Ian Clayton on Talk Radio Europe

Ian Clayton the gang at Cambridge Folk Festival

[Click play above to listen to Ian Clayton and Gerard Sweeney on Talk Radio Europe]

A note from Ian:

‘I was asked to appear on Talk Radio Europe. It’s a station based in Spain for ex-pats and English speaking natives. A charming Irish DJ called Gerard Sweeney wanted to interview me about the new edition of my music book, Bringing it All Back Home. I never know what to expect with these radio interviews. The people doing the interview, while well-meaning, are often ill-prepared and you don’t usually get long enough to express much apart from the usual blurb. Only rarely do you get the chance to talk about things close to you. This one was different, it turned out that Gerard was a kindly, considerate chap who wanted to genuinely listen. He also got involved and we ended up not just as interviewer and interviewee, but two blokes swapping stories. I like it when that happens. I had prepared for five minutes tops, we ended up chatting for twenty minutes. The new updated Bringing it all Back Home came out yesterday. I’m thrilled with it and the whole new section at the end has lifted the book up for me.’

Click here for more on Bringing It All Back Home

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Funky Si On Location | You Can Drum But You Can’t Hide

Funky Si Wolstencroft has been filming a series of vignettes at the sites featured in his memoir You Can Drum But You Can’t Hide. Taking in locations in London, New York, Leeds, Coventry, Wales, and of course Greater Manchester. Click play above to watch them in one continuous stream.

Click here for more on the book

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Click here for the You Can Drum But Can’t Hide website

 

Bob Dylan’s Picnic at Blackbushe | A Story By Ian Clayton

Ian Clayton reads an extract from his best-selling music memoir Bringing It All Back Home about the time he went to see Bob Dylan at Blackbushe in 1978.

‘One of the best books about popular music ever written.’ – Record Collector

‘A music-powered helter-skelter of living and learning, as perceptive as a Bob Dylan lyric and as earthy as a Bessie Smith blues.’ -Val Wilmer

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Click here for more on Bringing It All Back Home

Bringing It All Back Home Updated Edition

A new updated edition of Ian Clayton’s best-selling music memoir is now available. This edition brings the story up to date and we’ve added photos for the first time. A new bigger format too. Click here to get a signed copy.

When you hear a certain song, where does it take you? What is the secret that connects music to our lives? Heart warming, moving and laugh out loud funny, Bringing It All Back Home is the truest book you will ever read about music and the things that really matter.

Author Ian Clayton listens to music as a kid to escape and as an adult to connect. In Bringing It All Back Home he has created a book about love, friendship, family and loss – about life and living it. While searching for a soundtrack to his own life story, he has discovered the heart that beats inside us all.

‘One of the best books about popular music ever written.’ – Record Collector

‘A music-powered helter-skelter of living and learning, as perceptive as a Bob Dylan lyric and as earthy as a Bessie Smith blues.’ – Val Wilmer

‘Unexpectedly beautiful. Sheer sincerity.’ – Daily Telegraph

‘Ian Clayton has much to say and he says it so well. We need original eyes to look at the North in these days of extraordinary change. Ian’s are among the region’s most perceptive and humane.’ – The Guardian

Click here for more details.

Thro My Eyes | Words and Music Tour

Thro’ My Eyes Words and Music Tour

25th September Lamproom Theatre, Barnsley (Tickets)
26th September Grateful Fred House Concert, Southport (Email for tickets)
27th September The Red Shed, Wakefield (Tickets)
29th September Tap & Barrel, Pontefract (Tickets)
30th September The Doublet, Glasgow (Tickets)
1st October Borderlines Festival, Carlisle (Tickets)
2nd October Backstage @ Green Hotel, Kinross (Tickets)
6th October The Courthouse, Otley (Tickets)
8th October The Greys, Brighton (Tickets)
9th October Kitchen Garden Cafe, Kings Heath (Tickets)
10th October Black Swan Folk Club, York (Website)
11th October Malvern Cube, Malvern (Tickets)

Iain Matthews’s critically acclaimed memoir Thro’ My Eyes was written in collaboration with author Ian Clayton. The book is structured around a series of Matthews’s songs and illustrated by the stories that inspired them. This words and music show brings the book to life: Ian Clayton will read stories from the book interspersed with live songs from Iain Matthews, presenting an intimate and highly entertaining evening that tells the story of an artistic life through the eyes of one of our most enduring singer-songwriters.

The show will follow the story of Iain’s life, from a Scunthorpe childhood obsessed with football and music, to thrusting himself into the heart of Carnaby Street in the swinging-sixties. In 1967, he was recruited as lead vocalist for folk-rock pioneers Fairport Convention before embarking on a hugely successful and prolific career as a solo artist and in the groups Matthews Southern Comfort and Plainsong, including a No. 1 ht single with ‘Woodstock’. In 1973, when an invitation was extended to record in LA with ex-Monkee Michael Nesmith, Iain took it with open arms. The opportunity to work with musicians and songwriters he had admired from afar led him to stay; he lived and worked in the USA for the next 27 years, through highs and lows, with extended stints in Los Angeles, Seattle and Austin. In 2000, in an an act of personal and professional renewal, he moved to the Netherlands, where he still lives and works to this day. Throughout those fifty years, Iain has never stopped working, with music driving him forward every step of the way. The show will be a highly entertaining and intimate occasion, rich in stories and wonderful live music, presenting the story of an artistic life through the eyes of one of our most enduring singer-songwriters.

