At the time of writing, I expect to take delivery of 200 copies – the complete first print run – of my new book Echoes From Then: Glimpses of John McLaughlin 1959–75. (See previous update for content details.) Copies will be available exclusively from Amazon (UK) for £19.95 + P&P and from www.marketsquaremusic.com for £14.95 + P&P.Unlike previous books this one is self-published. The content is

Unlike previous books this one is self-published. The content is niche so it was never going to float any publisher’s boat… so I didn’t bother sounding any out. The work on the book has been largely self-funded, but I’m tremendously grateful to over 50 pledgers to my Kickstarter campaign, which funded the print run. It was a surprisingly painless process – thank you all!

I’m a huge admirer of the Jawbone Press presentational style so I’ve opted to get as close to that as possible, with Jawbone’s own Tom Seabrook on typesetting and Mark Case on design – both of whom delivered the goods. Mark, in particular, put in a Herculean effort in making sense of a very substantial amount of visual content. In addition to 16 glossy pic pages (8 B&W, 8 colour) there are roughly 80 pages of period adverts and news items relating to John McLaughlin’s musical path through ‘60s Britain – under most people’s radar, but still detectable in the small print… I hope the inclusion of such ephemera will help to bring the era alive.

I anticipate reviews in at least three national magazines, and if there appears to be genuine demand I will certainly commission another print run. However, while the book isn’t a ‘phony’ limited edition I can’t have £1000+ tied up in new print runs on an ongoing basis, so there will be only be as many copies in existence to meet what I judge to be the relatively immediate demand. In short, get a copy quickly if you want one.

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In other news… the new Record Collector (issue 471, Led Zeppelin on the cover) includes, at last, my feature on the great Mike Westbrook, focused mostly on his 1967–76 output and with interview comments from Mike.

I provided some information content to the excellent Mick Houghton’s 7CD Pentangle box set project The Albums (Cherry Red), out later this month. Mick and John Reed have lovingly curated the set, with new remastering, bonus content and a superb booklet.

I was thrilled with a couple of recent reviews of the expanded remaster of my album Titanium Flag (Market Square), from Chris Roberts in Prog and Colin Irwin in Mojo. Oz Hardwick had earlier written a similarly generous review for RnR (formerly Rock’n’Reel, R2, etc.) The Prog review is one of their online samples this month: http://teamrock.com/prog

There’s probably other stuff going on, but I can’t bring it to mind right now – save this: look out for the debut release by NI blues trio The Hardchargers in mid-November. The album is mixed, mastered and designed and is but a Pledge Music campaign away from being manufactured…

‘Every week now, a new jazz book arrives on my desk. Biography, autobiography, discography, miscellany, anthology and fiction – they come streaming off the presses… Now, such is the spate of commentary and research, there will soon be nothing left to write about.’

Humphrey Lyttelton, 1960

 

In 2014 my book Bathed In Lightning: John McLaughlin, the 60s and the Emerald Beyond (Jawbone Press) was published. The e-book edition contained an extra 100,000 words.

I’ve decided that material needed to exist – revised and expanded – in physical form, however limited in quantity. So, I thought, I’ll self-publish a run of 200 copies…

 

After a lot of new research, Echoes From Then: Glimpses of John McLaughlin 1959-75 is the result: 160,000 freshly burnished words and masses of new visual content, from unpublished photos to period press ads. Typesetting and design will be by Jawbone’s Tom Seabrook and Mark Case – the dream team. The book is more or less complete, with only the design and typesetting – and a final proofread – to be done.

 

I’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign for funds to help with the printing costs, running until August 16. If you want a copy of the book and feel like helping out, here’s the link:

 

 

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Jawbone supremos Nigel Osborne and Tom Seabrook have very generously given this self-published new book their blessing. Bathed In Lightning remains the story of John McLaughlin up to 1975, and the musical worlds within which he moved, to the best of my ability. However, this additional text allows the reader to go deeper into certain episodes. Indeed, the opportunity to revisit this material has allowed me to go deeper into it, most especially in the chapters on Big Pete Deuchar and the Tony Meehan Combo, which have been subject to extensive new research, additional to what was possible for me to accomplish during the original 2012–13 research period.

In a short introduction to the original standalone e-book of the additional content I described it as not so much a random selection of offcuts and outtakes but, rather, a lovingly polished collection of B-sides and EP tracks – good stuff that just didn’t quite make it to the album. I think that’s still the case, and this hard-copy edition has found a few more gems from the vaults to add.

The original e-book bonus content consisted of the following:

 

  • Three largely standalone chapters or episodes – on Big Pete Deuchar; the Tony Meehan Combo; and British soul, mods and pirate radio – which had been extracted from the partly completed narrative of Bathed In Lightning (and replaced with brief summaries of the episodes in question as necessary) midway through the writing process in order to become ‘bonus chapters’ in the e-book edition. The writing of the book was thenceforward completed with the two editions in mind.
  • The recollections of Arjen Gorter, a colleague of John McLaughlin in Time Is Now (1968), which became an e-book chapter by virtue of Arjen’s contribution arriving with me very late in the process, when the text of the print edition had been more or less locked down.
  • Four chapters relating to the adventures of the second Mahavishnu Orchestra (1974–75), with a lot of focus on the lesser-known members of that band, which were completed with the e-book in mind.
  • Four appendices covering John’s British recording and broadcasting sessions 1963–69; his US recording sessions 1969–75; his known British concert appearances from 1963–68; and the second Mahavishnu Orchestra’s concert appearances 1974–75.
  • An appendix reproducing in full ‘The Texts Of Festival: Star Truckin’ ‘75’, an NME 23/8/75 report by Charles Shaar Murray.

 

To that text, Echoes From Then adds the following:

 

  • ‘The World’s First John McLaughlin Interview? The Wandsworth Advertiser, March 22 1963’ – what we can glean from a local newspaper report, with quotes, on a Georgie Fame gig from the very last days of John’s membership of the Blue Flames.
  • ‘Graham Bond’s Manifesto’ – a look at the beginnings of the Graham Bond Quartet in 1963 via the reproduction of an interview with Graham from Jazz News & Review.
  • ‘The Georgie Fame/John McLaughlin Recordings’ – originally an exclusive website essay looking at the problematic identifying of Georgie Fame recordings involving John McLaughlin, presented here updated with new information.
  • ‘Duffy Power Innovations – reproductions of three published interviews (from Sounds, NME and Disc & Music Echo) with Duffy from 1971 on the release of his mid 60s recordings with John McLaughlin, plus the album’s original press sheet.
  • ‘Gene Perla: Mahavish? No!’ – a new interview with jazz bass legend Gene Perla, shedding light on his little-known role as the ‘Pete Best of the Mahavishnu Orchestra’.
  • ‘Richard Williams on John McLaughlin and Lifetime’ – reproductions of five 1970–72 Melody Maker pieces on John McLaughlin and Lifetime by the legendary writer.
  • ‘The Non-Average White Band’ – new recollections from Steve Kindler on an abortive Mahavishnu Orchestra photo session.
  • ‘New Gleanings from Old Sources’ – a scrapbook of vintage quotes and pieces of information that escaped my attention first time around, plus significant recent quotes by John McLaughlin on the period covered in Bathed In Lightning.
  • ‘Addenda & Errata’ – a digest of typographical errors and minor errors of fact in Bathed In Lightning, plus longer discussion on a handful of debateable matters in the original book.
  • Numerous period adverts and news items and previously unpublished or rare photographs from Christian Rose, Bill Smith, Jak Kilby, Michael Parrish and others.

