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PostPosted: Sat Jan 24, 2009 2:31 am    Post subject: SI COWE REPLIES TO YOUR QUESTIONS  Reply with quote

A massive 'thank you' to Si for taking part in our latest Q&A session.  I'll leave Si's answers here for a month or so before moving this thread to the Q&A archives.

OK folks, here we go.............

Hello Lindisfarne chattees.

Sorry for the tardiness of this response.  It's taken me a while to learn how to convert tables to text and then reformat the text so it flows smoothly (about 2 months!). All because I decided to cut and paste each question into - HA! When I just typed the word “into” my word predictor thingy guessed and offered “intoxicated” (clever little bugger) - an Writer file. Suffering the consequences now, but learning how to use the program. I still don't understand where the tables come from as I copy each question from but I'm slowly figuring out how to do a surgical cauterisation on them.

On re-reading this I apologise if some of my responses to the questions seem a bit terse or short but it may have been the mood I was in when I answered them (it was during a time of dealing with unfeasibly large amounts of snow and other Canadian wintery things like cleaning the condensate trap on my furnace), and I was probably just feeling knackered. If any dissatisfied customer would like to cattle prod or Taser me on any detail please leave a question on the website and I'll try and follow it up.

If your question was accidentally removed during the cauterisation process please feel free to ask it again and I'll periodically look in to the forum to oblige.

Hi Reinhard if you're paying attention! Have a pint of Dusseldorfer Altbier fur mich. Mit Umlaut uber den “u” aber Ich kann nicht das Umlaut finden. Gowdon Bennett,5753,-2003,00.html – me German's getting a bit rusty but I can't be arsed to perfect this sentence grammatically at half past blonk on New Year's morning having just got back from my local after a private party!


Scuse me.

Ok, let's get the ball rolling.

From Mr Inbetween:

"Uncle Sam" stood up well against all the other fine tracks on Fog on the Tyne, and deservedly enjoyed a popular revival in the later years of Lindisfarne (starting with the female vocal version). Overall, there aren't many of your songs recorded by Lindisfarne (and some of those are hidden away on b-sides) yet when it came to Jack the Lad you really came into your own. With no disrespect to your excellent songs on the first and third albums, you made a major contribution to the home-grown songs on The Old Straight Track (I presume the title track was inspired by Alfred Watkins' book?). What was it about JTL that brought this talent out of you? After all, you were still competing with other top class song writers and a vast catalogue of traditional songs.

More freedom and opportunity. A new band needing new material. BTW, Mr. I., I don't see songwriting as a competition! Who was the female who sang “Uncle Sam” (which was about a female)? Beware of going down the Old Straight Track. It'll cost a fortune in Ordnance Survey maps. Fun, though. Good old uncle Alfred, the brewery representative.

If I may be permitted a second question so early on in proceedings?

I remember reading that in the early years of Brethren (or probably, Downtown Faction), a decision had to be made about which of you and Rod would be the bass player, both of you having adopted the bass as your instrument. Indeed, I recall you playing occasional bass with JTL to allow Rod to play fiddle. When Rod put the bass aside in the middle Lindisfarne years, was there any suggestion (in your mind, if no-one elses!) that you may pick up where you left off?

Many thanks.

No. But there was a brief Downtown Faction phase when Rod and I both played bass – at the same time. Experimental stuff, e.g. Rod playing traditional Precision sound and style while I freaked out on my boot polish blacked Precision going through a Nashville treble booster and swapping solos with Geoff Sadler playing his SG. There was a memorable night at Morden Towers when Tom Pickard said “Do anything you like, lads” which springs to mind. A self indulgent blast. Or maybe it was the Quay Club. Possibly both.

From Passingghost:

Hi Si,

I did see you at The Hull Story, and I have been kicking myself for not having the courage to walk up to you and shake your hand.  You were outside the venue with your family after the show.

Anyway, my question is: You’re well known for not signing you real name on albums etc.  What made you start doing that?   It's something that us fans find really amusing, and I for one am glad you do this quirky thing.

The very first time anyone ever asked for my autograph, I thought “Why would anyone want you to write your name on a piece of paper and give it to them? – what a weirdly abstract concept – therefore I should behave as weirdly abstractly as that concept.” I suspect I may have a bit of the African native in me, who doesn't like the idea of a photo being taken of himself as it will steal away his spirit onto a piece of paper. None of my known ancestors are African, however, (mainly Scots), so maybe it's the Caucasian equivalent.

From Craig Johnson:

Hi Si,

I was only 3 years old when you left the band in 1993, so I can't really ask a valid question for when you were in the band, however I thought you were tremendous both in the old videos I have seen and in The Hull Story.

I would just like to know if you're still involved in the world of music and, if so, in what capacity?


