The Glasgow Skyline Story
As Glasgow Skyline turned 20 years old, I
decided to look back and tell the story of how it all began, what happened, and
where it is now.
Despite the obvious level of obsessive compulsive crazy anorak fandom required to devote thousands of hours and many years of your life to building and maintaining a website. My Deacon Blue story really starts a lot later than most. I can’t claim to have seen the band in those sweaty clubs and student halls in those formative years of 86/87, nor been lost in the crowds of the Glasgow SECC or Birmingham NEC during those heady heights of 89/90. I can’t even say I saw them in the more difficult years of 91/93. My first Deacon Blue concert was on the 16th May 1994 at the Empress Ballroom in Blackpool, on what was supposed to be the first and final time I would see them live. It was an incredible night and a life changing moment.
Ticket stub Blackpool
16th May 1994
Despite the quality of those three websites, their updates were few and far between and my obsession was growing. By this time I had been collecting records and memorabilia constantly for the past 2yrs or so. I had gathered quite the bounty of promo records, press cuttings, bootleg tapes as well as learning guitar and starting to work out some of those songs I loved.
I decided that I should look at starting my own website, I had no idea how, and using one of those WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) freeware programs I began messing around in my bedroom. After a while I began to make some sense of it all and Glasgow Skyline 1.0 was about to hit the net. There would be many revisions and redesigns along the way.
I’ve been asked about the name many times, in truth it was a working title that I intended on changing but in the end grew to love so I stuck with it. Rafa , Graham and later Steve Edwards used song names and lyrics for their site names, so I wanted something that was original and more ambiguous perhaps. I loved the Raintown photograph and always had that in mind as a back drop. In 1991 Robert Sandall interviewed Deacon Blue for Q magazine in an article entitled Glasgow Skyline. The article included a photograph of the band lined up with the Oscar Marzaroli photo as the back drop. I guess it was the image I had in my head for my site and I ended up using the title.
It went live on the 7th September 1997 and it wasn’t long before I started to receive emails. To this day I recall getting an email from a chap called Eric Weeks who I think was from Utah or Idaho or somewhere. The fact that somebody from as far away as the USA had seen my website and emailed me blew my mind and certainly provided the encouragement to continue. Eric would be the first of many overseas fans to email me. Messages from across Europe, Australia, Japan and even South America, a region Deacon Blue didn’t even visit, started to trickle in.
The site began to grow, I was 20 and in truth entering a difficult part of my life and the site gave me something to really focus on. I copied the Deacon Blue biography published in the 1994 Dignity CD and continued to add to that each year, which I still do today. I scanned all the records and created the first discography, chords started to appear, probably wrong, but they were there nevertheless.
Empire Exchange Manchester
I abused a company called “Backnumbers” who advertised in Record Collector magazine. They sold music papers and if you enquired about an artist they would send you a detailed list of magazine issues they appeared in.
I’m not sure I ever bought anything from them but armed with their list I set off to Manchester to the wondrous Empire Exchange, a huge junk shop of delights. There I sat on the floor and went through boxes and boxes of Melody Maker, NME, Sounds and other music publications. I made this trip 2 or 3 times collecting dozens of magazines and papers to take home to scan and add to my growing scrapbooks. Most of the pre 1995 articles on the site came from those afternoons well spent in Manchester.
One of the biggest successes of Glasgow Skyline and possibly the thing that made it most different from the other sites was the forum. The forum pre dates social media, so the Glasgow Skyline forum became the social hub online for fans to meet and talk and share stories and ideas. It was a smash hit and created a real community and many lasting friendships. In April 2001 during a feature for The Daily Telegraph called “My Bookmarks” Ricky would reference Glasgow Skyline and in particular the forum as one of his favourite websites, he would check in and read the feedback from tours and record releases.
Through the forum I ran competitions giving away CD’s and the fans would arrange pre gig meet ups. It gave people a reason to come back day after day along with the fact I was so busy back then that the site was updating on an almost daily basis.
Glasgow Skyline give away CD's and download CD's did you get one?
Using the Way Back Machine over at www.archive.org I was able to get these screenshots from the past of the 3 now defunct Deacon Blue / Ricky Ross websites, plus an early incarnation of Circus Lights.
