Here’s a confession that doesn’t bother me in the slightest. It also won’t come as a surpise who can recall the time I wrote about the song as #36 in the Scottish Singles series away back in August 2016…..
Back in 1984, a Glasgow band called The Blue Nile released a song called Tinseltown In The Rain. Everybody, and I really do mean everybody, who was an acquaintance at the time seemed to go nuts for the song, with many considering it the perfect sounding anthem for a city that was slowly but gradually re-inventing itself and regaining its self-confidence after an extended period of post-industrial decline. Further afield, loads of journalists and writers pounced on the song and the album A Walk Across The Rooftops, boldly declaring the music as unlike anything else recorded before, with some going as far to say that the songs were the sort that Frank Sinatra would be proud of.
Part of the aura around the band was linked to the fact they released their songs via a company called Linn Products, which was (and remains to this day) an engineering company which built very hi-tech audio equipment, including turntables, amps and speakers. They were also ridiculously expensive products. The engineers were growing increasingly dissatisfied with the quality of LPs that they were having to use to test their flagship turntable and so they developed a cutting lathe to enable improvements. The company, however, needed to find a singer or band who would be happy to record for them and deliver a ‘type’ of music that would best showcase the audio equipment.
One version of what happened next is that the bosses at Linn, and in particular the highly determined and driven MD, asked The Blue Nile to produce one song to help with the testing. The MD liked the song so that he offered an immediate contract for an album on what would be a new venture called Linn Records. The band dispute this version of events and say that the link-up came after they had recorded a whole series of demos with a studio engineer who just happened to have ties with Linn and was a friend of the MD. The band version is that there was no approach from Linn to make a record for the company nor did the company seek to influence the album’s sound in any way and have said “it was a myth that we were a ‘hi-fi band signed to a hi-fi company’. We just got lucky that we’d found our way to an excellent engineer who knew the company.”
That particular version of events emerged in 2013 – my memory of events as they were reported in 1984 was that the band and label were very closely linked and much was made of the album being given a very slick and glossy production that could be best be enjoyed and appreciated via Linn equipment.
This was all something that pissed me right off. My hi-fi equipment was fairly low-spec and much of my record collection was of the hurriedly produced and ramshackle variety that sounded just perfect to my ears. I wasn’t the slightest bit interested in something so artificial…and so I’m willing to admit that I did listen with some prejudice.
Regular readers will know that I have used the pages of this and other blogs to hold my hands up and admit that I got something wrong; sometimes, first impressions of a song can be misleading and repeated or a different exposure to something can provide a change of mind or opinion.
I haven’t ever changed my mind about The Blue Nile or Tinseltown In The Rain. There is no soul or warmth to the music whatsoever and the 1984 marketing campaign was a triumph for style over substance. I’m not a fan of Paul Buchanan’s voice either – he is no better or worse than a marginally above-average pub singer. It’s a killer combination of music and vocals that is deadly dull to listen to with not one note or octave providing any sort of surprise or excitement.
I know that many of the bloggers I most admire – echorich, postpunkmonk and Brian among others – are in complete disagreement with me. My brother Stevie is also a huge fan of the record and the band.
It was, however, interesting that some, including Jonny the Friendly Lawyer, had my back on this one last time out.
Just thought it would be a nicely controversial way to close out what has been a controversial and at times unsavoury month on t’blog.
PS : A reminder that I need votes on a previously voided match in the ICA World Cup….details are here.