No More Crying On The Stairs – A Love Affair With The Blue Nile

September 25th 1996, at the corner of where the South Circular Road meets Upper Clanbrassil Street, raining; myself, my sister Ben, and the late Uaneen Fitzsimons, parted ways, not saying a word to each other, in a state of astonishment, in a state of beautiful bewilderment, we drifted into the night. We’d just seen The Blue Nile in the National Stadium.

There was simply nothing we could say.

The music of the Blue Nile had said it all that night, and has for me ever since. As a songwriter, and as a human, I think I’ve always worn my heart and my influences on my sleeve, my love for the Blue Nile everyone knows, never something I’ve hidden. Paul Buchanan has influenced me as a writer, his honesty, his depth, his aching haiku imagery, his vocal tone, his enrapturing intensity, his humility.

The Blue Nile had just released, and were at the time touring Peace At Last, the third long player. They had remained true to form with their long gaps between records and gigs. Hats, the 2nd record was released in 1989. Six years earlier in 1983 A Walk Across The Rooftops had entered my A Walk Across the Rooftops -The Blue Nilecollection via Ben, she brought it home on vinyl, an original Linn label pressing and I still have it; how I cajoled it I don’t remember, but it wrapped around every fibre of my being for the years since and it still does to his day. A Walk Across The Rooftops was like something I’d never heard before, to put it into context, the biggest selling single that year was Karma Chameleon by Culture Club and the biggest selling album was Michael Jackson’s Thriller, The Blue Nile fell wonderfully between neither stool.

The glorious, almost industrial electronics, the warmth, the sentiment, the thought provoking Easter Parade, the pop tune classic that was Stay, the heart wrenching emotion of Tinseltown in The Rain. As a record it kept me enraptured for years, it was a good job it did as Hats, the second album didn’t come until 7 years later.

And then there was Hats; where to start really, there was a beautiful glistening urban-ness to its Late Night Train journey tales, its rain soaked city streets, its lovelorn lyrics, it’s songs of love, its songs of longing, songs of loss. I think for me ‘Let’s go out tonight’ was one of the most encapsulating songs about relationships ever written.

” Why don’t you say what’s so wrong , tonight , pray for me , praying for the light , Baby baby let’s go out tonight “

And it’s the emotion of Buchanan’s delivery, the pain in it, the longing in it. So, so beautiful. So, so simple. So effecting. I lose it pretty much every time I hear it. It’s an album that’s accompanied me on train journeys, plane journeys, late night conversations, almost all my adult life has been anchored by Hats. A musical lighthouse an emotional refuge for me, he’s felt what you’re feeling, you’ve felt what he’s feeling. Spellbinding writing and it’s just effortless. Effortless. Or at least it seems so.

Hats -The Blue NileHeadlights on the Parade, Downtown Lights, and the utterly sublime Saturday Night which closes the record is for me I think one the greatest love songs ever written. ” An ordinary girl could make the world alright , love me all the way , Saturday night “ I choke, I just choke listening to this song, there’s a deep understanding in the context of this tune of an emotion that every human being at one stage in their life will experience the joy of, the loss of, the warmth of.

Tears, there are always tears.

It simply kills me and, and I let it. Peace At Last was the third album and there was a distinct lack of the patented electronic tones form the word go . Happiness was the first track and a wonderful Buchanan vocal soars over mellow keyboards with acoustic guitars holding the track on the floor until it soars once again at the outro with a wonderful choir joining on the final chorus.

It’s hairs on the back neck stuff, Sentimental Man, astonishing, Tomorrow Morning, sublime, but nestled towards the end of the record was the track Family Life, just a beautiful, beautiful tune, emotion, family falling apart, love, loss. ” Jesus please make us happy some time , no more shout , no more fight , family life… “ I’ve always gotten a lump in the throat listening to this, there is that place as a songwriter that you just can’t visit with such emotion without having felt that emotion, every shred of it, every inch of it. There is a great darkness in its lonesome beauty.

I love this song, I’ve lived this song. “For my kids , for my wife, family life “ There seemed quite a fractious process in terms of the recording process for Peace At Last, and it’s quite easy to pick holes in it simply because of the Peace at Last -The Blue Nileundeniable quality of Hats And A Walk Across The Rooftops, it’s easy target practice but it has some wonderful moments, wonderful moments. Released in 2004 HIGH was the last studio album and again the fractiousness seemed evident, ‘Because of Toledo’ is a standout, the title track High is also a stunning example of the life affirming simplicity and pure emotion of Buchanan’s writing.

“Look at the Morning People going to work and fading away , why don’t we stop the traffic , we could be High.. “

I still drift towards tracks on this record, still dip into it, still enjoy moments in it. It’s just on the same level of emotional intensity as the first two records and it was obvious, from the outside looking in, that this was probably going to be the last Blue Nile record. It was. High -The Blue NileI wondered why, and how, I’d write this piece, love letter, and then thought just say what it means to me, what it does to me, emotionally, spiritually, creatively makes me dig, moves me, fills me, questions me, wraps around me.

It’s also a great thing to find how discussions I’ve have with peers recently about the Blue Nile some had found a disconnect with Buchanan’s voice, never felt the emotion, never bought into it, never connected with it. It’s a strange thing, a wonderful thing, it’s what makes us different as emotional beings.

And its strange how, even still, in today’s chewing gum pop industry the music of the Blue Nile is still revered, still relevant, still timeless, why, because it’s real.

I’m back standing right now where I started this piece, at the corner of Clanbrassil Street in 1996, as we walked in the city lights, speechless, tingling with emotion, filled with joy, filled with something I’ve carried with throughout many, many years, something I’ve tapped into many, many times.

A wonderful timeless emotion, a wonderful timeless feeling, a wonderful timeless band.

For Uaneen.

Words by Pat Barrett