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The Bluebells

Idioma disponible: inglés
Despite the bulk of their modest-sized catalog having been released in the early '80s, this Glaswegian jangle pop act were remembered for decades after their initial, minor splash. This was due to the unexpected success of a 1993 reissue of the radio-friendly "Young at Heart" after its inclusion on an automobile TV ad. It sat at number one in the U.K. for four straight weeks that April and also charted elsewhere across Europe. Aside from the occasional gig or TV appearance, the Bluebells were largely defunct for the 2000s and 2010s. They did, however, return in 2023 with a second studio album, the aptly titled In the 21st Century. When brothers Ken and David McCluskey's punk band, Raw Deal, supported Altered Images at Glasgow's Mars Bar, they met Robert Hodgens and Russell Irvine for the first time. Hodgens interviewed them that night for his Ten Commandments fanzine, a useful device that had helped him befriend Edwyn Collins' Orange Juice and other Postcard Records acts of the era. That meeting led to the eventual formation of the Bluebells in 1981. They comprised Ken on lead vocals, David on drums, Irvine on lead guitar, bassist Lawrence Donegan, and Hodgens -- their primary songwriter, affectionally rechristened Bobby Bluebell -- on guitar and vocals. They were soon signed by London Records, which placed them with several producers, including Elvis Costello, with whom they made some of their earliest recordings. A 1982 debut single, "Forevermore," failed to chart, and the following year's "Cath" and "Sugar Bridge (It Will Stand)" only hit the singles chart's lower reaches, despite receiving widespread radio airplay in the U.K. After Seymour Stein signed them to Sire in the U.S. and Canada, a territory-specific, eponymous EP was issued in late 1983 that gathered a selection of singles and B-sides. That December, The Bluebells was promoted by a three-week North American tour. Before the completion of sessions for their debut album, both Irvine and Donegan departed, the latter joining Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, with whom he enjoyed great success. At this point, Craig Gannon -- of Aztec Camera, the Colour Field, and later of the Smiths -- joined on guitar, while Neil Baldwin stepped in on bass. Ultimately, all four players appeared on 1984's Sisters, which hit the U.K. Top 30 bolstered by two bona fide hit singles, "I'm Falling" and "Young at Heart." The latter reached the Top Ten on its initial Bluebells outing, having been co-written by Hodgens with his then-girlfriend Siobhan Fahey as she prepared material for Bananarama's 1983 debut, Deep Sea Skiving. In 2002, Bobby Valentino -- who played and wrote the distinctive violin part on the Bluebells' single version -- won the right to be recognized as a co-writer of the track. Despite their success, the Bluebells split in 1986, only a year after the release of "All I Am (Is Loving You)," the single that closed their first chapter. Also in 1986, the McCluskey Brothers debuted their folk-inspired sound on Aware of All, which they followed in 1992 with Favourite Colours. Meanwhile, Hodgens played guitar with a Scottish indie supergroup of sorts, Paul Quinn & the Independent Group, and appeared on their 1992 album, The Phantoms & the Archetypes. That year also saw the release of Second, a Japan-only collection of unfinished Bluebells material. When "Young at Heart" went stratospheric in 1993, the Bluebells briefly reconvened to perform their chart-topper on BBC's Top of the Pops, bringing Irvine back to the fold. In the late '90s, after the McCluskey Brothers had returned to their folk project, Hodgens had a prolific run as a songwriter, helping pen charting singles for both Texas and B*Witched. Late 2008 saw the Bluebells reunite to rehearse for an early 2009 show supporting Collins. This led to festival dates during the 2010s; a 2014 rarities album on Cherry Red, Exile on Twee Street; and cameo appearances on Scottish TV shows such as The Quay Sessions and Still Game. They released a low-key comeback single in 2022, "Glasgow Is a Rainbow," a cover of a charming track by fellow Glaswegian's Sister John, who repaid the favor with a version of "Young at Heart" on the flip side. Almost 40 years after their debut album, April of 2023 saw its follow-up, In the 21st Century, a mature record that faintly nodded to country, folk, soul, psych, and punk influences.
© James Wilkinson /TiVo
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