RAY JACKSON REPLIES TO YOUR QUESTIONS
Photo courtesy of kevin.
Many thanks to Ray for taking the time to reply to the questions posted, especially as he's so busy at the moment. †Cheers, Ray!
I'll leave Ray's answers here for a month or two, before moving this to the Q&A Archives. †Enjoy.......
FROM ROB SMITH:
Hi Ray, As a long time Lindisfarne fan from the early seventies onwards can I say it's great to see you making music once again. When you left the band a fair chunk of 'magic' went from the live performances. Although I continued to follow the band till the very end and always enjoyed the gigs and albums. I met you on the 'Dance Your Life Away' tour in 1986 at Loughborough University and had a long chat and photo with yourself and the late great JAH. It was fantastic to see you at 'The Hull Story' and I assume this is where you realised how much you missed the music. My favourite Lindisfarne (original line-up) gigs were at The De Montfort Hall in Leicester where you always went down a storm, did you enjoy that venue as much as the fans? When can we see you and the Gathering back in the East Midlands? † All the best, Rob Smith
Thanks for your kind observations and support over the years.
The band always enjoyed De Monfort Hall, it had a great atmosphere because as you know, it was one of the few concert venues with the option of a stand up audience. Everyone being on their feet from the moment we set foot on stage just helped to get us in a confident mood straight away and the empathy between us and the crowd just progressed from there. Concert halls can be intimidating places when all are seated and it would sometimes take all night to get to that level of participation at other venues. .
The Gathering are planning to do a tour in the UK in the autumn, probably November, so hopefully it will be in a venue near to you.
It's great to see you back on stage. I saw you with The Gathering last year and thoroughly enjoyed the gig. † My question is: Will the band be recording new material on the next album? †
Itís good to be back on stage, the Hull Story made me realise what I had been missing. Glad you like my new venture with the present outfit.
The Gathering are constantly evolving and during the summer we will be working quite a lot together, so some ideas for songs for a new album are bound to materialise. As to when the new album appears is open to question but hopefully in the next year or so.
FROM MR INBETWEEN:
A harmonica question (with lots of bits to it)...
Quite a few questions there but I will try and answer all.
I understand that you play Special 20s. Do you find there's any difference between the plastic body and the similar but wooden bodied Marine Band?
I play Hohner Special 20s as a rule, they have a bright sound and the notes stay in tune for quite a long time, even with constant use. Wooden framed harmonicaís tend to swell slightly between the notes and over time can restrict playing technique. Saying that, I still have some Echo Super Vamper harps (UK market only) with wooden bodies that I have had since the late sixties which are as good as new.
Has it always been the diatonic for you, or have you ever dabbled with a chromatic (something I can't get on with at all, but I think Stevie Wonder played one and he seemed to manage)?
I play both types of harmonica, having started with a chromatic, although I am more at home with the diatonic scale, which are better for blues style.
Do you find it easy to invent the riff - and remember it - and to avoid 'simply' playing the melody?
I try to be as spontaneous as I can when playing to a chord progression and donít like to repeat something more than a couple of times through a song if possible. However, on songs like Tread On A Good Thing from my solo album I repeat a riff several times through the song.
As with everything, practice must improve the playing, but how did you get started? You must surely have had neighbours!
I started playing harmonica when I was around 11 years old having been given one by my Godmother. It originally belonged to her son who had been called up for national service. †I took to the instrument with vigour causing a nuisance to all who were within earshot. †I discovered my grandfather was a player and he taught me many of the traditional north country and Scottish tunes which I still play today, also, vamping and hand vibrato techniques.
And lastly, why doesn't my playing sound like yours? (ahem, you needn't answer that).
FROM JIM HENDERSON:
I know you're busy with Gathering for the foreseeable future, but now that you're back on the live scene do you have any plans to put your own band together for solo / Ray Jackson Band gigs at any point in the future?
I donít have any plans to revive Harcourtís Heroes or any other solo projects at the moment, being mostly involved with The Gathering and my art takes up a lot of my time. However, I have not ruled out that at some stage, Charlie Harcourt and myself, schedules permitting, may again collaborate on song writing and performing. I have a great respect for Charlie as a musician and we had a good working relationship when writing songs together. †Charlie is a whizz for finding the right chord and playing rhythm guitar.
FROM CRAIG JOHNSON:
Great to see you back in music, five questions if I may...
What was your favourite Lindisfarne album, and why?
I still like to listen to The News, it has a good mix of styles, encompassing the best use of the bandís musicianship and song writing talent. I think the band were at their most inventive and probably at their peak as a 5 piece unit around this period.
