Story of the Blues Melody Maker, Dec 13th 1986
Deacon Blue take their name from a Steely Dan song, perform like the E Street Band and sound like a manic collision between the Waterboys and Prefab Sprout. Despite all that, Tom Morton thinks they're going to be famous.
There's blood on the walls; blood on the tracks of the tears shed last time Deacon Blue played this club in wildest, wooliest, woebegone Dunfermline. Congealed, dried blood from the massive fight that broke out after the bands last gig here at The Warehouse, a nice well-run club which re-affirms it's trouble-free reputation tonight. Still, I turn up the collar on my leather jacket and try to look tough. Hey, this is rock 'n' roll, dressing rooms, mayhem and madness, like on the road, man! Doncha just love it?
Not much, actually. I do love this band though. I like their music, their on-stage commitment, their lyrics - hell I even like the people. I even like their roadie. I even like their manager. Face it, I'm biased. Objectivity? This is fan city, folks.
But, as they say, the shit can hit the fan. Sometimes you catch a whiff of arrogance about Deacon blue, the scent of the wide blue CBS yonder already in their nostrils. Self-belief or self-deceit? Time will tell. They also have a tendency to live out the rock 'n' roll play idiotic-behaviour tension release game a bit too much off stage. But then, why not? A gang of young(ish) boys, off school and away from work, with everybody and their parrot telling them they're wonderful.
Me, I'm listening. I'm standing there in Dunfermline, thinking this is the best band out of Scotland since The Commotions, and I'm wondering why.
"It's in it's formative stages ...but it's definitely getting there..." Graeme Kelling slouches in his seat, tiredness creasing his face. Ricky Ross, lead singer and songwriter, moves with his usual manic energy opposite.
"We've learned a lot. We're not the kind of band who say 'We've got a record deal, so we'll give it six months, get smashed out our brains every night and have a really good time.' That's not the kind of group it is."
We're in a dressing room with all the accoutrements of Hitler's bunker after the shelling. These boys look tired, but they don't look old. They are though. Ricky at 29 and Graham at roughly the same should know better, you know just like Sting and Paul Young did. How dare they be old! Ricky grins his impish 16 year-old grin. "I was going back in this taxi with a certain A&R man, talking about our contract. And I said, yeah, just put, Richard Ross, born Dundee, Scotland, 36 years ago. And there was this dead silence, and he just looked at me and said, 'You're not?' And I'm going, 'Yeah, I know I look younger' He just lost the bottle totally."
Well, I'll tell you, it doesn't matter a vegetarian fart. Deacon Blue have one towering massive advantage over none-too-youthful pretenders like Love And Money. As Mat Smith said in a recent interview, they have "songs of substance".
Ross taps huge wells of empathy in his songwriting not just through the cracking crackingly tenacity, but through the sheer, loving humanity which sobs out his lyrics. They have confidence to just come out and admit they're a rock band. A big time, slightly old-fashioned rock band. Ain't that so?
"This is the point where people always get defensive, and say, actually I've got a really good collection of soul records at home. I think we probably are a rock group, but there's no one group that... I suppose the Rolling Stones, where you've got a brilliant sort of crossover."
But what Deacon Blue don't have is any reckless quick-to-burn-out decadence visible, a la Stones, on stage. They're so clean. Their haircuts are all so nice. I mean is this some kind of package? A rock 'n' roll group who look like the Pet Shop Boys? Graeme shakes his head.
"It just so happened two of the band got their hair cut in a certain place and it was easier to get everybody there ... and cheaper."
"It's a wee bit like the whole kind of gang mentality," muses head muse Ross. "We've been slagged off in Glasgow now for being a trendy group but, six months ago, we were totally, totally untrendy."
There's actually a fear of Deacon Blue in Glasgow. Nothing offends like the threat of success, and even a deaf, dumb and blind Rangers' supporter could tell that these boys are going places. They've got a massive deal with CBS combined - a rarity - with utter company confidence. Champagne and roses stuff. People badly want to see them fail and their refusal to take part in a major Glasgow gig with Love And Money and Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie unless they went on after GMM has caused some incredibly bad feeling. It's worse too because everyone knows they were right. They're already the most potent live act in Glasgow, beyond any shadow of a doubt. But have they sold out like some jealous hacks would say?
"I think if someone's going to say to you, you can't be honest - you can't be politically honest, you can't be socially honest, you can't be lyrically honest if you're old or if you're with a major record company or whatever... is ridiculous. It negates a lot of the things I like about music."
Ricky is a rarity, a fan with insight, brains and compassion. A man with a serious record collection, a highly developed political radicalism which is active and rigorous. But it's human, not theoretical. Significantly. when he organised a benefit for Nicaragua, it was for one particular person who was going there, not for anything as vague as a cause. Ricky functions within various causes, but, in his heart, I think its people he really believes in.
But how can you believe in people and sell them something as expensive and disposable as pop records?
"Anything that costs five quid a time... Britain is a changed place. Kids of 16 and 19 just aren't buying records anymore and that's the fact of the matter. They're buying cheaper, more accessible things, but I think all successful bands eventually cross over. The thing that annoys me the most is we don't get a chance to play to these people. In Glasgow, no one who's not a student or works early in the morning or looks under 21 can get in and see us."
Deacon Blue have more integrity, more honesty, more passion and compassion about them than any other band I've known. So what if they're going to win the glittering prizes?... because they are plas, they are. So what if they know it? Ricky Ross is too intelligent to lose grip of reality, even in this hell hole of an industry. This band are, simply, too good to fail.
They won't. Tom Morton