Rain Mates Forever

The Blue Nile‘s A Walk Across The Rooftops is, as you know already, a landmark album. Made possible by the boundary-free, anything-goes attitude of post-punk, it eschewed the era’s preference for jagged, scratchy guitars and political posturing and took the unfashionable route of grown-up, adult-orientated sophisto pop, where sleeves were rolled up to just below the elbows and bass guitars were worn just that little bit too high. No style then, but all substance.

Equally influenced by and an influence on other single-minded furrow ploughers such as Kate Bush, Talk Talk and Peter Gabriel, A Walk Across The Rooftops is literate, arty and perfectly self-indulgent. 35 years later, it still sounds timeless; not of today’s musical landscape, bereft of fad or fashion, forever out of step with the rest of music.

The Blue Nile had recorded one self-financed single which brought them to the attention of Linn, the high-end hi-fi manufacturer who were (and still are, I think) based on an area of prime green belt on the outskirts of Glasgow, close enough to the city should they need to be, yet far enough away from any noise pollution that might prevent their audio technicians from creating the superior equipment they’ve built their reputation on.

Linn set up a record label purely for the basis of showcasing their turntables, amplifiers and new-fangled CD players and asked The Blue Nile to record an album that would suitably bring to life the sonic qualities of the Linn palette. Over the course of 7 tracks, the band managed all this and more. Their combination of standard band instruments with the cutting edge Linn synth drum and electronic keyboards (similar in set-up to New Order, but a million miles from execution) created the ideal audio spectrum for which to hear Linn products in all their high-end glory.

If all this sounds a little too clinical, a little too contrived and corporate, a million miles away from the attitude afforded by post-punk, well, maybe that’s just what The Blue Nile were/are. In the early 80s, Glasgow was a grubby, scabby-kneed runt of a place, still desperately shaking off the ‘No Mean City’ image of the 60s and 70s and looking towards its eventual European City of Culture status in 1990. The Blue Nile looked beyond the horizon and recorded a cultured, European record long-before any fancy-pants titles landed at the City Chambers. Nowadays, Glasgow is a metropolitan tourist destination, a city of West End delis and pavement cafe culture, with an arms-open-wide embracing attitude. For The Blue Nile, it always has been.

It’s an album full of great, meandering songs, all ebb and flow rather than 3 minute bluster. Signature track Tinseltown In the Rain is the big one. It’s a strange song in a way. Lacking in ‘standard’ structure, there’s no verse/chorus/middle 8/ solo but, like all the best songs; Bowie’s Where Are We Now? perhaps, or Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands, it burrows deep within, implants itself and slowly unravels.

The Blue NileTinseltown In The Rain

Guitar strings ring as tight and taut as a spinster’s bed springs. The backing, all free-flowing bending bass and gated snare is retro-futuristic. Real strings fight for ear space with synthetic keyboard washes. It runs and runs and never ever outstays its welcome. At one point the band drop out and leave a squeaky Chic-y guitar, itchy and scratchy Glasgow grit before being swallowed whole by the swell of the strings. Paul Buchanan’s voice, forever on the edge of stifling a yawn, is Scottish Sinatra, baring his soul on an eyes half-shut, half-crooned love song to someone or some place. Perhaps even Glasgow itself. Tinseltown In The Rain. Even the title conjures up poetic images in the mind’s eye, as anyone who’s ever walked the city in the middle of a drizzle will tell you.



* That terrific landscape picture at the top was taken by Stuart Brown. You can visit his stall in the Merchant City Square every weekend. His pictures are really brilliant.

* the one above of Donald Dewar contemplating Buchanan Street in yer actual Tinseltown in the rain was stolen from online. I’m happy to remove if it’s your shot, although it does complement the text perfectly. Please get in touch.


Paul Right Now, Baby It’s-a Paul Right Now

I can vividly remember sitting in a physics class in 2nd year of school. Mr Hill was explaining how it was possible for a radio audience listening in Paris to hear the first notes of a song in the Albert Hall, London, marginally before the audience in the back row of the venue. Something to do with sound waves and frequencies and the speed of sound in a vacuum, he explained. Actually, I’m just making this part up. I have no idea how it works, which maybe explains why I never elected to take physics beyond the basic foundation level. It’s mind-blowing and all that, but really, who gives a shit?

