Lindisfarne – Down to Earth Superstars
 by Caroline Bouchery
Disc and Music Echo Nov 6 1971 - discovered by Mike Clayton

Lindisfarne are not a group to beat about the bush. One of the first things they’ll tell you is that they’re good, honest, working class up North, no-place-like-home lads and nothing will change them. In the next breath they’ll tell you that they’ll be as big as the Beatles. So when you’ve got your own breath back, picked yourself up off the floor and generally got attuned to this no-nonsense policy, you can’t do much but agree, because they’re a good group.

“The kids in Newcastle have given us their support because we’ve come down to London and shit on a lot of groups that were born with silver spoons in their mouths,” says Alan Hull. “We were born with pickaxes in ours and we spat them right out at them.” He leans back and grins at you beakily. He’s been hailed as one of the finest up-and-coming songwriters in the country today, another Lennon and McCartney. Certainly he has Lennon’s love of vitriol. 

We want to be as big as the Beatles because we’ve got what they had. And we want to give fans as much as they did – their free records at Christmas, little things nobody does anymore but that they laboriously did as a matter of principle. And other things like never releasing a single off an album like everybody does now – that’s a con, it really is. “But I don’t think there’s any point in having an ambition if you don’t aim for the best. The Beatles were the best in the world and if I want to be in the same business then I must try and better them. I honestly think that in about two years’ time we could produce an album to the standard of ‘Abbey Road’.”

At the moment as they rapidly ascend the lower slopes toward the pinnacle of their career, they have the usual vicious circle of too much work. On the one hand as their albums sell more and more, and the group becomes more in demand, so the pressure of work begins to tire them and their material begins to suffer. Alan, at the moment, is in the throes of buying a house near London so he can bring his wife and children down from Newcastle, where he rarely has time to go now. And he’s scarcely writing now.

“In 1969 I wrote 60 songs. That was when I was on the dole and cleaning windows occasionally. Since then, since we’ve been successful, I just haven’t had the time. I’d like the group to be a little more selective about their choice of work and leisure and their time for being alone because I want to see if my songwriting has developed, I don’t know. We’ve been working terribly hard and I think my songs may grow to be a reflection of that. 

“Great song writers in this world are John Lennon, Dylan and Robbie Robertson of the Band. All their work reflects something that is totally real; you couldn’t deny that a simple statement from Lennon is the truth, in the same way Robbie Robertson uses images and feeling that evoke the whole tradition of the East Coast of America. “I really do feel sorry for some bands that have got an album coming out and say ‘ooh, we must write something’ and scrape around and try to get something together. I can’t even hate them, I just feel sorry for them.”

Alan writes on guitar and piano and usually gets a tune first, the mood of which suggests the lyrics to him. “Sometimes it comes like a flash, words and music together making a nuisance of itself in my subconscious and comes out in a rush like vomit.” He is very emphatic and totally committed to Lindisfarne’s music. For him, he says it was a new and magical experience from the first time they all started playing together. He used to be a solo folk artist, and as such covered most of the northern clubs. 

A Few Tips
He was running a folk club when he met the group. “They’d just thrown away their heavy gear and wanted to do something a little more intelligent.  “I honestly thought that was magic just the feeling we got – we still get. Playing the music you get lost in it, I don’t know what it’s like to be in the audience, but onstage it’s magic.” His folk singing days have taught Alan a few tips. Like, identifying and involving an audience by means of songs with choruses that they can sing along to, rhythms they can clap to – all that is very important.

The latest album is now selling like hotcakes, and funnily the first one is still selling quite a lot too. The band hit the headlines with their third (sic) album being produced by the famous Bob Johnston.  “In fact he was very easy to work with. He’s a producer of people as well as of records. He could see things that we couldn’t because we were too near, too involved. He forced the good things out and he was very quiet about the bad things. Most of the things were first or second takes.”

Their main aim now is to get the balance of work right to enable them to keep a sane outlook on the future. But they don’t joke when they threaten to be as big as the Beatles. . . a lot of people would agree with them.