THE STONES AND BRIAN JONES – BBC 2 Documentary by Nick Broomfield

Stonesmania never grabbed headlines like Beatlemania but it was just as intense, perhaps even more so as the Stones attracted almost as many boys as girls and these fans were more uninhibited, more inclined to rush the stage and grab hold of Mick or Brian or Keith. They didn’t bother much with Bill, who was a bit forbidding, and couldn’t reach Charlie behind his drums, but then again Charlie was much too dignified to get involved in any of that malarkey anyway.

        Brian wasn’t dignified. He laughed his head off at the behaviour of fans, even encouraged it. One widely circulated comment from him that didn’t appear in last night’s documentary on BB2 occurred when the Stones were on the same bill as The Beatles at London’s Royal Albert Hall in April, 1963. Observing the fan frenzy as he helped Neil Aspinall move The Beatles’ gear, Brian turned to early manager Giorgio Gomelsky. “That’s what I went, Giorgio,” he said.

        He certainly got it, as several wonderfully chaotic scenes of Stonesmania worldwide in the documentary confirm, but if Jones really did say that, it gives lie to the belief that he was the purist in the group who railed against the pop star ambitions of Mick and Keith, aided and abetted by their next manager, Andrew Loog Oldham. This theory was promoted by this very watchable documentary, which featured plenty of hitherto unseen footage of Jones as a boy and interviews with many from the Stones circle, some new and others archival, prominent among them four of the five women who bore his children, all of whom harbour surprisingly benign feelings towards their father regardless of the callous manner in which he abandoned them.

        What is without question is that without Jones there would not have been a Rolling Stones. He was the band’s architect, furthering Jagger and Richards research into, and enthusiasm for, blues music, recruiting Bill and, probably, Charlie and taking on the hustler’s role until Oldham and his early partner Eric Easton became their managers. Bill Wyman, credited as Historical Consultant, confirms this and throughout the 90-minute programme extols Brian’s talents on guitar and other instruments he brought along to the studio to enhance recordings like Little Red RoosterLady Jane and Paint It Black. Wyman, a genial old cove who turns 87 in October, sits in his book-filled study like a long-retired university don and gamely hums along to Stones numbers, explaining the parts that Jones contributed while waving his fingers around like a conductor. 

        The other side of the coin isn’t so entertaining. Raised in a family that expected him to aspire to their own bourgeoise ambitions, Jones was a mixed-up ball of confusion, at times playful, at times cruel, at times arrogant, at times deeply unsure of himself. When he wanted to be, he could be exceedingly courteous. After his parents kicked him out of the family home for not living up to their upwardly mobile expectations, he charmed his way into the homes of various girlfriends, impregnated them and moved on. 

        Once he gravitated to London, he founded the Stones and, at first, seemed crucial to their progress. He was a shaggy-haired dandy dressed in all the latest styles, a fixture of Swinging London, liked and admired by his peers, even Dylan. However, as his role as the group’s leader was usurped by Mick and Keith, encouraged in their songwriting by Oldham, his insecurity lead him into a downward spiral, exacerbated by drugs, dismissal from the group for being unable to cut it on stage and, soon afterwards, his death. 

        All that is pretty much well-known to anyone who has followed the Stones’ story over the years, and the documentary reinforces this version of events. It skims over Brian’s court appearances on drugs offences, doesn’t go into much detail about the bust-up with Anita Pallenberg – though all concur she was a terrible influence – and, unlike subsequent books that cleave to the murder conspiracy theory, avoids the headline-grabbing temptation to suggest that this was how Jones met his death at Cotchford Farm in East Sussex, the former home of Winnie The Pooh creator A. A. Milne, where his body was found in the swimming pool on July 3, 1969, aged just 27.

        What I did learn was that Jones hated ‘Satisfaction’, that four of his five sons were called Julian and that Jones’ father Lewis came to regret the way he treated his son. The documentary closes with one of his girlfriends, Linda Lawrence, reading a heart-rending note from Lewis Jones to Brian that she found amongst her mementoes many years later. “I have been a very poor and intolerant father,” he wrote. “I was quite out of my depth.”

        As narrator Paul Trynka, author of a book on Jones, makes clear, few of the millions of fans who nowadays flock to see the Stones in vast stadiums around the world have even heard of Brian Jones. Nick Broomfields documentary goes some way to restoring Jones role in their phenomenal career, if not his reputation as a human being. 



Off we go again on another romp through the annals of Allan Jones, the music writer who never refused a drink yet somehow remained sober enough to set down his intemperate adventures on paper so that we might all enjoy them. This is Allan’s second volume of memoirs which, like the first, features a cast of rock stars who plied their trade from the mid-seventies to around the turn of the millennium, a period that encompassed Allan’s tenure on Melody Maker, where he rose to become editor, and Uncut, of which he was founding editor, remaining until he retired in 2014.

        Allan again offers up stories on many of his favourite musicians, both friends and foes, some of whom appeared in his previous book with some new faces this time around and the results are much the same: bad behaviour on the road and elsewhere, exhausting trips abroad that become feats of endurance and interviews wherein ideological disagreements over music and/or career status are exacerbated by alcohol and lead to meltdown. There are 45 chapters on characters as diverse as Elton John, Screaming Lord Sutch, Peter Cook, Joe Ely, Oliver Stone and Jon Anderson, lately ejected from Yes when Allan tracked him down to a mansion in the South of France. They vary in length from three or four pages to about a dozen. 

        As before, Allan’s sympathies lean more towards the post-punk generation than the heroes of the sixties and early seventies, and he’s unafraid to confront anyone whom he feels might be outstaying their welcome in the rock trade. In this regard he coaxes Anderson and Robert Plant to admit to being baffled at the negative jibes they encountered from punk rockers, while at the same time subtly implying that both have been so insulated by their lofty status that reality is simply beyond their comprehension. 

        While a common theme of Allan’s work tends towards hilarious escapades that involve consumption of booze on a heroic scale, these pieces confirm how wrong it is to assume that this is all you get. Longer pieces on Sting, who’s full of himself, Elvis Costello, a particular favourite, Chrissie Hynde, ditto, and Jerry Dammers, initially hesitant when it comes to disclosure, are both revealing and fact-packed; revealing insofar as Allan gets to grips with the nature and temperaments of those about whom he writes, while allowing the facts to pile up naturally as he goes along. In this regard he’s never, ever, boring. Sting, by the way, comes across as a someone you’d cross the street to avoid, while Bryan Ferry’s ranting about the way he is perceived by the media is almost certainly provoked by his reliance on a “tastefully patterned earthenware dish piled high with cocaine”. 

        Reading through, it is possible to discern how the differing drug and drink habits of those Allan encounters are reflected in the music they produce. By and large, the more they drink, the more he enjoys their music. Those with relatively abstemious habits come across as a bit dull, not just as interviewees but in the music they produce. Nevertheless, even those unlikely to stimulate Allan’s sympathy are whipped into life by his prose, like Ian Anderson, cod-piece favouring leader of Jethro Tull, who, believe it or not, opens their conversation by asking, ‘Are you in good cheer?’ “like a knighted thespian declaiming something shouty by Shakespeare”.

        I’m envious that Allan spent an afternoon with Peter Cook, our greatest ever comedian, at his house in Hampstead, discussing the bawdy language on the Derek And Clive albums he made with Dudley Moore, and also that he spent a day with R.E.M. in Athens just before Christmas 1999, cajoling them to wear Santa outfits for an MM cover. I particularly enjoyed his encounters with John Cale, clearly one of his heroes; also his interviews with Little Feat, delayed after they were frisked on arrival at Heathrow. Nothing was found. “We sent everything ahead of us,” says Richie Hayward. “It was all waiting for us when we arrived.” 

