Danny Wilson, “Mary’s Prayer” and More Late ’80s Scottish Bands

Following on from my post yesterday about Deacon Blue and how the late ’80s were a very fertile period for bands hailing from north of the border, today’s featured song is one of my all-time favourites – Mary’s Prayer by Danny Wilson which reached No.3 in the UK Singles Chart in 1988. Like Ricky Ross of Deacon Blue, the band Danny Wilson were from the great city of Dundee (famed for Jam, Jute and J…. Jackie Magazine!). Ironically this record might not have come about at all if not for the fact that founder member Gary Clark decided to return home to Dundee from London, after quite sensibly noticing that bands from his neck of the woods were really starting to get noticed by talent scouts and journalists.

Mary’s Prayer by Danny Wilson:

Apparently their brand of pop music is a sub-genre, called sophisti-pop, which includes highly polished arrangements, makes use of keyboards & synthesizers and is influenced by soul and jazz. Whatever it is (and I am truly becoming troubled by the myriad of sub-genres out there), it was fantastic to listen to and I ended up buying their first album called “Meet Danny Wilson”. On it were some very localised songs telling tales of happenings in the places I had lived, and knew so well. I am pretty sure Gary Clark’s brother and fellow band mate Kit was with me at University, but as is wont to happen, it is difficult in later life to remember what they were like back then.

danny wilson

So, I had come to live in the Highlands and suddenly all these great bands were emerging from Scotland. Fortunately for us they were more than happy to tour the north of the country, even the Highlands, so we got to see quite a few live in concert. This is a terrible admission as I pride myself on having a good memory for happenings back in the day but unlike the fine detail I remember from the early ’70s when I was a young teenager, in the late ’80s I was in my twenties and perhaps because alcohol now played a part in my social life, I cannot quite remember which of these bands I did see live. I have racked my brain however and am pretty sure I saw Deacon Blue perform at our local ice centre where the rink used to be covered with temporary flooring for events such as concerts. Still very troubling for the tootsies though if you hadn’t worn the appropriate footwear.

Sadly I never did see Danny Wilson perform live and they had quite a short lifespan as a band before calling it a day and going on to other things. Gary Clark went on to be a prolific writer of songs for some of the biggest artists of the ’90s but after living in London and Los Angeles for some time he has recently returned home to Dundee. Ged Grimes, the third member of the band, is currently the bass player with Simple Minds but has also in the past, played with Deacon Blue.

Before I finish, a little bit of trivia about the band name – They were just about to release their first album under the name Spencer Tracy when there was an objection from the late film star’s estate. To avoid any unpleasant legal wrangling they had to quickly think of another name and that turned out to be from the title of a Frank Sinatra film called Meet Danny Wilson. (Stuck with the film theme though and also the slightly confusing singular name, whereas in reality a band of three people.)

Danny Wilson film

This was supposed to be a week where I revisited my favourite tracks from that great late ’80s era of Scottish bands and already, on day two, I have doubled back to Deacon Blue via Danny Wilson – Plenty of material to choose from however, that’s for sure, so will find another band with ease but always open to suggestions if you have one?

Mary’s Prayer Lyrics
(Song by Gary Clark)

Everything is wonderful,
Being here is heavenly
Every single day she sends,
Everything is free
I used to be so careless,
As if I couldn’t care less
Did I have to make mistakes,
When I was Mary’s prayer?

Suddenly the heavens rolled,
Suddenly the rain came down
Suddenly was washed away,
The Mary that I knew
So when you find somebody you keep,
Think of me and celebrate
I made such a big mistake,
When I was Mary’s Prayer

So if I say, save me, save me,
Be the light in my eyes
And if I say, ten Hail Mary’s,
Leave a light on in heaven for me

Blessed is the one who shares,
Your power and your beauty, Mary
Blessed is the millionaire,
Who shares your wedding day
So when you find somebody you keep,
Think of me and celebrate
I made such a big mistake,
When I was Mary’s Prayer

Deacon Blue, “Dignity” and Late ’80s Scottish Bands (there were a lot of them!)