As an advisor for my 3 kids – all of whom are musically inclined. Especially in the field of theory, about which I learned quite a lot at school and during my performing years. I attended a couple of jazz courses at Humber College in Toronto and played bass for a while, culminating in a performance at the legendary Rex Hotel here in Toronto (back to square one [Whitley Bay], or what?) of a Sunday lunchtime when only the relatives and friends of the raw recruit performers were in the audience to graciously applaud the attempts of the pretty rough sounding band. But it was a great experience. To have played the Rex.

From Derek:

Hi Si,

The songs "Positive Earth", "Way Behind You", "Uncle Sam" and "Go Back" from the Brethren/early Lindisfarne days and the post-reunion tracks "Stick Together", "Dedicated Hound" and "See How They Run" (in addition to the Jack The Lad tracks mentioned by Mr. Inbetween), all show a highly distinctive songwriting style and contrast effectively with the Hull and Clements material.  

Were these songs worked out on guitar or keyboard please ?  Did the lyrics or melody come first ?

On guitar. I found it a lot handier to quickly pick up when you have an idea on a beach or mountain top than a piano. Usually melody first, but the best results are when they are simultaneous. Rosa Lee was written on the beach at Cromer and only took a little longer to write (I had to scribble the words down as they came to me) as it did to perform.

Also, could you please tell us how many more unrecorded songs you have (and have any seen the light of day elsewhere?). Were any considered for the "Sleepless Nights", "Dance Your Life Away", "Amigos" or "Elvis Lives On The Moon" albums ?

I have some stuff on 1/4” tape. I won't know what it is or be able to answer your question until I have my bedroom recording studio (complete with Heintzman grand piano) and recently refurbished Revox reel to reel set up. As ever, Microsoft's operating systems are impeding my attempts to achieve my goals. I'm test driving Linux at the mo' as an OS for everyday use (not for trying to run Reason and Cubase though – I'll be stuck with Bill Gates' latest version of his originally named QDOS (Quick and Dirty Operating System) to run those 2 programs). If anyone's interested, check out WUBI which allows you to boot into Windows or Linux. If I ever manage to convert any of that material to a digital format I'll forward them to the website for a laff.

Finally, how did your "Dingly Dell" instrumental "Plankton's Lament" come about and why is it so called ?


Created by doodling about on acoustic guitar and experimenting with hammer-ons. So titled because it reminded my wife of plankton lamenting. I just downloaded it from the interweb and heard it again after several decades. Pure jazz from Rod & Jacka!

From Mick:

Hi Si

Who had the idea of having Maddy Prior sing the lead vocal on 'Song Without a Band'?

I can't remember who thought of Maddy but we were all fans. In the studio she was lovely, and lent exactly the right, plaintive edge to the track.

If I may be permitted to ask a second question.... had you always wanted to move to Canada, or was it something you decided upon late in your career as a musician?  Also, are you making any music now?

Always wanted to get involved in brewing beer, not necessarily in Canada. The chance to open a “Ubrew” in Toronto came up in 1993 so I pursued it. Not making music – other than as mentioned variously.

From Otley Bob:

Hi Si

1) There's a thread elsewhere on the forum about the Weeley festival back in 71.  Ray Laidlaw was quoted as saying.... "We climbed this ladder to get on the stage and looking out, the crowd just seemed to go on for ever. I got stage fright for a moment. But we got intoxicated from it, an amazing reaction. The band was just starting to happen and we didn’t realise how popular we were until Weeley".   What are your memories of Weeley, and would you agree that it was a defining moment in terms of Lindisfarne 'making it'?

(Jacka): All right, you fifty thousand on the left – shut up. You fifty thousand on the right – swing your arms like this... Yes, when you peer to the back of the crowd and they are so far away you can't even see that there are human faces any more – just a blur, you've made it.

2) What would you say were your favourite three tracks (any era, any artist)?

Jimi Hendrix – All Along the Watchtower.
Lee Ritenour's Friendship – Sea Dance.
Jane Monheit – Cheek to Cheek - many versions available but try

also follow the link to Antonio Carlos Jobim's “Waters of March” - magic. If anyone can give me the guitar chords for it please do! I've been trying to find them for years. Emilie Claire Barlow does a definitive version, too.

3) What part of your musical career did you enjoy most of all, and why?

Learning piano, theory, discipline and freedom of imagination from David Michael Lester-Cribb at Fettes College, Edinburgh. Because he was a genius and a brilliant, enthusiastic teacher.

“His civilising effect on all those with whom he came into contact was profound”


4) What instruments do you currently own?

Heintzman Grand,
Bansall, London, pianola,
Various gtrs inc L'Art de Lutherie acoustic, Hohner bass, Hawk 12 string, custom Hamer,
Mandolin, violin, “The Windsor” banjo,
Keyboards including Alan's old Wurly (“G” reed above middle C has snapped – if anyone has a replacement, I'm interested.)
Kalimbas, comb + bogpaper etc.