        In the book’s moving final chapter Allan catches up with guitarist Joe Carrasco, an old pal, who’s playing at The Cavern in Raynes Park, an evening that brings out in him hitherto uncharacteristic nostalgic reminiscences, not just about the Tex-Mex music he loves but fellow music writers who have left us, a roll call of names I recognise. As the final chords of ‘Little Queenie’ fade away Allan thinks back to… “other times, a hundred places like this. The years peel away, time in retreat. It comes back to you then, all of it. The music, the girl on your arm. Small rooms, lit up with guitars, feedback, love and laughter. All those bands, all that beautiful noise…. Where did they all go, and so many people with them. Talk about smoke through a keyhole.”

        Too Late To Stop Now is another very funny book by a very funny writer who, at the last moment, switches elegantly to poignant mode that made me think as well as laugh. Only someone who loves the music as much as he does, and whose life was so enriched by it, could do that. Thanks Allan. 



My otherwise dismal record in picking winners for induction into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame can be upgraded slightly, for two out of the five acts I nominated have been accepted. Last year I managed only one out of five. 

        Today brought news that Kate Bush, Sheryl Crow, Missy Elliott, George Michael, Willie Nelson, Rage Against The Machine and The Spinners are the 2023 inductees from among those for whom I and other electors were invited to vote. In addition to those, four previous nominees  DJ Cool Herc, Link Wray, Chaka Khan and Al Kooper  appear to have been given a sort of wild card entry. All four have been nominated in previous years but weren't on the voting form this year. As far as I am aware, this is a break from the normal procedure and suggests someone upstairs in the R&RHoF boardroom has it in their power to shoo in whoever they want regardless of how many, or how few, votes they received. Bernie Taupin, Elton Johns lyricist, and Don Cornelius, host of the long US TV music show Soul Train, are inducted into the non-performing category. 

        I voted for Sheryl Crow and Willie Nelson, so I’ve doubled my success rate – if it can be called that – but am still way below 50% in overall terms, not that it matters much these days. As I have repeatedly observed in recent years, induction into the R&RHoF has become increasingly irrelevant of late, not that this in any way demeans the work of Willie Nelson, whose music and attitude I enjoy, or Sheryl Crow, who has what it takes to play alongside any inductee you care to name. 

I’m curious as to how Kate Bush will respond to her induction. Famously reticent in terms of public profile and generally unwilling to perform in public without extensive preparation, I somehow can’t see her belting out ‘Wuthering Heights’ or ‘Running Up That Hill’ with an unrehearsed scratch band. As far as George Michael is concerned, in an ideal world Elton will step up to the plate, sing ‘Careless Whisper’ and accept the award on his behalf, the only hitch being that if he sticks to his plans he might have officially retired by the time the ceremony takes place. 

Among the losers are Joy Division/New Order, which is a shame as I wanted to see if avowed adversaries Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook would share a stage, and long-suffering Iron Maiden, snubbed for the second time. I can’t help feeling the long-suspect anti-British bias played a part in these rejections. 

I voted for New Order/Joy Division but not Iron Maiden as any sympathy for heavy metal I once had has long since gone down the plughole. I also voted for White Stripes, who’ll no doubt be nominated again and get in eventually, ditto Warren Zevon whose elimination surprises me insofar as he was both American and a critics’ favourite, two criteria that almost always ensure induction. 



They looked like a band of outlaws, the north eastern cousins of the Sherwood Forest mob. Some had bushy beards and droopy moustaches, and wild, unkempt hair that hid eager, weather-beaten faces. They were sturdy young comrades, fiercely proud of their roots, and they liked their ale, especially on Friday nights. Their leader in all but name believed robbing the rich to give to the poor was not just virtuous but a moral duty. 

        There were five of them in the group and they called themselves Lindisfarne after the Holy Island in the North Sea close to the border with Scotland. You could be forgiven for assuming they came south simply to pillage London and return with the spoils, which of course they did. Once they’d settled in, however, they rubbed shoulders on the charts with the elite of the rock world, John Lennon, Paul Simon and glam boys David, Elton and Marc among them. Their second LP became the best-selling album of 1972 in the UK. 

        Their speciality was playing festivals and big outdoor shows where they had audiences in the palms of their calloused hands, singing along to songs about sickly sausage rolls, a mysterious Lady Eleanor and swinging together for defying the law. And when it was all over they ran for home, their heads held high, the legend of Lindisfarne spoken of in awed tones by those fortunate enough to behold them in their heroic prime. 

        And what’s more they kept on filling the air with magic for five more decades in one form or another, local heroes to this day, genuine Geordie legends alongside Alan Shearer, Bobby Thompson and Dennis, Neville and Oz from Auf Wiedersehen Pet

* * *

In the beginning, in the mid-sixties, not long after the Fab Four incited Beatlemania, there was a Newcastle group called Downtown Faction. A distillation of teenage bands whose members eventually found one another, they were Yardbirds and electric Bob Dylan fans specialising in bluesy rock with a hint of trendy psychedelia, a bit of improvisation and even the odd original tune, often sweetened with strong harmony vocals. 

        They were formed by bass playing singer songwriter Rod Clements and drummer Ray Laidlaw, and subsequently joined by guitarist Simon Cowe and Jack-Of-All-Trades singer Ray ‘Jacka’ Jackson, a dab hand on mandolin and harmonica. By 1968 they were gigging beyond their home base and they even recorded some demos in London for Island Records where maverick producer Guy Stevens showed interest that went no further. Rarely out of work, they commanded £18 a night – over £300 in today’s money – and in early 1969 changed their name to Brethren.

Elsewhere on Tyneside a lanky singer songwriter called Alan Hull was turning heads in other local bands, among them one called The Chosen Few that won a talent contest sponsored by Radio Luxembourg. The prize was the chance to record a couple of singles but more importantly it introduced Alan to music publisher Barbara Hayes whose support was crucial to his future. After nothing happened with the singles, Alan went his own way, and in 1969 began hosting a folk club at the Rex Hotel up in Whitley Bay. When Brethren played the Rex that year there was an instant attraction. Alan needed a band and they needed a songwriter. Before long two became one. 

        “I was aware of him a long time before I met him,” says Rod. “We would back him at his gigs and we suddenly found we had this thing going.”

“He was fantastic,” says Ray. “I thought we’ve got to get him into our band.”

Alan was a couple of years older than the others and many of his songs, crafted on guitar or piano, were inspired by the austere life he had led. He was raised in a run-down block of flats in Benwell, where a rich community spirit somehow defused the hardship in one of Tyneside’s most deprived areas. In need of an income to support a wife and two young daughters, Alan worked for three years as a psychiatric nurse, and by the time he quit had written over 150 songs. “I was getting millions of ideas from schizophrenics and depressives and maniacs,” he said. “My head was bursting.” When Alan joined Brethren he was on the dole. 

Brethren’s set soon featured Alan’s original songs, but it wasn’t until they signed with Charisma Records a year later that they became Lindisfarne, a name suggested by John Anthony, the label’s in-house producer, in order to avoid trouble from an American outfit with the same name. They were billed as Brethren as late as June, 1970, when they appeared at London’s Marquee a couple of nights after another as yet hitless hopeful who called himself Elton John. 

        There are conflicting accounts about how Lindisfarne came to sign with Charisma. “Tony [Stratton Smith] heard a tape that had been sent to him from Barbara Hayes, Alan’s music publisher,” says Ray. “He liked the sound of Jacka’s harmonica and John Anthony came up to Newcastle to see us.”

        Gail Colson, General Manager of Charisma from 1969 to 1978, remembers things differently. “After The Nice split, Lee Jackson wanted to form a band with Charlie Harcourt on guitar and the guy who managed him also managed this band called Brethren,” she recalls. “We were ‘leant’ on to sign them. We actually liked them and some of their material. The rest is history.” 

