A history of Lindisfarne - pt IV: what happened next
On the 1st of November 2003 at the Newcastle Opera House, it would appear that the Clear White Light which had been Lindisfarne for some 34 years was about to be extinguished...
...but not quite. That Christmas saw the release of 'Time Gentlemen Please' - the band's farewell gig on video, DVD and CD.
In fact there remained a glow for another seven months as Billy, Rod and Dave continued to tour as Lindisfarne Acoustic, their final concert (17th. May 2004) being virtually unpublicised, and held some 300 miles away from their home town at the Elgiva Theatre in Chesham, a suburb of London.
Tyne Tees TV aired 'Northstars - Run For Home’ at 11.30pm on Friday 7th November 2003 which documented the band, including footage of the final Opera House concert. Also around this time there was a press campaign to award to the band status of Freemen of Newcastle, which unfortunately came to nothing.
The glow became a spark two years later when a 'Lindisfarne Big Band' would be formed as a one off line up alongside a version of Lindisfarne Mark 2 for 'The Hull Story', a concert to celebrate the life of Alan Hull - so bizarrely the Mark 2 band would end up surviving the originals!!
A striking fact is that virtually all the Lindisfarne family have spent so much time since 2004 selflessly promoting charities and good causes. A bi-annual charity concert in aid of the Sammy Johnson Memorial Fund has become a regular event since 2004. Sunday For Sammy is a concert of music and sketches featuring many guests including Brian Johnson, Jimmy Nail, Tim Healy, John Miles, Billy Mitchell, Ray Laidlaw, Alan Clarke, Jill Halfpenny, Brendan Healy and Peter Tickell. Held at both City Hall and Sage venues, they were recorded on video and CD (2006 on DVD). The 2008 Sunday for Sammy show is about to be released on DVD; the house band comprised Billy Mitchell, Alan Clark, Charlie Harcourt, Finn McCardle, John Hedley and Ray Laidlaw. In addition to a splendid version of Mark Knopfler’s 'Why Aye Man' sung by Billy, the other musical highlight was a performance by Ray Jackson of 'Warm Feeling' and 'Meet Me On The Corner', followed by a duet with Billy on 'Run for Home'. Jacka also took part in one of the 'Auf Wiedersehen Pet' sketches.
In 2004 Billy Mitchell toured with old pal Brendan Healey as 'Bill & Bren', combining comedy and music. Billy kickstarted his solo career with his 'Backtrackin' tour, which featured some of the songs which had meant most to him during his time in showbiz . This tour was followed by the release of his 'Backtrackin' CD in 2005. The same year saw his brilliantly original ‘The Devil's Ground' CD, which achieved at long last some deserved radio airplay. A year later he formed the Billy Mitchell Band which featured son Tom, Ray Laidlaw, Peter Tickell, and Michael Bailey, debuting at Gateshead's Sage. In 2007 Billy collaborated with Bob Fox on a live CD entitled ‘5 Star B&B', with two U.K. tours (including a Cropredy appearance).
No stranger to the Newcastle pantomime scene, he appeared as an ugly sister in 'Cinderella' (2004), and 'Babes in the Wood' (2005 - an adaptation of the Robin Hood tale). It must be mentioned that Billy played the character of Igor The Useless! Next year saw him play the character of Captain Scuttle in 'Dick Whittington', and in 2007, Maxie & Mitch were Hank and Marvin, the royal bodyguards in 'Sleeping Beauty'.
As mentioned, the Lindisfarne family is no stranger to good causes, and another stalwart is Steve Daggett who has organised (with the assistance of Sue Brind) on an annual basis the Heroes and Scarecrows gigs, held since 2004 at the Magnesia Bank public house in aid of the BBC's Children In Need campaign. Originally billed and promoted on local radio as 'a musical evening celebrating the songs and life of Alan Hull', a feature has been the auctioning of Lindisfarne and Alan Hull memorabilia. As well as Simon Cowe, Ian Thomson, Dave Hull-Denholm, regular local performers of Alan Hull songs have included Simma, The Attention Seekers, and The Magus Band.
Steve followed up his debut 'Troubadour Territory' album in 2005 with the release of ‘Songs In A Carrier Bag', featuring the much acclaimed biographical track 'The Ballad of Jimmy Forsyth'. Musicians on the album included Michael and Rachael Bailey (née Rhoades). In 2004 a limited edition 10 track ‘live in the studio’ CDR called ‘DNA’ was made available.
