When The World Remembers Their Name
Go! 14th May - 10th June Issue No.8
Twelve years ago this month, a little known band playing around Glasgow released their debut album "Raintown".Five years ago they sensationally split up.Now back together, Deacon Blue's reunion gig at the Royal Concert Hall sold out in less than two hours.Craig Wylie discovers if the old magic still lingers with the original Real Gone Kids....
For the uninitiated, Deacon Blue were the most talented exponents of a period
in the mid to late
referred to in hushed tones as 'Scot Rock'. It was a time in Scottish music
folklore when local bands signed multi million pound deals with major record
companies. Every gig, or so it seemed, was packed to the gunnels with talent
scouts up from London looking for the next big thing and Scotland was a vibrant
hotbed of emerging musical talent.
Signing to CBS in 1986, Deacon Blue's first top 40 single was the Bob Clearmountain produced anthem to working class pride, 'Dignity'. Then in 1988 further success ensued with a Brit Award nomination for Best Single with 'Real Gone Kid', and the limited edition version of' Raintown' stormed to number 14 in the UK album charts. Over the next six years there was to be a string of smash hits, 'Four Bacharach And David Songs' reached number two, 'Twist And Shout' got to No. 10, 'Your Town' made No. 14 and there were others too. 'Fergus Sings The Blues', 'Love And Regret', 'Queen Of The New Year' - all top 40 charting singles.
Their second album, 'When The world Knows Your Name' debuted on the album chart at No. 1, 'Fellow Hoodlums' entered at No.2, whilst the 1990 collection of B-sides and rarities 'Ooh Las vegas' reached No.3. Deacon Blue were everywhere! In 1994, havng racked up almost five million album sales and an impressive catalogue of hit singles, one of Scotland's most talented bands called it a day Havng played to sold out arenas across the UK, Europe and Australia, the 1994 tour in support of the greatest hits album 'Our Town', was to be the . last. It finished with a date at the Caird Hall in Ricky Ross's hometown of Dundee, and was quickly followed by two farewell gigs at Glasgow's Barrowland.
Most of us thought we would never see Graeme,James, Dougie, Ewen, Lorraine and Ricky together on stage ever again. But we were wrong. According i to Ricky, as he sits back wth a fresh cup of coffee,the split five years ago was never going to preclude any reunion: "when we split up we said 'Look, 'we're all tired of being in a band and don't want to do this any more'. In that case we made the right decision, but we also didn't split up at a time when we were actually havng physical fights in the dressing rooms. we split up because we thought if we don't stop here it's all just going to fall apart - we don't all want to do the same things, there isn't one record we all want to make, and as the songwriter I find it a very difficult idea to write an album that people don't want to make. So basically we stopped, but we also said we'd get back together in some point and that we'd all work together at different times in different ways, and we have.
" Lorraine Mcintosh is equally philosophical about the reunion: "There would have been something really clean about thinking 'that's it, absolutely clean cut and over'. it'd be nice to think people thought I'm never going to see Deacon Blue again and that was it a nice clean ending. But people do want to see us and it's just very attractive after five years of not doing gigs to 3,000 people. it's too tempting a thought and we really couldn't resist."
Married With Children
It is not as if Ricky and Lorraine have been idle since the demise of Deacon Blue. Of course in their southside home they now have two kids of school age to look after in Emer and Georgia. it's been like therapy for Lorraine who has been enjoying a good amount of the humdrum life she hankered after when she was continually on the road. This, however, doesn't mean she hasn't been active in other ways, what with her involvement in several ongoing projects she has been a busy lass and not least of these ventures is her new band, Cub.
Although only a couple of low key gigs into its existence, Cub has provided Lorraine with a fresh challenge: "I'm experiencing life starting a band from the beginning, a process I managed to miss out on the last time because when I joined the band they already had a record deal and people to carry the gear. it's great fun though, and I'm enjoying it. The only difficulty is putting a band together when all the people have other jobs. Trying to arrange rehearsals is proving to be a real nightmare, but it's going well. We've not really let anyone hear us yet but we're about to do a big gig on 29th May as part of BBC Music Live! with steve Lamacq
When pushed to describe her new band, Lorraine is a bit more coy: "Well the guy I work with, Brian,is aware of everything going on and comes from a very dance indie background. He occasionally works with Dj Harri and has about five different projects going on. He uses lots of samples and beats and I bring in a melody. When they come together it's very unusual. I keep listening to the stuff we do and I think I don't know anything that sounds like this. "Occasionally folk will lazily compare us to Portishead or something like that, but it's not. It's a huge departure in style from anything I've ever done before and anything I've ever listened to before. I just want to make interesting music that is me? And it has to be a combination of what Brian brings to it and what I bring to it. "
Girl On Film
In addition to the continuation of her musical career there has also been the odd acting role. Probably the most famous of these was her part in the Ken Loach film My Name Is Joe. Alter a couple of auditions Lorraine landed the part of Maggie McKay, a receptionist in a Glasgow health centre who is the best friend of Joe's girlfriend, actress Louise Goodall. Despite the success of the film there are, well, at the moment anyway no major plans to indulge in a career of thespianism. "If a major thing came along I would certainly do it, but what I've had came along at a really nice time in life when I wasn't doing anything. I was still in the very early stages of working with Brian and Cub, so being offered a part in a Ken Loach film was just too good to turn down.
I love Ken Loach films and it was a fairly unusual thing to happen because I'd never really acted before. Of course I loved it, and I've done a couple of other things since." These other things are both television dramas. The first, called Psychos, is currently showing on Channel Four, and the other having recently changed its name from Medical Ethics to Life Support, is due out later this summer. in Psychos Lorraine is the thirtysomething white trash mother of a 17.year.old who has just had a baby.the whole thing is based around the goings on in a psychiatric hospital and hospitals are a recurring theme in the other drama, Life Support, where she plays the old girlfriend appearing around a relationship between a medical ethicist and a lawyer.
