- DEACON BLUE Real Gone Kid (CBS)
- Week Ending 5th November 1988
- 1 Week At #1
“If at first you don’t succeed…” appeared to be the maxim for CBS/Epic Records in the latter half of the 1980s. Time and again, they would re-release material by acts on their roster with the hope of finally getting that breakthrough. Occasionally, it wouldn’t come off (Thomas Lang deserved to become a star with 1987’s Scallywag Jaz but alas ’twas not to be) but by and large the approach paid repeated dividends.
Deacon Blue were not an extra-curricular collaboration between Queen’s John Deacon and Barry Blue, but one of the avalanche of literate, widescreen pop combos from Scotland and the North of England in the post-Postcard era. Prefab Sprout (obviously), The Big Dish, The Blue Nile (again, it goes without saying), Del Amitri, Danny Wilson….not to mention the slightly funkier Hipsway, Love And Money and Hue & Cry and the soul/pop (or popped soul) of Wet Wet Wet.
The only one of these to be affiliated with CBS were Steely Dan-inspired Deacon Blue, and the label refused to give up even after the early singles failed to trouble the Top 75. (When Will You) Make My Telephone Ring fared the best, reaching #86, but Loaded and the original Dignity didn’t even register. Likewise, the debut LP Raintown was well-received by the critics yet spent only two weeks near the foot of the Top 100 when released in May 1987. So CBS tried and tried again, eventually scoring a minor Top 40 entry at the start of 1988 with a reissued/remix Dignity, and the campaign was finally underway.
While the chart positions remained modest through 1988 (#31, #34 and #43 for the singles, #33 for the album), the band were steadily building a fanbase, as well as enthusiastic support from Radio 1. Chocolate Girl – the song about a bloke called Alan who think his girlfriend melts when he touches her – proved to be one of those sleeper hits that hovered just outside the Top 40 for a considerable time. CBS then made the decision to repromote Raintown with a bonus album of rarities, called Riches (mostly the B-sides to the half-dozen singles thus far).
Raintown/Riches shot to #14, and a near-18-month cycle was about to end with a brand new single. Real Gone Kid.
Looking back, there was nothing to suggest that Deacon Blue would – *spoiler alert* – have multiple #1s on my own Top 40, and make some of my best-loved albums of the 1989-93 period. I was also slow to recognise the quality of Raintown, even though I liked Loaded enough to give the album a try in the summer of 1987. The presence of Danny Wilson, The Kane Gang et al that summer probably made me spoiled for choice in terms of that style of music and my attentions were ultimately diverted elsewhere (Terence Trent D’Arby’s debut LP, Hearsay by Alexander O’Neal, Def Leppard’s return). When I listen to Raintown these days, it sounds like a classic of its time. Possibly even superior to When The World Knows Your Name, the April 1989 follow-up which took them into the major league for a while.
That next long-player was trailed by two singles; Real Gone Kid was unleashed some way out from the parent album; Wages Day would be issued much closer to When The World Knows Your Name‘s release. Inspired by Maria McKee, the free-spirited lead singer of Lone Justice, Real Gone Kid fittingly throws off the shackles which characterised the sound on Raintown, ushering in a more expansive style (did someone say Stadium Rock?).
Chiming piano riffs, anthemic call-and-response hooks, and a generally more urgent approach. Ricky Ross whoops and hollers, Lorraine McIntosh comes into her own with those trademark backing vocals, and the arrangement is looser than before. For all Raintown‘s cinematic, articulate beauty, it’s the sound of Real Gone Kid which Deacon Blue became known for.
Over the subsequent five years the band would hardly put a foot wrong (at least in my opinion, there were commercial blips and creative regrets along the way), racking up a brilliant run of singles and albums that were collected on one of my favourite Greatest Hits albums of the 1990s. But more on all that another time…
Raintown is one of my top 20 albums of all time. It’s a marvel that it was not an instant hit and even more so that the label persevered so. Great write up.
Yeah baby that’s this town. .. it won’t happen next time…
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