The Bluebells – Live on Old Grey Whistle Test – 1982 – Switch – 1983 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection
The Bluebells with two live broadcast dates from 1982 and 1983. The first, a session for the BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test and the second, a session for, I think, an ITV show called Switch from 1983.
The Bluebells were initially active between 1981 and 1986 (later briefly reforming in 1993, 2008–2009, 2011 and 2018). They had three Top 40 hits in the UK Singles Chart, all written by guitarist and founder member Bobby Bluebell (real name Robert Hodgens) – “I’m Falling”, “Cath”, and their biggest success “Young at Heart”. The latter was co-written with Siobhan Fahey of Bananarama (originally recorded on the Bananarama album Deep Sea Skiving) and violinist Bobby Valentino, and made it to number 8 in the UK Singles Chart on its original release in 1984. The band also released one EP, The Bluebells, and one full-length album, Sisters.
Like fellow Scots Aztec Camera, the Bluebells crafted impeccable, jangly guitar pop, only with better melodies and stronger hooks. Two of their singles (“I’m Falling” and “Young at Heart”) hovered around the lower reaches of the U.K. Top Ten in 1984, but they soon broke up, leaving a small, but impressive, body of work. David McCluskey and his brother, Ken, formed a folk duo. Robert Hodgens formed Up. Craig Gannon briefly filled in for bassist Andy Rourke in the Smiths on tour, then stayed as a second live guitarist; he joined Adult Net after being fired from the Smiths in 1986.
The band reformed in late 2008, with original members the McCluskey brothers and Bobby Bluebell, to support Edwyn Collins at a show in Glasgow on 23 January 2009. On 29 May 2011, the band performed as part of the Southside Festival. On 17 December 2018, the band performed on a Christmas edition of The Quay Sessions for BBC Scotland. In 2019, The Bluebells appeared performing “Young at Heart” in an episode of the last series of the BBC Scotland sitcom Still Game.
For a reminder of their earlier days, here are two sessions from 1982 and 1983 respectively, which should probably be played a high, if not maximum, volume.
Incidentally, check out the link in the above photo credits for Harry Papadopolous, there’s a link to an amazing show of 80s Scottish bands, all photographed by Papadopolous.
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