Posts Tagged ‘folk-rock’

Donovan Tyne Theatre Newcastle 8th October 2015

Donovan Tyne Theatre Newcastle 8th October 2015
FullSizeRenderDonovan is out on the road again, working his way down the country on a 22 date 50th anniversary tour. He started in his home town of Glasgow, worked his way through Edinburgh and Dundee and then stepped over the border to come and play to us in Newcastle. From there he continues to Scarborough, Leeds and onward further south.
Now, Donovan is a bit of a story-teller and he is also a bit of a name-dropper. If you have ever been to one of his concerts you will know exactly what I mean. You are guaranteed to hear stories of the ’60s and of all the friends he made. At the Tyne Theatre Donovan tells us of his folk influences Buffy St Marie and Shawn Phillips as way of introduction to their songs “Universal Soldier” and “The Little Tin Soldier”. He mentions, of course, The Beatles and how George Harrison contributed a verse to “Hurdy Gurdy Man” and asks “Would you like to hear George’s verse?” to which we reply a rousing “YES”! He talks of his old friend and fellow traveler Gypsy Dave; and how they would have to run from crowds of screaming girls, comparing the scene to that of the Beatles running through the station at the start of “Hard Day’s Night”. Gypsy asked Donovan “Why are we running? Let’s stop and let them catch us!”. And he tells us of his muse and wife Linda, the subject of many of his songs; one of which “Madrigalinda” he sang for us. Linda and all the “Donovan clan” came to the Glasgow concert, “flying from every corner of the world” he declared proudly.
Donovan-Donovan's_Greatest_HitsDonovan sat alone cross-legged on a carpet laid across a raised platform, as he must have done many times over the years. He told us that we would “never be more than two or three songs away from a hit” and he was true to his word. He started the show with “Catch the Wind” and then went straight into “Colours”, many singing along with him. The mood then moved from “The Voice of Protest” from his 1975 7-Tease album to “Sleep” a lullaby from “Cosmic Wheels”. Then he took us back to 1965 and one of my favourites “The Little Tin Soldier” the “Fairytale” album. “Jennifer Juniper” was followed by the title track from 1976’s “Slow Down World”. Donovan then told a story of how “we all went to Jamaica” for a rest and a holiday during the ’60s and he came back with a new song “First There is a Mountain”. The first half of the concert closed with two old songs “To Try for the Sun” from “Fairytale” and “Donna Donna” from his first 1964 album “What’s Bin Did and What’s Bin Hid”.
After a short interval Donovan returned and sang “Universal Soldier” which sounds just as powerful today as it ever did. This was followed by the beautiful traditional folk song “The Trees they do Grow High”, “Madrigalinda” for Linda and the excellent “Hurdy Gurdy Man”. “Hurdy Gurdy Man” took me right back; I used to have the EP of the same name, and I played it endlessly. FullSizeRender(1)As introduction to “The Promise” Donovan told us of his lovely green guitar,”Kelly”, which was designed for him using the colours of the Book of Kells. This led into a story of how he once visited Jimmy Page’s house, and how Jimmy had 300 guitars all lying across the floor in their cases, all in tune because, as Jimmy told Donovan, “You never know when you might need to play one”. “The Promise”, said Donovan, is to be played by “Kelly”, always live, and will never be recorded. The ballad “Lalena” led into the jokey fun “Intergalactic Laxative” from “Cosmic Wheels”. Then came the inevitable singalong of “Happiness Runs” with the men singing “Tralala…”, the women singing “Happiness Runs”, and Donovan singing the verse of top; all a bit too embarrassing for me. I didn’t join in (sorry Donovan). “Sunshine Superman” took us safely back to the hits. Now it I thought “Happiness Runs” was embarrassing, the final song took the meaning of the word embarrassment to whole new level. For “Mellow Yellow” Donovan finally took to his feet, and mimed and danced awkwardly to a recording of the original track. Still, you have to forgive him. It was great to see Donovan again. He has a tremendous back catalogue of tunes, and his stories are always fun (even if I have heard most of them before).
Set 1: Catch the Wind; Colours; The Voice of Protest; Sleep; The Little Tin Soldier; Jennifer Juniper; Slow Down World; First There is a Mountain; Try for the Sun; Donna Donna
Set 2: Universal Soldier; The Trees they do Grow High; Madrigalinda; Hurdy Gurdy Man; The Promise; Lalena; Intergalactic Laxative; Happiness Runs; Sunshine Superman; Mellow Yellow