 

Additionally, the following substantial revisions to the original e-book bonus content have taken place:

 

  • Big Pete Deuchar – this chapter has been extensively revised through new research in Jazz News, Melody Maker, Manchester Evening News, BBC Written Records Centre, the Raleigh Industries archive in Nottingham and interviews with associates.
  • Tony Meehan Combo – this chapter has been extensively revised through new research in NME and Record Mirror, with much relevant interview material and information on repertoire and chronology emerging.
  • Appendix 1 on John’s 1963–69 British recordings has been enhanced with substantial new information on broadcasts with Graham Bond, Ray Ellington and Georgie Fame.
  • Appendix 2 on John’s 1963–68 British concert appearances has had a number of additions/revisions in the Graham Bond, Tony Meehan Combo and Night-Timers sections.
  • Appendix 3 on John’s 1969–1975 recordings has been enhanced with new details and several items not in the previous version.
  • Appendix 4 on the second Mahavishnu Orchestra’s 1974–75 concert appearances has been substantially enlarged.

 

Wish me luck…

 

More on other recent activities soon…

A quick update this time… My 2010 under-the-radar album Titanium Flag will be reissued nationally in expanded and remastered form by Market Square Records, run with exquisite taste and aplomb by bon viveur, renaissance man, public relations guru and all round good fellow Peter Muir.

This new edition exists because of a steady stream of positive feedback on the back of the album’s original hundred copies in card wallet and digital availability, and similar generosity towards my mostly instrumental 2016 album Sunset Cavaliers (also released by Market Square), which shares some of Titanium Flag’s DNA.

The original Titanium Flag was 44 minutes of instrumental music, mastered by Cormac O’Kane. This edition enhances that original in three ways. Firstly, it is remastered by the legendary Denis Blackham. Secondly, it adds four contemporaneous recordings (four vocal items from the original sessions). Thirdly, it adds three newly-recorded pieces within the theme of the original album and featuring the same musicians, specifically reconvened: Alan McClure (violin), Rachelle Stewart (clarinet), Linley Hamilton (trumpet/flugelhorn), Jim Cuthbertson (drums) – the strings, woodwind, brass and percussion sections of the Titanium Flag orchestra. They are joined by pianist Scott Flanigan and bass maestro Ali MacKenzie, along with Jan Akkerman, to whom the album was originally dedicated – a dedication repeated here. Two of the new pieces were originated in Belfast and recorded by Cormac O’Kane with some additional recording by ‘Late-NightTony’ Furnell; the third was originated in Newcastle, Australia, by writer/musician/producer Mark Tinson and was a happy accident. The three new pieces open this new edition of Titanium Flag, followed by the nine tracks that comprised the original album and then the four contemporaneous bonus tracks.

I’ll sort out links to buy the album when it becomes available (well, I’ll ask Uncle Spike to sort that out…). Meanwhile, we’ve updated the Titanium Flag page within the ‘Musical Projects’ area of the site with the new artwork and text. The physical edition, limited to 500 copies, comes with a 12 page booklet and a second fold-out insert of two vintage Arctic maps.

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In other news, two Mike Westbrook reissues due in April have had some involvement from me in terms of happening, although I’m not involved in annotating either. Live, on Hux, is a fabulous 5-piece live recording from 1972, with two extra tracks from the concerts, with remastering from Jon Hiseman, a new note from Mike and a splendid new cover design. Marching Song, from RPM, is a sumptuous 3CD version of the 1969 2LP original. Duncan Heining provides the notes and 51 minutes (five tracks) of rare or unreleased music, spanning 1966-70, has been added on a bonus disc. I supplied a few period reviews and adverts. A 4,500 word feature by me on Mike should appear in Record Collector in their April issue (though they might have cut 500 words). It was a huge undertaking, research-wise. Phew…

The next issue of Mojo 60s – probably in April or May – will include an edit of my feature from 2000, originally published in parent magazine Mojo, on Bert Jansch & Davy Graham.

Record Collector have also received a 4,000 word feature from me on the career of Big Pete Deuchar– encompassing Trad Jazz, R&B, Country & Western, round-the-world cycling and other adventures. I have no idea yet when it will appear but I would hope in the next three or four months.

I continue to work on revising/enhancing the e-book bonus content of Bathed In Lightning for a short-run hard-copy edition sometime this year, and I’m also working on a monograph on Big Pete Deuchar, covering his adventures with the Vieux Carré Jazz Band, the Professors of Ragtime, Dougie Richford’s London Jazzmen, Pete Deuchar & his Country Blues, the Moonshiners and his amazing world cycling trip. I’ve done a lot of print research thus far and spoken to several hugely helpful associates of Pete – not least Brian Bennet, Toni Goffe, Bill Hales, Mike Deighan, John Coles and Colin Coe. If anyone else out there has interesting recollections of Big Pete, do please get in touch via the site!

There’ll be another update along soon, with links to Titanium Flag on sale…

 

November already? I really must update more often. The Peter Eden/British Jazz feature in Record Collector finally appeared, in RC458 (October 2016). In support of the tremendous Quintessence 2CD set on Hux, Spirits From Another Time, released earlier this year, I wrote a feature for Shindig! (can’t recall the issue number).

My Sunset Cavaliers album, released in March, was remarkably well reviewed in the UK. I’ll put some extracts up on the album’s page within the ‘Musical Projects’ tab to left. It was a great honour to appear on both Mickey Bradley’s Radio Foyle show and Ralph McLean’s Radio Ulster show to talk about the album and other things – thank you, both!

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My current musical project is an expanded remaster of 2010’s limited-release instrumental set Titanium Flag – a concept album on Arctic history and exploration. The enhanced audio content is, at the time of writing, complete and by the end of the week the design will also be complete. The original album was dedicated to the great Dutch guitarist Jan Akkerman and I was thrilled that Jan agreed to play on one of three new tracks, extending the theme of the original ‘Ice Museum Suite’ of tunes. I regrouped the original ‘Titanium Flag Orchestra’ for two of the new tracks, inspired by Fridtjof Nansen’s 1888 crossing of Greenland – Linley Hamilton (trumpets), Rachelle Stewart (clarinet), Alan McClure (violins), ‘Ulster-Scots Jim’ Cuthbertson (drums). It was terrific to have the team back in action. Added to these tracks were Scott Flanigan on piano and Premik Russell Tubbs, recording in New York, on flute, plus Jan – delivering a sensational four-minute solo that is totally evocative of people battling through howling blizzards with indefatigable spirit!

The third new track is a reworking of an instrumental I originally recorded with Peter Wilson in 2007 as ‘The Duke Out On The Ocean’, here retitled ‘On The Ocean’, which is – by happy coincidence – the title of Pytheas of Massalia’s lost book on his fourth-century BC voyage to the Arctic regions. Australian production wizard Mark Tinson very kindly arranged and produced this new version in sunny downunder, featuring Aussie guitar legend Martin Cilia, with Linley Hamilton (flugelhorn) and Scott Flanigan (piano/Hammond) adding sublime parts in the less sunny Northern Hemisphere.

