Paul Quinn

TrackSingle / EP / Album
Breaking PointMCA Records BOU 1
Après SkiMCA Records BOU 1
Pale Blue EyesSwamplands SWP 1
Ain't That Always The WayLetter To Brezhnev
What Can You Do To Me Now?The Phantoms & The Archetypes
Should've Known By NowThe Phantoms & The Archetypes
Punk Rock HotelThe Phantoms & The Archetypes
You Have Been SeenWill I Ever Be Inside Of You
A Passing ThoughtWill I Ever Be Inside Of You
Stupid ThingWill I Ever Be Inside Of You
Bonus Track
Tiger, TigerPregnant With Possibilities EP

Paul Quinn Ain't That Always The Way



Paul Quinn playlist


Contributor: Andrew Shields

Of the large number of excellent male singers who emerged from the independent music scene in Scotland in the 1980s, the two greatest, in my opinion, were Billy Mackenzie and Paul Quinn. Although very different in style, both brought an intense sense of drama to their work. They also had an ability to transform seemingly slight material into soaring and transcendental works of art. They could also both sing in a wide range of styles and across a variety of genres. In a sense, however, this versatility meant that it proved very difficult for the music business to pigeonhole them in the way that it regularly did with lesser artists. One consequence of this was that neither ever really achieved the kind of level of commercial success that their abilities deserved. The flipside of this was that both produced bodies of work which remains fresh, relevant and original today.

Paul Quinn’s involvement in the music business came about through his friendship with Edwyn Collins of Orange Juice fame. While at school in Dundee (where Quinn was born in 1959), they bonded over their shared fondness for artists like Sparks, T. Rex, Brian Ferry/Roxy Music, David Bowie and Lou Reed/Velvet Underground. After Collins moved to Glasgow with his family, the two men stayed in touch and Collins kept Quinn up to date with the latest developments on the music scene there. Quinn also used to visit Glasgow regularly to attend gigs by some of their favourite artists. Like Collins, Quinn’s musical tastes were broad and eclectic and ranged from gospel and soul music (in particular groups like the Chantels and singers like Jackie Wilson and Al Green) to country (as we shall see, he later recorded fine versions of songs originally sung by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson). After Collins formed his own group, the Nu-Sonics in 1976 (renamed as Orange Juice in 1979), Quinn began to contemplate attempting to emulate his friend’s foray into the music industry.

However, his path towards doing so turned out to be a tortuous one. Along with contributing backing vocals to a number of Orange Juice tracks (the most notable of which were Rip It Up, Tongues Begin To Wag and Mud In Your Eye), Quinn also sang on an early recording by the Jazz-tinged group, the French Impressionists. Among the other musicians on the track on which he appeared were Roddy Frame and Campbell Owens of Aztec Camera. It can be heard here. He was also briefly associated with another band, Jazzateers, who, like Orange Juice, were originally signed to the Postcard label. Soon afterwards, they left Postcard and moved to the Rough Trade label. During this time, he was among a number of vocalists who appeared with the band (these included Grahame Skinner and the Rutkowski sisters). This incarnation of the group also recorded an unreleased album, Lee, on which Paul sang a number of lead vocals (one of these can be heard here. It is a radically different version of the song Après Ski that Paul later released with Bourgie Bourgie and which is discussed below. By this time, Alan Horne, the Svengali of the Postcard record company, had become increasingly convinced of Quinn’s potential to become a mainstream pop success. To further this objective, he decided that the two of them should relocate to London to avail themselves of the opportunities it offered. He also tried unsuccessfully to persuade Edwyn Collins that his future lay in writing material for this new potential star.

Unfortunately, Paul Quinn suffered from acute homesickness during the time they spent in London. As a result, when an opportunity arose to rejoin a revamped Jazzateers (now relaunched as Bourgie Bourgie) he jumped at the opportunity. This new incarnation of the group (which featured Mick Slaven and Ian Burgoyne on guitars, Keith Band on bass, and Ken McDonald on drums) was more explicitly soul-influenced than Jazzateers had been. This was partly due to their being impressed by Paul’s ability to shift from his normal low vocal range to a higher-pitched almost Al Green-esque register (a good example of this aspect of his singing can be heard here.)

It also potentially allowed Bourgie Bourgie to achieve a more commercial sound than it previously had. Indeed, this sense that the group was on its way to becoming the ‘next big thing’ led to something of a bidding war among record companies to sign them up. Eventually, this led to their joining the MCA Records stable. Their shift in musical direction was evident on the group’s excellent debut single, Breaking Point.

The single was notable not only for introducing Quinn as a singer of the very first rank but also for its intricate string arrangement by Ian Broudie (later of Lightning Seeds fame). Its B-side, Après Ski, is my second choice. It features some typically superb guitar work by Slaven. The band’s second single, Careless, was a well-crafted piece of 80s pop, but its B-side, Change Of Attitude, was a far more interesting and experimental piece of work. It also indicated one of the directions that the group could have followed if the musical tensions within it had not led Quinn to leave them soon after the single’s release.