The Hull Story: Ten years after Alan's passing, a celebratory gig (in aid of the North East Young Musicians Fund) was put on at the Newcastle City Hall (19.11.05) which involved an immense amount of planning; a glossy souvenir programme was produced, and the whole concert filmed and released on DVD. Clips from the vintage BBC2 play 'Squire' (which starred Alan in the leading role) was viewed on a big stage screen, along with a period interview with the great man. Guest artistes (most of whom had some sort of Hull connections) played around thirty covers of Alan's songs to an eager audience. Faces not seen for a while made their appearance; Simon Cowe and Ian McCallum both returned over the big pond, and Ray Jackson came out of his self imposed musical retirement.
There were members of the Mark 2 Band: Charlie Harcourt and Paul Nichols - there was Prelude, The Motorettes (who caused a minor sensation amongst the audience by performing a grunge version of ‘I Hate To See You Cry'). Other notable contributors were Kathryn Tickell's Band and Jimmy Nail amongst many more. A monologue was provided by Terry Morgan, whilst playwright Tom (Squire) Pickard gave a reading from Alan's poetry collection 'The Mocking Horse'.
Ray Jackson now had a taste again for performing, and at the latter end of 2007 he was to tour nationally and record a five track CD with The Gathering - a folkie supergroup 'gathered' from Lindisfarne, Fairport Convention (Jerry Donahue and daughter Kristina Donahue), Steeleye Span (Rick Kemp), Magna Carta (Doug Morter) and Jethro Tull (Clive Bunker). Echoes of 2004 when Rod was involved (dobro and vocals) with the CD release of 'Rumours Of Rain', a charity single alongside the likes of Martin Carthy, Ralph McTell, Tom Paxton, Nanci Griffith, Bob Fox, Benny Gallagher, Jez Lowe, Steve Tilston, Harvey Andrews, Martyn Joseph, Jacqui McShee, Rick Kemp, Cathryn Craig and Brian Willoughby - to name but a few! For more details see www.rumoursofrain.com .
February 2004 marked the debut of Rod Clements and the Ghosts of Electricity. The line up comprised Rod, Dave Hull-Denholm (guitar) and Ian Thomson (bass). Later in the year Geoff Styche organised a live appearance in his home stamping ground of Market Bosworth, and the band recorded, resulting in the 2004 ‘Live Ghosts’ album (Batsville label). In 2006 Paul Burgess (drums) made his first public appearance with the Ghosts of Electricity, and has been retained for practically every Ghosts gig since.
Continuing with his extensive touring and many musical collaborations, Rod released his follow up album to Stamping Ground, 'Odd Man Out' in 2006, again on the Market Square label. He was also a founding member of Rothbury Roots, designed to promote local folk music in the area.
2008 sees a second re-release (Batsville) of Rod's debut solo album of 1994, 'One Track Mind'. Interesting bonus tracks being added to the previous bonus tracks! These are Rod's 'A Dream Within A Dream', and 'Blues For A Dying Season'. The former had been performed as an early Lindisfarne radio broadcast, the latter recorded by Downtown Faction but never saw the light of day. Both versions of ‘No Turning Back' are included - the studio version has never been available on CD before. As well as the official website, Rod also has his own page on MySpace at www.myspace.com .
In 2006, Dave Hull-Denholm and poet Paul Summers recorded a CD entitled ‘Home In 3 Bits’, with Rod Clements on dobro, Ian Thomson on bass, with Greg Pullen and Cathy Donnelly (cellos). Sold as: 'essentially a phantom soundtrack for a never-to-be-made short film' and, 'an innovative and imaginative poetic travelogue set to music inspired by the Northumberland coast'. To continue the quotes, The Morning Star described the work as 'eloquent, moving and beautiful'.
Former Lindisfarne front man Marty Craggs had formed The Happy Cats with Brian Duffy and Les Dodd in 2001, and in 2007 their new album 'Take My Hand' was a welcome follow up to their debut 2002 album 'Follow The Moon'.
Ex - message board trustee Michael Bailey and wife Rachael, as part time musicians have been busy since 2003. Michael (ex Morgan Le Fay) who played on Peter Dodds album ‘Banks Of The Tyne', played a couple of one-off gigs in 2004 together with Rachael and Billy Mitchell as 'Central Station'. Previously having played on The Happy Cats first album, they were also at this time appearing as The Steve Daggett Trio (they had also released an EP CD a couple of years before with Steve).
