I know that many T(n)VV readers like The Blue Nile and so I’m being populist by featuring them in this series.

But I’ve personally never understood why they’re so revered.

I think a lot of it boils down to being so underwhelmed when I first heard them. This was a band who everyone was talking about in Glasgow back in the early 80s as being the next big thing. They had been signed to Linn Records, a label that had been established to assist with the promotion of extremely high-quality (and highly expensive) audio equipment that was manufactured just outside the city. They were supposed to be making cutting edge music the likes of hadn’t been heard before – a mix of pop, soul, experimental and dreamy electronica complete with a smooth vocal delivery.

They were also rumoured to have written a modern anthem for my home city. I was more than a little intrigued and then I heard it:-

mp3 :

The Blue Nile – Tinseltown In The Rain

Oh dearie me.

I’ve had more arguments with folk over the years about this song than any other. I’m very much in the minority as thinking it dull, dreary and devoid of any sort of soul. It’s utterly antiseptic.

I also thought that many of the fawning reviews were pretentious and bordering on parody, full of words and phrases which on their own were fine but when run together as a piece were hilarious. Indeed, it has gotten worse over the years. Here’s som of the bollocks which accompanied the 2012 re-release of the debut LP A Walk Across The Rooftops:-

“1984’s A Walk Across the Rooftops remains unique in its fusion of chilly technology and a pitch of confessional, romantic soul that ‘alternative’ types would usually shy away for fear it wasn’t ‘cool’… in the years since, its peerless power to affect has accrued multiple layers of rueful resonance.”

It proved to be perfect for someone almost seeking to relearn the art of listening to music; perhaps because it seemed to have been made by people who were in the early stages of learning how to make miraculous music from simple building blocks. This was a necessity as none of the members were trained musicians, but the resulting album of very simple, carefully constructed compositions proved far greater than the sum of its parts”



  1. Love yer blog but yer so wrong on this one. “Do I love you? Yes, I love you…but it’s easy come, easy go”. Wonderful line, top tune.

  2. A Walk Across The Rooftops is a magical album. It makes use of sound and space like few other albums of its time. There’s a beautiful, restraint in the music that creates an emotional tension like no other I had heard to that time. It’s cinematic, a musical mix of noir and romance.
    Paul Buchanan sings from an inner place is raw and yet still very complex.
    Tinseltown In The Rain is the album’s classic, but Stay is the song that I always think of first when it comes to The Blue Nile. It’s plaintive and martial, jazzy, funky and electronic – just simply gorgeous.

  3. Well – Gary Clark (lead vocalist of Meet Danny Wilson) thought The Blue Nile was fab and their songs were fab, especially “Saturday Night” – which he covered live (see UTube video):

  4. In the 1980s Frank Sinatra used to grouse that “they don’t write ’em for me anymore.” But they did. The Blue Nile created a tour de force that had Sinatra’s name all over it with this one. Buchanan’s phrasing was never as Sinatra-like as it was here as he scaled from intimate introversion to what can only be called “belting” for this unassuming man. It’s also the album that announced “here is where we go after “Avalon.” In the mid-80s, bands were still copping tricks from early Roxy Music. The Blue Nile were the one band who leapfrogged that band to move further out into space, even as Bryan Ferry was unable to advance artistically himself. And as Echorich said, space was the dominant trait here at a time when music was as clumsy and as double breasted [to paraphrase John Foxx] as it ever was. The sound they achieved with engineer Callum Malcolm on this album made them legends to me that were only tarnished with the release of their clumsy, ordinary third album, in 1997.

  5. I enjoy these debates about the merits or demerits of songs, albums, bands. It makes great reading. I have the odd “blind spot” myself and have been known to launch into an occasional rant. On the Blue Nile, Echorich’s stance resonates most with me. I also think postpunkmonk’s point about Sinatra is well made. The phrasing of the vocals on Tinseltown is majestic, and actually almost extraterrestrial in it’s seemingly effortlessness when you consider that this was a guy that hadn’t been about recording studios very long, or playing live.

    My love of the Blue Nile is reserved purely for A Walk Across the Rooftops. A bit like Aztec Camera and High Land Hard Rain, it is the only album of theirs I can really relate to , the only one rooted in a time and place that I feel I recognise.

    I think a point is worth noting is that this is not a band full of musos, virtuosos noodling away or even boffins using cutting edge technology. They were novices and some of the music is actually quite primitive. But they are striving to express ideas through sheer inventiveness, rather than any expertise. And that is what usually appeals to me about music I love. That it managed to be this good, this good, is a little miracle.

    A Walk Across the Rooftops is not a club album, or even a getting ready to go out album. It is not a stadium album. What it is to me is incredibly evocative, cinematic music perfect for listening to late at night and losing yourself in the imagery and emotion these songs evoke.

  6. Blue Nile! I have sobbed to so many of their songs. The lyrics are quite literally heart-wrenching. The production on their albums is perfect. I will be cremated to the songs of the Blue Nile. Highyly respected band whoc should have been much, much bigger in the UK

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