www.rockingscots.co.uk

Rockingscots is a website dedicated to Scottish beat groups and rock bands of the '60s and '70s.
 Go to the Rockingscots homepage for info on more groups or to e-mail us.

Blue CDs etc are available direct from this link:  www.Ncorps.eu
See also <David Nicholson / Nickelson> at this link

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We are indebted to Matt Nicholson, brother of Hugh and David Nicholson for many of the details below.

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Blue 1st album US promo pic and press release.
Press release has a wee bit of 'spin', inferring Ian played on the Trash singles - he joined them afterwards.
Hughie Nicholson (guitar, keyboards & vocals).  Angus (Timmy) Donald (drums & vocals),  Ian MacMillan (bass, harmonica & vocals).

Origins: We are not sure exactly as to the month when Blue formed.  Their first single 'Red Light Song'Look Around' was released on 11th May 1973 so obviously before then!
Hugh Nicholson and Ian McMillan had played together in the Poets '67-'70 when Ian McMillan joined Trash who featured Timmy Donald on drums. 
Trash became Cody around '71 and according to the only source we've seen and which may not be accurate, Cody finally broke up in Jan '73.
Hugh Nicholson left the Poets for Marmalade around March '71 and he recalled in a radio interview that he was with them for 18 months which would take us to Aug/Sept '72.
At some stage thereafter he joined Cody (according to the programme booklet for the Focus/Blue tour in May '74) and on it's demise, Blue was born.

       Hugh had a hit writing pedigree from Marmalade and a recording deal with RSO was accordingly arranged.

               
As said (according to the wonderful '45-Cat' website)  their first single (above) was released on 11 May 1973
The single carries the message - 'From the LP 'Blue' so we might assume that single and LP were released simultaneously or very close together in time.
However, looks like the LP was not out until June or even July '73
Dutch pic sleeve courtesy of  'Leonard' & B side courtesy of  'The Toad' both on 45 Cat.


Blue - RSO - 2394 105 Super (1973). Cover left - US press release on right..
Came out on CD as SPINCD 2007 from 'The Record Label'

Track List:-
Red light song; Look around; Someone; Sunset regret; Timi's black arrow; Sitting on a fence; Little Jody; Let me know; I wish I could fly; Skye banana boat song;
The way things are; Sunshine or falling rain.  The CD adds the much later Heaven Avenue as an additional track.
The first LP was a masterpiece. The greatest light-rock album ever made in our opinion
and John Peel made it his record of the year in 1973.
 He restated this on his show of 1/10/93 according to https://peel.fandom.com/wiki/Blue .  

Excellent as Red Light Song is - it might have been too laid back for a debut single and the next one  - see below - should probably have been the first.
                   For live performances the band decided a second guitarist was needed and Jimmy McCullough ex of Thunderclap Newman, Stone the Crows, John Mayall et al was brought in.                       He was present at their first BBC Radio Session (see more on these below) on 18/6/73,  20/6/73 & 23/8/73.
and he added a few overdubs to 'Little Jody' in time for it's release as a single on 27/7/73.


4 piece Blue from cover of the German 'Little Jody' single.
 
Pics below:
 Little Jody (Nicholson) / The Way Things Are (MacMillan). Released on 27 July '73 - according to 45-Cat
Below is the US 'A' side Promo and the UK 'B' side.

                       
                                                                                                      Pics by Kev & Tom                                                                                                  


 
Blue were due to open the festivities for the first 25 mins at the Crystal Palace Bowl supporting some big names on Sat.15/9/73
but had to pull out when Jimmy got himself fired in the run up to the gig.  A big chance lost but another came along shortly afterwards - see below. 
Fan comments on the event confirm that Golden Earing kicked off the party on the day.
  Jimmy was not unemployed for long, joining  Chris Staintons' Tundra then Paul McCartney's Wings in 1974.

