Müller-Westernhagen's Das Herz eines Boxers and with Visage on their second album. Two years later, in 1984, with his brother Steve already in the band and Billy Currie and Dave Formula having by now departed, Gary and Andy Barnett replaced them for what would become Visage's Beat Boy album, which was released in September 1984 and yielded two singles, "Love Glove" and "Beat Boy". A decision to make Visage a live band instead of a strictly studio-based project failed and the band subsequently split in 1985.[9]

In 1983, he contributed to Catch as Catch Can by pop singer, Kim Wilde (whom he dated in the mid-1980s) [12] and also to In Strict Tempo by Dave Ball, Private Dancer by Tina Turner. Barnacle later toured in Europe with "The Queen of Rock 'n' Roll" and participated in the recording sessions of her 1989 album Foreign Affair. He also appears on the 1983 edition of Drama of Exile by Nico, where he also played the drums, Right Now by The Creatures, Dalek I Love You by Dalek I Love You, Jerky Versions of the Dream the only solo album recorded by Howard Devoto, Secret by Classix Nouveaux, Vocabulary by The Europeans, C'est C Bon, the last pop album by Carlene Carter, Working with Fire and Steel by China Crisis, a collaboration that was repeated later in 1986 with the release of What Price Paradise. The year ended with the publication of the soundtrack for Educating Rita, a multi-award-winning and nominated film based on Willy Russell's play of the same title, directed by Lewis Gilbert and with music composed by David Hentschel.[9]

1984 saw Barnacle contribute to the recording sessions of This Is What You Want... This Is What You Get by Public Image Ltd, In the Long Grass, the last studio album by The Boomtown Rats, All the Rage, the debut album by General Public,[7] This Last Night in Sodom by Soft Cell followed by Vermin in Ermine, a solo project by Marc Almond and The Willing Sinners.[13] He also performed on Olympia by Hong Kong Syndikat, Bite Black and Blues by Raoul and The Ruined, In on the off Beat by Hey! Elastica and Influences, a solo album by Mark King of Level 42. But another of Barnacle's longtime association started that same year with Elvis Costello, for whom he provided saxophone for Goodbye Cruel World [14][15] and then for Imperial Bedroom, released in 1987. He also appears on many of Costello's compilation albums.[9]

In 1985, Barnacle participated in the recording of No Jacket Required, a solo album by Phil Collins, which went on to sell over 25 million copies worldwide, as well as to the releases of Phantasmagoria by The Damned, Easy Pieces by Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, Some People by Belouis Some, The Dream Academy's eponymous debut album, Knights Like This by Peter Blegvad and Mad Not Mad by Madness.[9] The following year he appeared on Writing on the Wall by Bucks Fizz, Stop Start by Modern English, Dancing in my Sleep by Dave Adams, U-Vox, the last album of the Midge Ure years, by Ultravox, Cutting Crew's debut album, the UK number one album Silk and Steel by Five Star, Sooner or Later by Murray Head, the debut album by Erasure, Into the Light by Chris de Burgh, Big Canoe a solo album released by former Split Enz frontman Tim Finn, Press to Play by Paul McCartney,[16] and 1st Down & Ten by Keep It Dark.[9] Also in 1986, he appeared on Absolute Beginners: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, playing on tracks by David Bowie - the single "Absolute Beginners", Style Council, Ray Davies, Working Week and Gil Evans, among others. During this period John Thirkell joined forces with Pete Thoms and Barnacle to form the Phantom Horns.