‘If there was an award for the role of Godfather of Americana in the UK, serious consideration would have to go to Iain Matthews. It’s all there in his excellent autobiography.’ Americana UK

‘Thro’ My Eyes is the best music read I’ve come across in a very long time.’ fRoots

‘Highly recommended both for its historical value and as a quick-paced, absorbing reading experience.’ Richie Unterberger’s Top Twenty Rock Books of 2018

Click here for more on Thro’ My Eyes: A Memoir

The Story Behind The Music | Sex Pistols First Recording Session

The Sex Pistols first studio recording took place at Majestic Studios in London on 15th May 1976 wth Chris Spedding at the helm. They recorded three tracks: ‘Problems’, ‘Pretty Vacant’ and ‘No Feelings’. You can hear the recordings on the video link above, and for context here’s an extract from Clinton Heylin’s Anarchy in the Year Zero, a full account of the birth of British punk.


Chris Spedding: I found it very weird, all that [in the press] about them not playing music. If they were notable for one thing it was that. They were always in time and in tune. I couldn’t understand why some … had chosen to attack them on the very thing that was their strength. Obviously, they’ve got cloth ears. [1976]

Getting someone as well-respected as Spedding on board at such an early stage was quite a coup for McLaren. It was almost as if he knew what he was doing, using his carefully cultivated contacts to make something happen – just as soon as the band began to justify his carefully-tailored hype. Well, by now they did. Marco Pirroni, who also came back to the 100 Club that May, recalls discussing precisely this point with McLaren:

Marco Pirroni: Malcolm used to spout [about] anarchy all the time. [But] he did care about the music … He said, ‘They’ve got to get tight, they’ve got to get good.’ … He went to proper people, [like] Chris Spedding … He didn’t just bung ’em into any ol’ studio. They weren’t trying to make them the worst they could be. And they were good.

Spedding was to some extent putting his reputation on the line. Which is why he was determined to capture their muscular musicianship, prepping them at their rehearsal space: ‘I went to a couple of rehearsals … and got them to go through their whole repertoire and I took notes, [then] I chose … the three best songs … they had at the time.’

The gang of studio novices duly assembled outside Majestic Studios, a state-of-the-art sixteen-track facility, the morning after they blew Krakatoa all the way down Oxford Street. McLaren, never one to miss a trick, invited Ray Stevenson down to capture the moment on his candid camera. The three tracks Spedding had chosen were ‘No Feelings’, ‘Problems’ and ‘Pretty Vacant’:

Chris Spedding: I didn’t want to go in and just have total anarchy. I knew enough about presenting something to record companies to know that they usually wanted three songs. I’d used [Majestic] when I did the Here Come The Warm Jets album with Eno. And we got the same engineer, Derek Chandler. I got them to go in there at ten o’clock in the morning [and when] I got there about quarter to eleven they were all set up. We started recording about eleven, about one o’clock we finished and I mixed them … There was two guitar overdubs, that was about it … They’d not been in the studio before … I had [brought] my amps and I stood over the drums while he tuned the drums to get out all the buzzes. Fortunately, his drums sounded pretty good anyway, so there was hardly anything for me to do [except to make] sure that they had a headphone balance and that the singer in his isolation booth could hear all the instruments properly. I asked them to do a rehearsal for me and I switched on the [tape] recorder. So they thought they were doing a rehearsal and they were actually doing their first take … I never really got them to hear themselves back and get all nervous about it … They were [all] more or less first takes, first time in the studio … Rotten sung live, but … in an isolation booth … You can actually hear the way the band played together. It’s not like [the] guitar-overdub soup [found on later recordings].

(Hearing the trio of tracks on a bootleg E.P., in the early eighties, post-Spunk, post-Bollocks, was quite a shock to the system. As Spedding says, there is no ‘guitar-overdub soup’, though there is at least one obvious guitar overdub on ‘No Feelings’. What the guitarist-producer captured does not sound like a demo tape – as Goodman’s July tracks do – but like the first three tracks of a potent debut album the original Pistols never completed before transitioning into a more musical orthodoxy.)

For the band it had been an eye-opening experience. Rotten, in particular, felt going ‘to a proper recording studio … opened our mind[s] to the possibilities’. Predictably, he gave all the credit to Spedding and none to McLaren. It was McLaren, though, who immediately put the demos to use. Two of the initial recipients were Jonh Ingham at Sounds – whose entire playlist the following week was these three songs18 – and Howard Trafford, who dubbed a cassette-copy and sent it to Tony Wilson at Granada Reports, a nightly local TV show with musical content, who promptly lost it, though not before making a note in his diary, ‘Sex Pistols – June 4.’


Read the full story of the birth of punk in Anarchy in the Year Zero by Clinton Heylin.