Four vocal numbers recorded at the original Titanium Flag sessions have also been added and the whole set has been mastered/remastered by the great Denis Blackham at Skye Mastering, who has done a typically superb job on it.

Alex Smee’s original silkscreen-print inspired cover design was fantastic, and I thought about keeping it, but in the spirit of refreshing the whole thing I’ve asked Mark Case to come up with new ideas and I’ve sourced an image that I hope will work as part of this. We’ll see… New booklet notes have been written, expanding the original limited edition card-wallet CD’s insert sheet, and I’ve sourced two vintage maps of the Arctic, which will be reproduced on a double-sided fold-out insert. I suspect this will help to bring the concept to life a little more.

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I’ve been involved to varying degrees in several CD and vinyl reissues lately. I’m particularly excited about potentially three progressive British jazz CD archive projects planned for release via RPM circa March 2017. Legendary producer Peter Eden has kindly allowed Mark Stratford, the RPM-meister, to revive his 1970-71 Turtle label as a new imprint for these releases, which is a wonderful idea, and the first release will certainly be the Mike Westbrook Concert Band’s 1969 double LP (albeit originally released as two volumes in the UK) Marching Song. Appropriately, the album was originally produced by Peter Eden for the Deram label. This long-out-of-print revival will be a 3CD set, with a third disc of unreleased 1966-70 studio and live material selected personally by Mike Westbrook. It will, one hopes, if all goes well, be the first of several such personally expanded Westbrook reissues on RPM/Turtle. Mark had asked me for ideas for two other releases on the revived Turtle imprint, and I have provided these suggestions. As licenses aren’t yet in place, I’ll save the details for another time.

Still on a vintage British jazz theme, I was delighted to make the introductions between Mike Westbrook and Hux-meister Brian O’Reilly and between Tubby Hayes biographer Simon Spillett and Brian. Two great releases are in the offing from Hux: an expanded and remastered reissue of Live (1972) by a short-lived and fantastic Mike Westbrook five-piece, including Gary Boyle on guitar, and a first-time-on-CD release for the 1969 Tubby Hayes album on Fontana, The Orchestra. I’m not involved in the execution of these releases bar the cheerleading (Mike and Simon will provide the notes, respectively) but it’s terrific to see these albums on CD. I strongly recommend Simon’s book on Tubby, The Long Shadow of the Little Giant (Equinox, 2015) – a brilliant evocation of an era, and a compelling tale of one of British music’s greats.

Finally, on the British jazz theme, I’m involved in bringing a 1991 concert tour project to releasable fruition for the great bandleader/composer Michael Gibbs. Peter Muir’s Dusk Fire label will release some kind of fabulous audio artefact – I’m guessing a 2CD set – drawn from a slew of terrific DAT recordings from a 1991 British tour by the Mike Gibbs Orchestra featuring John Scofield. I was delighted to make the introductions between Michael and Peter and I’m helping with the digitising of the material. The music, performances and sound quality – even ahead of mastering – are superb, and it’s a real pleasure to be a part of making this happen.

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Over in folksville, I’ve written a 3,000 word note for It Suits Me Well, a new Cherry Red 2CD set presenting four of the six Dave Swarbricksolo albums released between 1976 and 1983. Confusingly, I wrote the notes for a Sanctuary 2CD set of the very same title, which was compiled from the same four Swarbrick albums plus BBC material. (I wasn’t involved in titling either set.) This new set comprises the four albums in full and a completely new note, based on a forensic trawl through Melody Makers for the period and drawing on other published Swarbrick interviews. It’s a beautifully designed booklet, by Shindig!’s Andy Morten.

I’ve also written the notes – partly based on content from my Jansch biography, but including new writing – for Living In The Shadows, a new 4LP/4CD Bert Jansch set from the Earth label, comprising The Ornament Tree (1990), When The Circus Comes To Town (1995), Toy Balloon (1997) and an excellent fourth disc featuring 40 minutes of previously unreleased studio material. I had (as mentioned in a previous update) provided Earth with many 1990s photos and digitisations of soundboard concert recordings, but they’ve opted for a studio-based set and a minimalist design approach, which works perfectly well. Perhaps the above material will be utilised on another occasion, but this set is certainly recommended to Jansch fans and even newcomers. It is a mark of the fourth disc’s quality that it alone could be played to someone unfamiliar with Jansch’s music and act as a perfect snapshot of his artistry. Earth will reissue the 1998 Jansch live recording Downunder: Live In Australia in the New Year, including an expanded version of my notes for the original Sanctuary release.

I’ve been very slightly involved in a couple of other 60s British folk projects recently: the wonderful Anne Briggs vinyl EP of 1966 BBC recordings plus one same-period amateur recording titledFour Songs, on Fledg’ling (simply suggesting the idea to label owner David Suff, who had the courage to run with it and create a wonderful artefact); and a set of forthcoming Davy Graham Decca album reissues from US label Virtual Label. For this latter project, I was asked to source and provide scans of various Davy Graham adverts, interviews and reviews from my collection of 60s British music magazines – a bit more of a task than you might imagine, but one that will hopefully add an evocative sheen to the end products.

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Speaking of Anne Briggs, Mojo 60s – a themed spin-off from UK music magazine Mojo – will be republishing my 1997 Mojo feature on her in their December edition.

In terms of new writing, I’m working on a Mike Westbrook feature for Record Collector, for which I’ve interviewed Mike and collected an almost overwhelming amount of vintage interviews and reviews. I have a feeling there must be an easier way…

I’m also working on a limited edition (probably 200 copies) hard-copy presentation of the e-book bonus chapters and appendices from Bathed In Lightning: John McLaughlin, the 60s and the Emerald Beyond (Jawbone, 2014). I’m quite excited about this, and I’ve already started doing a few new interviews and new print research, particularly on McLaughlin’s first employer Big Pete Deuchar. I can guarantee that the book – which I may title anew, to avoid confusion (although doing so may in itself cause confusion) – will feature several previously unpublished or ridiculously rare vintage McLaughlin photographs (from 1959-75) along with rare period adverts and the like. There will be new content in the Pete Deuchar and Tony Meehan Combo chapters, and maybe elsewhere, and anything needing revised/updated – such as the Discography and Mahavishnu Orchestra Mk2 Concert Listing – will be sorted out. The BIL website bonus chapter on Georgie Famewill be added and I’m looking into additional written content of value.

Given the above, and the recent launch of my own academic proofreading service (see: www.belfastproofreading.com), a couple of other book ideas on British jazz are on a back-burner just now, but they are not forgotten.