1987 was another prolific year for Barnacle, who was featured on the hit singles "China in Your Hand" by T'Pau, "Roadblock" by Stock, Aitken and Waterman and "Breakout" by Swing Out Sister. He also contributed to the releases of Red by The Communards, Banzai Baby by Sandii & the Sunsetz, Rick Astley's debut album. This last recording was a collaboration that was repeated with the release of Astley's second album, Hold Me in Your Arms, released in 1989. Also in 1987, he performed on Feelin' Good About It by This Way Up, Can't Wait to See the Movie seventh solo album released by Roger Daltrey of The Who,[17] Stand Up by Jo Lemaire, Never Never Land by Simon F, If by Hollywood Beyond and on Swing Out Sister's debut album as well as on their third studio album, Get in Touch with Yourself, released in 1992.[9]

In 1988, Barnacle worked on Bullet From A Gun by Derek B, Human Animal by Karel Fialka, and Creeping Up on Jesus by The Big Dish.[7][18] No Winners saw Barnacle working for the first time with Paul Hardcastle. He then repeated this feat on Hardcastle's Sound Syndicate, released in 1990, and The Jazzmasters project, in which he was the co-artist and co-writer, along with Hardcastle and Helen Rodgers. This was released in 1992.[19] 1988 also saw Barnacle participating to the release of the debut album by celtic rock group Hothouse Flowers, Yazz's debut album, The Jeremy Days by The Jeremy Days, then followed by the 1990 Circushead, Monster Jam by Ambassadors of Funk, Union, the debut album of the American singer and songwriter Toni Childs, Rage by T'Pau, Working Girl OST, Steppin' Out by Daryl Stuermer, No Outsiders by Judy Cheeks and 24hrs by Scarlet Fantastic.[9]

1989 saw Barnacle engaged in the releases of Moss Side Story, a concept album by Barry Adamson, Boomerang by The Creatures, a British duo formed by singer Siouxsie and drummer Budgie, Here Today, Tomorrow Next Week! by Björk's band The Sugarcubes. After the band split in 1992, Barnacle contributed to Björk's first two solo albums, Debut, released in 1993 and Post, released in 1995. In 1989 he also participated to the releases of Bass! by Simon Harris, The Beautiful South's debut album as well as their second album, Choke, released in 1990, Hard Reyne by Australian singer and songwriter James Reyne, Bankstatement, a solo project by Genesis keyboardist Tony Banks, Waterfront by Waterfront and I'm Still Here by Eartha Kitt.[9]

The 1990s (1990–1999)[edit]

In 1990, Barnacle appeared as a session musician on Naked by Blue Pearl, Trading Secrets with the Moon by The Adventures, Dangerous by Andy Taylor, First Time Ever by Joanna Law, Melting Down on Motor Angel by Sunsonic, Running from the Guns by Die Laughing, Stand Strong by Junior Giscombe, Jordan: The Comeback by Prefab Sprout,[11] and December by Dag Kolsrud, which was followed by December II, released in 1991. Also in 1990, he appeared on the single "Always The Last To Know" from the album Change Everything by Del Amitri and on A Pocketful of Dreams, the debut album by English boyband Big Fun, an act he (and Sonia) would have a number 14 chart hit with the Childline charity single "You've Got A Friend".[20] In 1991, he also worked on Meanwhile by German synthpop group Camouflage, Changing Faces final studio album from Bros, Black Meaning Good by Rebel MC, Marchand de cailloux from French artist Renaud, Let's Get to It, the fourth album by Australian pop singer Kylie Minogue,[9] The Apple by A Man Called Adam,[11] and the eponymous album by Rain Tree Crow, which was the name used by the English new wave band Japan (excluding Rob Dean) when they briefly reformed for this one-off project.[11]

1992 saw his collaboration with Soul II Soul for their third studio album, Volume III: Just Right, an experience that was repeated later in 1995 for Volume V: Believe. Also in 1992, he worked on Mind Adventures by Des'ree, Boing!! by Jefferson Airhead, Praise by Praise and Grass Roots by Takagi Kan.[9] The following year Barnacle participated in the realization of Jamiroquai's debut album and also worked on Guru's Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1 by Guru, To Hell with Humdrum by Kingmaker and One and All by Supermax.[9]In 1993, he played on James Brown's Universal James album (produced by Jazzie B).

