Monday 7 May 2018

Pink Floyd Essay: Why Absence Makes The Sales Grow Stronger

You can now buy 'Remember A Day - The Alan's Album Archives Guide To The Music Of Pink Floyd' in e-book form by clicking here!

Well done, you made it to the halfway part of the book (or halfway through our 'music' section at any rate!) We can't give you a prize to celebrate I'm afraid though you probably deserve one, but we can shake things up a bit by moving outside talking about our respective AAA bands' discography and moving on to what makes them stand out from their peers and offer something no other band can. In truth these essays kind of run across the whole book and you can read them in any order, but now we've reached the halfway point it's quite useful to take stock of where we've been and why before working out where we will go next. Pink Floyd, though, are a band who never really changed that much: oblivious to fashion, always doing their won thing, you can track a very Floydian arc all the way through their career from 1967 to 2017, together and apart. There are, though, certain themes that are always ‘present’ in their work, weirdly enough including ‘absence’…
There is a moment for every Pink Floyd fan, dear readers, when they get a shock and actually see what the band looks like for the first time. It could be the psychedelic pose in ‘Piper’, the picture-within-a-picture of ‘Ummagumma’ or maybe the modern Floyd getting it back together for ‘Live 8’ or opening some museum stuffed to the gunnels with flying pigs and talking heads. For me it was the inner sleeve of ‘Meddle’ when the band out-stare the camera with the intense gaze of a heavy metal band. Whatever it is, it’s a moment that comes as something of a shock: Pink Floyd are a band that feels as if they weren’t meant to have a ‘face’. Never the most exuberant or photogenic of bands on stage, they preferred to let the music do the talking for them – or let their audience be transfixed with flying spitfires, giant prisms or blow-up mother-in-laws. To be fan you had to really dig deep and do your research to find out what they looked like and they are, in all likelihood, the only band to be *that* famous that most fans wouldn’t recognise if they bumped into them at a gig. There’s a reason Pink Floyd have as many tribute acts as they do (more than anybody besides The Beatles and Elvis): it’s the sound and spectacle that matter, not whether the musicians are clutching their instruments in just the right way. While other bands pose and gurn for the cameras The Floyd go for the idea of ‘absence’ in their work: the spectrum light that can only be seen at the ‘right’ prism, the flying pig barely visible in the distance, the off-focus film still of ‘More’, the dress blowing in the breeze on ‘Wish You Were Here’ or an entire album cover hidden by bricks.
This isn’t just on the album covers but buried deep within this band’s DNA, a major part of their catalogue too. Most of the Syd Barrett years are about loss, about something that used to be there but isn’t as Pan/Peter Pan/Syd Pan retreats to the woods to lick his wounds and dream of his days in the nursery. Many of Syd’s best songs are about what is ‘really’ going on when the world’s back is turned and we aren’t looking: the [19] Scarecrows dance, the [18] gnomes frolic and his pet cat [13] Lucifer Sam is off having adventures. It’s a world where everybody else is having fun but you, something which is playful for the early years ([11] ‘See Emily Play’ even finds a girl who thinks the same way whose imagination Syd gets to play with) but downright creepy by the time Syd falls apart and ends up leaving the band, as heard on songs like [25] ‘Vegetable Man’ and [35] ‘Jugband Blues’ where poor Syd isn’t there in any physical form himself but trapped in an isolated imaginative world of his own making. It may be significant too that The Floyd enter with two songs about absence: [1] ‘Lucy Leave’ is the name of the first song committed to tape and [9] ‘Arnold Layne’ is the first that all but the band’s biggest fans ever got to hear – about a man who steals clothes off washing lines, hidden in plain sight.
It may be significant that the last of these is inspired by the first lodger that Syd’s mum took in after her husband and Syd’s father died just short of the boy’s sixteenth birthday. Syd never talked about it and it’s perhaps too easy to guess without knowing, but there’s a sense across Syd’s work that this is an adult age past which he never wants to pass. His world was turned upside down as he lost a role-model and a major part of his childhood just at the age when childhoods traditionally come to an end anyway. But Syd wasn’t ready to grow up: he had been a precocious child talent brimming with beauty and was born to be young – he couldn’t cope with growing old and having responsibilities. My guess (and like so many things in so many of these books is only a guess) is that the theme of loss came from Syd who used rock and roll as a chance to delay and ultimately escape the clutches of a cruel world that wanted to turn him into everybody else. The irony is that the pop world made him worse, eroding his confidence, depleting his creativity and leaving him an inward shell of himself, too far gone inside his own brain to play with Emily or anyone else ever again.
