Three decades ago the Scottish pop duo Hue and Cry were at the peak of their fame and riding high in the charts.
In 1989 they put out Bitter Suite, a stripped back live album with just Pat Kane’s vocals and his brother Greg on keyboards. It was intended as a companion piece to the previous year’s top 10 album Remote, which contained the hits Looking Out For Linda and Violently.
As well as their own songs, it featured several covers, including Elvis Costello’s Shipbuilding, Kate Bush's The Main With The Child In His Eyes and the jazz standard, Round Midnight.
The Scottish brothers are now marking the live album’s 30th anniversary with a tour recreating its intimate atmosphere.
As Pat tells The Guide, the choice of covers was no accident, particularly Shipbuilding.
‘We were actually performing the songs right on the side of the Clyde in sight of the shipyards, it was performed in something called the Renfrew Ferry, which had been converted into a floating venue.
‘It was very appropriate for the context. It’s an enduring song because there’s always that equation between war coming along and the factories kicking back into life, and then the whole moral conundrum of whether it’s worth it?
‘It’s a topic and a song that never really ages.
‘There’s also some softer songs on there as well, like The Man With the Child in His Eyes. We’ve been singing it for 30 years and it’s a plea for male sensitivity. We were at a stage when we were young men trying to learn what we were doing, so we would often cover songs by great artists just in order to learn more about writing songs. Both Shipbuilding and The Man With The Child In His Eye were part of that – and we’re still covering them.’
But perhaps surprisingly, their biggest hit Labour Of Love didn’t make it onto the record (although it was on the accompanying VHS release of the concert).
‘Do you know, I’d never really noticed that. I don’t know why that was the case!’ says Pat with a laugh. ‘That’s an interesting point. It might possibly be because Bitter Suite was joined up with the previous album and Labour of Love was on the album before.
‘And also because we hadn’t figured out how to play it properly live… Now we play it all the time and it’s a staple in the set!
‘I think it’s an omission rather than a commission.’
By the turn of the century the brothers went their separate ways – Pat into a solo career and Greg into production work.
But in 2005 they were offered the chance to appear on a new ITV show called Hit Me Baby One More Time, which pitted former pop stars against each other in a public vote. They won their heat and made it to the final.
‘I jumped at the opportunity because I’m very showbusiness,’ laughs Pat. ‘But Gregory at that time was a serious producer and he took a bit of persuading. We had a great time, though, even though we were beaten by Shakin’ Stevens.
‘That kind of kicked it all off again and that was 14 years ago – it’s still going strong from that point.
‘And then the retro events and concerts took off in the past 10 years and they’ve given us a new lease of life, playing to big crowds. Those sort of multi-act gigs, you’re still playing to 25-30,000 people, which is fantastic.’
The pair had an inkling there might be an audience for them, but were still pleasantly surprised by how well they were received.
‘The only other clue we had was in the early days of YouTube, in about 2005-6, people started to upload videos from old Top Of The Pops and they were getting hundreds of thousands of views, and we thought: “Okay, people still want to hear this.”
They continued recording and putting out albums since then – most recently 2017’s Pocket of Stones, but Pat says he enjoys the nostalgia side of what they do now.
‘We’re still very proud of those songs. Some acts might not be proud of things that have got them mass acceptance, but there’s a lot of stuff we put in those songs that still stands up and we’re proud to play them
‘We’re less angry young men than we were, so we can cope with playing the old songs and playing with other bands. We did a big tour with Go West and The Christians a few years ago, and we’ve done similar things with Paul Young – we’re all men of a certain age.
‘There’s lot of mutual therapy and sharing youthful experiences from the past! It’s a good circuit, I like it a lot.
And they are hoping to get a new album out by the end of the year.
‘The last album was very elegant, very poised. A very theatrical kind of record, we enjoyed doing that a lot, but now we’re going to push it to the other extreme, and this album will be one that people can dance to, which we haven’t done since about 1989. And that’s partly because of our experience doing these big gigs, we just wanted to have a few more dance numbers. And we wanted to explore a bit of funk, a bit of EDM. I’m looking forward to it.’
HUE & CRY
The Spring Arts Centre, Havant
Sunday, February 17