|Roll On, Ruby|
|from Disc 73 - discovered by Michael Clayton|
There has been a long silence from Lindisfarne. Not an album since Dingly Dell (unless you count the Lindisfarne Live one) and apart from vague reports of faraway gigs, little else. But the silence is soon to be broken. We are at last to hear some positive proof that Lindisfarne did not die when three of their members left more than a year ago.
The proof is an album called Roll On, Ruby. "Unfortunately we had to do it in a rush," ray Jackson says. "We crammed it in-between one lot of gigs and another. We're quite pleased with the final result - the only problem is we know it could have been better. When we went back and listened to the tape again there was a lot we thought could be improved. We did go back and do some again. Country Boy for example. That now sounds completely different from the way it was originally recorded. We'd have liked to re-do some more of the stuff but there just isn't a chance if we're going to get the record out on time."
Although the album may not reach the standards of perfection Jacka would like to have achieved, it should be some indication of what the new band's direction will be. There certainly is an audible difference between Ruby and Dingly Dell.
"I think that this band are more technically talented - they have a better musical technique if you like. That's not meant as any sort of an insult to the guys that left - they were very talented in different ways. So I think this album is just more musical than previous Lindisfarne albums have been." Although the bias is more towards music than lyrics now, Lindisfarne songs have not lost their most important characteristic. The melodic content. The reasons seem to be that although Hull and Jackson are the only original members left, the four newcomers (Charlie Harcourt Craddock and Tom Duffy) have a similar musical background. Charlie explains: "We have all known each other for ages - we were all in Geordie bands at home in Newcastle at the same time."
"In fact, I always admired Charlie's band," Jacka broke in, "so when we were looking around for members of our new band it seemed only natural to go for people we knew." "The similar background has also helped a lot with the breaking in of new members Most of the teething problems have been overcome and we think the band's sounding really good now. When two thirds of your group are new recruits there are obviously going to be some changes. One, which the band considered, was changing the name. At one point we seriously considered it. But Lindisfarne's a great name, and we found that the old fans didn't seem to mind. The first band built up a good reputation and it would have been rather a waste to throw that all away. After all, Alan and I had quite a lot to do with getting that reputation in the first place. We'd never change it now. Keeping it has worked out just fine - and of course the name reminds us of home."
Home is not a place they're seeing much of at the moment. Work, work and more work has been the order of the last year - to iron out any problems in the best possible way. "And to keep us eating," Charlie added ruefully. "With all the equipment and general expenses of running a band, we've had to keep working to survive. It hasn't been easy." Royalties from the sale of this album should help a bit. And it seems obvious that the atmosphere within the band is good. "The new blood has also helped with the song writing. It's given Alan new inspiration, and some of the other members of the band are keen to write too. So both musically and as writers we're a better, much stronger band. And it's a much happier environment."
The New Year will see the new Lindisfarne ready and raring to go. The pattern won't be very different - working to re-establish themselves with former fans and gain new ones. That job could take them all over the world - and a hit album behind them would be a great help. They're not striving to recapture the days of Fog on the Tyne, but to create something new. If Roll On, Ruby isn't the definitive statement of where they're at, they hope their second album will be. And the end of '74 could see them the new members prove as strong as Hull and Jackson obviously believe them to be.
Another Geordie gathering and if you want to draw any conclusions from the heady sessions at Trident that gave birth to the album then that's up to you. All the lads had a whale of a time making it. Guinness was drunk by the crateful and the band worked around the clock until the album was finished. Clearly a lot of that material will form the basis of the new band repertoire and it could be that Alan will have retained some of those session men for the new band. Johnny Turnbull, I understand, was invited to join, although his position with Glencoe looks pretty secure at present.
Initially Alan had got together with Mickey Sweeney and recorded all his old unrecorded songs on a revox. From then on it was plain sailing and the sessions with Sweeney & Ken Scott taking charge went fairly smoothly. "I think everyone enjoyed it - it was a gas for all of us," Hully enthused, although he emphasised that he never set out to work with an all Geordie line up either on record or in his new band - it's just the way fate has acted.
"The new band will contain four songwriters and four singers as well so the problem is going to be keeping the material down. Kenny's doing a solo album at present so there'll be a lot of his songs as well as mine and the Lindisfarne songs. I expect we'll be doing some of the old Lindisfarne stuff, but it won't be heavily featured. I think it's only fair to do some because people will still want to hear them." Alan predicts that the new line up will contain "a lot more musicality but with Jacka there to put in the usual Jacka magic."He plans to announce the line up of the band at any time. "It won't take long to get the band together because everyone's known each other for years. But at the moment we've got two or three hours' worth of material so it's just a case of sorting it all out."
He admitted that the new album sounded more like a group album than a solo album, with Jacka being featured prominently and helping to project some of the old Lindisfarne feel. His own enthusiasm for the album has helped to efface the disappointment of Lindisfarne's decline.
"First of all I was just going to leave the group because I wasn't happy with the way it was going, so I thought I'd just go solo, but after a while Jacka started to think like me so it seemed far better for me and Jacka to start a band. You see, it got to the point where Rod and Si were complaining about the songs and they wanted to do more arranged things like they used to do with Downtown Faction but I never wanted any part of that. I never liked Downtown Faction anyway - they were just another blues band."
Alan contended that it was a lack of confidence above all else, that eventually got the better of the band."Jacka in particular wasn't confident, and he needed to be, and gradually it got worse. But there'll be no sloppiness now, and rather than Jacka HAVING to talk, he'll now talk because he wants to onstage and there won't be all the time wasted between numbers."
But why had the sloppiness been allowed to develop?
"Everyone had a different idea of why it was, and me and Jacka came to the same conclusion and that was basically that it was down to Si who used to take a long time to tune up, as a result me and Jacka had to talk and it didn't sound so good always, but the times when there wasn't that sloppiness it was great."
And so Alan went off to record his solo album, and at the same time he managed to start writing once again with the result that the album strikes a fairly even balance between old and new material."We did Drinking Song live in the studios drunk out of our minds," Alan recalled with a gleam. "In fact we just took over Trident for about 15 hours a day and got really drunk on Guinness, Champagne and Tequila; but it was great working with those guys in the studios again and great watching them work too - I think everyone felt like that."
It was the Trident sessions that started to give Alan ideas for his own band, and he's hoping to have the machine fully operative and out on the road for the middle of June. After a series of West Country gigs to play themselves in, Alan wants to take Lindisfarne up to the City Hall in Newcastle then down to do a major London gig, and if all goes well start a major British concert tour in late summer. "It's good having a challenge and it's years since we played here," he exclaimed.
But was the lack of new material partly responsible for the Lindisfarne split? Had he, as a songwriter, dried up? "It wasn't that - the only reasons I wasn't coming up with new ideas was
because I didn't feel like playing new songs with the band. Since the whole thing's changed, the ideas are there again."
The new band settled naturally into a 6 piece with two lead instrumentalists and a rhythm section alongside Hully and Jacka. "We don't want it to be over arranged but it'll be something that fits the songs because that's the most important thing. I should think it'll be a natural extension of the old Lindisfarne except it'll be better - far better."
Had the tour of Australia and Japan tempted the band to stick together?
"That tour was good, but I never realised that it was only because everyone knew we'd never have to do it again, so as a result it was better."Lindisfarne plan to record their own band album at the earliest opportunity in an attempt to absorb the wealth of material they have at their disposal.
"I still have some new songs left and I'm writing a lot at the moment as well, but it's a nice kind of problem to have…"