Backhouse Park concerts Sunderland Summer 1974 Jack the Lad, Brinsley Schwarz & Chilli Willi

Backhouse Park concerts Sunderland Summer 1974
brinsleyFor three Saturdays in Summer 1974 a stage appeared in Sunderland’s Backhouse Park and a series of concerts were held. The park was filled with music from a host of local bands and headliners Jack the Lad, Brinsley Schwarz & Chilli Willi & the Red Hot Peppers. Local heroes Saltgrass played at each event and a grand time was had by all.
13th July 1974 Jack the Lad
When Lindisfarne’s split and main songwriter Alan Hull went off to follow a solo career (and eventually reform Lindisfarne with Ray Jackson) the remaining members: Rod Clements, Si Cowe and Ray Laidlaw formed Jack the Lad with their old friend Billy Mitchell. Jack the Lad followed the folk sound of their former band, and in many ways remained truer to their roots, while the new Lindisfarne went down more of a pop/rock road. Jack the Lad live were great fun with a lot of humour, traditional folk and a set full of jigs, reels, singalongs and dancing which went down well on a sunny afternoon in the park.
27th July 1974 Brinsley Schwarz
Brinsley Schwarz were stalwarts of the pub rock scene. This gig came towards the end of their career, and their line-up was Brinsley Schwarz, Ian Gomm, Billy Rankin, Bob Andrews, Nick Lowe and Carlos Luna. They had just released their sixth and final album “The New Favourites of… Brinsley Schwarz” which featured Nick Lowe’s classic “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding”.
The Brinsleys were heavily influenced by The Band and Eggs Over Easy, had a laid-back country-rock sound, with some catchy poppy songs, and were a great live act, and gave us another great afternoon in the sun. They split in 1975 and Schwarz and Andrews joined Graham Parker & the Rumour; Rankin joined Terraplane, and Nick Lowe joined Dave Edmunds in Rockpile. Lowe of course then went on to have a very successful solo career and “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding” became a hit for Elvis Costello.
3rd August 1974 Chilli Willi and the Red Hot Peppers
The last of the trio of concerts featured Chilli Willi and the Red Hot Peppers, who were one of the main pub rock groups, and were very popular during the early 1970s. They released three albums and toured as part of the 1975 Naughty Rhythms tour with Dr Feelgood and Kokomo. Their members were Phil “Snakefinger” Lithman, Martin Stone, Paul “Dice Man” Bailey, Paul “Bassman” Riley and Pete Thomas. After they split in 1975 Thomas became the drummer for Elvis Costello, Riley played with Graham Parker; and Stone played with the Pink Fairies.

Country Joe McDonald Sunderland Locarno 8th November 1974

Country Joe McDonald Sunderland Locarno 8th November 1974
countryjoeWe’d all seen him in the Woodstock film:
“Listen people, I don’t know how you expect to ever stop the war if you can’t sing any better than that. There’s about 300,000 of you f**kers out there. I want you to start singing. Come on.”

And then the sing-a-long style bouncing ball followed the lyrics which ran as subtitles along the bottom of the cinema screen.

Well for one night a few years later we had our own little piece of Woodstock in a ballroom in Sunderland.

“Give me an F
Give me a U
Give me a C
Give me a K
Whats that spell? Whats that spell? Whats that spell?
Whats that spell? Whats that spell?”

“And it’s 1, 2, 3, what’re we fighting for?
Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn
Next stop is Vietnam
And it’s 5, 6, 7, Open up the Pearly Gates
Well there ain’t no time to wonder why
Whoopee! We’re all gonna die.”
(I Feel Like I’m Fixing to Die Rag, Country Joe and the Fish, 1967).