In 1994, he played on Jamiroquai's The Return of the Space Cowboy album. He released his first solo album, Love Will Find a Way and contributed to El pan y la sal by Spanish pop band Presuntos Implicados.[9] Also in 1994, Barnacle appeared as the saxophonist in the house band on the spoof chat show Knowing Me Knowing You with Alan Partridge. The following year he worked on Hold On by Jaki Graham, The Tooth Mother by Mick Karn, Love and Respect by Marla Glen,[9] and on Billie Ray Martin's debut album, Deadline for My Memories.[11] In 1995, he played on 10 cc's Mirror Mirror album and Siouxsie and the Banshees song "New Skin" for the movie soundtrack of the film Showgirls. In 1996, he took part in Jamiroquai's biggest-selling album to date:- Travelling Without Moving (over 8 million copies sold worldwide). From 1996 onwards, his appearances became more sporadic. Nevertheless, he participated in the realization of Status Quo's Don't Stop, an album of cover versions that includes guest appearances from The Beach Boys, Brian May of Queen and Maddy Prior of Steeleye Span and the Sputnik: The Next Generation's eponymous album featuring Tomoyasu Hotei, both released in 1996. Games by Happy Clappers and Feedback by Vargas Blues Band were released in 1997.[9] In 1997, he played on and arranged the brass section for the No.1 single I Wanna Be The Only One by Eternal. In that same year, he played on the big US hit "Are You Jimmy Ray?" by Jimmy Ray and his subsequent eponymous album released in 1998. In 1999, he appeared as a session musician on When The Good Times Come by Hard Rain.

Recent projects (2000–present)[edit]

He returned to the music industry in 2001 when he and Hugh Hopper, Jakko Jakszyk, Dave Stewart, and Clive Brooks recorded a new version of "As Long as He Lies Perfectly Still" by Soft Machine for the compilation Man in a Deaf Corner: Anthology 1963–1970.[21] In 2002, Barnacle released his second solo album, Paradise.[9] In 2004, he played sax/flute on Between The Sun and the Moon by Brenda Russell. During this period he co-wrote and recorded an instrumental project with Mark King which is still awaiting release.

Other acts for whom Barnacle has contributed, live or in session, have included Pet Shop Boys, David Bowie,[22] and ABC.[9] He worked frequently with Stock Aitken Waterman as a session musician in their PWL studios. Barnacle is frequently credited as an arranger of woodwinds, brass and string instrument on his session work.[9] Barnacle also plays flute, keyboards and drums. In a career spanning more than four decades, Gary Barnacle has backed the stars of pop and rock and has seen the birth of new groups and musicians, experimenting with versatility across a variety of different musical genres and their associated styles.

In 2008/2009 he produced and arranged indie pop band Propeller and produced Ray Guntrip's Out of the Blue jazz project and he appeared as a session musician and brass arranger on The Collection by Jools Holland and as a session musician on A Long Way Back by Roger Cotton. Plus he was in the studio with Matt Johnson of Jamiroquai and singer J. C. Bentley.

In 2010 he was featured on Carried by the Storm by Bronz and on some live tracks on the Living It Up CD by Level 42.

2011 saw him appearing on La Musica by Ray Foxx (feat. Lovelle), This Is Love by Yazz plus new releases by Ray Guntrip and Tina May, the new CD from Vlad Miller and Notes from Underground (released in 2012).

In 2012 he worked on recordings by Project 5, The Geoff Everett Band (feat. Albert Lee), Vlad Miller, Debbi Parks/Tony Haygarth project, and the Blackjack Horns (featuring Nik Carter/Jack Birchwood/Steve Fuller).

In 2013 he engineered, produced, and played on the single "Any Minute Now" by Andrea Magee, played on the 'Jank' ep by The Jacs, and recorded with Blackjack Horns on a production by Walter Afanasieff called "Love Letters" by Brenna Whitaker, among others.

2014 saw him recording on the Mue album by Emilie Simon (with the Blackjack Horns) and the Cutting Crew album (again with the Blackjack Horns).