And so to Ricky, since Deacon Blue came to an end both his personal life and career as a solo artist have taken something of a rollercoaster ride. The tumultuous few months surrounding the end of the band also saw the birth of his third child and the death of his father. with such events going on in his life it was hardly surprising that he shied away from both public appearances and songwriting for a while. However, after writing a few songs at his Glasgow studio, Ricky and his guitar playing pal from the Leopards, Mick Slaven, headed off to the good ole' US of A for a couple of recording sessions in Los Angeles.
Indeed it was those sessions that formed the basis of the 1996 album 'What You Are', and at the same time it was a statement of intent. Ricky Wasn't going to draw a line under the achievements of Deacon Blue and head for pastures new; he was going to continue his career as a recording artist. 'What You Are' was released by Sony and preceded by the top 40 single 'Radio On'. The song permeated the airwaves from many a radio station but unfortunately never made it out of the lower regions of the charts. in spite of a series of successful gigs which saw Ricky and his band both headline small clubs . who will ever forget the three nights at King Tut's? . and support the likes of Bryan Adams and Bon Jovi in the nation's arenas and stadia; neither the album nor the second single, 'Good Evening Philadelphia', achieved the desired or deserved level of sales.
In early 1997 it came as little surprise when sony in light of the poor sales,
decided to end their eleven year association with Ricky. it was an amicable
enough ending to the partnership which had spawned twenty smash hits and
six top selling albums, and as a split it is one Ricky feels no bitterness
or resentment about. Nevertheless, during the subsequent period of uncertainty
he was already shaping what was to become his second solo album, 'New Recording'.
Aiming for something pure and simple to reflect the organic and primarily
acoustic nature oft his highly personalised collection of songs, the idea
was to avoid the frustration involved in the lengthy process of recording
albums for major labels. By way of a solution,Internazionale was set up as
Glasgow's latest addition to the burgeoning indie label scene. 'New Recording'
became a sort of self release on this newly established label.
Three months prior to the album's release Ricky played his first completely solo gigs since the days when, if you were lucky, you might have caught him tinkling the ivories of the baby grand in the Baby Grand. These two gigs at the Tramway Theatre were the essential catalysts he required to finish the album and embark on an extensive UK tour. Much of 1998 was taken up with touring and 1999 looks like being more of the same. The year started with two shows at Celtic Connections, a solo tour is currently underway, and then there's the small matter of the Deacon Blue reunion gigs. So does Ricky feel even slightly aggrieved that his solo career has maybe not taken quite the successful route everyone expected and does it really matter to him anyway?
"What I'm doing at the moment I would do anyway because I love doing these kind of things, but it's not really something that is ever going to be commercial .thank goodnessl But yeah, obviously it would be great to sell a million records. it's always good to sell millions of records because then you can do what you want; it's always good with any project to be successful in commercial terms. The other side of it is that last year I didn't really want to do anything to make my records commercial, it's not something I would set out to do. 'New Recording', because of the way I did it, was never going to be a hit anyway"
Much Ado About Something
But other than continuing to make music, Ricky has been busy wth other projects. On The Line, a production undertaken by Dundee Rep Theatre was the story of the Timex worker's strike, and Ricky had some involvement in scoring the music for it. It was no great shock when it went on to win an award for Best Regional Theatre production of 1996 and a second theatrical success was achieved when Ricky was asked to write the music for the Royal Lyceum's production of Much Ado About Nothing. There are other such projects in the pipeline but tbey are currently being viewed as work for the future as they're expected to take the best part of the next two years to complete. In November 1998 there were articles published in The Sunday Times and The Guardian where Ricky wrote of his visits to Brazil wth Christian Aid. His remit was to raise the profile of the campaign designed to aid the plight of people whose land was being forcibly taken from them and were being turned into nomads as a result. Ricky's commitment to charity work has been exhaustive and he has tried wherever possible to raise the profile of groups helping those who are seriously disadvantaged.
Braendam Family House is the charity that will benefit from the Deacon Blue reunion gig at the Royal Roncert Hall, with all proceeds from the event going directly to the charity. Founded in 1966 near Thornhill, Stirling, Braendam provides respite holidays and support for those who are at the sharp end of poverty.It offers many families leading stresful lives under the weight of poverty the opportunity to take a break and talk out their problems in a supportive environment.A couple of years ago the charity set up a link to continue this help once families had returned to the city so that continued support and encouragement could be provided to the worst affected households.
So what can people expect from these reunion gigs? "I don't think the set will come as much of a surprise. If people are coming they are going to want to hear their favourite songs played live and that's what they'll be getting," explains Ricky. But as for future plans, well they're conspicuous by their absence. With the exception of doing a few gigs, there doesn't seem much more to the get-together.However this could be your last chance to see them live so grab the opportunity while you can.
Ricky on the music industry...
"You have control when you're selling loads of records, and when you're not you don't.Its as simple as that."
Ricky on freedom...
"I'm in the position now where I can do things I want to do because I was fortunate to make a living out of music."
Ricky on making a new album...
"If I want to make a record I can make a record.I enjoy doing it, I've done it in the past and I might do it again."
Ricky on politics...
I am politically active, after years of not being a member of a party I joined one.I joined the Scottish Nationalists."
Ricky on the reunion...
"I had forgotten that we were actually a good band."
Ricky on songwriting...
"You think you know about songwriting because you've done it for a long time, but then you do something else or do it in a different way and it suprises you all the time."