This tour was at the time of his self-titled solo lp (pictured here), so I guess we were treated to tracks from that album, along with old favourites like “Janis” and of course he just had to  lead us all in the “Fish Cheer” and sing “I Feel Like I’m Fixing to Die Rag”. We all sang along.
Don’t think we stopped any war, but we sure had a good time 🙂

The Waterboys Newcastle Tiffany’s 30th April 1986

The Waterboys Newcastle Tiffany’s 30th April 1986
waterboystixMike Scott and his Waterboys were on a rock’n’roll journey from “The Big Music” to the raggle taggle gypsy Celtic folk band that they became in the late 80s. This was Mike and the band at the top of their game, not long after the success of “Whole of the Moon”, yet choosing not to play that song and instead sweeping a ram-packed Tiffany’s along with joyous big swirling sounds, and a few carefully chosen covers. “The Big Music” filled the ballroom; I was standing on the balcony looking down onto the stage and the packed sweaty dance floor below, and it felt like any minute the roof would come off. Mike was one minute the rock star, the next a folk troubadour, and then he became a seer taking us all on a spiritual journey through the kaleidoscope of his music. He was Dylan when he sang “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” for us, and then Tex Ritter leading a country band into “The Wayward Wind”. And then we were transported to the Streets of Dublin, dancing to a Celtic fiddle band. This was one of those gigs where we all walked out into the cold night knowing we had experienced something pretty special.
Setlist: Medicine Bow; Be My Enemy; Medicine Jack; Fisherman’s Blues; The Thrill Is Gone / And The Healing Has Begun; Meet Me At The Station; A Girl Called Johnny; The Pan Within; I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight; We Will Not Be Lovers; Spirit / The 4 Ages Of Man; Savage Earth Heart; This Is The Sea
Encore: The Wayward Wind; A Pagan Place; Can’t Help Falling In Love; Red Army Blues
Encore 2: Death Is Not the End

Loudon Wainwright III Newcastle City Hall 16th Sep 1979

Loudon Wainwright III Newcastle City Hall 16th Sep 1979
loudontixLoudon Wainwright is a funny guy.
“Loudon Wainwright III is a direct descendant of Peter Stuyvesant, renowned one-legged Dutch Governer of New York. Loudon I was an insurance salesman, Loudon II is a mild mannered reporter for a former great metropolitan magazine. And Loudon III is a “post-psychedelic beatnik” who has been lauded far and wide as a writer-performer of uncommon wit, intelligence and insight, and with a unique capacity for capturing irony and absurdity in his work, that sets him apart from the great majority of similar entertainers” (from Loudon 1979 programme).
I went along to this gig with a group of friends from college. One of the guys, Vaughan, had recently become a big fan of Loudon Wainwright and sand many of his crazy songs to us. He persuaded us all to go along with him to see Loudon when he came to the City Hall (not that I needed much persuading to go along to a concert in those days). The concert wasn’t well attended, but those of there spent an enjoyable evening listening to Loudon’s crazy, funny songs and stories. Loudon was promoting his 8th album “A Live One”, which had been recorded during his 1976 UK tour.
Personal Note (from Loudon 1979 programme): “Loudon Wainwright III is now living in California. He is the father of two children, Rufus and Martha. He has written songs for both of them – “Rufus is a Tit Man” and “Pretty Little Martha”. Loudon is a sports fanatic, and drives a 15 year old blue Checker.”
lourdonprog“Crossin’ the highway late last night, He shoulda looked left and he shoulda looked right,
He didn’t see the Station Wagon car, The skunk got squashed and there you are,
You got yer, Dead skunk in the middle of the road,
Dead skunk in the middle of the road, Dead skunk in the middle of the road,
Stinkin’ to high heaven, Take a whiff on me that ain’t no rose,
Roll up yer window and hold yer nose, You don’t have to look and you don’t have to see,
‘Cause you can feel it in your olfactory.”
(Loudon Wainwright III, Dead Skunk, 1972).
Note 1. “Dead Skunk” was a hit in the US singles chart reaching No 12.
Note 2. The “olfactory” system is the sensory system used for the sense of smell.

