Friday, 17 May 2013

Desert Island Discs 4 Walk Across the Rooftops by The Blue Nile

4 A Walk Across the Rooftops by The Blue Nile 1984


Walk Across the Rooftops features a song which indirectly led to this blog. About 4 years ago Vinyl Villain invited his readers to write a post for when he was in holiday. This turned into a month of guest posts one of which after much umming and arrghing was something i sent in on Tinseltown in the Rain by the Blue Nile. The reaction I got finally kicked my bout of inertia and the blog was born.

Here is an extended version of what I wrote.

  One of the things about getting older is that everything starts to remind you of something else. Those goose bump times of hearing something that you feel genuinely sounds like nothing else happen less and less. This can be a good thing as now when I hear something new I like I also get weird throw back memories of times and places that I'd forgotten. However I miss those moments of genuine discovery. Growing up in the fens (nice sunsets is about all it has going for it) meant that visits to see bands play were few and far between and anything that wasn't in the top 40 had to be ordered in to the local Boots.

The only place I got to listen to new music was on the radio and whilst John Peel tends to get all the plaudits, I would make a date every Sunday night at 9pm with Annie Nightingale (before she went to Ibiza and became some kind of trance queen). She used to run a request show and made a point of playing album tracks, b sides and extended versions

I remember the time she first played this particular track and the weird synth sounds , a driving bass kicked off before a voice that sounded like the dictionary definition of "sorrow and regret" kicked off with "Why did we ever come so far". The voice had to be good to compete with the beauty of the backing and by the “will we always be so happy go lucky?” the weariness and resignation told you the answer. By the end of the song I was hooked, it wasn't poppy , it wasn't rock it didn't seem to go verse chorus verse chorus and I had no idea what was making those sounds. On top of this, the fact that I didn't have a clue what the song was about but just felt it had to be about unrequited love (of which like a lot of 16 yr old males I was suffering of at the time) and add to that a title that just sounded great and was meant to be stencilled onto exercise books and a band that I knew nothing about but like Aztec Camera consisted of 2 words that just felt like they should be together and I was determined to get a copy.

Nothing as exotic would be found in Holbeach and for some reason I just assumed that something so different couldn’t be ordered into Boots. I tried shops in bigger towns and no-one had heard of the band or the song (these were the days when record counters in WH Smiths etc all seemed to be staffed by middle aged women).

Eventually that summer, we had a school trip to London and were allowed to wonder around in small groups unsupervised as long as we were at the Barbican by late pm to see a production of Julius Caesar (imagine allowing that now!). So a group of us headed for the mecca of HMV Oxford Street and joy of joys they had a copy. The cover told me I wasn't going to be disappointed , a black and white photo of the band looking suitably aloof and cool, simple lettering with the name of the band and LP, no clues as to who these people were , apart from their names, who played what, the lyrics etc all missing. I'm not sure if when I got it home and played it how I would have reacted if it had been a "1 song" LP. It wasn't - every song seemed so unique the world weary voice matched to perfection with sounds from some alternative future/past place.


If Deacon Blue’s later lp told of a Glasgow of work and rain . The Glasgow of Walk Across the Rooftops was one full of summer girls in disarray , lights caught fences , reds cars in the fountain , wild wild sky, bright rags , St Stephen’s bells , confetti , hats in the air

It all sounded widescreen, cinematic, romantic, mysterious, definitely not flat, grey , smelling of sugar beet and full of daffodils
At seven songs , it is over too soon.

I listen to it now and yes I'm now much clearer as what is making the sounds, the production and bass is a bit early 80s and mystery of the band has disappeared, but the songs and the voice still take me back and wash sorrow and regret over me– a love theme for the wilderness
Easter Parade - the Blue Nile

You can buy the extended version of the lp here, which includes the poppier first single (one of my most treasured bits of vinyl) I Love This Life and too good to be a b side perfect in its sadness that is Regret


  1. Walk Across The Rooftops is an album I first heard browsing in my favorite import record store. By the second track I found myself just standing infront of the singles rack deeply involved in the record. The store manager/owner walked over and put the album in my hands. I think he knew when I was hooked. I purchased said brilliant album and headed home. I haven't stopped listening to Walk Across The Rooftops ever since.

  2. Always new you had a soft-spot for 'Rooftops' and with that history you share it's certainly understandable as your choice. I'd be saving 'Hats' from the fire, but go back in for the rest of BN's precious few...

    #4 - LLOYD COLE - "LOVE STORY" (1995)

    - I'm not quite sure why I'm such a big fan of Lloyd. None of his records move me to tears, make me wanna dance or really 'blow me away.' I think he's just such a damned clever wordsmith and comes up with the most cracking memorable choruses, consistently. And there's always that croon...

    'Love Story' narrowly edges out 'Don't Get Weird' as my favorite LC solo, although I love them all except Bad Vibes, which Lloyd himself admits was a blunder. He just ain't Marc Bolan. 'Love Story' has no stabs at trying to be hip; it's just 12 perfectly-crafted pop songs. I've never heard a LC solo tune on radio, but there are so many "shoulda been" singles on this record. "Like Lovers Do" for starters. And the lyrics sharp as ever...

    "He was torn between the romance and the mundane, He was torn every morning
    He was surprised or was he horrified to find the mundane the more rewarding."
    "Must the one always have to change, whilst the other must always remain
    Must the cards all be dealt facing down? Turn away, turn away, turn your blue skies to gray."
    (Unhappy Song)

    I could rap on about this album endlessly, but I'll spare you...

  3. I remember my first listening of the Blue Nile song too David.
    It was the emotional punch of the 'Do I Love You?' section that blew me away... still does.
    'Love Story' just pipped by 'Don't Get Weird...' for me TT. Both chestnuts!

  4. likewise with love story - think it his most commotions like solo lp if that makes any sense

  5. A true classic. I know I went for 'Peace At Last' but it could just as easily have been this or 'Hats' on a different day. Nothing much to seperate 3 great albums.
    Tim - After being reprimanded by you due to my lack of Lloyd ,he's been on my mp3 player over the last couple of weeks. I hold my hands up . He should have made my list with 'Love Story'. I didn't really give him much of a chance. A couple of listens and I thought 'not as good as 'Rattlesnakes' and put it on the shelf to gather dust.I've learnt my lesson, can I come out of the corner now?
    #4 Paul Quinn and The Independent Group - Will I Ever Be Inside Of You
    An album that has been of both yours and Tims lists , so not a lot to add. Their debut album 'Phantoms' isn't too shabby either.
    Here's 'Born On The Wrong Side Of Town'. What a voice.
    ...and from WIEBIOY 'Misty Blue'

    Bugger, there's the link for 'Misty Blue'

  7. I still get annoyed that Paul Quinn seems to get zilch of the credit he deserves whilst Richard Hawley etc are feted until the cows come home

  8. Phil: Finally slotted Paul Quinn! Another cracking good band. Blair Cowan's contribution essential to the atmosphere, and James Kirk's guitar amazing. David made a great comment about Richard Hawley et al getting all the kudos, whilst Quinn ignored.


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