Nan Vernon

Nan Vernon was one of "The Spiritual Cowboys" contributing guitars and backing vocals and guitars to both of the albums, and became an important component of the live band that toured Europe extensively. Nan also had a solo career and was signed to Dave Stewart's Anxious Records label.

Nancy Vernon was born in Toronto, Canada in 1967. Her father was French Canadian actor John Vernon (born 24/2/32), whose sinister, pock-marked face would later lead him to be cast as the villain in films such as The Outlaw Josey Wales and Animal House, and in countless episodes of Hawaii Five-O. Her elder sister Kate Vernon would also become a successful Hollywood actress, starring in films like Soft Deceit (1994). Nan's love of music began at the age of five, with an unusual source of inspiration: Downtown by Petula Clark. She put it on the record player, listened awestruck and told her sister, "I wanna be a singer." When Nan was eight, the family moved to Los Angeles as John's acting career took off. During her teenage years she discovered, according to an interview in Cosmopolitan magazine) magic mushrooms and the guitar. After she left school, Nan spent five years playing in a Kate Bush-inspired band called Babushka. She once told the Bath Chronicle: "At first we were singing harmonies with a keyboard and a drum machine. Then it grew to two drummers, three bass players, all on stage together. We were kind of coffee-house strange, I guess." At one point she took a six-month sabbatical from the group to tour with Andy Summers, the former Police guitarist, before joining ex-Eurythmic Dave Stewart's backing band, The Spiritual Cowboys. Their two albums from the early 90s, Dave Stewart & the Spiritual Cowboys and Honest, have a lush pop-rock sound that can be seen as a precursor to the feel of Manta Ray. Nan herself is outstanding on backing vocals and guitar. Dave encouraged Nan to write her own material, which she recorded on a four-track as the band toured in 1990 and 1991. The tour was valuable experience: "Dave helped me realise it's the best thing in the world to get out there and enjoy falling flat on your face," she would later say. When Nan first moved to London she stayed at the Garden View Hotel, on Shepherd's Hill, Crouch End, North London (the hotel was recently converted into flats). Thereafter Nan stayed with friends until she moved into a modest one room flat on Topsfield Parade, in Crouch End. Nan could regularly be seen walking through Crouch End, with a leopard-print pill-box hat perched precariously on top of her head. Nan signed to Anxious Music Publishing (the publishing arm of Anxious Records) and, in between touring and recording commitments with the Spiritual Cowboys, began working on demos of her songs, in Anxious Music's 16 Track studio. This studio was a small, dingy room situated at the rear of the Church building, on Crouch Hill, of which Dave Stewart's Church Recording Studios is a part. Nan began unfolding her songs with the assistance of Nick Hunt, who handled the majority of the engineering duties on these demo sessions. Musicians who worked on these demos included John Reynolds on drums, Matthew Selligman on bass and Nick Pyall on guitar. These three musicians became the members of Nan's first band. The songs developed during these demo sessions were: Treasure, Fisherman, Big Picture, Dreams of Men, Manta Ray, Ruby Tuesday (a cover of the Rolling Stones song), Motorcycle, Olympia, Tattoo Tears, Lay Down Joe, No More Lullabyes and the unreleased Back to the Rosary. Black on Black, Rice and Weary of the Walls may also have originated from these sessions. A main source of inspiration for Nan during this formative period, both musically and personally was Jonathan Perkins, a fellow Spiritual Cowboy who also fronted his own band, Miss World. Jonathan co-wrote several of Nan's songs, namely: Manta Ray, Iron John, Black on Black , Alice Don't Leave by the Fire Escape and Back to the Rosary. In addition to this Jonathan played keyboards, piano and Casio on many of Nan's songs. Another key collaborator on Nan's songs was B. B. Watkins. This mysterious individual co-wrote Tattoo Tears and Dreams of Men, as well as garnering numerous production, engineering and guitar

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