Winterland, San Francisco
October 3, 1974
Photos by David Miller
Text by Michael Collins Morton
The beginnings of Lindisfarne can be traced back to Downtown Faction, a local band from Newcastle upon Tyne, in the northeast region of England. Downtown Faction later became Brethren, a band that comprised Rod Clements on bass, Simon Cowe on guitar, Ray Jackson on harmonica and vocals, and Ray Laidlaw on drums. In 1969, the four members of Brethren were joined by a fifth musician, Alan Hull, a singer, guitarist, and songwriter who already had been a member of several other bands, including The Chosen Few. Together, the five musicians combined their abilities to create an easygoing brand of folk-rock.
Ray Jackson, Tommy Duffy
Alan Hull and Brethren (as they were known during their first performances) established themselves through regular gigs at the Rex Hotel in Whitley Bay. In 1970, they were signed to Charisma Records and changed their name to Lindisfarne, in honor of an island near the coast of Northumberland. The first album by Lindisfarne, Nicely Out of Tune, with two of their best known songs, "Lady Eleanor" and "We Can Swing Together" (both written by Alan Hull), among its tracks, was released in November of 1970. At the same time, Lindisfarne began to tour more widely, gaining favor with audiences throughout the United Kingdom.
In 1971, Lindisfarne moved a step closer to stardom with the release of their second album, Fog on the Tyne, which was produced by Bob Johnston, an American who had made his name by working on recordings with Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, The Byrds, Leonard Cohen, Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, and many others. Among the standout tracks on the album were "Meet Me on the Corner" (written by Rod Clements and released as a single, becoming a major hit in the United Kingdom, where it reached #5), "Alright on the Night," and "Fog on the Tyne" ( a song that celebrated the ups and downs of street life in Newcastle, written by Alan Hull).
Charlie Harcourt, Ray Jackson, Tommy Duffy
David: Lindisfarne was not well-known in the USA in the early 1970s. I don't remember hearing their music on the radio very much. They may have had enough airplay on a local FM station for me to become familiar with their folk-rock sound, which I liked. I bought their early albums and later also bought Alan Hull's much anticipated first solo album, Pipedream.
When we discovered that Lindisfarne was opening for Traffic, it was a concert that we had to see. Once again, we drove into San Francisco before sunrise, to be the first ones in line. It would be some fourteen hours of sitting on the sidewalk before we clung to the edge of the stage and Lindisfarne walked out to perform. I brought B/W film and color slides with me. I had hopes of getting some great photos of both bands. When we first ran to the stage, it was bare. Once we had grabbed a spot near the center, the roadies started setting up the equipment. I was disappointed when one of the roadies set a sound monitor right in front of me. I asked him to move it over, but my pleas were ignored, as I knew they would be.
I was lucky enough to be positioned directly in front of Alan Hull. It was interesting to see that he was wearing a T-shirt with "PROPERTY OF ALCATRAZ PENITENTIARY" written on it. Alcatraz, the island prison in San Francisco Bay, had been shut down in 1963. In 1969, a group of American Indians took over the island and occupied it for nearly two years, in protest of broken American treaties. It brought the struggles of the American Indians to the attention of the whole world. (In 1973, Marlon Brando boycotted the Academy Awards and had an American Indian, Sacheen Littlefeather, accept the award for his performance in The Godfather.) Alan Hull must have been aware of this and perhaps was wearing the T-shirt as a show of solidarity with the American Indians, which was still a very controversial political issue in 1974.
My memory of the music that Lindisfarne played is as foggy as the Tyne that Alan Hull wrote about in one of his songs. I was aware that they had previously split, and that some members had formed Jack the Lad. I was not familiar with the new members of Lindisfarne or their new music. I believe that they had just released Happy Daze. I was struck by how much more hard rock they sounded, compared to the early albums. It seemed that the new members of the band pushed it more in that direction.
I was impressed with Alan Hull. He performed with much passion. I think that it shows in the photos. Ray Jackson, too. He not only played great electric mandolin, but also powerful harmonica. The musicianship was very sharp and made for an enjoyable performance. My only regret is that I did not get to see the original lineup when they had toured the USA two years before.
Gary: I remember having the first three Lindisfarne albums, but oddly, I have only a dim memory of seeing them onstage at Winterland. In fact, when I found out that we were featuring them on Brit Rock by the Bay, at first I didn't believe that we had seen them. It seems like a dream. Seeing David's great photos helped my feeble brain, and it started to came back to me. We saw Lindisfarne after their first split, around the time that Happy Daze was released. I do remember that although they played a short set as a support act, it was energetic.
I really liked the Nicely Out of Tune LP, and I especially liked the acoustic guitar sounds (double-tracked, maybe with a twelve-string) that they got on that first album. The band was in fine form, right from the beginning. Fog on the Tyne and Dingly Dell were great albums as well. Alan Hull's songs are classics. I remember being very impressed. I also liked the songs written by Rod Clements. Ray Laidlaw was an interesting drummer who could accommodate the folk-rock sounds like Dave Mattacks (Fairport Convention) and Terry Cox (Pentangle) did. Overall, Lindisfarne's music was upbeat, but often with a subtle, serious side.
They played a nice set with very rousing songs. I wasn't as familiar with their music then as I became later, but I remember enjoying it. Alan Hull was not only a strong songwriter, but a true character. Ray Jackson seemed very outgoing, playing mandolin and also a mean harmonica. (It was Ray Jackson who played the mandolin on Rod Stewart's "Maggie May" and "Mandolin Wind.") Although I liked Alan Hull, I think the original lineup of Lindisfarne was probably a stronger one, less of a one-man show.
All in all, their performance at Winterland was a treat. We were lucky to have seen them in the USA. It was amazing that they even made it to this side of the world. It would have been nice to see them earlier, when they were famous in England, but at least we saw them here.
Michael: In the interest of being completely honest, I must acknowledge that, for some reason that is unknown to me, my memories of seeing Lindisfarne are not particularly strong. I loved their music ("Lady Eleanor" actually got a small amount of airplay in the Bay Area), and I was especially impressed by Alan Hull's talent, but their performance at Winterland did not imprint itself on my mind as clearly as many of the other performances that I saw there. Perhaps it was because I was deeply excited about seeing Traffic (who were the headliners that evening) for a second time.
I do remember that the members of Lindisfarne displayed a merry demeanor while they were onstage. They all made a valiant attempt to engage the audience, but their music (which had a dedicated following in the United Kingdom) was mostly unknown to the crowd in San Francisco. Such was the lot of many British bands who performed in America in those days. The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, and Jethro Tull, to name a few, were justly famous in America, but many others were never able to establish themselves to the same degree. I suspect that in the case of Lindisfarne, their songs were a bit too "English" for American ears.
Alan Hull, who was the leader and the main songwriter of the band, was a bright and affable performer, singing lustily and playing both acoustic and electric guitars. His T-shirt, which he presumably had purchased at a tourist shop in the city (or maybe down on Fisherman's Wharf), bore the words, "PROPERTY OF ALCATRAZ PENITENTIARY." Given that mischievous humor was a prime element in his songs, it was a fitting shirt for him to wear. (Or, as David explained above, it might have been an expression of his politics.) Ray Jackson, playing harmonica and mandolin, also did his best to entertain the crowd. Although my memory of Lindisfarne's performance is (regrettably) somewhat weak, I am grateful that I had the opportunity to see them.
More about Lindisfarne at David's Rock Scrapbook
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