        Another story has a Newcastle-based amplifier manufacturer recommending the group to emissaries from Charisma, but whatever the truth of the matter this small but ambitious independent label was the perfect home for the newly christened Lindisfarne. It was the brainchild of Tony Stratton Smith, a portly bon vivant and fearless risk-taker who’d burrowed his way into the music business through befriending Brian Epstein, the manager of The Beatles. A former sports writer, Strat – as he was universally known – launched Charisma in 1969 after becoming dissatisfied with the business practices of labels to which bands he managed were signed. More importantly, he was a generous patron of talented musicians whose work was not necessarily in line with commercial trends, though he had a knack of spotting the odd act that defied fashion but stood a chance of slipping in through the back door. Such was the case with Lindisfarne.

        Ushered into the studio with John Anthony at the controls, Lindisfarne recorded Nicely Out Of Tune, their début LP, over five days in August of 1970. Released in November, it featured 11 songs, seven by Alan, among them the magnificent ‘Winter Song’, the first of many to ponder the human condition from the point of view of the disadvantaged. Lyrical, poignant, with an elegant melody sharpened by descending figures and an unexpected shift from minor to major, it was an early indication that Lindisfarne’s principal songwriter possessed not just an innovative musical mind and a warm way with words but a profound social conscience. 

        “It was the best song he ever wrote,” says his friend Rab Noakes, the Scottish musician whose song ‘Turn A Deaf Ear’ also appeared on Nicely Out Of Tune

        Elvis Costello agrees. “I thought he was up there with Richard Thompson and Ray Davies,” he says, “the really great English songwriters.” 

        While ‘Winter Song’ set the tone for the ethical integrity Alan would bring to Lindisfarne, other songs were notable for the blend of styles. “It wasn’t too folky, it wasn’t too rocky and it wasn’t too poppy,” says John Anthony. “It had elements of each and the whole was way bigger than the parts.”

        In this respect, there were a couple of Alan’s sparkling, slightly mystical tunes in ‘Lady Eleanor’, based on the writings of Edgar Allan Poe, and ‘Clear White Light’ with its shimmering a cappella fanfare. Ray Laidlaw believes an intense acid trip inspired Alan’s creative juices at the time he wrote them. “The experience unlocked something,” he says. “It took him a week or so to get back on an even keel and a flurry of new songs appeared over the following few weeks. As far as I know he wrote two songs in one session, ‘Winter Song’ and ‘Clear White Light’, both absolute belters.”

        Alan also contributed the crowd favourite ‘We Can Swing Together’, based on an incident when police broke up a party Jacka attended, and the melancholy, introspective ‘Scarecrow Song’. There was a charming Beatles parody in ‘Alan In The River With Flowers’ and Rod offered up two songs, among them ‘The Road To Kingdom Come’, a sprightly, fiddle-led hoe-down with Biblical references that became another live favourite. 

        It is noteworthy that at least six of the 11 songs on Nicely… have found their way on to collections evaluated as the ‘Best Of’ Lindisfarne, giving credence to suggestions that the group found it hard to improve on their first album. “Practically every song they ever recorded had been written before we signed them,” says Gail Colson.

        Despite favourable reviews in the music press, Nicely Out Of Tune failed to reach the LP charts on release, though it scrambled up to No. 8 a year later following the greater success of Lindisfarne’s second LP. Something similar happened with ‘Lady Eleanor’, fading initially as a single but reaching No.3 in the charts when it was re-issued in 1972.

        But sales and chart statistics aren’t the only measure of an album’s success. This was an era long before the Internet, when the combined sales of five UK music papers exceeded half a million copies a week, exerting a powerful influence over the tastes of readers who took note of the positive reviews and turned out in droves to see Lindisfarne as they toured the UK. “We’d turn up at gigs in the Midlands and there were queues,” said Alan. “It was an underground thing. Every time we went back, you couldn’t get in for the queues.”

        Underground or not, Lindisfarne’s sudden acceptance by UK rock fans was nothing short of staggering, a word-of-mouth explosion and a shot in the arm for Charisma. In many ways they were an antidote to prog and glam, the contrasting rock genres that hogged the limelight, and the concurrent rise of heavier music epitomised by brand leaders Led Zeppelin. Some reviewers even compared Lindisfarne to The Band, the multi-talented quintet of seasoned musicians that backed Bob Dylan on the road, whose first two albums, Music From Big Pink (1968) and The Band (1969), were acclaimed as a longed-for revival of more robust, back-to-the-roots musical values. In their own Geordie way, Lindisfarne were following a similar path.

        Strat, an enlightened, visionary concert promoter as well as the boss of Lindisfarne’s record label, was quick to see an opportunity. In January of 1971 he staged the Six Bob Tour, in which three of his signings, Lindisfarne, Genesis and Van Der Graaf Generator, shared the stage at venues throughout the UK where admission was just six old shillings – 30p in today’s money. By common consent, Lindisfarne were the stars of the show, and when the Six Bob Tour reached Newcastle over 500 fans were left ticketless outside the City Hall. 

        “Without a doubt, they are the most refreshing group to have emerged in over 12 months,” wrote NME’s influential reviewer Roy Carr after the show in Manchester. “With a likeable, naïve stage presence, they have rediscovered the art of simplicity… My praise for Lindisfarne is without restraint.” 

        “Lindisfarne are the most complete band on the Charisma label,” added Michael Watts in Melody Maker, “with a flowing continuity of style and melodic strength that encompasses the best of pop and avoids its pretentiousness.”

        These early months of 1971 saw Lindisfarne record BBC sessions that appear in this collection, with three appearances on Sounds Of The 70s, and sessions for Folk On One,  the Mike Raven Show and John Peel’s Top Gear

        “We did loads of BBC radio sessions,” says Ray. “The pop, folk, blues and underground shows all liked us and it got to the point where we joked that we had our own coat-hooks in Maida Vale Studios. The deal was two hits and two less well-known songs. There was always some cheerful negotiations with the producer, particularly John Walters who we got on with really well. I think we snuck in a version of ‘Love Me Do’ on one session. The In Concert gigs were great, they had a live audience and we were usually paired with another group with a similar style. Stealers Wheel were one I remember.”

        I was a staff writer on Melody Maker in those days and in February Strat invited me to join him and Lindisfarne on a visit to Northern Ireland, with college shows in both Belfast and Derry. “In the carnival atmosphere they created, it was easy to forget we were in the centre of a city on the brink of civil war,” I wrote in MM of the Belfast show. “The grim reality came back to us while listening to records in a student’s bedroom. Two explosions occurred within seconds of each other.” The next day, after a short drive north, we reached Derry for a show at Magee University where roadies had to form a barrier at the front to prevent an inebriated audience from joining the band on stage. 

        Spending 48 hours in the company of Lindisfarne offered an opportunity to assess the characters in the group. Alan was the extrovert, with a twinkle in his eye that suggested he might be a bit of a rogue, scornful of convention, maybe even dangerous to know. It was a trait he shared to only a slightly lesser extent with fellow front man Jacka, the handsome joker in the pack. Drummer Ray, big and sturdy, peering down through granny glasses, seemed to be the level-headed one, keeping a watchful eye on his mates, while Rod and Simon were the quiet pair, the studious musicians, wary of outsiders until their confidence had been gained. To a man, they were fun to be around, likeable, wisecracking and, above all, entirely without pretention. 

        In May Lindisfarne played their most prestigious concert to date, a one-off show at London’s Royal Festival Hall. Seated next to Strat was Bob Johnston, who for Columbia in New York had produced records by Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Johnny Cash and Simon & Garfunkel. His next client was Lindisfarne.

        “He was the strangest character I’ve ever met in my life,” said Simon. “It was difficult to understand what he was saying because he said things in such a peculiar way.” All believe Johnston, who died in 2015, was stoned on marijuana 24/7 during his stay in London.   

