34. Heimat – India Electric Co.

Threehundredsongs was lucky enough to catch India Electric Co. live at Colchester Arts Centre earlier this year. I think I was officially supposed to be working, but it may well have been one of those nights where tools are downed early, and the show just simply enjoyed.

Heimat hails from India Electric Co.’s 2015 album The Girl I Left Behind Me, and is heavily based on the 1939 W. H. Auden poem Refugee Blues, the lyrics having been sensitively adapted and set to music by the multi-talented multi-instrumentalists Cole Stacey and Joseph O’Keefe.

The word “Heimat” is part of a sizeable vocabulary borrowed into English from German; borrowed because we don’t have a satisfyingly direct English translation which fits the bill. Perhaps the nearest we have is “homeland”, although “Heimat” isn’t merely geographical: it communicates not just a country, but a sense of place and belonging. A safe haven.

Well, with the benefit of hindsight, we all know what was happening in Europe in 1939. Of course, back then, even W. H. Auden couldn’t possibly have known the full scale of the horrors that were to unfold. The poem gives voice to Jewish emigrés fleeing Nazi Germany…

Once we had a country and we thought it fair

…yet being turned away from other countries where they sought refuge:

“If we let them in, they will steal our daily bread”

That kind of paranoid sentiment will be familiar to anyone British right now: the racist xenophobia and alarmism of the “small boats” headlines being fomented relentlessly by politicians of all colours.

Back in 1939, Heimat, that sense of place and belonging, that homeland, was denied to countless individuals and families. Cole and Joseph deftly co-opt as the refrain the line:

Where shall we go today, my dear, where shall we go?

It sums the situation up rather well, I feel.

Writing about this subject takes on an added poignancy in present times, our thoughts illuminated against a backdrop of countless more innocent humans being displaced in the Middle East and across the globe.

In a bitterly ironic twist, the oppressed has now become the oppressor. What does it say about human beings that the response to finding oneself on the receiving end of a holocaust is apparently to precipitate a further holocaust of one’s own a few decades later? That to create a “safe haven”, a Heimat dare I say it, for one group of people somehow justifies the wholesale massacre and ethnic cleansing of another?

It’s difficult to stay optimistic sometimes: man’s inhumanity to man should make us all mourn.

It isn’t terribly easy to find a great deal of information about India Electric Co. What we do know is that they hail from South West England, specifically Devon. Much like your author, in fact.

There’s a fascinating interview with the band on Electricity Club about their time as Midge Ure’s backing band. The bit where India Electric Co. evolve from traditional instrumentation to full-on synth bashing came as a surprise to me.

As for the playlist, I’ve added a few India Electric Co. songs, as well as a couple from other artists, such as The Brothers Gillespie, Lady Maisery and Kris Drever, all of whom I was also lucky enough to see live in my early days working volunteer shifts at the Colchester Folk Club. In some cases, I’ve tended towards tracks that have some sort of thematic overlap with Heimat, at least in my mind.

Artist: India Electric Co.
Album: The Girl I Left Behind Me
Writer: Cole Stacey and Joseph O’Keefe; W. H. Auden
Producer: Joseph O’Keefe
Released: 2015; label unknown

[Gigs] Chris Cleverley @ Colchester Arts Centre

Last night, Threehundredsongs spent a very enjoyable and inspiring evening in the convivial company of the enormously talented—not to mention luxuriantly coiffed—Mr Chris Cleverley:

Chris Cleverley on stage at Colchester Arts Centre

As an extra special treat, support was from local singer-songwriter, the magical Rosalind Harniess:

Rosalind Harniess on stage at Colchester Arts Centre

All in the majestic yet intimate surroundings of Colchester Arts Centre. For no more than a tenner a ticket, it’s hard to think of a better value Thursday night out.

33. My England – Lady Sovereign

Grime splattered its way into the mainstream public consciousness in the mid 2000s like the leavings of countless self-conscious, bandwagon-jumping white broadcasters hitting a fan the size of the Radio 1 airwaves. A generation of self-purportedly angry, edgy young men immediately began shouting incoherently into microphones while a drum machine malfunctioned in the background.

