Ian Clayton | Bringing It All Back Home Interview

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As Ian Clayton’s Bringing It All Back Home approaches its tenth anniversary, and we prepare to mark the occasion at the Pontefract Festival of Stories, here is an interview Ian conducted about the book in 2006, prior to publication. In ten years, the book has been on a journey of its own, and with each person who has read it, and every review written, something new has been brought to its essence. This then, an interview conducted before the book entered the world, gives insight into its conception and original intent.


Ian Clayton answers questions about Bringing It All Back Home in a public house in the Castleford Potteries, a traditional drinking hole adjacent to a dilapidated old tin hut which was once home to a school where a young Henry Moore began his education.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about why you wanted to write this book?

A: It’s just some stories that I’ve been telling for years and never written down. Most stories circulate in their own neighbourhood, you might call this a gang of stories bursting out of where they are from.

Q: The book is essentially about music, but in it you do talk a lot about the value of the stories and the power of storytelling.

A: It starts with sounds really. If you enjoy music it’s because you’ve enjoyed sounds as a kid. The sounds can be anything, from listening to birds whistling in the morning to listening to the sounds of the street where you live, to listening to arguments. In my case I listened to a lot of arguments because I grew up in a house full of them. I listened to what people were shouting to each other about. And it’s a learning thing then. Because I tried to understand what the arguments were about and in trying to understand what arguments are about I get an understanding of what people are about. So that’s the first part of it, listening to sounds, listening to noises. I always enjoyed listening to what was going on, it could be my old grandad telling stories, could be old neighbours telling ancient stories about what their lives were about and what entertained them.

I listened to a lot of radio when I was a kid, so that’s a really big memory for me. Radio Luxemburg in my case, sometimes the pirate radio stations I got to hear. The few records that we had I enjoyed and on top of that are the stories that children tell each other at schools, and I always got something out of that; playground games, rhymes, songs that kids were singing in playgrounds, stories that kids were telling in playgrounds.

Then above that I grew up in a place where working men’s clubs were strong; they always had entertainment at weekends and I’d hear songs coming out of those places. These songs were contemporary in a way because the songs that turns were singing in working men’s clubs were up to date, but also old fashioned because they were presented in a way that entertainment to working people had been presented for a hundred years, right back to the music halls. And although I didn’t know it when I was a kid, thirty years later I would become fascinated by music hall and I think the fascination is because that was the music I was hearing as a kid. The songs that my relatives and friends and neighbours were singing coming out of working men’s clubs wasn’t much different to what people had been listening to for a hundred years or more. So that’s the starting point really. The starting point isn’t pop music, rock music or folk music or any kind of music, it’s sounds; sounds of my neighbourhood, my street, my school playground, my family home and places of entertainment, which was working men’s clubs.

Q: You’re saying that fascination with stories and the fascination with music is inseparable. So your pursuit of music which is outlined in this book, is that a pursuit of stories and other places?

A: I can’t separate anything, I never have been able to. It’s what is usually wrapped up as culture by better educated, more culturally aware people. They will say that conversation, music, art, creativity, reading, stories, dance, however we choose to express ourselves creatively, is culture. I never got the opportunity to see anything beyond the confines of my town where I lived until I was a young man, so for the first sixteen years of my life my culture was wrapped up in my environment and what that means. So anything that is coming to me is synthesised really. If I hear a record that is on Radio 1, I don’t hear it on Radio 1, I hear it in my kitchen on a wireless. And so it means something because of that.  Therefore when I hear The Kinks singing ‘Lola’, I don’t think of it as a band that is recording in London as part of a 1960s, early 1970s pop culture, I hear it as part of an everyday occurrence coming from a wireless or a record in my house. I don’t recognise the pop music industry as a separate entity to my everyday life, it’s just another part of what I’m listening to or experiencing.  To be precise when I think of ‘Lola’ it makes me recall a caravan holiday at Withernsea on the Yorkshire coast, which is a long way from ‘old Soho where they drink champagne and it tastes just like cherry cola’.