Programme pics contributed by Bob Meyrick to the the fantastic  'uk rock festivals site'  Check out the reports on this event
and all their other great stuff starting at.
http://www.ukrockfestivals.com/Garden-party-73.html

           

The now 3 piece Blue once more, did appear on the late night BBC TV showcase programme - The Whistle Test - to promote the LP on Tues. 25th Sept 1973
         playing/miming, 'Look Around' and 'I Wish I Could Fly'.   We recall watching it. Thought it was longer!
                                      We saw the programme but thanks for the exact date to this fabulous preservation site  - https://sites.google.com/site/vintagerocktv/uk/old-grey-whistle-test

Jimmy was smartly quickly replaced in late Sept '73 by Robert 'Smiggy' Smith.  
Smiggy had a good track record behind him from Edinburgh bands - notably, The Jury and Writing on the Wall.  
He had moved to Canada in '72 and stayed for a year which as the 'Pacific North West bands website  http://pnwbands.com/streetnoise.html
shows, included a stint in 'Street Noise' with old Edinburgh colleagues Jimmy Bain and Linnie Paterson.  Some good photos there.                

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Life in the Navy - RSO - 2394 133 Super (1974)

Eventually came out on CD with an extra track as - The Record Label SPINCD 2008
Recorded in January '74 according to the tour programme for the Focus/Blue tour in May '74.
Released on 10 June '74.                        
 
 Front cover is reminiscent of Marmalade's 'Reflections' LP.  
                                                              Back cover shot has a tenuous link to the title we suppose - the guys holding a boat and Smiggy impersonating 'Popeye'.
                                                                                                 Left-right, MacMillan, Donald, Robert 'Smiggy' Smith and Nicholson.

                                        Track list - Sweet memories; Lonesome; Sad Sunday; Atlantic Ocean; Love; Max Bygraves; You give me love; Big bold love; Mr Moon; Let's talk it over.                                               Unfortunately the songs are not quite as strong as those on debut album. but there are still plenty of decent ones.

Best are 1. 'Lonesome',  2. 'Atlantic Ocean'  - the only one with harmonica but spoilt a bit by the lead guitar accompaniment - even two wee fluffs in the outro.
3. 'Love' a typical slow melancholy Blue number like 'Never thought she would' by the Poets. 4. 'You give me love' has nice acoustic guitar solos but not to the fore enough in the mix.
5. 'Let's talk it over' is another melancholic little gem but not really enhanced by the pedal steel guitar.

   
Images from the '45-Cat' site posters Paul Vinyl and The Toad respectively. They have our grateful thanks
Same site says the first single from the album was released on 10 May 1974.
                        
Fair to say that any follow up would have to live in the shadow of their debut.
Produced by Elliot Mazer.  Too good a chance to pass up but perhaps in retrospect they should have produced it them selves
  Similar lead guitar accompaniment on several tracks.  Maybe the acoustic guitars and piano should have been given more prominence.

In summer 1974 the band did a publicity gig at BIBA's roof top restaurant in Kensington organised by our friend Lil Anderson.
  Apparently, almost everybody in Scottish Rock was there.
Well, it was free drink!
                       
Smiggy was around for their BBC radio session recordings on 7/4/74 & 29/5/74
but had left the band and returned to North America before (maybe long before) the Peel session of 14/8/75.

Pic from the Focus/Blue tour programme of May '74
Smiggy  - far right - apparently had his own manager and perhaps returned to North America for another musical offer. 
He certainly had a decent career thereafter and is still musically active in 2019.   'The Rappahannock News' of 25/8/16 decribed
him as 
an accomplished musician and woodcarver who played with 'English' band Blue among many others.
He has his own FB page.  
We wish him well.

The LP gap filled by Radio Sessions and 2 Singles
Ken Garner's "The Complete Radio 1 Recordings" is an indispensible book for anyone researching the history of popular music.
We have already used it above in tracking
McCulloch's spell with Blue and Smiggy's 'left sometime before date'.

Blue were great favourites of John Peel - they did 7 sessions for his show between '73 & '77 plus 2 others for Bob Harris' show.
We saw that in 14/8/75 that session was recorded by the original 3 piece Blue but in the line-up for the 22/1/76 session.
Timmy Donald had been replaced by Jeff Allen and
gone off to session work.  He can be heard on Sandy Denny's solo LPs "Sandy" and "Rendezvous"
- thanks to Bob Marshall for that latter bit of info.
 Also, David Nicholson (Hughie's brother) was now in the band playing bass and keyboard to allow MacMillan to play some guitar.
But most surprising is that Dean Ford is listed as contributing vocals and harmonica.
For the next Peel session in 9/11/76 no line-up changes are mentioned
but the songs all later appeared on their third album.

