The Strange Brew Podcast with Iain Matthews and Ian Clayton

Iain Matthews and Ian Clayton join Jason Barnard to talk about Iain’s memoir Thro’ My Eyes for The Strange Brew Podcast, illustrated by 13 songs drawn from across Iain’s career. Running time 1hr 41 mins. Click play above to listen.

Jason at The Strange Brew has a fine collection of podcasts. You can find them on the website or subscribe to The Strange Brew Podcast on iTunes or your favourite podcast provider.

Click here for more in Iain Matthews memoir Thro’ My Eyes

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


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, Birkdale (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 (Tickets)
11th October Malvern Cube, Malvern (Cancelled)

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

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

Bringing It All Back Home With CP Lee

Ian Clayton and CP Lee

Ian Clayton and CP Lee (Photo by Tony Walsh)

Click here for a download link for this podcast.

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.’ To make literal the Songlines review, a series of in-conversation events that reflect the ethos of the book, incorporating the key themes of home, story-telling, music, film, books, artefacts and mementos have been curated with special guests. The first guest is the great raconteur, musician, author, comedian and cultural historian CP Lee.

CP Lee recalls the folk and beat club scene in Manchester in the mid-sixties and how witnessing Bob Dylan and the Hawks at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester in 1966 changed his life. He talks about his time in Didsbury’s answer to the Grateful Dead, Greasy Bear, and his ten years with the highly influential satirical rock band, Alberto Y Lost Trios Paranoias, including their recording-breaking play Snuff Rock and its unfortunate run in New York. He talks of his love of important artists in his life, including Arthur Lee’s Love, Frank Randall and Lord Buckley, shares anecdotes about Andy Warhol, Nico and Howard Marks, tells the story of visiting Bob Dylan’s childhood home in Hibbing, and pulls out his piccolo ukulele to perform a handful of songs along the way. The recording also includes a reading from Bringing It All Back Home by Ian, a story of the musical hall sounds that filled the street in which he grew up in.

Recorded at Tap & Barrel, Pontefract, Thursday 25th April 2019.

Click here for more on Bringing It All Back Home

Click here to visit CP Lee’s website.

Click here to visit Ian Clayton’s website

Upon Yon Hill The Game Will Commence

Haxey Hood sway 2008

Haxey Hood 2008. Ian Clayton and Martin Oxley getting stuck in to the sway.

Ian Clayton reflects on the long tradition of the Haxey Hood game, a sort of mass scrum of beer drinkers, which ‘stands head and shoulders for me above anything I’ve ever seen to do with pubs’. During the most recent hood, only one of the four pubs usually involved was open.

When I wrote It’s The Beer Talking, I wanted to include a section about pubs and folklore. There was no contest in my mind about what particular folklore I should write about. ‘The Haxey Hood Game’ stands head and shoulders for me above anything I’ve ever seen to do with pubs.

The game takes place on the twelfth day of Christmas (January 6) every year in Haxey and Westwoodside, two villages in the Isle of Axholme in North Lincolnshire. Unless the 6th falls on a Sunday, then it takes place on the day before. The locals will tell you that the game has taken place for going on seven hundred years, and that it celebrates a day when the local landowner’s wife Lady Mowbray had her hood blown off in the breeze while out riding. The hood was returned to her by some local farm labourers. Lady Mowbray, impressed by the act of chivalry, suggested that the event should be re-enacted each year on some fields she donated for the purpose. Since then a whole series of rituals has grown up: the singing of songs like ‘John Barleycorn’ and ‘Farmers Boy’ and the ‘smoking of a fool’ act as a preamble to the main action, all this in colourful folk costumes.

The main action starts on fields between the two villages when a leather cylinder – the hood – is tossed into the air and then ‘the sway’ begins as people of all ages try to move the hood this way and that. These days the point of the game is to sway the hood towards one of four pubs: the Kings Arms, Duke William and The Loco in Haxey and the Carpenters Arms in Westwoodside. The game ends when the landlord or landlady of one of these pubs takes hold of the hood. The hood is kept at that particular pub until the following year.

In some ways the game is an ancient form of rugby, but one without too many rules and with no restriction on player numbers. Anybody can take part and some years hundreds of players join in. It’s truly a community event, with people of all ages and backgrounds taking part. It’s a tough game and, depending on the weather, it can get very muddy. There is no time limit, nobody seems to know what time it starts and it can go on until well after dark. The local pubs take the precaution of removing all breakables from their rooms and lining furniture and carpets with protective sheeting.

I’ve been to it a couple of times. The last time in 2008 when I went with Martin Oxley my old drinking partner. We joined in with the singing and drinking and the laughter as the fool was smoked. The game started late that particular year, I think it was coming dark by the time we got up onto the fields. We were also plaiting our legs with the amount of ale we had supped. We didn’t want to miss anything so we started drinking at noon. For some reason Martin decided we ought to push with the lads and lasses from Westwoodside. For an hour or so there was a concerted effort to get the hood up the hill, from where it would have been an easier shove down the other side to the Carpenters Arms. Try as we might the sway barely budged. In fact it barely budged from the field for at least two hours. Eventually the sway appeared in the village high street at Haxey and after further struggles made its way that year down to the Kings Arms at the other end of the village. Martin and me had retired from it by then and supped some more in the Duke William. To be in that sway is an exhilarating experience. It’s colourful, rough and very sweaty and muddy. The whole thing moves around like something from nature, perhaps like a murmuration of starlings preparing to roost does. People do get hurt occasionally, but you’d expect that on a muddy field when hundreds of people are pushing and shoving, yet it’s all done with great humour and stewarded by experienced men called ‘The Boggins’. These men ensure that when the sway collapses and people are off their feet, the game stops until everybody is up again. You can’t run with the hood, throw it or pass it, it must simply be swayed until it gets to where it’s going. As an example of a community based game, I don’t think Haxey Hood has an equal. And because it is connected to local pubs, it is an important part of social life and friendship and an important reason why pubs are there in the first place.

I’ve heard that the age old folklore and pub culture of this year’s Haxey Hood was disturbed by modern issues. From what I can gather, the Kings Arms is currently closed down, as is The Loco. The Landlord at the Duke William decided not to open on the day of this year’s event, leaving just the Carpenters Arms to sway the hood to. Apparently the landlord at the Duke William has had some sort of falling out with the local community after a failed planning application to turn the pub into houses. In these times of pub closures and attempts and campaigns to keep them open, it seems to me that the good folk of Haxey have an inarguable right to retain their public houses. There won’t be many places you can go to that has a pub connected to a tradition that goes back seven centuries.

Here’s footage of the Haxey Hood in 2008. You can clearly see me and Martin Oxley getting stuck in at 5.35. I’m in my tweed overcoat and beret, Martin has his black captain’s hat on and a blue cagoule.

More on It’s The Beer Talking