Album cover of Public Warning by Lady Sovereign

In reality, grime originated a few years earlier, in hard-bitten, primarily black communities, typically in pre-gentrification East London. The genre’s sparsely urban, aggressive, percussive backdrops invoked the soundscapes of its geographical and social origins, while the lyrics and thematic material dealt with the experiences and harsh reality of life in some of UK’s most underprivileged streets.

A largely oral tradition recounting the stories, the lore even, of real people, I would contend that grime is pretty much pure folk music. I’ll save that argument for another writing project, however. No, really; stay tuned.

The trouble is, as so intrinsically a product of a specific time a place, grime didn’t really stand the test of time. A few established, establishment even, names such as the ubiquitous Dizzee Rascal and Tinie Tempah notwithstanding, grime has largely fallen by the wayside.

Perhaps a colluding factor, if not a criticism that one could level at grime, is that it took itself so very painfully seriously. To anyone who has heard it, particularly those not from similar backgrounds to its progenitors, this much is indisputable—for the most part. The exception, the feisty, pint-sized diamond in the grimy rough, was one Amanda Louise Harman, aka Lady Sovereign.

Portrait of Lady Sovereign

A mere teenager when she burst onto the scene—signing in 2004 for Universal in the UK and later Def Jam in the US, no less—Lady Sovereign stole the limelight. Effortlessly at least as technically adept as any of her peers, she was cheeky, smart, charismatic and funny. Sov brought a much-needed sense of humour to the genre: you only have to read the lyrics to Tango—about the dangers of profligate fake tan abuse—and 2009’s Student Union (“It was crap at the Student Union bar…is this how you get to be a doctor?”) to see that.

For our purposes, however, I’ve chosen My England, an album track from 2006’s Public Warning. From the brass band intro to the slyly subversive references to the English traditional song canon (see, I told you there would be folk music), this track is different from the outset.

In My England, Sov gives the lie to the stereotypical jam, Jerusalem and croquet-and-crumpets-with-the-village-green-preservation-society vision of England that we, perhaps quite incorrectly, may like to believe that outsiders still hold of us. By “outsiders”, I guess I mainly just mean Hugh Grant-movie-going Americans:

It ain’t about the tea and biscuits
I’m one of those English misfits
I don’t drink tea, I drink spirits
And I talk a lot of slang in my lyrics

Sov’s lyrics navigate the duality and reality of life for the disenfranchised, underprivileged English youth in the Tony Blair era, the insipid, bourgeois optimism of that period proving ultimately vacuous—sandwiched as it was between decades of destruction of the very fabric of the country at the hand of successive Tory governments:

Police carry guns not truncheons
Make your own assumptions
London ain’t all crumpets and trumpets
It’s one big slum pit

Of course, the many cultural references peppered throughout the narrative do date the track a little:

No, I don’t watch the Antiques Roadshow
I’d rather listen to Run the Road
And smoke someone’s fresh homegrown
And not get bloated on a plate of scones
Cricket, bowls, croquet?
Nah PS2 all the way

The nature of the specific games console isn’t important: there are truths here. Sov is speaking with honesty, and I think her point stands:

This is the picture I painted my low down
This my London that I call my home town
It’s where I’m living and this is my low down
This is my England I’m letting you know now

There may be listeners, oblivious to life beyond the village fete and the outsize vegetable marrow competition, who may feel that since the song is based in London, that the reality of the situation does not apply to them. Well, this isn’t about you. This, as Sov so deftly points out, is about life in an English council apartment, not your English Country Garden.

Public Warning was followed in 2009 with Jigsaw and sadly, at the time of writing, no further Lady Sovereign albums have seen the light of day. Sov’s partner in crime was co-writer and producer Gabriel Olegavich, whose other projects include London-based house act Spektrum, who once reached the dizzy heights of No. 70 on the UK singles charts.

In an unexpected yet pleasing turn of events, Gabriel Olegavich also happens to be Gabriel Prokofiev, grandson of eminent Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev, and is a prolific and well-regarded classical composer in his own right.