Short post but still thinking fondly of my recent “staycation” and the song Dignity by Deacon Blue came to mind. The late ’80s were a very fertile time for bands from Scotland and the charts were littered with their successes. Deacon Blue released their first album “Raintown” in 1987, the week I came to live in the Highlands, and possibly because I suddenly felt the strength of my Scottishness more (coming to live in a place where tourism is one of the main industries), it was a great time to have all this great music around. There were also the bands Hue and Cry, Texas, Aztec Camera, Primal Scream, Big Country, Wet Wet Wet, Hipsway, Danny Wilson, Fairground Attraction and of course Runrig whom I have written about before.

deacon-blue

Ever since starting the blog, I have come across these instances where suddenly there is a new “fashion” (for want of a better word) in music and sometimes it comes from a particular venue (Cavern Club in Liverpool, Blitz Nightclub in Covent Garden), sometimes as a reaction to what has gone before (punk, ska) and at other times from a particular label or producer (2 Tone, Phil Spector). I know “fashion” isn’t the right word for it but neither is zeitgeist or the bandwagon or halo effects. If anyone can help me out here please do, but whatever the correct word for it is, Scotland had it in bucketloads in the late ’80s.

Looking back, I can’t believe that the song Dignity only got to No. 31 in the UK charts as it is the song that is still most closely associated with them and is usually the one they finish any concert with. They even sang it at the Commonwealth Games closing ceremony in Glasgow in 2014. Listening to the lyrics again, I think we all suspect we know of someone like the character in the song. The mild-mannered council worker who despite his low grade job and very simple lifestyle (love the reference to the Sunblest bag – no artisan bread for this guy) has a dream that once he has saved enough money, he will head off in his dinghy and be permanently “on his holidays” leaving the rest of us stuck in the nine to five. Having gone back to work this week after my holiday, the thought of a life “sailing up the west coast, through villages and towns” is suddenly very appealing but sadly I think I’ll need a few more years of putting “money in my kitty” before that can happen.

Dignity by Deacon Blue:

I love the whole idea behind the theory of six degrees of separation but Scotland being quite small, there are more likely to be only two degrees of separation here. Donnie Munro from Runrig taught my husband Art at school, I have several friends who were at University with people in the bands mentioned above and my own sister-in-law went to school in Dundee with Deacon Blue frontman and songwriter Ricky Ross!

So many great bands to write about so I will keep this post short but stick to the theme over the course of the week. Already excited about all those great songs, ripe for being revisited!

Dignity Lyrics
(Song by Ricky Ross)

There’s a man I meet walks up our street
He’s a worker for the council
Has been twenty years
And he takes no lip off nobody
And litter off the gutter
Puts it in a bag
And never seems to mutter
And he packs his lunch in a Sunblest bag
The children call him bogie
He never lets on
But I know ’cause he once told me
He let me know a secret about the money in his kitty
He’s gonna buy a dinghy
Gonna call her dignity

And I’ll sail her up the west coast
Through villages and towns
I’ll be on my holidays
They’ll be doing their rounds
They’ll ask me how I got her I’ll say I saved my money
They’ll say isn’t she pretty that ship called dignity

And I’m telling this story
In a faraway scene
Sipping down raki
And reading Maynard Keynes
And I’m thinking about home and all that means
And a place in the winter for dignity
And I’ll sail her up the west coast
Through villages and towns
I’ll be on my holidays
They’ll be doing their rounds
They’ll ask me how I got her I’ll say I saved my money
They’ll say isn’t she pretty that ship called dignity

And I’m thinking about home
And I’m thinking about faith
And I’m thinking about work
And I’m thinking about how good it would be
To be here some day

Celtic Rock, Runrig and “Loch Lomond”

Last time I wrote about George Martin and of his legacy in assisting The Beatles and all those other great Liverpudlian bands and artists achieve great things in the 1960s.  Before that however, the thread I had been following was concerned with artists who are very much identified with their “place” in the world.

Anyone who has read my posts will have worked out by now that I come from the North of Scotland and although my childhood was rural, I have since lived in both of the big(ish) cities up here. You would have thought that the tracks of my years might have been very different to those of someone who has lived all their life in, say, Norfolk or Manchester but no, we pretty much all listen to the same radio stations, watch the same television shows/films and now have access to everything that the world wide web can throw at us.

It was not until I arrived in the Highlands however that I really started to appreciate some of the great Celtic rock bands that hail from this neck of the woods. In 1987, the band always guaranteed to sell out any concert was Runrig, orginally from the Isle of Skye. Their lead singer Donnie Munro had taught my husband art at school in the ’70s, but by the late ’80s he was very much a full-time musician. When he’d told the class he was involved with a band, and that they played a kind of Gaelic/Celtic rock, the class were highly sceptical (this was the decade of glam rock, punk and disco after all) but he certainly proved them all wrong. In the period 1987-1997 they were signed to Chrysalis and released five very successful studio albums. I remember buying “The Cutter And The Clan” in 1987 not long after arriving in the Highlands and I saw them perform three times in a short space of time at various venues, including a large marquee during a memorable homecoming trip to Skye.

runrig

I really don’t know how familiar they would have been to audiences in the rest of the country but they did enter the charts several times during that period so did achieve mainstream success despite the fact they were very much of their “place”, the Gaelic-speaking Isle of Skye.

