Over the Hillside

I’ll let you in on a little secret, which is that one of the reasons I was happy that the 2005 Worldcon was in Glasgow was that I always wanted to visit the town that The Blue Nile was from, and which inspired the music off of Hats, which is one of my all time favorite albums, and coming up on its 20th anniversary in 2009. Mind you, it’s not like I accidentally ran across Paul Buchanan while I was there. But there was always the possibility, at which point I could have said “well done, you, sir,” and then watched as he (I expect) muttered embarrassed thanks and then scuttled away.

The point is, I wanted to be in the city in my head that I imagined the music on the album came out of, and while that city doesn’t actually exist, Glasgow was probably as close as I was going to get to it. It was a good trip, and this is a great album.

[imeem music=”jRgEBW4N1e”]

Incidentally, clicking on the album cover above takes you to the Amazon page where you can download the mp3 version of the album. At just $6.93 (cheap!), it’s worth it.

27 Comments on “Over the Hillside”

  1. Oooh! Another Blue Nile fan! I didn’t think there were many of us out there!

    Though I have to admit that A Walk Along the Rooftops is my favorite album of theirs

    He’s just got such a gorgeous voice that works so well with their music.

  2. Wow, *two* more Blue Nile fans! You’re the first two I’ve found in over fifteen years, since I was introduced to the music by my ex way back when. Hats is my favorite album.

  3. $6.93 isn’t cheap for a downloaded album. $6.93 isn’t even cheap for a CD you can buy. Make it $2.50, and I might start thinking about dipping my toes in.

  4. Thanks for this post. The Blue Nile is one of my all-time favorites. The melancholy crooning of Paul Buchanan gets me every time.

    I’m a sucker for Downtown Lights. I hear that and I drift off to a place I’ve never been, but always wanted to visit.

    Time to pull out my BN albums and play them all, straight through.

  5. Sorry, folks, but *Hats* just wasn’t as good or inspiring as *A Walk Across the Rooftops*. Didn’t bother with anything they did subsequently.

    Prefab Sprout?! What’s next, a serious discussion of the merits of Deacon Blue?!?

  6. And in any event, all that can be said about Scottish music in the 80s has already been said, in *Espedair Street*

  7. For my part, I was there, and if I ever need to ‘go back’ it is The Blue Nile that I travel to get there and Deacon Blue I consult when I get there. Music of both place and time.

    And with all due respect to Mr Banks, Guise, if ‘all that can be said about Scottish music’ is contained within one book there is no hope left for the English language.

    Runrig anybody?

  8. $6.93 isn’t cheap for a download album? Sounds pretty reasonable to me, even with the modicum of tax I think I have to pay since I live not too far from the brick hospital turned Amazon office building on the hillside above I-90.

    I did find that the Russians will sell me Peace at Last for $0.90 though.

  9. The Blue Nile are fantastic, Hats is good, but “A Walk Across the Rooftops” is a masterpiece. 2004’s “High” is an often overlooked classic too.

  10. Don’t forget Aztec Camera (or Roddy Frame in his solo incarnations).

    Blue Nile, Aztec Camera, Prefab Sprout, etc, were mocked in Glasgow as “wanky student music” – but I liked it.

  11. Hey, here’s a better deal for you. These albums are old enough for my local library to have Hats and Rooftops, so I can listen to them for free.

    The Blue Nile is a really good Ethiopian restaurant in Ann Arbor by the way. Hope it’s still open anyway.

