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Friars Interviews

Ray Laidlaw
Lindisfarne  Jack the Lad   Alan Hull's Radiator

friars appearances:  07/07/73  27/04/74  01/02/75  07/02/76  25/09/76  09/07/77  02/07/71 (Lindisfarne)  03/01/81 (Lindisfarne) 25/10/73 (Lindisfarne, Friars Dunstable), 29/11/77 (Radiator)

Jack The Lad 2008 Photo Billy Mitchell

Jack The Lad, through their infectious brand of music became Friars heroes in the mid seventies making many sellout appearances at Friars. We spoke to drummer Ray Laidlaw whose personal history with Friars goes beyond Jack The Lad.

Ray was (with some of the Jack The Lad) part of Lindisfarne that played Friars in 1971 and 1981 and also part of Alan Hull's Radiator who played in 1977.

We had a chat with Ray in Summer 2009 and he shared his fond memories of Friars with us as well as telling about Lindisfarne's legendary Newcastle City Hall shows and THAT single with Paul Gascoigne.

Hi Ray and welcome to the Friars Aylesbury website. Your Friars history goes back before Jack The Lad. You played in 1971 with Lindisfarne as a very last minute replacement for The Faces.

Yes we did..there was lots of grumbling! It was the fact we had acoustic guitars. we were a band on the way up though. I think some people asked for their money back but we had a great night.

This was just before Meet Me On The Corner wasn't it?

A bit of a I said, the band was on the up. We would turn up at gigs and see these huge queues and then realise it was for us!

When Lindisfarne split in different directions in 1973, you became Jack The Lad with a couple of the other guys...your first appearance at Friars as Jack The Lad seemed to be part of a Charisma Records tour...

Yes, we did a few of them and we did that with Lindisfarne too. It was economies of scale, we could all be on the same tour bus for example, we did quite a lot of them.

That was probably the influence of Paul Conroy?

Yes, like us, he remembered the package tours of the 1960s. It was (up to) only about five or six years before then that everybody toured like that.

Peter Hammill from Van der Graaf Generator was on that tour with you as was a young Phil Collins with Zox and the Radar Boys

Really? Was that before Brand X?

Yes, it was.

We knew Genesis well through playing with them and the Charisma connection.

In the old hall (Borough Assembly Hall), you played three times, 1973, 1974 and 1975. I think they all sold out.

We always had a great time! There was probably only 8-10 venues in the country that had a similar feel to Friars, where it was always a club, a regular gig where the same people came regardless of who was playing...

That's true...

It was a cosy feel and demonstrative audiences which worked well for us. We were never into navel gazing. You went to have a good time. Friars was a good gig - the punters took to us like we took to them almost instantly.

This is one of the reasons Jack The Lad have got a Friars Heroes award.

The live thing with Jack The Lad was important as we never sold many records and this developed into this...almost revue. There were sketches, bits of dance and all sorts mixed in with the music. A complete night's entertainment. But we were always reviewing it and by the time we would have played Friars again, 50% of the act would have changed.

I missed out on all this as I was a couple of years too young!

As we were finishing off, bands like Eddie and The Hot Rods and Kilburn and The High Roads were on the up and overlapped a bit. It was a bit strange. Some of our fans got turned on to Eddie and The Hot Rods and consequently some of the punk stuff. Some of the people saw us as much as outlaws as they were as we didn't fit into any kind of musical hierarchy.

Talking of Eddie and The Hot Rods, you played Friars twice in 1976, but I don't know if you remember who the support bands were?! Eddie and the Hot Rods and Split Enz!

I knew I had seen Eddie and the Hot Rods at least once so maybe it was at that gig. We did a whole tour with Split Enz which was really really good. That was the beginnings of Crowded House. We kept in touch with them to an extent.

In 1977 you made your last appearance with Jack The Lad at Friars with the band deciding to call it a hit the nail when you said you were getting great live feedback but this wasn't translating into record sales.

It was a pity, but we did our best. But if it's not going to work, you have to evolve and move on. Also Jack The Lad was of its time, it wouldn't have worked in another time.

But you came back to Friars later in 1977 with Alan Hull's Radiator...

That was brilliant, but it was another great band...but that was never going to make money. It was too musical.....

What...the Radiator band?

It was a great idea, but it wasn't focused enough as it had too many great songwriters. It also wasn't economical with the type of gigs we were doing as we couldn't pay our way. It was great while it lasted though. We made one album and played some great live shows.

So it didn't work out because of too many songwriters?!

