Paul Buchanan and The Blue Nile: A Retrospective

Eric Carlson
Summer of ‘72
Published in
5 min readFeb 14, 2020

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I first discovered The Blue Nile by accident. I had wandered into a vinyl store in the backstreets of Manhattan, looking for nothing in particular. In a dusty bin buried in a dark corner of the store (where no one had seemingly been in years), I saw a conspicuous-looking vinyl leaning against the back of a milk crate. The cover featured three men standing on the street, staring into some abandoned space. A phone number is prominently displayed on one of the sides (424–0511: Just in case you wanted to call).

What they’re looking can’t be discerned from the photo, though one man is pointing at something of interest. Though we might never know what that thing is, we do know that “A Walk Across The Rooftops” was an excellent debut from The Blue Nile, the best Scottish band that you’ve never heard of.

The seven tracks on the album slyly mixed programmed drum beats, icy synths, and idiosyncratic arrangements into tiny, romantic worlds that seemed like microcosms of emotion and ecstasy in a cold, unfeeling world.

Not surprisingly, this accidental musical discovery would come to soundtrack my life for the next year, providing a theatrical backdrop to my own personal heartaches and misunderstandings.

I’d take the record with me on an ill-fated trip to California to meet up with a girl I was interested in. I sent her a few of these songs as I was biking up the coast to meet her in Big Sur, my heart engorged with hope. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Paul Buchanan and his band were the voice to the romanticism that I felt burning inside of me.

As much as they soundtracked my hope, The Blue Nile also soundtracked my inevitable rejection and disappointment. Riding the train southward toward Los Angeles with tears in my eyes, the words of “From Rags To Riches” filled up my ears:

“I am in love, I am in love with a feeling / A wild wild sky, a wild wild sky / Fences and tumble down bridges surround and divide / I wear a coat of many colours, of many colours.”

A long listen to The Blue Nile will impose on the listener the notion that Paul Buchanan is somehow a prophet of…

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Eric Carlson
Summer of ‘72

I write, I play music. Work in Urban Planning, Graphic Design, and Marketing. Sometimes I feel like I need less hobbies. https://ericcarlson.pro