Keeping Their Dignity Intact
The Daily Record 18th December 2004

IT'S about five on a busy Friday afternoon and Sportscene presenter Dougie Vipond is behind his desk.

Preparing his notes for that weekend's Scottish Masters indoor bowling championships, the 38--year-old broadcaster is also pondering much bigger things.

He says: 'Someone said to me ages ago they'd heard a story I'd been asked to join REM after Deacon Blue split and their drummer left them.

'They'd heard I'd turned it down. I thought to myself 'Yes! I'll happily keep that myth going'.'

The idea's more than a little fanciful. Not only are a defunct band from Glasgow likely to be the last musical resource plundered by one of the biggest rock juggernauts on the planet, but Dougie's not that keen on the boys from Athens, Georgia.

'Well, I'm not a huge REM fan - I think Michael Stipe's voice resembles a bee rattling about in a can. But I could have lived with the money.' No doubt.

Vipond might have done a decent job of trying to make indoor bowls sound exciting, but he gets his biggest kicks from snares and high hats, not jacks and ends.

So it's no surprise to find he speaks passionately about the days when Jonathan Watson had nothing on him. 'Drumming in a band - the right band - is the best job in the world,' he says. 'But being a sports presenter comes close.

'I did play with another band called Swiss Family Orbison for a while. But I never put myself on the market because I got my job presenting NB for Scottish Television right after we split and then I ended up working for the BBC. It's trundled on since.'

So, too, has his involvement with the band he joined as an 18 year old.

After a five-year separation, Deacon Blue reformed in 1999 for a charity gig that sold out in an hour and they decided to reunite and tour.

Since then, they've released two albums, embarked on several national tours and popped up here - Glasgow - and there - Dubai, for example - for sporadic gigs.

This month there are two more - in Glasgow's Carling Academy and at Aberdeen's Hogmanay street party.

The remaining original members - Dougie, Ricky Ross, Jim Prime and Lorraine McIntosh - will bring in their20th year as a band in the Granite City. The landmark is something they may well commemorate, possibly with a live release. But the double decade rests uneasily with Dougie.

'It makes me realise I was makes me 'It makes me realise I was ridiculously young when it happened at first. I met Ricky when I was 18 and we had a record deal a year later.'

As the youngest member of the band, Dougie has a good 10 years on their still-energetic frontman Ross.

The Dundonian singer-songwriter is at his family home in the south side of Glasgow, tinkering with the latest track to be added to his fourth solo album.

Called Pale Rider, it's due for release in spring 2005. He's also in discussions over a record deal, but Ricky confesses he's got one eye on the forthcoming band gigs and the other on getting his solo offerings heard.

He says: 'I'm playing a solo gig at Glasgow Cathedral in January as part of Celtic Connections. Although I love playing live with the band more now than I did years ago, I'm looking forward to that one more than anything.

'My solo stuff is more of a seated occasion - a cerebral event. That's a nice contrast with the energy of the Deacon Blue shows.'

But doesn't he feel a bit old for the kind of charged performance due from Deacon Blue when they play all their singles on December 30? After all, by the time the gig comes around, he'll be 47.

His raspy cackle suggests not.

'Listen,' he says. 'When you're nearing 30, you've had it. When you're nearing 40, you've had it. Surely when you get to 50, no-one's counting?'

These days, Ricky is able to do the shopping without being hassled for autographs, while his missus, co-singer and River City actress Lorraine McIntosh, deals with random approaches from Joanna Public.

Ricky says: 'Compared to Dougie and Lorraine being on the telly, yes, I am Mr Anonymous.

'But there's nothing about fame you really want. Well, there are a few things that probably help, but fame itself is not very attractive. Lorraine got rid of it all --now it's come back and she's being spotted again.'

Then again, attaching his name to some old recording kit on eBay recently helped shift what might have otherwise have cluttered up the site's pages - or his house - for months.

The fact that Dougie and Lorraine have maintained a public profile has no doubt helped keep Deacon Blue in the minds of the public, while Ricky bubbles under on the solo-acoustic circuit, working with the likes of Ronan Keating and KT Tunstall.

But River City and Sportscene don't play Deacon Blue songs...

Despite being loathed by some as passionately as they're loved by others, the fact remains they're still on radio playlists, they're karaoke-friendly and, well, people love nostalgia.

Ricky agrees, saying: 'Nostalgia's great. That's exactly why people are coming. There's no point trying to call it something else, the point is to do what we do and make it really good.'

Returning to the Carling Academy for the third time in two years, the band will play the biggies such as Real Gone Kid and Dignity, as well as other singles including Cover From The Sky, Will We Be Lovers and I Was Right And You Were Wrong.

The latter is Lorraine's favourite track. Sitting in her River City dressing room, she says: 'I don't think we've ever done it live before. I'm really looking forward to the gigs, but I'll have to switch gear in my head out of River City and into Deacon Blue.'

She is one of the most popular characters in the soap and has had parts in My Name Is Joe and Wilbur (Wants To Kills Himself ). But despite the unexpected turn her career has taken, she describes herself as 'a singer who acts'.

She says: 'In my heart, I will always be a singer and if I'd to choose one thing, that's what it would be. But I love acting, so I suppose I'm a singer who acts.'

After Deacon Blue split, Lorraine became a full time mum, before returning to music in a Portishead-esque outfit called Cub.

They recorded and attracted some interest from London, but folded before anything was released.

She says: 'Ricky's always telling me I should do a musical. But that means I'd need to go to London. And I'm not going to do that while the kids are still young.

I struggle enough as it is, leaving them to come to River City for the day.'

Lorraine loves her part in Shieldinch and has been asked to stay for at least another year. But she has ambitions that will no doubt take her out of the soap one day. And she still wonders about making her own music.

She says: 'I live with a songwriter who writes songs every day and has people coming from all over the world to write with him.

'Sometimes I see what the other person has contributed and think 'I know I could have done that better'. But it's easy to say that.'

For now, she's content with the balance, as are Dougie and Ricky. But gigging on the final days of 2004 has added significance. Their guitarist Graeme Kelling died in June after a four-year battle with cancer.

Dougie says: 'It'll be emotional. The last time Graeme played live with us was when we opened the Carling Academy. He was very ill and worked hard to be there for just one song.

'I've not got used to the fact that he's gone. I think about him every day.'

Ricky adds: 'It's especially poignant because of the time of year.

'There's a song by Bruce Cockburn called You Get Bigger As You Go and I think that describes how it feels with Graeme.

'Sometimes the more the absence, the bigger the sense of loss is and the longer it seems. We were very close, more so when he was ill than we had been before.'

# Deacon Blue play Glasgow's Carling Academy on December 30 and Aberdeen's Hogmanay Street Party. Paul English