Q: There are many journeys in the book, lots of starting points that lead you to other stories; finding a blues record in a second hand shop in Cornwall leads you to Bessie Smith’s deathbed; listening to the wireless leads on to you being on the wireless, to making radio. Have you educated yourself through these things?

A: It’s utilising experience. I didn’t think this when I was younger, I’m not even sure I’m completely aware of what I’m doing now, but I think that if the metaphor for life is the journey, then part of that metaphor is experiences.  If life’s journey is about experiences that you have in life, then it necessarily follows that one experience must lead to another and that if you can enjoy and learn from those experiences then your natural and instinctive inquisitiveness leads you from one experience to the next. I don’t have any qualms about making the leap from the general hubbub of noise in my backyard to the concert hall where I go to see my first opera.

Q: The world is awash with music and we get it pumped at us on a regular basis. How do you discern, what is it that interests you in a piece of music? How do you make your steps?

A: You’re touching on taste there. I think authenticity is the word. If with expression – whether it be musical, storytelling or however you choose to express yourself – if you are doing that with sincerity then it necessarily follows that it is an authentic experience of who you are, where you are from, what you are aiming towards and what you are trying to understand in order to transfer that understanding to somebody else. If you take an old music hall song that my grandad used to sing, I think that’s a great thing because it’s the popular music of that time and it’s meant something to his life and therefore meant something to mine because I’m part of him. If you take a Blue Note jazz record by Ike Quebec or Art Blakey it’s completely out of my experience in real terms but I can see what they are doing, expressing something which is dear to them or near to them, so that’s important. I’ve listened to African music, I’ve never been to West Africa or Central Africa, but I enjoy the music of Congo and Mali because I can see what they are doing, that they are expressing something which is close to them, meaningful and authentic.

Q: As you’ve travelled through your life and you’ve made journeys and connections, as you’ve moved from one thing to another there is a sense in the book of collecting and hoarding as you go along and you fill your house. There is this talk of your ‘head being your house and your house being your head’. What is this instinct about? You may hear the hubbub of a playground, but that is a transient and passes by, why is it you feel the need to collect music and artefacts?

A: I think it might be primitive. Most human beings who have nothing try to acquire and once they’ve acquired they try to keep.  Here again I don’t separate the collections in my house from the collections in my head.  Playground hubbub is transient, but even though it doesn’t sit on a shelf in my house it is filed somewhere in my head.

I don’t want to make a big sociological argument for this book, but I think working-class people like to acquire things that they haven’t got and they hold them. My record collection is pristine and I don’t want to hurt it, I want it be as good as it was when I got it. There is a passage in this book that is very important to me and that is when I was a little boy I liked to collect things because I didn’t want them to be lost. I used to collect things that were washed up from the sea at the seaside because it seemed to me they were very lonely; pieces of wood with bits of writing on that were once crates for fruit or vegetables, once were boxes that had things in them and now were destroyed and tossed about on the waters. I saved stuff like that because it seemed to me that it was more important to render them not lost. I don’t know if that connects. I think it probably does actually, if you render something not lost anymore it connects to something that’s been created, so something that’s found is as important as something that is made. I’ve been thinking about this a lot in the last few years, while creativity is a good thing for all human beings to be involved in – and I have been involved in a lot of creativity in my life – I think that finding things is just as important and what you can do with things that you find is great.

Q: There are lots of references in the book to your desire as a young man to make maps. You had this very early, almost romantic fascination about foreign places and wanting to create maps. Is your library and record collection and your trinkets some kind of map of your life?