Instead it was Syd’s loss that will dominate Pink Floyd’s sound for the rest of their career. Though the years 1968-1969 were mostly spent trying to keep career path momentum going and fool people that the band hadn’t just lost their lead writer, guitarist and singer (mostly successfully, given the band’s anonymity) the years from 1970 see a growing trend of songs that are all about the loss of Syd. There’s a big Barrett-sized hole on many songs on many of these albums: Roger bidding a guilty goodbye to his best mate on [67] ‘If’, the spooky farewell of B-side [37] ‘Julia Dream’ where Roger’s ghostly whispered voice mourns ‘Save me…Syd!’, the big finale to ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ where everyone can end up like Syd, ‘the lunatic on the grass’, the lyrics to [131] ‘Nobody Home’ which was almost all taken from Syd’s last days and painted out as Roger’s character Pink descending into the ame gloom of madness and David’s later [175] ‘Lost For Words’ where first Syd then Roger depart, leaving a big hole in David’s band and life. 1975’s ‘Wish You Were Here’ is almost an entire suite of songs about absence that are bookended by a song about Syd not being there anymore ([110] ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’) punctuated by the [113] title track which is just dripping with loss. Obviously the Floyd would have been very different had Syd stayed well and stayed a member (it would have had more lyrics about pixies and transports for one thing), but the rest of the band wouldn’t have written quite the songs they did either.
However it’s not just the loss of Syd at the heart of this band. Roger too writes naturally about absence because he lost his father at an even younger age than Syd did, Eric Fletcher Waters losing his life in Anzio in the Second World War even though he had been a conscientious objector and his son had been raised by his socialist parents to look down on all forms of warfare. This is surprisingly rare amongst AAA musicians: though many of them did lose their parents in childhood to illness and accidents, none of the others ever lost a parent due to the war. Roger did – and the fact that the death was so unnecessary and something his father so fought against clearly had a huge effect on him. Starting with [95] ‘Free Four’, a bitter song all about loss and emptiness as a life in a ‘foxhole’ is replaced by one of endless touring, much of Waters’ work heads in this direction: his lyrics to ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ are a tour de force about human beings missing the point as they fill their empty existence with worries and pressures instead of simply living and making the most of what they have (there’s even a song named ‘Eclipse’, the perfect image for a band that’s-there-but-isn’t-there). ‘The Wall’ and ‘The Final Cut’ are extended metaphors about loss and losing part of yourself, having it battered out of you by war-weary teachers, uncaring girlfriends, suffocating mothers and unfeeling tour managers. That way fascism lies, says Roger, turning Pink into a rallying crusader against everybody he’s afraid of – when really he’s afraid of himself. Only by hiding behind a ‘wall’, keeping things at a distance and pretending they aren’t there, can any of us function – and that’s what leads to the wars that killed his father. [150] ‘The Fletcher Memorial Home’ is particularly telling, as every tyrant and dictator is clearly missing something in their lives and need love and care, getting to live out their days in retreat without troubling the rest of us – in a home named for the parent that they blew up, causing Roger to feel these things instead. It’s a vicious cycle that’s never broken.
David Gilmour too covers loss, usually with pangs of nostalgia for childhood places. When asked to write songs for the band without really knowing what to do, he seems to have reached back to Syd’s love of childhood but spoken about it in more ‘modern’ terms, as he actively looks back to the past for solace rather than having the past come to ‘him’. [69] ‘Fat Old Sun’ is a memory of a mis-spent childhood bunking off school and playing by the riverbanks in Cambridge. It re-appears in [176] ‘High Hopes’ where the ‘grass was greener, the nights were brighter’. It’s absent entirely from David’s modern life on [59] ‘The Narrow Way’. It’s tantalisingly out of reach on [83] ‘A Pillow Of Winds’ (a very Floyd theme as winds are also colourless and absent but have a ‘tug’ on what can be seen as leaves blow or trees bend: they return frequently such a sound effect at the start of [82] ‘One Of These Days’ and the gusty noise at the start of part two of [110] ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’, the ‘icy wind’ of Roger’s own nod to David’s childhood nostalgia [57] ‘Grantchester Meadows’ and one of the pictures on the cover of ‘Wish You Were Here’). In his solo career too David uses the loss of close friends as a recurring theme for his works, including his moving song for Rick ‘A Boat Lies Waiting’.
As for Rick Wright, he too sings about loss, but in a personal more guilty way than the others. His background nostalgia all dates back to things he got wrong in the past and can’t put right: [68] ‘Summer ‘68 regrets a night spent with groupie Charlotte Pringle, [23] ‘Paintbox’ laments ‘feeling rather empty’ as he tries to chat up a girl and [171] ‘Wearing The Inside Out’ is all about Rick’s (and co-writer Anthony Moore’s) regret of his own life path after joining the Floyd, over-ruled by Roger and under-rated by everyone around him, turned inwards to the point where he may as well not have existed. Then too [30] ‘Remember A Day’ is even more of a goodbye to childhood than Syd’s or David’s work, as a sweet and innocent past is juxtaposed with a cold and heartless present. Rick’s solo work, too, is dominated by loss: ‘Wet Dream’ is written for the end of a marriage he knows won’t last much longer and [Broken China’ is written for the start of a second as he watches his wife suffer with depression and wondering what to do and how to care for her when she isn’t ‘there’ in anything but physical form. However Rick also wrote perhaps the most famous song of loss written by anybody as [100] ‘The Great Gig In The Sky’ plays its role in Roger’s concept suite of songs about the pressures of modern-day living by dealing with grief and death.