In 1991, they released an EP which of course I bought, along with the rest of the population of the Highlands. The main song on the EP was Hearthammer but on the B-side was Loch Lomond (really gets going after 3:00), a traditional song given the full-blown Celtic rock treatment.

Although Loch Lomond itself is north of Glasgow and not really closely connected to Runrig’s place in the world, it is a rousing song and I am sure it must go down really well in Canada, New Zealand, the US, Australia and all the other places with a large Scottish diaspora. Suffice to say, if you are at an event in Scotland, it is a definite crowd-pleaser and is often the last song to be played at the end of the night. Lends itself well to the forming a circle and letting the mayhem commence.

cutter

The band has changed its lineup many times since forming in 1973 but the two songwriters Rory Macdonald and Calum Macdonald have been there right since the beginning. Donnie Munro left in 1997 to pursue a career in politics but was replaced by Bruce Guthro, a Canadian from Nova Scotia, who seems to have been just the right fit.

I visited Skye last summer and met up with a native who has been a friend for years. She took us to one of the many fine-dining restaurants on Skye (two have Michelin stars) and pointed out that if we looked closely when the door to the kitchen swung open, we would see Donnie Munro loading the dishwasher! Turns out his son is now a successful chef and his dad is only too happy to help out behind the scenes, even supplying the tablet that we thoroughly enjoyed with our coffee. How things change over the years…..

Loch Lomond Lyrics
(Song by Unknown – Traditional)

By yon bonnie banks and by yon bonnie braes,
Where the sun shines on Loch Lomond.
Where me and my true love spent many days
On the banks of Loch Lomond.

Too sad we parted in yon shady glen,
On the steep sides of Ben Lomond.
Where the broken heart knows no second spring,
Resigned we must be while we’re parting.

You’ll take the high road and I’ll take the low road,
And I’ll be in Scotland before you.
Where me and my true love will never meet again,
On the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.

Ho, ho mo leannan
Ho mo leannan bhoidheach

You’ll take the high road and I’ll take the low road,
And I’ll be in Scotland before you.
Where me and my true love will never meet again,
On the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.

The Proclaimers, Hibs and “Sunshine On Leith”

Last time I wrote about Elvis Presley, a performer who could only have come from the southern states of America. His accent, his good manners, his songs, all reflected his roots and his “place” in the world, right from the very beginning and throughout his career. In Scotland, we didn’t produce an Elvis Presley but we did produce The Proclaimers. Like Elvis, their accents, their good manners and songs were very much of their “place” and like most Scots I am really proud of what they have achieved.

I will admit that unlike Elvis they were never destined to become teen idols, but ever since twins Charlie and Craig Reid appeared on the music scene in the mid ’80s they have produced an impressive body of work and kept entertaining audiences around the world with their very distinctive brand of anthemic music.

proclaimers1

I first saw them in concert in the autumn of 1986 when they supported The Housemartins who were touring the UK at the time. I can still remember my quite “posh” friend’s surprised reaction to the twins, as she had never heard anyone sing with such strong Scottish accents before. Also they sang about places and happenings that we all could relate to. It didn’t take them long to cross the Atlantic and appear on US television chat shows, their songs becoming big hits over there too. They have even appeared on Family Guy!

procs

My favourite Proclaimers’ song is Sunshine On Leith which came from their second album and was a minor hit in 1988. It is a song that is just so connected to their birthplace, Leith, a district in the north of Edinburgh. A stage musical called Sunshine On Leith was written in 2007 featuring the songs of The Proclaimers, and an excellent film of the same name was made in 2013. It is one of the rare times I have enjoyed a film so much that I went back to watch it for a second time the next night.

Sunshine On Leith by The Proclaimers:

Like last time with the Elvis song, I have decided to include more than one version and these next two bring a lump to my throat every time. The first shows just what can happen when football fans adopt a song and in the case of Sunshine On Leith, that could only have happened with Hibernian FC, the club based right there in Leith. Fortunately Charlie and Craig are fans of the club and they must have been really moved by what happened after Hibs’ amazing Scottish League Cup Final win in 2007 – You can tell that the club’s manager, John Collins, definitely was.