Well, maybe some of last night’s audience in Glasgow’s Hydro. Officially the 3rd busiest venue in the world (behind London’s O2 and New York’s Madison Square Garden) it’s a beast of a venue. Filled to capacity most nights of the week, it’s hosted all the big acts since opening a couple of years ago; Prince, U2, Taylor Swift, all the hot tickets come to Glasgow’s Hydro where, for the majority of the audience they appear like Lego versions of the real thing, far off in the distance, or, plooks ‘n all, on two massive video screens suspended either side of the stage.

Some of the seats in the Hydro are in a different postcode to the stage. Others may well be in a different time zone, such is their distance from the action. Any old mod tuning in from Paris last night may well have heard the first bars of Long Hot Summer (yes!) before those poor folk head to toe in Pretty Green way up there at the back. Which means those Parisians would’ve had the first inkling that Paul Weller last night was on fire, raging with emotion, attacking his guitar like the angry young man he once was and still defiantly kicking against the pricks.

CLANG! (That’s the sound of a name about to be dropped….)

Johnny Marr told me recently that he’d never deny his audience the chance to hear the choicest of cuts from his stellar Smiths’ catalogue. Why would you, he said, when he enjoyed playing them and the audience wanted to hear them. Yes, he’s proud of his most recent work, but he’s equally proud of the songs that got him to where he is today. Weller, it’s pleasing to note, has done likewise.

A lengthy and epic career-spanning 28 song set-list was played out to his usual audience; aulder and balder with a touch more spread around their middle-aged waists but still bellowing and punching the air in celebration like it was ’78 or ’82. Or even ’95. Jam songs (for such a long time the missing link in his set) followed Style Council songs (for such a long time the missing link etc etc) which followed early solo classics which were followed by tracks from his current patchy but it-makes-sense-in-the-live-arena Saturn’s Pattern LP. In fact, almost every facet of Weller’s career was represented tonight. I think the only phase not acknowledged was his Wild Wood LP, which is really saying something, bop-bop-shoobeedoo-wop. You could sit right now and write a brilliant 28 song set of the tracks he didn’t play, but that would be churlish. Weller’s set tonight was carefully thought-out and paced. I’d even go as far as saying that this was the best I’d ever seen him.

Kicking things off in an understated fashion with the snappy one-two of I’m Where I Should Be and Long Time from the latest album, he was quick to dip into the depths of his stupendous back catalogue. The Jam’s Man In The Corner Shop was followed by Ghosts from the same era. The wham-bam bossanova of The Style Council’s Have You Ever Had It Blue came immediately after My Ever Changing Moods, Weller’s foil Steve Cradock doing his best Curtis Mayfield impression on the wah-wah.

The sideman was on fine form tonight, let loose on expanded versions of Up In Suze’s Room and Porcelain Gods. Into Tomorrow was recast as a dubby, spacey sprawling epic, as expansive as the waistline on some of those old mods’ sharply-creased trousers. Elsewhere, we had a slightly-too-slow take on Start!, a sublime Above The Clouds which sounded like a long-lost cut from Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On LP, a spiky ‘n snarling Peacock Suit, a rare outing for lost single Starlite, a fantastic wigged-out version of The Jam’s In The Crowd and ooh, more than a handful of other crackers. It all finished off in the 2nd encore with a celebratory run through of Town Called Malice, Weller breaking into a smile as he bashed his tambourine into the microphone. He’s fast-becoming the English Neil Young; both have 3 distinct phases of their career, both can by awkward and bloody-minded, both are happy to give you epic sets filled with jam-heavy breaks (no pun intended) and they can both effortlessly switch from rocker to ballad to piano to electric guitar and back again. He’s alright, is our Paul.

via @BazzaMills on Twitter

The hardest-working man in the Hydro was undoubtedly Weller’s sound man. Those recent albums have been dipped in atmospherics and electro whooshes and the soundman sprinkled his magic dust over every track tonight, Weller’s voice echoing off and out into the ether, drums ricocheting around the room. This wasn’t just a bog-standard plug in and play gig, it was an all-encompassing, multi-sensory event. Sound and vision, to steal a phrase.

When Weller next returns to Glasgow, I’ll be surprised if it’s to the Hydro. He enjoys Glasgow, it’s always a fixture on his tour, but his gigs here have followed a pattern over the past decade or so. A gig at the Barrowlands was followed by an up-scaling to the Armadillo. He returned afterwards to the scuzzy setting of the Barrowlands. Next time round, he popped up in the rarely used for gigs Braehead Arena, before coming back once again to the Barrowlands and its familiar sprung dancefloor. He’s at his best in the smaller venue, where he can make real contact with the audience and create a true communion. I doubt if many artists can honestly say that about the Hydro, regardless of how popular a venue it has quietly become. “Nice gaff!” remarked Steve Cradock at one point. Yes, but it’s just that wee bit big, isn’t it?


