Lindisfarne were a British folk/rock group of the 1970s, fronted by singer/songwriter Alan Hull. Their music combined a strong sense of yearning, often for home, with an even stronger sense of fun. Hit singles included "Meet Me On The Corner", "Lady Eleanor", "Run For Home", and the anthemic "We Can Swing Together", though perhaps their best-remembered song is "Fog On The Tyne" from the LP of the same name.
The original line-up comprised Alan Hull (20 February 1945 - 17 November 1995) (vocals/guitar/piano); Simon Cowe (born 1 April 1948, in Jesmond Dene, Newcastle-upon-Tyne) (guitar, mandolin, banjo); Ray Jackson (born Lindsay Raymond Jackson, 12 December 1948, in Wallsend, Newcastle-upon-Tyne) (mandolin/harmonica); Rod Clements (born Roderick Parry Clements, 17 November 1947, in North Shields) (bass guitar/violin); and Ray Laidlaw (born Raymond Laidlaw, 28 May 1948, in North Shields) (drums).
In 1970 Tony Stratton-Smith signed them to Charisma Records and their debut album Nicely Out of Tune (so named because the group claimed they were 'nicely out of tune' with other prevailing musical trends at the time) was released, defining their mixture of bright harmony and rollicking folk rock. Both singles released from the album, "Clear White Light" and "Lady Eleanor", failed to chart, as did the album itself at first. Nonetheless, the band obtained a strong following from its popular live concerts.
Top 10 singles "Meet me on the Corner", written by Clements, and a re-release of "Lady Eleanor", followed in 1972, and Nicely Out Of Tune belatedly made the Top 10. The band obtained a huge media following, with some calling Hull the greatest songwriter since Bob Dylan, and the band was even referred to as the "1970s Beatles". By the summer of 1972 they were one of the biggest names in British rock music, stealing the show at festivals and selling out live dates wherever they played.
At the pinnacle of their success, they recorded their third album, Dingly Dell, which featured strings arranged by Laidlaw's brother Paul on several tracks. They were unhappy with the initial production, and remixed it themselves. It was released in September 1972 in a plain beige cardboard sleeve, to demonstrate to fans that it was the music which mattered. Some overseas markets insisted on redesigning it with a photo of the band instead, the design which has since been used for the CD reissue. Though it entered the Top 10 in the first week of release, it received lukewarm reviews; the ecologically-themed single "All Fall Down" was a Top 40 hit, but the second single, '"Court in the Act", failed completely.
Internal tensions came to the fore during a disappointing tour of Australia in early 1973. Hull initially considered leaving the band, but was persuaded to reconsider. It was agreed that he and Jackson, the two joint lead vocalists, would keep the group name while Cowe, Clements, and Laidlaw left to form their own outfit, Jack The Lad. They were replaced by Tommy Duffy (bass guitar), Kenny Craddock (born Kenneth Craddock, 18 April 1950, in Wrekenton, Gateshead) (keyboards), Charlie Harcourt (guitar), and Paul Nicholl (drums). As an interesting aside, Jackson almost persuaded Phil Collins of Genesis to join the Mark II line-up after Laidlaw reversed his decision to continue.
The new lineup lacked the appeal of the original, and with Hull also pursuing a solo career, the band's next two albums, Roll On Ruby and Happy Daze, plus the tracks released as singles, failed to chart. They disbanded in 1975, but the old line-up continued to play annual Christmas shows at Newcastle.
In 1977 they reformed, and with a new record deal with Phonogram Records via their Mercury Records label, they were back in the charts in 1978 with the top 10 hit "Run For Home", an autobiographical song about the rigours of touring and relief at returning home. It gave them a Top 40 hit in the US at last, and the album Back and Fourth made the British Top 30. Subsequent singles "Juke Box Gypsy" and "Warm Feeling" failed to sustain their newfound success, and after the failure of The News, their second Mercury album in 1979, they were dropped by the label.
In 1990 they introduced themselves to a new generation when a duet of "Fog on the Tyne Revisited" with footballer Paul Gascoigne rose to No. 2 in the UK singles chart (again accompanied by cries of "sell out"). Soon afterwards Jackson left the band after a dispute with Hull, chiefly related to Hull's view that Jackson was not sufficiently interested in being a member any more. Cowe left amicably in 1993, to run a brewery in Canada.
After Hull's death on November 17, 1995, the band continued to play in many incarnations, until they felt they had run their course. They sensed that interest was diminishing, and each member wanted to pursue separate projects. Their last show was played on November 1, 2003 to the packed Newcastle Opera House. Playing together for the last time as Lindisfarne were Dave Hull-Denholm, Billy Mitchell, Rod Clements, Ian Thomson and Ray Laidlaw. The final concert was recorded for posterity and released under the appropriately named Time Gentlemen Please. Clements, who had taken over as the band's principal songwriter after Hull's death, has continued to release solo albums and play gigs in England, accompanied by his new outfit The Ghosts of Electricity.
On November 19, 2005, the friends and colleagues of Alan Hull played a memorial concert to a packed house at Newcastle City Hall to perform his words and music, pay tribute to his talent, and celebrate his life. These artists included Alan Clark, Simon Cowe, Marty Craggs, Steve Cunningham, Steve Daggett, Tommy Duffy, Mike Elliot, Frankie Gibbon, Charlie Harcourt, Brendan Healy, Tim Healy, Ray Jackson, Ray Laidlaw, Finn McArdle, Ian McCallum, Billy Mitchell, Terry Morgan, The Motorettes, Jimmy Nail, Paul Nichols, Tom Pickard, Prelude, Bob Smeaton, Paul Smith and Kathryn Tickell. Proceeds from the concert were donated to The North East Young Musicians Fund.