I’ve added a few Lady Sovereign tracks to the playlist to get you started, and also a few bits and bobs from the aforementioned artists. As ever, enjoy.

Artist: Lady Sovereign
Album: Public Warning
Writer: Gabriel Olegavich; Louise Harman
Producer: Gabriel Olegavich
Released: 2006; Universal Island Records

32. Impossible Outcomes – The Get Up Kids

It was only a matter of time before we heard from The Get Up Kids again.

Covers of 'Eudora' by The Get Up Kids, and 'Encapsulated' by Metroschifter

Except, on this occasion, this is not strictly one of theirs. (The) Metroschifter is essentially one man, Scott Ritcher, writing the songs and surrounding himself with an ever-changing line-up of journeymen and session musicians in order to get them recorded.

As a result, the Metroschifter back catalogue is either gloriously eclectic or awkwardly inconsistent, depending on whether your glass is half full. The charts remain resolutely untroubled.

For the Encapsulated project, Scott took a somewhat different approach, recording a couple of dozen demo tapes of new songs, and mailing them to his favourite bands to see what they could do with the material. Some of the artists even responded, including The Promise Ring, The Enkindels, Ink & Dagger and—this is why we’re here, readers—The Get Up Kids.

The song is Impossible Outcomes. It’s kind of tailor-made for the Kids, covering familiar thematic territory for them: wistful, nostalgic, and presumably unrequited teenage love in an autumnal, vaguely academic setting:

Late one fall afternoon, after school
In the cool suburban breeze of Louisville

Matt Pryor’s voice seems very much at home here:

The moon…finds her in the mood
In her eyes I can see it all
Short plaid skirt
White short, short sleeved shirt

I can picture it myself, to be fair. We’re already falling for the girl whilst wondering if that’s entirely appropriate. It’s all in vain anyway, since she’s not particularly interested in us:

My dreams aren’t premonitions
Because I’m dreaming of impossible outcomes

There isn’t any tangible redemption here either way:

I’ve tried to understand
But I don’t understand

You and me both, Kids. You and me both.

It’s a cracking musical romp from start to finish. If it wasn’t deliberately written for TGUK, then it may as well have been.

Another photo of the two albums

Recorded in 1998, there’s a noticeable musical evolution from 1997’s raw, shoestring-budget Four Minute Mile. The track may consititute one of the first recorded appearances with TGUK of keyboardist and future Get Up Kid James Dewees, he of Reggie & the Full Effect infamy.

The ‘boards are front and centre too: a keening, contrapuntal synth melody sears over Rob Pope’s driving, almost disco bass line, before it all breaks down for the refrain, Pryor and Jim Suptic going toe-to-toe both vocally and on guitar, and making a thoroughly joyous yet bittersweet racket in the process.

Impossible Outcomes resurfaced with the 2001 release of TGUK’s Eudora, an ostensibly loose collection of covers, B-sides and other rarities, which nonetheless holds together as a surprisingly coherent album in its own right.

Sadly, both Encapsulated and Eudora are all but impossible to come by these days, even in the States. In a pleasing turn of events, however, both are available on at least one streaming service.

Which brings us to the playlist. Obviously, Impossible Outcomes is on there, but I’ve also added Scott Ritcher’s own demo version. I assume this is exactly as The Get Up Kids would have first heard the track, and it’s fascinating to hear how it evolved in their hands.

Ink & Dagger’s terrifying interpretation of Actress is a joy to behold. From Eudora, we have TGUK doing a surprisingly convincing rendition of Mötley Crüe’s On With The Show. Koufax is Rob & Ryan Pope’s other band, and there’s a whole bunch of other tangentially related stuff in there too. Enjoy.

Artist: The Get Up Kids
Album: Metroschifter Encapsulated, 2000; re-released on Eudora, 2001
Writer: Scott Ritcher
Producer: Ed Rose with The Get Up Kids
Released: 2000; Doghouse Records

31. Vertigo – Antje Duvekot

Finally, a long-overdue appearance in these pages from the magnificent Antje Duvekot. Vertigo comes from Antje’s 2009 album The Near Demise of the Highwire Dancer.