Sunshine On Leith Cup Final version (best bit kicks in at 1:14 – no pun intended):

The second version of this song is from the film and is performed by Jane Horrocks. A completely different version from the one sung with such passion on the football terraces but sung with a different kind of passion, that of a wife for her poorly husband. If you haven’t seen either the stage show or the film, I would thoroughly recommend both although I would also thoroughly recommend bringing a large supply of tissues as I ran out last time – Not a pretty sight leaving the cinema.

Sunshine On Leith from the film soundtrack:

Sunshine On Leith Lyrics
(Song by Charlie Reid/Craig Reid)

My heart was broken, my heart was broken 
Sorrow Sorrow Sorrow Sorrow
My heart was broken, my heart was broken
You saw it, You claimed it
You touched it, You saved it

My tears are drying, my tears are drying 
Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you
My tears are drying, my tears are drying
Your beauty and kindness
Made tears clear my blindness

While I’m worth my room on this earth
I will be with you
While the Chief, puts sunshine on Leith
I’ll thank Him for His work
And your birth and my birth

Four Weddings, “Love Is All Around” and Wet Wet Wet

I wrote yesterday about Bryan Adams’ monopolisation of the British music charts in 1991 with his movie song. 1994 was most definitely monopolised by another movie song – The Troggs’ Love Is All Around, this time recorded by Wet Wet Wet. As it turns out it would have beaten Bryan Adams record of 16 weeks at No. 1 had the band themselves not taken the decision to delete it from sale after week 15. They were fully aware by this time that everyone was fed up hearing it and some radio stations had even taken to banning it from the airwaves.

Love Is All Around by Wet Wet Wet:

The song had been attached to the fantastically popular film Four Weddings and a Funeral and yet again, droves of fans of the film took to purchasing possibly their first single in many a year. It hit the number one spot at the end of May and stayed there until October!

I remember going to see it that summer with my husband and his family who were home from abroad for a visit. Seemed like a good idea for a night out and I must admit to loving the film so much, I went back the following week for a second viewing. Hugh Grant had been around in films for a while but when Richard Curtis cast him as the smart, funny, good-looking but slightly awkward Charles in Four Weddings, he struck gold. The whole cast of mainly British actors (we’ll not mention Ms MacDowell as I think she was included to appease the American market) were fabulous and although set in “Richard Curtis-world” where everyone lives in stately homes or Notting Hill townhouses with no discernable income stream to match, the film was a tremendous success. When Liz Hurley hit the red carpet on Hugh Grant’s arm in the safety pin dress, her career took a discernable turn for the better also, so lots of winners here.

images

I expect the biggest winner of all was Reg Presley of The Troggs who had written the song in 1967 and had a top ten hit with it back then. Nearly 30 years on and here he was, the writer of the biggest-selling single of all time. Very nice for the pension pot.

Not too shabby either for Wet Wet Wet but sadly this was to be one of their last forays into the pop charts. They had started out in the ’80s as a Celtic Soul band but as happened with my earlier pop hero David Cassidy, the good looks (and incredibly smiley face) of lead singer Marti Pellow meant they quickly became teen idols. A long string of pop hits followed culminating with the truly massive Love Is All Around. As with many acts like Wet Wet Wet, they had great commercial success but really craved credibility – Hard to get both and when they went their separate ways, problems ensued. As the comedian Kevin Bridges commented in his latest standup routine, Marti Pellow must have been the only person to leave Clydebank, and become a heroin addict (no slur on Clydebank intended). All that seems to be behind him now however and he has become a bit of a West End star turning up in many big productions.

Something I never got to the bottom of however – All through his Wet Wet Wet career which included numerous TOTP appearances, Marti sported the short, spikey haircut that boys from that era tended to have. All of a sudden he was belting out the now big production number that was Love Is All Around, sporting long, luscious locks. That was hair which would have taken years of growth and high-level maintenance. Still don’t know how he did it and probably never will!

Love Is All Around Lyrics
(Song by Reg Presley)

I feel it in my fingers
I feel it in my toes
Love is all around me
And so the feeling grows

It’s written on the wind
It’s everywhere I go
So if you really love me
Come on and let it show

You know I love you, I always will
My mind’s made up by the way that I feel
There’s no beginning, there’ll be no end
‘Cause on my love you can depend

I see your face before me
As I lay on my bed
I kinda get to thinking
Of all the things you said

You gave your promise to me and I gave mine to you
I need someone beside me in everything I do

You know I love you, I always will
My mind’s made up by the way that I feel
There’s no beginning, there’ll be no end
‘Cause on my love you can depend