January 2018 Update

Well, it seems my second book on John McLaughlin has been rather more popular than I thought. As explained in previous posts, Echoes From Then: Glimpses of John McLaughlin 1959-75 was conceived as a limited-edition companion to Bathed In Lightning: John McLaughlin, the 60s and the Emerald Beyond (Jawbone, 2014). I was delighted with a Kickstarter campaign late last year that covered all of the printing costs and pre-sold around 50 copies of the 200 printed. Perhaps a couple of dozen more were used for PR and copies for interviewees but by the end of the year I had more or less run out of copies. Blimey…

I’ve had 40 more printed this month to cover the immediate demand but I hope to get another tranche of copies, if demand remains, in March and these will include an additional few pages of new content, which will be largely focused on a line of research, on the Gordon Beck Quartet’s BBC sessions in spring 1968, that was previously not known by me to be valid in terms of John’s involvement. With the knowledge that John did indeed record around a dozen sessions with Gordon, backing lounge singers Joy Marshall and Mark Murphy for late-night Radio 2 shows, research at the BBC Written Archive Centre can now be carried out and a repertoire revealed. Extracts from a newly found 1970 Rick Laird interview will be included along with one or two other useful bits of information that have come to light since publication. Purchasers of the original edition need not feel annoyed, though – I’ll make a PDF of the paginated/typeset new content available for free download via this site as soon as it is ready.

The Echoes From Then section of this website (within the ‘Books’ area) has been updated this month to include a full contents listing and extracts from the first six print reviews. The review coverage has been tremendous, and I’m very grateful to all those who took the time to read it and write something and to the editors who let them do so! I believe there may yet be a couple more reviews in the pipeline. The opening and conclusion of Trevor Hodgett’s review in RnR (formerly R2… formerly Rock’n’Reel…) made me smile:

‘Colin Harper’s Bathed In Lightning (2014) was so comprehensive that I ended my review of it by saying, ‘No one, surely, will ever need to write another book on McLaughlin’s career’. How knowing Harper’s laughter must have been on reading that for he himself has now produced another mighty and invaluable tome on McLaughlin […] Dare I say, again, no one, surely, will ever need to write another book on McLaughlin’s career!’

In a cunning plan to promote both the 2017 expanded remaster of my album Titanium Flag and the new McLaughlin book, Adele from Wookalily has kindly created this montage of pics from Echoes From Then, and elsewhere, set to ‘Years of Regret’ from the album:



In other news… I have a couple of magazine pieces out in the next month or two. The March edition of Record Collector (out in early February) will include my 4,000-word feature on Big Pete Deuchar, a remarkable fellow who cut a swathe through the British trad jazz, R&B and C&W scenes in the 50s and 60s before cycling around the world in the winter and spring of 1971-72 and breaking various records along the way. The March or April issue of Shindig! will include a 2,500-word feature by myself and Andy Powell, looking at his pre-fame adventures in the 60s and some of his influences from that era. The feature is partly edited together from material in Andy’s book, with which I assisted, Eyes Wide Open: True Tales of a Wishbone Ash Warrior (Jawbone, 2015), but also includes a fair amount of new content, which – as was the case with some of the book itself – Andy is working on even as I type, on the road somewhere in Europe!

Periodically, I write the odd long-form review or feature for the Afterword, an online forum. I suppose I don’t really consider this ‘work’ because it’s all labour of love stuff, and it can be as quirky and rambling as one likes because it’s not for an editor, a deadline, an agreed word-count or tailored to a formal book or magazine style. It’s a bit of fun, really. I might collect some of these long pieces in a new section for this site in due course, but the reason it’s come to mind just now is the release of Sarah McQuaid’s terrific album If We Dig Any Deeper It Might Get Dangerous (out in February). I pledged for the vinyl/book set on Sarah’s Kickstarter campaign last year but reviewed it from advance MP3s from out mutual publicist Pat Tynan (yes, I know how pretentious that sounds, but it’s true! The great man does PR for Sarah and has overseen radio distribution my own recent Titanium Flag album). The epic review can be found here:


Finally, I continue to be involved in helping Lonesome Chris Todd and his blues trio the Hardchargers. Following line-up changes in November, Chris is moving forward with a pool of musicians forming the trio (or indeed quartet) at any one time. Among that pool of excellent players are my friends Ali MacKenzie, supreme among bass players, and Scott Flanigan, maestro of jazz organ and piano – both of whom I’ve had the pleasure of recording with. With Dave Kennedy on drums, this was the quartet that played the Empire, Belfast, on December 29. The show was multi-track audio recorded and three songs filmed with a two-camera team. A few days later, director Paul McParland filmed an interviewed and some acoustic material with Lonesome Chris in the upper room of East Belfast’s splendid Lamp Post Café. Within a couple of weeks, a short ‘Introduction to the Hardchargers’ film will be available online, with full edits of the three Empire songs to follow. More info on the Hardchargers here:



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