In Pursuit Of Happiness
'Happiness' is the opening track on the Blue Nile album, 'Peace At Last'. It's a record that appeared with little fanfare in 1996 and was only the act's third album release in 16 years. But for Nile watchers, this was a monumental appearance. The band's records are subtle, considered and quietly emotional. There were a few forlorn reactions at first, in that the new songs seemed to be led by acoustic guitar, rather than the electronic washes of 'A Walk Across The Rooftops'(1983) and 'Hats' (1989). And while those earlier records were full of questing, forlorn messages, this time around writer Paul Buchanan seemed comfortable in his own skin, even spiritual.
But the record had much to recommend it, and 'Happiness' was even used by the Scottish Tourist board. Some years later, I was co-presenting a radio show with the writer and music industry veteran Paul Charles. He had named a book 'Family Life' after a song on the album and he took great pleasure in talking about the birth of 'Happiness'.
The nub of the story is that Buchanan didn't want a professional choir on the song, and through a mixture of chance and design, he found some keen amateurs, who gave the track its proper charm. I guess Ronan Keating must have also been wise to the song's power as he performed it at Stephen Gately's funeral . And I think I shall play the Buchanan version on my next Monday show.