BehEath the aWeSome exteriorlurks a man who hates
solemnity and safety. loves Van Morrison and Springsteen — and the odd serious drinking sessron. Deacon Blue‘s Ricky Ross talks to Mab.
(ilasgow‘s Deacon Blue have been dogged with the ‘Most Likely To' tag almost since their formation three years ago. They are now beginning to fulfil the predictions made on their behalf by music business execs. journalists and. above all. their fans. The team of Ricky Ross and Lorraine Mclntosh (vocals). (iraeme Kelling (guitar). Ewan Vernal (bass). James Prime (keyboards) and Douglas Vipond (drutns) have a honuﬁde hit single on their hands: ‘Real (ione Kid'. which entered the charts in respectable twenty-ninth place.
A moody. drama-laden atmosphere ran through 1987's debut album Ruintown. and in some quarters it was dismissed as over-sentimental. though this tendency can be made up for by the dramatic surges of the title track (give Deacon Blue two chords. and they‘ll present you with a stunning climax). the soul pastiche of the single ‘When Will You (Make My
6 The List 28 ()ct — ll) Nov 1988
Telephone Ring)‘ and at least three other songs of high-calibre classy rock. Now. the blue textures ofthat record have given way to the poppier and sharper sound heard on ‘Real Gone Kid‘. The next album. we are promised. will be more ‘up’. the mood brighter. And there will be singles. Raintown. admits Ricky Ross. the band‘s main songwriter and — along with Lorraine Mclntosh — its visual focus. didn't really have any. Indeed. even ‘Dignity'. the over-rated ﬂagship of the first album. took remixes and re-releases. even fora briefcruise into the charts. Ricky Ross. Dundonian ex-teacher. is as impressive close-up as he is in the videos. thankfully less psychotic-looking. but the wicked cackle he frequently breaks into gives cause for concern. He‘s managed to retain his enthusiasm for pop music and its great characters. and still talks about them like a fan. And he is eager to talk about his heroes. relating them to his ideal
conception of Deacon Blue. at conception he likes to expand through their choice of B-sides and cover versions. Putting versions of songs by Husker Du and Sam and Dave side by side on one record is brave for any major-league band. but fora group with the staid image of Deacon Blue it‘s an act that's bound to raise eyebrows. They also did Van Morrison‘s ‘Angeliou'. and. full ofawe for the cantankerous genius. Ross can't wait to see his spot in Martin Scorcese's film The Last Waltz one more time.
‘lt‘ll melt your heart.‘ he says of the five minutes in the movie when Van is let loose in front of'l‘he Band (‘the only American band that I liked in the Seventies'). manfully straining to high-kick in time to the music.
‘You're biting your lip. because you know he can‘t do it. You know his foot is never gonna reach the tip ofhis finger. There‘s a man who's struggling to get out of his body. And that‘s the spirit that I want to happen at gigs. You‘re kind of falling over. and you want that wonderful thing to happen.
‘What I've hated and what I‘ve loved about playing live is that it might all go horribly wrong. The thing I hate about rock‘n’roll is the people there‘s never any danger of
that happening to. There‘s never any moment ofdanger. there's never any
way in which hearts can be broken. tears can be shed. laughs can be laughedf
The talk turns back to heroes. in particular our separate memories of being shaken by Elvis (‘ostello live. seeing him struggle with pop history to accommodate his music where he wanted it to go. apparently rediscovering his songs in the process.
‘I remember seeing Elvis (‘ostello doing a version of “Backstabbers”. then going into one of his own songs
from the mid-Eighties soul thing he had then. and suddenly you thought about it in a different way. He’s asking us to think in a bigger wav than normal performers ask the. audience. And that‘s what I'd like. To put in a lot ofclues. to sav. mavbe there's a wider way we can think ' about this. as well as it being 'l‘arby-an entertainment and all that.‘
Deacon Blue have always held a torch for the power of rock music to uplift. and break down barriers between performer and audience. a crusade which has earned them some scathing press. but bonded them to their followers. It‘s that kind of attitude that‘s handing ammunition to people who want to peg Deacon Blue down as a kind of Scottish Springsteen — social worker rock. it might be called.
Ricky Ross has laughed a lot tonight. but this time he hollers to the roof.
‘()h. wonderful. I love it! I love Bruce Springsteen. l have my doubts about the Born in the USA phase. but ifwe could do all the things he does to an audience. then fine. If you're asking me if that's at one end of the scale and certain other British groups. who run through their set and never move your heart once. are at the other. there’s no doubt as to which end of the scale I‘d rather be on.‘ He points to the current Nil/12’. appropriately displaying its current icons Public Enemy on the cover. ‘l‘ve no interest in being on the front cover of that. I'd rather be called “social worker rock" and move people than ever be associated with them.
‘Because. the fact ofthe matter is. and rock bands discover this in time. they are what they are. like in T/lt’ Deer Hunter when Robert de Niro says. "l’ltis is this". you come to that point when you understand yourself. And you understand why you’re doing it. And if you don't come to that point. and you're always looking over your shoulder to see what everyone else is saying. you’re going to fuck up.’
He means what he's saying. but whenever things get too heavy. you know the cackle isn't far away. It doesn‘t really square with the popular notion of Deacon Blue as this serious bunch ofguys and gal.
‘I think there's a big difference between serious and solemn. [don’t think our shows ever solemn in the way that. say. Lloyd (‘ole and The ('ommotions‘ is. I find that very boring. It‘s a big difference. A good night out is serious stuff. but it's not solemn. When a group of people get drunk together it gets very very very serious. and things happen. People speak the truth.’
ls Ricky Ross telling me to trust him. or hinting that the definitive Deacon Blue interview woth come
until their singer's well and truly stotious'.’ Now there's a feature worth pursuing.
I )eaeun Blue are at Edinburgh I ’lay/muse on Sun 3!) ()(‘I. See Roe/r