Aztec Camera

Aztec Camera was a Scottish new wave band led by guitarist–singer and songwriter Roddy Frame. They released two 1981 Postcard singles and the 1983 Rough Trade album High Land, Hard Rain, an acclaimed set with the underground hits “Oblivious,” “Pillar to Post,” and “Walk Out to Winter.”

Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler produced Aztec Camera’s 1984 WEA release Knife. Their 1987 Sire release Love contains the college-radio spun “Deep & Wide & Tall” and the UK hit “Somewhere in My Heart.” Frame duets with Clash co-founder Mick Jones on “Good Morning Britain,” a hit from the 1990 fourth Aztec album Stray.

Members: Roddy Frame (vocals, guitar), Dave Mulholland (drums, 1980-82), Campbell Owens (bass, 1980-83), Bernie Clarke (keyboards, 1982-83), David Ruffy (drums, 1982-90), Craig Gannon (bass, 1983-85), Malcolm Ross (guitar, 1983-85), Guy Fletcher (keyboards, 1983-85)


Background

Aztec Camera stemmed from Neutral Blue, an unsigned East Kilbride post-punk band with Roddy Frame and drummer David Mulholland.

Frame (b. January 29, 1964) found early inspiration in his older sister’s Beatles and Rolling Stones records. He took up guitar as a child and learned the chords to the inaugural David Bowie hit “Space Oddity,” a Frame-household staple. Additional early influences included The Byrds, Love, and the Velvet Underground. As a tween, Frame modeled himself on Wilko Johnson, the kinetic Dr. Feelgood guitarist. With the advent of punk, guitarist John McGeogh (Magazine, Siouxsie & The Banshees) became Roddy’s primary role model.

Aztec Camera first appeared with three songs (“Abbatoir,” “Stand Still,” “Real Tears”) on Urban Development, a nineteen-track cassette compilation on Pungent Records, a two-press associated with Fumes fanzine. (Urban Development also marked the first appearance of Glaswegian new wavers Positive Noise, who made three 1981–85 albums on Statik.)

The initial four-piece featured bassist Campbell Owens and keyboardist Bernie Clarke. Aztec Camera signed with Postcard Records, a Glasgow indie founded by post-punk entrepreneur Alan Horne, who signed them as his fourth act after Aussie popster’s The Go-Betweens and local upstarts Josef K and Orange Juice.


1981–1982


First Three Singles

On April 17, 1981, Aztec Camera released their first single “Just Like Gold” backed with “We Could Send Letters.”

A. “Just Like Gold” (3:19)
B. “We Could Send Letters” (5:02)

On August 14, 1981, Aztec Camera released their second single “Mattress of Wire” backed with “Lost Outside the Tunnel.”

A. “Mattress of Wire” (2:49)
B. “Lost Outside the Tunnel” (3:31)

On August 27, 1982, Aztec Camera released their third single “Pillar to Post” backed with “The Queen’s Tatoos.”

A. “Pillar to Post” (3:54)
B. “The Queen’s Tatoos” (2:11)


1983

On January 21, 1983, Aztec Camera released “Oblivious,” a taster from their upcoming album, backed with the exclusive “Orchid Girl.”

A. “Oblivious”
B. “Orchid Girl” (2:35)


High Land, Hard Rain

Aztec Camera released their debut album, High Land, Hard Rain, on April 19, 1983, on Rough Trade. It features ten originals by singer–guitarist Roddy Frame, including the recent a-side “Oblivious” and the followup fifth single “Walk Out to Winter,” plus re-recorded versions of the 1982 a-side “Pillar to Post” and the 1981 b-sides “We Could Send Letters” and “Lost Outside the Tunnel.”

1. “Oblivious” (3:09)
2. “The Boy Wonders” (3:13)
3. “Walk Out to Winter” (3:23)
4. “The Bugle Sounds Again” (2:56)
5. “We Could Send Letters” (5:43)

6. “Pillar to Post” (3:59)
7. “Release” (3:41)
8. “Lost Outside the Tunnel” (3:40)
9. “Back on Board” (4:50)
10. “Down the Dip” (2:10)

Recorded September 1982-January 1983
Studio ICC Studios, Eastbourne
Producer John Brand, Bernie Clarke

Roddy Frame – vocals, guitar, harmonica
Bernie Clarke – piano, organ
Campbell Owens – bass
Dave Ruffy – drums, percussion

A. “Walk Out to Winter” ()
B. “Set the Killing Free” (3:45)


Knife

Aztec Camera released their second album, Knife, on September 21, 1984, on WEA (UK) and Sire (US).

1. “Still on Fire” (3:56)
2. “Just Like the USA” (4:03)
3. “Head Is Happy (Heart’s Insane)” (4:16)
4. “The Back Door to Heaven” (5:22)

5. “All I Need Is Everything” (5:44)
6. “Backwards and Forwards” (4:13)
7. “The Birth of the True” (2:42)
8. “Knife” (9:05)

Recorded February–June 1984
Studio Air Studios
Producer Mark Knopfler

Roddy Frame – vocals, guitar
David Ruffy – drums, backing vocals
Campbell Owens – bass, backing vocals
Malcolm Ross – guitar, backing vocals
Guy Fletcher – keyboards, backing vocals
Frank Ricotti – percussion
Chris White – saxophone
Martin Drover – trumpet

Aug 1984
A: All I Need Is Everything
B: Jump

Nov 1984
A: Still On Fire
B: Walk Out To Winter (Live)


Love

Aztec Camera released their third album, Love, on November 9, 1987, on WEA and Sire.

1. “Deep & Wide & Tall” Russ Titelman (4:02)
2. “How Men Are” Tommy LiPumaDavid Frank (3:38)
3. “Everybody Is a Number One” Titelman (3:25)
4. “More Than a Law” Frame (4:39)
5. “Somewhere in My Heart” Michael Jonzun (4:00)

6. “Working in a Goldmine” Rob MounseyFrame (5:36)
7. “One and One” MounseyFrame (4:10)
8. “Paradise” LiPumaFrank (4:29)
9. “Killermont Street” MounseyFrame (3:16)

Recorded April–August 1987

Sep 1987
A: Deep and Wide and Tall
B: “Bad Education”

Jan 1988
A: How Men Are
B: “The Red Flag”

11 Apr 1988
A: Somewhere In My Heart
B: Everybody Is a Number One (Boston ’86 Version)

Jul 1988
A: Working In a Goldmine
B: “I Threw It All Away”


Stray

Aztec Camera released their fourth album, Stray, on June 4, 1990, on WEA and Sire.

1. “Stray” 5:34
2. “The Crying Scene” 3:34
3. “Get Outta London” 3:41
4. “Over My Head” 5:53
5. “Good Morning Britain” 4:02
6. “How It Is” 4:00
7. “The Gentle Kind” 5:32
8. “Notting Hill Blues” 6:41
9. “Song for a Friend” 2:27


Discography:


Sources:

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