Formed by 15-year-old Roddy Frame in East Kilbride in Scotland in 1980, Aztec Camera hit the top of the Independent Charts in the UK in 1983 with their debut album High Land, Hard Rain.
The album was a largely acoustic affair, combining folk, Latin/jazz rhythms and an incisive lyrical flair with stunning results.
The records breezy lead track, Oblivious, was re-issued by their new label, Warners, later that year on the back of the album’s success and became one of the few Aztec Camera singles to break the Top 20. While supporting Elvis Costello in the USA later that year, the young Roddy had to lie about his age to get into the country.
Founder members Campbell Owens (drums) and Dave Mulholland (bass) inexplicably deserted the group before the album’s release, leaving Roddy as something of a one-man show.
He brought in a new cast of musicians for the 1984 album Knife (produced by Mark Knopfler), including seasoned Scottish musicians Craig Gannon (from The Bluebells) and Malcolm Ross (ex-Orange Juice). A more commercial offering, the album featured All I Need Is Everything.
After a world tour, Frame laid low for over two years, penning material for Love (1987), the most successful album of his career, featuring the brilliant tracks Deep And Wide And Tall and Killermont Street.
Initially something of a non-starter, this over-produced but lovely album eventually made the Top 10 almost a year after its release, following the massive Top 5 success of the plaintive Somewhere In My Heart single.
Despite skirting the pop mainstream, Roddy’s subsequent effort Stray (1990) veered off into more eclectic territory. The Top 20 hit, Good Morning Britain, featured a duet with Mick Jones from The Clash and Big Audio Dynamite.
Frame then delivered the albums that fans and critics had waited for.
Dreamland , recorded with composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, and Frestonia proved to be strong collections of emotionally direct, honest songs that rivalled Aztec Camera’s sparkling debut a decade earlier.
The band disintegrated in 1996 as Frame worked on a solo recording project, The North Star, which was eventually released in late 1998 on the Independiente label.
Gary Sanford Guitar