A: Yes they are, they are places on a map, it’s a progressive route. I also think that I’m very romantically and sentimentally attached to my hometown and I want it to be as important as other people’s hometowns. I’ve been upset over the years that there are certain northern English working class towns that don’t get the recognition that they deserve. I’ve sophisticated this idea over the years – I didn’t know this when I started to think about it – but it seems to me that my hometown is as important as anybody else’s hometown anywhere in the world. So, if I can find something from another place and compare it to something that’s from where I’m from and share the comparisons and draw the significances, then it lifts my hometown up to their level, or the level that they perceive themselves to be at. It’s a way of drawing maps and drawing lines between places. This is what I’ve heard from your place, now listen to something coming from mine.

Q: The title Bringing It All Back Home is in many ways about a dialogue. Exactly what you have just described, a dialogue between what you have, what you can bring to it and what you can export as well.

A: I don’t think there is any point in making any journey whatsoever if you are not going to take anything with you as well as bring something back. I despise the idea of being a cultural tourist; I don’t want to be one. That means to say that the only thing you will ever do is go to somewhere to see what you can get from it. I’d rather take something with me and then it works both ways.

Q: If this book represents your journey so far, where do you go from here? What is interesting you now, what musical journeys do you expect to embark on?

A: I’ll carry on doing what I do. It’s undefined. We talk about maps, we talk about compass directions, we talk about journeys, and journeys always suggest that there is a start and a middle bit and that you come to some kind of end. This book doesn’t work in that way because it goes round and round. Time isn’t accounted for, geographical location isn’t accounted for, except to say that there are certain places and comparisons that I have made. I think that there are towns in America and Eastern Europe and Asia that have got more in common with where I’m from than places in the south of this country.

The hardest thing of all to deal with has been the terrible family tragedy that befell us.  As I was coming to the end of this book my daughter Billie died in a canoeing accident.  My partner Heather encouraged me to write about this and include it in the book. Billie’s death has ended many journeys for me. A lot of my life now, both professionally and personally, is going to be trying to work out how to restart the journey. I don’t want to make a big thing about it, but it just seems that a lot of endings have come all at the same time; working on a book that’s finished, having a child in your family that has died, doing some cathartic thing like getting a lot of stories out of you means that they’re not in you anymore. There’s a lot of endings that have come all at once.

Q: On the idea of time and how things connect to each other across all different sorts of levels, there’s a section in the book called ‘A Seed Doesn’t Stay in the Ground Forever’, do you see that there are seeds in the book that are part of that continuum, is there stuff in there that you will relate to and bring round again.

A: Of course there is. Nothing ever ends in that sense. There are resonances in this book coming from hundreds of years ago, which means that there will be echoes in years to come. It’s finding that ear for both resonance and echo and I’ll do it. At the moment I’m a bit lost with that, I’m not quite sure what a lot of things mean anymore and I’m not sure what is going to be important anymore. I’ll just find it, it’ll happen. I’ve never planned, it’s always been quite an anarchic journey, sometimes I think the harder I try to make the maps the more I throw them away.

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Pontefract Festival of Stories 2016 | Bringing It All Back Home

When world music magazine Songlines reviewed Ian Clayton’s book Bringing It All Back Home they declared the reading experience to be ‘The literary equivalent of a great evening in the pub’.  In the ten years since publication, Bringing It All Back Home has fast established itself as a modern classic of music writing. To celebrate its tenth anniversary, the inaugural Pontefract Festival of Stories made literal the Songlines review with a series of events over ten days that reflected the content of the book, incorporating music, film and good conversation. Ian Clayton hosted guests throughout the week. All events will took place in the intimate theatre setting behind the curtain at the Tap & Barrel, Pontefract. All tickets £5 and carried a £5 voucher to be cashed in at the Route bookshop on the night.

Run the playlist above or click here to see it in YouTube

Festival programme below.

