Fifty years ago today I crossed the Irish Sea to watch two groups on the Charisma label at Dublin Stadium, a 2,000-seater boxing arena where the ring had been removed so that a stage could extend out from one side. With the audience on the other three, it didn’t make for an ideal show. 

        Last night the headliners at this show, with one original member, played the 467-seat Leeds City Varieties Music Hall. The support act in Dublin, meanwhile, performed their last ever shows earlier this year, three nights at London’s 20,000-seat 02 Arena, with three original members and the singer fronting them 50 years ago sat in the audience for the final show.

        This change in fortune over half a century is all the more remarkable when you consider that the debut album by the headlining band in Dublin reached number eight in the LP charts and their chart-topping second was among the best-selling LPs in the UK during 1972. Released roughly the same time, the first two LPs by the support act failed to make the album charts at all, and their third only scraped in two years after release.

The groups in question, of course, were Lindisfarne, the folk-rock quintet from Newcastle, whom I loved, and Genesis, the ethereal prog rockers who weren’t really to my taste. Back when these two groups were rivals, Lindisfarne galloped way ahead in the Charisma Handicap but ran out of steam after two years at the top. Nevertheless, their sudden success largely financed the label’s early years and Genesis were among those who benefitted, progressing at a much steadier pace until they eventually became a stadium band with a sackful of gold and platinum LPs. 

Despite failing to back the winner in the long term, I hint at the writing on the wall in my review of the Dublin show for Melody Maker, which appeared in its October 7 (1972) edition. “To be casual is to be Lindisfarne,” I wrote, “but even the most relaxed of bands have a hard time putting over a set of new numbers when an audience hitherto starved of their music demands the oldies all the time.

        “Lindisfarne opened their current UK tour at Dublin Stadium last week, but I doubt whether the reaction to the concert went anywhere near to rivalling the reaction at the two Newcastle shows at the weekend. Lindisfarne have reached the dilemma that comes to so many bands who ‘make it’: how do you radically change a set when all the fans want to hear are the tunes they know.

        “Lindisfarne – normally the happiest bunch of Geordies you could hope to meet – were tense and nervous before this show. It’s unnecessary to say that after half a dozen shows they’ll swing together like clockwork again, but in Dublin – where the venue probably added to their problems – it was a rather wooden band who scaled the converted boxing ring to win the hearts of the Irish.

        “They were about 80 percent successful and Genesis, the supporting act who are equally well known across the Irish Sea, were 85 percenters.”

Lindisfarne had become friends of mine by the time I wrote this review, and I was trying hard to maintain my editorial objectivity. This was actually the second time I’d visited Ireland with them, and on the earlier occasion we’d taken a tour of the Guinness brewery together. This was unlikely to have occurred with Genesis. 

        “Before the show Alan Hull falls asleep in the dressing room, stretched along a wooden table and uncommunicative to all but himself,” I continued. “Simon Cowe has taken an armful of instruments to another room to begin the never-ending job of tuning. Between them Lindisfarne have four guitars, three mandolins, two basses and a banjo – a lot of tuning.

        “The rest watch Genesis who seem to hold a spell over the audience. Late arrivals wreck any early atmosphere the band attempt to create but once settled it’s obvious Genesis are respected. Peter Gabriel resembles Tutankhamen with his partially shorn head and elaborate necklace. His stories raise a laugh and the music brings cheers.

        “Genesis are not unlike Yes with their complicated, precise and well-rehearsed arrangements. The music is much harsher though and there’s an overall feeling of the macabre in what they do. One song, says Gabriel, is devoted to ‘Hammer Productions’, and for another he dons a fox mask – remarkably lifelike too – and a long red dress. The effect is frightening but wandering minds are jolted back into life as bright flashes of burning magnesium explode on either side of the stage.

        “‘Musical Box’ and ‘Giant Hogweed’ are greeted by the crowd like old friends and Genesis leave the stage to a standing ovation. The reception does little to calm the minds of Lindisfarne who are still tuning and await their turn anxiously.”

Between groups we were treated a short set by Rab Noakes, the Scottish singer songwriter whose ‘Turn A Deaf Ear’ Lindisfarne covered on their debut LP Nicely Out Of Tune. He, too, was well received.