   

Two singles were released in 1975 - from the radio session dates the line up would appear to be the original three piece.
14/2/75 - A: Cookie in a Jar (Nicholson) / B: Don't Let this Feeling Go (McMillan).
1/8/75 - A: Round and Round (McMillan) / B: I Know How it Feels (Nicholson).
Pics by Kev.
      
   

THE LOST RADIO SESSIONS
On the Radio 1 Sessions list there are several tracks that do not appear to have been released as singles or on albums

Though they may have appeared under different names.

It would have been great to hear what they and all the rest sounded like on the radio sessions. 
Matt Nicholson of  'The Record Label' contacted the BBC but was told they'd lost the recordings.  
Some years later our own well connected 
BBC employee also arranged for a search but that too came up empty handed. - Thanks for trying James.
The tracks in question are :
     1. 'She wrote me a letter'  - from the 20/6/73 recording session.    
2. 'Too many miles' from the 23/8/73 recording session.
   3.' Dark eyed darling' from the 14/8/75 recording session. 
4. 'I'll be satisfied';  5. 'Careless kind of guy'; 6. 'Love has gone' - all  from the 23/1/76 recording session.
There is also a number from the 9/11/76 recording session listed as 'Charlie Black Arrow'.
Is this the same as 'Timi's Black Arrow' from the first LP with some twist on  the respective drummers' names?

Rocket Records and a Hit Single.

Another Night Time Flight - Rocket Records - Roll 7, (1977) - The label owned by Elton John.
Released on CD as SPINCD2001
Track list - Another night time flight; Fantasy; Women; The Shepherd; Strange thing; Bring back the love; I'm alone; Tired of loving you; Capture your heart; I understand.
For this LP the line up had changed again with Charlie Smith  now on drums
after a brief stint in Marmalade
On a small note - all the band members for this album had been in the Poets at one time or another.

What about the music though. Eight tracks by Hughie Nicholson, and one each by David Nicholson and Ian MacMillan. 
Elton John and Clive Franks produced the album and had obviously listened to the first LP and seem to have decided to 'recapture' its whole feel right down to the guitar tones.
Good for them and this is something of a return to form songwriting-wise as well. Some numbers even have middle-eights.
A couple of the endings are a bit long for our liking but that is a small complaint and so what if 'Tired of loving you' could have been lifted direct from the first album.
Definitely worth your money.

  This album at last produced a hit single, "Capture your Heart" and the band was making a bid for pop stardom
judging by the snippets from the 1978 Jackie Annual below about who they'd like to kiss at Xmas.  

                  

                                                                     

   
                                                       Left: Kev's Dutch Pic Sleeve of the hit single.
 Why so grumpy looking Mr Mac? - such a great shirt too!                                                           
 Right:
Ton's Cover from the "Bring back the love" single. Pics taken from the album cover sessions.

Some of us recall seeing Blue at St Mary's teacher training College in Twickenham around this time.
                               
 
German single A & B sides above & pic sleeve below. Both from Kev.

     

Despite the hit single, their 3rd album didn't chart. A fourth LP, "Fool's Party", in 1979 and again on Rocket was the band's last release of the '70s. 

Fool's Party - Rocket Records - Train4, (1979)
Released on CD as as SPINCD2006

Track list - Strangers town; Danger sign; Mexico; Mona; I don't want to leave her; Victim; Blue nights; Love sings; Fools party; Without you; Long Enough; How beautiful.

A gatefold sleeve, no less, showing a mature looking band getting it together in the cottage in the country near the village of Barr in South Ayrshire, Scotland - in case anyone wondered!
Being Ayrshire men ourselves we can vouch that you need a big warm jacket up there at the best of times.

As with 'Flight' the lyrics have been thoughtfully printed on the inner sleeve. Nine Hugh Nicholson songs, two by David Nicholson and again only one by Ian MacMillan albeit the title track.
'Love Sings' is quite MOR and very like what Marmalade were putting out at that time.  Even 'almost' sounds like it could be Dean Ford singing.
  Mostly very sad stuff and not quite up to the standard of 'Flight'. Still good though.. 