        The sessions for Lindisfarne’s second album, Fog On The Tyne, took place in June and July, again at Trident Studios in London’s Soho, a stone’s throw from Charisma’s offices and the pubs and bars where everyone connected with the label socialised after, and sometimes during, working hours. Lindisfarne were no exception, the five lads from Newcastle endearing themselves to regulars at the Ship, the Nellie Dean and, most of all, La Chasse Club on Wardour Street, a private members bar catering to the music biz where Strat, ever avuncular, a large vodka to hand, liked to gather his staff and bands around him and come up with ideas like the Six Bob Tour, and scribble them down on the back of a cigarette packet lest he forget all about them in the morning. “The best Prime Minister we never had,” Alan would later write. 

        Accompanied by Strat and Gail Colson’s brother Glen, Charisma’s PR, I watched Lindisfarne massacre an audience at the Marquee, just down the street from La Chasse, but more significant was seeing them make magic at the Weeley Festival near Clacton-on-Sea over the August Bank Holiday weekend. Playing mid-afternoon on the Sunday, they faced the biggest crowd they’d ever seen, perhaps as many as 100,000. Providence was on their side. “It was raining when we arrived,” recalls Gail, “but it stopped and the sun came out when they went on.” 

        When it was over I judged Lindisfarne’s performance to be second only to Rod and his Faces on a bill of more than 40 acts. “Lindisfarne proved to be the stars of the afternoon,” I wrote in the following week’s MM. “Their brand of folk rock is ideally suited to a festival audience and, although they must have been an unknown quality to the majority, they earned a couple of encores. The word has obviously spread that Lindisfarne are one of Britain’s best up and coming groups and many of their songs were greeted with knowing cheers. Alan Hull’s ‘Fog On the Tyne’ –  the title of their forthcoming album – brought the audience to its feet and there must have been 50,000 or so voices chanting along to their hymn-like ‘We Can Swing Together’. They came back to play Woody Guthrie’s ‘Jackhammer Blues’ to an outstanding ovation and finished with ‘Clear White Light’. Alan was visibly trembling after the set. It was their best ever reception by a mass audience and thoroughly deserved.”

        “We started off being big in the North East, where we could do no wrong,” says Ray. “It took Weeley to establish ourselves in the rest of the country.” 

In many ways the release of Fog On The Tyne in October was the icing on the cake to a wondrous year for Lindisfarne. It was another convincing collection, more stylistically unified that Nicely…, all excesses trimmed, perhaps due to Johnston’s input, with Alan contributing six of the LP’s ten songs, including the title track. Considered by its writer to be a throwaway, the song that soon became the Lindisfarne anthem was included at Johnston’s insistence only after he heard the group perform it live. “He brought Alan’s songs into really sharp focus,” says Ray. 

        The commercial clout, however, came from ‘Meet Me On The Corner’ – “about a man who sells dreams” –  a jaunty tune written by Rod, its prominent walking bass line and Jacka’s cosy harmonica finding favour with singles’ buyers who took it to No. 5, sending Lindisfarne on to Top Of The Pops, BBC TV’s much-watched chart show. Its success no doubt helped the album stay on the charts for no fewer than 56 weeks, during which it held the top spot for four of them, Charisma’s first No. 1 album.  

        “We did our first Top Of The Pops to promote ‘Meet Me On The Corner’ on March 2, 1972,” recalls Ray. “We were thinking of ways to make us stand out from all the other groups which is where the idea of playing the bass drum with a fish came from. I still get people stopping me in the street and asking if I’m the bloke off the telly with the fish.”

        Elsewhere on Fog On The Tyne was ‘All Right On The Night’, a boozy drinking song, appropriate insofar as Charisma had arranged a promotional deal for Lindisfarne with Scottish & Newcastle, the brewers of Newcastle Brown, an early example of corporate sponsorship. ‘Train In G Major’, an acoustic blues by Rod, was closely related to Bob Dylan’s ‘It Takes A Lot To Laugh’ while ‘January Song’ was Alan’s companion piece to ‘Winter Song’, a paean to comradeship with the memorable, Lennon-like chorus: ‘You need me need you need him need everyone’. 

        By the end of 1971 Lindisfarne were unquestionably among the UK’s top bands, their lofty status reflected in both the album and singles charts during the early months of the following year. The group, meanwhile, were on an extended tour of America, their first, a three-week trip from coast to coast that turned into three months, supporting all and sundry, including The Kinks at New York’s Carnegie Hall. I happened to be in the Big Apple myself that week, on another assignment, but I managed to slip into the venerable 57th Street theatre where I was slightly stunned at how well they went down. “A milestone for both groups,” I reported confidently.

        Lindisfarne were, in the parlance of the day, working their bollocks off, risking road weariness but gathering fans wherever they went. In April, I joined them for a trip to Swindon where they appeared in the stand at a football ground, not ideal, but any disillusionment with the venue, or their workload, was offset by refreshment stops at pubs along the way. Their reputation as drinking men travelled before them and no doubt led to the promoter supplying a crate of Newcastle Brown in the dressing room. “I used to be able to drink nine pints of this back home,” Jacka told me as he sucked at the clear bottle with its familiar yellow and blue label. “Now I can only manage five.” 

        There was another inspired festival appearance in May, this time at the Lincoln ‘Great Western Express’, that further confirmed their omnipresent status, as did a Melody Maker front-page headline in June. LINDISFARNTASTIC it read, followed by news that a new album would be recorded in July, with tours of Australia, Japan and Indonesia and a second US trip scheduled for later in the year. It was a far cry from the Rex Hotel in Whitley Bay.

        Bob Johnston was back in the producer’s chair for the recording of Lindisfarne’s third album Dingly Dell, but all agree that his enthusiasm was lacking this time around. “He just laid down and let the engineer get on with it,” recalled Alan. “We weren’t getting an overview of what Lindisfarne’s future would be. We were left to our own devices.”

Dingly Dell was released in September. Alan was again the main writer, contributing eight of the 12 songs, among them ‘All Fall Down’, a distant cousin of Cat Stevens ‘Where Do The Children Play?’, prescient too insofar as it castigated property developers for profiteering at the expense of the environment. Chosen as the lead single, it fared badly, reaching no higher than No. 34 in the singles charts, and many felt Alan’s more cheerful ‘Wake Up Little Sister’ would have been a better pick. 

        Alan also wrote the orchestrated title track, an enigmatic, haunting epic with the memorable line, ‘There’s magic in the air’. It was the longest, most complex song that Lindisfarne had ever recorded, yet, conversely, it had the fewest words, and it split reviewers between those who wanted the accessible Lindisfarne of ‘Meet Me On The Corner’ and those, like me, who welcomed progress. 

        Alan’s other songs included the skiffle-punk ‘Bring Down The Government’, ‘Poor Old Ireland’, a lament for the country’s troubles that was banned by the BBC for no good reason, and the amusing ‘Court In The Act’, a witty follow up to ‘We Can Swing Together’ with an intro nicked from Eddie Cochran’s ‘Summertime Blues’. Simon Cowe contributed a couple of songs, with ‘Go Back’ the most memorable, and the traditional ‘Dingle Regatta’ was a souped-up sea shanty worthy of the Fairports.

        Dingly Dell entered the LP charts at No. 5, never reaching higher, and spent only ten weeks in the listings. Compared to the two earlier albums, this was a disappointment. In October I watched them headline over Genesis and Rab Noakes at Dublin Stadium where they clambered into a boxing ring to perform almost all the songs from Dingly Dell to an audience that came alive only when they heard familiar favourites. It was a brave move, perhaps too brave, and though the group seemed a bit under-rehearsed I ended my MM report on an optimistic note. “After six gigs it’ll doubtless run like clockwork,” I wrote hopefully. 

        Nevertheless, for better or worse, Lindisfarne’s forward momentum was somehow lost in the aftermath of Dingly Dell. Their glorious upward trajectory had reached its apex. Though they continued to be popular – massively so on Tyneside – some of the wind had gone out of their sails, and like so many others in their line of work their future relied largely on their past. 

