Interview with Ray Laidlaw from Lindisfarne

Ray Laidlaw with Lindisfarne
On stage with Lindisfarne at the Village Pump Folk Festival, 1991

Ray Laidlaw was the drummer in Lindisfarne up until 2003. With the BBC4 documentary on Alan Hull , interest in the North East band has been ignited again.  I spoke to Ray about the band, Alan Hull and of course those famous Top of the Pops appearances.

Do you think Alan got the recognition he deserved?

Alan, along with the rest of Lindisfarne, was very underrated, Alan sadly passed away very quickly, only 50 years old. He was just coming back to the boil again as writing comes in phases, but Alan had come up with a fantastic batch of new songs.

How many Christmas shows did Lindisfarne play at Newcastle City Hall?

At the last count, the band in one form or another had played Newcastle City Hall 150 times, so nobody is ever going to beat that. The band though were huge nationally and internationally.

What was it like when the band became successful?

It was very gratifying, I think we were a bit arrogant, you know, the arrogance of youth, we knew we were good and we knew we were different. Even before Alan joined and the band had different names we still had a strong local following. We knew what we were doing, people liked so we knew it was only a matter of time before we got national recognition but when Alan joined it came to us a lot faster.

Did you enjoy appearing on Top of the Pops?

We had to do that, it was part of the deal! It was good because in those days it was all mimed, you didn’t have to worry about being in tune or being sober. We used to take advantage of the BBC bar! It was also a good social occasion too as we met up with a lot of the other bands too.

We became pals with Slade, Status Quo. We actually toured with Quo. We were good friends with Genesis too as they were on the same record label as us.

There was a break between the first hits and Run For Home, why was that?

We had a little break, we had a one off show in 1976 and another one in 1977 and then decided to come back together permanently and that carried on until Alan died in 1995.

Do you still go to concerts yourself?

Not recently because of Covid, I really miss going to the concerts. I have been to the theatre a bit since things started to open up but not to a concert. We have a lot of local talent up here, Sam Fender’s studio is about half a mile from where I am sitting.

Is there still a version of Lindisfarne touring?

My old partner in crime, Rod Clements has got a version of the band, he is the only original member in it. Alan’s son-in-law is in the group too. The songs have stood the test of time. My theory is that although people might forget who was in the band or whatever, they never forget the songs. Good songs last forever. Alan was a class writer, not just for a couple of songs but a whole catalogue of songs that people remember.

To give an example, we did a tribute show for Alan in 2005 at Newcastle City Hall to mark the tenth anniversary of his death and we invited loads of people. We had room for about 30 songs in the show and we asked people to pick their favourite and nobody picked the same song, I think that is a testament to the quality of his songwriting.

What was your proudest moment of being in the band?

We never really wanted to be pop stars, we just wanted to be respected as musicians. We were seen as an albums band, a group who had a bit of depth to them. Our heroes were people like that from the Beatles to Leonard Cohen. The fact that people still know our songs is the proudest thing for me.

Have you been to the new Stockton Globe theatre?

I have, I went down for the opening night and enjoyed it very much, it is lovely to see some of these old places coming back. The Globe had been empty for about 25 years and it was great when they got the money to renovate it. Status Quo are on there in February. There is nothing wrong with a bit of Quo.

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