THE LATER YEARS

After Fools Party the band relocated to LA for three years. 
Recordings from this period were later released  in 1999 as the LA sessions.
Charlie Smith had rejoined Marmalade for a spell so US drummer, Dennis Convay, was used for these sessions. 

THE LA SESSIONS released 1999 (The Record Label) cataloge ref: SPINCD 2004


 
A stereotypical LA scene for the cover - below. 12 songs, a  respectable forty minutes or so. One or two are just a tad samey and lightweight on quality if unmistakeably Blueish.
Even down to the reggae number. Still if you're a fan it was a welcome release and we were happy enough. Picks up on multiple listening.

Track listing : I wonder how she feels; Don't call me up; Moonlight; Little China; Roland; I wonder if I'm making it; All night; Why do I do it?; Don't tear it up;
I wanna go to New York; Dont wanna make you cry - (two wannas in a row chaps? The LA influence we presume); Starlight Jingles.


COUNTRY BLUE
released 1999 (The Record Labe) catalogue ref: SPINCD 2006


Best thing since the first album. Only 30 minutes of music though but the songwriting is really strong. 
Front cover is a bit too plain for our liking. We show the back here. It saves us having to write out the track listing!
Track after track, this CD is just superb. You wait on one that might not match its predecessors but it just doesn't come.
Can't tell yet if the two B-sides are different versions since our originals are too crackly to hear anymore but its great to have "I'll Get You Back" and "Change in the Weather" out on CD.
Neat guitar licks on "Sweet Sunrise".
Production is magnificent. No complaints other than length.
Oh and they are definitely not all country numbers.

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2002 compilation - BLUE 20 -SPINCD 2009 

The album features 20 fan picked classic tracks:  'I Wonder If I'm Making It'; 'I Wish I Could Fly'; 'Blue Nights'; ''Capture Your Heart';'Women';
'Why Do I Do It'; 'Tired Of Loving You'; 'Mexico'; 'Little Jody'; 'I'll Get You Back'; 'The Way Things Are'; 'I Wonder How She Feels';
'Tired Of Loving You'; 'Sunset Regret'; 'Sweet Sunrise'; 'Love'; 'Long Enough'; 'Sweet Memories'; 'Let's Talk It Over'; 'Sunshine Or Falling Rain'; 'Baby's Gone'.


A cracking compilation CD from 2002.If you cannot get a hold of the debut album on CD there are 5 of its tracks on here.  So its the next best thing! 


   BLUE Singles
Thanks to Gary E. Tibbs from LA for the singles info. They did have an impact over there then!
Red Light Song/Look Around RSO 2090 105
Little Jody/The Way Things are - (UK)RSO 2090 114 (US)RSO 405; Max Byraves/Lonesome - RSO 2090 130 Cookie In A Jar/Don't Let This Feeling Go - RSO 2090 154 RSO 508;
Round and Round/ I Know How It Feels - RSO 2090 163; Capture Your Heart/The Shepherd - Rocket 522 Rocket 40706; Women/I'm Alone Rocket 534;
Another Night Time Flight/Tired of loving you - Rokn531; Love Sings/I'll Get You Back Rocket - Xpres 10; Strangers Town/Change in the weather Xpres 8

HUGH NICHOLSON & IAN MacMILLAN (2002) - pic from Matt

Hugh Nicholson, Ian McMillan and David Nicholson have continued to release new and early collectively and separately
via their on-line site
www.Ncorps.eu   Lots of other good stuff there as well as Blue product.  Check it out!

        More photos from Kev & Tom's collection.

                                   

           

Hugh Nicholson Solo single -1979 - though the A side is from Fools's Party.


2001 Single.  Photo is meant to be blurred.

         
Both tracks from 'Another Nightime Flight'

         
Both tracks from Another Night ime Flight.
From the Publishing company details, we guess 'I'm Alone' was written by David Nigholson.

         
A-side is from the Fools Party LP. B-side 'Change in the Weather' did not appear on LP/CD until 'Country Blue in 1999.

   
A side from 'Fools Party' LP.  B-side later appeared on Country Blue.

                                                   Cheers!