...but ended up in the new band of the same name
by Steve Clarke
from Go-Set (Australia), Aug 11th, 1973 - discovered by Michael Clayton
A few months back Alan Hull had no plans other than to quit Lindisfarne and maybe record a solo album. Dingly Dell – the band’s last album – wasn’t as good as it should have been and they were losing their creative urge. That was it.
But things change and Hull, along with Ray Jackson, kept Lindisfarne together. And that ‘maybe’ solo album was released last week. It’s called Pipedream and Hull reckons it’s the best thing he’s ever done. Better than some of the things he did with the original Lindisfarne, I ask him, as we slouch amongst the soft cushions of what’ll soon be Charisma Records’ new offices.
“It’s hard to say because you get so close to a thing. It’s not for me to say. It’s for other people.” His words are just about making themselves heard through his whiskers.
“I think the old Lindisfarne was a very fine band. There were some very high moments. You can’t really deny that songs like Lady Eleanor were good, and they were done well. I feel Pipedream is better because it’s fresher but that’s just because it’s new.” The songs on Pipedream are, with few exceptions, of an exceptionally high quality, most of them dealing with situations which could easily crop up in real life. Hull says they’re part real and part imagined, and in some cases he’s taken the situation a step further than what actually happened.
Country Gentleman’s Wife comes from the days when he used to clean windows in one of Newcastle’s richer sectors and met the kind of lady described in the song. The situation didn’t actually arise as stated in the song, but he stresses it could have done.
His own personal favourite is Drug Song: “It’s all a bit in the past now, but looking back to the time when I did it, I got most buzz from it – I think it’s one of my better songs – has a real message and it really happened. “I wrote that and Clear White Light in the same night. It was the only two songs I’ve ever written completely under the influence. And I thought, ‘what am I doing to myself?’ and I was writing this tune.”
Would he say it was an anti drug song?
“It’s a little bit of both – so I thought of calling it Auntie’s Drug Song. It’s not completely, definitely anti and it’s not definitely for. It’s just a song about drugs with a slight bias against. “I don’t believe in saying things definitely. It’s not my philosophy. You can say what you think a thing is, but you can’t say it’s either bad or good. I just don’t like a philosophy of directness . . . complete yes or no.”
Recording the album was different from playing with Lindisfarne he says as he was working with two professional musicians, as opposed to the original Lindisfarne in the sense that they were more like five guys playing songs together.
“It was a slightly different approach, a more professional approach and that’s the difference with the new band. It’s slightly more professional. As I said before, we had some really high moments in the old band and played some good music at times, but it came to the point where the five of us couldn’t get any further with each other.
“I was going to leave the group and they were going to get a replacement. I wasn’t going to do anything – just float around and maybe make my solo album. I just wasn’t thinking about performances. “Jacka decided to leave as well so we thought we’d better think again.”
The rest is history, with Hull and Jacka adding four other Geordie musicians and keeping the name Lindisfarne, while Messrs. Clements, Cowe and Laidlaw formed jack the Lad. As Hull puts it, things worked out quite nicely. Hull admits that at the time of recording Dingly Dell something happened within the band: “We didn’t capitalise or consolidate the success we had right then. We were right at the top and we blew it. It was as simple as that. We blew it. “We just went into the studio with the attitude whatever we do is going to be good because we’re good. And whatever we do is going to sell ‘cause we’re popular. “That’s the wrong attitude to go into the studio with – as we’ve since found out. You have to learn things like that. You have to make mistakes. We made a mistake.
“Pipedream has made up for it to me. I approached it with a brand new attitude. It’s a shame that album is coming out as Alan Hull – it’d be great if it had been Lindisfarne, as basically that’s the area in which the new Lindisfarne is going. “Pipedream is the last Alan Hull thing for as long as I can see.”
With the old Lindisfarne it got to the stage where Hull was writing the bulk of the material. This, he says, won’t happen with the new band which will be much more co-operative.
“there’s three strong songwriters in the band now. Tommy Duffy, who’s written the new single, and Kenny Craddock, who’s probably the best musician. He plays piano and he writes as much as I do. The next Lindisfarne album will be basically their songs and a couple of mine.
“I wasn’t getting much out of gigs at the end. I don’t think anybody was. That was on of the factors in the destruction. We’d come to a period where we were repeating ourselves. We were going on stage all the time to large audiences and we weren’t getting any buzz. It just fell flat.
“When it stops being fun you’ve got to think about packing up and doing something new. I don’t care about the money – I don’t think anybody does. I wouldn’t do a thing simply to make money.”
He must be pretty well-off now though?
“Yeah, but I wasn’t always. I’ve always done what I wanted to and not for the sake of money. We were doing things and we were starving. We were a ludicrously different band and people used to look at us and think ‘no guitarist, where’s Eric Clapton?’
“They’d wonder what a mandolin was, and they used to walk away. We got pelted but we stuck at it. We did that for about 18 months, going all round the country for virtually nothing, and I never changed when the money came.”
Before becoming a professional musician Hull was a nurse in a mental hospital. Mental health concerns him, and in later life he hopes to spend some of his money on opening clinics for psychiatric treatment. He is also very conscious of class barriers and his working class roots come across in his songs on Pipedream.
Did he think that what he had been through as a child in Newcastle had helped him in his song writing?
“I used to believe that, but I think it depends as much if not more on what you’ve been through internally, rather than externally. I think in all art you’ll find that people who have been through a hard time, who’ve had a so-called hard existence in early life are deeper in their perceptions, in their emotions, in their art.
“But one person who doesn’t fit that category is Bob Dylan, because he was quite well off. It’s the same with Randy Newman. Those guys have got so much internally that external situations don’t matter much.
Did he think his external environment affected his writing?
“I think it definitely did. I was looking around when I was a kid and I’d think, ‘What’s all this?’. Now I’m quite well off, and in the future I hope to get more well off and I hope to do some good things with my money. But I’m not a capitalist. I don’t think I like a capitalist. I’m a working class lad and I always will be. I don’t care what anybody says.”
Work had just started on recording the first album from the new Lindisfarne. As all the musicians knew each other before they joined the group, it wasn’t difficult for them to play together. On stage they play a third of their set from Pipedream, a third of new songs and the rest are old Lindisfarne songs like Lady Eleanor and Fog On The Tyne.
“We’re hoping in the future to phase out the old stuff. I don’t mind playing it. It’s just lost its brilliance to me. I just sort of do it automatically.”
So far they’ve played under a dozen gigs, all except one being successful. Their London debut is later this month.
This is the best time for a band, when you’ve started bursting with ideas and the new songs are great. I think they’re as good as the old ones.”
Lindisfarne is dead. Long live Lindisfarne.