        Pen and notebook in hand, I watched Lindisfarne for what I think was the eighth time. “[They] open with ‘Meet Me On The Corner’, a safe selection which everybody knows,” I reported. “But there’s a noticeable tension about them. Ray Jackson seems rooted to the spot and Rod Clements is edged into the background. Alan Hull seems determined at the front, ignoring the requests for ‘Fog On The Tyne’ and ‘We Can Swing Together’. Instead he grits his teeth and launches into a selection of songs no one has heard before in Ireland – or most other places for that matter.

        “They do practically the whole of the new Dingly Dell album. ‘Poor Old Ireland’ quietens the crowd so the words can be heard and, much to Hull’s relief, seems to please the Irish rather than antagonise them.

        “‘Dingly Dell’ itself is the most difficult to play. On record Lindisfarne are accompanied by brass and strings, but on stage Simon Cowe substitutes wah-wah guitar for both. The effect is not nearly so spell-binding as on the LP and more subdued lighting would have helped. But it’s a very brave attempt at a song with all the subtleties of ‘A Day In The Life’ – and the tempo changes. The trilogy of songs is a little shaky but comes over well enough considering the changes in instruments that go on. Hull does ‘All Fall Down’ at the organ, switches to bass during the jig ‘Plankton’s Lament’ and ends up on guitar for ‘Bring Down The Government’. After six gigs it’ll doubtless run like clockwork.

        “A new song, not on the new album and not heard before, was included in this show. ‘United States Of Mind’ is another Hull melancholia with an outstanding instrumental break in the middle. It deserves to go on record.

        “Lindisfarne closed with a new version of ‘We Can Swing Together’. It’s tighter and shorter and gone is Ray Jackson’s lengthy harp solo. Inserted in its place is ‘Dingle Regatta’, an instrumental track from the new album that sounds remarkably like an Irish reel. It was a good way to end the show, especially in Ireland.”

* * *

In the event, Lindisfarne’s forward momentum stumbled after Dingley Dell, their third LP, while Genesis went from strength to strength. I still prefer Lindisfarne’s music, and I listened to it a lot earlier this year while writing booklet notes for a multi-CD box set Lindisfarne At The BBC, which Repertoire Records will release in the near future. The notes, all 5,000 words of them, will appear on Just Backdated shortly after the set is released. 

The photograph of Lindisfarne on the tour programme above was taken by my friend Barrie Wentzell. 



Alerted to this CD some weeks ago by Amazon, who thought I might ‘like’ it, I was rather hoping it was recorded during Creedence Clearwater Revival’s concert at the RAH on 27 September 1971, which I attended. It’s not. It’s from a show in April 1970 when CCR was a four piece, and probably all the better for it, though the show I did see – with CCR as a trio – was memorable too, and not just because I watched it from behind them, sat with no one around me on those big steps where choirs stand during the Proms. I can’t remember why, maybe it was because the show was a sell-out and no one thought to send review tickets to Melody Maker until the last minute. Or maybe I blagged my way in on the strength of my MM credentials because I really wanted to see a band whose singles I loved in those days. I still do for that matter.

        Formed at high school in 1959, almost a decade before fame beckoned, firstly as The Blue Velvets, then as The Golliwogs, by the time they became CCR they had accumulated more chops than all their Bay Area rivals combined. This wasn’t the only thing that set them apart from their flower-powered contemporaries. They weren’t improvising country bluesmen like the Dead, psychedelic travellers like the Airplane or blues revivalist like Janis, and they dressed in denims, not yellow kaftans and billowing flares. They were radio-friendly, more AM than FM, and were retro if retro equates as having a foundation in basic rock’n’roll but, 12-bars aside, I’d lean more towards power pop before the term was invented, rock songs that were catchy, short and snappy, with great hooks, fat productions with a churning forward momentum supplied by a rhythm section that rarely took its foot off the pedal. Chooglin’ they called it.

        It wasn’t particularly fashionable but it was popular. I’d hazard a guess that no US band’s top ten hits – they had 13 between 1968 and 1971 – were played more on barroom juke-boxes than those by Creedence. They inspired at least a couple of convincing sound-alike records, among them The Hollies with Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress and a short-lived British trio called Christie whose CCR pastiche ‘Yellow River’ reached number one in the UK charts in 1970. So uncanny was the resemblance that when I saw CCR at the RAH, some audience members actually called out for ‘Yellow River’ during the show. 