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Finally, I’ve found myself a little more involved in the local music world in and around Belfast this year than has been the case for a long time. I’ve seen a lot of Brian Houston this year, having not done so for two or three years, and wrote a couple of long online pieces on his history and on a couple of live performances. Brian also took part in Lampstock, a great fun event I organised in early November as a fundraiser for local café The Lamp Post, which also featured some of my fave local artists Brigid O’Neill, Wookalily and Janet & Colin Henry. A great time was had by all. At the time of writing, having brought Brian together with John McSherry for an Irish-themed album earlier in the year (see previous posts), it looks like I might have done something similar between himself and the great bass player Ali MacKenzie (who can be heard to great effect on the new Titanium Flag remaster). Brian’s been pursuing a blues direction recently and Ali joined him, unrehearsed and plucked from the audience, at Lampstock, for a sensational improvised gospel-blues set with Brian and harmonicist Michael Beattie. Brian’s regular trio has been amicably disbanded recently, and I’m hoping the Houston/MacKenzie collaboration has some legs. Great things could result. Fingers crossed…

More definitely, terrific local trio the Hardchargers will be recording a debut album at my palLate-Night Tony Furnell’s studio (so new it has yet to be named) in December. I first saw the ‘Chargers in July at Welsh Sarah’s festival somewhere near Armagh and then later made a point of seeing them performing a full set at a bar in Monaghan. Based on a very distinctive ‘amplified country-blues’ sound, they definitely have ‘something’. My involvement has been offering some advice, encouragement and contacts, and hopefully the result will be a nationally available Hardchargers album early next year – one that is representative of their live power but also encompassing studio arrangements and polish where appropriate. The goal is to give the band a calling card or platform for expanding their live work into Britain and Europe.

And thus, almost everything mentioned in the June 2015 update came to pass… The one exception, at the time of writing, is the Record Collector feature on Peter Eden and British Jazz circa 1970. Maybe next month…

My two books, The Wheels of the World: 300 Years of Irish Uilleann Pipers (with John McSherry) and Eyes Wide Open: True Tales of a Wishbone Ash Warrior (with Andy Powell), were both published, by Jawbone Press, in late 2015. The official publication dates were September and October, respectively, but they both ended up in the shops during September – a rather remarkable situation of having two books published in one calendar month, which I can’t see being repeated!

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The reception for The Wheels of the World has been tremendous, with a number of generous reviews and some fun appearances on radio shows in Belfast and Dublin, along with, from memory, eight or nine public events involving readings and music. John McSherry was able to join me for some of these, when his gig diary allowed, bringing along his ace piping cohort Frances McIlduff – appearances of this trio at sister Tíona’s trad festival in Castlewellan and at Dublin’s splendid Hodges & Figgis bookshop were really enjoyable. Hodges & Figgis had very kindly gone to town with a week-long window display. At some other events, I was joined by either John’s unperturbable nieceMiadhach Lughain O’Donnell with her pal Jamie (on flute and pipes, respectively) or by Aaron O’Hagan (pipes), and a good time was had by all – hopefully! Authors aren’t necessarily natural raconteurs, but it’s a case of feeling the fear and doing it anyway, and I enjoyed this block of public speaking more than I have done with similar events in the past. It’s a matter of thinking, ‘Well, what’s the worst that can happen?’ During October, Tíona very kindly organised three concerts to promote the book: in Belfast, Westport and Strabane. Piping legend Paddy Keenan headlined, with John McSherry and Francis McIlduff also on the bill. I was at two of the three and they were fabulous evenings. Paddy was on form and John and Frances enjoyed playing with him onstage as much as the reverse, I think.

Adapted extracts from the book appeared in The Irish Times, The (Belfast) News Letter and fRoots. The Irish Times extract can be found here:

http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/music/when-s%C3%A9amus-ennis-played-it-stood-your-hair-on-end-1.2310123

Because of funding niceties, the book is a limited edition of 2000 copies and almost half of that print run has now been sold. Hopefully a second edition (and eBook) will prove possible.

Here’s a link to John and myself appearing on RTÉ’s Arena show in August 2015 with presenter and all-round good guy Jim Lockhart:

http://www.rte.ie/radio1/arena/programmes/2015/0825/723513-arena-tuesday-25-august-2015/?clipid=1960139#1960139

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Eyes Wide Open, Andy Powell’s memoir with my assistance, has, curiously, yet to receive much in the way of print reviews, although an extract was featured in December’s issue of Record Collector. It was a total pleasure working on the book with Andy – how he manages to juggle all his commitments (including periodic bursts of energy working on the book, in between horrendous touring schedules wherein he often drives the van himself) – and remain so full of energy and so positive I don’t know. Aside from touring, there were a number of other projects fighting for his attention last year, including a terrific three-night run, filmed for a DVD (now out), at a theatre in Paris and a direct-to-vinyl live recording at Metropolis Studios in London (also now out). Work on the book went right up to the wire, with Andy delivering extra content above and beyond expectations. I don’t actually know how long the book ended up being, but it is well beyond the anticipated 120,000 words.

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The CD projects I detailed in the last Update – Chris Spedding’sSongs Without Words (Hux) and the 3CD box set Turtle Records: Pioneering British Jazz 1970-71 (RPM) – both appeared in late 2015, featuring extensive CH sleeve notes. Indeed, Mark Stratford at RPM really grasped the nettle with the Turtle project and commissioned a perfect-bound luxuriantly illustrated and designed mini-book format for the 17,000 word essay and discography I provided. It was, again, a delight to be involved with, and the reviews have been generous and widespread. Off the back of that, I was interviewed in December for a prospective film documentary on British folk, pop and jazz producer Peter Eden’s career, along with jazz expert Linley Hamilton. Peter Eden and Mike Cooper had already been filmed in interview, and other great musicians are lined up. Sadly, they won’t include pianist John Taylor, who passed on unexpectedly only a few weeks after I had interviewed him for the box set notes. His album for the Turtle label, Pause… and Think Again remains a magical piece of work.

At short notice, I also contributed a 2,000 word note (alas, I was restricted to eight pages…) to the Wishbone Ash 4CD live box set Road Works (Talking Elephant), which was released in December. This set is terrific value for money, gathering up four previous merchandise-stand-only short-run live albums spanning 2010-14 and giving them wide availability. I made a point of interviewing all four of the current Ash members. It’s a great way to hear the latest (and longest-lasting) of the band’s many line-ups.

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Back in September I was asked by the arts editor of the Irish Times if I fancied interviewing Stereophonics when they did a one-off show in Belfast. ‘Why not,’ I thought. I don’t want to get back to doing routine journalistic stuff, but the idea of doing the odd thing if I fancy it, if somebody asks, is fine. I’d reviewed Stereophonics live for the IT back in 1999 or thereabouts, and couldn’t quite see what the fuss was about. I saw a bit of their live show this time around and, while their stagecraft has improved, it was still not quite my thing. Still, I enjoyed the new album they were promoting (better on record than live, for me – more nuance and variety) and I liked them as people. Here’s a link to the resulting feature:

http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/music/stereophonics-it-was-never-about-celebrities-or-fame-1.2371452

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My album Sunset Cavaliers is released nationally through Market Square on February 19. The great Mick Houghton is very kindly helping with PR to radio. Early feedback from a few friends suggests that my notion of an album hanging together with an autumnal/evening sort of feeling seems to be holding water. Which, I suppose, makes it a wet weekend in November. I’m very pleased with the album, and honoured to have had so many wonderful players on it – not least my regular collaborators Cormac O’Kane and Ali MacKenzie. The album is dedicated to Duffy Power. I’ll be appearing on Radio Ulster’s Arts Show on February 12 to talk about it, with punk legend Mickey Bradley asking the questions (no doubt kicking off with: ‘Progressive rock in 2016 – why?’).

