We Can Swing Together: The Story of Lindisfarne by John van der Kiste. Fonthill Media. Illustrated.
Lindisfarne were one of the biggest bands in the UK in the early 1970’s. Their album Fog on the Tyne was the best-selling LP of 1972. They were the antithesis of glam rock, heavy metal and most of the other genres that were popular at the time. Ultimately, Lindisfarne were a folk rock band who remained true to their Tyneside roots. Other folk rock bands of the time include Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, Pentangle and The Strawbs.
The band were formed in Newcastle in 1969 and released their first album Nicely out of Tune (1970). Success was not immediate but they hit gold in 1972 with their second album Fog on the Tyne. It became No 1 in the UK charts in April 1972. Their success meant Nicely out of Tune was re-released and it made No 8 in the UK charts. The band went on to release their third album in late 1972 Dingly Dell which reached No 5.
By 1973 the band had split. Vocalist/guitarist/song writer Alan Hull pursued an unsuccessful solo career and the other band members formed the now forgotten folk band Jack the Lad who made four albums. That might have been the end of the story for Lindisfarne but in 1977 they got back together to perform a sell-out concert in Newcastle which showed that as a live act they were as popular as ever.
Lindisfarne carried on throughout the 1980’s and into the 1990’s without any commercial album success but were always a big draw on the live circuit. In 1995 Alun Hull died and was replaced by Billy Mitchell. In 1990 they were rediscovered by a new generation of fans when they recorded Fog on the Tyne (Revisited) with England footballer and Newcastle native, Paul Gascoigne. This single got to No 2 in the UK charts. The band were dormant from 2004 to 2013 when the re-formed and are still performing at the occasional folk festival.
Billy Mitchell and drummer Ray Laidlaw also perform as the Lindisfarne Story. This is a wonderful audio visual/acoustic set which tells the story of the band and features archive film, photos and songs. I caught this gig last year at my local arts centre and would strongly recommend it to fans of the band.
We Can Swing Together is a comprehensive biography of the band told by John van der Kiste who admits to being a lifelong fan. He is a prolific writer of over 70 different books covering fields such as local history, royal biography and popular music. The book is well illustrated and has a 14 page discography listing every recording made by the band and the solo projects by band members. What really shines through is the author’s genuine love of the music. There are a lot of rock books around which are little more than “cut and paste” jobs but this is a really comprehensive story of the band which is also completely up to date.
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