Flaunting both their range and their tremendously evocative productions, Massive Attack recorded one of the best dance albums of all time.
All Music
Twenty-plus years later, it still sounds ahead of its time and remains an influential, genre-spanning work.
AV Club
Bristol’s rich musical history led to a creative surge in the 1980s and 90s, of which Blue Lines remains the peak.

Massive Attack's debut album, Blue Lines came out in April 1991, so you'll have to forgive me as I'm nearly 6 months behind on writing this post to mark its 25th anniversary. 

What prompted me writing this post, was after reading this excellent review of Blue Lines that was featured on Vulture.com last month. I can't really add to much more to what was written there, as it pretty much encapsulates my feeling for this legendary album.

So what I'll do in this post is just offer up some rare photos of Massive Attack that were taken around the time of the album's release and a few little bits and pieces of trivia about Blue Lines that you may have missed.

You might also spot some review quotes on the side owing as a testament to the greatness of this album, and embedded at the bottom of this post is a new BBC documentary about the making of Blue Lines.

So what follow's now is a few pieces of collected trivia surrounding the Blue Lines album. If you've been a dedicated fan of Massive's for a while, you've probably heard most of these ones before, but for the uninitiated here goes:

  • The inflammable material logo which featured on the front cover art for Blue Lines was directly lifted from the sleeve art of Northern Ireland punk band Stiff Little Fingers's 1979 debut album "Inflammable Material", whom 3D was a fan of. In 2008, Stiff Little Fingers took part in Massive Attack's curation of London's Meltdown festival.
  • From early to mid 1991, Massive Attack were forced to change their name to just "Massive" on the advice of their then manager Cameron McVey, who believed they would find it hard to get radio airtime, as the Gulf War was ongoing at the time and it was felt that the words "Massive Attack", were too insensitive and controversial to be uttered on the radio. As a result nearly all copies of the Unfinished Sympathy single are printed with just "Massive", while about 25% of the initial UK printing of Blue Lines have  just "Massive" on them.
  • Geoff Barrow, who went on to form Portishead, was an intern and trainee tape operator at Bristol's Coach House studio when the album was mixed and mastered.
  • Quite probably the the first song produced for Blue Lines, Daydreaming was a product mostly of 3D and Tricky coalescing their lyrical ideas together on such things as house parties, drugs, the 1980’s under Margaret Thatcher and urban decay in Britain. It was on the strength of a demo of Daydreaming that got Massive Attack signed to Circa Records back in 1990, which ultimately led the way to the multi-million selling album career they possess now.
  • The string section for Unfinished Sympathy was conducted by British music producer Wil Malone leading a 40 piece orchestra at London's famous Abbey Road studios. Massive Attack had not correctly budgeted for the cost of hiring a full orchestra, and ultimately Mushroom was forced to sell his car (a Mitsubishi Shogun) at the time in order to cover all the hiring costs for the orchestra.
  • The co-producer of Blue Lines, Jonny Dollar, who would go on to work with such artists as Portishead and Neneh Cherry, died in May 2009 from cancer. Massive Atttck dedicated their 2010 album Heligoland to him as a tribute.
  • Cameron McVey (credited at the time as 'Booga Bear') and his wife, Neneh Cherry provided crucial financial support and in-kind assistance to the early careers of Massive Attack, (also Portishead and Tricky) during this period, even paying regular wages to them through their Cherry Bear Organisation. In 1988, 3D had first helped out Neneh Cherry by co-writing her single "Manchild". She would return the favour on Blue Lines by helping to co-write and provide backing vocals on Hymn Of The Big Wheel.
  • Some of the most well known samples used on Blue Lines include Billy Cobham's Stratus on Safe From Harm, Wally Badarou's Mambo on Daydreaming and Lowrell's Mellow Mellow Right On on Lately.
  • One track produced during the Blue Lines recording sessions, but not ultimately on the album was Just A Matter Of Time, which featured Shara Nelson on vocals. The song saw the light of day in 1992, on a Dance Music Compilation VHS tape as the soundtrack to a short film directed by Roger Pomphrey, which featured Massive Attack wandering the streets of Bristol in search of the elusive Tricky. Unfortunately, besides this aforementioned VHS tape, Just A Matter Of Time has never received a formal release on any other medium. Click here to view the video on YouTube.
  • The majority of Blue Lines was recorded in Cameron MvVey and Neneh Cherry's house in London. Throughout the recording sessions, the studio room gave off a pungent, unsavoury smell. Only at the end of the sessions was it discovered that  a nappy (diaper) belonging to one of Neneh Cherry's children was stuck in a air vent leading into the room. Because of this the band affectionately titled the Blue Lines recording studio "The Poo Room". Mushroom recalled of the incident -“One of the nappies that belonged to Tyson, Neneh Cherry’s kid, got trapped in the air vent. Then they went away for the summer and we were left to work with this terrible smell. So I guess you could say that we’ve got less of a romantic memory of that album than everyone else.”

Finally to round off this post celebrating the 25th anniversary of Blue Lines, it makes sense to point to this excellent new BBC documentary that was broadcast earlier this month and is embedded below for you to watch. 

The program not only explores Massive Attack's background and formation, but also delves into the burgeoning Bristol music scene of the 1970's and 1980's. The documentary is narrated by actor Paul McGann, and features new interviews with long term Massive Attack co-writer/producer Neil Davidge, The Wild Bunch's DJ Milo, drum and bass superstar Roni Size and The Pop Group's Mark Stewart.

Anyway thanks for reading and if you want to respond with your own thoughts on Blue Lines turning 25 this year please do so below in the comment section.

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