Real Gone Kids
Record Mirror October 1988
Fresh from the slow burning success of their debut 'Raintown' LP, Glasgow's Deacon Blue return with a single thats set to push them into the big time at last.Andy Strickland meets main man Ricky Ross
THIS CAN'T be Raintown. Driving from Glasgow Airport into the West End, the sun on this chilly'., Autumn morning is so bright that it's difficult to read the grubby Glasgow street finder that the taxi driver. has put me in charge of. Don't they do the knowledge up here or what? Maybe all the city's budding young cab drivers are too busy strapping on guitars, writing songs, buying their leathers and getting their hair cropped to bother getting into the business of haggling for decent tips. There's more money to be made in the wacky world of pop, and if any city in Britain knows this to be true, it has to be Glasgow. And here we are at the comfortable flat of Deacon Blue's tour manager - his charges being the latest young Scottish band to be seriously contending for the big time down south.
Despite a reputation of not being backward in coming forward, lead face, voice and personality Ricky Ross and his pals are confident, sure, but polite and enthusiastic about what they do and where they're going. Where they've been isn't too bad either. "Yeah, we've been recording in LA," says Ricky. "lt's all very nice to go to a place like that but it's one of the saddest things when you think about it - that in Glasgow we've had so many major pop groups, especially in the last three years after Simple Minds, and yet you still have to go elsewhere to even mix a track properly. "There's hundreds of groups here, management and all that, but no facilities and a lack of the basic skills. We needed a session player for some B-sides and there just isn't that network here that you can plug into so you end up crossing the border just to do wee things. "Things are changing a bit now. I notice Wet Wet Wet are putting some of their money into a studio and a set-up up here and they deserve credit for that. We've found a graphic artist from Edinburgh to do all our T-shirts and things but it's people's attitudes here that really offend me. It shouldn't be like this."
DEACON BLUE have been dabbling with being a great pop success for a little while now. They're too classy to be caught up in the famous-for-five- minutes school, they write good songs and they've got an accomplished sound on which to base their assault on the top end of the charts both here and in the States. This will start in earnest with the new single 'Real Gone Kid'. Who is this 'kid' Ricky? "Have you ever heard of a band called lone Justice2" of course Ricky, LA's fiery young rock superstar in the making Maria McKee has been on the cover of rm. "Well, I went to see them at the Marquee in London and I just couldn't believe it. I only saw the last 10 minutes and the encores but it was enough to totally blow me away. I had this idea of writing a song about someone who was as spirited as Maria McKee. "I just thought - if someone's moved you that much and turned you around and sent you home much happier, I'd love to do that. Maybe people do feel that after our gigs; I don't know. But anyway, I thought she was incredible and that was the basic inspiration for the song." So now we get onto the old argument about pop music and cultural imperialism. (Eh? - Dep Ed.) Why do people like Ricky and, to a greater extent, liam Hothouse Flower, feel the need to express all these intense emotions in an American accent? "lt's not intentional," says Ricky. "lt's just like all the music that I really like, Van Morrison and Elvis Costello for example. They're the same and they take on board all these influences, that's where it all comes from. Most of the great Scottish and Irish bands have been American influenced but the important thing is to stay honest in the lyrical side of things. As long as you don't go beyond your understanding and your own framework then you're OK. I mean, I'd never write a song about America, I couldn't begin to. That's the biggest trap. "
THE THING that sets Deacon Blue apart from some of their contemporaries in
the polished pop arena is their acknowledgement of a wider musical spectrum
and their place in it. Can you imagine Marti Pellow singing a Husker Du (American
hardcore rock merchants) song? But that's what Ricky and Deacon Blue have
done on the CD version of 'Real Gone Kid'. It came as something of a surprise
to hear you'd done a cover of 'lt's Not Funny Anymore', Ricky. "Yeah, I bet
you thought 'why are that bunch of poofs doing a Husker Du song', didn't
you?" ' Well, why are you? "I first saw Husker Du three or four years
ago in Glasgow and they were amazing, completely manic. But they also had
these brilliant tunes and I stood down the front for about 30 minutes until
I couldn't take it any longer I thought it was great. It's so intense, and
not something that I could do myself but when I heard 'lt's Not Funny Anymore'
I thought it would be great for someone to cover as a country song or something.
"lt's good to do other people's songs because you learn from them and it
also puts out a bit of information about your own musical background, about
what you've listened to.
"Does this mean that you're concerned that Deacon Blue's hidden depths have been overlooked; that you're not taken as the serious young musicians you crave to be? "No," he laughs. "We're not carping at all about anything but we're very conscious of wanting to do a variety of things and not succumb to the music business pressure to go just one way, ie to go gold, platinum then double platinum. That's all a lot of people think about, but we like to expose ourselves, do quite a lot of different B-sides, do a lot of different cover versions live, and this weekend we're playing a couple of really small clubs up here. "l'm desperate to play live again. That last gig we did was in front of 30,000 in Dublin and it was fine, but music isn't supposed to be just about that. It's a two way thing and you need to get some intimacy occasionally or you can lose everything. That's why I think it's such a shame that Prefab Sprout won't tour, I mean, when do you meet your audience if you don't do gigs?"
DEACON BLUE, you may remember, were caught up in one of the worst incidents
of the disgraceful Reading Rock Festival fiasco this year. They left the
stage amid a tidal wave of missiles hurled from the crowd, after just one
song. Who needs gigs like that? "It was dreadful, for hours after it was
as though we'd all been involved in a car crash. You have to question the
audience a lot, you know? why is it you can do shows elsewhere in perfect
peace and harmony and then you get this? There's something very wrong with
that place and the people there. Obviously it pissed some people off that
we went off after only one song, but we were being bombarded with full bottles
of piss and there was no way we could stay on. "It was like a children's
camp mentality and people were trying to tell us it was all good fun, but
I hope the festival gets banned because they're letting a bunch of hooligans
run riot. Up here you can go to a Celtic Rangers match with 45,000 people
who hate each other and there'll be maybe 20 arrests - it's called social
order and proper stewarding. If you expect that sort of behaviour from people
you'll get it.
"Deacon Blue are half way through recording the follow up to the 'Raintown' LP. It's a harder affair than its predecessor, a result, no doubt, of all the touring the band have done since the beginning of 1987. It's bugging them that the recording is taking so long. "I used to despise bands who took two years to release their next LP and here we are doing the same. But with all the promotion we do for the singles and recording new B-sides, it just takes a long time to do properly." 'Real Gone Kid' is a more optimistic single than we're used to from Deacon Blue. Why are so many of the songs on 'Raintown' sad, lonely affairs, Ricky? "Those songs were written during a particularly difficult time in my life and I was feeling trapped in my personal situation. At the time I thought things were never going to change, that I'd never get away from this place. But life has changed and things have moved on and it's time to get happy again. A lot of the new songs are optimistic love songs. Where 'Raintown' was about adult love and lots of different characters, this next LP is about coming back down that hill a lot more merry." And as if to prove the point, dear readers, we close with - gasp - a Ricky Ross joke. . "This bloke walks into a second hand shop in Glasgow, goes up to the guy behind the counter and says 'have you got a second hand piano I can have for the Church Of Scotland?' The guy looks at him and says 'Yeah, sounds like a fair exchange!'." Andy Strickland