It’s a love song:

You’re on a highwire and I’m climbing out
And I feel the danger as I steal a kiss from your mouth

It’s a love song, and a metaphor. The frisson of simultaneous fear and excitement of a new love, a new adventure—we’ve all been there—wrapped up in the imagery of the circus, the big top, the high wire. The excitement of putting on a show, whilst being utterly terrified.

Antje steps out on that wire, taking her physical and emotional life in her own hands. There is no safety net:

There’ll be no safety net
When I fall right our of the sky
There will be no ambulance waiting
And I have no wings to fly

It’s a beautiful surrender:

I will break all my bones

The redemption is in the confession:

I lied about the vertigo

I guess we’ve all pretended to be braver than we really are from time to time, only for our bravado to be caught out by life, by love. A beautiful song. Thank you, Antje.

You’ll hear more from Antje Duvekot in these pages. The song, and in fact the album, are produced by another Threehundredsongs favourite, Richard Shindell, and features his Cry Cry Cry bandmate Lucy Kaplansky on vocals too. So I’ve worked some of their music into the playlist too. Enjoy.

Artist: Antje Duvekot
Album: The Near Demise of the Highwire Dancer
Writer: Antje Duvekot; Mark Erelli
Producer: Richard Shindell
Released: 2009; Black Wolf Records

30. The End of the Rainbow – Richard & Linda Thompson

If you need cheering up, you can always turn to Richard Thompson:

There’s nothing at the end of the rainbow
There’s nothing to grow up for anymore

In 1972, having spent a few years pioneering British folk rock with Fairport Convention, Richard Thompson went solo with Henry the Human Fly, to mixed acclaim. A couple of years later he’d teamed up both maritally and musically with the beautiful person and beautiful voice that is Linda Thompson, leading to the release of the magnificent I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight in 1974.

It’s a wonderful album from start to finish. The title track alone is worth the price of entry. The solitary lament of a woman ready to get out there, painting the town both literal and figurative shades of red:

Meet me at the station don’t be late
I need to spend my money and it just won’t wait

“I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight” – Richard & Linda Thompson

You wouldn’t argue with Linda on this matter. The night rolls on, and so do the drunkards:

See the boys out walking, the boys they look so fine;
Dressed up in green velvet, their silver buckles shine!
Soon they’ll be bleary eyed, under a keg of wine –
Down where the drunkards roll

“Down Where the Drunkards Roll” – Richard & Linda Thompson

Royston Wood of The Young Tradition sings his inimitable bass on that one, and boy does it work.

The whole album is a masterclass, full of hidden depths. There simply is not a weak track on I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight. But we digress: this is a project about individual songs, and I’ve chosen The End of the Rainbow:

I feel for you, you little horror
Safe at your mother’s breast

This is Richard’s pep talk for a new-born infant:

No lucky break for you around the corner
‘Cause your father is a bully
And he thinks that you’re a pest

And when I say “pep talk”:

Your sister, she’s no better than a whore

This is a brutal, honest exposition to the neonate: life actually does suck, and you’re welcome to it. Written at the time Richard & Linda welcomed their own first-born into the world, Linda was livid. How dare you tell our kid that there’s nothing to live for? But:

Life seems so rosy in the cradle
But I’ll be a friend, I’ll tell you what’s in store

Is Richard just being a friend, preparing the kid for the harsh reality of the human existence? Or is he simply an old curmudgeon, wishing misery on an innocent life? Is there really nothing to grow up for? You decide.

On a personal note, I own the CD, and must have listed to the album countless times, barely noticing the song. But a BBC documentary made me sit up and take notice:

The song is at 15:58, just Richard and a guitar.

As for the playlist, I’ve added the title track from I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight, perhaps in part to prove that the entire album isn’t all doom and gloom, but mainly because I think Linda’s magnificent voice and personality both really shine on that one.

