The resources of the BBC archive represent untold treasure in terms of music recorded at a time when doors were open with a wonderful eclectic attitude at the broadcasting institution and the audience for specialist genres was as sizeable and eager as that for mainstream pop and rock. Whilst much of what’s there on paper and in files has been removed due to an overzealous drive to reuse tapes for recording what remains can give fascinating and just occasionally unique glimpses into bands and singers outside the usual tour, record, tour, record cycle. As a f’r instance Fairport Convention’s sessions were stacked with songs recorded nowhere else, making their BBC set “Heydays” quite a singular and desireable artifact. BBC material has been issued in steady drips as bonus tracks on lots of reissued albums, tempting fans with the term ‘ Previously Unreleased ‘ displayed front and centre on a colourful sticker. With the arrival of box sets often on the back of critical reappraisal the Beeb saw the potential in what they had in store and created a new commercial arm to deal with any requests which may come their way in terms of licencing.
Time goes by, the wheel turns, with a recent large box set by Steeleye Span, monster sized compilations by Horslips and Al Stewart, your pockets may be emptying but now comes the release of “Radio Times” a more modest eight CD collection by Lindisfarne, which rounds up just about everything they recorded for Auntie between 1971 and 1990 and it’s stacked with – as you might expect – great songs. The band, especially the Ray Jackson, Simon Cowe, Alan Hull, Ray Laidlaw, Rod Clements original line up, have become as one with their home turf, they’ve grown to represent Geordie and north eastern culture, synonymous with Newcastle Upon Tyne in particular. Musically they reflected what they saw, felt and experienced, they spoke for many around them, their music was good time, it made you feel part of it, they’d a communal vibe which easily translated across the country from region to region. Lindisfarne wrote obviously British material, even if they did have some blues hidden amongst their inspirations these lads knew where their roots were planted. At the height of their success, when record company pressure had forced them to relocate to London, they felt adrift and cut off from what drove them, the writing just wasn’t the same or as easy so a swift return north followed and quality was once more restored. It’s a debateable point, did Lindisfarne get their due share of recognition? I’d say they didn’t and that’s despite “Fog on The Tyne” being a chart topping album in 1971, somewhere they’d drifted off the critical radar, they visited the Top 40 on occasion so had hits, a fracture in the ranks at the end of gruelling world tour and reformation with new musicians utlimately meant the name was retired for a few years. That opened the door for the original band to reunite and flourish until 2004 when an acoustic final gig quietly took place.
Lately Lindisfarne have been getting nods of approval and celebrity fans voicing appreciation, a BBC TV documentary on the late Alan Hull which rightly portrayed him as an overlooked song writing genius, did much to refocus the spotlight, young north east singer songwriter Sam Fender is a fully paid up flag waver, there’s also a plaque on the wall of Newcastle City Hall which celebrates both Hull and Lindisfarne’s concerts therein. And you could say there are two Lindisfarne’s continuing their Geordie spirit. One is the Live band with Rod Clements – their original bassist – as the focus, the Lindisfarne Story is more documentary and has drummer Ray Laidlaw and later vocalist Billy Mitchell explaining the albums and songs as well as the associated stories. Now comes the BBC collection….
The Fog On The Tyne can be yours, all yours.
Over the eight discs there is a mixture of tracks in session and in concert, the years run chronologically from 1971- 1990, only one session is credited to any name other than Lindisfarne and that’s as Downtown Faction, a monicker the group had used before they joined with Alan Hull. A significant proportion of the material is unreleased including Lincoln Festival 1972, Poetry Plus at the Festival Hall 1972, Newcastle City Hall 1990 as well as much more.
Disc 1 Sounds of the 70s Feb 1971, Folk On One March 1971, Sounds Of The 70s May 1971, Mike Raven Show May 1971, Sounds Of The 70s June 1971.
Disc 2. John Peel Sunday Concert July 1971, John Peel Sunday Concert Dec 1971, Lincoln Festival May 1972.
Disc 3. Top Gear Sept 1971, Johnnie Walker Show Nov 1971, John Peel Show Feb 1972, John Peel Show May 1972, Sounds Of The 70s June 1972, Alan Freeman Showw Sept 1972, John Peel Show January 1973, Poetry Plus Lindisfarne May 1972, Full House BBC2 Sept 1972.
Disc Four. In Concert Dec 1973, John Peel Show April 1974, Sounds Of The 70s August 1974.
Disc Five. In Concert January 1979. (recorded in Nov 1978 at Essex University.)
Disc Six. Richard Skinner Show. Jan 1981, In Concert Dec 1982.
Disc Seven. Lindisfarne Christmas Concert BBC 2 Dec 1984, In Concert from The Cambridge Folk Festival July 1986.
Disc Eight. Live At Newcastle City Hall. Dec 1990, Paul Jones Rhythm & Blues Show (as Downtown Faction) Oct 1987.
Issued by specialist label Repertoire, the discs come in a great atmospheric photo cover, overseen by author Colin Harper, a fulsome booklet with essay from rock writer Chris Charlesworth and with complete cooperation from surviving originals Jackson, Clements and Laidlaw who actually got back together on release not only to sign copies but to play a couple of tunes in a brief unplugged set. Where? In Newcastle, naturally. Documented by the faithful on Facebook. ” Radio Times” is a joy, it’s the perfect distillation of a band who’ve always had a connection with their fans which is deep and lasting. Whether you’ve been a devotee for years or are new to the party, there’s something within for all, a casual listen is never going to be enough.
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A full review will follow.