The Twelve Tasks Of ToffeeBoy #8 – The Blue Nile

Well what do you know? You wait simply ages for a Task Of ToffeeBoy and then three come along within a few minutes of each other – relatively speaking, that is. What’s more, against all odds, I’ve now caught up with myself – the eighth task arriving as it does, in the eighth month. And boy, have I got a good ‘un for you this month?

Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of The Blue Nile. ‘Why weird and wonderful?’ I hear you ask. Because, dear reader, what other band can you name that have been together for 28 years with an unchanged line-up? OK, but what other band can you name who have released only four albums in that time – resulting in an average output of just over one track per year? OK, but what other band can you name that have consistently produced pop music of the highest quality over a period of nearly 3 decades without ever ‘selling out’ or releasing music for any other reason than that they want to? Huh? Eh? What’s that you say? No, I didn’t think you’d have an answer to that.

28 years – four albums: A Walk Across The Rooftops (1983), Hats (1989), Peace At Last (1996) and, most-recently High (2004). A total of 33 tracks: throw in the odd B-side and we’re still only just over the 40 mark. But what a body of work these 40 or so gems represent! Haunting melodies, soaring vocals, lyrics expressing sadness and loss and failed relationships – yet at the same time enveloping you with a sense of hope: a sense that life is worth living after all; that you might just have to work that little bit harder and perhaps look in unexpected places for the beautiful things that life can throw your way.

Research has shown that the average Blue Nile song is set at 2:30 in the morning. There is a surprisingly large number of references in the songs to such things as chimney pots, trumpets and fire engines. Oh, and trains. Plenty of trains. Late night trains, naturally. And it’s raining. And it’s more than likely that his baby just gone left him.

But don’t let that put you off. If you care to investigate the tracks I’ve selected for your edification, I can guarantee you passionate, heartfelt music. To the uninitiated, it might sound soulless – but it’s anything but. I don’t know a singer whose voice matches his bands’ music better than Paul Buchanan’s does The Blue Nile’s. There’s a moment at about 4:10 on Let’s Go Out Tonight when Paul sings ‘Baby, be my baby’ and the way he leans on the word ‘be’ and holds it for a nano-second longer than you’d expect, sends shivers down my spine every time I hear it. It sounds corny, I know (as indeed it does when he utters the immortal line ‘Come on girl’ at about 3:13 in Tomorrow Morning) but somehow, in Paul Buchanan’s hands it works – and it feels like heaven. Well, to me it does, and I know that in DarceysDad I have at least one supporter for this particular task.

Interestingly (well it’s interesting to me, pal!), the very first song I ever nominated on Readers Recommend (now there’s an idea for a thread), way back in January 2008, was a Blue Nile recording. The theme was Songs About Trains and the track I chose was, logically enough, From A Late Night Train. Of course, as a newbie, I had no idea of the protocol of these things, and it turned out that a certain BeltwayBandit, of this parish, had already nominated the same song: a successful nomination as it turned out, and The Blue Nile’s only RR hit to date. I hope it’s not too late to say ‘make mine a dond, then.’

Five years have passed since the release of High so I guess we’re due another album any year now – almost certainly sometime during the next decade. There’s nothing on the band’s official website but there has been some live activity over the past few years so, who knows, something may be imminent – a word which, with The Blue Nile, has to be considered in relative terms. I live in hope and I know beyond doubt that when they do produce album number five, I’ll like it. In fact, I’m prepared to go on public record here and now as saying that I’ll love it!

Right, a bit of house keeping then it’s over to the music. If you buy only one Blue Nile album, make it Hats. But there are only four of them – so why not buy them all. If you listen to just one track, make it Downtown Lights.

Edit: I’ve made a couple of changes to the playlist – it was sounding a bit too unremittingly gloomy to me (and apparently DsD agrees). Too much shade for our liking – let there be light …

The music
Tinseltown In The Rain
Regret
Let’s Go Out Tonight
God Bless You Kid
From A Late Night Train
Tomorrow Morning
Family Life
Because Of Toledo
She Saw The World
I Would Never

The links
Wikipedia
Official Site
Last.fm

For the Unwary, upon entering the ‘spillway’.

Well. I seem to have cleared all the hurdles.
Joining a new club (and an elite one such as this) was bound to be difficult. That initial ‘casual’ request for an email address, followed relentlessly by a vigilant ‘Ed’ personage requiring me to chose a Username ( what’s wrong with being Anonymous, anyway – or a Troll?). I’m no fool however : I saw that these ‘easygoing’ and ‘relaxed’ procedures were simply ways of getting me to lower my guard.