Just reading your comments on the main site about when you left the band ("I was slowly being left out and not consulted over future band policy"). Looking back, do you feel that things could, and probably should, have turned out differently?
I donít think anything would have changed my mind in hindsight, other than what happened, there were a set of circumstances in place, that I no longer wanted to be involved with.
Did you follow the band after Hully's passing, and if so, what were your opinions of it?
Once I left, I didnít look back and therefore didnít follow the band. I only saw them once at Cropredy shortly before they broke up. They could all play their instruments and performed well, but I didnít feel that I wanted to be up there on stage with them.
Any plans for a UK tour with the Gathering anytime soon?
Probably a UK Gathering tour in November, which is still in the planning stage, the dates will be announced later.
Other than Lady Eleanor of course, were there any Lindisfarne songs you considered recording for the Gathering album that you didn't sing with the band originally?
Short answer, no
Cheers, much appreciated, and hope the tour in Germany goes well †
Hello Mr. Jackson! †Thanks for doing this...
1 ) I know nowt about playing the harp. One thing that's always fascinated me - how does the 'playing-two-tunes-at-the-same-time' thing work? It's amazing to listen to but sounds impossible!
Itís really simple, I assume what you describe, isknown as vamping. You block the notes with the tongue allowing the octave above and below to be heard and then withdraw the tongue to allow the chord to be played.
2 ) The same question I always ask... If you could put together a dream band of your own, consisting of guitar, keys, bass and drums, who would you choose? You can only choose people you haven't played with before.
Richard Thompson, guitar, Dave Pegg, bass, Steve Winwood, keyboards and Phil Collins on drums.
Also, what would be the first song of the first set, the last song of the second set, and the encore?
First, Back in The High Life, last My Babe and encore Promised Land.
That's all for now.. I'll probably think of something else later!
Without leading the witness, were you disappointed with demise of the MKII band.
I was disappointed and taken by surprise, it was totally unexpected.
It seemed to find its own sound with Happy Daze , that fitted the zeitgiest (ooooo!) of that era. It certainly contained some of my favourite Ray Jackson vocals. I thought it would have taken the pressure off Alan to keep coming up with an album of tunes What are your thoughts and would you have liked it to continue.
I think we could have continued if Alan hadnít pulled the plug.Alan may possibly have gone on if it had been the original Pipe Dream band. The album line up of musicians was his first choice. We had all put a lot of time and effort into the Mk IIís and we were finding and developing our own style, right up to the end. Perhaps it was not what Alan had in mind, but he never said anything to the contrary at the time. The Americans liked us, as most hadnít heard the original band and had no preconceived idea of what had gone before. We werenít judged or compared with the old band, as was the case in Britain and Europe.We did some storming shows and I still think we might have made it over there if we had stayed together.
I love your solo album, ever tempted to work with Charlie again?
Sure, I would work with Charlie anytime. We developed a style completely different to that of Lindisfarne.
FROM MICHAEL (AGAIN):
The Loving Around the Clock / Sporting Life Blues / Checking Up On My Baby tracks on the BT CDs are some of my favourite Jacka moments. What do you remember about those sessions? How did they come about?
Do you know if there were any other tunes that haven't been released?
The tracks you list were from the Paul Jones Blues Programme for Radio 2. It was a one off reformation of Downtown Faction our first band featuring Rod, Ray, Si, myself and lead guitarist, Jeff Sadler. The session was recorded in Stockport at Strawberry Studios. There were four tracks recorded but I believe the original tape was destroyed after the session and only the three tracks you list survive. We rehearsed the day before in the village Labour club where I used to live near Huddersfield. We all then went out afterwards on the piss to Holmfirth on the bus. It was all great fun.
FROM MIKE J:
Ray, Please could you settle the long time rumour on Rod Stewarts ?non paying of your time for Mandolin on Maggie May - suggested it was but £20.00 and that it never arrived ? † True or what ?
Thanks , Mike.
I was paid £15 in cash, which at that time was the standard rate MU session fee for three hours.
hi ray † †its thedeafsigning fan †strange i know † †folowed you fom the m agaicinthe air and warm feeling days †havelalwasy felt you were the jewelint he crown † †my question is whats your †fave lindy song
I donít have one, †I have become too familiar with them to be objective.
what did u thinkof the hull story
It gave me great pleasure to be asked to contribute and Ray Laidlaw did an amazing job in putting it together. All the people that took part did Alan proud.
and last lywhat did u reckon to my contribution fo walk in the sea †in signs
It was good of you to represent those who have impaired hearing, and could make available Alanís words for those who would otherwise be denied that night.
hope to cathc you at †british gigs
First of all, many thanks for answering the previous questions so comprehensively in the 2004/2005 interviews (still on the website and a fascinating read).
