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From Arts and Parts, an obscure Scottish Television arts programme of the 1990s, this is a rarely-seen interview with Paul Buchanan, vocalist and songwriter of the critically-lauded minimalist electronic band The Blue Nile around the time of the release of the band's third album Peace At Last. The programme also features extended clips of the band on Later...With Jools Holland performing A Walk Across the Rooftops and Body and Soul.
Notoriously reclusive and tortoise-paced, Buchanan clearly makes an awkward interviewee. He discusses the band's working methods, its infamously slow progress and its misfortunes within the music industry with journalist David Belcher but sheds only fleeting light onto the band's cloistered methods.
The band was formed in 1981 when friends Paul Buchanan (born April 16 1956, Glasgow) and Robert Bell met Paul Joseph Moore after graduating from the University of Glasgow in the late 1970s. Although their individual degrees didn't reflect their future career trajectory (English Literature, Electronics and Mathematics, respectively), their mutual friendship grew out of their shared interest in music, and they began writing and recording together.
Previously Robert and Paul were the key members of the band Night by Night who had a small but enthusiastic following in the Glasgow area - they had made demos of songs like 'Rio' and 'Stay' but were not commercial enough at the time - had they continued with this trajectory, we may never have had the Blue Nile.
They formed their own label, Peppermint Records, on which they released their first single, "I Love This Life", which was later picked up and issued by RSO Records. Soon afterward, RSO was absorbed into Polygram, and The Blue Nile's first single disappeared from view, as did the band. The trio kept writing and recording over the next couple of years, including a couple of tracks that would later surface on their debut album.
The Blue Nile have released four albums over a career spanning more than two decades.
A Walk Across the Rooftops
When local Hi-Fi manufacturer Linn Electronics heard their music, the company offered the band money to record a track that would showcase the sonic range of the company's high-end audio equipment. Linn was so pleased with the result, they formed their own record label in order to release The Blue Nile's debut, A Walk Across the Rooftops, in 1984.sample (help·info) Buchanan later commented that during that time Linn was not really a record company, and The Blue Nile was not really a band. Although it received positive reviews, it sold modestly.
1984 saw a greater exposure for the band throughout Europe with the videos for their two singles "Stay"sample (help·info) and "Tinseltown in the Rain" often shown on the video channel Music Box.
After a prolonged delay in which an entire album's worth of work was scrapped, The Blue Nile released Hats in 1989 to rave reviews, including a rare five-star rating from Q magazine. The album was recorded in the same studio as much of their previous work, Castlesound in Pencaitland, East Lothian. This album, which explores the highs and lows of romantic love, is considered by most critics and listeners to be the band's most enduring work. At the time, Hats reached #12 on the UK album charts and even slipped into the Billboard 200 in the United States. Rickie Lee Jones, a huge fan of the band, personally selected The Blue Nile as her opening act for her 1990 tour. She would later record a duet with them, a cover of the band's own "Easter Parade", which was featured as a B-side to the single "Headlights on the Parade".
In 1993, the band worked on Annie Lennox's debut album, Diva; she in turn covered "The Downtown Lights", from Hats, for her album Medusa, released in 1995.
Peace at Last
A year later, The Blue Nile finally released their long-anticipated follow-up to Hats, entitled Peace at Last. In a radical departure from the band's prior two albums, the record is primarily driven by Buchanan's acoustic guitar. Even a gospel choir makes a brief appearance on the leadoff single, "Happiness".sample (help·info) Despite the release of Peace at Last on a major label, the album sold poorly, and the critical reaction to the album was more mixed. However, "Family Life" was singled out for praise by most critics and listeners, many of whom consider it an instant classic.
After the longest period between albums—eight years—The Blue Nile released High in 2004. Although acoustic guitar is still present on some tracks, the overall musical sound is more reminiscent of Hats, and as a result, the record has once again received almost universal critical praise.
The album was recorded in Glasgow, Scotland, as the group had had enough of travelling and living in other countries, such as America, Ireland, Italy and France. They also decided to release it on Sanctuary Records instead of a corporate label, as the head of Sanctuary's A&R, John Williams, called the band and suggested releasing a record. According to Buchanan, the people at Sanctuary don't promise "to call on a Tuesday and then nothing comes of it".
FORMAT: MPEG-4 (Perian), 544 x 400, Millions
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