The way in which he did so, however – by walking out while the band was in the middle of recording its first album – was to cause him considerable contractual problems afterwards. Once he had left the group, Horne re-emerged to sign him up to his newly formed Swamplands label. There was a certain irony involved in the fact that the first single it released was a cover of the Velvet Underground’s classic Pale Blue Eyes by Quinn and Collins. This was because it was Horne’s favourite song and one – which he regularly complained – his artists on the Postcard label would never be able to compete with. Although my favourite version remains the VU one, this cover comes a close second. Quinn has a far more conventionally ‘good’ voice than had Reed, and his fine vocal here brings out the beauty of the melody in a way that is different from the original. Collins’ guitar playing on the track is also exceptional, with a bright twanginess which, while remaining close to and respectful of the VU’s rendition, nevertheless has a distinctive character of its own. For me, it remains one of the highpoints of Quinn’s recording career.

The next selection, Ain’t That Always The Way, is another collaboration with Collins. It is a very cleverly crafted pop/country song with a typically witty and slightly acerbic lyric by Edwyn. Paul’s vocal on the track also showed his ability to bring a crooner-ish sophistication to the material he sang.


However, this ability to combine urbanity with a genuine soulfulness was perhaps best displayed on the two albums he made with the Independent Group in the early 1990s. The Independent Group comprised some of the finest among those musicians who had been associated with Postcard in one way or another in the 1980s. It had a shifting line-up which included – at various points – musicians of the calibre of the brilliant James Kirk, who had played guitar and written songs as an early member of Orange Juice, the equally excellent guitarist, Mick Slaven, who had played with Quinn in Bourgie Bourgie, Robert Hodgens (aka Bobby Bluebell), the guitarist from the Bluebells, Blair Cowan, the keyboard player from Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, and Campbell Owens who had been the bassist in Aztec Camera. Adding to the Postcard connections, Edwyn Collins produced their first album, The Phantoms & The Archetypes. The record was also very much Alan Horne’s brainchild, who had resurrected the Postcard label to release it. It also marked his eventual success in releasing Quinn from the contractual issues which had bedevilled him since leaving Bourgie Bourgie.

Of the two albums he released with the Independent Group, Phantoms is the more subdued affair. Collins utilised a relatively minimalist approach in producing it and this allowed Quinn’s superb voice to be its centrepiece. The album acted as the perfect showcase for Quinn’s smooth, supple and mellifluous style of singing. His voice also has a deep and resonant quality to it which was perfectly suited to country songs. This quality is well demonstrated in his cover of Willie Nelson’s What Can You Do To Me Now? which is my first selection from the album. It is an indication of its quality that it stands up so well to the comparison with Willie’s original version. The moody, atmospheric, and vaguely noirish quality of the album is also well conveyed in the next two selections, Should’ve Known By Now and Punk Rock Hotel. The latter was sometimes linked to a possibly mythical movie of the same name which Collins and Horne were supposed to be making. Along with Quinn’s superb singing, these selections are also notable for the excellence of the musicianship by the backing band.


Quinn’s real masterpiece is, perhaps, the second album he made with the Independent Group, Will I Ever Be Inside Of You. It is a far lusher and more heavily produced album than Phantoms. The brilliant – if slightly over-the-top – title track even features the classically-trained Scottish singer, Jane-Marie O’Brien, interpolating part of an aria from Delibes opera, Lakmé. At times – although musically very different – the album creates an atmosphere similar to that on Frank Sinatra’s great ‘torch’ albums of the 1950s like In The Wee Small Hours, Where Are You? and Only The Lonely. This air of doomed romance hangs over my next two selections, You Have Been Seen and A Passing Thought, on both of which Quinn is in typically magnificent voice.

The next choice, Stupid Thing, with its superb riff and emotionally charged if ambiguous lyric, is one of the very finest songs ever produced under the Postcard banner (and this is very high praise indeed in my book). Quinn’s vocal performance here is also perfectly judged. A Passing Thought and Stupid Thing had originally appeared in different versions as a Postcard single a few years earlier (Postcard DUBH 933 was the catalogue number). Apparently, this promo video for Stupid Thing shows the musicians who played on the album version miming to the version which was recorded for that single by a slightly different backing band. (I am grateful to Damien Love for this piece of information). For the sake of completeness, the album version, which I have chosen for inclusion (although both versions are almost equally superb) can be heard here.

Sadly, soon after the album was released in 1994, Paul Quinn’s musical career came to an end due to a serious and debilitating illness. Despite this, however, he had already produced a rich musical legacy which – if the response to the recent release of the Postcard retrospective vinyl boxset is anything to go by – has recently begun to attract the kind of renewed attention which its artistic excellence amply deserves.