Yes, and we were playing at the start of the new wave explosion. We couldn't even get ourselves arrested at some gigs, they just wouldn't have us, because we were over 30! A bit like the French Revolution! Some venues were not prepared to book you on musical merit and their attitudes changed almost overnight in terms of who they booked. It was like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

There were a lot of bands learning two chords at the time and getting gigs....

Well, it was due for a change which is fair enough but the pendulum swung too far away for a while.

I know I saw somewhere that Alan Hull's Radiator were described as 'ill-fated' - I can't remember the context of the article, but maybe because of the musical context of the time?

Yes, I think that was probably what it was. It was a bit jazzy. There were some very good musicians in that band. It was tasty stuff. If that band had started five years earlier, we would have been monstrously big. It was just the time.

So many bands were brilliant musically but in the wrong place at the wrong time.....

Yes, we were a bit rough round the edges, but we were like a British Steely Dan. Kenny Craddock who is also dead, God bless him (Alan Hull passed away in 1995 - Ed) was a wonderful musician. He was Van Morrison's musical director for about four years afterwards. A sensitive wonderful bloke who wrote some great songs. A musical genius? Yes. Alan was no mean player and the rest of us could hold our own. It was a great band for a while but it was never going to work.

You came back to Friars again in 1981 as art of the reformed Lindisfarne....

We got back together in about 1978 and stayed together in form or another until 2003. So it was a pretty amazing journey!

And great that ten years later (after replacing The Faces) you came back  headlining without question!

Yes, it was great, I loved it!

During the Lindisfarne years (in total) you played countless legendary concerts at the Newcastle City Hall didn't you?

I think the last time we did that (on a tour perspective) was in 1993. At it's peak, we played 12 sold out shows on the trot. Nobody's ever beaten that. In 1994, it was 25 years since we first played there, so we put on a celebratory show. We got tour T shirts made that just simply listed one venue - the City Hall and the dates of the gigs on the back, 143 of them!

For any band in any venue, that is an incredible statistic! The home town support was incredible.

Yes it was fantastic, but people who had seen us elsewhere were also travelling from far and wide to come to the shows.

Because it was Lindisfarne and they knew they were going to get a good show in the home town...

That's right.

Same kind of thing with Marillion and Aylesbury. But to sell out that kind of venue 12 times on one tour is astonishing.

There is one 'fan' question I must ask you to finish off....How did Lindisfarne get to be working with (Geordie footballing legend) Paul Gascoigne doing Fog on The Tyne?!

It was good fun, he's a good lad.

How did the idea come about?

A guy called Laurie Jay called me. He used to run the Speakeasy in London and also the Factory in Leicester Square where we used to rehearse with Lindisfarne back in the early days. We actually rehearsed Meet Me On The Corner there before we recorded it. That was the last time we'd seen him and we subsequently went on to do really well. By then (1990 ish) he was very successful with a label and management company and did very well with Billy Ocean. Well he rang and said he was going to do an album with Gazza and his management (the lawyer Mel Stein) has requested you be on it. They wanted us to do some instrumental versions of our big hits and then Gazza would reminisce about his boyhood days in Gateshead. We said we weren't doing that! But we would have a think about it. Paul Gascoigne was one person, but Gazza was a superhero, a bit like Billy The Fish from Viz!. But we thought maybe we could make a concept album, a bit like the Adventures of Gazza. So that was the basic idea. So Alan (Hull) suggested we could make Fog On The Tyne as a rap/dance record for Gazza so went and rewrote the lyrics. So we did a demo and they loved it. So we recorded it and then we put his vocal on and then that was the end of it as far as we were concerned, forgotten about.

Then they said they wanted to bring it out as a single and would we do a video?! So we said yes and thought no more about it. Next thing, it's gone like a rocket and we're number 2 in the charts! We were kept off the top by something like Robson and Jerome or Bryan Adams...something that was number one for weeks.

We got so much stick for it. But it was good fun and Gazza was a good lad. It was never meant to be a serious thing.

As a by product, but it got Lindisfarne's name out there again didn't it?

Of course it did! Anyone who says they just release singles for people to listen to how good they are and it doesn't matter how much it sells is telling lies. Everyone wants to release a successful record. Successful sales is all part of it.

We were getting slagged off by the press for this and still are now. We didn't and don't care. Gazza was a good lad and is only ill now because he was badly treated by the media and those looking after him. Other people's greed. There's no harm in the bloke, he just couldn't make sense of the world he was in. He needed a proper person round him who could keep him out of trouble.

Ray, thank you so much for your time.

You're welcome, it's always good to talk about these things!

Lindisfarne/Jack The Lad official site

This interview and its content are 2009 Mike O'Connor/ and may not be used in whole or in part without permission.


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