Featherstone’s Rich and Impressive History of Fighting Back

Green Lane Club, Featherstone

Featherstone Working Men’s Club, affectionately known as ‘t Green Lane’. It was built by its members in 1904 after they decided they no longer wished to support the Miners’ Welfare next door, which they saw as a Tory bosses club (the Welfare was owned and run by the pit owners).

Ian Clayton’s response to the Brexit Party media circus sweeping in to his home town of Featherstone, sowing seeds of division with a stage show of mass hypnotism.

As a seventh generation member of my family to make their home in Featherstone, I care deeply about where I am from. My partner Heather loves it here and my lad Edward is a son of this grand old town too. I hope my grandchildren and great-grandchildren will feel that same sense of belonging. I have an immense pride in the history of this town and judging by the sheer number of people who subscribe to the Featherstone Bygone Days page and share their own family history, photographs and ephemera, I’m not on my own in thinking that we have a town and a community to take justifiable joy and delight in. The history of this town is undoubtedly in its people, the stories they share, the clubs, societies and unions they belong to, the shops, pubs and clubs they use, the allotments and gardens they tend and the houses they take satisfaction from.

We are a town that has grown from hard work, but also let downs, setbacks and struggles. We always come back. The miners’ strike nearly ruined much of what we hold dear, but still we bounced back and though it’s hard at times, we still have much here to take pleasure in. The glue that binds us as a community holds strong. Better than that, it is a glue of are own making and that’s the best sort. I’ve always thought that Featherstone knows what it is doing, culturally, socially, and yes politically. We here believe in being good neighbours, helping those less fortunate and reaching out to include people who might feel left out.

Yesterday morning I watched a live stream of a Brexit Party rally from the Green Lane Club. It upset me. If someone had told me a year ago – no, just a week ago – that I would see with my own eyes people in a famous old Featherstone Working Men’s Club cheering Tories and right-wing extremists, and giving standing ovations to dodgy businessmen mouthing false camaraderie, I would have laughed them out of town. Yet it happened and it happened here, in the heart of a proper, working-class town. Surely this can’t be right and fair can it? I usually respond to this sort of thing with humour, but it’s got to the stage where it is not only too daft to laugh at, it is beyond satire, it has gone to a very dangerous and dark place. This is not a one horse, one party town, we must embrace the differing opinions of our neighbours, but dear me, this surely doesn’t mean we have to cheer those who wish to destroy community, sew the seeds of division and then drive off laughing having tricked, conned and humiliated us.

I wrote something on my Facebook page about what I saw. A good friend of mine from California wrote to me. Michael specialises in conflict resolution, he has worked in Northern Ireland and other parts of the world where communities have turned on one another. This is what he had to say.

‘The far right have consistently, if not intentionally, practiced what’s called reflective listening in the world of conflict resolution. They’ll knock on the door, listen to frustrations and then say something like, “We’re hearing that a lot. It’s irritating isn’t it?” Having acknowledged how someone feels and built some rapport, they then offer simple solutions to complex problems by scapegoating easy targets such as immigrants. It’s desperately depressing to witness such political entrepreneurs as Farage exploit so many people with lies and false comradeship.’

As I watched the circus yesterday, I tried to count how many lies the speakers were coming out with. I lost count. Yet people still cheered and held up the placards they had been given and were instructed to hold up at a given sign. I am thinking that this was a stage show example of mass hypnotism. Except the subjects were not embarrassing themselves by dancing to imaginary disco music and it wasn’t funny. It’s not funny anymore is it?

A reporter from The Guardian newspaper was there to witness this unedifying spectacle. His report in this morning’s paper makes for grim reading. I feel humiliated by it. I don’t want my town to be the place that contributed to the success of something as nasty as this.

When I wrote on my own Facebook yesterday, I asked, ‘What is the Green Lane Club thinking in allowing such a thing to happen on our own doorstep?’ To be fair to them, I have discovered since that they were duped and conned. When the original booking at the club was made, the organisers merely asked for a room to hold a seminar, they didn’t even mention the Brexit Party. The good people at the Club took the booking, because that’s what they do. They allow rooms to be rented for a small fee to help the club in hard financial times. It was only a few days ago that the real reason for the booking was revealed and by then the invoice had been paid and it was too late to do anything about. We Featherstonians must ask ourselves then, is this what we really want? A gang of tricksters and conmen making false bookings in order to get in by the back door and then continuing to try and fool us with their flashing lights, downright lies, false friendship, limp handshakes and grinning in our face. Featherstone does not deserve to be treated in this way.

I once asked my granddad if Mosley and his black shirts ever came to Featherstone. He laughed and said, ‘Aye, they once had a meeting at the back of the Central Club in a place called Teddy Edwards’ Market.’ I asked him what people did. He just laughed again and said, ‘Me and Lionel Anderson and our Harold and some others went up with a pick shaft apiece. We told them to get off home and I’m fairly sure they did.’ I am not like my grandad, I do not condone that approach, but I will fight with my words to ensure that my town continues a proud history of kindness to others and I refuse to be humiliated and shamed by here-today, gone-tomorrow clowns who know nothing of our rich and impressive history of fighting back.

Ian Clayton’s website