In the second interview you said "I did come up with various songs for Lindisfarne but they were mostly not considered after Sleepless Nights". †Will we have a chance to hear more of your own material in future Gathering shows/recordings please? Have you unused songs which could be suitable for the new band or could we see "Warm Feeling" make a comeback?
You may well hear some more if we record another album. I would like to record Warm Feeling again with the Gathering line up.
As well as your own material, you were always lead vocalist on the songs by Rod and several songs of Alanís. †Was it agreed early on you would sing Rodís material or was it that the fact that your voice is ideally suited to the more bluesy, minor key songs Rod contributed? †Did Alan write songs with you in mind as vocalist or was the singer selected when sessions started ?
Being the singer in the band, it usually fell on me to perform Rodís contributions, as he didnít feel confident in singing them himself at the time. It was different with Alan however, as he was also joint lead singer, but he would also offer me a song to sing from time to time if it suited my voice. There were no songs particularly written for me.
Finally, which of the many producers you have worked with came across as most creative and which allowed the band most control over song selection and running order? †Is there a particular album you feel best encapsulates the band (either Mk.I or Mk.2), taking into account songs, performance and production ?
Many thanks, Derek.
Steve Lipson was the most creative, being a very good musician/engineer and meticulous in choosing the right chords if he thought one fitted better than what was on offer. †He encouraged us to introduce electronic keyboards. †Gus Dudgeon was a close second, his album Back And Fourth is beautifully recorded and gave us the most commercial sounding album. †My favourite however, is The News.
FROM STUART G:
In one of Charlie's Answers, he said that Harcourt's Heroes was created as a vehicle for the songs you were writing together. Did this writing partnership only start after Lindisfarne MkII folded? Or did you have songs for MkII to consider, and if so, what were they?
Towards the end of the Mk II band Chas and I had started to experiment at rehearsals and had a few songs under our belts. Sadly not in time for inclusion on any album before the band had folded.
From the interviews you previously gave for the website (to which Derek has referred) it sounds as if you continued writing with Charlie once Lindisfarne reformed, or was it a case of the songs then recorded by Lindisfarne were all from the Heroes days? †If so, did you re-work them to better suit Lindisfarne?
Charlie and me kept on writing after Lindisfarne reformed but not at the same level as in HH days. One of the songs written after HH was Winning The Game, which ended up on Sleepless Nights.
It's also documented that you would have liked more of your own compositions on your solo album In The Night (an album I really enjoy), but that you had to give space to covers which had more commercial appeal. Given your blues background, I was surprised (but not displeased) at the songs you chose, giving it more of a Soul sound . Is there an album of blues material in you waiting to get out?
I was always more into soul and Tamla, I got into blues music very early on in my teens and became slightly bored with it after a while. It was the sophistication of compositions and the arrangements of Atlantic and Tamla Motown Records that steered me away from the old blues exponents, resulting in my soul influenced writing style.
One of the (non soul) covers was, of course, Everything will turn out Fine. I always felt that Stealers Wheel were a musical cousin of Lindisfarne, and you presumably felt some affinity to record one of their songs. Were there ever any collaborations between the respective members (other than with their one-time member Noakes Esq)?
Sadly not, only as you mention with Rab Noakes.
Many thanks, and don't forget to bring the Gathering to the south!
It was a pleasure meeting you at Hull Story. †I have a few questions:
1. I love your paintings. What do you use for references? photographs, memories, something else?
Hi Barry it was good to meet you too.
My painting subjects are sometimes made up, as I canít always find reference to help with a composition. I often go out with a camera and take a specific location and plant a vehicle in the location using Photoshop, before putting anything down on art board. Some of the pictures are from memory or taken from old B&W photos. A prior knowledge of colour schemes/liveries etc. is a bonus otherwise, I have to hunt through reference books or visit transport museums to make sure everything is authentic.
2. It seems that you and Marty both have great (but different) voices, and both excell on different instruments. One would think the band could have been that much stronger with both of you, yet I think the fans are left with the impression that his addition instigated your eventual departure. †Are you willing to comment on this?
