Fellow Hoodlums is 30 [Album]

Deacon Blue were a successful chart band in the 80s and have subsequently become unfashionable in some quarters, probably due to some questionable style choices in the pop years. Not with me. They actually broke up in 1994, partly because their drummer, Dougie, decided to be a TV presenter. After a hiatus of 5 years they got back together. Since 2012 they’ve had a late renaissance and made 4 excellent albums. Fellow Hoodlums, recorded in 1991, was their 3rd album, the follow up to When the world knows your name, which was the one which got me interested in the first place. It’s the one I always go back to because it combines great songwriting with an overflow of musical ideas and memorable lyrics. James Joyce Soles is a downbeat start about a dead airman, based on a BBC play, mournful but soulful. The title track is more representative of the rest of the album. Ricky Ross (Vocals and songwriter, 2nd job, Radio 2 DJ) and Lorraine McIntosh (BVs, 2nd job, actress), who are married with 4 kids, live in Glasgow – the songs are often about Glasgow, as is this one, and the lyrics are full of images of city life:

Fellow hoodlums and engineers, the Union’s south and we’re all here
I’m going up Buchanan Street with a box of fireworks and two bottles of Tizer

Your swaying arms has one of those gorgeous basslines, courtesy of Ewen Vernal, which lodges itself in your head as much as the main tune. But also some great lines, a typical Ricky Ross song of hope, regret, and nostalgia:

One day I can see us walking arm and arm in sheltered Kelvin Way
Talking and tripping and teasing and heading for the best part of the day

Cover from the sky is Lorraine’s only real solo in all Deacon Blue music, but a beautiful song with some delicate guitar from Graeme Kelling, who sadly died of cancer in 2004. A winner live, if she is in the mood. The day that Jackie jumped the jail is an absolute classic, lyrics, keys, guitar, oh and that bass again, all intertwining around the story of a small time Glasgow criminal:

As he walked down Hope Street he thought about the last time they’d been together
He’d been wearing a green parka and he’d bought her yellow stilettos that squeezed her toes
He’d told her the whole story as she took him into the wee pen behind Sloan’s
And let him feel her all over for the last time
Ten minutes later the meat wagon picked him up

Check the wolf whistle from the guitar. The more I listen the more this record is as much about the atmosphere evoked by the lyrics as anything else – The Wildness is another one:

Oh the rush hour is over and the night has been trying
To drive us and chase us away
But we’re lovely and drunk now, and our laugh doesn’t rattle or fray

Subtle keys too from Sir James Prime (to you), and lovely violin from one Gavin Wright.

Twist and Shout was ‘the hit’, very singalong, the sort of song Ricky always seems to come up with, even now, a pale girl in a blue room with a pink dress. Closing Time is probably in my top three DB songs, along with Jackie, another fantastic musical and lyrical treat, starting with piano and then the very familiar sample from Sly and the Family Stone’s Family Affair under the vocal; strings and Shaft style guitar, and words! These are our songs.

We took the shortcut home over the wood slat bridge and stood and gazed and wished
Till all the clouds had vanished, nothing could be missed….

And your belly was warm as the day was long
And night came upon us so fast

And a wind down to the conclusion, perfect. Goodnight Jamsie/I will see you tomorrow was written after the death of Lorraine’s father, containing some of my favourite lines:

Take me on your skirling waltzer and scream the ghost train down
And buckle me to the chairy plane as the big wheel goes round

One day I’ll go walking is a very upbeat, hopeful closer, a contrast to the sad tribute it follows, piano, fiddle, a typical mix of the two voices, a rush of instruments, then space… some holy kiss!! There’s that Celtic feel you get from artists like Ricky Ross, Van Morrison and other Scottish and Irish musicians in particular.

Did you see the picture or did you read the book
I mean did you really go there or were you only took?
I said were you believing or were you just shook


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