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Issue 15 - September 1973
Jack The Lad

When Lindisfarne split Si Cowe, Ray Laidlaw and Rod Clements got Bill (Mitch) Mitchell, who was formerly in the NE folk group 'The Callies', to return from Canada and they formed a new band called 'Jack the Lad'. Here we talk to Si and Mitch about the past and plans for the future.

MG: I presume you read that interview with Alan in Muther Grumble?

Si: I read it.

MG: What did you think about it?

Si: It's quite typical ... It was Alan having a heart to heart with himself. I presume.

MG: There were various criticisms he seemed to put mainly at you, like having too many guitars on stage.

Si: Well, that's just his opinion. My opinion is that there is a front and a back to everything. Every front has a back door and whatever people put into life they get out of it. So I don't fancy being in Alan's shoes at the moment.

MG: What are your relations with Alan like now?

Si: I've seen him once since we split - at a business meeting where we hassled over who got what.

MG: It's getting like that?

Si: Always has been.

MG: From the very beginning? Or is this something that came after you'd been together for so long?

Si: No, it wasn't like that at the beginning. It was more honest in the beginning but deteriorated into backbiting - permanent backbiting - about all the policies of the group. It was factions within the factions.

MG: What you're doing as 'Jack the Lad' is very similar to 'Dingly Dell', more than any of the other Lindisfarne stuff.

Si: Well, we're trying to be more like what we wanted Lindisfarne to be in the first place. At the time of the first album 'Nicely out of Tune'. After the first album we three ex-Lindisfarners think that the music became wee-wee music. And we dealt with a piss-off playing music to football crowds and we tried to bend back, well, we did bend back to what our original concept of Lindisfarne was going to be.

MG: How commercial do you think that is? Are you concerned with the commercial side of it?

Si: Only when it gets too commercial.

MG: Because some rock music seems to be going towards football crowds. Like Slade.

Si: I can't stand groups like that. I don't think we want to play to football crowd type audiences again. We never enjoyed it. Only the sort of huge ego buzz that you obviously get and you can't do anything about it 'cos it's happening to you. But it's not a very lasting pleasure, the kind you get from that.

MG: But there are pressures upon you, say from your recording company or your management company, to become more commercial because that is where they get their money from?

Si: No, there are no obvious pressures from the recording company. They try to influence what we record but they can't influence what we write or how we perform. They just have to put up with that. That's where we're at.

MG: Who's doing most of the writing now?

Si: At the moment it's about equal between me, Mitch and Rod.

MG: Which is presumably a better balance than in Lindisfarne where it seemed that while all of you were writing only Alan's songs got sung?

Si: Umm! I'm trying to think how I can put Alan on a pedestal. At the bottom of the sea. No comment. (Laughs)

MG: Most press reports always said that Lindisfarne were a democratic group as far as everybody deciding on what was recorded. But it didn't seem to work out like that in practice, obviously, because you split.

Si: Yeah, I think it must have started off better, I'm sure it started off better, but it became more and more of a drag after a while, just playing at all. Nobody seemed to be putting the effort into it. Different people every night who weren't trying or pulling their weight. It was obvious that the spirit had gone and we were caught up in a big monster that was Lindisfarne.

MG: Anyway, enough of the past. When are you recording with the new band?

Si: First two weeks of October. Charisma refuse to put any albums out, probably quite rightly, until February, to avoid the Christmas thing that happened with 'Nicely out of tune' that got completely lost - it came out the same day as 'All Things Must Pass', and just disappeared. In fact we were recording at the same time in the same studio. He was upstairs and we were down.

MG: All original songs on the album or oldies too?

Si: All original.

MG: What's your policy on oldies?

Si: We only play one old Lindisfarne number, we play a couple to fill us in until we can get this time off for rehearsing more stuff. Joe Brown's 'Picture of You' and 'I saw her standing there', a good two to do I think, for the meantime I wouldn't like to do them for much longer.

MG: After the LP are you going on tour to bigger halls with another band?

Si: Yeah, but we don't ever want to limit ourselves to just doing tours, city halls, etc 'cos that's probably what fucked Lindisfarne up, too much of the high life, we didn't get back to the roots and the little clubs which we're doing now, we're playing all the little clubs, it's great. We want to be able to play to any sort of audience, weddings, barbeques, funerals.

MG: What's the balance going to be, say in six months time, are you going to be doing mainly sort of jiggy numbers or more rock numbers or are you going to sort of balance them out?

Si: That's what the big drag about this album business is because it's recorded beginning of October, comes out in February, we might be doing something totally different then, we don't know. We're still finding our roots now, we've got a 'Jack the Lad' sound though, but we don't know which way it's going to develop. I hope it'll just come tighter together as a definite 'Jack the Lad' sound.

MG: How about you personally, seeing you last Friday was the first time I've ever seen you stand up on stage and actually move around?

Si: Oh, I love it!

MG: I can imagine that in six months time you and Mitch will really be getting something together in terms of an act. Is that difficult for you?