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The exciting project of early 2016, for me, is a forthcoming 2CD set of unreleased Quintessence studio recordings from their Island Records era (1969-71). Band members Phil Jones and Maha Dev are in the loop, as is original producer John Barham. The project has required a lot of (expensive) tape research, with 16 two-inch multi-track reels and 7 quarter-inch mix-down reels (out of 32 that we had hoped to access) digitised at Abbey Road, based on the sometimes cryptic scribblings on the tape boxes. The next stage is searching through those reels for unreleased performances of high quality. At the time of writing, the mixing is almost complete and over 100 minutes of remarkable content – six hitherto wholly unknown compositions and a number of breathtakingly good alternate takes of familiar songs – will be included across the two discs. The set is provisionally entitled Spirits From Another Time: Island Studios 1969-71 and will hopefully appear around May 2016. I take my hat off to Brian O’Reilly at Hux: this will be his most expensive archive CD project to date, out of 150 releases. I think I’ve been involved in around 20 of those releases – some of which have been good sellers, others less so. Fingers crossed for this one!It’s a privilege to be involved in bringing (yet more) unheard wonders from the glory days of Quintessence into the world, and I’ll be doing everything I can to get this release noticed. With a fair wind, there may well be another Quintessence project in due course.

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In a more semi-detached way, I’m involved in a couple of projects from Earth Vinyl, a boutique vinyl label. Their forthcoming deluxe vinyl reissue of Bert Jansch’s sublime 1979 LP Avocet looks amazing. It will include my mid-2000s Sanctuary CD reissue notes. Over the past few weeks I have digitised a lot of my 1990s photos and soundboard recordings of Bert towards a future 4-LP vinyl box set comprising his three mid-90s albums and a disc of rare and unissued recordings, compiled by Adam Jansch.

*

Not before time, and taking merciless advantage of web-meister Uncle Spike having a bit of unexpected time on his hands, I have updated a fair amount of content on the rest of this site.

In the Books section, I have created new pages for Bathed in Lightning, The Wheels of theWorld and Eyes Wide Open plus an additional page featuring the December 2015 fRoots adapted extract from the piping book, on the great Séamus Ennis.

In the Musical Projects section, I have updated the intro page and added a new page and retail link for Sunset Cavaliers.

In the CD Reissue Projects section, I have updated the intro page and updated the Quintessence page.

I have also revamped the About section.

After all that, I have a feeling Uncle Spike will be expecting a very serious high-end coffee shop experience, huge muffin included.

June marks the end of a particularly busy period, with a number of obligations needing delivered at more of less the same time. I’ll keep it brief:

 

  • The Wheels Of The World: 300 Years Of Irish Uilleann Pipers is the final title of my book with John McSherry. It’s around 240,000 words long and I’m very pleased with it. The contents are listed below. Indexing will be completed in mid-June and it will be printed immediately thereafter. It should be available for sale within two or three months, published by special arrangement with Jawbone Press and internationally distributed. The print run is strictly limited, given the niceties of our external funding arrangement with National Lottery, to 2000 copies and RRP will probably be £17.95. John and I are hoping to put on a few concert/reading events around Ireland later in the year to promote it. If there seems to be enough demand for the book, we’ll try and fund a second print run ourselves.

Introduction

  1. John McSherry
  2. Introducing Finbar Furey, Paddy Keenan and Liam O’Flynn
  3. Finbar & Eddie Furey: A Dream In Their Hands
  4. Liam O’Flynn: The Quiet Man
  5. Paddy Keenan: Rakish Paddy Blues
  6. Introducing Leo Rowsome, Séamus Ennis and Willie Clancy
  7. Leo Rowsome: Keeper Of The Flame
  8. Leo Rowsome At The BBC
  9. Séamus Ennis: The Master Outside
  10. Séamus Ennis At The BBC
  11. Willie Clancy: The Minstrel From Clare
  12. Johnny Doran: Along The Road Forever
  13. The Only Patsy Touhey
  14. Uilleann Piping Before 1900
  15. Piping In Ulster
  16. Brian Vallely & Armagh Pipers’ Club
  17. Appendix: Melody Maker Interviews, 1976 & 1978
  18. Acknowledgements
  19. Endnotes
  20. Index

 

  • Eyes Wide Open: True Tales Of A Wishbone Ash Warrior is the Andy Powell autobiography which I’ve been assisting with. That one is also being published through Jawbone, by a normal publishing arrangement. Nigel and Tom at Jawbone are terrific people to work with. That one will – we all hope – be delivered on June 19, to be published in time for Wishbone Ash’s October 2015 UK tour. Andy has been tied up with a particularly gruelling US tour during April/May, followed by a few European dates, which has delayed the finalising of the text. We’ll get there. The book will be around 120,000 words long, a standard size for a memoir. Andy has given a great deal of attention and thought to the book and it will, I believe, appeal to general readers of music histories and memoirs as well as the WA faithful. I went to Paris in late May to see two of three dates at Le Triton, a small theatre, which were being filmed for a DVD. Lots of previously unfilmed goodies, old and new, were performed.

 

  •  The Turtle Records Story (RPM) is the title of a forthcoming box set encompassing the three rare but classic progressive British jazz albums released between 1970-71 on Peter Eden’s Turtle label: Howard Riley’s Flight; Mike Osborne’s Outback; and John Taylor’s Pause, And Think Again. I’ve enjoyed writing an extensive booklet for the set, around 17,000 words worth, including fresh interviews with Howard Riley, Barry Guy, John Taylor, John Surman, Norma Winstone, Mike Westbrook, Mike Cooper, Mike Gibbs and Peter Eden and a detailed trawl through the Melody Maker for the whole year of 1970. It was an exciting time for British jazz, with major labels (CBS, Decca, EMI, RCA, Pye) and their progressive rock imprints (Harvest, Vertigo, Dawn, Neon) all taking a punt on the new wave of British jazz, jazz-rock and ‘free improvisation’. Peter Eden produced 20 albums in this ‘golden age’ period of 1968-72, two of them for his own label – the third, John Taylor’s album, being produced by his loyal lieutenant John Surman. The three Turtle albums – which would set you back over £800 for decent second hand copies – offer a terrific snapshot of the various styles and directions being explored by Brit jazzers at the time and they are remastered here officially, from the master tapes, for the first time. Researching the booklet has been a lot of fun. It may even have given me an idea for another book.

 

  • Songs Without Words (Hux) is guitar legend Chris Spedding’s 1970 jazz-rock album, originally recorded for Harvest – at a time when he was regularly playing variations on a jazz-rock theme with Nucleus, the Mike Westbrook Concert Band, the Mike Gibbs band and others – but shelved at Chris’ request when he decided he’d rather pursue a more down-home rock sound. Somehow, the unedited but completed album slipped out in Japan before the end of the year. Chris has edited the original masters to create, amusingly, a reissue with less on it than the orinal (albeit with a bonus track to mitigate the missing minutes). The final edit, though, is seamless and the music fantastic. I’d recommended Richard Williams for the sleeve-noting but seemingly it was a busy time. Chris asked me to have a go and a 6000 word note, including contributions from Chris, producer Peter Eden, Barry Guy and Mike Gibbs, resulted. Hopefully the CD will be out in a couple of months.

