The Roddy Frame Experience, to quote the song, can be a frustrating one. Or at least the Roddy
Frame fan experience is.
At the inception of this piece, as snippets of great Aztec Camera tunes and lyrics swirled
around my head, I considered writing a treatise on the magical way, achieved by no other
musician to my knowledge, that Roddy's words and music accompany one another. As a solitary
example, my favourite ever Aztec Camera song, Backwards & Forwards, illustrates my point more
eloquently than a thousand words could ever do. And if anyone knows what he's on about in that
song. But I didn't want to become lost in the realms of academia, because Roddy's work
So instead, I thought readers might be interested in reading about the 'Roddy Frame Album
Preview' that I attended in August 1998. There were five of these events across the U.K that
week, and probably only fans who attended the London Dingwalls concert on 18th August 1998
were aware of them. After the initial worry about availability had subsided and my invitation
had dropped through the letterbox I was free to relax and walking into HMV in Leeds that
Wednesday afternoon, I was as excited as the first time I entered a record shop to buy a new
Aztec Camera release.
The whole idea of the album preview was new to me, although I had heard people talk about
them before. The opportunity to hear the North Star album before it had even been released
was just a massive privilege. But then the paranoia set in. Would it ever be released? I asked
myself as I pulled a dictaphone from my pocket and prepared it for recording. To counter my
companion's astonishment, I cited the example of the great lost album Green Jacket Grey, and
the inexplicable delay between the release of the Spanish Horses single and its long player,
Dreamland. Like I say, being a Framo fanatic is frustrating - misinformation abounds and
prospective releases are curtailed. In hindsight, I was proved right, to a degree, by the
shelving of the Sister Shadow single.
If you can imagine a big room populated by about twenty-five strangers talking in their own
small groups, you can imagine the backdrop to the album preview. As some of the guests queued
at the refreshments table to take advantage of the free pop and crisps, Back To The One
started up in the background, and I made a beeline to a bloke who appeared to be a record
company representative. Sure enough, he was an album rep for Sony - Independiente's
distributors - and after introducing myself as an Aztec obsessive, although omitting to tell
him about my dictaphone - he was a mine of interesting information. He seemed bemused and
amused by my enthusiasm, but also impressed, and imagine my delight when he presented me with
a promo North Star CD, featuring five of the album's cuts, and signed by Roddy himself.
Needless to say it is my most treasured possession and resides in a safe place, with safe
being the operative word.
I had heard many of the songs from the album at the Dingwalls concert, but there were two or
three that were unfamiliar. After the album had completed one play, I checked that my
dictaphone had worked successfully and then sat back in comfort to listen to the second
playing. The album rep introduced me to his colleague, who dealt with singles, and he
explained that he was confident that Reason For Living would break the top forty and that
there were at least three other songs on the album that would make suitable singles. He was
less assured about the actual release date of Reason For Living but stated confidently that
there was no possibility of its being aborted. The albums man also revealed to me that
the North Star would definitely be released on 21st September - in my case, a very nice 25th
The album preview will probably prove to be quite literally a once-in-a-lifetime event. I was
slightly disappointed that dyed-in-the-wool Aztec fans appeared to be thin on the ground, with
many of the guests being local media, but this was offset by the information that the Sony
reps imparted to me. For a couple of hours on that night, it appeared that the impending
release of The North Star was elevated to a status of prime importance - which anyone who's
reading this knows it was!
With a nod to history, the objective in using the dictaphone was to ensure that if the album
release was delayed or cancelled, I had a copy saved. But it has served as a wonderful
additional purpose, for when I played it back before writing this, it transported me back
to that late summer's evening in the record store, and I experienced the sheer excitement
that I felt at that time. The recording is hardly helped by the rattle of crisp bags and
the click of Tetley ring-pulls, but I suppose that's what would be termed an "authentic"
Unless Roddy ever writes an autobiography, the technical hitches that have dogged the release
of many of his records are destined to remain a mystery. But it all adds to the great mystique
and aura that surrounds the man and his music, in the same way that makes me wonder about the
meaning of Backwards and Forwards. It's all part of the Roddy Frame Fan experience.
In reflection, it was a superb night. However, the bidding for my North Star promo mini-CD
starts at £5OO,OOO plus package and posting. I only wish I'd been to a Green Jacket Grey album