5) Was this a genuine thread? .....

Yes, certainly, from Jack Laidlaw, wanting to know if anyone on the forum was interested in buying the amazing and unique amplifier that Greg Burman built for me. Greg, to me, was the Igor Stravinsky of electronic amplification design – revolutionary stuff.

From StuartG:

Hello Si,

In the period after MkII/Jack the Lad and before the 1976/77 reunion, other members of Lindisfarne did a mixture of solo projects, session work, playing in other bands, etc. Apart from a short spell with the Bert Jansch Band (so I understand), you took a different direction into the 7:84 Theatre Group.

What attracted you to the (fringe)stage? Was it a chance to combine your politics with music in a different way? Something you always had an inkling for, or something else? Would you do it again?


It was the first time I had the opportunity to determine left from right. A challenge to write compositions which told a story as well as being entertaining. I'd gladly do it again, but, unfortunately, Canada does not have a left wing. It just keeps flying (politically) round in circles. Boom boom!

From Barry-USA:

1. You always seemed to have played a lead rhthym guitar; not playing guitar solos per say, but not playing straight rhthym guitar either (similar to the way Dave Davies played on a lot of Kinks songs).  Did Rod's conversion to playing guitar (live and in studio) affect your role within the band, and if so, how?

A guitar made of lead would have been too heavy. Mine were made of wood, plastic and steel.

Rod and I played guitar at the same time. We collaborated to achieve the best results.

2. Why did you leave JTL before Jackpot was released, and if the LP cover was already shot, are you on any of the actual tracks?

Personal reasons, dunno re the second half of your question.

3. What do you do with yourself in Toronto, and do you ever play any live music there?

Shovel snow and no. Unless you count shower yodelling. BTW - sorry about the facetious answer above re lead guitar – couldn't resist it!  Alan Hull once pointed out to me, after I'd taught him how to do the Grauniad cryptic crossword and we were in an etymological frame of mind, that facetious is the only word in the English language to feature all of the vowels in their alphabetical order. Or maybe there was one more. Yes! Just found "abstemious". Now, what the hair oil can that mean?

From Mr Inbetween:

Hello Si,

I'm really going to be cheeky and ask another question. As Otley Bob says, you don't have a chance like this very often!

It's usually possible to pick out your distinctive guitar work and obvious vocal harmonies in all the Lindisfarne / JTL recordings. Except in Elvis Lives on the Moon. I've listened again and again, but there's nothing which obviously says (to me) "Simon Cowe". Did you have much of a contribution to the recording? The production style of the album has been the subject of other debate on the board recently, and perhaps your part became subdued by that process?

Limited to textural stuff etc. with Kenny. My “Hawk” 12 string still has the same strings on it as when it was used on the album xteen years ago (each of the 6 strings duplicated in the same octave). I suspect the Hawk is pre-Boosey. It's pretty old and someone has planed off the front of the guitar's thickness (which was originally thicker around the middle, presumably to create a bigger sound) for some reason, leaving it pretty ugly, but it still sounds big and fat and sproingy.

From Dedicated Hound:

Hi Si,

We tend to forget just how big Lindisfarne were in the early seventies; were you surprised at the bands success, particularly after the release of the FOTT album, which really brought the band to nation-wide attention?

I was surprised when I read a Melody Maker Readers' Poll from the early 70’s about 5 years ago. If I remember rightly – 1. Lindisfarne. 2. The Who. 3. The Rolling Stones. Or was I dreaming? I've searched for it since, but can't find it. It may have been a phishing type scam, but it looked like the front page of MM.

From Chris Groom:

A couple of questions, if I may, Si:

As there has been a discussion on the board recently about production on the bands albums, did you have a favourite producer (either for LF or JTL) and a particular example of their influence on an album?

Gudge (Gus Dudgeon) was good when he was paying attention (not often). He suggested the twiddly bits I played on high string guitar on Run for Home.

Secondly, Derek asked about unrecorded/unreleased songs; assuming there were more of your own songs that didn't quite make the cut for the early records, did you ever contemplate recording a Si Cowe solo album or were you happier as a team player?

I was scrum half for Lindisfarne, but regarding solo albums…… I have this fantasy about committing the intentionally almost perfect crime whereby the judge sends me to prison for 2 years – enough time to spend 8 hours a day learning to play jazz guitar in my cell and emerging back to the world as a Joe Pass or Lorne Lofsky - then go back to the coast of Cuba where I pick up the submerged stash of stolen diamonds near the diversionary dump for which I was originally arrested, and thereafter living the life of Riley, (given that you aren't going to make any money playing jazz).