There’s one other factor that might contribute to this idea of absence. Of all the English bands Pink Floyd might well be the most English. They’re a band who never talked to each other even during the brief time (half of 1969?!) when they genuinely seemed to like each other. Not a band for socialising or parties, most of the time working on a record the Pink Floyd way (members turning up randomly, each putting their input in then going home) meant that the band didn’t actually sit down and confront each other about anything. Even the way Rick was pushed out of the band in 1981 was pretty much done by Chinese whispers and passed messages, just as it was when the band decided not to both picking Syd up for a gig in 1968, signalling his end with the band. When Roger started fighting the rest of the band for his piece of the band’s name in 1985 it shocked people not because Roger didn’t have a point (he had dominated the band’s compositions for ten years) or because the rest of the band didn’t have one (it’s not up to someone else to tell you what you can do or not) but because it brought all that bad blood out into the open for the first time. Pink Floyd were a band who never ever talked about their problems and still don’t like talking about it much now if some of the squirming interviews in documentaries down the years are anything to go by. Even their promotional duties tend to feature a giant talking head or a weird online marketing campaign rather than the band themselves. The next logical step from this very English reserve was always going to be absence – they’re a lot closer to it than presence. Maybe, too, the fact that the Floyd were (by AAA standards) quite posh and well-off had something to do with it to. There’s a particularly feel about Southern England (particularly Cambridge) that makes you want to whisper rather than shout and makes you aware that you don’t want to upset the horses too much. A childhood spent in ‘quiet desperation’ (the ‘English way’) is surely going to have an impact on a band whose natural bent is to write about their past with a sense of nostalgia anyway.
It’s not just the individual songs that deal with absence, but arguably the whole of the canon pretty much. There’s a certain musical sound the Floyd have which no one else does: long soundscapes where not much happens, which makes every single note sound special and important. The opening to [110] ‘Crazy Diamond’, for example, is more or less five minutes of nothing marked by only three chord changes across the whole first section before David’s guitar comes in and starts revving things up. This isn’t a band who played hard, fast and loose very often (though it’s striking when they do such as on [125] ‘Young Lust’ [82] ‘One Of These Days’ or [44] ‘The Nile Song’). Instead the Floyd would go for epic pieces that were made for leisurely thinking – apart from the songs where something nasty might or might not be pursuing the author ([39] ‘Careful With That Axe Eugene’). Though the band chopped and changed it a lot, the ‘default’ Floyd sound is made up of Rick’s pulsating churchy organ, which ebbs and flows and throbs with every note, Dave’s remarkably clear yet remarkably feedback-heavy guitar, Roger’s pounding pulsating bass line that prowls like a tiger deep in the mix and Nick’s drums which vary in noise from a whisper to a yell. Each of these factors make us question whether what we’re hearing is really there or not: when does one of Rick’s notes bend and another begin? When has David’s guitar been possessed by the great rock and roll ghost of feedback who makes all songs better? Just what is Roger actually playing directly with his bass rather than shaping the instruments around him? And is Nick there at all or is it a sound effect? This is the very epitome of a sound that’s there-but-not-really-there.
So, was this theme of absence a conscious decision or not? I would think not on balance: Syd didn’t have time to analyse what he was doing – he was too busy writing it – and the others picked up on what they liked in his work and changed it around to suit themselves (Roger’s anger, David’s hope and Rick’s sadness). The fact that two of them had pretty miserable childhoods dominated by loss and that they were brought up in a quiet out-of-the-way part of English pastures where children – and musicians – were seen and not heard (and ultimately not even seen) makes the theme of absence a natural recipe to come up with out of the ingredients they were given. However that doesn’t always explain an extra ‘factor’ – the sense throughout many of their songs that something is happening just out of our grasp, something great and beautiful and bold and brilliant that disappears when we turn to look at it. Like the Grateful Dead, many fans of the early Floyd went to their concerts simply because they never did the same thing twice, ever – even after knowing this band’s back catalogue really well it still feels as if it shifts underneath my feet from time to time, moving but still, with so many layers in the production that it feels as if I can find something new in it every time I hear, just out of my reach. I keep thinking I’ve found it – and then the whole lot get obscured by clouds, or a flying pig, or a song about [103] ‘Money’ and I find I’ve lost it again – till the next playing anyway…