There’s some solo material in there too, plus it would be inappropriate not to include Nanci Griffith’s storming cover of Wall of Death from 1998’s Other Voices, Too—her version a duet with Richard himself. The Bunch were new to me: a collective of Island Records artists including Richard, Sandy Denny and notably featuring a pre-Thompson Linda Peters on vocals.

Artist: Richard & Linda Thompson
Album: I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight
Writer: Richard Thompson
Producer: Richard Thompson; John Wood
Released: 1974; Island

29. My Best Girl – Lucero

Here at Threehundredsongs, we’re a big fan of Memphis, Tennessee’s Lucero, so you’ll probably hear a great deal more from them in these pages. Lucero’s first single was 1999’s My Best Girl, released as a very limited-numbers 7″ vinyl recording, backed with a cover of Jawbreaker’s Kiss the Bottle.

The song starts off in typically melancholy Lucero mood:

Well I’m a sucker for some pretty eyes
But they’re going home with some other boy tonight

We’ve all been there, mate. Chin up fella.

Hell, I guess I’ll be fine
’cause there’s one girl whose all mine
She’s seen it before, she’ll see it again
Because those other girls going home with him
And I’ll go back to her and she don’t mind

She’s my best girl by far

Aww, that’s kind of sweet, isn’t it. Told you it would all work out OK.

She’s got six strings

Wait, what? Ah, yes. This is a paean to the timeless love between a man and an inanimate object. Songwriter Ben Nichols clearly has his prorities in order:

The only girl a boy can trust
Is his guitar

Trustworthy, reliable, won’t let him down etc. Dude clearly doesn’t own a Gretsch, am I right, guitar nerds? [Disclaimer: Threehundredsongs owns a Gretsch]

An album release followed in 2000, with The Attic Tapes. I’d say studio album but then it was quite literally recorded in an attic. A mere 13 or so albums have followed, culminating in 2023’s Should’ve Learned By Now, while My Best Girl resurfaced on 2003’s eponymous Lucero. There’s a lot of good stuff in that back catalogue, so do spend some time discovering the band.

As for the playlist, I’ve mainly added a bunch of Lucero songs that I think you’ll like. I can’t find many more love songs about guitars, but then I think I’d feel pretty weird about posting them anyway.

Artist: Lucero
Album: Lucero
Writer: Ben Nichols
Producer: Lucero
Released: 7″ vinyl: 1999; Landmark Records

28. Style – Ryan Adams

In October 2014 Taylor Swift released 1989, a synthy, poppy offering designed to distance her brand from the pseudo-country roots she, or rather her handlers in the music business, had been cultivating in the early years of her career. The time had come to shepherd her towards the mainstream mega celebrity she was inevitably to enjoy.

In September 2015 serial album-generating machine and huge Taylor Swift fan Ryan Adams released 1989, ostensibly a like-for-like cover of the entirety of the Taylor Swift album.

Cover of 1989 by Ryan Adams

The Internet Feminists did not like that one bit: Adams was accused of “mansplaining” Swift’s songs back to her (conveniently ignoring that the songs on the abum were almost exclusively written by men), and drawing attention to what must be “fragile masculinity” on Adams’ part, since clearly he couldn’t stand to let a mere woman have all the success and attention.

Sadly there’ll always be that demographic—you know who they are—who seek to further their agenda and increase their currency—both literal and metaphorical—by slinging mud, and riding the coat-tails of high-profile men. With his abject lack of people skills, and deep reluctance to engage with the media circus that inevitably dogs successful creative artists, Adams has always been seen as something of an easy target in that regard.

Heaven forfend we countenance that maybe, just maybe, Ryan just really, really liked the songs. Taylor Swift, for her part, loved the reimagined album too. She probably didn’t mind the little bonus on top of her royalty check either.

That Ryan’s record garnered more attention in the “serious” music press than Taylor’s was deemed to be blatant misogyny and musical snobbery. Heaven forfend we countenance that maybe, just maybe, Adams simply made a more interesting record.

