Steeling myself for a bunch of mindless but necessary ironing, I put on something for the soul. A Facebook-flagged podcast on The Blue Nile. It’s called In Search Of The Blue Nile, and was made by music journalist Ken Sweeney, who also narrates. I believe Ken lives just up the road from me, in Skerries.
It’s dark and dreary outside but my rainswept window becomes a time-bending portal to a brighter, higher world. The gently ruminative and rhapsodic world of The Blue Nile.
Over the hillside beyond the sodden wasteland I am wandering in the whimsied mists of other days … ha, you see, that’s what it’s like, giving yourself up to the magic of The Blue Nile. A diffident magic created by three Glaswegians, of uncommon synths and sensibilities, who transformed that hardest of hard cities into Tinsel Town in the rain. Paul Buchanan, Robert Bell and PJ Moore.
On their own terms. Four albums in just over 30 years.
They are one of the few bands I know who can cease the fire of those forever boys shouting over each other about the best bands, and the best songs, as they solemnly agree, that yeah, A Walk Across The Rooftops and Hats, are up there with the very finest albums — ever! — If not the best. Some things are beyond argument.
And it doesn’t seem to matter what sort of musos you’re talking to, from the grittiest of country rumblers to the archest of new romantics, through to the dreamiest soul sister and the coolest Gitanes-infused jazz cat, they all bow before these boys.
They just seem to touch the romantic soul buried in even the most rugged or guarded of exteriors. Making dreamers of us all.
It’s a lovely, amiable, documentary, tracing the singular story of this most idiosyncratic of bands, and retracing the Glasgow streets and landmarks that shaped their marvellously evocative songs. Pulling up in a taxi, for instance, with the gently self-deprecating Buchananan as he goes on to point out the exact window he gazed out from across those slated rooftops all those years ago. Bell and Moore have their stories to tell too and a wealth of well-known heads put in their well-judged and heartfelt eulogies.
They played it their way, Messieurs Buchanan, Bell and Moore, but here they played it down as they shook their collective heads in astonishment as they recalled fleeting superstar pals like Peter Gabriel and Sting, and early champion Stuart Adamson of Big Country, who couldn’t get over this trio beyond all time and fashion. Gabriel bought one of their albums literally by the box load in order to distribute copies to his friends.
Buchanan was hilarious as he likened this short-lived dalliance with the superstars as “being allowed to play football for a minute with the professionals.”
Bliss. Thanks Blue Nile. Nice one, Ken.
- In search of the Blue Nile was originally broadcast on RTE Radio on December 28th, 2016. Catch it on Soundcloud.
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