        In 1973 Lindisfarne released a boisterous live album then split into two, Alan realising his creativity was compromised by the workload, perhaps even by success. “I found it very difficult to write whilst touring,” he said. “There were so many things happening, it was so confusing. It’s upsetting to the nervous system.”

        “He hated touring,” says Rod.

        Gail Colson believes there was more than Alan’s dislike of touring that contributed to his writers’ block. “When Alan and [wife] Pat moved away from Tyneside to London, he simply dried up,” she says. 

        Ray, Rod and Simon launched a new group called Jack The Lad, and Alan and Jacka formed Lindisfarne II with local musician pals Kenny Craddock, Charlie Harcourt, Tommy Duffy and Paul Nichols. They recorded one further album for Charisma, Roll On Ruby, which failed to chart. Alan seemed more energised by his solo LPs, the first of which, Pipedream, was an artistic triumph but commercial failure.

        Of course, this was by no means the end of the Lindisfarne story, just my tiny part in it. At the tail end of 1977 the five originals came together again to play three sell-out concerts at Newcastle City Hall, instigating a Christmas tradition that continued for years. The following year they recorded a new album, Back And Fourth, that was moderately successful and included ‘Run For Home’, another outstanding song of Alan’s that became a Top 10 hit.

        Thereafter Lindisfarne’s records would appear on their own LMP label. The group toured the UK intermittently – including a stadium gig at St James Park in Newcastle in 1984 when they gave headliner Bob Dylan a run for his money – and a 47-show outing in 1986 with an additional member, Marty Craggs, on saxophone. They even re-recorded ‘Fog On The Tyne’ with guest vocalist Paul ‘Gazza’ Gascoigne, the Tyneside football hero. 

        The last time I saw the original Lindisfarne quintet was at the Half Moon in Putney in the early eighties, a sold-out five-night run, for which they were paid £5,000, which worked out at £1,000 per man or £200 each a night. The canny landlord paid them in cash after each show and, mindful of their reputation, kept the bar open after hours. Needless to say, much of that cash ended up where it came from.

        Alan became a staunch Labour Party activist, always available for shows that benefited good causes. I last saw him playing a solo show at the Mean Fiddler at Harlesden in north London and after the gig he spent the night on the couch at the home of my old pal Glen Colson, Charisma’s former PR, who lived around the corner from me in Shepherds Bush. Alan travelled the country in an old Rover 2000, all his gear in the back, driving himself of course, and invariably crashed out at friends’ or fans’ gaffs in the many towns where he played, truly the people’s troubadour. We laughed long into the night, empty bottles piling up beside us. There was still a twinkle in his eye. He was still a rogue.

* * *

Jacka left Lindisfarne in 1990 to work in sports marketing but still makes music with others. Fans and the music world in general were shaken to the core, inconsolable, by Alan’s sudden death on November 17, 1995, felled by a heart attack at the age of only 50. Simon retired from music to run a microbrewery in Toronto where he died in 2015.  

        For a while Ray managed a reconstituted Lindisfarne featuring Dave Denholm, who became Alan’s musical sidekick and, after his death, his son-in-law. David Hull-Denholm is now a member of the current Lindisfarne, led by Rod who spreads his wings in other musical directions, his playing skills much valued by the cream of the UK’s folk world. ‘The Ghost In Blue Suede Shoes’ was Rod’s last great Lindisfarne song. 

        The three remaining members of Lindisfarne still look like outlaws, the north eastern cousins of the Sherwood Forest mob. The bushy beards, droopy moustaches and wild, unkempt hair are gone now, and their faces are more weather-beaten than ever. All three are still fiercely proud of their roots, and they still like their ale, especially on Friday nights.

        There is a plaque at the entrance to Newcastle City Hall in honour of their leader in all but name, the immensely gifted songwriter who believed that robbing the rich to give to the poor was not just virtuous but a moral duty. “The Fog on the Tyne was all his,” it reads. 

        Truly, there was magic in the air when Alan Hull led Lindisfarne. 


Fog On The Tyne: The Official History of Lindisfarne by Dave Ian Hill (Northdown Publishing, 1998) 

Lindisfarne’s Geordie Genius: The Alan Hull Story, BBC4 TV documentary (2022)

Strat: The Charismatic Life & Times of Tony Stratton Smith by Chris Groom (Wymer Publishing, 2021)

The Famous Charisma Box, 4-CD set booklet (Charisma Records, 1993)

Melody Maker, NME, Rock’s Back Pages

Thanks to Ray Laidlaw, Rod Clements, Ray Jackson, Gail Colson, Dave Hill and Colin Harper.



In the course of writing extensively about Slade for Melody Maker during the first half of the seventies, I watched them perform many times, in the UK, Europe and America. I saw them in pubs, clubs and concert halls, all the way up to their legendary Earls Court show in the summer of 1973, and what was probably their biggest headlining US gig, at Keil Auditorium in St Louis in June two years later. 

        The first time I saw them on stage, however, was at Samanthas, a club/disco in central London, but I haven’t been able to pinpoint the precise date, probably because it wasn’t advertised. Even Slade uber-fan Chris Selby, whose archive of Slade gigs is second to none, can’t locate it either.

        I believe it would have been in late September or early October 1970, but I can’t be sure. What I do remember quite clearly is that there was hardly anyone there, and that no one who was there looked like they had gone along to see Slade. It was more the kind of place where you’d find soul music played for dancing, where singles went to hook up and, hopefully, leave as one half of a couple. 

        Samanthas was down a flight of steps at 3 New Burlington Street, off Regent Street, very dark inside, and Slade were deafeningly loud in a small room that wasn’t designed for 100-watt stacks. Chas Chandler, their imposing manager, had coerced me along and while they played he bought me endless scotch and cokes and yelled into my ear about how they were a breath of fresh air, which he pronounced ‘eayer’. After their set the four boys came over and introduced themselves, a weapons-grade charm offensive that worked a treat. They were well pleased to make the acquaintance of an MM writer, and I thought they were hilariously funny, like a four-man comedy act. Their thick Black Country brogue and Chas’s strong Geordie meant I – a Yorkshireman yet to lose my own regional twang – was exposed to a bewildering variety of accents that night. 

        More importantly, I was struck by how good Slade were on stage, a tight, well-drilled rock’n’roll band with a knockout singer, full of confidence too, casually proficient in the art of stagecraft. As I would soon learn, this degree of expertise had been honed during at least three years of gigging around pubs and dance halls in the Midlands, on a season in the Bahamas and even trips to Scotland, which meant they had the same familiarity with one another’s skills as The Beatles had from their time in Liverpool and Hamburg, and The Who as The Detours in the clubs and pubs of West London. I still believe you can’t beat this sort of experience in the real world of rock’n’roll, the world where instead of appearing on a televised talent contest you gig regularly for at least a couple of years before seeing the inside of a recording studio. 

        Two years and umpteen shows later I recalled that night in the sleeves notes Chas asked me to write for Slayed, their fourth album, released in 1972 as they were approaching the height of their popularity in the UK. “It was Samantha who first introduced me to Slade,” I wrote, trying to be witty. I also recalled the night in Feel The Noize!, the Slade biography I wrote with their co-operation in 1983, mentioning how Chas – a big man well capable of handling himself in a tight corner – sang their praises pretty forcefully to anyone who would listen, making it unwise to take a different point of view, not that anyone was likely to after hearing them play. 

        All of this came back to me this week when I was asked for some Slade memories by the music writer Daryl Easlea, whose long-awaited book on the group is due to be published later this year. Daryl’s inquiries caused me to surf the internet to refresh my memory of Slade in 1970, and in a vain attempt to pinpoint the precise date of that night at Samanthas I came across this cutting, from Melody Maker’s Raver column dated 31 October that year. 