Marty and I had played together previously in Harcourtís Heroes and we were always respectful of each other as musicians. I think we performed well together integrating sax and harmonica in both bands. However, after a while, he was made a full time member of Lindisfarne without anyone consulting me. He had been a hired hand for several tours after we had recorded Sleepless Nights, a good addition to capture the feel of some of the recorded arrangements, but only that. We gradually introduced other players to free Rod to play guitar and fiddle but they were never asked to be full members. The five original members I thought, performed well together and were such a tight unit. We introduced additional instrumentation to beefup the live sound, to be more like the sound on record, but I think in doing so, lost some of our originality in the process. The whole entourage became top heavy and some of our tours began losing money, supporting an ever increasing cast of personnel and helpers. This put pressure on me to find other sources of income, mainly outside of the band and with that, my commitment, and this eventually led tome severing ties.
3. Whose decisions was it for MKII to play the chosen songs at Hull Story?
It was agreed between Ray Laidlaw and me that we should cover some Pipe Dream stuff and the Mk II band and I chose the material that was performed on the night.
4. I already have "Into The Night", and the website's bootlegs of Harcourt's Heroes & "Sounds like ..." †Are there any other Harcourt Heroes recordings in existence that might see the light of day someday?
Yes there are around 14 or so tracks, some recorded at Impulse Studios, Wallsend and Chappel Music studios, Bond Street, London. They have not been converted to digital and remain on reel to reel tape for the moment. Some of the tracks feature Tommy Duffy on bass and Ray Laidlaw on drums, recorded shortly after the Mk IIís split up and were to be featured as bonus tracks on the Happy Daze recent CD release, but for reasons I wonít go into here, they were not included. †If the enthusiastic Jim Henderson has his way, Iím sure he will do his best to help them see the light of day eventually.
When I saw you with the Gathering last year you were playing your snazzy new mandolin - an Ovation I think? †I remember from a concert programme back in the 1970's (Magic in the Air) you saying that you hoped Ovation would come up with a mandolin so it must have been a wish come true? †I thought the sound from it was pretty damn good, even though you will recall the various problems you had that night in Chester having no proper PA for the gig. †Did you use it exclusively on the Gathering album.
Hi Kevin, I had forgotten that Iíd said that in the programme but yes it has been a wish come true. I always envied Alanís acoustic sound and wished then that they had produced one. It was used on all of the tracks featuring mandolin bar one, which I recorded with my old Harmony. To save you trying to spot which one, it was False Hands Across The Table.
Your trusty old mandolin served you well over the years and I know that you cherished it. †It was almost a part of your profile over the years. †Has it now gone into permanent retirement or will we see you sporting it on stage again? †I know there is a story connected to that mandolin and the 'Maggie May' session which other folk here on the forum might appreciate hearing.
I still carry the Harmony as a spare, in case I break a string when playing live. The mandolin I played on Maggie May is a Columbus which I have had restored recently. You can see me playing it on the inner sleeve of Fog On The Tyne album. †There exists an article on it if you check the following link.
One more question connected to concert programmes. †In the 80's in a programme you quote your favourite Lindisfarne song as being 'In your head'. †A strange choice in some respects, although it is one of my personal favourites. †Did you really mean it or was it, given the circumstances of the time, a mischievious dig at Alan?
Now I know what it must feel like to be a politician when you are quoted as saying something that you might later regret. Explain your way out of that one he says! Well, I wouldnít choose it now perhaps but I did like some of Kennyís songs on that album.
Ray, Yes, I know, cheeky second question posting. †The late Larry Adler once described you as one of the best harmonica players. †High praise indeed but well deserved. †Hearing your harmonica on the Gathering CD made me realise just how much your departure from Lindisfarne diminished their sound. †I know that you cite Sonny Boy Williamson as one of your harmonica influences. †A couple of weekends ago I heard something on Brian Mathews 'Sounds of the 60's' which pulled me up short as it was stylistically very similar to you in blues mode. †It was Cyril Davies. - old enough to have been your Dad. †I'd never heard of him but I am sure you have? †Another influence?
You donít miss a trick do you? †Yes I admit, Cyril was the first British guy I ever heard playing blues harmonica on record. I had the single, Country Line Specialí/'Chicago Callingí which was on the yellow Pye R&B label. †He was one of my early influences and used to play with Alexis Corner who was the main man for introducing the Blues to the UK.
What do you consider your finest recorded harmonica moments/parts? †For me it was the brilliant part you worked out and played for 'Justanothersadsong' on 'Pipedream' closely followed by 'Taking care of business'.
Itís always difficult to choose the best performance or solo but if I had to make a choice on a Lindisfarne record, I would make it the solo on Evening, from The News album.
FROM BOB OF THE SOOTH:
Ray, when you left the band in 1990 or whenever it was. Did you continue to write songs, or did you think that your music career was over? † Also, why didnít you choose Warm Feeling for the Gathering album?
