The short story: BLUE TRAIN, the 4 piece rock quartet from Nottingham, England, made a significant impression on the US charts in the summer of 1991 when their debut single ‘ALL I NEED IS YOU’ was released. The single received over 70,000 radio plays that summer, spending 13 weeks in the Billboard Hot 100 chart, becoming a US Top 40 hit before losing steam. The album from which the single was taken, ‘THE BUSINESS OF DREAMS’ was acclaimed as great collection of modern rock songs. Sadly, success was short lived and the band split, leaving a huge backlog of unreleased material and with a lost promise of great things to come.
The longer story: In September 1980 keyboard player Simon Husbands placed an ad in a local Nottingham UK paper, looking for musicians to work with in a new band. Originally from Frodsham, Merseyside, guitarist Alan Fearn answered the ad – and together, after exploring some initial ideas, they teamed up with singer Andy Shread and drummer Paul Betts ( both well established local musicians too ) to process some new material. Shread did not last long, and left. Bass player Mick Beeston was recruited, and the search started for a new singer.
The search took nearly a year – after trying out a number of singers ( some serious, some not ) Tony Osborne entered the picture. Another locally produced musician, he seemed to fit the bill perfectly – the band all shared a love of good songs, powerful delivery and a need to get out there in the world and deliver. The combination clicked.
From October 1981 when Tony completed the line up, the band worked extensively on writing, rehearsing and recording. Collaborating on material, the band recorded demo after demo in it’s own studio in the Lace Market in Nottingham, and started pushing the tapes into the labels. The response was almost immediate – labels loved the music, but wanted more. The band started gigging, mostly around Nottingham, trying to build up a good fan base. Labels came to see, and whilst interest was high, none would bite and give the band a deal.
And so the work continued…..writing, recording, playing……..trying to get the mix right, trying to find the perfect sound, the ultimate song.
The band signed a management deal with a London based company – fronted by well known industry figures Charlie Crane and Keith Blackhurst, the managers tried to help the band secure the deal that had been so elusive. Eventually the managers felt unable to continue, but by this time the band had met USA A&R / producer legend George Daly. George had worked with the Cars, The Tubes etc. and saw such promise in the band that it made him sign them up to a production deal.
In 1987 a major set back hit the band – Mick Beeston quit. Pressures to succeed had forced the band in different directions and Mick was a casualty. After trying a few other bass players ( John Thompson, Tim ‘Nibbs’ Carter) eventually the remaining 4 members ( Alan, Tony, Paul and Simon ) decided to continue without a bass player, instead deciding to use sequencers and synth bass lines. This nod towards technology dominated the sound for the next few years, although the emphasis remained on the songs themselves. For the next 2 years, the band made more demos. Success seemed close – the band worked with Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones as part of the Pernod sponsored AIMS project. George Daly was eventually signed to head up the A&R department at the fledgling BMG label, Zoo Entertainment, run by Daly’s friend and colleague, Lou Maglia. George brought the band with him. They signed to Zoo and agreed to record an album for the label – choosing to record in Los Angeles. The band upped and moved to the US.
Recording took place over a 6 month period ( December 1990 to May 1991 ) and was a period of change for the band as they tried to decide how to pitch themselves on the radio friendly market of the USA. Eventually a style started to evolve and at the end, the band had 10 songs recorded. George Daly had worked closely with the band in the studio, producing and guiding the sound into a radio friendly format. Initial listening by radio indicated that the song ‘ALL I NEED IS YOU’ was very marketable and so the song was released as a single. It subsequently received over 70,000 radio plays and was featured in the show ‘Baywatch’ and spent 13 weeks in the Billboard Hot 100. The song went to #29 in one of the national radio charts, and to #3 in 6 major metropolitan charts. The song was a success. The album from which it was taken, ‘THE BUSINESS OF DREAMS’ was released late 1991 and music from it was featured in the TV show ‘STARSEARCH’. Alex Henderson of the ALL MUSIC GUIDE wrote of the album:“For all its slickness and high-tech production gloss, this is a CD that has a lot of heart. The production is interesting; but even without it, R&B-tinged pop/rock offerings like ‘Don’t Ask Me Why’ and ‘The Hardest Thing’ would have been appealing and memorable“.
Late 1991 brought bad news – the label could not afford the success. Sales had been poor despite the radio exposure, and the fledgling label had political issues. These factors caused the label to withdraw funding and the follow up single “The Hardest Thing” was not promoted – despite which it went to #15 in the Billboard Breakers chart before the label pulled the single. The band eventually returned to the UK to try to secure a deal over there but the politics had soured the way forward and the record was over. The band, torn apart by their experience quietly stopped work and turned to other things. Blue Train left behind a large unreleased back catalog of songs and a great talent that never was fully realized.
TONY OSBORNE lives near Grantham UK and records his own music in his home studio, as well as travelling the country with Beatles tribute band The Fab 4. ALAN FEARN lives and works in Nottingham, UK, where he continues to play and work professionally with guitars and guitarists. PAUL BETTS continues his love of drums and drumming – currently he plays in a Spandau Ballet covers band. He lives in Long Eaton, Notts. SIMON HUSBANDS lives in Minneapolis USA, where he continues to write and produce music, as well as performing in several bands. He also owns a music technology company and an award winning web design company. He also presents a acclaimed weekly radio show called True Brit! which plays nothing but British music. MICK BEESTON moved to Greece. After suffering for a number of years with various conditions, he moved back to Nottingham but sadly passed away in 2014.