The name is inspired by Steely Dan. The music is influenced by the integrity of Bruce Springsteen, channelled through a Scottish upbringing. The band is Deacon Blue.
They may be serious about creating timeless songs, but are never afraid to have fun with the live experience, challenging the strength of the world’s concert hall floors for “bounce-ability”.
The band arrived at a time when Scottish artists were the champions of quality songwriting, picking up guitars, and challenging the Stock, Aitken and Waterman packed charts of the time.
Like many artists of quality, the success did not come overnight. A commitment to live performance built a solid fan base, and despite the fact that the first release of Raintown was met with critical rather than commercial success, a re-release following extensive touring, meant the album spent 77 weeks on the UK chart. Raintown was the first of five top five albums, with Dignity the first of 18 top 40 singles. Six million album sales were the backbone of Deacon Blue’s lasting success and now they remain one of the most popular touring bands, with tickets for live performances rarely available or long.
Despite times apart to explore other activities, and the loss of guitarist Graeme Kelling to pancreatic cancer in 2004, the door to another Deacon Blue project is never fully closed.
1985 to 1988
In summer 1985, with a publishing deal in hand, Ricky Ross follows his publisher’s advice and puts a band together. As with every band in its early days, the line-up changed frequently, but settled by late summer 1986, with drummer Dougie Vipond, keyboard player Jim Prime, guitarist Graeme Kelling, singer Lorraine McIntosh, and bass player Ewen Vernal.
A three-song demo of Just Like Boys, Dignity and the Very Thing secures a record deal with CBS in August 1986.? Recording of Raintown began in December of that year and by February 1987, the band have their debut album. The first single Dignity is released in March but fails to make an impact on the charts.
The album is released in May to good reviews, but modest sales, but slowly, due to constant touring, the band begins to establish a fan base.? When Dignity is re-released at the beginning of January 1988 it charts at 31, followed by a re-release of Raintown with Riches, a bonus album of B-sides and live tracks. This time it reaches number 14.
Work began on a second album in spring 1988, during a punishing live schedule including their first Glasgow Barrowlands gigs and festivals.
The year ends on a high as Real Gone Kid, the first single from the second album reaches number 8 in October. Work continues on the follow-up to Raintown.
1989 and 1990
The year begins with a hit, when Wages Day gets to number 18 in February. The same month, Real Gone Kid is nominated as best British single at the Brit Awards. April sees the real turning point in the band’s success when the second album When The World Knows Your Name enters the chart ant number one, dispensing with an American singer called Madonna and her little Like A Prayer long player.
In May. Fergus Sings The Blues is another hit single, reaching number 14. Touring begins again, this time in major venues and this time completely selling out.
The album title was prophetic as the band took its show to Australia in July, then across to the US, where dates fill the band’s schedule throughout the autumn. During that time, Love and Regret gets to number 28 in the chart.
Back home and back on the road, the band tour UK stadiums throughout December with the dates at Glasgow SECC on the 9th and 10th becoming the fastest-selling show in the venue’s history, with 20,000 tickets snapped up in one day.
Queen of the New Year is the final single from the album and reaches number 21 in early 1990.
The first year of the new decade sees the band cementing its reputation for dynamic live shows, headlining The Big Day in June in front of around 250,000 on Glasgow Green. Shows at Glastonbury, at Roskilde in Denmark, and A Day for Scotland at Stirling Castle follow.
In August, Four Songs from Bacharach and David is kept off the number one position by Timmy Mallet’s charming cover version of Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny.
Fans looking for more material are satisfied when CBS released Ooh Las Vegas in September, a double album of B-sides and sessions which reaches number 3.?A video of the 1989 SECC shows is also released under the name The Big Picture.
1990 ends with more stadium shows and a return to Glasgow to prepare album number three.
1991 to 1994
January sees the start of sessions for what becomes the Fellow Hoodlums album. The first single, Your Swaying Arms is released in May and rises to number 21, a success which is far outstripped by the album release on June 3, when Fellow Hoodlums debuts at number 2.
The following month Twist and Shout is a radio-friendly hit, reaching number 10, and it’s not long before the suitcases are packed again, this time for an extensive European tour, which starts in August. The single Closing Time just fails to crack the top 40, reaching number 42 during September.
November and December sees the band playing live in the UK, but following their disenchantment with the last stadium, they return to theatres such as the Edinburgh Playhouse, Hammersmith Odeon and four nights at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall in the days between Christmas and New Year. During December Cover From The Sky gets to number 31.
1992 brings a break from the road, with preparations in February for the band’s fourth studio album beginning in February. Recording of the tracks with Steve Osbourne and Paul Oakenfold begins in March and carries on throughout the spring, finishing in June.
In a departure, Oakenfold produces a dance mix of Your Town, which is a favourite with club DJs and enters the dance charts in October. The 7 inch release in November is the highest debuting single, entering at 14.
The beginning of 1993 sees another single Will We Be Lovers reaching number 21 in February, before the release in March of Whatever You Say, Say Nothing. Another hit album, this reaches no 4.