A Now Complete List Of Pink Floyd and Related Articles To Read At Alan’s Album Archives:

‘Wish You Were Here’ (1975)

‘Animals’ (1977)

'The Wall' (1980)

'The Final Cut' (1983)

'A Momentary Lapse Of Reason' (1987)

'Amused To Death' (Waters) (1992)

The Best Unreleased Pink Floyd Recordings

Surviving TV Clips 1965-2014

Non-Album Songs 1966-2000

Live/Solo/Compilation Albums Part One 1965-1978

Live/Solo/Compilation Albums Part Two 1980-1989

Live/Solo/Compilation Albums Part Three 1990-2015

Landmark Concerts and Key Cover Versions

Essay: Why Absence Makes The Sales Grow Stronger

Lindisfarne: Five Landmark Concerts and Three Key Cover Versions

You can buy 'Passing Ghosts - The Alan's Album Archives Guide To The Music Of Lindisfarne' in e-book form by clicking here!


I don't know about you, dear reader, but so far this book/website has seemed awfully studio-bound: yes there are the odd live albums dotted round in the discographies but a touring life was usually as important if not more so to our AAA artists. Even we can't go through every gig they ever played however, so what we've decided to do instead is bring you five particularly important gigs with a run-down of what was played, where and when and why we consider these gigs so important, along with one particularly good one that summed up the band's setlist during their live peak (or one of them, anyway). Think of these as a sort of 'highlights' covering from first to (in some cases) last, to whet your appetite and to avoid ignoring a band's live work completely! Lindisfarne never played as many gigs as some of their contemporaries. They were a studio band who seemed to do better when they had the luxury of overdubs and studio time, perhaps because they hadn’t actually played that many gigs together before the release of their debut LP, just three months before releasing it in fact (though they had made several apart). It was inevitable, perhaps, that their demise should come not while recording or promoting but while touring, with the 1972 split coming on the band’s first major world tour during a tour of Australia where the band were feeling homesick. Most of their happiest gigs were always played at home, in Newcastle, with the band wary of extended touring in their ‘reunion’ career after what happened to them during their first. Even so there are a lot of Lindisfans with an awful lot of happy memories of lots of happy concerts and Lindisfarne’s live records are particularly popular, many in both quantity and quality (there are seven of the things now, which isn’t bad for a band who maybe played a few hundred gigs rather than a few thousand like some other 1960s/1970s musicians). Here’s our guide to five of the most important of that number:
1) Where: Newcastle City Hall UK When: July 2nd 1970 Why: First Gig Setlist: Unknown

