You’ll hopefully recall me mentioning last week that if Sugartown were to be the subject of one of those Rock Family Tree diagrams which trace how a band came to be formed, it would make for very impressive reading. The funny thing is…..the same could be said about Sunset Gun.
Sunset Gun were a trio, made of up sisters Dee and Louise Rutkowski, and Ross Campbell, but in the studio there were other musicians, including Gordon Wilson on drums who got namechecked last week as a member of Sugartown, as well as being a past member of Love and Money. One of the producers who Sunset Gun worked with was Alan Rankine, who had not lomg taken his leave of the Associates.
The Rutkowski sisters were a huge part of the Glasgow music scene in the early 80s and I recall bumping into them (but never talking to them) at a few places, not least Night Moves on Sauchiehall Street which was both a club and a venue for live music. They had been part of Jazzateers in 1982 alongside the musicians who would eventually evolve into Bourgie Bourgie. When that version of Jazzateers came to an end, the sisters, who were superb vocalists, hooked up with keyboardist Ross Campbell and in September 1983 they formed Sunset Gun, under the management of an upcoming mogul called Elliot Davis who also looked after the interests Wet Wet Wet, a band who were emerging from neighbouring Clydebank.
A series of demos created a buzz and a number of labels declared their interest in signing Sunset Gun. In the end, it was CBS who won the bidding war. The trio went into a studio to record some tracks with Alan Rankine in the producer’s chair. A single was issued in July 1984, with the A-side being a cover of Be Thankful For What You’ve Got, a song that was also covered by Massive Attack on their debut album in 1991.
mp3: Sunset Gun – Be Thankful For What You’ve Got
The single didn’t chart, but it did get the trio a fair bit of media coverage, and there were high expectations for the next single, which appeared in May 1985:-
mp3: Sunset Gun – Sister
Recorded at a studio in Glasgow, the lyrics were written by the Rutkowski sisters and the music by Ross Campbell, and while it is easy from a distance of almost 40 years to say that it hasn’t aged well, it should be remembered that this was a sound very typical of what many successful pop/soul bands were churning out in the mid 80s. I reckon the folk at CBS were scratching their heads as to why their new signing wasn’t generating the sales everyone expected.
The contract allowed for an album which was recorded at the Chipping Norton studios in Oxfordshire. The label felt that the best chance of a hit single was via another cover that had been recorded for the album, this one having been a #1 hit for the Bee Gees in the USA back in 1971:-
mp3: Sunset Gun – How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?
It proved to be three strikes and you’re out, with CBS losing interest when this also failed to chart in July 1985. The album, In An Ideal World, was released without too much fanfare a couple of months later, at which point Sunset Gun called it a day.
Ross Campbell has gone on to enjoy a successful career, working in all sorts of musical genres including house, garage, hip-hop, electronica, drum’n’bass, electronica and classical, we well composing for TV, Film and Theatre.
The Rutkowski Sisters very soon after became part of This Mortal Coil, the collective pulled together by 4AD Records, and contributing vocals to the albums Filigree and Shadow (1986) and Blood (1991). In later years, Louise would work with the composer Craig Armstrong and be part of another 4AD band, The Hope Blister, before releasing a solo EP in 2001. She then took a break from music before returning in 2014 with Diary Of A Lost Girl, which was shortlisted for the Scottish Album of The Year and then in 2020, a further album, Home was released.
3 thoughts on “SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #338: SUNSET GUN”
Fun fact: Craig Armstrong lives directly across from me. I’ve never said hello.
The Rutkowski Sisters had a sublime talent. Did you ever hear The Rutkowski Sisters version of Nick Drake’s “Riverman”? Only the most blessed version of this sublime song… it even knocks Nick Drake’s own versions into a cocked hat. https://youtu.be/RVZOpjqEEs4
I do wonder how hard CBS promoted this band. In 1985, I was Head of Music at the radio station at my Uni. This gave me the dubious task of listening to all the promo copies sent by record companies and deciding which ones were worthy of signposting to the various presenters. CBS used to send us loads of stuff (duplicate copies quite often, which came in handy for competition prizes).
However, I have no recollection of Sunset Gun, and a quick visit to their Discogs entry hasn’t changed that. “Sister” is definitely one that I’d have played had we had a copy.