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Blueboy - Singles 1991-1998 CD

Blueboy - Singles 1991-1998 CD

A Colourful Storm

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One Sunday afternoon 1990, I had a phone call from Keith saying that Sarah Records had received the demo cassette the two of us had recorded on a 4-track in a friend’s shed and were interested in putting out two of the songs as a single. They were 'Clearer' and 'Alison' (the third song was 'Temple'). Delighted by this news, we booked some recording time with a studio we’d regularly used in our previous incarnation as Feverfew, the White House in Weston-super-Mare. This was the first time we’d ever played a note of music that was using someone else’s money, so the pressure was being felt. We recorded 'Clearer', 'Fearon' and 'Chelsea Guitar' at this session, with 'Clearer' becoming Sarah 55, the first of a total of eight singles for the band across two labels ('Fearon' and 'Chelsea Guitar' were saved for the B-side of the second single, 'Popkiss'). At that time, we were still toying with a name for ourselves and had settled with the Art Bunnies. While driving us back home from Weston, though, I declared that I really couldn’t see how people would take us seriously with a name like that. Disappointed, Keith then got out a piece of paper upon which he’d written several other contenders as a band name. These included Opal Trumpet, the Smiling Monarchs and (thankfully) Blueboy.

Singles are traditionally lifted from albums and released to promote them, but one of the purer house rules from Sarah – which I don’t think was ever broken – was that no song that appeared on a single (including B-sides) would be included on an album. That meant that when you bought an album, you weren’t left feeling conned because you’d already heard half of it on 45rpm. For the bands on the label, though, this meant working extra hard to ensure there was enough new material to fill all that vinyl. By the time our first album, If Wishes Were Horses, came out in 1992, we were a 6-piece, and had honed the writing and rehearsing process to the point that we managed to produce a single every year as well as two albums, and to go on tours of the UK, Japan and France. Gemma, Mark, Harvey, Lloyd and myself were based in or around the West London area and Berkshire while Keith travelled up from Brighton by train every couple of weeks to rehearse with us and work on new songs.

The gigs we were playing once we’d completed our 6-piece line-up reinforced our desire to make 'Popkiss' and 'Meet Johnny Rave', the next two singles, capture our live sound whilst being complemented by Gemma’s sublime cello and vocals and Harvey’s bright, jangly 12-string guitar. 'Popkiss' was recorded at The Refuge, a terraced house in Reading with the mixing desk in the attic and the live room for drums and guitars in the basement, but 'Meet Johnny Rave' was our first recording at a studio owned and built by Richard Haines in a converted barn in the Warwickshire countryside called Dungeon Studios, which couldn’t have been further from what the name suggests – we spent our lunch breaks playing football and running after the sheep in the field outside. Richard perfectly understood how to get to the heart of the sound we were after, and we used his studio for almost all of the rest of our recordings. We developed a soft and dark side and often used to start our live performances with a handful of acoustic-based songs using just cello, classical guitar and vocals before cranking everything up to launch into the double-guitar and thrashing drums and bass noise of the louder songs. We demonstrated this with our singles too and it’s evident on Some Gorgeous Accident, with 'Stephanie' being in total contrast to 'A Gentle Sigh'. This was the only single that had an all-encompassing title different to any of the songs on it; I don’t recall why.

1994 saw two releases for the band. 'River' came out in March backed by 'Nimbus' and 'Hit' and relied on drum machines and studio effects. This was a breakaway from our usual approach and was in complete contrast to the songs on Unisex, our second album, which followed in May. This was also a time of some line-up changes that saw us without a drummer until Martin Rose joined us for a French tour – he had to learn the entire set within a couple of weeks – the Sarah 100 farewell party and, before that, the recording of our next and final single for Sarah, 'Dirty Mags', which also featured the last song ever recorded for the label, 'Toulouse', named after the city in whose poolside venue it was written. It finishes with the reflective lyric, “I don’t want to change the world any more”. The three songs on this single, along with 'Good News Week', were our choices for a subsequent John Peel Session, recorded on 30th October 1995 and broadcast on 3rd December.

Knowing that the label was finishing after Sarah 100 – which was, brilliantly, an event not just a release – we pondered our next move. At Sarah, Clare and Matt had nurtured and supported us through nearly five years, and so it came as a bit of a relief to be invited to Matt’s new label, Shinkansen. By now, the 6-piece had disbanded, but Keith and I were still writing and had a batch of song ideas and lyrics that we felt were strong enough to be released. 'Love Yourself' was backed with 'Melancholia' and, again, relied on drum machines, keyboards and effects, but I was busy recruiting members for a new band line-up. Eventually, we had enough material for an album. This was The Bank of England and was again recorded at Dungeon Studios. We were joined by Cath Close (vocals), Ian Gardner (drums) and James Neville (bass). The last single to be released by Blueboy was 'Marco Polo', which came out on 1st June 1998.

Due to numerous re-issues and releases including live recordings and the Peel Session, there has been a renewed interest in the music we put out; but here, for the first time, is every single A-side and B-side in one place. Thanks for listening.

Paul Stewart, February 2023