Lindisfarne had played many gigs apart – as The Brethren, Downtown Faction or Alan Hull solo – but this was the first featuring all five of the founding members performing under the Lindisfarne name. Nobody really knew who the band were at the time and they hadn’t released anything yet, their management getting them a run of three gigs at the same venue between August and October 1970 to see how they went down with the public. ‘Well’ was the verdict, although even then fans were talking about Lindisfarne’s charming amateurism rather than giving them awards for polish. Lindisfarne were, naturally, the supporting act that night given their lack of experience to a band named ‘Jackson Heights’ – basically what was left of Nice after Keith Emerson quit the band. One of the band members was multi-instrumentalist and local lad Charlie Harcourt, who got on with the band so well he kept in touch – and joined Lindisfarne himself in 1973. Sadly we don’t know what was performed at this gig (a selection from ‘Nicely Out Of Tune’ seems likely with recording sessions about to start in mid-August that year) but I would guess that the band’s blues roots were showing most, given that the band followed this gig with three headlining ones at the prestigious blues venue ‘The Kirkcaldy County Club’ in Hartlepool after this (so [21] ‘Jackhammer Blues’ and [23] ‘Knacker’s Yard Blues’ potentially; I would imagine early favourite [11] ‘We Can Swing Together’ was in there too as Hull had already performed and indeed recorded this solo by now and had a local hit with it).

2) Where: Royal Melbourne Showgrounds, Australia When: Shibuyu Public Hall, Tokyo, Japan, February 14th 1973 Why: Controversial Gig Setlist: Sample set list from tour: [27] Meet Me On The Corner [14] The Road To Kingdom Come [39] All Fall Down [31] January Song [48] Court In The Act [4] Dingly Dell [15] Winter Song [46] Wake Up Little Sister [13] Lady Eleanor [35] Train In G Major [11] We Can Swing Together [36] Fog On The Tyne [17] Clear White Light

Lindisfarne had got so big so quick that they had never really done a lengthy world tour – just a number of short UK ones. It seemed an obvious step to make given where their career was heading in the wake of ‘Fog On The Tyne’ so manager Tony Stratton organised one, starting in Ireland in October 1972 and ending in Australia four months later. The band were nervous but excited: they were one of the hottest bands in the world at the time and had fans all over and what’s more had friend Rab Noakes and Charisma bandmates Genesis in support, as close to home from home as they could manage after a year of UK package tours with Genesis and Van De Graaf Generator in 1971. But the wheels started to come off the tour bus: the band were touring in the wake of not a triumph but the poor critical reaction to ‘Dingly Dell’, a difficult third album that split fans down the middle (though isn’t anywhere near as bad as people make out sometimes). Lindisfarne hadn’t had much rehearsal time and struggled with their new songs much more than their old ones, with early gigs interrupted by endless delays and checking of keys and equipment. Jacka admitted onstage at the first gig that they were under-rehearsed and ‘scared shitless’ by all the extra attention they seemed to be getting. By the time the band hit America nobody knew who they were again and they were disillusioned to be back down the bill, touring in the back of two rusty old station wagons, a far cry from the glitter and glamour they’d dreamed of; the fact that the band was spit in half also helped increase the divisions between a band who’d only met as a five-piece two years previously and who all had different visions of the group’s direction. Then the band moved on to New Zealand – where it rained buckets every day for the five days the band were in the country, the stages having to be cleared with buckets before every gig. Hull and Clements now had young families back home that they were missing, during the longest time they had ever been away from Newcastle. Alan was desperate to go home and write, but there was no time booked into the schedules to allow him to do this – instead there was just an endless list of gigs. With Manager Strat busy with his British music empire nobody was steering the ship, with stages set up badly or with lousy equipment that made a tense band even more fed-up. Matters came to a head during a lengthy flight from Perth to Sydney when a slapstick tension-reliving foodfight on a plane got out of hand and Francis Rossi, from support act Status Quo, took all his clothes off. The bands were all arrested for indecency and disturbing the public peace – talk about ‘sickly sausage rolls!’ The band then moved on to Japan, where a seething tension between Hull and Cowe turned into a huge row, an argument over some extra on-stage turning being blown up out of all proportion. Hull told Cowe he was kicking him out the band, Rod and Ray told him he couldn’t do that and Jacka tried to keep the peace between the two sides, Lindisfarne ending the two bust in two for the next three and a half years. The last song the original band played on stage for all that time was, perhaps fittingly, ‘Clear White Light’ – but the band no longer believed in being saved or any divine purpose leading them on. In the end a tour that had started with so much promise and hope disintegrated, slowly, bit by bit across several months and Lindisfarne never regained the momentum they lost here.

