Ricky's Hung Up New Musical Express, 7th May 1988
DEACON BLUE may be reluctant to reveal their dirty laundry to Alan Jackson, but they are anxious to dispel their image as a gloomy band from Glasgow.
So maybe it's the last thing he needs right now. It's the first day in the studio working on tracks for the next album and some smarmball journo turns up from London and wants to do an interview. Enough to make you want to kick the bastard, right?
Well that's the Catholic guilt trip over. At least I didn't come out with that old chestnut put to every band hailing from north of Berwick on Tweed nowadays: 'What do you think of Wet Wet Wet?'
Even so, the face of Ricky Ross is a picture of gloom and despondency, as he, I and Deacon Blue guitarist and accredited low voice Graeme Kelling tramp across the road from Glasgow's Cava Studios and head towards one of the city's multitude of mock-Renni Mackintosh hostelries.
I'd thought it would be quite a happy occasion, what with When Will You Make My Telephone Ring? from last year's Raintown debut making steady progress up the charts... Is it just interviews we're fed up with, or is it the hassle of being expected to play the frontman off-stage as well as on?
"Basically, I always refuse to do interviews, but here we are again."
"I don't think they do much good really. It's just an indirect way of reaching the public and I'd much rather do that directly through shows or radio interviews."
Do you think you've had a bad press?
"I just think much of it has been irrelevant- irrelevant or misinformed."
Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to put Deacon Blue on the NME cover to herald Raintown all those months ago then. Is this a view you subscribe to also Graeme?
"I'd go with the line that there's a certain obscelscence to writing about music," says the genial middle man carefully. "The best thing you can do with music is listen to it. At best, music journalism is finding out what people are really like. That's all I've ever been interested in reading about - hoping that people will reveal themselves, and that all their dirty laundry will come out."
"That rarely happens these days, although it used to - you'd get total, absolute character assassination over two pages. Sometimes it would be almost painful to read, and I'm sure it was even more painful for the people on the receiving end."
It would be ironic if Ricky Ross shared Graeme's nostalgia for that murderous era though, for it soon emerges that he's nursing a grievance of the headline that accompanied NME's review of 'Raintown' way back then.
"It was 'Light Macs' 'cos there was a picture of me wearing one," he says incredulously. "Isn't that the most racist comment you've heard from a supposedly liberal journal?"
I'd have to say it's probably not, but admittedly I'm not Scottish.
"It was a classic," continues Ricky. "Southerners are couched in this kind of liberalism and then when it comes to Scotland we're all jocks together. It's complete shite."
Are you the kind of man that bears grudges then?
"You've stopped carrying that bent nail round in your pocket, haven't you," grins Graeme?
"No," replies Ricky without smiling.
In an attempt to improve the flow of conversation, I switch subjects to the work in hand. Deacon Blue are approaching their second album with something like 20 Ricky Ross songs to choose from. What are they hoping to achieve with it?
"Death and glory, I suppose," says Ricky. "I'd like it to be a very happy, sparkling album, then one more after that and that will be it."
"I just think that's how it will be," he replies. "I think it will be quite hard to get this one together, and maybe there won't even be another one. But that doesn't really matter. I think it's good when something is done and then stopped - it's really healthy. Things that go on too long become the most annoying."
So you believe in quitting while you're on top?
Not even on top," says Ricky. "As long as we make records I'm happy. The only reason I'm glad 'When Will You...' is in the Top 40 is basically because CBS will give us the grant to make another album. That's what it all boils down to. There's no other reason for them to do it than that. We really believe in you guys... We are the family of music and all that."
It's at about this point that we come to a mutual agreement that the reluctant Ricky might as well head back to Cava and send over a more willing replacement. Minutes later Lorraine McIntosh appears with a welcome smile.
"I was desperate to get into this band," she enthuses over a Coke. "I used to go and see them play live and I'd be singing backing vocals from the crowd. When I was asked to become a member I just couldn't believe it. Even if I formed my own band I don't think I could love any songs as much as these or get as much out of singing them."