        It actually refers to the second time I saw Slade in action, and I’d completely forgotten about it. It was another unadvertised gig that the formidable Chris Selby won’t have been able to add to his archive, at least not until now. Chas had invited me along to a private show he’d booked for his boys at a posh ballroom in the City of London, the financial district, very late on a Saturday night/Sunday morning, for an audience of well-heeled debutantes and Hooray Henrys, all dressed to the nines, probably celebrating some Lord or Lady’s 21st birthday. 

        The attraction was a decent pay packet – I think Chas told me they got £400 (just over £5k today), a windfall in 1970 – and all the booze they could drink, beer, wine, champagne, spirits, the lot. They’d given me the address and told me to get there around midnight, and tell anyone who asked that I was ‘with the band’, which I did. Earlier that night – Chris Selby and I have now established it would have been on October 24 – they’d played a gig at The Temple in Lower Wardour Street in Soho and they were supposed to be on stage at the ballroom at about 1am, so they had plenty of time to get across London. When I arrived, the crew had already set up their gear and Chas and his boys were tackling a vast amount of booze in the dressing room, a daunting task they approached with characteristic enthusiasm.

An ad for Slade’s Temple gig the same night, courtesy of Chris Selby

         Suitably refreshed, on they went. I can’t remember much about the set, only that – as ever – they were deafeningly loud, so much so that someone in charge asked them to turn down and got short shrift from Chas. Bear in mind this was late 1970, almost nine months before Slade hit the charts with ‘Get Down And Get With It’, so they would have been a completely unknown quantity to everyone there. I have no doubt the set was liberally sprinkled with covers, plenty of easy-to-play 12-bars too. 

        Nevertheless, they would have given their all and more besides, and thoroughly satisfied their generous paymasters, for afterwards the dressing room was swamped with well-wishers, high-born girls in long, off-the-shoulder ballgowns with low necklines who talked to us in cut-glass voices, watched over by young men in bow-ties and dinner jackets who grinned uneasily as the booze flowed. No doubt these debby girls, the ‘fillies’ as the boys called them, thought it was ‘sooper’. 

        Happily, no one disgraced themselves by making a lewd suggestion to any of them, not even Noddy who was the chief culprit when it came to this kind of thing, sometimes even from the stage. I watched it all in a spirit of intensifying euphoria and left hopelessly pissed at around 3am, staggering into the dark night of the City where cabs were few and far between at that time on a Sunday morning. I’d wandered down the Embankment and was approaching Blackfriars Bridge before I found one.

        Back at work on Monday I must have mentioned my weekend’s intemperate adventure to Chris Welch who was in the midst of writing the weekly Raver column, hence the snippet above that inspired me to write this post. 

        And isn’t it odd how Slade, of all people, were pioneering the private gigs so popular amongst the megastars of today who collect a cool million or two by playing at parties thrown by billionaires with money to burn? 


BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN & THE E STREET BAND – Live in Tampa, Florida, February 1, 2023

The Castilles in 1965. 
George Theiss stands at the back in the centre, with Bruce at the front left. 

“We named ourselves The Castilles, after a bottle of shampoo,” Bruce Springsteen told his audience at the opening night of his current US tour. He was introducing ‘Last Man Standing’, a song from his 2020 album Letter To You, inspired by visiting fellow-Castille George Theiss on his deathbed in 2018. George died two days later, making Bruce the last surviving member of his first rock’n’roll band. “It was,” he said, “the greatest adventure of my young life.”

This was the only melancholy moment in the latest instalment of Bruce’s ongoing great adventure, which visits the UK this summer. Daunted by the price of tickets for his Hyde Park concerts*, however, I offset my disappointment, at least partially, by ordering a recording of this concert at the Amalie Arena in Tampa on February 1. Nugs, the online store specialising in live concert streaming, offered the 3CD set of Bruce and the expanded E Street Band for £28, which is several hundred pounds cheaper than tickets, assuming you can find any now.

        I know it’s a poor substitute, but I’m not regretting the purchase, even though it becomes the eighth live Springsteen set in my collection, second only to a score or more live Who albums, authorised or otherwise, almost all of which date from 1969 to 1976 and therefore offer roughly the same sets of songs. The same cannot be said of Bruce, however, as my first dates from 1978, while his ever-expanding catalogue is now at least three times that of The Who, and there’s a few surprises in his current show. 

        Much of this is due to the increasing size of the E Street Band, which now numbers 19, including The Boss. There’s five back-up vocalists (making 10 singers in all), and a four-piece brass section, plus Jake Clemons, nephew of sadly departed Clarence, on tenor. This E Street growth spurt has changed the character of the band insofar as it’s more multi-racial than ever, and now features five women, and also the character of the band’s music, on certain songs anyway, of which more later.

        Some things stay the same, however, like leaping out of the starting blocks at a terrific rate, roaring into a medley, with the first nine songs – yes, nine this time – played back to back, without pause. First up is ‘No Surrender’, which, like ‘Ghosts’ that follows, seems deliberately autobiographical with its references to drums and guitars; an opening salvo that lays down the marker for what Bruce’s show is really all about, a celebration of all that is good about rock’n’roll bands and, especially, playing on stage with one thats really good at doing what they do. ‘Prove It All Night’, which follows, is a mission statement disguised as a love song. The E Street Band would play – or prove it – all night if they really had to, and ‘you’ can be interpreted as those out there in the audience. Outstanding is Candys Room, an exhausting workout for drummer Max Weinberg, though Kittys Back strays into jazzy Chicago-style territory and, at almost 12 minutes, rather outstays its welcome. 

        The roar of the long opening medley softens marginally for ‘Letter To You’, the title track from the 2020 album, power-packed yet hinging on contrasts. It’s one of six songs from an album that Springsteen evidently feels the need to showcase on a show that in total features 28 songs in two hours and 43 minutes. Much of it, as ever, features long-standing fan favourites, among them ‘The E Street Shuffle’ and ‘Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)’ from way back, both re-arranged in part to feature the horns prominently, giving the E Street Band a distinctive new twist, a fatter, big-band resonance somewhat out of kilter with what long time Springsteen watchers might expect. At times it reminded me of the backing that Elvis used for 1958’s King Creole movie and LP, his first to feature anything other than guitar, bass and drums, and how (even at 11!) I wasn’t entirely pleased with this development.

        Still, Bruce has every right to make whatever changes he feels are necessary to retain his spark after more than 50 years of touring, and the brass section is less obtrusive in other gems from the back catalogue, like ‘Backstreets’, ‘Badlands’, ‘Because The Night’ and a thumping, aggressive ‘She’s The One’, possibly designed to bring Bo Diddley back from the dead.  

        The show features two songs, ‘Nightshift’ and ‘Don’t Play That Song’, from Only The Strong Survive, Springsteen’s recent album of soul covers, both performed as elegantly and expressively as you would expect. On both the vocals are enhanced by Curtis King from what Bruce calls ‘the E Street choir’, and the brass section is prominent, in characteristic soul revue fashion. The horn’s greatest incursion, however, comes on ‘Johnny 99’, once a mournful, acoustic-led track in keeping with others from Nebraska, now an all-out, action-packed jamboree. 

        Disc 3 of the set features what, from the setlist above, seems to have been the encores, a further seven songs, all bar the closing ‘I’ll See You In My Dreams’, delivered with the boundless sense of euphoria that Bruce and his group have brought to the final laps of his shows ever since I first witnessed one 49 years ago last January. Included among them are ‘Born To Run’, ‘Glory Days’ and ‘Dancing In The Dark’, with ‘Dreams’ saved to the end as a sort of benediction, perhaps even a promise that as long as fans are prepared to come out and see him, no matter what the cost, he’ll keep playing. I hope he does. 