3) Where: Newcastle-Upon-Tyne City Hall, UK When: December 22nd 1976 Why: First Reunion Gig Setlist:

[13] Lady Eleanor [14] Road To Kingdom Come Turn A Deaf Ear [31] January Song [48] Court In The Act [37] No Time To Lose [15] Winter Song [29] Uncle Sam [46] Wake Up Little Sister [39] All Fall Down [27] Meet Me On The Corner ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ [35] Train In G Major [22] Scarecrow Song [4] Dingly Dell [38] Scotch Mist [11] We Can Swing Together [36] Fog On The Tyne [17] Clear White Light ‘White Christmas’

Lindisfarne had remained in touch since they split in two. Occasionally Jack The lad and Lindisfarne Mark II even found themselves sharing the same stage (and adding some friendly heckles to the other’s set lists!) They were, however, wary of playing with each other on stage again. Andy Hudson, director of a planned festival in Newcastle, was the one who finally came out and suggested it, desperate to get as many local groups as he could to show off how great their beloved home city was. Four of them tentatively said yes, Jacka said no – but when the band had at least begun to talk about it and think about it and when the invitation came again to reform for their fans at Christmas that year they all said yes. The band met in a pub (they still aren’t saying which one!) and played together informally in between drinks (and signing autographs – they weren’t as anonymous as they’d hoped!), talking about what they’d been up to and seeing if the old friendship was still there. It was, so they agreed to the reunion on the condition that it only lasted for three dates and would be a special Christmas things for fans who had been robbed of that farewell back in 1973. The gigs, broadcast on local radio, were a big success – so much so that the audience actually refused to go home, stomping and cheering for several minutes even though the band had gone off-stage and got changed. Having run out of material the band nervously walked back on stage to sing a wonky a capella rendition of ‘White Christmas’ for their fans – which only made them applaud all the more. Though the band kept to their word and went back to their separate ways, a sequel the following Christmas was too delicious an idea to refuse and after that it was only a small step for Lindisfarne to reunite properly in 1978. Sometimes Christmas wishes really do come true!

4) Where: Newcastle City Hall, UK When: July 2nd 1995 Why: Last Gig With Alan Hull Setlist: [27] Clear White Light [114] Squire [13] Lady Eleanor [27] Meet Me On The Corner [173] Evening [33] City Song [232a] One World [39] All Fall Down [15] Winter Song ‘This Heart Of Mine’ [250] We Can Make It [14] The Road To Kingdom Come [156] Run For Home [36] Fog On The Tyne

Not many bands get to play a ‘25th anniversary gig’ with their original line-up still intact more or less (of the original five only Jacka had quit by this point, as recently as 1991). But here is gig 131 and it’s all rather fitting that it should be ‘back home’. Sadly Lindisfarne only managed it by the skin of their teeth as this event that was meant to celebrate the band became, in retrospect, more of a wake, the last they played with Alan Hull before his sad death aged just fifty that November. One other change is that this is one of their first gigs with bass player Ian Thomson – not a ‘replacement’ as such, as Rod Clements remains very much on stage but in a switch that must be unique for an established rock and folk band he’s now the band’s second guitarist and barely plays any bass all night. Performing in front of a special mock-up ‘pub’ backdrop, Lindisfarne for once had no new product to promote so largely stuck to their elder songs, filmed for a TV special only ever broadcast in Newcastle and district by local television (and sadly only briefly out on video – we need a re-issue pronto!) Local celebrities turned up including ‘Auf Wiedersen Pet’ actors Tim Healy and Kevin Whately and just as on the band’s early tours the support act was Rab Noakes. The show, nicknamed ‘Another Fine Mess’ in deference to a review of that show (a’ fine mess’), was actually a very polished, almost slick gig by Lindisfarne standards. The last song Hull sang on stage with his old band? A gleeful encore of ‘Fog On The Tyne’ – this is one of the few Lindisfarne shows where his song of death ‘Clear White Light’ appeared at the start for a change! The show is also notable for being one of the few times the band ever performed 1994 single ‘We Can Make It’, a regrettably ironic choice in the circumstances and a track the rest of Lindisfarne never did revive without Alan there to sing it.