It's been a popular misconception about Deacon Blue that all the songs must be depressive, rainy-day-in-Glasgow-type dirges though, whereas there is a strong life-affirming sprity running through them...
"That's the two sides to us," agrees Graeme. "That other side seems to have been totally ignored. The songs on 'Raintown' are actually really uplifting, there's a joyous aspect to them as well as a description of a certain time and place - and we leave people to make up there own minds about where that is.
"And I'd say that the songs we're working on now are even more positive, which is good. I'd hate to be involved in something that was only negative, or always super-cynical. There's far too much of that in the charts already."
We're not talking about laugh-a-minute here though, are we?
"Not quite that," smiles Graeme, "but I think the most you can hope for from any song is that it speaks to you and that you get something from it that you recognise. There are certain things common to everyone's experience, and if you're a good songwriter you know what these things are. And I think Ricky is a good songwriter. He's definitely capable of capturing those universal feelings in a way that other people can identify with, and that doesn't seem to be happening too much these days. I mean Take these dogs away from me...".
"I think the new songs just seem a lot happier," adds Lorraine. "The first album was a collection of 10 years of songs for Ricky. His whole growing-up period was coming out in them and there was a lot he had to get out of his system. I think this album will be harder to do than the first one, where there was no previous work for it to be judged against, but it's going to be much better. It will still be really melodic, but harder-sounding."
Do the songs relate specifically to Glasgow?
"I don't think a lot of 'Raintown' was about Glasgow specifically," she counters. "The Springsteen songs that mean something to me may have been written in New Jersey but that's not just what they're about. They're about the universal things in life that happen anywhere.
We haven't really been in Glasgow that much this past year, so it would be false to try to keep up that pretence that we're all broke and that we never get out of the city. If anything, we're never there. We travel a lot and we're not particularly broke, so it would be false to hold on to some image of Ricky sitting in a back room with no money and the rain pouring down. There's no way we could do another set of songs about being unemployed and trapped when we're not, but I must say it's quite odd singing songs that aren't all about that."
So it will be all partying and getting down on the next album?
"That's right," says Graeme. "We've all been listening to the Alexander O'Neal LP, so there'll be a few gags thrown in between the tracks."
"Actually the songs are all about life in Knightsbridge," offers Lorraine. "That and spending the winter in Paris...but no, they're just about life and love, and isn't that what all the best songs are written about?"
Deacon Blue make no secret of the fact that they've had a few run-ins with their record label over ways of marketing the band. Has Lorraine been assaulted by the dreaded company stylist brigade then?
"I'm quite insulted actually that I haven't," she says indignantly. "They've probably written me off.. There's no way we're going to make her look good, so we won't even try.
"Someone in a review recently said that I came on stage looking the spit of Just William in my shorts and Doc Martens, then some feminists came up to me after a gig and said they felt I was being used as the token sex object of the band. I thought, thanks, it's the first time anybody's ever called me that."
But having resisted the inevitable attempts to make it Ricky and Lorraine's band, with the other four guys stuck somewhere out of camera range, Deacon Blue have made the odd concession to showbiz.
At their impressive live show at London's Town And Country Club recently I noted the odd bout of synchronised movement - choreographed, apparently, by the Just William-cum-sex object herself.
Does that mean that we're on the way to Deacon Blue And The Pips, or even Deacon Blue with the Lorraine McIntosh Dancers? The Arlene Phillips of Kelvingrove pauses only to pick herself up off the floor.
"As we were headlining bigger places and had a bigger budget, we thought we should try and get a better show," she says, composing herself. "Then we went to see Danny Wilson play and we realised from them how effective it could be when occasionally the whole band moved in time."
Just then bassist Ewen Vernal pops his head around the corner having been dispatched across from the studio in case the conversation is starting to flag.
You're not miserable, we tell him, so you pretend to be the lead singer for the purposes of the interview.
"And what makes you think I'm not miserable too," he deadpans, sitting down.
But that's where we came in.