Friday 23 September, 9pm
Northern Town
Glass Caves + Toria Garbutt

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‘That summer someone organises a Rock Against Racism benefit at Pontefract Town Hall. Topping the bill are the Leeds Marxist intellectual rockers Gang of Four. Bottom of the bill are our local punk band, The Thrust, named after a chain of petrol stations. Every punk in Pontefract is present. The Thrust have Mick Griffiths on brand new Rickenbacker, swinging his arm like Pete Townshend, and Pete on vocals. He hangs off the microphone stand like a wounded scarecrow and spits out his songs with mighty venom: ‘I’m a victim of the system, a proper little twat. I’m an ordinary member of society, society, so…ciety!’ And the immortal ‘Northern Town’. ‘You’re living in a northern town. Pit stacks t’only scenery you’ve got.’

A celebration of leading-light, home-grown talent. With live music from the sensational Pontefract 5-piece, Glass Caves, and stunning poetry from the rising star of the UK Performance Poetry scene, Knottler’s very own Toria Garbutt.

Saturday 24 September, 7:30pm
Young Man Blues
Juke Joint Night

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‘My home town is full of ghosts. It is also a blues town. Like all blues towns, Featherstone thrives on shadows and echoes of what once was. Featherstone, like the first two lines of a blues song, likes to repeat itself. Featherstone is the most remote of the blues towns, a long way from the Mississippi Delta, yet if you drew a line between New Orleans and Memphis you might find Featherstone on that line. Somewhere between Rolling Fork where Muddy Waters was born and Clarksdale, the birth town of John Lee Hooker, is Featherstone.’

The Tap & Barrel transforms into a juke joint with a night of blues, live and on vinyl records. Live music from Ben Buddy Slack.

Sunday 25 September, 6pm
One World
Global Threads + Chris ‘The Man in the Hat’ Martin

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‘Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, the Pakistani ghazal singer had a voice that went right through me. A bloke in a restaurant in Bradford called The Kashmir put me on to him. He gave me a cassette of a live concert in Paris. Then I saw him in the green fields at Glastonbury. He was magnificent. After Glastonbury I saw a snapshot of him pinned to the wall at the back of the till in a curry house in Pontefract, next to one of Imran Khan. The owner told me that he’d been in there for a meal. A story in the Big Bill Broonzy at Castleford mould.’

Ian Clayton presents his Global Threads world music session, spinning vinyl records from around the world. We come all the way back home with live music and hollering from the great Yorkshire bluesman Chris Martin aka ‘The Man In The Hat’ with fingered-picked and slide blues guitar.

Monday 26 September, 7:30pm
Freedom’s Just Another Word
Dave Downs with Steve Ely

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‘I’m replaying in my mind something that happened in Wakefield Prison some years before when making the Jailhouse Opera. On the day of the performance, one of the soloists decided that he didn’t want to perform his song accompanied by his own guitar that he’d been trying to perfect all week. He played a slightly out of tune guitar to the Kris Kristofferson song made famous by Janis Joplin, ‘Me and Bobby McGee’. It is the last song he learned before coming into prison. The song that seemed to have kept him going for the nearly twenty years he’d been inside. The refrain ‘Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose’ never sounded any sadder. I cried at the end of that performance. When I got home I took out my Kris Kristofferson Greatest Hits and played that song about fifteen times one after the other.’

Dave Downs in conversation with writer Steve Ely about his astonishing life: growing up on the mean streets of Featherstone, the violence and dark-side of ‘the doors’, the brutality, despair and humour of prison and his unlikely redemption. A Dissonant Voices special.

Tuesday 27 September, 7:30pm
Local Interest
Quiz + Jess Gardham

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‘When my grandad told me that I should never work down the pit, he never really told me what else I might do. Well, what he actually said was, ‘If I ever see thee near that pit I’ll give thee a bloody good hiding!’ When I asked him what he thought I ought to do he said, ‘Read books, lad!’ I used the maroon leather-bound dictionary that my Auntie Alice won for occasional reference; my word hoard improved dramatically. I got a bollocking at the age of sixteen for knowing too many “posh” words. Then there was my maps. And where did they get me?’

