|The Charisma Chronicle|
|by Michael Wale|
|Disc May 1972 as discovered by Michael Clayton|
DISC presents The Charisma Chronicle 26,27,28,29 May 1972
The first time I saw Lindisfarne they were bottom of the bill at the Lyceum in London in January 1971. It was a time when music was trying to struggle free of an over reliance on "heaviness" and here suddenly was this Geordie group getting 1,200 Southerners to clap their hands and join in the "Blaydon Races".
There is something about Newcastle that I've always liked. If you go to Manchester or anywhere else in the alleged North of England the first thing people talk to you about is London. Most people around the place secretly yearn to "make it" in London. All of which I find rather sad. Not so in Newcastle. Up in the north east there is a certain honest grittiness
unhampered by the trend-craziness of the south, a people bound together largely through adversity. An economy based on mining and ship-building wasn't exactly carved out for the '70s.
The Animals back in the early '60s had the same quality. A gauche musical honesty that could not be refused. The similarity did not end there. While The Animals only took a morning to make their first album, Lindisfarne finished theirs Nicely Out Of Tune, in a mere seven days, nothing by today's Rolling Stones standards.
Produced by John Anthony, it was an album of simplicity, naturally enough because of the time factor, but none the worse for all that, featuring as it did Lady Eleanor, a story in itself. Lady Eleanor was the group's second single and sold about 4,000 copies on its first outing. Recently re-released, as a result of the success of the group's third single, Meet Me On The Corner, Lady Eleanor began to sell so strongly that it entered the charts. A tactic I think more groups and management should do with good records that don't make it first time out. After all Atomic Rooster got a hit that way.
For their second album, Fog On The Tyne, which was made last summer, manager Tony Stratton-Smith took the bold step of bringing over American produce Bob Johnston to work with the group. Johnston, who once wrote songs for Presley under another name, had produced many albums for Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, Leonard Cohen and Johnny Cash. Lindisfarne were the first British group he had worked with. Why did he do it?
"Well, I heard their first album, it was sent to me at home in Nashville and I thought it sounded a bit like I would call a 'phonograph' record but I liked what I heard from the group."
Ray Jackson recalls: "We were a bit intimidated by him at first, then as we got into the album we found he was just another bloke. He tended to take too much of a hand at first, it took us about a week to get over that. He's not a producer now, he's a friend instead of being a big producer up there in a chair. He's just been over in London for a few days to discuss the next album which we'll be recording in July.
"I think it will probably be a bit more 'rocky' this time. We've made a couple of rather placid albums so far. We've always tended to be a bit more placid on albums than we are on the stage, we don't seem to get into it in the studio."
One number which was on the first album and could never be described as "placid" is a song by Alan Hull which became as much an anthem of the young on Tyneside as the Blaydon Races had been for their parents: We Can Swing Together.
I've always wished that British pop lyrics could record, report and comment upon more of what happens around us than they do. I think Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young's Ohio, written in the summer of 1970 about the shooting of students at Kent State University, is one of the most poignant musical pieces of our time.
We Can Swing Together was based on fact as well. It concerned a party held in Newcastle in 1969 which was "busted." Subsequently there was a successful law case against the Constabulary.
Alan Hull is the songwriter of the group although Jacka repeat Jacka told me recently that he'd like to write a song or two "if only I can really work out how to do it." If he doesn't, though, Hull has an incredible tape bank of songs numbering three or four hundred that could last the group for ever.
Certainly there is a feeling that because of the success of Meet Me On The Corner there will now be a demand for Lindisfarne songs from other artists. An irony this, because that is one of the few songs not written by Hull, it was written by Rod Clements.
Success has been a long time coming for the group, which gives their performance more strength. Jacka says: I've always held a strong faith in the group that we would do well. There were a few occasions when we had minor setbacks and we thought 'Oh, God!' We made an album, you see, right at the beginning down at Morgan Studios which was never released, and when there was a delay on the release of our first album at Charisma we thought 'right, here
we go again.' By the way Charisma have now bought all the tapes we made at Morgan so we may get an album or something out of them yet, but if they're no good we can get rid of them. At least they won't be brought out against our will.
"Then Alan has had so many setbacks and disappointments. He was with a group called The Chosen Few who were promised the earth. They had a quarter of an hour show every week on Radio Luxembourg. He used to write all the numbers even then."
Festivals have played a good part in Lindisfarne's progress, Reading, Weeley, the Oval last year, and now Lincoln. "Weeley was the good one for us," says Jacka, "I like them because you can play to all these people at once and it's really a good test in getting your music over to an audience."
Of the group's music so far Jacka says he likes: "City Song because I was driving down from Newcastle one day and Alan Hull sat in the back of the van and wrote that. I liked Passing Ghosts although I think it could have been a bit more arranged, and Meet Me On The Corner. You tend to lose the original feeling about a song like that because it's been a single and you've had to play it on stage so many times, but really considering it, I like it very much."