Nicely Out of Tune

The story behind the album sleeve

Lindisfarne - Nicely Out of TuneRay Ladlaw: "Long before Lindisfarne made their first album we had a collective interest in things visual and often fantasised about what our sleeve would be like when we eventually made our first album. It was always 'when' and never 'if'. Confident little gits we were.

Ray Jackson and myself had met at art college, a well-known safe haven for musicians who had yet to figure out how to make a living from music. We were surrounded by talented artists of all types and the constant exposure to striking visuals had an effect on both of us. All of us in the band were enthusiastic supporters of the films of Fellini and we often used to have trips to the Tyneside Cinema where all the arty films of the late sixties could be seen.

During the Lindisfarne gestation period in the late sixties, we produced between us a succession of posters and flyers that we displayed in a prominent shop window next to the Haymarket Bus Station in Newcastle. At that time few local promoters would take a chance on booking us as our repertoire of Tyneside Delta Blues, Dylan influenced originals and Zappa covers was a little challenging to their regular punters who prefered a backdrop of Tamla Motown songs to fight and fornicate to. Our self-promoted gigs at venues like Jesmond Banqueting Hall and the New Orleans Jazz Club attracted a clientele who were as daft as us and often remarked on the whacky self-produced advertising material that had drawn them to our gigs. For a while an artist friend of ours produced a monthly, hand drawn, one sheet comic, featuring the mythical exploits of our band. It was stuck in the Haymarket shop window next to the posters. The last picture box always had the rest of the band saying ‘Where’s Si?’ Some things never change.

I don’t remember if Jacka and I volunteered to design the ‘Nicely’ sleeve or if it was just presumed that we would. I know that the contemporary albums of the time didn’t inspire us much. We decided on a simple concept that would be direct and eye catching. An antique frame with a picture of the band in the centre and a special font echoing the Northumbrian origins of our name would be the main features. Jacka said he would design the logo and I began searching for a reference for the frame. This was long before the days of the Internet or scanners and the only way to research visuals was to go to the library. I spent a while searching but couldn’t find what I was looking for. 

A couple of days later I was at my mam and dad’s house when I noticed a book of sheet music that belonged to my brother who plays piano. It was light classics or opera and was opened at a title page. The title of the piece was displayed in an ornate line drawing featuring cherubs and ladies playing harps and singing. Perfect. As there was no one around I tore out the page and put the sheet music book back in the piano stool. I took my trophy back to Jacka and he got it photographed and completed the artwork which featured his splendid Lindisfarne logo. The picture session for the sleeve was done one lunchtime between gigs. It still looks good to me."

On the rear side of the album cover of the original Charisma album, there is a "Thanks to..." list:

  • The first on the list is Ian, Si's younger brother and Lindisfarne's roadie until the band split in 1973.
  • Then there is the Hull family, Alan's wife Pat and their daughters Rosamund, Francesca and Berenice.
  • Jeff Sadler and Richard Squirrel were in the pre-Lindisfarne bands "Brethren" and "Downtown Faction".
  • Barbara Hayes is the band's long-time friend and Alan's partner in Hazy Music.
  • Dave Wood, in addition to being the engineer on all of Alan's and Lindisfarne's early demos, was also the owner of Impulse Studios in Wallsend, the third partner in Hazy Music and Alan's / Lindisfarne's manager.
  • Uncle Tony was Tony Stratton Smith, Lindisfarne's manager and owner of the Charisma label which was based at Number 7, Dean Street (I think). Confusion because the office moved about six times in three years.
  • Charlie Cameron, Ian Cowe's pal and Lindisfarne's other roadie till '73.
  • Kath Clements, Rod's first wife
  • Barbera Pell, Ray Laidlaw's girlfriend at the time.
  • Anna Mylott, Alan and Pat's live-in nanny and close friend of the band ('Oh Anna what does money mean anyway' ) - yes, that Anna.
  • Julia Clements, Rod's daughter.
  • Joe Robertson, Brethren manager and then Lindisfarne co-manager with Dave Wood, took Alan Hull/Brethren demos to Tony Stratton Smith which resulted in recording deal with Charisma.
  • Drummond Amin, Tyneside rock'n'roll godfather and owner of the Shaftsbury electric 12 string guitar that Lindisfarne borrowed for the NOOT recording sessions.
  • Mr Bolton, owner of the local garage that regularly repaired Lindisfarne's vans at ridiculously low cost.
  • Spectrum was design company owned by Joe Robertson, responsible for early Lindisfarne imagery/posters etc.

Nicely Out of Tune - US editionThe US verson of the album (see right) has a cut-away top that follows the edge of of the trees and clouds - all part of a muted colour illustration of the five band members. Behind this cut-out, you can slide in a square card insert which contains the album title and what we’ll call the "American Lindisfarne logo", both visible above the clouds. When you slide this out, a colour photograph of the band is revealed - a shot I had not seen before, of the group looning about on the shore in front of Holy Island.

On the back of the insert are the lyrics - American releases always try to have lyric sheets enclosed somewhere, it seems. The record itself comes in a printed brown paper inner sleeve with a small white band logo in the centre. Why was there a completely different sleeve for the U.S.?

Ray L: "Simple answer. US record company Elektra insisted on it."

What was the reason for changing the title "Alan In The River With Flowers" into "Float Me Down The River", swapping Jackhammer Blues against "Nothing But The Marvellous" and dropping Rod's The Things I Should Have Said?

Ray L: "Again, Elektra's insistance. Title change because Lindisfarne's in-joke 'Alan in the River with Flowers' = 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds' did not amuse the Americans so they reverted to the songs original title. 'Jackhammer' was dropped because it sounded too American so replaced it with UK b-side 'Marvellous'. I can't remember the reason for leaving off 'Things..' but it was probably because they didn't like it."