I collaborated with a guy in London in the 90ís, we wrote about six songs together, placed them with a publisher, but non were ever released. I never thought my career as a musician to be over, just on hold. †We had so many songs to choose from between us in the Gathering that it was one that was passed over in the end.
I have 2 copies of your solo LP, one just about playable and one not! any more. My question is have you any plans to re-release In The Night on CD? If not, would you consider it... please.
I looked into this a couple of years ago and traced the copyright down to United Artistís who hold the masters. They wanted a ridiculous amount of money to grant me a license to release it and also a stiff percentage on any sales. It just wasnít worth it to me in the end. You might be able to find a cassette of it somewhere that is still playable if you are lucky. Again, Jim Henderson may at some stage, come up with a solution with all of the contacts he has at his disposal.
FROM CHRIS GROOM:
I thought the Gathering line-up worked brilliantly on stage - like those fantasy football teams that look great on paper, but you never know how they will gel on the pitch - well yours did! †So whose idea was it to put such a line-up together, who made the phone call - and were there any subs lined up if one of the first team said no?!
It was Jerry Donahue who was managed by Peter Barton who wanted to form a band from names who had played in folk rock bands in the seventies. I was asked to join latterly, most, if not all of the band members had already committed and I was to be the last piece of the jigsaw, so to speak. We were to have Mike Piggot on fiddle but before our first rehearsal he pulled out due to other commitments. You would have to ask Jerry if there were any subs lined up.
Talking of fantasy pairings (and I doubt it's likely), but you and Rod Clements would make a great blues duo in the Sonny Terry/Brownie McGhee mould...
Rod and I played together as a duo at small venues in the middle seventies before Lindisfarne reformed. We made a television arts programme called Come In If You Can Get In for Tyne Tees, featuring some blues and Woody Guthrie songs. Rod and I also performed a cameo set during Lindisfarne concerts at Newcastle City Hall as part of the Christmas show, so much fantasy but actual.
FROM MR INBETWEEN:
A second question, if I may.....
"C'mon Everybody" received a mixed reaction on its release, and continues to do so on this site. One reviewer at the time asked if it marked 'Lindisfarne's zenith or nadir?'. Personally, I love the album. It claimed a new fan recently when my 81-year old mother heard it. It cheered her up, she said. Make of that what you will!
Anyway, was it as much fun to do as the recording and subsequent tour seemed to convey? How did the idea come about, and how did you select the songs?
We were approached by Stylus Records to do a double album that was to be heavily promoted on television as a party album, along similar lines to the K Tel records model. It had always been an ambition of ours to record an album that people could dance along with. Lindisfarne music was not something that was played in a disco very often, so this seemed a good opportunity to realise one of our ambitions. †We were asked to choose songs which we grew up with and compiled a list of the best to record. †It was great fun doing the various tracks on the list and segueing them into each other for continuous play. †We tried to get as close to the original versions as possible on some tracks, but also used our imagination to try and improve some of the arrangements using our own style. †The packaging and marketing of the album left a lot to be desired and although the music I felt was good it didnít go down well with certain sections of our fans when we played some of it live. †Eventually we gave up promoting the whole thing after one tour.
Lastly, what was the thinking behind re-recording Lindisfarne classics for side 4 (in LP terms) rather than making an album completely of r&r covers?
As it happened, the re record restrictions on our back catalogue had expired and we devoted one side of the album to our old hits to help produce royalties for the writers in the band.
Fabulous. Many thanks for the full and interesting replies. Good luck with the spring tour, and I look forward to seeing the band in the UK autumn-time.
Second that! Pleased to hear his thoughts on Evening and The News as a whole, it's always been on of me favourites. Roll on the Autumn!!
Bob & Ray:
Bob, thanks for bringing us Mr. Jackson's insights and candor
Ray, thanks for taking the time to answer everyone's questions. Brilliant!
Yes, cheers Ray! Sorry about the awkward question which was suitable only to be asked in Parliament Square!
I didn't know about Rod and Jacka duetting in the mid 1970's. Wow - I would pay good money to see that repeated. They perfromed some amazing cameo's together on-stage with Lindisfarne and Jacka always sang and interpreted Rod's excellent songs so brilliantly. The Gathering do a great live version of 'Road to Kingdom Come'
Cheers Ray- that was a fascinating read. Interested about Steve Lipson's input- certainly "Winning The Game", "Nights" and "Sunderland Boys" are among my favourites.
I agree "Evening" is a really good song and the harmonica makes it perfect. Another great harmonica solo is on "Solo Again" from your solo album, a song I think written by ex-Harcourt Heroes members ?
Will clear November in my diary for the Gathering tour!
Thanks again and best wishes for Germany,