Sure enough, no sooner had I begun to enlighten and educate others with an (admittedly) dazzling display of arcane musical erudition, when up popped an ‘enforcer’ called ‘sonofwebcore’. Concealing iron fist in velvet words of chummy ‘helpfulness’, he deftly highlighted my error in posting my nuggets of wisdom too late in the week for me to earn my rightful place at the forefront, and ‘suggested’ I join in the Thursday-night melee, at some hour made all the more ungodly by being set selfishly convenient for the population of the UK – but an hour later for us in one of the ex-colonies (France in my case).

This I knew was a test, an initiation ordeal for the New Boy – or Nube, if I may be permitted to mint a word that soon no doubt will find its place in the Oxford Dictionary Definitions of Internet English – or ODDIE (I generally abhore acronyms but this one fits the bill admirably, being both short and slightly amusing).

I think I acquitted myself adequately – without covering myself in unnecessary glory – and I am now awaiting the call to the inner sanctum, where piffling rules and deadlines will be waived. I look forward to cosy chats with the self-styled ‘Ed’, about say, the Future of Popular Music and how our group intends to shape it – although I think I will stick with the more formal Edward (or is it Edwina?) until we are better acquainted – at the club: somewhere comfortably sedate in Mayfair, I imagine, or painfully avant-garde in Lewisham.
But before then, there will probably be other tests and challenges to face. I have not previously refused calls for sexual services, nor financial ‘contributions’ if they are reasonable – though I would object to demands for both, I suppose.

A final Word for the Unwary: elite clubs such as this, in common with all cliques and ‘In-Crowds,’ insist on coded forms of speech – verbal masonic handshakes – designed to exclude outsiders and oi polloi. Do not be lulled into a false sense of security when you spot the ‘Explanation for ‘Donds’ etc. This is merely one word in a site littered with such tricks – you’ll soon enough be tripping over ‘zeds’ and ‘noms’ to mention just two of a host of cunning linguistic in-jokes that must surely be lurking for the unsuspecting contributor. Humour here takes on devious shapes – Be on your guard !

R W

Reading

I am watching the Reading coverage on BBC3.

Not hugely impressed.

Kings of Leon – unfocused and plodding, lack of music, not a good band at all.

Faith No More – always were rubbish, why reform?

Jamie T – What the F*ck is this sh*t? I have rarely seen anything as completely useless. Who is this cretinous bore? Do people actually listen to this for pleasure? Makes The Streets look good.

I have also been unfortunate enough to see the Bombay Bicycle Club, who deserve a smack and Florence and the Machine, who are just rubbish.

HOME-Y

Tell Her
I’m Going Back Home
The Ballad of Ira Hayes
Sam Stone
Homecoming
Long Way Home
The Day After Tomorrow
The Wild Rover
Prodigal Daughter/Cotton-eyed Joe
Legionnaire’s Lament
Back to the Old House
Travellin Man
Habitat
Da Art of Storytellin Pt. 1
You Never Know
Criminal
My Way Home

Upon consideration, these are about home, but not about returning home, necessarily. Still good, though…
My Old Home
Where I’m From

Mariachi confusion

I got my mariachis in a twist over on the mothership by confusing Volver with Volver, Volver which, as you can see, aren’t remotely similar. So just to make things clear, the one I’m recommending is the one with two Volvers.

Volver, Volver – Ry Cooder
Mingulay Boat Song – Richard Thompson
I’m Comin’ Home – Robert Earl Keen
Walking The Long Miles Home – Richard Thompson
Back Home Again – the Living Archive Band
When I Die – the Waifs
The Coming Home Of The Son And Brother – Robert Earl Keen
Beat The Retreat – Richard and Linda Thompson
First In Line – the Gourds
Il Me Reste Un Voyage A Faire – Malicorne

You be Sherlock to their Holmes

Wheuw would live in a house like this? Album titles and artists please panel. And what a panel you are. I’ve tried to be eclectic but can’t think of any disco (or indeed house) music covers that fit the bill. I suppose dance music is all about getting out of the house…
I could have included Millie Jackson sitting on the er..throne but I largely stuck to exteriors. I’ll save it for the ‘Songs about Bodily Functions’ week.

Watch closely because, remember, the clues are there, as we go through… oh god, stop it.