A nice kind of problem to have
by Jerry Gilbert
from Sounds early'73 - discovered by Michael Clayton

As yet Alan Hull has made little headway with the constitution of his new band. We know that it's going to be a 6 piece and we know that the line up has been finalised - they're all from Newcastle and all have worked with Alan at some point along the line. But the only name he was willing to mention was that of Kenny Craddock. Hully is making no rash promises about the future; he realises that his organising capacity is fairly limited and he is reluctant to commit his band to playing anything as monstrous as the Crystal Palace Garden Party in June.

"The other band are dead good at organising so they'll come together quicker" he predicted. But Lindisfarne will be gigging in June, of that there is no doubt, and dates have already been set up down in the West Country, but at the moment it's his own solo album that's foremost in Hully's mind.

"It's due out on June 8th and the people I've used on it are Johnny Turnbull, Kenny Craddock, Ray Jackson, Colin Gibson, Ray Laidlaw and Dave Brooks." 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…"

Jerry Gilbert,  Sounds