Sutherland Brothers & Quiver 1975 and 1976

Sutherland Brothers & Quiver 1975 and 1976
Sutherlandssunderland75I was aware of The Sutherland Brothers and Quiver as two separate bands, and saw them both live a few times. I saw The Sutherland Brothers at the Lincoln and Reading festivals in 1972, and Quiver as support for T Rex, and at Sunderland Poly Wearmouth Hall. They were two very different bands. The Sutherland Brothers an acoustic fold duo, who had a great 1972 single “The Pie” and the song “Sailing” which was to become a massive hit when covered by Rod Stewart. Quiver were a folky rock band, led by excellent guitarist Tim Renwick, and did a great version of The Beatles “Saw Her Standing There”.
sutherlandcityhallIn late 1972 the two acts joined forces and became Sutherland Brothers and Quiver. This seemed to me to be a strange move at the time, but proved to be very sensible. They released an album “Dream Kid”, and the excellent title track was released as a single, which should have been a hit but sadly didn’t chart. The new band toured constantly; I saw them at the Reading Festival in 1974 and 1976, and at Sunderland Poly Wearmouth Hall on 5th December 1975. sutherlandsprogIn 1976 they released “Arms of Mary”, their biggest hit, which reached No. 5 in the UK singles chart. They headlined a major tour at the time, calling at Newcastle City Hall on 26th September 1976. Support came from Moon, a successful pub rock band. The success was to be short lived. Tim Renwick left the group in 1977 and by 1979 the Sutherland Brothers had parted company with Quiver, and returned to recording as a duo. Sutherland Brothers & Quiver were a very under-rated band. The combination of the Sutherland Brothers’ great songs, and the guitar-based rock music of Quiver was a powerful mixture. Their live performances were always excellent, and their music crossed and combined genres including pop, country, rock, reggae and folk. There was so much more to them than their rather middle of the road (MOR) hit “Arms of Mary” might suggest. Perhaps that was the problem; a fine band who were difficult to pigeon hole, and landed a MOR hit, which gave them an audience who didn’t fully appreciate the breadth and depth of their music. That, and the advent of punk, probably sealed their fate. Listen to “The Pie” or “Dream Kid”.

Stealers Wheel Sunderland Polytechnic Wearmouth Hall 1973?

Stealers Wheel Sunderland Polytechnic Wearmouth Hall 1973?
stealerswheelStealers Wheel are, of course, best remembered as the short lived folk rock act who featured the late, great and sadly missed, Gerry Rafferty and for the song “Stuck in the Middle with You” which hit the charts in 1973, and was featured as part of the soundtrack of the film “Reservoir Dogs”. The film brought the band back into the public eye, and introduced a new set of fans to their music. But there was much more to Stealers Wheel. They released three fine albums, and Rafferty’s fellow front man and old school friend Joe Egan was also an excellent song writer, with a deep soulful voice. Former Spooky Tooth-er, and soon to be Mott the Hoople-er, Luther Grosvenor (aka Ariel Bender) was also a member of the band for a short period during 1972 to 1973.
unioncard1I saw Stealers Wheel live once when they played at Sunderland Poly Wearmouth Hall. It was around the time that “Stuck in the Middle with You” was in the charts, and the place was completely full, ram packed to the walls. I can’t be sure of the line-up at the time; I think it may have been during the period when Gerry Rafferty had left the band, and Joe Egan took over the role of front man and lead vocalist. I also think that Luther Grosvenor was in the band at the time. Stealers Wheel were nothing like I expected. They were much more a rock band, with very soulful, raucous vocals from Joe Egan, quite funky, and very LOUD. I remember having to leave the hall on a couple of occasions just to talk to mates, and because it was so loud, so packed and so hot. A great, under rated band, who deserve more recognition than they often receive.