It could be any track on the album, but I’ve chosen Style. Just a great, driving guitar-pop song about a star-crossed young couple who’ve had their ups and downs but can’t keep their eyes or indeed hands off each other:

We never go out of style

There’s a groove and intensity and perhaps even a sense of fun that the rather po-faced, 80s-lite original desperately needed. Adams modifies the lyrics, seemingly to espouse the point of view of the male protagonist, in counterpoint to Swift’s heroine of the original piece:

You got that James Dean daydream look in your eye
And I got that red lip classic thing that you like

So it goes
He can’t keep his wild eyes on the road, mm
Takes me home
The lights are off, he’s taking off his coat, mm, yeah

“Style” – Taylor Swift

You’ve got that Daydream Nation look in your eye
I got that pent up love thing that you like

So it goes
I can’t keep my eyes on the road
She takes me home
Lights are off, she’s taking off her coat

“Style” – Ryan Adams

They didn’t like that at all either, but then, had he not given them something to moan about, they would never have listened to a Taylor Swift record, let alone a Ryan Adams record, in the first place. So, y’know, joke’s on them.

Artist: Ryan Adams
Album: 1989
Writers: Ali Payami, Karl Johan Schuster, Martin Sandberg, Taylor Swift & Ryan Adams
Producer: Ryan Adams
Released: 2015; PAX-AM

27. Joe Le Taxi – Vanessa Paradis

There can’t be a single chap of my generation who doesn’t vividly remember the day in 1988 when gap-toothed froggy sexpot Vanessa Paradis burst onto our TV screens, into the charts, and into our hearts with Joe Le Taxi.

Vanessa was just 14, but that was OK: we were 12. We didn’t understand a word she was banging on about—except perhaps “Joe”, “le”, and “taxi”—despite the best ministrations of Mrs. Rhodes, whose francophone eagle eyes spotted a nailed-on opportunity to get a room full of pubescent boys to at least pay attention in French lessons for a change.

Joe le taxi
Y va pas partout
Y marche pas au soda

Joe the taxi driver doesn’t cover all parts of town (“South of the river this time of night? You ‘avin’ a giraffe?”) and he clearly likes a drink or two. Let’s hope our route home doesn’t involve any Parisian underpasses, am I right? Still, Joe and his saxophone do know the city by heart, including the dodgy bars and dark corners. We’re in good company:

Son saxo jaune
Connait toutes les rues par coeur
Tous les p’tits bars
Tous les coins noirs
Et la Seine
Et ses ponts qui brillent

And Joe has pretty classy taste in music too, his night shift being soundtracked by rumba and mambo, which resonate in his cab as he plies his trade:

Dans sa caisse
La musique a Joe resonne
C’est la rumba
Le vieux rock au mambo bidon

Joe le taxi
Et Xavier Cugat
Joe le taxi
Et Yma Sumac

Fittingly, the instrumentation is all swampy baritone sax and cha-cha-cha rhythms, creating a brooding atmosphere recalling searingly hot, daringly late Parisian nights.

It might be easy to dismiss Joe Le Taxi as a kind of one-hit-wonder, novelty sort of single, but there may be a serious aspect to the song. There are anecdotal claims that songwriter Étienne Roda-Gil was inspired by the tale of one Maria-José Leão Dos Santos, a Portuguese émigré who fled the authoritarian Estado Novo regime due to her homosexuality, settling in Paris and becoming a taxi driver and “nightlife figure”.

True or not, I’ll admit I hadn’t noticed the backstory myself until I started researching this piece, but then the lyrics are primarily about rum and saxophones. And in French. So my conscience is clear.

Vanessa went on to pursue a very successful career in singing, modelling and acting, despite it not being terribly easy to pinpoint exactly where her talents lie. Well, beyond getting her quite delightful bits and pieces out for all to see on film, and pursuing ill-advised relationships with famous men.

Regardless, she’ll always have a special place in the corner of your author’s heart and indeed in pop history.