5) Where: Tyne Theatre and Opera House, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, UK When: November 1st 2003 Why: Last Gig (Sort Of!) Setlist:  [37] No Time To Lose [124] Rockin’ Chair [267] This Guitar Never Lies [279] Remember Tomorrow [269] This Too Will Pass [272] Freedom Square [256] Ghost In Blue Suede Shoes [13] Lady Eleanor [273] Under The Promenade [274] Rock and Roll Phone ‘Statues and Liberties’ [27] Meet Me On The Corner [255] Born At The Right Time [15] Winter Song [258] Can’t Do Right For Doing Wrong [31] January Song [264] One Day [14] The Road To Kingdom Come [261] Unmarked Car [256] Jubilee Corner [275] Unfinished Business ‘Whisky Highway’ [156] Run For Home [117] One More Bottle Of Wine [36] Fog On The Tyne [262] Devil Of The North [27] Clear White Light

Lindisfarne had, however, planned for this ‘real’ farewell. A lengthy three hour gig took in everything old and new under the watchful eye of new caretakers Billy Billyell and Dave Hull-Denholm (Alan’s son-in-law) in a moving show that featured lots of new songs from the band’s final album ‘Promenade’ alongside the usual hits. We’ve already covered the release of this set as the CD and DVD ‘Time, Gentlemen, Please’ – there are though a few rarities worth bringing to your attention. The first is a moving performance of ‘Statues and Liberties’, the title track of Alan’s posthumous album from 1996 which he surely would have been performing himself – Billy does his old friend proud. Another is Rod’s ‘Whisky Highway’, the last original to be introduced to the Lindisfarne stage and which will follow him to his solo career but seems very fitting as a Lindisfarne song with its idea of a life told in bottles and a career passing in a haze of booze! It’s a fitting way to end, although Dave’s ‘This Too Shall Pass’ is the real tearjerker on a set that’s oddly together and reserved, without the tears or sobbing you would expect from a band like Lindisfarne. ‘Clear White Light’ is, thankfully, back in its rightful place as a set closer and the perfect bookend to the band’s career, heard in a particularly great version that goes on for hours!


Sometimes when artists pick up that musical baton they pay tribute to their heroes by covering their favourite songs. Here are three covers that we consider to be amongst the very best out of the ones we've heard (and no we haven't heard them all - do you know how many AAA albums out there are out there even without adding cover songs as well?!) Alas there has been, to the best of my knowledge, covers of only four Lindisfarne songs down the years (assuming for the moment that ex band members covering each other’s material doesn’t count!) Three of them are on this page, although there are dozens of covers of [36] ‘Fog On The Tune’ around and a couple more of [13] ‘Lady Eleanor’ too, we consider this trio to be the peak of your extra-curricular Lindisfarne collection!

1)     [13] Lady Elenora (‘Caterina Caselli’, 1972)

‘Lady Elenora’, as she was re-christened, was surprisingly hot off the mark here, recorded before the 1972 re-issue of the song that finally turned it into a big hit for Lindisfarne. A bouncy, uptempo version of the song is sung in Italian but to curiously celtic instruments, with the mandolin part effectively playing the guitar part too, not just the song’s distinctive opening. It’s interesting hearing a female interpretation of this Medieval seductress, even if the whole song is performed in Italian. Altogether now! ‘Sto bene tra le tue braccia!’ Catarina came to fame performing at the 1966 San Remo Songwriting Contest and her performance of ‘Nessuno Mi Puo Giudicare’ became a best-seller. After releasing a few albums of mostly Italian songs with a few pop covers thrown in she ‘retired’ to run a record label ‘Sugar Music’ who scored a big success after Caterina Discovered the tenor Andrea Bocelli. Thoughtful and much more classical than Lindisfarne’s folky original, it gains in polish what it lacks in spooky mystery.

