INSIDE THE BOOKING OF LINDISFARNE
Like many of you I first heard the band by pure luck, or fate, as the case may be. For any American that had the chance to come across the music of Lindisfarne you just had to be in the right place at the right time. My right place just happened to be Zurich, Switzerland in 1972 where, at an age of 22, I had met a waiter at the Hilton who was from Harlow, Essex who turned me on to Nicely Out Of Tune.
Flash ahead from 1972 to 1986. I had been trying for some time to find other Lindisfarne albums. Through the years I had collected some Alan Hull solo albums, some Jack the Lad, and the Mark II band's Roll on Ruby and Happy Daze.
By this time I was a furniture salesman/decorator and there was "that day" with a late night and I just knew someone who had just started their day at one of these record companies must know something about Lindisfarne. Ah Ha ! The very first one did and after being forwarded several times I was referred to Barry McKay. That name rang a bell ! He told me that Ray Laidlaw was the band's manager and gave me his "home number". I was in seventh heaven. I knew that Ray was the drummer. I, of course, was hoping to get the number of none other than Alan Hull Himself, but ole well, the drummer will do fine. I had a cover story about being willing to help find some shows in Arizona for the band, but mainly was calling as a fan and to find out where to get more albums and to see if Lindisfarne was still about. I was quite nervous, after all, in my book this was a more important band than the Beatles, so it was like calling to try and talk to John Lennon and getting to talk to Ringo Starr. Still a fantastic honor.
I called and Ray's wife Lesley answered. I introduced myself and she was quite lovely to chat with. She said Ray would be back about Tea Time. I said I would call then, of course I had no idea when Tea Time was. I knew it wasn't golf, but took a stab it was late afternoon. Bingo ! Ray Laidlaw Himself.
To make a long story short..... we grew slowly into a relationship that just kept on getting closer all of these years until it has moved on to a professional level, but over these past 13 years I discovered that I simply found the best human on earth. Generous to a fault, dedicated to his family and friends and one of the best drummers to ever take up sticks.
Well, back to the story. Ray and I had a great chat and he promised to send some albums out to me. Having no experience with musicians on this level I was still unsure that they would ever show up at all. However, they did arrive, about 5 albums I had never heard, and for free. Wow !!
That started my wife, Maria, and I sending things of an Arizona nature, like a subscription to Arizona Highways magazine, to the Laidlaw's and in return things from Newcastle coming our way. We had a long standing invitation to come to Tynemouth, but never made it, for one reason or another, until finally in 1996 my wife and I went to Newcastle to met Ray and Lesley and the family. We arrived as fate would have it on the same day that Alan Hull's ashes were scattered into the Tyne river, were picked up by Ray and taken to kind of a wake at Maggy Bank, meeting Pat Hull, Alan's wife, and many of his closest friends. We even had the opportunity to look at and pass around some of Alan's original hand written songs.
Anyway that trip will forever stand in my memory as one of the great moments of my life. We rode with Billy and Ray and Billy's son to see the band in their 1st concert in Newcastle since Alan's death, at the Euro '96 concert. The new line up was simply incredible. Dave Denholm did January Song and you could feel the emotion coming from the crowd.
I came away from that concert with many memories, and one confirmed conviction. That Lindisfarne is better than ever and that there must be some way to get the band to America so that audiences over here can know what I know, that there is no live band performing today that is better than Lindisfarne.
OK, that's a given. So how do I do it. At this point I am a sales manager for a fine furniture store in Tucson and have not been involved in any real music industry stuff since 1978 and even then just on a small scale. How do you put together a major tour for a band of the legendary history of Lindisfarne that has not toured for 27 years over here. It is obvious. With a lot of hard work and luck.
First I tried finding an agent that would take it on. At the same time the band was looking in Nashville to get a southern interest going. No luck an either direction. I, of course, had no clue how to do it myself, but I started out by calling to areas that I thought might be good in the west and started trying to find someone in Tucson to promote a show here. If you can believe this, I would call a city and talk to the Chamber of Commerce to find out about venues and promoters in the area. Then call and if they weren't the right one I would ask them for leads to others. I had done this for about 6 months before I started getting some real possibles to line up. Even then with the band holding that May/June 1998 for a tour over here, it was just not happening. I was on the verge of giving up when a top venue in Vail, Colorado called me with an offer for the band to do the Hot Summer Nights show in Vail and another show in Breckenridge. The offers were for good dollars, but for too late in the summer. I had to turn them down, however it proved one important thing. The band could get shows of importance here in the USA.