Bonus Track

This is the final track that Paul Quinn recorded and is a collaboration with the Davy Henderson led group, The Nectarine No. 9. Henderson had been a key figure in the Scottish indie scene in the 1980s, especially through his involvement with the band, the Fire Engines. Tiger, Tiger is a cover of a song recorded by Head on their 1988 album, Tales Of Ordinary Madness. It is an unusually bleak song when compared to Quinn’s previous work and he sings it with a raw intensity which reflects this.



I would like to thank Damien Love and David Lewis for reading and commenting on earlier drafts of this piece. Their help is very much appreciated. Damien’s excellent liner notes for the recent limited edition Postcard vinyl boxset of Paul’s work is also an essential starting point for anyone who is interested in his career.

These two superb websites – Duckworth Square and The New Vinyl Villain also proved extremely helpful in researching this piece. For those interested in exploring Paul’s work further, digital versions of all the Independent Group albums, along with his single releases with Edwyn Collins and some superb unreleased tracks can be found at the Postcard Bandcamp page.







Bourgie Bourgie photo

Bourgie Bourgie promo photo 1984
(Paul Quinn second left)


Paul Quinn at Duckworth Square site

Paul Quinn at The New Vinyl Villain site

“Hungry Beat”
The Scottish Independent Pop Underground Movement (1977-1984)
by Douglas MacIntyre & Grant McPhee (White Rabbit, 2022)

“Simply Thrilled”
The Preposterous Story of Postcard Records
by Simon Goddard (Ebury Press, 2016)

Edwyn Collins and Paul Quinn interview by Muriel Gray (1985 YT)

Paul Quinn official facebook page

Grant McPhee feature on Alan Horne (Penny Black Music 2022)

Postcard Records (Wikipedia)

Paul Quinn biography (AllMusic)

Andrew Shields is a freelance historian, who grew up in the West of Ireland and currently lives in Sydney, Australia. Along with an interest in history, politics and literature, his other principal occupations are listening to and reading about the music of Bob Dylan and, in more recent years, immersing himself in the often brilliant and unduly neglected music of Phil Ochs.

Andrew has also written about Orange Juice, Edwyn Collins, Aztec Camera, Roddy Frame, Josef K, Paul Haig on this site

TopperPost #1,050


  1. Wally Salem
    Dec 6, 2022

    Andrew, this is a brilliant piece on Paul Quinn who is one of the great voices of our generation. I love your song choices and Stupid Thing is one of my all time favorite songs and the cover of Pale Blue Eyes is a thing of sheer beauty. Thanks for compiling these insights and I hadn’t realized the link to Ian Broudie before. Great read!

  2. Andrew Shields
    Dec 9, 2022

    Many thanks for the kind words Wally. Enjoyed researching and writing this one as Paul is still so under-appreciated. Thanks again.

  3. David Lewis
    Dec 14, 2022

    I love the fragility of Paul’s voice. In stark (neither better nor worse though) contrast to Edwyn Collins, his gentle and fragile voice appeals. Great toppermost

  4. Andrew Shields
    Dec 15, 2022

    Thanks for the kind words David. And agree about the vulnerability/ gentleness/ soulfulness in Paul’s voice. A part of what makes him such an exceptional singer.

  5. Dave Stephens
    Dec 19, 2022

    You’ve caught me again Andrew. Never heard of Paul but I get the impression I’m not quite alone. Great voice, excellent material (including that cover). Should be far better known but I guess you’re right, it’s not possible to label him which is what we all like to do. Thanks for a superbly comprehensive introduction.

  6. Andrew Shields
    Dec 21, 2022

    Thanks for the kind words Dave and, yes, it is a shame that Paul is not as well known as the quality of his work deserves.

  7. Dave Coverly
    Feb 23, 2023

    Late to the party, but also wanted to thank you, Andrew, for writing this piece. Wally nearly wrote verbatim what I would have written – so I’ll just say that anything put out into the world that promotes this criminally obscure singer/songwriter is worthy of gratitude and appreciation. My god, that voice. I’ll be sharing this far and wide~

  8. Andrew Shields
    Mar 3, 2023

    Thanks for the kind words Dave and agree that Paul’s voice is one of a kind. He deserves the widest audience possible.

  9. Rhona
    Jan 17, 2024

    I knew Paul quite well when I lived in Dundee 1982-1987 & he had not only a beautiful rich voice but was very modest and unassuming. He was really good friends with my boyfriend who I think was guitarist with him in either Jazzateers and maybe Bourgie Bourgie (before my time). They were both homesick for Dundee when in London so returned. Dundee & Scotland generally had a brilliant music scene at that time.

  10. Andrew Shields
    Jan 18, 2024

    Thanks for comment Rhona and great to hear from someone who knows Paul personally. Thanks again.

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