Deacon Blues The Scotsman 28th April 1994
It’s all over. Deacon Blue, one of Scotland’s biggest rock successes in recent years, are splitting up. From the official record-company obituaries one might think it’s an amicable, adult parting of the ways. But who can say? ALISON DANIELS reports
CAN it really be true? One of Scotland’s biggest musical success stories has suddenly crash landed in spite of current massive chart sales? Deacon Blue, those Glasgow stalwarts, are to split up? After nearly a decade, the seemingly invincible pedlars of thought-rock for youth with brains, a CD player and mainstream tastes, have announced enough is enough, they want to take a break and go their own ways. While rumour has it the keyboard player Jim Prime is toying with the idea of emigrating to the US, Scottish Television held a press conference yesterday to announce that the drummer, Dougie Vipond, is to front the station’s late night arts programme, NB. No news of the fates of the guitarist, Graeme Kelling, and bass player, Ewen Vernal. But never mind band members that no girlie fans are in love with, what on earth does the future hold for that moody, sunglass-wearing icon, frontman Ricky Ross? And what of the owner of the dreamy voice and slash-red lipstick, Ross’s wife, Lorraine Mcintosh? Tina at the band’s former publicity company, London-based Partridge and Storey, says only her colleague, Rob, can confirm the story and explain the background.
Rob’s line s forever engaged so Tina says to phone Joe at the band’s record label, Columbia, part of Sony Music. Joe handles the band’s publicity now but, surprise, Joe’s line is engaged, then she is at a meeting, then she does not call back. No one else at Sony can possibly talk until Joe has spoken to the band’s manager, Peter Felstead. He has promised to call her at lunchtime. Of course she will phone back — as soon as she knows anything. Finally Tina at Partridge lays her hands on a press release. It is all true. It is all over. “Deacon Blue, one of Britain’s most successful bands over the last ten years are splitting up after their current tour. The decision comes at a time when Deacon Blue are enjoying phenomenal success. The band’s latest album, Our Town - The Greatest Hits, is currently number two in the UK charts , a month after release." It seems the split is like their music, very adult, very dignified , very undramatic. No hysterical sobbing fans, no shot-gunned brains on the bedroom floor in the style of Nirvana’s suicidal Kurt Cobain. No world-wide wailing about the death of a great youth culture phenomenon. Probably only a small sigh from the petrol station tape-buying brigade momentarily gripped by national pride before a car journey over the border.
But what of the spicey — and unfounded — rumour that the spoils of a publishing deal have not been evenly distributed between singer and band? Or of the suggestion that the band’s failure to make roads into the American market have displeased their global masters, Sony. Unfortunately Ross’s answerphone stays on all day. In the sanitised Sony statement, Ross reveals nothing. “As George Harrison once said, all things must pass. The band always agreed that Deacon Blue was going to be time limited and, after much consideration we’ve decided that time must come. We’re leaving on a high with no plans to work together after the current tour. I hope, however, that the fact that we are still touring means it is self-evident the band are still friends.” The band’s manager, Peter Felstead, is insistent it is all very simple. “They’ve just decided to call it a day.” He says he does not knows if Ross and McIntosh have plans to pursue solo careers. “They’re going to take a break after the tour, then think about the future.”
Whatever. Love them or not, it is the music that matters. There is no escaping from the fact that Deacon Blue have been one of those Eighties, trendy Glasgow bands whose success has lasted into the 1990s and ensured that the phrase, “Scottish music industry” is not sneered at by those accountants-come-record executives who think the music industry is in London. One up, too, on the New Musical Ex- press muso who wrote: “Let’s face it, they’re crap,” misjudging the appeal the band has had for thousands of fans in the UK and Europe if not accurately describing their music Since the band’s first album, .Raintown went platinum in 1987, a steady succession of` polished, lucrative albums including - Fellow Hoodlums, best seller When The World Knows Your Name, and Whatever You Say, Say Nothing have sold collectively over three million copies in the UK. To emerge from this popular litany have been 14 catchy chart singles, destined to remain on radio playlists forever. But perhaps, with the wisdom of hindsight, the writing was on the wall this spring with the release of a compilation of greatest hits album. A tell-tale sign that the band had run out of steam?
After all, Ross has already met or imitated all his heroes. Bruce Springsteen came backstage after a New York gig. Last year, on tour, Ross dressed up like U2’s Bono in silver and wrap-around shades. What's there left to do? Or could it be the fans are getting a little tired of the Scottish nationalist card, flashed with relish on Scottish dates to thaw out the rather tame audiences? Mixing politics and mainstream chart success is one of those delicate balancing acts it seems almost impossible to get right and stay credible, let alone cool. In interviews Ross has had the humility to acknowledge that political statements from rock stars are largely worthless, particularly when yelled out into the darkness at a uninterested crowd during a concert. But that has not stopped him carving out a niche for himself in the Scottish popular politics scene. In the heady pre-election days in 1992, Ross swapped microphone for megaphone and joined other trade unionists and artists to persuade Glaswegians to attend a rally for a Scottish parliament.
McIntosh notched up a few political credits by helping the Hillhead Liberation Front to deliver leaflets. The band have also made a big deal out of nurturing their Scottish roots instead of upping sticks and flitting to a life of excess in London or the States. Ross and McIntosh live in a Glasgow West End Victorian villa, a lot of their material has been recorded at the city’s Ca Va studios and the album cover for Fellow Hoodlums was designed by the Glasgow artist Alastair McCallum. A former English teacher, Ross has also made a few forays into the world of Scottish print, including a play for the theatre company 7.84 and, in spite of being rejected for a journalist job by Dundee’s DC Thomson, an article for The Scotsman. To complete the circle, the band’s last gig will be at the Glasgow Barrowlands on 20 May. Alison Daniels