A specially curated cultural quiz, with a Yorkshire theme. Live music from York singer-songwriter Jess Gardham, with a distinctive mix of pop, soul and acoustic sounds. Richard Hawley was a surprise guest, and played 3 songs in the break between the quiz questions and answers.

Wednesday 28 September, 7:30pm
Knocked Down By a Feather
Allan Agar + 1983 Challenge Cup Final Screening

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‘In 1983 Rovers reached Wembley and were to play Hull, a millionaire club. Against all the odds, the Rovers with ten miners from the same colliery in their thirteen, triumphed. Jürgen Bredebusch stood on the terraces with me. He still talks about it today. “Mighty Hull knocked down by a Feather.” He quotes the headline on the back of The Observer newspaper from the day after. In Berlin just before they knocked down the wall I once saw sprayed in foot-high navy blue letters, Featherstone Rovers 14 Hull 12.’

Former Rovers coach Allan Agar in conversation with Ian Clayton about the glorious day in 1983 when Featherstone Rovers beat Hull to win the Challenge Cup at Wembley. Followed by screening of that 1983 final in full.

Thursday 29 September, 7:30pm
Subterranean, Homesick and Blue
Andy Kershaw Presents Bob Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home*
(*Andy couldn’t make the event, but rescheduled to present Highway 61 Revisited)

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‘I have spent a lot of time following signs out of my home town. And another part of my life trying to get back in again. Bob Dylan was the first man to pull me out of here and my gran and grandad had a bigger pull to draw me back.’

‘Our Ian went to see Bob Dylan and he’s never been the same lad since he came home.’ – Hilda Fletcher (Ian’s gran)
In association with The CAT Club (Classic Album Thursdays), legendary broadcaster Andy Kershaw presents Bob Dylan’s classic album Bringing It All Back Home in full and on vinyl. With Q&A.

Friday 30 September, 7:30pm
Bringing It All Back Home
Ian Clayton with Heath Common + Edward Clayton

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‘Everything reminds me of something. I have filled my house and my head with things: books, records, paintings, stories; souvenirs that have no meaning except to me. Sometimes I think my house is my head and my head has become my house.’

Ian Clayton discusses his life and work in conversation with Heath Common, with Edward Clayton on piano.

Saturday 1 October, 7:30pm
One For My Baby (and One More For The Road)
Jazz Night with The Meg Holch Quintet

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‘It’s a long way from the sleazy bars of New York and at the same time I’m sitting right in it. I’m listening to Billie Holiday pouring out a story to a tired barman, yet I’m nowhere near. What is it that? Why in some moments do I feel more akin to a black jazz singer from America than I do to my own Auntie Alice? I could say that Auntie Alice informs me about who I am and where I’m from. Billie Holiday takes me to places that I’d like to be from. Too simple minded that, though.’

A night of jazz on vinyl and live. The Meg Holch Quintet will serve up a mixture of some classic jazz standards with soul and funk fusion songs.

Sunday 2 October, 7:30pm
No Particular Place To Go
Kevin ‘Rev’ Reynolds

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‘Prince Keeyama, the Chicken Man, King of Bourbon Street, Miracle of the French Quarter and Master of Martial Arts is sitting outside a shop called House of Voodoo surveying upper Rampart Street from a tattered deckchair, like my grandad surveyed the beach at Blackpool. He starts to tell his stories. “The chicken is wise and alert. He’ll run and run. He wiser than an owl. He give you energy and knowledge. If you bite his head off, he give you knowledge too.”’

Kevin ‘Rev’ Reynolds in conversation about a musical odyssey to America’s Deep South he took with Ian Clayton and some friends from Pontefract. Ian was armed with pen, Kevin with camera. With photographic exhibition. Live music from Scott Wainwright.

Your £5 Book Token
Cash in at the Route Bookshop

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Throughout the 10 days of the festival, Pontefract publisher Route will have a bookshop in the theatre. Each £5* ticket purchased for the festival includes a £5 book token that can be cashed in at the stall on the night of the event.

