Lindisfarne will be playing this year’s Southdowns Folk Festival as they gear up for their 50th anniversary next year.
The band had been going for a little while by then, but it was in late 1970 that they gained the name that brought them fame and longevity.
As co-founder Rod Clements (bass guitar, violin) says, they were Brethren for a while: “The record company informed us that there was an American band called Brethren who were going to be huge. And so we had to change our name. And what happened to them!
“And so we were casting around for a name.”
Lindisfarne was suggested – and at first the band was a bit perplexed. As Rod says, they might as well have called themselves Wallsend or Whitley Bay.
But gradually it was a name that unlocked something: “We are not religious folk at all, but the history and the local history associations meant something.”
It was an exciting time to be making music: “I can’t imagine what it would be like trying to set out to do it now. We just went with our instinct. We just started out as young lads who wanted to pick up a guitar, just like everybody else was. The great thing about starting in the 60s was that it was a time when people felt they could try something. They wanted to try to make some music and they found that they could and that it was a lot of tun. We just started and found that we could make a noise that people seemed to like.
“Early on we were copying The Beatles and The Kinks and The Rolling Stones…and then discovering blues through The Stones. The great things about The Stones was that they always credited their influences.”
The band emerged in and around Newcastle, a place which, as Rod says, has enjoyed great times in the past 20 years, a real resurgence: “I can remember going there with my mum and dad on shopping trips, and I hated the place. It always seemed to be raining, and the buildings all seemed to be black. My only relief was to go to the Tyneside Cinema to watch the cartoons and films.”
But as he was cutting his teeth in music in the city, Rod relished the fact that its music scene was a gritty one: “The Animals were at the forefront of that. And there was just a lot of blues and roots music. The pop trends never really caught on in Newcastle to the extent that they did in London. We were just too far away. If anybody had dressed up in Marc Bolan gear in Newcastle, they wouldn’t have lasted long!
“But we had a great roots and blues music scene, and also the folk tradition. They let us into the folk clubs. We heard a lot of mining songs and Irish songs from the Newcastle Irish community. And that led us to a lot of story songs.”
Helping everything was the fact that the early 70s were such a great time musically.
“In 71 or 72, I remember going around in the minibus, and we had Sticky Fingers (by the Stones) on all the time. It was a great period. And we were very fortunate in that we came across as being something very different without trying to be different. It was a time of glam and dressing up. Marc Bolan and Bowie and Led Zeppelin were big and there was all the pomp and circumstance, but we were just a bunch of scruffy guys from Newcastle, and I think people really took to us.”
Music at the Alexandra Theatre for this year’s Southdowns Folk Festival includes:
Thursday, September 19, 7.30pm: The Young Un’s – The Ballad of Johnny Longstaff show.
Friday, September 20, 7.30pm: 3 Daft Monkeys plus 9pm: Blair Dunlop.
Saturday, September 21, 7.30pm: Alistair Goodwin Band plus 8.40pm: Oysterband.
Sunday, September 22, 7.30pm: The Jigantics plus 8.40pm: Lindisfarne.