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  • Tony Harris

DUTCH COURAGE

Updated: Oct 17


If you were an avid chart watcher in the early 70s, you might have started to believe you were witnessing something of a Dutch invasion of the world's charts. "Venus" by Shocking Blue and "Radar Love" by Golden Earring are still fine 45s, whilst no less an arbiter of taste than Quentin Tarantino would turn the George Baker Selection's "Little Green Bag" into one of the most iconic cinematic moments in later decades.


Even prog rockers (not an audience I tend to spend too much headspace thinking about) were given Focus and the extraordinary virtuoso performances of Jan Akkermann. I even admit to finding their Eurovision winner of 1975 "Dinge Dong" still amongst my favourites from that competition with its John Barry-esque thunderous opening - though I admit it is much better in Dutch when you don't realise how banal the lyrics are.


You'd be forgiven for thinking that Amsterdam might become the new Liverpool or San Francisco. Moving on a decade and you would soon see that, at least on the international stage, the Netherlands' hit-making prowess was much more akin to its drossier European neighbours.


I'm seriously praying that you do not remember the monstrosity "Susanna" by the Art Company - another of those horrible Palma Nova classics that package tourists brought back as readily as straw donkeys. Or who remembers a pair of twerps called MC Miker G and DJ Sven with their "Holiday Rap" - all dodgy moustaches and shiny pvc trousers. By the following decade, the Low Countries were obsessed with the pop fringes of techno and electro and so thank you, my Dutch friends, for 2 Unlimited and the Vengaboys.


If only the Netherlands played music like they played football.


However, all of these horrors can be forgiven because the Netherlands was the only major territory in the world to get behind one of the most emotional and moving singles you will ever have the pleasure to hear.


"Tinseltown In The Rain" by The Blue Nile.


Nowadays, all the critics will tell you how wonderful the Blue Nile were. They will tell you how under-appreciated their album was "Walk Across The Roof Tops" - well, let me tell you, they were the ones who so critically ignored them.


The Blue Nile had formed in Glasgow whilst at the University and although they were signed to Linn records, it was a myth that they were signed to be a demonstration act for Linn's top-of-the-range hi-fi equipment. I suspect this rumour started because their beautifully constructed soundscapes and textures sounded absolutely blissful when played through them.


It may also have led to the lack of interest shown in them during this period - regardless of what people will tell you now. I know because at a time when I was strapped for cash I distinctly recall being able to afford the 12" version because it was being so heavily discounted and nobody was buying it. Doubtless they were too busy purchasing yet another remix of "Two Tribes" in the summer of 1984.


The 12" single is an extended version that does something quite wonderful. Not for the Blue Nile a lot of stuttering vocal loops or unnecessary bleeps but simply it lets a song that you never really want to finish to go on a good minute and a half longer than the regular version. Frankly it could go on and on for another hour and I would not tire of it.


Not then... not now... not ever.


If you read my previous blog on Deacon Blue's "Raintown", that was an album that was always felt to be a reflection on Glasgow life and the same was attributed to this single. However, the band always said it was about any corner of any bustling city. They tried to replicate the low sound of traffic with the bassline throb and sawing strings. It is a magnificently atmospheric record that manages to sound panoramic and yet sparing.


However, the highlight is Paul Buchanan's achingly beautiful vocal delivery. It manages to be fragile and soulful at the same time and has a crack that makes your heart break. I defy you not to wonder why you've never heard more of it.


The Blue Nile have always been an enigma - four albums in 20 years. They make Kate Bush and Sade look positively frivolous. However, now they at least have the acclaim of certain groups who eventually found their way to one of the most neglectfully overlooked bands ever.


It reached #97 in the UK - which is criminal and for all I know, the result of about half a dozen of us buying the 12" single. It deserved so much better.


Hup Holland Hup!




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