The list of books on sale was tailored to each individual event, but the mix each night will included four of Ian Clayton’s memoirs, plus other Route titles, including a selection of books on offer for £5. For these titles, tokens were directly exchanged for a book.

See Route’s full booklist: www.route-online.com

Tap & Barrel
Your Home of Cultural Events in Pontefract

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All events of the inaugural Pontefract Festival of Stories took place in the intimate theatre setting behind the curtain at the Tap & Barrel, Front Street, Pontefract. The festival is part of the ongoing cultural programme at the theatre, which hosts a regular series of events and sessions throughout the year, with live music, conversations, cinema and vinyl records. All events take place in a warm, friendly atmosphere, with the best stocked bar in the district, that includes a selection of artisan beers, wines and spirits, as well an exclusive range of fine Pontefract ales.

Tap & Barrel, 13 Front St, Pontefract, WF8 1AN
www.tappontefract.wordpress.com
www.facebook.com/Tapintothebarrel/

Dedicated to the memory of
Völker Bredebusch
(1960-2016)

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‘I first meet Völker one evening in a bar called The Optimum. He is guest harp blower with a blues band that Jörge Petersmann has got together called Black Cat Bone. Völker is Jürgen’s younger brother. He is about my age, similar height and built like a brick shithouse. He has some right shoulders on him, through years of training to be in the German butterfly swimming team. If only Germany hadn’t withdrawn from the Moscow Olympics in 1980 he might have built a career as a swimmer. Völker took up joinery and music promotion. He has organised tours in Europe for artists who he’s a fan of, Eddi Reader being one, but mainly his hero John Martyn. Völker is a walking encyclopaedia of English folk-rock, blues, jazz and Bob Dylan. At the last count I think he had over four hundred John Martyn live bootlegs on tape. Völker grew up in that peculiarly German 1970s tradition of political activism, street theatre and impromptu gig organising.’

May this be the first of many festivals to come.
Tickets exclusively available at the bar.
Tap in.

 

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The Pontefract Festival of Stories is a fringe event for Wakefield Literature Festival:
www.wakefieldlitfest.org.uk

 

 

Hungarian Praise

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A feature in the Hungarian music magazine, Recorder, lists ‘Ten books to make you fall in love with music again’. Bringing It All Back Home is in good company, as you can see from the book shelf image above. But better than that, here is what they say about it:

‘The last one is the best one, if it’s possible to raise the bar more. Ian Clayton is a cultural news writer and radio presenter and he wrote the most existing book about popular music. It doesn’t matter who he writes about in it(for example Billie Holiday, who he writes about a lot) but the point is how he writes. Music appears in the book as the memory evoker, enabling him to bring to life his own life’s soundtrack. From love to loss and friendship to family, he encloses all the big themes, in a way that we can’t help but think about our own music memories that link place to culture, but how we wish that we wrote all this down so beautifully.’

Well, Köszönöm szépen!

Read the feature here

Click here for more on Ian Clayton

The Power of Nouns

Ian Clayton Outtake

Review of Ian Clayton’s Bringing It All Back Home by Mark Barry of Reckless Records, London

Here in England, as I cycle into work from the Hawaiian splendiferousness of Walthamstow in East London to the glamour-fest of wee-wee in doorways that is Berwick Street in Central London, I’m constantly reminiscing – and I mean almost all of the time. In September 2008 I turned 50 – so it’s probably the age.

