C L A R K  S O R L E Y

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The Blue Nile’s singer Paul Buchanan had a terse moment with his manager Ed Bicknell who was being hard on him for not working fast enough. The band was famous for taking a while and seven tracks in seven years just wasn’t cutting it. Apart from anything else by 2004 an album was expected to have more material.

Buchanan was about to strop off but thought better of it and instead the two men sat down and discussed what other songs were in the pool. A couple of days later Bicknell got a call to say two new tracks had been completed. He was astonished that it had taken only a day in a studio to finish the new stuff. They could be fast if they had to be.

As I listen to these songs today (Stay Close and Because of Toledo) they’re as definitive as anything The Blue Nile did in their twenty-odd year existence. And you can sense they haven’t been fussed over much. The drum part on one of them is little more than a click track which sits in the middle of a keyboard wash topped off with Buchanan’s exquisite voice.

So how long should it take? As long as it does is the answer. It can take forever or it can take a day. What feels right is all you have to go on and sometimes a manager breathing fire cultivates feeling wonderfully. Left to his typical devices Buchanan would’ve mused and meandered but being under pressure from a tough-talking guy and in a band which was by then coming apart he delivered and delivered well.

If you’re producing work that is meaningful to people you’ll probably be forgiven for being slow. But it doesn’t have to take an age. Sometimes it’s just there in the performance like on these recordings for The Blue Nile’s final album. Stay Close is as beautiful a thing as I’ve heard.

written 2012 after reading Allan Brown's

book on The Blue Nile


music • 05.05.12