The following month is the start of the In Your Town tour, with another single Only Tender Love reaching number 34. The tour continues throughout the summer with dates in Japan and across Europe.
In July, the final single from the album Hang Your Head gets to number 21, but the band are writing again, this time for tracks to feature on a Greatest Hits compilation.
At the start of 1994, a 20-date Greatest Hits tour is announced for April, followed by the release of one of the three new tracks I Was Right And You Were Wrong, which reaches number 21 in March.
The release of Our Town: The Greatest Hits is accompanied by the painful announcement that Deacon Blue will go their separate ways at the end of the tour. It’s a number one album. Even though the tour ends officially in Ricky’s home town of Dundee on May 18, there are two further dates at Glasgow Barrowlands where they say their farewells.
1995 to 2000
The band pursue solo careers with no-one surprised that Ricky Ross, as main songwriter quickly starts work on his first album outside the band.
Lorraine McIntosh starts her acting career with an impressive debut in Ken Loach’s My Name is Joe, which leads to other acting work, in film and television. She also has her own band, called Cub.
Dougie Vipond takes to the small screen, with a TV presentation career, while Ewen Vernal is in demand, eventually joining Capercaillie.
During that time, James Prime and Graeme Kelling were also in demand as musicians and teachers.
The band do get together during this period to play one-off charity shows, and in various combinations to back Ricky’s solo material.
Hopes of a more lasting reunion are raised when Walking Back Home, a combination of hits and new compositions is released in 1999. An October tour is also announced and 12 dates quickly become 17, one at the Royal Albert Hall.
In 2000, fans are delighted when it’s confirmed that the band will return to the studio to record an album of new material.
There is also bad news, however, with the news that Graeme Kelling has cancer. Despite his illness, he is with the band in October when recording of the album begins.
The band makes an appearance on the Hogmanay Show and previews the title track for the new album, which will be called homesick. Ricky, Jim and Mick Slaven who has been playing guitar with the band are joined by guest musicians, including a guest drummer...Dougie Vipond is co-hosting the programme!
2001 to present
The beginning of the year is busy for Ricky, mixing the Deacon Blue album and a solo album, but come April, the first single from Homesick released.
Every Time You Sleep is poorly promoted and doesn’t break the top 40 and when the album is released at the end of the month, poor availability means that entry at 59 is a respectable position.
Tickets for the band’s Homesick tour in May sell well, however. Ewen Vernal decides against going back on the road and another guitarist is recruited to help Graeme, who is determined to tour, despite his failing health.
Another tour, Homesick II is announced for October, this time also with Dougie Vipond who has television work scheduled.
In December, there are two further Scottish dates, followed by a decision to work on solo projects again. “Never say never” is the approach to working together again.
In January 2002, Lorraine takes to the stage in Mum’s The Word, a tour which lasts until March, while Ricky gears up for the release of a solo album, This Is The Life, followed by an April tour.
Deacon Blue play a few large gigs during 2002, but the year is focused on solo work with Lorraine being asked to join the cast of BBC Scotland soap River City in December of that year.
In 2003, Deacon Blue are asked to be the opening act at the Carling Academy in Glasgow, an occasion which sees the band playing the Raintown album for start to finish for the very first time. This is also Graeme Kelling’s last performance with the band, coming on to play on a single track, Love’s Great Fears.
There are large “event” concerts such as the Fresh Ayr festival and three December concerts, culminating with the band providing the Hogmanay celebrations at Stirling Castle.
In 2004, Ricky begins work on another solo album, but the year is dominated by the death of Graeme Kelling on June 10.
The band plays several concerts throughout the year, including exotic location such as Dubai, Bahrain and Oman. They end the year at the Carling Academy in Glasgow, with a greatest hits set. One new track, In The End, has been written for Graeme and is accompanied by a poignant video history of the band.
In 2005, the band play the SECC once again, as part of the Tsunami Relief concert and are given a rapturous welcome alongside bands like Franz Ferdinand, Travis and Texas. There are a few band concerts during the year, but most of the attention is given to Pale Rider, Ricky’s most well-received solo album to date.
His songwriting talents are also coming into play with new artists, with Ronan Keating and James Blunt among the performers with Ross writing credits on the CD sleeves.
In 2006, the importance of Raintown as an album was realised by a new generation of listeners. A Legacy edition celebrating the 20th anniversary was released with a second CD featuring live performances and rarities and extensive liner notes by Ricky Ross.
Later that year, the Singles collection was released on CD and DVD, preceded by fresh material in the single Bigger Than Dynamite. Two more new tracks, The One About Loneliness and Haunted were also featured.
November saw the band on tour again with the Dundee show featuring a reprise of the Carling Academy show, where Raintown was played in its entirety.
In 2007, Deacon Blue are still in demand, playing live shows throughout the country. In July they played the Summer Pops in Liverpool, during a festival which also features Steely Dan. Full circle or what?