From mockinghorse:

It was great to see you at the Hull Story.  A couple of questions if I may.

Following your appearance at the Hull Story were you tempted to step back into the music scene a la Ray jackson?

No – making beer is less blistering on the fingertips.

What did you make of the band after Alan's death. What did you make of the music produced and, had you still been able, would you have joined in with the band and toured?

Don't know – I changed occupations and didn't follow the progress of the band.

One last one…. What is your favourite Lindisfarne moment that you look back at with pride and what is the moment you look back at with most amusement?

Being invited on a tour of Theakston's Brewery in Masham by Simon Theakston and meeting Clive the cooper.

The most amusement award goes to, as anyone who knows him will testify – any moment with Mick Elliott.

From Michael:

Hello Simon

Thanks for doing this!

1) Was the Nashville-tuning guitar part on Run for Home your idea?

Yes – but modified by Gus Dudgeon as above.

2) Here's a photo from The Fish Quay Festival in the late 80s. It was the first time I saw any Lindisfarne-related line-up. It was the one where the audience was invited to bring instruments along and play along with FOTT. Do you have any memories of that day? My memory is as blurry as the photo!

None whatsoever. AFAIK I've never been to a fishky gig.

3) On the tour to support BT3, the band briefly revived 'Positive Earth'. I heard it at The Queens Hall in Hexham, and it was fab...a  real hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck moment. Did you ever hear a recording of it?

Yes. (AKA “Front Room Tune”). Based on Jeff Sadler's nifty hammer-on guitar work which was a kind of precursor to Alan's “Lady Eleanor”.

4) The same question I always ask, I'm afraid! If you had to form a dream band consisting of guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and vocals, who would you choose? (You're not allowed to choose people you've played with before!). What would be your opening song and encore?

John Scofield, Jaco Pastorius, Steve Gadd, Herbie Hancock, Eddie Jefferson.

Lullaby of Birdland, 'A' Train.

5) Presumably you've listened to the remastered & expanded Lindisfarne Live CD. Have you listened to the recordings of the  US east coast tour on Wolfgang's Vault? If so.. what comes to mind when you listen back to them? Is it easy to put yourself back in those shoes, or does it feel like a world away?

Never presume! (I haven't).

That's all folks [cue Bugs Bunny music]

Der - dedut de dut dut dut, derrr (2,3,4,)

Dut dut dut dut, dut der derrrr.



PS - Squillions of thanks to Bob for being so patient and formatting my effort so effortlessly. Cheers, Bob. Owe you a pint.

Last edited by Bob on Sun Mar 01, 2009 1:44 am; edited 3 times in total
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 24, 2009 9:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting and amusing reading.  Thanks Si and Bob too.  I wish I had asked a question or two.  It is plain to see that Si has lost none of his enigmatic, mischievious humour and I want to thank him for the great enjoyment his music and playing have given me over the years and to wish him well for the future.

"Well I may not be funny but I got your money,
aint that a laugh?"
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 24, 2009 10:26 am    Post subject: Hi Si Reply with quote

What a great giggle I had reading those replies.

Seems Si is even more eccentric than I.What a guy! Laughing

Can you imagine somebody like Parky or Frost interviewing him? Very Happy
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Craig Johnson

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 24, 2009 11:55 am    Post subject: Re: Hi Si Reply with quote

Caroline wrote:
Can you imagine somebody like Parky or Frost interviewing him? Very Happy

Breakfast with Frost  with Simon Cowe would have been a great sight to see.

Great answers, and a great laugh reading them. Good to see mischievous and abstract humour still has a place in music!
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Mr Inbetween

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 24, 2009 12:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fabulous, thanks Si (and Bob). If anything was missing from the answers it was compensated for by the spirit of the replies. As to be expected!
The One and Only
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 24, 2009 1:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for that, Si!

...and, a little tip for the future if you're using a PC:

Copy your text and then paste it into notepad. Copy if from there and past it into your OpenOffice doc.

It strips out all the tables etc, and leaves you with just the text.

It sounds like a reet faff, but if you use CRTL+C and CTRL+V it takes a split second...
The Caffreys | Billy Mitchell Band | The Lindisfarne Story
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 24, 2009 3:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cheers Si- fascinating replies and good luck with setting up your bedroom recording studio.

Interesting that "Rosa Lee" started life on guitar on the beach at Cromer and finished up adorned with the wonderfully idiosyncratic brass arrangement on "It's Jack the Lad".  

"Song Without A Band" is excellent with Maddy Prior and I also like the outro (which reminds me a bit of the theme to Johnny Morris's "Animal Magic"!)

Michael's right. "Notepad" is the tool to rescue your sanity when Microsoft applications threaten to take over with their defaults and settings!

Best wishes,

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