Artist: Vanessa Paradis
Album: M&J
Writer: Étienne Roda-Gil
Producer: Franck Langolff
Released: April 1987; FA Productions/Polydor

26. Dignity – Deacon Blue

Deacon Blue first came to broad public attention in 1988, with the release of their debut album, Raintown, fortified by the re-release of the 1987 single, Dignity. Decades later, Threehundredsongs is still coming to terms with quite how wonderful Deacon Blue were. (And probably still are: remind me to make a note to check that.)

The cover of Deacon Blue's Single 'Dignity'

Dignity is the tale of an ageing yet irascible street sweeper, presumably in songwriter Ricky Ross’ home town of Glasgow:

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

The children call him Bogie

Bogie works away diligently, day after day, quietly saving his hard-earned pennies and planning his retirement:

He let me know a secret about the money in his kitty
He’s gonna buy a dinghy
Gonna call her Dignity

It goes without saying that the boat is a framing device for the character’s escapist dreams and a metaphor for freedom and, well, dignity, obviously:

And I’ll sail her up the west coast
Through villages and towns
I’ll be on my holidays
They’ll be doing the 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”

Here’s the original music video:

Looking back, it’s gratifying to think that while the UK charts were adrift on an endless ocean of Rick Astley, Mel & Kim, Pepsi & Shirley and a surplus of further Stock Aitken Waterman-produced lowest-common-denominator codswallop, genuine quality, truly original bands like Deacon Blue could still get a look in.

In fairness, I could have chosen any Deacon Blue song from this era. For example, When Will You (Make My Telephone Ring), also featured on Raintown, is as fine an example of mournful singalong blue-eyed soul as you could imagine emanating from Scotland, Wet Wet Wet notwithstanding.

Fergus Sings the Blues, from 1988’s follow-up album When the World Knows Your Name, begins with one of the greatest opening lines I can remember:

Fergus sings the blues
In bars of twelve or less

“Fergus Sings the Blues” – Deacon Blue

Any songwriter would be justifiably proud of that, and the fact that the joke might be lost on a few non-musos doesn’t compromise it.

Real Gone Kid, also from When the World Knows Your Name, is a paean to delightful serial muse Maria McKee, alongside whom Deacon Blue toured while she was in Lone Justice. That man Adam Duritz was similarly taken with her:

Maria came from Nashville with a suitcase in her hand
She said she’d like to meet a boy who looks like Elvis

“Round Here” – Counting Crows

Brian Fallon was clearly listening:

Maria came from Nashville with a suitcase in her hand
I always kinda sorta wished I looked like Elvis

“High Lonesome” – Gaslight Anthem

Anyway, we digress. Back to the matter in hand, Dignity. I’ve plumped for this song as it very much resonated with a teenage Threehundredsongs: trudging the streets of a northern town in the rain at the crack of dawn, diligently delivering the neighbourhood’s newspapers and saving my own scant pennies for an undetermined future meant I felt something of an affinity for old Bogie here.

The song takes an unexpected twist towards the end, with Ricky co-opting the narrative just to tell us about his fancy-pants holiday in, I guess, Turkey:

And I’m telling this story
In a faraway sea
Sipping down raki
And reading Maynard Keynes

Lucky you, Mr. Ross. Lucky you. But the redemption is there: even our narrator is dreaming of his own Dignity, if perhaps not the Scottish weather, and echoes Bogie’s own words:

And I’ll sail her up the west coast
Through villages and towns
I’ll be on my holidays
They’ll be doing the rounds

And I’m thinking how good it would be
To be here some day

On a ship called Dignity.

We’ve only touched on a few of the better-known singles here, but Deacon Blue’s back catalogue is a bit of a goldmine: still going strong, they released their eleventh studio album, Riding on the Tide of Love, in 2021; they continue to tour, and you can currently pre-order two forthcoming anthologies prior to their release in September 2023. These are the rather cleverly-named All the Old 45s, a singles collection; and You Can Have it All, a 14-CD boxset comprising every Deacon Blue album to date.

Artist: Deacon Blue
Album: Raintown
Writer: Ricky Ross
Producer: Jon Kelly
Released: March 1987; Columbia. Re-released and finally charted in 1988.

All lyrics © Ricky Ross/Deacon Blue except where noted.