        The mastermind of CCR was writer, singer and lead guitarist John Fogerty whose voice seems to me now like a soulful growl somewhere between Joe Cocker and Bruce Springsteen with a teaspoonful of Richard Penniman here and there. On rhythm guitar was his elder brother Tom, soon to leave, alongside bassist Stu Book and drummer Doug Clifford. They sounded like a well-drilled bar band, with fewer personnel than Springsteen’s E Street men but with the same temperament, the same hard-won skills, the same allegiance to rock’s honourable past.

        The new RAH CD contains just 12 songs and clocks in at less than 45 minutes, its longest track the encore, a mammoth eight minutes plus of ‘Keep On Chooglin’, its shortest ‘Travelin’ Band’ at 2.11, which qualifies it for inclusion on a Ramones album. Six songs are less than three minutes, but this parsimony in heft (by today’s CD standards) must not to be mistaken for a lack of quality. On the contrary, every track is rattled off in a seemingly effortless display of rock’n’roll know-how, the kind of flawless perfection that only groups with a thousand or more gigs under their belt can deliver. More importantly, all the way through they sound like they’re truly enjoying themselves playing like this, spurred on by a wildly enthusiastic crowd. 

        They open the show at a relatively modest pace with ‘Born On The Bayou’, introduced by Fogerty’s lead guitar riff. Drums and bass quickly assert the group’s signature sound before Fogerty sings, ‘When I was just a little boy…’, beginning at the beginning as it were, taking his audience to the area of America that inspired so many of CCR’s songs, not light and sunny California but the dark and swampy Deep South where hound dogs bark and hoodoos are chased. At 5.13, it’s the second longest track on the CD, enhanced by between-song guitar parts at a marching-band tempo that are designed not to enable the guitarist to grandstand but to enhance the song. Showboating has no place in CCR. ‘Green River’ follows. 

        My CCR companion for the past 30-odd years has been a 20-track compilation called Chronicle which lacks ‘Tombstone Shadow’, track three on the RAH CD. A mid-tempo 12-bar, it’s the only track that seems a bit like filler to me.

        The pace ramps up considerably for ‘Travelin’ Band’, augmented by some Little Richard-style hollering, which is over in the blink of an eye, and doesn’t let up for ‘Fortunate Son’, their sharp, politically-motivated comment on who gets drafted to Vietnam and who doesn’t. While much is made of San Francisco bands’ commitment to love and peace, CCR were – in their own way – on the side of the righteous too, albeit without wearing their hearts on their sleeves. ‘Who’ll Stop The Rain’ – not, alas, included here – is a good an allegory the futility of war as anything recorded by their peers.

        ‘Commotion’ whips by before we reach ‘Midnight Special’, recorded by all and sundry, and CCR give the old folk song an almost spiritual feel, at least by their reckoning. Two of their biggest hits, ‘Bad Moon Rising’ and ‘Proud Mary’ follow back to back, both duplicated note for note from the records, both received rapturously, short and sweet but CCR nirvana on the night. 

        They are followed by ‘The Night Time Is The Right Time’, a slow blues written by Lew Herman, aka Herman Lubinsky, the founder of Savoy Records, which dates from 1957. Now thoroughly warmed up, Fogerty gives it his all while the band echo him in an atypical call and response routine. Accelerating into the home straight, they rattle off Little Richard’s ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’ much like The Beatles essayed ‘Long Tall Sally’ and close the show with the eight minutes plus of ‘Keep On Chooglin’’, its rhythm worthy of Little Feat, the pace never letting up for a moment even if the drumming sounds like Doug Clifford was banging a dustbin lid.  

        The booklet notes include an extract from a review by Miles Kingston of The Times who reported that a standing ovation lasted throughout the National Anthem (!) and for a quarter of an hour after that. God save CCR indeed.



To the Bloombury Theatre in WC1 for a preview of Mark Lewisohn’s second public discourse on The Beatles. In 2019 Mark, now universally acclaimed as the world’s leading authority on the Fab Four, expounded on the group’s Abbey Road LP in a talk intriguingly titled Hornsey Road, after a site where EMI almost bought a recording studio so that the famous St John’s Wood premises could be reserved for classical and jazz musicians only. This never happened but if it had The Beatles would have recorded there and, ipso facto, Abbey Road would have been called Hornsey Road.
        This sort of left-field, join-up-the-dots and occasionally slightly surreal thinking illuminates Mark’s outlook when he shares his knowledge with those who, like me, are enthralled by the depth of his research. “The deeper you go, the higher you fly,” he says, introducing his new show, if it can be called that. Beatles/Evolver:62 comprises 62 sparkling gems from his archives that relate, sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly, to The Beatles’ progress in the year before they exploded into the national consciousness. 