Moments just keep coming back to me – and bits of music too. Like ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ by John Barry, a film I mitched school 5 times to see. Walking proudly across the schoolyard with a copy of Rory Gallagher’s Live In Europe under my arms knowing it to be an object of unbridled lust for other kids in my class. Meeting August Darnell of Kid Creole & The Coconuts at Dublin Airport the day after their National Stadium gig where the crowd went absolutely bananas and invaded the stage in a salsa train (‘You guys can party!’). The Celtic folk-rock of Horslips on the back of a truck at a Sunday Fair in 1971, Phil Lynott busking at the bottom of Grafton Street again in 1971 with his fantastically wild hair and other-worldly exoticness, The Specials supporting the John ‘Gypie’ Mayo line-up of Dr. Feelgood in 1978 (one of the best gigs I’ve ever seen), the Bon Scott line-up of AC/DC on a cold Monday night in the Camden Ballroom in Dublin on the Highway To Hell tour – all of it mind-blowing…

Why mention all of these precious memories – because this book is full of that – moments in time – and most of them related to music. Ian Clayton is from Yorkshire in England – and while many of the stories and anecdotes are British-based, their reach is very American – even Universal. Bringing It All Back Home isn’t a story proper as such – it’s chapter after chapter of great musical remembrances that will tickle pink anyone of my generation (it’s been a huge success in the UK in both Hardback and Paperback). It follows the floor cushions and lava lamps of the Sixties into the cheesecloth shirts and Oxford bags of the Seventies. It quickly moves on up to the blue Mohican haircuts of Punk, into hissing purists in the audiences of Eighties and Nineties Left-Wing operas and on to today with the new Portishead offering lodged in a CD player for weeks on end. And it’s bloody funny too. There’s flashbacks to Sergeant Tommy Chapman of the West Riding Constabulary who arrested Jimi Hendrix in the small town of Ilkley for being ‘too loud’ – onwards to in-depth discussions about ‘harnessing aggression’ with the drummer in The Gang of Four in the multi award-winning toilets of the Pontefract Town Hall. It lovingly recalls Hamish Imlach’s room-clearing farts and a best friend’s mother passing judgement on the Beatles who were decamped in her hotel, ‘Their shoes were perfect – every mother looks at shoes…’ As you can already magine – it’s wonderful stuff – and there’s lots of it.

And I also love Clayton’s use of nouns as a powerful evoker. Paul Simon won a Grammy for a song called ‘Rene & Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After The War’ on his hugely underrated Hearts & Bones LP in 1983. The beautifully crafted chorus talks of an immigrant couple that find a keepsake in a drawer that reminds them of ‘…The Moonglows, The Orioles and The Five Satins’. Simon doesn’t say `Vocal Groups’ or `Doo Wop Music` like a lazy writer would – he uses their names – he uses the power of nouns. Clayton does this in almost every line. Names of bars, streets, relations, friends, places he’s been too, nick names given to candy and food – album titles, label colours on 45s, gigs, characters at those gigs – the effect is to make you remember stuff and places and people you’d long forgotten – and love every second of it. His tastes are varied and eclectic too – waxing lyrical about the ethereal beauty of singers like Kate Rusby and Dwight Yoakham, Iris deMent and John Lydon, Buddy Holly and Bessie Smith, Chris Farlowe and Mary Coughlan, John Martyn and Elmore James, Louis Jordon and Buffy Sainte-Marie. This is a book about a man who holds up the different picture sleeves of ‘Anarchy In The UK’ and literally trembles at the sight of them. This is my kind of guy. I sat down to read a chapter a night and came to it like a conversation with a good friend about a subject you both love.

But then towards the end comes an unexpected hammering – he and his long-time partner suffer a crushing personal blow – and you then realise why the remembrances that preceded this are so full of warmth and humanity – they’ve been written by a man who has suffered horrible personal loss and it has imbibed his writing with a quiet thankfulness for moments that seemed almost inconsequential then but are huge now. Details matter – and music that moved and shaped you – does too.

Which brings us to music in general… what is it about men and their music? Be it Soul, Reggae, Rock, Jazz, Folk, Blues, Punk, Rock `n’ Roll, Dance, Hip-Hop – or all of it combined? I think it’s that it keeps us young – a buzz you never get over – its forever discovering something new and brill. You see I’m the kind of soppy git who works in a record shop all day and goes out at lunchtime and goes into another record shop. My better half says it’s a disease – she pats me on the head like a child and hands me Sticky Fingers to placate the poor eejet.
‘There you go dear… I’ll be back in forty-five minutes with Who’s Next…”
‘Yum! Yum!’ comes the response.

