The Blue Nile

The Blue Nile were a Scottish art-pop/sophisti-pop trio that released four albums at lengthy intervals between 1984 and 2004. Formed in Glasgow in 1981, the band debuted with a single that year on RSO. Three years later, the album A Walk Across the Rooftops appeared on Linn/A&M, followed a half-decade later by Hats. The subsequent two decades would see an album apiece by the band.

Members: Paul Buchanan (vocals, guitar, synthesizer), Robert Bell (bass, synthesizer), Paul Joseph Moore (keyboards, synthesizer, 1981-2005)

Paul Buchanan and Robert Bell were childhood friends who both attended the University of Glasgow, where they met Paul Joseph “PJ” Moore. After completing their studies in 1980, the three decided to form a band. Short on cash, they devised makeshift percussive instruments and acquired a primitive Latin beat box. They named themselves The Blue Nile after the 1962 book by historian Alan Moorehead.

In 1981, The Blue Nile recorded the single “I Love This Life” (b/w “The Second Act”). Through a contact with ex-Headboys keyboardist Calum Malcolm, the single was briefly pressed on his old band’s label, the near-bankrupt RSO. He engineered further demos with the trio at his Castlesound Studios in Pencaitland, south-east of Edinburgh.

At this time, Malcolm worked at Linn Products, manufacturers of the Linn Drum. The company was looking for acts for its namesake record label. Impressed with The Blue Nile demos, Linn offered to release their album through a distribution deal with Virgin.

The Blue Nile spent half of 1983 at Castlesound laboring over material for their debut album. A Walk Across the Rooftops was released in April 1984 on Linn (UK, Europe, Oceania) and A&M (US). Side one features three medium-length songs: “A Walk Across the Rooftops,” “Tinseltown in the Rain,” and “From Rags to Riches.” Side two contains four songs, each above the 4.5-minute mark: “Stay,” “Easter Parade,” “Heatwave,” and “Automobile Noise.” All songs were written and produced by Buchanan and Bell with engineering by Malcolm and percussionist Nigel Thomas.

“Stay” and “Tinseltown in the Rain” were issued as singles with respective non-album b-sides: “Saddle the Horses” and “Regret.”

The band’s writing process was subsequently hindered by label pressures to deliver a followup. After two  fruitless years at Castlesound between 1985 and 1987, the three vacated the studio and headed back to Glasgow. With the pressure off their shoulders, new material began to flow. In 1988, The Blue Nile returned to Castlesound to record their second album.

The resulting Hats was released on Linn/A&M in October 1989, five-and-a-half years after their debut. Like its predecessor, the album features seven songs, mostly in the 5-6-minute range, including “Let’s Go Out Tonight,” “From a Late Night Train,” “Over the Hillside,” and “The Downtown Lights.” The last of those was issued as a single, backed with the non-album “The Wires Are Down.” Buchanan is credited as the sole composer on all songs. A year after this release, “Headlights on the Parade” was culled as a second single, followed by “Saturday Night.”



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