The band came from Newcastle on Tyne with the original line of: Alan Hull (singer/writer & guitarist), Simon Cowe (guitar, mandolin and banjo), Ray Jackson (mandolin & harmonica), Rod Clements (bass and violin), and Ray Laidlaw (drums). Originally called Downtown Faction, they became Brethren and toured the college circuit. The group played ‘good time music’ similar top Mungo Jerry and other jug/folk rock bands which were popular at the time.
The Brethren had a massive fan base but when they discovered there was another band in the US with the same name they became Lindisfarne in 1968. Lindisfarne (or the Holy Island) was a small island off the coast of Northumberland in Northern England. It was famous for its early medieval monastery and castle and the ancient medieval manuscript called the "Lindisfarne Gospels." The name was perfect for the time and gave the group credibility with the developing progressive folk rock fans as well as local celebrity. In 1970 Lindisfarne signed to the progressive rock label, Charisma Records. Songwriter, Alan Hull and used his background in folk music. to influence the songs and their music was a mix of plaintive folk-like melodies with earthy but well-sung harmonies, incorporated within acoustic and electric textures. Their promise as a progressive folk rock band was well heralded in the music press but their first album, ‘Nicely Out of tune’ (1970) failed to make any commercial impact.
Even the single "Lady Eleanor” when first released flopped. ‘Nicely out of tune’ was most apt as a title because the group considered themselves to be at odd with the prevailing musical trends. Lack of success may have confirmed this but did not stop the band from having a loyal following. Their strength was their live performances which began to attract more interest. Their second album, produced by Bob Johnson was Fog on the Tyne and came out a year later.
"Meet Me On The Corner." (written by Roy Clements) was a hit, and subsequently “Lady Eleanor," was reissued as a single and made it to number three.
The album too sold very well and confirmed Lindisfarne as a tour de force selling out concerts and festivals. Now billed as the 70’s Beatles, Alan Hull was heralded the UK’s answer to Bob Dylan. Despite their enormous popularity Lindisfarne had not travelled extensively from their northern routes. Dingly Dell was their third album released in 1972 at the peak of their fame. It had originally been produced by Bob Johnson but the band and he fell out. They decided to remix it before release and came up with a crisp sounding rocker.
Despite respectable sales, the album reached #5 in the UK album chart and the single ‘All fall down’ was a modest hit all was panned by the critics.
The band then toured the US but their new sound was considered too English to make an impact. By the time they returned from a disappointing tour of Australia in 1973 internal tension had caused a major rift and Alan Hull wanted to leave the band. Eventually he was persuaded to stay with Ray Jackson, the two singers, keeping the group's name while Simon Cowe, Rod Clements and Ray Laidlaw left to form the pub rock band, Jack The Lad. Alan and Ray were joined by Ken Craddock (guitar, keyboards, and vocals), Charlie Harcourt (guitars), Tommy Duffy (bass and vocals), and Paul Nichols (drums) and continued as Lindisfarne. Alan Hull tried to make it solo and was in truth probably more popular than the new line-up Lindisfarne. A change of record company to Warner Bros brought Lindisfarne no luck and they broke up in 1975. When Jack the Lad eventually called it a day the boys reformed in 1977 and had a top ten hit in the UK and US top 40 chart entry with ‘Run For Home.’
Popular taste in music had changed and by the end of the decade they were dropped by their recording company. The group in various guises continued to play together at special gigs including the Newcastle Annual Christmas show. Alan Hull died in 1995. One other claim to fame was Ray Jackson played mandolin on Maggie May on the recording of the Rod Stewart album, Every picture tells a story. (The clip shows John Peel for effect)
Worth a listen
Lady Eleanor (1970)
We Can Swing Together (1970)
Meet Me On The Corner (1971)
Fog On The Tyne (1971)
All fall down (1972)
Run For Home
Jack the Lad
One More Dance (1973)
Why Can't I Be Satisfied (1974)[