If you’re the kind of person who gets moist in the trouser area about the bits revealed under the die-cut holes as you turn the cardboard wheel on the sleeve of Led Zeppelin III, if you’re the kind of moo who tingles as you open out the rare poster in the Dead Kennedys Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables or smiles wildly at any photograph of the wonderful and sorely missed British DJ John Peel (beloved champion of Indie and Punk) – then this homage to music and its wondrous effect on the very soul of a person is the bedside buddy for you.

I loved this book – a life well remembered and a lovely read. Rave On John Dunne… you seeker of truth and inner peace…

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Bringing It All Back Home

Ian Clayton – Songs from the Shed

Ian Clayton reading from Bringing It All Back Home for Songs From the Shed. Ian reads the story of Johnny Hope, and old neighbour who ‘likes to sit on the stool outside of our back door and make up stories about his life.’

The house is filled with potted plants, newspapers, ornaments, pictures, empty milk bottles and dog food tins. There is an old chocolate tin and on its lid is a lady, leaping through the air with a flowing scarf. Johnny tells me that the picture on the tin is his wife Emily. I visualise her as Isadora Duncan, she is dancing with Johnny when they are young to music coming out of the tin horn on his wind-up gramophone.
‘Will you play your gramophone for me one day please?’
‘I can’t lad. It wants a nail.’
‘What does it want a nail for?’
‘To play the records with. You need a nail or a thorn.’
‘They call it a stylus now, Mr Hope.’
‘Aye. Well that one wants a nail, lad.’ He spits great gobstoppers of phlegm into his crackling fire.
‘What do you want to hear that for anyroad? It’s no good now.’
‘My Auntie Alice says that you can play music on them old gramophones by putting the corner of a photograph into the
grooves.’
‘Well thy can tell thi Auntie Alice from me that mine wants a nail.’

I don’t think I ever got to hear Mr Hope’s wind-up gramophone. I can’t even picture it now, though I can picture his sideboard, his chair by the fire, his hearth full of ashes, his half-empty milk bottles. Yet it symbolises something special. A relationship between two neighbours eighty years apart. A love of storytelling, of things. I think of all the ghosts that might have been unleashed had I persuaded him to let me play a record with the edge of an old photograph.

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Bringing It All Back Home to the NUM

Ian Clayton at NUM HQ

Ian Clayton presenting the David Jones-Joe Green Memorial Lecture at the NUM HQ.

The David Jones-Joe Green Memorial Lecture is an annual event held by the NUM to remember two miners killed on the picket line during the 1984-85 strike. Past speakers have included Dennis Skinner MP, the journalist Paul Foot as well as NUM Life President Arthur Scargill. This year Ian was invited to present the lecture. He told stories about growing up in a pit town, about coming from a family of miners and he read from his book Bringing It All Back Home to illustrate aspects of his childhood. He drew a standing ovation.

Ian said later, ‘I was a bit nervous, because the inner sanctum at the union headquarters is a powerful building with famous union leaders of the past staring down at you from the walls. You stand at the same lectern where great calls to arms have been made in the past and that can be a bit overwhelming in itself. I tried my best to tell a story that would mean something to miners, I think I must have done alright because David Jones’s father came up to me afterwards, put his arms round me and kissed me.’

Bringing It All Back Home to the NUM

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Concert for Billie 2012

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Iain Matthews performs ‘Woodstock’ with Egbert Derix at the sixth annual Concert For Billie.

The concert is the annual prize-giving concert for Billie’s Violin Trust, a charity that donates musical instruments and tuition to the schoolchildren of Featherstone. The charity is in memory of Ian Clayton’s daughter, Billie Holiday Clayton. For more details on the charity click here.

Click here to see Billie’s brother Edward perform on the night – an improvisation on Miles Davis.