Who are The Blue Nile, the Scottish band Taylor Swift references on Guilty as Sin?

Taylor Swift fans are scrambling to decipher the US artist’s many lyrical references on new album The Tortured Poets Society.

The Grammy-winning artist released her 11th studio album at midnight (5am GMT) on Friday 19 April, then announced an extended “anthology” version shortly after.

Swifties were surprised to learn that the majority of songs do not, in fact, appear to be about her six-year relationship with British actor Joe Alwyn, with exceptions such as “So Long, London” and “loml”.

Instead, much of her songwriting seems inspired by her brief fling with The 1975’s frontman Matty Healy, whom she dated around April and May last year.

On “Guilty as Sin?” she sings about “fatal fantasies” for someone from her past who sends her the 1989 song “The Downtown Lights”, by Scottish band The Blue Nile (she might have felt a particular affinity for the song as it was released the year she was born).

“Drowning in The Blue Nile/ He sent me ‘Downtown Lights’,” she sings. “I hadn’t heard it in a while/ My boredom’s bone deep/ This cage was once just fine/ Am I allowed to cry?”

Swift and Healy dated briefly after she split from actor Joe Alwyn (Getty Images)
Swift and Healy dated briefly after she split from actor Joe Alwyn (Getty Images)

Healy has mentioned his love for the Glasgow-formed trio on several occasions, calling them his “favourite band off all time”.

He also said that The 1975’s song “Love It If We Made It” was inspired by “The Downtown Lights”, calling it “Blue Nile on steroids”.

“Musically, they’ve inspired me so much,” he told Vulture in a 2016 interview. “There’s so much drama. It’s perfect nighttime music. It’s beautiful, romantic music with British sensibilities. The sounds on it are amazing.”

The Blue Nile were formed by childhood friends Paul Buchanan and Robert Bell, with Paul Joseph Moore joining the lineup in 1981.

“The Downtown Lights” was released as the lead single from their second studio album, 1989’s critically adored Hats. It reached No 67 in the UK and stayed in the charts for three weeks.

Somewhat unfortunately for fans, the band liked to take their time making new music; it was another seven years before they released their third album, Peace at Last.

“Obviously, we didn’t produce records very often; we didn’t try to generate an image of any kind,” Buchanan told The Quietus in a 2012 interview. “So no, I wouldn’t say we were careerist.”

The Blue Nile haven’t released new music since 2004 (Alamy Stock Photo)
The Blue Nile haven’t released new music since 2004 (Alamy Stock Photo)

And while the band haven’t released any new music since their fourth album, High, in 2004, they have never officially disbanded.

However, frontman and principal songwriter Paul Buchanan had a top 10 hit in the UK when he featured on “Sleep” by Texas, which peaked at No 6 on the charts.

“I don’t know what happened with the band,” he told The Quietus. “It’s up to everybody, and, in a way, I ended up making the [new solo] record for a number of reasons, but I suspect my uncertainty… and kinda mournfulness about the group was one of them.”

Swift will launch the UK leg of her Eras tour in Edinburgh, Scotland, this June.