Who Says A Funk Band Can’t Play Rock Music?

So. Prince at the Hydro. I’ve seen Prince before, but never in a venue that looks exactly from the outside like the newly-grown 70’s ‘fro on his funky little head. Being my first visit to the Hydro, I was largely impressed; decent leg room and comfy chairs with a terrific view and a beer for £4, although I felt slightly detached from the whole thing. The standing area was clearly the place to be and from our not-so-lofty postion in Level 2, you had the feeling of watching people at a gig, rather then being the people at the gig, if that makes sense.


Musically, Prince is on a whole other level to any other act on the planet. He and his band 3rdeyegirl have the knack of firing off riff-heavy rock tunes, tear-soaked soul ballads and elastic band-bass funk monsters, often within the space of the same song. And if all that has you breaking out in a rash of Red Hot Chili Pepper proportions, fear not. He has one of the greatest back catalogues in popular music (“D’you have any idea just how many hits I got? We could be here all night!”) and over the next 2 and a half hours much of it gets a good airing.

Beginning with the double wham-bam slam of a slowed down and sludgy, Stooges-heavy Let’s Go Crazy and a bright ‘n breezy Take Me With U, Prince sets his stall out from the off. Tonight is going to be very heavy on the hits and even heavier on the guitars. Raspberry Beret, U Got The Look and Kiss all fly by in an anabolic rush of thundering drums and Hendrix guitars. Now and again he’ll shout for “Donna!”, 3rdeyegirl’s axe wielder, all outgrown Phil Oakey 80’s haircut and sprayed-on lycra to take the lead, and she’ll oblige with a screaming tantrum of a solo. The crowd (and Prince) lap it up, but part of me grimaces. “Eurovision power ballad,” I say at one point to Mrs Pan, and for once she agrees. But that’s a minor complaint as the hits keep a-comin’…..

Little Red Corvette, a sublime full band version of Nothing Compares To U, 1999 (Mommee! Why does everybody have a bomb?” (He did that bit!)). Mid way through, the band exit, Prince takes to stage right, “House lights down, please!”, fires up a primitive drum machine and blasts out shards of white-hot skeletal funk into the darkness – Sign ‘O’ The Times, Hot Thing, I Would Die For You. The whole thing is fast becoming one of my top 3 gigs ever when he stops to talk to the audience. “30 years ago, this was the sound of the summer…” and right on cue the shredding electric guitar intro to When Doves Cry rips the roof off. I have an immediate Pavlovian rush of listening to a warped and stretched old C90 playing the same track on my Grundig music centre through my headphones when I was supposed to be sleeping. Jesus! He even hits the falsettos like it’s 1984 again. Prince is on fire. His voice sounds strong and exactly like the records. Better, even. He’s clearly enjoying himself throughout, dropping to his knees, James Brown style at the slow parts, dancing the mashed potato during the more groove-based musical interludes or walking out to one of his two podiums to rattle off another effortlessly flash solo at lightning speed. For me, the whole gig hung on a terrifically inspired cover of Tommy James and the Shondells‘ old bubblegum hit Crimson And Clover. Prince dragged it out, adding psychedelic flourishes at the slow bits and Hendrixifying it here and there with the odd Wild Thing riff. “I think I love you….but I wanna know for sure…” Unexpected and totally magic.

Tommy James & the ShondellsCrimson And Clover


Before the gig there were heavy handed notices and announcements warning you not to use cameras of any sort (clearly flouted by a few – all the pictures here were taken from the audience) so when, during a souped-up Controversy, Prince shouts “cellphones out!” the whole place lights up like a Christmas tree. Cheesy? Yes! Just like one of those lighters aloft 70s stadium shows, but my goodness it’s great to be a part of it. I even sneaked a wee clip of 1999 on my phone, but if I want this blog to remain in hyperspace forever, I’ll resist the urge to post it here.

The piano interlude towards the end had him (a wee bit frustratingly) play snippets of some of his hits – Diamonds & Pearls, The Beautiful Ones, Alphabet Street, before Prince settled on Sometimes It Snows In April. Yes! Whodathunkit? Beautiful! He closed the show with it in Leeds the next night, so clearly, it’s a song he holds dear. Almost inevitably, the main set closes with the opening chords to Purple Rain.


The band walked back on at the appropriate moment and for the next 10 minutes the whole room is awash with confetti from hidden cannons and filled with the sound of the greatest power ballad ever. Did I really just type that?