 

  • A forthcoming Record Collector piece on British Jazz: The Peter Eden Productions 1968-72. I was delighted to be given the chance to distill the above work around Peter Eden’s jazz productions, but with much additional material, into a 3000 word RC feature. Chris Spedding, Howard Riley and Norma Winstone are the key interviewees, along with Peter, in the piece, with several of his rarest productions highlighted. One single, by the Mike Westbrook Concert Band, is valued at £400, which prompted Mike to point out that it ‘seems like a lot of money to pay for a riff!’ Norma’s splendid LP Edge Of Time (Argo, 1972) has recently been reissued by the similarly splendid Peter Muir at Market Square/Dusk Fire. And yes, it was produced by Peter Eden. Hopefully the piece will run in the next couple of months.

 

In other news… I was delighted to receive a copy of the extraordinarily lovingly assembled 3CD set Jackson Frank: The Complete Recordings, released by Ba Da Bing Records. The Bingmeisters asked to use my Sanctuary Records Jackson Frank CD note from the mid-90s, which I tweaked and updated for the purpose. I was also able to supply good quality off-air copies of three of Jackson’s five 1968 BBC session tracks for John Peel’s Top Gear (Ba Da Bing had the other two already, in slightly lesser sound). The compilation spans 1958-97 and the mastering, even on tracks that have been issued before (and many here have not), is stunning and the price remarkably low. I strongly recommend it to anyone interested in 1960s folk music or tortured-soul singer-songwriters. It’s also available in a 6LP set, again at a remarkably competitive price. Check it out here:  http://www.badabingrecords.com/jackson-c-frank-the-complete-recordings-track-listing/

 

And finally… my long-gestating instrumental album, provisionally titled Sunset Cavaliers, will hopefully be completed this month. There’s only some mixing and the mastering to be done, the last parts having been recorded by guitar-maestro Brooks Williams when he visited Belfast (for a sensational Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival show with the Mighty Mojos backing him) early in May. The album features my regular collaborators Cormac O’Kane (multifarious keyboards, drum programming, general sound wizardy) and Ali MacKenzie plus Louise Potter (Cardiff Lou) from Wookalily on drums on a couple of numbers. I play guitar and a bit of mono-synth throughout. Guest players, aside from Brooks, include Premik Russell Tubbs (soprano sax), Shane Pacey (guitar), Steve Kindler (electric 9-string violin), Chris Spedding (guitar), Linley Hamilton (flugelhorn), Andy Powell (guitar). Most tracks are new (from the past three years), but I’ve included a couple from the vault, featuring Duffy Power and Bert Jansch, because it felt right.

The Piping Book

 After an eight month process, a tranche of Arts Council funding – for which I applied in April with piper John McSherry and publishers Jawbone Press – was delivered last week. It will make The Wheels Of The World, our book on the history of uilleann piping, possible. It has not been a process which I would be in a hurry to repeat, but the result will be a book which I hope will be not only a major contribution to the literature of Irish traditional music but a fascinating and accessible read for anyone interested in music biography and music history.

The structure of The Wheels Of The World is such that the book will progress backwards from the present. Chapters on John McSherry, the Belfast piping maestro of the present era, will book-end the volume: a chapter on his career at the start; a chapter on a year in the life of a 21st Century professional Irish trad musician at the end. Following the first chapter on John, there will then be detailed chapters on his three piping heroes when he was growing up: Finbar Furey, Paddy Keenan (The Bothy Band) and Liam O’Flynn (Planxty); then huge chapters on three of the giants of the generation before them – Séamus Ennis, Leo Rowsome, Willie Clancy. Beyond that, we go back to a chapter looking at the whole history of the instrument from its origins (c.1000BC as wind-blown pipes, c.1700 as elbow-blown distinctly Irish pipes) up to Johnny Doran, the ‘Jimi Hendrix’ of the instrument whose sole 1948 recording is still the benchmark, and including the era of Patsy Touhey, the remarkable New York vaudevillian who was releasing wax cylinders of his piping years before the first jazz or blues records.

There will also be a chapter on ‘Piping In Ulster’, simply because that’s where John and I come from and it seems intriguing – to try and pull together disparate threads from across 300-odd years to show that while Ulster, in uilleann piping lore, may have been the runt of the four provinces of Ireland it’s never been totally barren. Dublin has been the world centre for piping since the days of Leo Rowsome – whose dedication as a Dublin-based teacher, performer and pipe-maker basically saved the instrument from extinction – in the first decades of the 20th Century, but some of the most interesting characters in the instrument’s past and present have still happened to have been Northern. The book will also include a couple of substantial Melody Maker features from the 1970s on The Bothy Band and Liam O’Flynn, with the generous permission of their author, Colin Irwin – plus a colossal appendix on the discographies, sessionographies and broadcasts of the artists profiled (plus one or two others).

I aim to deliver the manuscript by the end of March 2015, or at worst a month later. Publication will be in Autumn 2015. I can promise a massive amount of new documentary research and interviews and hopefully a tale well told. In the back of my mind, I can almost already read the reviews by traddie die-hards lambasting me for not being ‘in the tradition’ or for the structural concept (which means, for instance, no stand-alone chapters on well-known pipers Davy Spillane or Paddy Moloney). But I might be wrong. I worried a little that I would be similarly lambasted by die-hard jazzers for Bathed In Lighting: John McLaughlin, the 60s and the Emerald Beyond (published in March 2014), because I’m not a died-in-the-wool jazz writer and because I chose a structure for that book which saw the narrative end in 1975. I was, however, surprised and delighted to find that reviewers very largely understood the parameters of the book and were not at all precious about my ‘outsider’ status – in fact, it was never mentioned. I couldn’t have asked for more.

With all of the books and CD notes I take on – be they around British folk, British jazz, Irish trad, classic rock, progressive rock or whatever else – I come at them all as a fascinated outsider. If I’m interested myself in finding out things I don’t already know, then there’s a fair chance I can convey the subject with enthusiasm to the reader. Certainly, that’s always the aim. It should always be an adventure, with new discoveries along the way – for both a reader unfamiliar with the music/musicians in question and a reader who thinks they know it all backwards.

There are, curiously, very few substantial biographical books on Irish traditional musicians. There are any number of detailed and often brilliant biographical and historical tomes on the great names in pop, rock, jazz, blues, reggae and so on, with tremendous portraiture on the contexts they worked in, but books on Irish trad seem to be either academic/musicological or coffee-table/pictorial. Exceptions would be the autobiographies of Maire Brennan and Christy Moore and biographies of The Chieftains and Planxty. Offhand, I can’t think of any others. When Trevor Hodgett and I compiled Irish Folk, Trad & Blues: A Secret History in 2004, creating a patchwork of essays around the subject either specially written or adapted from journalistic pieces, I was hoping it might prompt others to write more detailed books on some of the artists included. While that hasn’t happened (yet), there have certainly been a few more similarly thematic books surveying the history of what might very broadly be termed ‘Irish rock’. There’s time yet. In terms of traditional music artists, I’m delighted Leo Rowsome’s daughter Helena Grimes has been working on a full biography of her father, delighted that Andy Irvine is finally working towards a memoir of some sort and I believe that Finbar Furey is also working on an assisted memoir.  

The Wheels Of The World will be loosely similar in terms of its depth and breadth of research to Dazzling Stanger: Bert Jansch and the British folk and blues revival (2000) and Bathed In Lightning (2014). In other words, it will be rigorously assembled with full citations but readable and accessible. There are incredible characters in the history of piping, and if I can bring them alive to some extent on the page it will open up, I think, a whole world of new or renewed musical appreciation of their works.