THE McCARTNEY LEGACY VOLUME 1 – 1969-73 by Allan Kozinn & Adrian Sinclair

It wasn’t much fun being Paul McCartney in 1970. Portrayed by the media as the Beatle who tore the group apart, an offence for which he would be pilloried without mercy, his only solace was his new wife Linda, herself the subject of unwarranted abuse from female fans. “Fuck Linda,” someone scrawled on the wall across the street from Paul’s residence in St John’s Wood. The arrival of their daughter Mary in the summer of 1969 would seem to indicate he took that advice to heart. 

Until very recently Paul had John, George and Ringo to turn to when things went wrong, a snug alliance of all-for-one and one-for-all protection. Not only was this no more, but John, in particular, was sniping at him in the press and on record. “The only thing you done was yesterday,” was one of many lyrical taunts in ‘How Do You Sleep’, from John’s Imagine LP. As if John’s barbs weren’t enough, the press, too, were increasingly unkind about his new music. 

Meanwhile, lawsuits were flying around like angry wasps and unimagined fortunes were slipping through the Beatles’ fingers. Allen Klein, the wedge between Paul and his three old mates, was a constant thorn in his side. “Fuck you,” wrote Paul in one terse message to the American businessman favoured but ultimately dumped by John, George and Ringo.  

Under attack from all sides, Paul and Linda, with her daughter Heather and newly born Mary, went to ground, hiding out at his farm in Scotland, where creature comforts were thin on the ground, and to America, where anonymity was easier, especially behind the style of beard favoured by rustic backwoodsmen. Paul (and Linda) got stoned a lot – his fondness for marijuana and belief that it should be legalised is a running theme of this book – and embarked on a tireless round of DIY recording sessions, with songs pouring from him as never before. Soon, he would perform them with a new band, Wings, but find it impossible to shake off his past. 

This, in a nutshell, is the gist of The McCartney Legacy, a weighty volume inspired no doubt by the diligence that Mark Lewisohn brought to Tune In, the first in his trilogy of mind-bogglingly detailed books about The Beatles. Following a similar route, Allan Kozin and Adrian Sinclair leave no stone unturned in their book about Paul’s struggles to find a place for himself after the break-up of the group to which he’d devoted the last 12 years of his life. 

It’s a massive book yet it covers only four years, the period between Paul’s first solo LP, simply titled McCartney, and Band On The Run, his fifth post-Beatle LP credited to Paul McCartney & Wings, released in 1973 and still widely regarded as his best post-Beatle work. In between, theres three other LPs, the formation of Wings, shows in the UK and Continental Europe, heaps of business dealings, press interviews galore, a drug bust or two, the arrival of second daughter Stella, confrontations with fans who, as ever, assemble outside his St John’s Wood home, a TV special, and meetings, friendlier than you might expect, with his old mates. 

        The bookonly real fault is that the second half is far and away more interesting than the first, largely because more was happening in Paul’s world during 1972 and ’73. Unfortunately, interminable analysis of song structures and meticulous details of recording sessions for Ram and Wild Life become wearisome in the early chapters, no doubt the contribution of co-author Kozinn, a graduate of the conservatory. Fortunately, in the later chapters such details are punctuated by fascinating, fly-on-the-wall reportage of Wings’ progress and their early tours. 

Much of this comes from the diaries of American drummer Denny Seiwell and his wife Monique, and interviews with their first tour manager John Morris, also American, the same man who went on to manage London’s Rainbow Theatre. Tellingly, Denny Laine – the other member of Wings with form – is missing from the lengthy list of acknowledgements at the end, unless, of course, he’s one of those who asked to remain anonymous. 

        From them and others, we learn about how the group was assembled, how Paul’s aim to be ‘just another member of the band’ was hopelessly optimistic – a bit like Bowie and Tin Machine – and how and why Wings Mark 1 fell apart, the root cause being Paul’s overbearing manner in the studio, the same issue that caused George to walk out of the Beatles’ Let It Be sessions. Being told what to play was too much for guitarist Henry McCulloch, who quit after a heated exchange, taking Seiwell with him. It didn’t help, either, that they (and Laine) were paid a mere £70 a week, considerably less than the individual members of Brinsley Schwartz received when they supported Wings on their 1973 UK tour. 

        With the group in disarray Paul showed considerable character in ploughing on with plans to record his next album, the record that became Band On The Run, in Nigeria, with this adventure – in all senses of the word – and the LP’s subsequent acclaim bringing the book to a fitting climax. It’s a testament to Paul’s stubborn, occasionally impulsive, nature that even with two men down he persisted with the African trip. “I’ll show ‘em,” was his attitude. “I don’t need you.” He needed a bodyguard though, for he and Linda were lucky to survive an unpleasant mugging during an ill-advised late-night stroll. 

A book of this size is loaded with evidence for both the prosecution and defence of Paul’s methods and temperament, as well as trivial gems galore that fascinate. Here’s a sample: Paul was holidaying in Scotland and unable to respond when Apple received a telegram inviting him to play bass on a session with Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis in New York; he paid $100,000 (then £40,000) for the Buddy Holly song catalogue; Paul and Linda sent the contents of one of Stella’s nappies to the odious journalist (and future Daily Mail editor) Paul Dacre in response to his negative coverage of Wings for the Daily Express; EMI offered Paul a miserable £5,000 advance for Band On The Run; and Jet was the name of a black pup, one of seven birthed in Scotland to Paul’s and Linda’s Labrador Poppy. 

Furthermore, the book is not without humour: on August 10, 1972, in Gothenburg, Paul and Linda, drummer Seiwell and Paul’s secretary Rebecca Hinds found themselves in jail at the city’s police station, charged with possession of cannabis. A package containing the drug, posted from the UK and addressed to Seiwell, had been intercepted by Swedish customs who’d notified the local narcotics cops.

“I went down to the police station, and they had put them all in separate rooms,” recalls tour manager Morris. “And you could hear Linda saying, ‘I want the American ambassador! I know my rights!’ I was working it out with the prosecutor… we posted a bond, which wasn’t a hell of a lot of money, and I said, ‘I’ll make you a deal. I’ll give you twice as much if you keep her.’ He said, ‘No, no. I’ll make you a deal. I’ll make it four times as much unless you take her.’” 

The McCartney Legacy is a great achievement, thorough in its research, fascinating in detail, albeit designed primarily to appeal to dedicated Macca (or Beatles) fans and unlikely to interest casual admirers. Illustrated with appropriate black & white pictures throughout, it lacks an index, unforgivable in a book of this scope*, and costs just over £15 on Amazon, which is a cheap for a 712-page hardback. 

* I am informed by co-author Adrian Sinclair that the lack of index was due to industrial action at the publishers and is a sore point between them and the authors. 



“One of my keenest memories of the Marquee in the sixties,” says David Bowie, “was having a permanent erection because there were so many fantastic looking girls there.” Among the girls who no doubt caused this reaction in David was Dana Gillespie, 15 years old with plenty of front, who was standing at the back of the club brushing her hair when David snatched the brush from her hand. His hair was blonde, straight and even longer than hers in those days, and it evidently required brushing. “David taught me a lot…” says Dana.  

        This little gem is extracted from Marquee: The Story Of The World’s Greatest Music Venue by Robert Sellars with Nick Pendleton. Broadly speaking, the story runs parallel to the rise of rock in London, initially for those groups and singers whose music stemmed from rhythm & blues but later pretty much every genre you care to name. Celebrated Scousers aside, just about every major UK artist of the sixties and seventies played there on their stairway to stardom, so the club became a sort of rite of passage along the way, like blistered fingers, uncomfortable Ford Transits and sacking the drummer who always seemed to disappear when it was his round.

        I arrived a bit late for the Marquee and certainly left too early but between 1970 and 1973 it was a regular haunt of mine. I’d wanted to go inside since August of 1968 when, on my first unsupervised visit to London, I saw a queue stretching up Wardour Street towards The Ship. “What’s on?” I inquired of a long-haired bloke in loon pants and a great coat. “Tull,” he replied. I was none the wiser.

