Aztec Camera: Are you “Oblivious”?(!) Somewhere in our hearts, there is a star that shines for them!

by Christopher Smith

Aztec Camera were a collaboration of TWENTY TWO different musicians who came and went across a fifteen year period but most recognisable for its front and main man, Roddy Frame (born in Scotland in 1964). Frame co-founded the group in 1980 aged just sixteen and after playing the clubs, released their first single “Just Like Gold” the following year through an independent label Postcard Records, founded by singer Edwin Collins. The single, unsurprisingly, didn’t meet with public approval, neither did the follow up “Mattress Of Wire” but what it did do was bring them to the attention of Sire Records, a subsidiary of Warner Brothers, who signed them up.

In November 1982, Aztec Camera released their first single proper “Pillar To Post” which again just missed the charts although it would be the early months of 1983 with a second single “Oblivious”, that would change. “Oblivious” was the precursor to the groups debut album “High Land, Hard Rain” released in April. The album would eventually peak at No.22 in the UK and even make a small dent in the US charts when it reached No.129. The album’s mild success would lead to a re-issue of “Oblivious” (which had made No.47 at the beginning of 1983), this time breaking the UK top twenty at the end of the year.

Frame and an ever changing line up would already be in the studio recording its follow up “Knife”, released in the Autumn of 1984. The album would feature the singles “All I Need Is Everything” (No.36) and “Still On Fire” (No.83) and found a much more appreciative audience when it reached No.14 in the UK, gaining a Silver certification and hitting the charts in The Netherlands and Sweden. It was less so in America where it could only get to No.175. The group would separate at the beginning of 1985 with Frame retaining the name Aztec Camera and gaining a new recording contract with WEA. After two years out of the spotlight and employing just a number of session musicians he returned in 1987 with a third album, “Love”.

The album was preceded by the single “Deep And Wide And Tall”, which failed to reach the top 75 in October 1987. The album would be released the following month and at first did nothing. This all changed in 1988 with the second single “How Men Are” (UK No.25) and a third, “Somewhere In My Heart”, in the Spring of ’88. “Somewhere In My Heart” would go on to become the band’s signature and most recognised song, reaching No.3 on the UK singles chart as well as being a sizeable hit across Europe. The took “Love” back up the charts to eventually reach No.10 in the UK and win a Platinum certification for sales of over 300,000 copies. Strangely, it did the opposite Stateside, where it just managed to edge in at No.193 on the Billboard 200.

“Working In A Goldmine” was released that Summer making No.31 in the UK and that was followed by a re-release of “Deep And Wide And Tall” which this time reached No.55. After a well earned break, Frame was back in 1990 celebrating ten years of Aztec Camera with a new album “Stray” and the single “The Crying Scene” which stalled at No.70 in the UK. Far more successful was the album’s second single “Good Morning Britain”, which returned Frame to the UK top twenty and, along with “The Crying Scene”, gave him two straight hits on the US Alternative Songs chart. The album would make No.22 in the UK gaining a Silver certification, although it would not make an appearance on the US album chart, the first time so far that this would happen.

Frame released the albums “Dreamland” in 1993 (UK No.21) and “Frestonia” in 1995 (UK No.100) before ‘winding’ Aztec Camera up at the end of that year and going it solo under his own name. A “Best Of” was released in 1999 selling 60,000 copies in the UK. The previous year he had released his ‘debut’ solo album “The North Star” which reached No.51 in the UK. He released the albums “Surf” (2002) and “Western Skies” (2006) on another independent label formed by Edwin Collins, Redemption. He played at Ronnie Scott’s famous jazz club that year and released a “Live At” album shortly after. After playing live sets at Glastonbury in 2008 and a 30th anniversary tour of “High Land, Hard Rain” in 2013, he released his fourth studio album “Seven Dials” in 2014, which returned him to the UK album chart for the first time in sixteen years. He toured the album extensively across the UK and Europe into 2015.

Roddy Frame 2019

Stay in touch with Roddy through his WEBSITE and celebrate the music of Aztec Camera at the fan FACEBOOK page

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