The Andy Powell book

 I’ve also been working, off and on since March, on assisting ‘classic rock’ legend Andy Powell, keeper of the flame for 45 years with Wishbone Ash, with an autobiography, to be titled Last Man Standing. I’m delighted to say that Nigel and Tom at Jawbone Press have come on board with this one too. Although the piping book is a special case, being almost fully subsidised in a run of 2000 with Jawbone very generously offering a not-for-profit distribution platform, this will be the third book I’ve written that will appear on the Jawbone imprint. I couldn’t be happier about this. I have tremendous respect for Nigel and Tom both as people and as publishers: I love their ethos, their sense of humour and I admire many of the other titles they’ve published. Their Bill Bruford autobiography is one of the finest books on music in the rock era. With regard to Jawbone, I’m always reminded of something English traditional singer Anne Briggs once said about signing to Topic Records in the 1960s when she had offers from other labels: ‘They never had any money, but you felt they had integrity.’

At the time of writing (mid December 2014), I’d say this book is two thirds complete and we aim to enhance that by the end of the month. At present, we’re working on it simultaneously and in collaboration: Andy in Connecticut, me in Belfast. Some chapters are initially generated by me, from extensive interviews with Andy; others are generated by Andy. Between the two of us we then work on these drafts. My key role is providing structure, both in terms of the concept of the book and the shape of each chapter. The content is very much a hands-on reflection of Andy Powell and we’re both delighted with the way it’s progressing.

It’s a new approach for me, helping someone else with what is essentially their book. I’ve taken the view that it’s Andy’s memoir, therefore its content has to be largely driven by what he remembers – what is, in other words, important enough to him to be instantly remembered. That’s the starting point. It’s not exactly a ‘Wishbone Ash book’, it’s an ‘Andy Powell book’ – although the prime focus of Andy’s career has of course been Wishbone Ash and Wishbone Ash is the heart of the book. That difference, though, frees us from writing the biography of a band; rather, it is impressions from a life.

Here and there, we’ve delved a little into secondary research to pull out additional recollection if it seems necessary. What is presented will be accurate but not slavish. In drafting the content we’ve not been working through a 45 year gig list and adding commentary, although where events or situations are mentioned I’ve checked all the dates. Consequently, the book will not be strictly an album/tour/album/tour narrative, although the backbone of it is chronologically linear and accurate. Every second chapter will be thematic – Andy exploring a theme, unencumbered by time. It’ll be published in Autumn 2015, in time for Wishbone Ash’s UK tour.

Other News

I’ve contributed an 8000 word note to The Eve Folk Recordings – a 2CD set from RPM, released in November. The set compiles three albums (by Mick Softley, Bob Davenport & The Rakes and Vernon Haddock’s Jubilee Lovelies) produced in 1965 for EMI by Peter Eden and Geoff Stephens, on the back of their management success with Donovan. Two Donovan singles, two Donovan covers of Mick Softley songs plus a Mick Softley single and two rare Bob Davenport live tracks are also included. In a month or two I’ll probably be contributing a 10,000 word booklet to RPM’s next Peter Eden related project – The Turtle Records Story. This will be a 3CD set including the three ridiculously rare British jazz LPs released by Peter on his own label, Turtle, in 1970/71.

Hopefully, this month I will complete the instrumental EP Blues For The End Of Time, which I’ve been chipping away at off and on for the past couple of years, when time has allowed (more a case of studio legend Cormac ‘Wizard Of Sound’ O’Kane’s time allowing than mine). It’s stretched into the realms of a ‘mini album’, I suspect. I went into Cormac’s studio a few weeks back with bass maestro Ali McKenzie, quirky drummer Louise ‘Cardiff Lou’ Potter and harmonica whiz Lee Hedley and we recorded the basis of one new piece and overdubbed new parts for a second, existing piece.

Guitar legend Chris Spedding very kindly lent me his skills on one track recently, which I look forward to mixing next week. Andy Powell and John McSherry will also be contributing parts, to a different piece, inspired by the Hebridean adventures of piping icon and maverick Séamus Ennis. The EP, as previously mentioned, also includes fabulous contributions from Premik Russell Tubbs, Shane Pacey and Steven Kindler.


 

Bathed In Lightning: John McLaughlin, the 60s and the Emerald Beyond (Jawbone Press) is now available. Reviews so far have been very positive, bar one chap who found it ‘relentlessly detailed’. That’s the trouble with history: it comes with the blighters (details). But, joking aside, I’ve made the book as accessible as I could, while still corralling huge amounts of information and interwoven narratives, and I’m delighted that almost everyone, in print and in person, seems to find the balance right.

The book is available in print and in expanded eBook. Additionally, the eBook bonus content is available separately, with a custom designed ‘cover’ for a mere £2.97 (I think that might be a publishing first…). A fair amount of the text can be sampled at amazon with their ‘Look inside’ function, so do please check it out. If it’s too relentless, in any way, don’t buy it!

Work on the uilleann piping book The Wheels Of The World (see previous post for more info) continues, which I’m finding tremendously exciting – far more so than I imagined possible. Among recent interviewees and correspondents have been 1950s/60s London-Irish music doyen Reg Hall; Jenny Barton, organiser of London’s Troubadour Club 1958-64 and friend of Seamus Ennis; Irish folk legend Andy Irvine; and Helena Grimes, daughter and biographer-in-progress of piping legend Leo Rowsome. Helena has been a mine of tremendously helpful information and, hopefully, I’ve been able to reciprocate a little with material researched at the BBC Written Archives in Caversham last month.

Actually, one of the delightful things about writing non-fiction books is coming into contact, karmicly or coincidentally or perhaps inevitably, with other people writing books, in and around the same field or sometimes even when the overlap appears slight. Mutual assistance or at the very least mutual encouragement and moral support always occurs. In recent months I’ve been in touch with several other authors – people writing biographies of The Who and Paul Simon come to mind, as well as Mick Houghton, whose new biography of Sandy Denny I look forward to, and the excellent Peter Doggett whose book on The History Of Everything still requires a title, which any amount of brainstorming has thus far failed to deliver. Perhaps he should just go with The History Of Everything – it’s certainly an eye-catchingly outrageous title! A couple of other recent communicants have been Mike Barnes, working on an exciting Progressive Rock tome (and no, that wasn’t an oxymoron) and the astoundingly tenacious Mark Lewisohn, The Last Biographer the Beatles will ever need. Having read and been stunned (just stunned, not ‘shocked and stunned’…) by his first of three projected volumes, Tune In, I am not alone in hoping that he – and we – live long enough to see the rest of it.

It transpires there has, however unlikely it may seem, been a bit of crossover between the worlds of Bathed In Lightning and The Wheels Of The World and that of Mark’s forthcoming Beatles volumes. I was delighted to share a few bits of info and Mark was very generous in return. I’m honoured to have been even a tiny part of the process. However complex – nay, relentlessly detailed – my own books may feel during the writing process, they’re child’s play compared to Mark’s epic.

Mike Barnes had got in touch about the mighty Quintessence and, by happy coincidence, my Record Collector feature on the band has just appeared in the new issue (available till mid May). Unfortunately, it has been credited to someone else.