Warbecks Unofficial Ricky Ross Site
Over The Land And The City by Graham Rodger
The Very Thing By Rafa Latiegui
An early Circus Lights by Steve Edwards
A year after the site launched a new site came along Circus Lights by Steve Edwards. Rafa and Graham had all but given up on their sites and eventually they disappeared completely. Steve concentrated on set lists only, so with our sites being very different we worked together and forged a good alliance over the years.
With Ricky without a record deal and no official website. Glasgow Skyline and Circus Lights became an invaluable asset to have around. Helping to spread the word about his new solo album and live shows. Whilst providing a platform for fan feedback. I think this period helped solidify a good relationship with Ricky for the future.
Steve, a more assertive chap than me, took the bold step to contact Ricky directly. From this encounter he arranged an email address where Ricky could be contacted. I finally plucked up the courage to introduce myself and was delighted to get a response.
A few months later as Ricky was playing a run of solo shows prior to the Deacon Blue reunion. I stayed behind after the show and nervously introduced myself. The conversation must have lasted all of 2 minutes such was my shyness but he seemed delighted to meet me and called his manager over to introduce me. Since then Ricky has always been available via email and always responds, he’s helped out supported the site many times. He’s also reached out to the websites for help in tracking down lost songs of his and finding recordings.
With Deacon Blue back together the site started to gain more traffic and really started to grow. With new albums came new material to fill the site with. I also started to get more donations and submissions from fans. I’m forever indebted to Keith Easton a kind chap from Edinburgh who donated a huge stash of old articles from the Scottish music press. For him it was probably like clearing out an old cupboard, for me it was literally like discovering treasure. Those articles along with those I had already gathered went on to make the articles section of the site one of the most impressive features.
Other fans donated articles, recordings, photographs and other various things and I sincerely thank all of those people too.
My first meeting with Ricky, Bar Cuba Macclesfield 11th May 1999
2001/02 was probably the peak for Glasgow Skyline. Deacon Blue were back in the studio recording their new album Homesick. Ricky had already recorded possibly his finest solo album “This Is The Life”. Due for release some time after Homesick. Two Deacon Blue tours and a Ricky Ross solo tour were to follow. In preparation for all this activity, Glasgow Skyline finally moved to its own web domain. Prior to that it had been hosted on two or three free hosting sites with limited space.
The new domain and hosting package allowed for further growth and soon the site started to fill with more photographs, MP3’s and videos than ever before.
I continued to cover every tour and album and update the site regularly but as social media started to grow in the mid to late 2000’s so did the impact it had on fan websites like Glasgow Skyline. The forum got overtaken by Tweets and Facebook posts. Youtube provided an endless stream of audio and video feeds that fans could upload themselves. Artists spoke to their fans directly and news could be passed on in real time with up to the minute updates.
The wind was most definitely taken from the sails and it was hard to maintain interest or momentum. In recent years I’ve had to revaluate what the site is, its purpose and its future. New content has dried up old content has been used up. I’m now 41 and there’s a sense of “been there done that” about the site, not many stones have been left unturned.
Using the Way Back machine over at www.archive.org I was able to grab these images from the past. They're minus some images but still a good reminder of how the site has changed over the years. Unfortunately the very first design has not been archived.
Glasgow Skyline 2000
Glasgow Skyline 2001
Glasgow Skyline 2004
I’m immensely proud of the site, to go from standing in the crowd of the Empress Ballroom in 1994 to having Ricky personally email me and invite me for a beer backstage with the band in 2001 was pretty crazy. I’ve met and heard from so many people from all around the world, had so much praise and kind words it’s made it all worthwhile.
In September 2017 the site turned 20yrs old. It’s now more of an archive with sporadic updates. It stands proud as the largest single resource of information for Deacon Blue and Ricky Ross and I try and keep it up to date as much as possible. What does the future hold? Who knows, but I’d like to think that in another 10 or 20 years it might still be here.
Thank you to all my visitors past, present and future. There’s an entire army of people to thank but at the risk of forgetting someone I won’t mention any names. You know who you are, you’re the Skyliners!