The Blue Nile – A Walk Across The Rooftops (Tinseltown In The Rain)

The Blue Nile (reddit.com)

The Blue Nile

Introduction

When I heard Tinseltown In the Rain in 1984 I was heavily impressed. The performers turned out to be the band The Blue Nile. Throughout the years the song has remained an all-time favorite. The album the song was culled from has been a favorite as well, just like the band.

The Blue Nile

One of the most mysterious bands to (have) exist(ed). The band was formed in Glasgow by Paul Buchanan and Robert Bell. While at university they met Paul Joseph “PJ” Moore and the three decided to make music together. After a couple of failed attempts with others they were left to themselves in 1981 and decided to keep it that way. They called themselves The Blue Nile and managed to raise some money for a single, I Love This Life, that they released on their own label, Peppermint Records. After a while the single ended up with RSO, the label that had been very successful with Saturday Night Fever and Grease, and was struggling. The single was released on the label, which went bankrupt almost simultaneously. Subsequently, the single went nowhere.

On the basis of the demo of Tinseltown In The Rain the band was offered a contract with the Linn label, which was part of the Linn Products company, that specialized in hifi-products. On May 13th, 1984, The Blue Nile’s debut album, A Walk Across The Rooftops was released as the first album on the newly established Linn label.

The album was hugely popular among critics. The beautiful Tinseltown In the Rain was released as a single and that’s the way the band appeared on my radar.

A Walk Across The Rooftops

The Blue Nile - A Walk Across The Rooftops (tidal.com)

The Blue Nile – A Walk Across The Rooftops

The album was recorded during five months at Castlesound Studios. During the sessions the band’s Achilles-heel became obvious. The band had developed such high standards for themselves that recordings went on endlessly. Every little detail was thoroughly thought out and executed, recorded, re-recorded and re-recorded.

But the result is beautiful. All the hard work and the almost scientific recording process don’t influence the songs sonically. They sound agreeably organic and warm, which is a nice feat, because much of the music was made by synthesizers. The band didn’t fit the mechanical pop landscape of the time. Something that really stands out is the band’s professionalism, since the band members weren’t musical virtuosos.

When I bought the album all the songs fell out of line from the song I knew (Tinseltown In The Rain). Of course, it soon turned out to be the other way round. But such beauty in the music, the stillness and minimalism make the songs intimate and personal. The album is filled with them. Tinseltown In The Rain won me over, but the other songs are equally beautiful and impressive. The realization that this is ‘just’ a debut album, is virtually incomprehensible.

Tinseltown In The Rain

The song with the biggest pop-feel on the album and the song that introduced me to the band. A superb song, that has been part of my all-time favorites for years now. It all fits. Buchanan’s vocals are beautiful, the band sounds funky and warm. The lyrics are great and the production is pristine. Particularly, the feeling the song evokes makes it irresistible, even after all these years.

Why did we ever come so far?
I knew I’d seen it all before
Tall building reach up in vain
Tinseltown is in the rain

I know now love was so exciting
Tinseltown in the rain
Oh men and women
Here we are, caught up in this big rhythm

One day this love will all blow over
Time for leaving the parade
Is there a place in this city
A place to always feel this way

And hey, there’s a red car in the fountain
Tinseltown in the rain
Oh men and women
Here we are, caught up in this big rhythm

Do I love you ? Yes I love you
Will we always be happy go lucky?
Do I love you ? Yes I love you
But it’s easy come, and it’s easy go

All this talking is only bravado yeah

Oh, Tinseltown

Tinseltown in the rain
Oh men and women
Here we are, caught up in this big rhythm

Tinseltown is in the rain

Yeah, yeah, yeah

Tinseltown is in the rain

© 1984 Paul Buchanan and Robert Bell

Masterpiece.

The Blue Nile - A Walk Across The Rooftops - Singles (discogs.com)

The Blue Nile – A Walk Across The Rooftops – Singles (Stay, Tinseltown In The Rain)

Singles

Two singles were culled from the album:

  • Stay, containing B-side Saddle the Horses, which is an instrumental version of Automobile Noise
  • Tinseltown In The Raincontaining B-side Heatwave as an instrumental version and Regret

Songs

All songs written by Paul Buchanan and Robert Bell.

  • A Walk Across The Rooftops
  • Tinseltown In The Rain
  • From Rags To Riches
  • Stay
  • Easter Parade
  • Heatwave
  • Automobile Noise

Musicians

  • Robert Bell – bass, synthesizers
  • Paul Buchanan – vocals, guitar, synthesizers
  • Paul Joseph Moore – keyboards, synthesizers

Assisted by:

  • Calum Malcolm – recording engineer
  • Nigel Thomas – drums
The Blue Nile - Hats, Peace At Last, High (tidal.com)

The Blue Nile – Hats, Peace At Last, High

After A Walk Across The Rooftops

The band was ordered back into the studio immediately for a sequel, but that was impossible. After threats by record label Virgin (where Linn had sublet the band to) recordings were halted. Free from the pressure, the band quietly started working on the sequel, for which recordings started in 1988. In October 1989 Hats, was released and once again it was a beautiful album, which was lauded as a masterpiece by critics worldwide.

However, the band’s contract with Linn was lost and the band subsequently signed with Warner Bros. in 1992. Well, the band; Buchanan had made the deal without informing the other two. Next, the search for the right recording location alone took two years. In June 1996 the third The Blue Nile album was released, Peace At Last. The critics’ enthusiasm was less than before, yet the album sold in fair amounts.

In 1996 and 1997 the band regularly performed live and subsequently went off the grid entirely. In 1997 the band appointed a manager, for the first time, who got the band out of their deal with Warner Bros.. After 7 years he gave up on the band because “in terms of the modern recording world the history of the Blue Nile was the most screwed-up I had ever encountered”. In August 2004 the fourth album, High, was released. Once again, the album was fairly successful, particularly in the United Kingdom.

Recording High hadn’t been much fun. The band’s perfectionism was stifling and the band was mostly uncomfortable while working on the album. By 2005 Moore had retreated from the band, without giving notice. The last performances by Buchanan and Bell under the moniker The Blue Nile stem from 2008.

Nowadays, it is not clear whether the band is operational or not. A statement has yet to be made regarding the band’s future. Ideas and convictions on that vary and are dependent on which band member answers the question. In September 2010 the biography Nileism: The Strange Course of the Blue Nile was published, that was written with minimal input by Buchanan and no cooperation from the other two.

In November 2012 2-cd Collector’s Editions of A Walk Across The Rooftops and Hats were released. Two years later Peace At Last received a similar treatment.

In closing

It is a shame The Blue Nile hasn’t released more music over the years (just 4 albums in 38 years), but the music that has been put out into the world is truly magnificent. The body of work may be small, but is highly impressive, moving and original. What more can a man ask for?

What’s your take on The Blue Nile? Let me know!

Video/Spotify
This story contains an accompanying video. Click on the following link to see it: Video: The Blue Nile – A Walk Across The Rooftops (Tinseltown In The Rain). The A Pop Life playlist on Spotify has been updated as well.