A 24 track CD, 'Peter Donegan Band - Live At The Elephant', featuring the music of Lonnie Donegan, was recorded at The Elephant On The Tyne, Gateshead in August 2006. The band which has been touring nationally comprises Lonnie Donegan's son Peter, brother David, Mark Anderson, plus Rachael (violin, accordion) and Michael Bailey (Fender bass, vocals) with Ray Laidlaw on drums.
Ray has been kept busy in media production, no stranger to co-producing with Geoff Wonfor. Their long list of collaborations include: 'Gorilla Gorilla ' (2003 Discovery Networks Europe) - a natural history documentary, winner of the World Bronze Medal at New York Documentary Festivals 2005, and winner Platinum Best of Show for The Aurora Awards 2005.
More credits are: 'Best of the Tube' (2004 UKTV) documentary, 'Stella’s Story' (2003 BBC1), a documentary on Stella McCartney, 'Jools Holland and Friends at the Royal Albert Hall' (2005 - a live DVD) in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust. A similar event was held a year later at the Sage Gateshead in aid of the same charity and committed to DVD, 'Bandstand 2006', which involved many national celebrities including Billy Mitchell's house band and Tim Healy. Another Bandstand Teenage Cancer Trust DVD has just been completed - a great show from the Sage Gateshead starring Roger Daltrey and a ‘cast of thousands’. This includes a great version of the Who's 'Squeezebox' with Ray and Billy in the back up band.
Ray also produced the Zimmers version of 'My Generation' for the BBC and a DVD biography of Tim Healy for Tyne Tees TV and MWM last year. He is currently shooting a series of comedy DVD's and working on the 'making of' sequence for the DVD release of Jimmy Nail's new BBC 'Parents of the Band' sit-com to be broadcast later this year.
Back to Lindisfarne, and nearly thirty years after the event, BBC4 television decided they would re-broadcast a gig from the University Of Essex (1978); this was a surprise, and a great scoop for fans! Also around this time, video clips of Lindisfarne and company started to appear on the internet, courtesy of YouTube.
We also saw in 2004 EMI reissue remasters of the first three Jack The Lad albums, along with Alan Hull's 'Pipedream'. EMI also released the 'Roll On, Ruby' album on CD for the first time, along with an expanded version of Charisma's 1973 'Lindisfarne Live' - now featuring previously unreleased tracks. 'Nicely Out Of Tune' and 'Fog On the Tyne' were released as remasters on Virgin Charisma although these had originally been released the previous year for the Japanese market.
Although the usual renegade compilations abounded, a long overdue 2CD 'Alan Hull Anthology' was released in 2005 (Castle/Sanctuary) which included rare Chosen Few and Skip Bifferty tracks.
Regular message boarder Jim Henderson was instrumental in the reissue of Alan Hull's 1979 album 'Phantoms' (first time on CD), which included overlap tracks from Radiator's 'Isn't it Strange' LP, plus five previously unreleased demos. Jim, who works in EMI's telesales department, first got to know the band when they ordered some stock from him to sell on tour. He quickly became a Lindisfarne completist, and via his contacts at EMI helped to instigate a long-awaited return to CD for 'Dingly Dell'. After discovering that the rights to 'Phantoms' had reverted to Pat Hull, Jim approached Dave Hull-Denholm (who in turn put him in touch with Pat) along with Peter Muir at Market Square Records - the result being 2007's CD. The success of that release prompted Jim and Peter to pursue 'Happy Daze' which is now making its CD debut, and there are further archive releases planned.
The continuing story of the Lindisfarne family just goes on, and we are indebted in no small way to them for their performances and their music. However, their continued success is in no small way attributed to the web sites run over recent years by devoted people like Reinhard Groll, Alistair Carter, Tom Cunningham, Michael Bailey, Bob Turnpenney, Trevor and Judith Watson - long may people like them continue in keeping that Clear White Light aflame.
Charles Orr, April 2008
The last ten years...
A lot has happened since this bio was written. Jacka has returned to the stage, Rod Clements is touring with the Lindisfarne Live band. Ray Laidlaw and Billy Mitchell have been touring the UK telling The Lindisfarne Story, occasionally playing shows with The Lindisfarne Story Band. And, sadly, our dear friend Simon Cowe has passed away.
We'll update this section soon, but in the meantime check out two great books on the history of Lindisfarne: We Can Swing Together By John Van der Kiste, and Fog on the Tyne by Dave Ian Hill.
Keep the beacon burnin'!