Si: No, I couldn't face standing up at all when I tried after sitting down with Lindisfarne. I was sort of falling all over the place and my guitar was falling out of my hands, I didn't know how to do it. I brought a strap, practised for an hour and it worked. Quite enjoyed it, now I enjoy it all the time. It's great to be able to move around the stage, sitting in front of someone's cabinet or a drum, talk to people, dance or whatever. But it became the time for me to stand up anyway and God said "stand up Si", so I did, I would have done if I'd been with Lindisfarne or whoever.

MG: What's it like having Mitch back in the fold because you've been connected with him in vague ways for a long time now?

Si: Well, actually he was in the band before I was, he sang on, well about a dozen gigs, I think. He fits in amazingly well, I didn't know what he was gonna be like, in fact none of us did at first, he's pretty hot shit, yeah!

MG: Tell me about your diet and your guitar.

Si: I lost 10lbs because I started a macrobiotic diet starting with a 10 day rice diet. I lost my guitar because we were a bit stupid who we let in the dressing room at Sunderland and I think there were some kids there who nobody knew who they were, very suspicious.

MG: Have you got the serial number of that guitar?


MG: Are you enjoying yourself?

Mitch: Yes, it's like the best time I've ever had in my life. It's amazing, it's just doing exactly what I wanted to do for so long with the right people - that's what it's all about.

MG: You gave up the Callies to go to Canada, why? They seemed to be a good group who could have got it.

Mitch: Well, what happened was the original Callies that recorded the album split as soon as the album was released because the two guys didn't want to go any further with it. I couldn't see anything really happening so I split, maybe it was a wrong thing to do at that time.

MG: Tell us what happened.

Mitch: Well, what happened was I came home for a month at Christmas and went to a party, young Ray got mortal and told me the secret of the Lindisfarne split and that if they split then there was a possibility that they would ask me to join so I went back knowing that I had that little secret for about 8 weeks or so - bursting with it and then eventually Ray came over after Japan and said that the band were more or less going to stay together which sent me into a fit of 3 weeks solid boozing and then suddenly I just got a phone call one morning about 4 o'clock. It was him on the phone saying 'Do you want to join the band' so I packed me bags and this is it - it's really like a fairy story, it's really good, really great.

MG: You must have had a lot of thoughts, I suppose, coming over here - what were they, what do you think you could have contributed to the band?

Mitch: Well, this is something that puzzled me why they asked me to join 'cos I'd more or less wasted 3 years singing Irish rowdy songs and I was a bit worried in case I couldn't sing again, quite honestly it's been about 3 or 4 months before I started to get any sort of confidence about it. I think it's starting to come back now so hopefully it'll go on like that. Guitar wise I'm just a normal rhythm-guitar player, nothing extra ...

MG: What's the reception been like with the band, I mean you've played very few gigs?

Mitch: It's been pretty good on the whole. We've had a couple of bummers, y'know everybody does but on the whole it's been surprisingly good.

MG: Was there a lot of yelling for old Lindisfarne numbers?

Mitch: Not a lot. There was one or two, no, not a lot really, I think, you know, that the few bits of press that we've had, have more or less said that we're not Lindisfarne, so don't aim to be Lindisfarne, so naturally we're not doing Lindisfarne songs, I mean whoever's read it had taken notice of it, hopefully they are accepting the band for what it is now and like forget as much as they can about Lindisfarne, naturally the name will drag a few more people along, which we're grateful for at the first because, I mean, Jack the Lad are just being Jack the Lad without the Lindisfarne background.

MG: I was talking to Si before and he seems very cautious about the group not going the way Lindisfarne did, selling out in a way to the pressures of the crowds and you seem the same way, even though you're just a very new member of the band, but of course you've seen this from the other side?

Mitch: It's nice to get a lot of people but when it comes to the state when you can't play anywhere else but a minimum 2,000 seater auditorium it's bad for the band's morale, if nothing else, you know, 'cos you never get any contact with anybody anymore, it's the superstar bit!

MG: Ringed by security guards?

Mitch: I just don't want to know about it. Hopefully we will get towards that way but if we can retain the urge to play the small places and if we get the big money from the big places and keep on playing the clubs that would be great; that would be ideal, if we could do that - I'm sure we can because the 3 of them have got their heads screwed on now.

MG: I hope you do that because we had a benefit arranged and like Lindisfarne said they'd play it but the pressure was put on them from the recording company saying you're playing the White City for £2,500 why the hell are you going to Newcastle to do a benefit?

Mitch: Well, we had the same actually with one, there was a thing organised to save Saltwell Park, Gateshead, that we wanted to play and the original date was tomorrow and we agreed to do it and then suddenly the Mayfair turned round and said you can't do it you can't play within 10 miles of here within the following day or the day before, it might have been because it was for nothing 'cos if we'd played there for nothing tomorrow who the hell was gonna come here tonight and pay for, however much it is and we were a bit worried about that so we couldn't do it but hopefully we're gonna change the date and get it on and you know it's gonna be great it's actually in Saltwell Park to actually try and stop them putting a motorway through it, and build flats on it.

Interview - Rik Walton