Newcastle upon Tyne,
England, over the years has given us some
of the greats of the rock world, 'The
Animals', 'The Police', and 'Geordie'
to name but a few (well, perhaps Geordie
weren't as great, but they did give us
Brian Johnston, lead singer with AC/DC
today). None of these bands were greater
than 'Lindisfarne’ especially in
the early seventies. In fact, in the polls
carried out in 1972 by the leading English
musical paper Melody Maker they were the
number one band in Britain, with the Rolling
Stones coming second, and Pink Floyd third.
Lindisfarne's rise to fame was as spectacular
as their falling back to the ranks of
the second division. It all started in
1969, in the folk clubs of Newcastle,
when the very talented folk music singer/songwriter
Alan Hull decided to try a few of his
songs with a backing band. So he called
upon his pals in a band called Bretheren
(that is the correct spelling) for a few
gigs and to record an album which was
finally released under the marvelous moniker
"Take Off Your Head And Listen".
But a re-think was in order and they
re-christened to ‘Lindisfarne’.
They made their debut at Newcastle City
Hall in July 1970, and then, before the
end of the year, released this album plus
single 'Lady Eleanor' (a song that sounds
like a love song, but is actually about
a certain lady vampire) on the newly formed
Charisma record label, along with other
such upstarts at the time like 'Steamhammer',
'Van Der Graf Generator', 'Audience ',
and a little theatrical rock band called
'Genesis'. Some of these bands became
household names; some are now just a distant
At first, sales were limited to the north-east
of England, but that all changed the following
year when the band started non-stop touring.
By the summer they were playing at all
the major festivals. They had released
their second album ‘Fog on the Tyne’,
which debuted on the U.K chart at number
one, and had a number five hit single
with the Rod Clements penned 'Meet Me
On The Corner', on the strength of which
Charisma rush-re-released 'Lady Eleanor'.
This time it roared up the charts and
was quickly followed by a re-appearance
of ‘Nicely Out Of Tune’ in
the album charts. But it is still 'Nicely
Out Of Tune' that was their finest hour.
Of the eleven songs that were put on
the original album, nine were written
by Alan Hull. Songs Alan had been singing
on the folk club circuit for years, but
now had been given extra sharpness and
clarity by his Geordie mates gathered
around him. We also get one song from
Rod Clements and one from band mate Rab
Noakes. All of Lindisfarne were multi
instrumentalists, so there was always
plenty of swapping of instruments on stage.
There are protest songs mixed in with
love songs, ballads, and kick up your
heels barn dances. But through it all
there is a feeling of fun and kindred
spirit. Alan Hull singing 'The Winter
Song' would send shivers down any spine.
'Clear White Light Part Two' is the first
song Lindisfarne ever played together,
and was the final encore when they once
and for all called it a day at their final
concert November 1st, 2003 - naturally
at the Newcastle City Hall.
Listening to it today, it still sounds
as fresh as it did thirty five years ago.
'We Can Swing Together', although written
by Alan Hull, is a showcase for the voice
and harmonica playing of Ray Jackson.
You cannot help but sway to the rhythm,
sing along with the chorus, all the time
punching your fist in the air. In concert
'We Can Swing Together' would be spread
out to over twenty minutes of zany musical
Rod Clements only contributes one song
to the original collection, a song of
unrequited love, 'The Things I Should
Of Said'. Fortunately one of Rod's songs
that was used as a B-side to a single
has been included here as a bonus track.
'Knackers Yard Blues', a song on the misery
of getting older, which includes the lines:
"I bought some pictures to hang
on my wall,
but like a changin' so I moved them all,
but nothing ever changes in the human
I can get another mirror, but it's still
the same old face."
Lindisfarne's time at the top of the
rock 'n' roll tree was limited. In fact,
one more album after 'Fog On The Tyne',
'Dingly Dell', the band split in two in
1973. Alan Hull and Ray Jackson recruited
new musicians and carried on with the
Lindisfarne name, while Rod Clements,
Ray Laidlaw, and Simon Cowe formed the
aptly named 'Jack The Lad'. They later
reformed, but the initial magic was gone.
Anyway, by then Charisma were taking a
bit more interest of those chaps in Genesis.
However, for English folk/rock at its
absolute best, look no further than this
Lindisfarne's first album.
Swung by Mott the Dog
Re-stepped by Ella Crew