Completing the dozen, The Fool Circle was out in February 1981 – Naz’s first release on NEMS – and made the album charts but only at number 60. The band once more recorded as a 4-piece, with ex-Spirit keyboardist John Locke filling out the sound on a few tracks, and the music veered away from the commercial, sometimes American-rock of Malice In Wonderland, and instead was a mixed bag of rock, reggae and blues, with some socially aware political lyrics thrown in as well. Pete now reflects “The Fool Circle was a different kind of turn for us I guess. We wrote that kind of separately – Dan and I wrote half of it and Manny did the rest.”
After The Fool Circle a respected young guitar slinger and songwriter from Glasgow who had played in Cleminson’s band Zal was recruited. His name was Billy Rankin and around the same time John Locke was keen to join up, and so the next album release, the very high energy live double-album ‘Snaz recorded in Vancouver in May 1981, featured what Dan and Pete now call the Nazareth 6-piece orchestra. As before, it was Naz’s take on rock classics such as J.J. Cale’s ‘Cocaine’ and Z.Z. Top’s ‘Tush’ that helped to make the album a massive international seller.
The band also recorded a live video in Houston, Texas on the tour, a great live show with added interviews from the band.
In 1982 the band released 2XS featuring ‘Dream on’, which sold very well in the States and Europe, extending the band’s already extensive touring schedule even further. Although ‘Dream On’ was as big a hit as ‘Love Hurts’ in Germany and mainland Europe generally,2XS amazingly wasn’t even released in Britain thanks to legal hassles with their new label NEMS. With Locke leaving because he couldn’t stand the guy (Jim White) who was now managing the band, the 5-piece produced Sound Elixer in 1983, another interesting album taking in soul, funk, country…you name it… Nazareth have experimented with it. After the tour to promote the album, Billy decided to leave the band to pursue a solo career; he released two solo albums Growing Up Too Fast, featuring the U.S. top forty single ‘Baby Come Back’, and ‘Crankin’’
Nazareth was now back to their original 4-piece line-up
In 1984 they landed a UK record deal with Vertigo and released The Catch. A full UK tour followed, including a support slot at the Milton Keynes bowl with Status Quo.
In 1985 the band’s by now ex-manager Jim White attempted to release Sound Elixir in England on his Sahara label until a court ruling went against him.
In 1986 Nazareth put out there rockiest album in years Cinema, a welcome return to form for the band. But it wasn’t to last.
The controversial Snakes and Ladders Album (1989) went out on Vertigo in Europe but not released in England.
Events and weird scenes that surrounded the production of that album eventually led to Manny Charlton and the rest of the band parting company after 22 years (20 in Nazareth) of playing together.
For the first time in Nazareth’s 22-year career, the band’s 4 original members were no longer together.