In 2016 and 2017, Barnacle worked with writer/producer Simon Law on two projects :- Laid-Back Beats album (incl. The Ace/Deep in It/Be You/My Destiny - all featuring Ruinz Ason) and Simon's first solo album Look to the Sky on Dome Records (incl. the title track featuring Jazzie B, on which Gary played Tenor/Alto Saxes and the first two singles:- 'Morning Love' featuring Caron Wheeler - with Gary on Flutes - and 'Fire on Fire' featuring Lain Gray, with brass by the Blackjack Horns (Nik Carter/Jack Birchwood/G.B.) arranged and engineered by Gary Barnacle @ 241 Studios (aka. Barnacle's Barn) . Fire on Fire was written by Simon Law/Lain Gray/Gary Barnacle - with the single remixes by Nigel Lowis (Release date :- 4 August 2017).

2017 also saw the release of the Decades double album by David Palfreyman and Nicholas Pegg, with narration by David Warner (actor), Jan Ravens and Richard Coyle, among others. It features vocalists such as Sarah Jane Morris (singer), Jessica Lee Morgan, Ian Shaw (singer) and many others. The horns on 'Love You Til Burn Out' were arranged by Gary Barnacle and played by the Blackjack Horns (Jack Birchwood/G.B.).

In 2018 Barnacle participated in the Soft Cell reunion concert at the O2 on 30 September, along with Jack Birchwood (Trumpet) from the Blackjack Horns. This event was filmed and recorded and was released as a live album and DVD in 2019. Also, 2018 saw the release of another single on Dome Records from Simon Law :- Look to the Sky (NK OK and Blue Lab Beats Remix) Feat. Jazzie B and Lain Gray with Gary Barnacle on Tenor and Alto Saxes. He also played Sax on the Geoff Everett album Night Patrol which was released in 2018.

2019 has seen G.B. playing on some new material by Rusty Egan incl. :- I Thought That I Could Never Love Again ft. Erik Stein with Gary Barnacle on Alto Sax. He has also begun a creative partnership with German electro-dance outfit e-bit, including a live appearance at the Artefaktor festival in London on 27 April.

In November 2021, Barnacle played five concerts in the UK with Soft Cell - which were a celebration of the 40th anniversary of their iconic album Non Stop Erotic Cabaret. This was filmed for a DVD release due in 2022.

Lists of Collaborations[edit]

Music acts[edit]

Barnacle has worked with many popular music acts, including:

(Note:- unless otherwise stated, the credits below mean studio work only.)

Producers, engineers and arrangers[edit]

Barnacle's services have been called upon by the following producers, engineers, and arrangers:


  • Love Will Find a Way (1994)
  • Phantom Horns (1995)
  • Paradise (2002)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Gregory 2002.
  2. ^ Salewicz 2007, p. 203.
  3. ^ Knowles 2003, pp. 24, 32, 42, 77.
  4. ^ Simmonds 2008, p. 137.
  5. ^ Greene-Allmusic.
  6. ^ Buckley 2003, p. VII.
  7. ^ a b c Robbins 1991, pp. 57, 275, 568.
  8. ^ Gibbs 1996, p. 247.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Credits.
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b c d e Phantom Horns.
  12. ^ Kim Wilde.
  13. ^ Reed 1999, p. 37.
  14. ^ Perone 1998, pp. 19, 30.
  15. ^ Thomson 2004, p. 164.
  16. ^ Badman 2009, p. 404.
  17. ^ Bogovich-Posner 2003, p. 18.
  18. ^ Robbins-TrouserPress.
  19. ^ Schwann Spectrum 1995, p. 249.
  20. ^ "You've Got A Friend" by Big Fun and Sonia featuring Gary Barnacle: 1990 Jive Records/Zomba/Chrysalis/PWL/Fast Forward Magazine, cat no. CHILD 90
  21. ^ Bennett 2005, p. 377.
  22. ^ Pegg 2006, p. 381.


Journals and magazines

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]