        Two years later, newly appointed as News Editor of Melody Maker, I knew precisely what Tull meant, and before long I was very familiar with the club at 90 Wardour Street, grandly described here as the World’s Greatest Music Venue. It’s hard to argue with that really because for decades it was the crucible of British rock, its stage playing host to the Stones, Who, Bowie, Floyd, Jimi, Elton, Faces (Small and Rod-led), Zep, Slade, Queen, folkies, prog rockers, punks – including the Pistols  the cream of UK metal, U2, goths, a host of aspirational Americans, Metallica, R.E.M. and G’n’R among them, and scores more besides. 

        I suspect this book has had a long gestation period for I lost count of how many times I was approached at Omnibus Press with proposals for a book about the Marquee. I usually sent would-be authors away with a request for a sample chapter or two before I’d commission them. Either I never received anything back or their sample was insufferably bland, little more than a listing of acts who’d played there. If this book had crossed by desk, however, I’d have snapped it up as it’s a fine tale, well told, with just the right amount of entertaining, often enlightening, anecdotes to moderate what is essentially a chronological name drop.

The brainchild of Harold Pendleton, father of co-author Nick, the Marquee opened in 1958 as a jazz club at the slummy end of Oxford Street before moving in 1964 to its best-known location in Wardour Street. This was where the fun really began and 90% of the book is devoted to fascinating accounts of how bands and singers, many destined for the big time, hauled their gear into the Marquee through the back doors in Richmond Mews. To a man (there aren’t many women, unfortunately) they iterate in interviews old and new how important the club was to them and their careers, with an agreeably large number first entering the venue as fans. After 24 mostly glorious years in Wardour Street, the club moved to a disused cinema in Charing Cross Road, and seven years later the franchise was sold to others who ran two clubs with the same name elsewhere until 2006, though not much space is given to the post-Wardour Street era. 

Also featured are tales of Marquee spin-offs, most notably the National Jazz Festival which morphed into the National Jazz & Blues Festival, launched at Richmond in 1961, moving to Windsor, then Sunbury, then Plumpton and, finally, Reading. The changes in venue are attributed to nimbyism, while overzealous policing was a constant, unnecessary burden the mostly trouble-free festivals had to endure. Then there was Marquee Studios in the basement, the Marquee booking, publishing and management agencies and La Chasse, a members-only drinking den above a bookie’s shop midway between the Marquee and The Ship, fondly remembered by this writer. This was where bands and their retinues liked to tank up before and between sets, being as how only non-alcoholic drinks were available at the club, at least until 1970. Phil Collins was surprised to find Keith Moon behind the bar one night. “I bought a round from him and he gave me back more money than I’d handed over,” he recalls.

Listings at the end, as well as the index, offer a comprehensive guide to the sheer number of great acts who played the Marquee. There’s also a list of live albums recorded there (over 40) and a chart of who holds the record for the number of Marquee appearances (Long John Baldry on 200 tops the list, followed by Manfred Mann [and derivatives] on 99, with The Who way down on 30). 

        Finally, I began the first paragraph of this review with a quote from Dana Gillespie, mischievously (and deliberately) omitting 14 crucial words for effect. In reality Dana is quoted in the book as saying: “David taught me a lot of my first chords on the guitar, and he taught me a few songs.” 

        An explanation. On March 23, 1971, I was among the crush of fans crowded into the Marquee – official capacity 700, but there were probably over 1,000 that night – to watch Led Zeppelin, who the previous summer had attracted over 150,000 to the Bath Festival. The gist of my review in Melody Maker was that it was ill-advised for a group of Zep’s stature to play a venue this small. However, on page 129 of the book an unidentified MM writer (which was me) is quoted as writing: “The Marquee in all its long history has probably never seen a night like it.” In reality the quote went on to say: “… but I still doubt the wisdom of choosing the club in favour of a larger venue.” 

The authors of this book omitted these 16 crucial words, just as I did with Dana. Just so you know, Messrs Sellers and Pendelton, two can play at that game. Here’s proof: 

Grateful thanks to my friend Dave Lewis, the worlds foremost Led Zep historian, for finding this among his archives, even if he did chop my name off the end. 

The book costs £22 (£18.60 on Amazon) and can be obtained from http://www.paradiseroad.co.uk/marquee-the-story-of-the-worlds-greatest-music-venue



To the Electric Theatre in Guildford to hear Lucy O’Brien talk about Karen Carpenter and listen to a trio – keyboard player and arranger Janette Mason, bassist Simon Little and singer Jo Harrop – perform their interpretations of Carpenters songs in a lounge bar style, a bit jazzy, a bit cocktails-at-six, a bit Hotel Ritz. 

        I reviewed Lead Sister, Lucy’s book about Karen Carpenter, on Just Backdated at the end of January* and in her talk she was keen to stress how, in her opinion, the female half of the Carpenters had more potential, and more imagination, than she was permitted to display. This came across more in her talk than it did in her book, and gave her address, which was punctuated by readings, more weight, and, for those who attended, something to think about on the way home. 

        Exhibit number one, of course, was the solo LP she recorded in 1979, produced by Phil Ramone, that A&M declined to release, ostensibly because it lacked a ‘hit song’. To add insult to injury, A&M charged the $400,000 recording costs to Karen’s royalty account.

        “Karen was deeply hurt at this complete rejection,” writes O’Brien. “She had made a female soul album, her first compelling statement as a solo artist. Listening to the record over forty years later, what comes through is Karen’s own fresh, funky aesthetic. She sings in a higher register than on the Carpenters albums, weaving throughout her own intricate vocal arrangements. Her approach is intimate, light and upbeat, a conscious departure from the low, lush overload of songs like ‘Solitaire’ or ‘This Masquerade’… This is an album of nimble, sophisticated soul; classy and smart like Teena Marie’s Lady T or Patrice Rushen’s Pizzazz.”

        The album, which was finally released in 1996, featured on its cover a photograph of Karen in black leather, a departure from the carefully constructed image of her as the girl next door. Reading between the lines, it seems that when Karen first delivered the LP she was a victim of the ‘don’t rock the boat’ syndrome that afflicted record companies in danger of losing an established cash cow. Paul Simon, of all people, suffered the same treatment after the demise of Simon & Garfunkel when Columbia was strangely lukewarm about his first solo LP. They’d have much preferred an S&G follow-up to the multi-million selling Bridge Over Troubled Water, of course. 

        Furthermore, O’Brien suggested that Karen was much happier as the drummer in the Carpenters’ band than being promoted to up-front singer. Cubby O’Brien, who became the Carpenters’ drummer when Karen was obliged to abandon them, recalls her missing the drums terribly. “She loved playing, she was one of the first female drummers who got recognition as a good player,” he says. There seems little doubt that Karen’s subsequent anorexia was in part brought on by the need to project a slimline image of herself in keeping with the general assumption that this was what audiences demanded of girl singers – but not necessarily girl drummers, not that there were many role models to follow in the 1970s. 

        Similarly, O’Brien pointed out that when Karen wasn’t being smothered by her brother, her family and those who sought to gain from the Carpenters’ success, she enjoyed behaving in a manner quite unlike the carefully cultivated, wholesome image foisted on the public. “She could talk like a truck driver,” O’Brien informed us, leaving our imagination to work out what she meant.

        As I mention in my review, in 1973 I interviewed the Carpenters at their home in Downey, south of Los Angeles, and Lucy O’Brien quotes me in her book. During a Q&A session that followed the music and talk last night I asked her what co-operation, if any, she had received from Richard Carpenter. Turns out he ignored her emails but didn’t seek to prevent others from speaking to her. “He’s very private,” she added before informing the assembled crowd of about 60 that the bloke in row H who asked the question had spent time with the Carpenter siblings. They all turned to look at me. After all, I was the only one present who’d met them, albeit 50 years ago this September. 

* https://justbackdated.blogspot.com/2023/01/lead-sister-story-of-karen-carpenter-by.html