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
We are indebted to Matt Nicholson, brother of Hugh and David Nicholson for many of the details below.
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'
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.
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
Life in the Navy - RSO - 2394 133 Super (1974)
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.
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
judging by the snippets from the 1978 Jackie Annual below about who they'd like to kiss at Xmas.
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;
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
'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..
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
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.
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.