2)     [258] Can’t Do Right For Doing Wrong (Erin Rocha, A-Side, 2003)

Does this count as a cover? Lindisfarne always felt that this passionate ballad from the ‘Neighbourhood’ record would be a good ‘standard’ for other groups to cover so arranged for a demo recording to be made which could then be hawked around to bigger singers. They had in mind  some big name star of the day and figures that it sounded ‘right’ in a female singer’s voice and hoped that Norah Jones might sing it, given her current success and the folky idiom they had in common. So they asked the record company to find a suitable demo singer for them. Little did Rod and co know that the singer the record label had provided was actually a sixteen on work experience in a recording studio in Dorset, a talented kid named Erin Rocha who had nothing to do that day and who rather liked that song, so after thesession singer phoned in sick agreed to give it a shot herself. Figuring that her performance was perfect and she must be a lot older with a tonne of experience, an excited Clements asked the record company to put her version out instead and ‘Can’t Do Right’ became something of a radio hit. Sadly it never sold many copies and Erin disappeared into obscurity again but her performance is indeed the best Lindisfarne cover song (if indeed this ‘arranged’ version counts) there is. Erin’s vocal is delicious, emotional and vulnerable in stark contrast to Billy’s weary, detached self on the Lindisfarne original and she sounds as young as she was at the time, experiencing heartbreak for the first time, in comparison to Billy’s worldly-weary seen-it-all self. The backing is much the same as Lindisfarne’s though and may well feature Rod himself playing the guitar. There was interest enough for Erin to record a highly respectable debut album ‘Paper Wings’ which features ‘Can’t Do Right’ as track six, but the rest of it is less nuanced, polished pop with the Lindisfarne original sounding at odds with everything else. A shame as it would have been great to hear some covers of similar sings – I reckon Erin has a great [31] ‘City Songs’ in her and maybe a [15] ‘Winter Song’ too. Alas Erin has all but disappeared since the release of her one and only album over a decade ago – a shame as she clearly has talent, with Lindisfarne’s piece by far her greatest voca (though ‘When He Says He Loves You’ from the LP isn’t far behind).

3)     [15] Winter Song (Def Lepperd, ‘Yeah!’, 2006)

‘Oh dear’ I thought when I first heard about this one. ‘Lots of screaming!’ But no: this heavy metal band’s cover of one of Alan Hull’s most delicate songs is gorgeous, taken a lick faster than the original but with the same acoustic loveliness. Joe Elliott’s gritty vocals give the song a different feel to Lindisfarne’s original, a layer of sandpaper over life’s unfairness and the gulf between the haves and have-nots as he sarcastically turns on people going about their everyday lives in ignorance at the suffering going on round the corner. The song still ‘feels’ the same, though and is a worthy pick for their covers album ‘Yeah!’ which also features songs by The Kinks (an oddly empty and anodyne version of ‘Waterloo Sunset’) and Badfinger (a so-so ‘No Matter What You Do’). This is by far the album highlight and indeed the Def Lepperd catalogue I’ve heard so far, although I’m not exactly what you might call a ‘fan’…


'Nicely Out Of Tune' (L) (1970)

'Fog On The Tyne' (L) (1971)

'Dingly Dell' (L) (1972)

'Roll ON Ruby' (L) (1973) 

'The Squire' (AH) (1975)

'The Old Straight Track' (JTL) (1975)

‘Jackpot’ (JTL) (1976)

'Magic In The Air' (L) (1978)

'Back and Fourth' (L) (1978)

‘The News’(L) (1979)

'Sleepless Nights' (L) (1982)

'Dance Your Life Away' (L) (1986)

‘Amigos’ (1989)

'Elvis Lives On The Moon' (L) (1993)

'Here Comes The Neighbourhood' (1998)

'Promenade' (2002)

Si Cowe Obituary and Tribute (2015)

Surviving TV Clips

Live/Solo/Compilation Albums Part One 1970-1987

Live/Solo/Compilation Albums Part Two 1988-2015

Essay: Keepin’ The Rage On Behalf Of The Working Classes