Encores? Of course. Housequake. Housequake! Wow! Who expected that? More covers- a snippet of Sly’s Dance To the Music with dirty fuzz bass and Wild Cherry’s Play That Funky Music before coming to a sweaty end with the Isley’s Live It Up, the stage full of gyrating hand-picked audience members of various Glaswegian shapes and sizes. The big girl at the front was clearly having the time of her life. The two guys at the edge looked like they’d rather be anywhere in the world at that particular time. “If you were asked up, how would you dance?” asked the missus. “Like the rhythmically challenged white man from Ayrshire that I am,” I replied. Cos that’s what I’d been doing all night anyway.

Here‘s a Funkadelic track that kinda sums up Prince and his band at the moment. Catch them if you can. Worth every penny. (And they cost a lot of pennies).

FunkadelicWho Says A Funk Band Can’t Play Rock



I’d like to credit the photographs used – if any of these are your photos please get in touch and I’ll add your name below. Or remove them if you’d rather. Thanks!


entire show, Live!

Get Back! Get Back! Get Back to where you once belonged!

You may have noticed things have been a bit quiet ’round here lately. An extreme bout of lethargy/cannae be arsedness coupled with actual real work being a bit hectic has lead to a slow down in the proceedings. But, for what it’s worth, I can safely say “I’m back“. So too, you probably noticed, is old thumbs aloft himself, the strangely auburn-coiffured Paul McCartney.

 Beatle Bum

I gulped a huge gulp back in March when I hit ‘return‘ and ordered 3x £85 tickets. I nearly refused to pay in private protest at what could only be described as extortion. A superstar going through a high profile divorce meant only one thing – in a round about way I was paying for his youngest daughter’s designer clothing and private schooling. But just as quickly as I thought this, I thought of myself moping around the house on the night of the gig and how I wish I’d just gone. My 15 year old self did this very thing when The Smiths rolled up to my hometown as part of their Meat Is Murder tour. “Oh mama, let me go!“. “OK“. “Really? I thought you’d say no.” So, just to be contrary, I didnae go. 25 years later, it still tortures me. So really, there was no way I’d miss this. And thank fuck (sorry) I didn’t.

After sitting through Sharleen Spiteri’s Asda Price Stax/Volt Revue – group dressed by Top Man, mind stopped from wandering purely by ogling the highly shaggable Spiteri (sorry again – to paraphrase one of our Scottish politicians, it must be this hot weather), McCartney came wandering onstage to huge applause. A brief malfunctioning guitar meant that he started with a hiccup rather than a bang, but once he was off and running……. oh man…..he was really off and running!

Little Beatle Paul in his little Beatle Boots

For as long as I’ve been into music, I’ve obsessed over these songs and here they were being played out right in front of me, 12 rows from the front of the stage, no need at all for that big video screen just there. I’m into double figures for Dylan gigs. Old Bob expects you to sit there and listen in reverential silence as his ever-decreasing-in-talent pub band grind their way through another 12 bar version of Maggies Farm. I’ve seen the Stones, Jagger and Richards playing some pantomime version of the ugly sisters as they karaoke their way through their back catalogue. McCartney knows exactly what his audience are here for and he stands and delivers. From backbeat boot stomping Cavern Classics (All My Loving) to White Album genius (Blackbird, Back In The USSR, Helter!! fucking!! Skelter!! (sorry again) to Wings Greatest Hits, it sounds amazing. The band replicate every last note, every last harmony and even when McCartney hits the bum notes on the piano during Let It Be, or fluffs some finger picking on Blackbird, or goes a bit flat on the harmonies of Paperback Writer (really!), it makes it somehow all the more real. Live. In front of you. It’s like going to see the Bootleg Beatles, except, well, it’s almost yer actual Beatles.

(my own video – link newly uploaded – may take a few minutes before it works)

Highlights were too numerous to list – but the whooshing jet sound at the start of Back In The USSR had the hairs on the back of my neck standing to attention. Live And Let Die‘s firework n flames display almost set fire to the same hairs a few minutes later. Even the toasted cheese on top – a pipe band marching on halfway through Mull Of Kintyre was gobsmackingly magic. The whole thing finished with the Sgt Peppers reprise before segueing into The End, complete with drum solos, rocktastic duelling guitars (no bass, as you’ll see from the video clip below – weirdly I had to upload it to YouTube before I could show it here) and the final harmonies from a croaking Paul McCartney. Really, this show was over the top brilliant. But, if you’ve read this far you knew that already.


And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make