  12. changterhune – Before you hear lies from Chang Terhune himself, we thought we’d tell you the truth: without us, his old action figures, he’d be nowhere. He loved science fiction from way back and began reading it at an early age, but it was through us that he acted it all out. That’s what led to the writing. He watched a lot of science fiction shows like Star Trek, U.F.O, and movies, too. But we were always there to do his bidding. And it’s like they say: you always forget about the little people on your way up. Oh, the 70’s and early 80’s with him were good times! He’d use these blocks and make all the crazy buildings for us to be in his stories. I gotta say the kid’s imagination was pretty damn fertile. Oh, he had friends, but they just weren’t into it like him. He was like the Lance Armstrong of action figures. And of science fiction. At first, when he began writing in the eighth grade, we didn’t mind. He still made time for us. And we knew that when he was holding us in his sweaty little hands and he got that far off look in his eye, he’d come back to burying us in the back yard or - god forbid! – blowing us up with firecrackers. But it was worth it for a part in one of those stories. We loved him for it. He kept us around even when we were minus a leg or two - or even a head. In that mind of his, he found a use for all of us. Then he discovered girls. October, 1986. It was like the end of the world. One day we’re standing in the middle of this building block creation he’d pretended was some marble city on a planet near Alpha Centauri and the next we were stuck in a box in the closet. Not even a “See ya later!” Nope, it was into the closet, then we heard some high-pitched girly-giggles then silence. We didn’t see him for years. We got word about him once in a while. Heard he took up writing, but it was crap like “The Breakfast Club” only with better music. We couldn’t believe it. Not Charlie. What happened to those aliens with heads he’d sculpted out of wax? Spaceships? Those complex plots? All gone. For what? You guessed it: Girls. Emotions. “Serious fiction.” I tell you, it was like hearing Elvis had left the building. During our two decade exile in the closet, we heard other things about him. He went to college. He wrote a lot, but not much he really liked. We knew it even then. It was like he didn’t dare write science fiction. Some of us had lost hope and just lay there. Others kept vigil, hoping for a day we didn’t dare speak about. Then we heard he’d stopped writing in 1996. Did he come to reclaim us? No. He took up music for ten years or so. He took up yoga. Once in a while, he’d visit us in the closet. But it was half-hearted. His mind was elsewhere. Then one day, he really did come back for us. One second we’re in the dark and the next thing we know we’re in a car headed for Massachusetts. Suddenly we got a whole shelf to ourselves out in broad daylight! Then he bought a bunch of others form some planet called Ebay. He’d just sit and stare at us with that old look. But why were we suddenly back in the picture? He had a wife now, who didn’t mind that he played with us. So what had happened? Turns out he’d never forgotten about those stories. He’d been thinking about all of us and the stories he’d made up and then remembered he’d been a writer once. From the shelf we could see him typing away. Before long he’s got a whole novel together! Then he’s working on another one. Word is there are two more in the planning stages! Some short stories, too! It’s good to see him using his imagination again. Its good to know he never abandoned us. He returned to his true love of science fiction. We hear the stories are pretty good. Someday we’ll get one of the cats to score us a copy of the manuscript. Man, it’s good to be out of the damn closet! --- I'm smarter than you I'm harder than you I'm better than you I'm just raw I'm hotter than you More popular than you More clever than you And goshdarn it, people like me I'm smarter than you I'm harder than you I'm better than you I'm just raw I'm hotter than you More popular than you More clever than you And goshdarn it, people like me
    Chang, with tears in his pants

    I’m still a bigger fan of A Walk Across The Rooftops. I’d play it for my friends when it came out in ’84. ALl those guys who were into Rush, Van Halen and free jazz would just bug out. A sublime work, that album.

  13. Zeph:

    Uh-huh. I don’t really have any doubt that if it were priced at $2.50, you’d find some way of arguing that it’s too expensive then, too. $7 for an album of work is a perfectly reasonable price, here in the US, for an album one has not purchased before. You’re just silly cheap, is all.

    That said, I see no problem borrowing it from the library if it’s on offer, or buying it from the Russians at 90 cents if you bought it before in the store in an obsolete medium, and want it in electronic form.

  14. Curse you, Scalzi. The Blue Nile “Hats” and Deacon Blue “Fellow Hoodlums” are two of my perpetual winners in Best Album You’ve Never Heard Of contests, and now you’re spoiling it.

  15. WOOOO! I absolutely love the Blue Nile. My husband ran a TBN fansite wayyyyy back in 1995 and we got an advance copy of Peace at Last to enjoy and review. When they played the Fillmore in SF in 1996 (which is quite possibly the worst venue, ever) we had a nice chat with them and Paul is indeed as lovely and wonderful as you’d expect. In fact, my husband was such a fanatic back in the day (1990?), he saw TBN in SF (at the Great American Music Hall) and then drove 500 miles to see them in LA at UCLA. Our first dance at our wedding was “Saturday Night”. We even went to Scotland for part of our honeymoon, and Glasgow in particular, for the same reasons you went :) So, yeah, big ole TBN fandorks.

    It’s so nice to see some Blue Nile love out there. An early holiday gift!

  16. Y’know, John, it seems like 90% of the time that you put up one of these “here’s another of my favorite albums/songs/artists” posts about some semi-obscure band that most mainstream music listeners haven’t heard of, it’s for some artist that I already know and have liked since they first started releasing music.

    I mean, it’s cool and all to find other people who like the same semi-obscure music you like, but it’s not exactly broadening.

    One of us needs to obtain some different tastes in early 90’s alt-rock or something.

  17. Julie K. Rose:

    “In fact, my husband was such a fanatic back in the day (1990?), he saw TBN in SF (at the Great American Music Hall) and then drove 500 miles to see them in LA at UCLA.”

    Hey, I was at that concert! The one in LA. I drove up from San Diego for it.

  18. John: You both probably had a lot more hair then :)

    I only got to see them the once in 1996; I’d like to see them in a much more civilized venue. With Elisabeth Fraser!

  19. It’s really weird seeing bands that I assumed were basically local heros like TBN, Deacon Blue etc be liked by people who lived so many thousands of miles away.
    I hope you found Glasgow to your liking John. Even though I haven’t lived there for years it’s still very close to my heart.

  20. A few years ago, we bought the “Six Feet Under” soundtrack, and eventually “Let’s Go Out Tonight” worked it way into my brain. With a little research, I “discovered” TBN. I’m a big fan now.

    Plug this number into the YouTube search box for an interesting interview: 1rLnn_fNCJQ

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