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Midnight Blue – Louise Tucker

March 21, 2011

What is it about this song ‘Midnight Blue’ that has entranced me for over a quarter of a century? Partially, of course, it is the haunting melody from the Sonata Pathetique that has entranced millions of people since Beethoven wrote it in 1798 but Beethoven wrote a lot of music and I have an iTunes collection of thousands of tracks, many of which I love just as much when they’re actually playing but none of which has grabbed me in life like this one has. Here is the story…

The track charted in the UK in 1983, when I was approaching 18. We weren’t a Radio 1 kind of family but for some reason we tuned across Radio 1 late at night while driving home in the car and ‘Midnight Blue’ was playing. It didn’t chart high in the UK so it wouldn’t have been on Radio 1 often – that it was on while we were listening and that we were listening long enough to catch the artist’s namecheck was the first link in a long chain of serendipity that bind this song and me together.

I bought a copy of the single. A rare event in itself, as I was a late developer and really didn’t start collecting music until the CD era.

It never occurred to me that the single might be a track off an album but months later, while we were on a family holiday in Canada, I went into a general store in an outback town in the Rockies and saw the same cover picture staring at me from the top record on a pile of albums propped up against the counter, on the floor.

I didn’t buy it. I picked it up, stared at it, checked it out and committed it to memory but it was a long holiday and I was still living in a pocket money world so my dollars stayed in my pocket. Besides, WH Smith did orders and I wasn’t taking a record player to college. I needed a cassette tape.

Back home, WH Smith told me the cassette version of the album was deleted, so I wrote to a pen pal of my mother’s in New York state asking her to buy the cassette for me and post it across the pond. An obsession had started.

Unbelievably, I managed to catch Louise on Pebble Mill at One while she was promoting her next single and I was at college. PM@1 wasn’t staple student fare and wasn’t the normal viewing of my housemates and I but that’s how serendipity works! I bought the new album and the twelve inch single but I may have been the only one – Louise didn’t chart and turned her back on pop music to return to opera.

I have the vinyl version of  the album ‘Midnight Blue’. Bought second hand, I think, and I cannot remember where from. Like any good obsession there is a mystery – the vinyl album version of the song and the single have a different drum track. No idea why – it drives me crazy to this day..!

Prior to the Internet Revolution, you wrote to join fan clubs, so I wrote to Arista records. There was no fan club but they sent a black and white publicity still, which I pinned to the wall of my student digs and which I have still.

After the Internet Revolution, I bought the CD version of the album from Amazon US – it turned out to be a huge hit over the pond and was still available. I also trailed through music sites occasionally and searched using Alta Vista, then Google, seeing if there was any news about Ms Tucker. There mostly wasn’t, though as more people got onto the Internet and search engines got better there were a smattering of posts asking where she was or how to get hold of the music.

There was news of Tim Smit. The record is officially (slightly pompously!) subtitled ‘A Project With Louise Tucker’ and it was clear from the record credits that Louise, Charlie Skarbeck and Tim Smit were co-creators. Tim Smit decided to go and live in Cornwall, discover some lost gardens at Heligan and then have a vision of what he could achieve in a derelict china clay pit. He got quite well known. Well known enough to get a readers’ question and answer article in the The Independent. I wrote in, asking what Louise thought of it all. I didn’t get published but a question in a similiar vein did and I like to think I was second choice…

More years passed. I now had the record, the CD and the album tracks ripped into iTunes. I regularly played all three versions and I still occasionally checked for Louise on Google. Google usually came up blank.

Then, four or five years ago, a chink of light. A scanned choir bill and then a choir web page with photos and a bit of a bio. It was the real Ms Tucker!

And a couple of years ago, the lady herself put up a self penned web page offering the CDs for sale! This ‘project’ from a quarter century ago had enough hold over her that she was making the music available again. I bought the CD of ‘After the Storm’ immediately to complete my collection.

Louise sent ‘Midnight Blue’ by mistake. I wrote the one and only fan letter of my life explaining, tongue in cheek, that I had every conceivable version of ‘Midnight Blue’ and would have to return it for replacement. She sent a personal reply!

There’s now a Wikipedia entry too, which backs up the claim that Midnight Blue was ‘a project’  but fails to explain the change in the drum track. These days you can also grab any number of YouTube tributes too and occasionally I look one up and allow an ethereal melody over 200 years old and a quite inspired vocal, sung beautifully, to roll back the years.

From → Music

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