We started over and decided to concentrate on a 1999 tour and I took the commitments we had in Vail and went back to the drawing board. By this time I had started to learn some things about the industry, for example did not know the difference between an agent or a promoter or even what backline was. I was fortunate to have come across some very understanding people in the industry during that year that took me under their wings and taught me some of the basics. I had to learn about immigration, contracts, sound equipment and all the scheduling stuff not to mention putting the transportation and hotels and travel plans together. And the Media and Radio shows. Another lesson in that. I did not even know what a publicist did.
Well, I did it ! It took a year and a half, no computer, no education in booking and all the while working full time as a furniture manager, but I put together 20 shows in Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Kentucky and Ohio. Many were quality shows that top bands in the states would love to have. Many were duds. All in all the tour was a success. Considering the growing pains of myself and Lindisfarne it was a great accomplishment. The band headlined the last concert on tour at the Fourth of July concert in Avon, Colorado before 20,000 people who arrived never having heard of "Linda's Farm" before and went away with Clear White Light to guide them on their way.
And I went from taking two years to book 20 shows for Lindisfarne, to doing the Tarras tour, another off shoot of the Geordie connection, 29 shows ( for this Nov/Dec ) in four months and at the same time booking ten shows in the east for this February for Lindisfarne. In fact I now have five bands from England on my roster and have been working closely with Rounder Records and Putumayo World Music on two of them , Tarras and Equation. I have Jacqui McShee's Pentangle touring in April/May and Equation, Lindisfarne and Tarras touring in February 2000. Huw and Tony Williams, from Wales, are touring in November 2000. I had to quit my day job and I have a lot more grey hair, but the future is looking up and I like this crazy business. It is a little like art and business all rolled together. You need to have a strong constitution and you end up being a travel agent, a music critic, a salesman, a business office manager, a tour manager and a little bit of whatever it takes special to do it well. It also takes a lot of hours, just ask my wife, the work day never ends. I never seem to get caught up. I hope to start to see the fruits of my hard work coming in the way of, live on, type of dollars this spring. Until then it is my lot to keep on booking and hope for the best.
I have learned that you can not keep everyone happy all the time in this business, but you just try your best, and try to keep the music up front. I have found many people on all sides of the business that seem to have forgotton that simple thing. That we are not here to make the big dollars ( some are ) or to impress everyone on how much we know, but to do service to help get the quality music that these fine folks make out to the public. Even some of the venues seem to have forgotten that very thing. I have finally found my position in this world of music. I believe that I have been successful to this point because of one thing above all else. I started this all for the right reason. For the music. If I go on to become a real success at this I have Ray Laidlaw and Lindisfarne to thank for that, and a waiter from Harlow, Essex that I lost contact with many years ago. Thank you both and may the clear white light still guide us on.
This is a pivotal tour that may well decide the future tours of the United States for Lindisfarne. We need all you fans to start calling the venues that you can make it to and start buying tickets, now. We need to convince the shows that there are a whole army of underground fans out there just waiting to get a chance to see Lindisfarne. I ask you all to get on the phone to all of your friends and get everyone involved at once to get this tour to be well attended at all of these shows. I have worked hard to get the band to some of the best venues around and the band will be there for you all at their musicial peak , so do me and Lindisfarne proud...get these shows sold out.
I especilly need the Chicago and New York gangs out in force as we do not have great radio support there. I will have the band live on many radio shows in your area, so if you want to know where and when just let me know. If you know any stations that are good in the cities we are in let them , the stations ( and me ) know.
If this goes well the band will be back in Sept/Oct 2000 for a full tour, starting in the west. It is all up to the fans in the States this time. Good Luck.
All the best to all and a very happy holiday to everyone from
Pat Garrett @ Real Good Music !