Thursday, 15 November 2012

Albums for Life: 96: Danny Wilson: Meet Danny Wilson

Everything is wonderful
Being here is heavenly

Deacon Blue are named after my favourite Steely Dan song and there's often talk of the Dan influence on Scottish Band's of the 80s. The clipped clarity of the arrangements seemed to counterpoint the imperfect lives that the rough edged voices were singing about; a winning combination...
'Meet Danny Wilson' was heralded by the release of 'Mary's Prayer' as a single; every radio station at the time recognized a classic when they heard it and when the album was released there was the hope of an album full of such quality. We weren't disappointed. There were no rough edges here. Kicking off with the wonderful 'Davy' and meandering through the obligatory rain swept streets of Aberdeen and Dundee, on through the working week towards the release of the weekend and 'Ruby's Golden Wedding', this was an album packed with winning tunes and wide eyed optimism; all presented by a wonder voice from nowhere. Gary Clarke's irresistible croon was part pub singer, part Sinatra and he sang to us about the joys and disappointments of a parochial life.
Sure, the gated drums and DX7 samples have not aged well but at the time, this album, alongside 'Rainsound', 'Rattlesnakes' and 'Walking the Ghost Back Home', was a fount of influence for the then live Miracle Mile. Back then in the late 80s there were four or five songs that shaped my ambitions with the band: Deacon Blue's 'Dignity', Lloyd Cole's 'Are you Ready to be Heartbroken', 'Graceland' by The Bible, anything by the Prefabs and the song below. Whenever I hear 'Mary's Prayer' I smell damp flats, patchouli oil, musty Oxfam stage clothes and remember the joy of getting changed into our dead men's suits for gigs in pub bogs; standing on bricks to keep the turn ups of our pleated pants out of the pools of piss.
Glory days indeed...


  1. Love this album too. I also remember thinking that probably 'Marys Prayer' would be a one off and the album wouldn't be so good.25 years on and it remains an all time favourite.Gary Clark has proved himself again and again to be one of Britains best songwriters, Still hoping for a Danny Wilson reunion.
    Phil Tel Aviv

  2. Charming reminiscence. Man, those gigs do sound glamorous. Surely the piss you speak of is beer... No?
    I remember our earlier discussion regarding older statesman like Lloyd Cole being forced to grind through gruelling tours in order to survive financially. You mentioned how it must be demeaning and demoralizing. I thought that was a sharp observation. Can you tell me... How does an artist go out on stage and trot out the songs night after night without completely losing the precious connection with the inspiration and passion that went into creating the music? It has to be soul-destroying...

    1. I haven't been on that treadmill for a while TT... I think it depends on the style of music and the place you're playing; if it's a captive audience/theatre kind of venue that you can whisper AND wail in that's fine. It's the idea of folk turning up to get whatever is thrown at them that might lead to the "don't forget your Commotions next time" attitude that you spoke of previously that I suggested might be demoralizing. The artist still has to nail it; audiences are loyal but judgmental; I take Phil's point about Roddy's recognition of the quality of his back catalogue; there's a self respect, a recognition of work well crafted. I also understand the need for artists to reinvent some songs to keep them relevant to themselves as they move on; although some seem to mess with the melody out of boredom (Van Morrison and Dylan scome to mind).

  3. Tim , I see where you're coming from, but I think an artist has to get to grip with the fact that often his songs of yesteryear touched thousands of people and have stayed with them. I remember James Grant trying to distance himself from his past work with Love and Money and getting quite upset when people shouted out for his old band tunes when he did his solo shows but gradually he came round to understanding what these songs meant to people. People get married and burried to a background of their favourite songs, that's got to be a great feeling for any artist.
    Roddy Frame has been singing the same songs for years but neither himself or his audience will ever tier from his classics ,and seeing him on stage , he's almost at one with his audience.An almost religeous experience.

  4. Maybe it's my personal intolerance of repetition that makes me wonder how one would avoid feeling like a human jukebox. To often, I've seen folks do their classics in a numb auto-pilot mode or go the godawful Van/Bob route that is an insult to everyone.

    But, you're both right. Some artists can perform with sincerity night after night it seems. I think there has to be an element of "control" by the artist. Some of the best ones will politely veto certain requests, or quiet chattering crowds, often with a humorous aside. I've seen Cockburn, Martyn Joseph, Springsteen do it with grace.

    There are a lot of variables involved. But I guess it comes down to chemistry, respect and maybe some obligation? If the audience and artist truly care about each other, there will be reciprocation, connection and occasionally magic!

    It's an interesting topic which I've always wondered about.
    Thanks for the feedback.