        The results of the research Mark expounded on yesterday can be found in the pages of Tune-In, the first book in his multi-volume biography of The Beatles, published in 2013. His talk is essentially a demonstration of his methods, expanded with details that seem all the more profound when extracted from the page and brought into focus by his words and insight. 
        A large screen behind him is filled with icons that represent each of the 62 moments. Some are of great import, like Ringo replacing the hapless Pete Best or the series of events that led to George Martin becoming their producer at Parlophone, and some are trivial but enormously fascinating, like Mark’s claim that on March 7, during what was The Beatles’ first appearance on national radio, on a BBC show broadcast from Manchester called Here We Go, their live cover of The Marvelettes’ ‘Please Mr Postman’ was not only their radio debut but the first time anything from Tamla Motown had been broadcast on BBC radio. 
        Mark revels in coincidences. In the last week of October Paul and a girlfriend called Celia Mortimor hitchhiked to London to see the sights, staying with John’s friend Ivan Vaughan who lived in a flat on Great Portland Street. Deep research on Mark’s part among electoral records has revealed that Dr Richard Asher and his wife Margaret lived in the same building, along with their children, Peter, Jane and Clare, and that George Martin took oboe lessons from Margaret in the same premises. And that week, according to Celia, Paul was working on new song about a girl who was just seventeen. 
        Mark is at pains to get at the truth and disprove myths that have circulated over the years through sloppy reportage. For example, while it is generally accepted that Decca passed on The Beatles following their disappointing audition on January 1, the reality is that Brian Epstein passed on Decca, or at least passed on the terms that Decca offered. This, of course, was to The Beatles’ good fortune in the long term, not least because Brian Poole & The Tremeloes, whom Decca signed instead, were obliged to anonymously record LPs of current hit songs for their downmarket Ace Of Clubs label. Can you imagine JPG&R doing that?
        And, of course, while Decca’s A&R chief Dick Rowe became notorious as the ‘man who passed on The Beatles’, he was far from alone in this. In America Atlantic’s celebrated Jerry Wexler did the same thing, as did Laurie Records whose A&R man at the time was Doug Morris, a future chairman and CEO of the Universal Music Group, subsequently fulfilling the same role at Sony Music. Both were sent copies of ‘Please Please Me’. Strangely, Morris didn’t respond to Mark’s request for a comment on this.
        What did take my breath away was Mark’s research into the no-hopers who were signed by UK record labels while Epstein was desperately trying to get a deal for his Beatles. With the aid of pictures of their actual singles, Mark lists dozens of singers with little or no experience, all of whom made inferior records that went nowhere. Most of these complete unknowns – there were no groups and none played an instrument – were even promoted for having done regular jobs, as if a few years apprenticed to a painter and decorator was all that was required to record a hit. Meanwhile The Beatles, who’d logged up thousands of hours on stage in Liverpool and Hamburg, who had a thriving Fan Club in Liverpool and who were regularly voted Top Group in local polls, were shown the door. 
What were the record companies playing at? What were they thinking? Mark can’t answer those questions, only laugh, as did his preview audience. It was more than simple complacency, or even deafness. The answer, of course, is that in 1962 the UK record industry was a closed shop, run by middle-aged men who dictated what their young consumers were going to get, which was not what they wanted. The Beatles were so new, so different, so self-contained, so engaging, so experienced, so talented and, ultimately, so wanted that no one in the record business could see the wood for the trees. In Mark’s view, what they became wasn’t surprising really, not after you’ve heard him explain how and why it all happened. In a nutshell, they broke the system. 
        The talk is chronological and lasts just over two hours, with a break. Anyone with an interest not only in The Beatles but in the era just before fame beckoned will love it. My only complaint is that in doing shows like this Mark breaks off from writing the second in his trilogy of books, a tome I await with an eagerness now bordering on obsession. 

Beatles/Evolver: 62 is at the Bloomsbury Theatre, 15 Gordon Street, London WC1, on October 7 at 7.30pm and October 8 at 2.30pm and 7.30 pm. Tickets go on sale from 10am on Friday July 29 and can be obtained from the theatre. Unlike Hornsey Road, as yet Mark has no plans to take his show to other parts of the UK.