I had a very positive meeting, and beer-quaffing session, in Dublin last month with a ‘classic rock’ legend who shall not, yet, be named, concerning an assisted memoir. We’re both very positive about it and while my focus right now is to motor onwards with the various mini-book-like chapters of the piping book, we’ll be meeting again July to work on his book, all being well.

In a perfect world, the piping book will appear around April/May 2015 and the rock legend memoir around Autumn 2015. One can but try.

Sadly, Duffy Power passed on in February. I thought Duffy one of the truly great musicians and artists of the 1960s and I’m proud to have known him a little and to have helped on a couple of CD projects. I was asked to write obituaries for three publications – Record Collector, Mojo and the Guardian. With luck, there should be further Power CD projects via RPM Records and possibly a memorial event in London next year.

And finally… Fingers crossed… twice. In the last week I’ve had an Arts Council/Lottery Fund application submitted – which, if awarded in full or in part, will be of great assistance with the Uilleann Piping book (and associated media) – and I’ve also finished a PhD thesis. I should know about the success of the former in July and the latter in September.

It’s February 2014, all may seem quiet but there’s plenty of things going on. Bathed In Lightning: John McLaughlin, the 60s and the Emerald Beyond is published by Jawbone Press in the UK and USA on March 1. A 3,700 word extract is in the current issue of Record Collector magazine; a further extract will appear in Shindig! Magazine in March/April; and a third will appear in US magazine Jazz Times. I’m hopeful that reviews will appear in a number of UK publications.

My friend ‘Exciteable’ Dave Mullan – known increasingly as ‘Unsinkable’ Dave Mullan, thanks to his titanic battles with the very latest gremlin-strewn website building protocols – has just achieved victory in the creation of a dedicated website for the book: www.bathedinlightning.com Folk songs are already entering the oral tradition, lauding Dave’s Herculean efforts in the face of seemingly impenetrable video-embedding glitches and multiple browser interface issues. But he won! Check it out…

At present, the book site includes: two extracts from the book; an unused Introduction; a web-exclusive essay on the Georgie Fame/John McLaughlin recordings; a mammoth 1963-75 discography/sessionography (which also appears in the eBook but not the print edition); audio rarities, with accompanying text; and several video rarities. Further material, and news updates relating to the book, will be added to the site in due course.

The first two (of 16) video installments from the November 21 2013 book promotional event, held at Cormac O’Kane’s Red Box Studios, Belfast, are online. The remaining parts will go online at Youtube roughly once a week. The event, compered by BBC Radio Ulster personality Linley Hamilton, included readings from the book, Q&A with myself and performances of eight pieces of music by a pool of 10 fabulous musicians – the music being tunes by the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Sonny Rollins and songs cowritten by Duffy Power anfd John McLaughlin in the mid 60s.

Here’s the video clip of the first part: http://youtu.be/0s71DG7YvYM

The evening will also be available on SoundCloud in audio-only form in five roughly half-hour instalments. Here’s the first: https://soundcloud.com/redboxrecording/bathed-in-lighning-book-2

Additionally, Mark Stratford at RPM / Another Planet Music has very kindly created a montage with narration based on the book’s back cover blurb. Here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TweEo2-MYGA

Aside from the McLaughlin book, work continues with my book on uilleann piping, a joint venture between myself and Belfast piping maestro John McSherry and provisionally titled The Wheels Of The World: John McSherry and the continuum of Irish piping. It has a number of distinct, though interlinked, chapters/sections and consequently feels like writing several books at the one time, but it feels like an important contribution to the literature, as an academic might say. As well as John’s story, and transcriptions of his music, with contributions from his associates and collaborators (several significant names in Irish music), the book will include a substantial history of uilleann piping – which is far richer in documentation prior to the 20th Century than, for example, the blues or jazz in America – and chapters on John’s three piping heroes Finbar Furey, Liam O’Flynn and Paddy Keenan.

Working on the Finbar Furey story – of huge importance in making the uilleann pipes visible and familiar to the British and European folk club worlds via records, touring and broadcasting in the 60s and early 70s – has led me towards creating a further chapter on Bill Leader, the legendary producer who, uniquely, recorded several of the piping greats for British record releases during those Swinging Sixties: Seamus Ennis, Willie Clancy, Finbar Furey, Liam O’Flynn (okay, that one was 1971…) as well as the McPeakes of Belfast (not piping greats, per se, but influential in bringing the instrument to the masses during the ‘folk revival’ in Britain). Bill has very kindly given me a detailed interview on his involvement with Irish music for the book and several British folk notables, so far including Martin Carthy, Roger Trevitt (Hunter Muskett), Dave Burland and Peggy Seeger, have also contibuted recollections regarding pipes and piping in the British folk world of the 60s. That decade was the tipping point between piping as an almost secretive, arcane pursuit in the backroom of Irish pubs and an instrument that could take its place as something thrilling and accessible on the world stage – albeit one that still demanded great dedication and skill to master.

I’m hoping to create chapters covering the four great pipers of the middle 20th Century – the era that straddled the oral tradition moving into the modern recording world: Johnny Doran, Leo Rowsome, Willie Clancy and Seamus Ennis. The intriguing thing about uilleann piping, it seems to me, is that there are only ever a handful of individuals in any generation who effectively represent the instrument and carry its tradition. Perhaps largely this is because it is so difficult to play and, historically, there have only been a few makers of the instrument let alone teachers. The situation has changed in recent years, but up to the 1960s, certainly, the number of uilleann pipers in the world could have been counted on a few hands. Named practitioners of the instrument, incredibly, go back to the early 1700s, as do collected examples of its repertoire – that’s a good two centuries before the same can be said of the blues.

The trick will be to make the book interesting and accessible to both casual listeners/readers and seasoned pipers. It seems curious to me that very few books have been written by or about individual performers/acts within the commercial end of traditional music – as compared with musicians within most other areas of ‘popular music’. Over the past 50 years folk music has existed within the broader popular music arena – the likes of Planxty, the Bothy Band, et al, by the 1970s were basically pop groups in terms of the environment within which they operated: they made records; they toured; they appeared in the music press; and so forth. And yet, even including books on English and Scottish artists from the ‘folk revival’ – including my book on Bert Jansch, first published in 2000, there doesn’t seem to be any great quantity of memoirs or biographies emanating from the folk/trad corner of the popular music world. Curious, isn’t it? John McSherry will be almost unique in being a professional Irish trad musician of the past 20 years with a book to his name. Let’s hope it’s a good one…

Hopefully, as I type, webmaster to the stars (certainly those of the jazz pantheon in Norway) ‘Excitable’ Dave Mullan will be working on the architecture of a forthcoming website dedicated to the similarly forthcoming Bathed In Lightning: John McLaughlin, the 60s and the Emerald Beyond.

The textual content of the site has already been written, including: two extracts from the book; an exclusive essay on the Georgie Fame/John McLaughlin recordings; a ‘deleted scene’ in the form of an unused Introduction to the book; a Q&A with myself about the book; and an essay (with accompanying audio recordings) of rare Mahavishnu Orchestra repertoire.

There will also be a smattering of rare 1968-75 video clips (some not currently circulating) for viewing; some rare ‘60s recordings available to be streamed; and three Mahavishnu Orchestra audio concerts – two of which are not easily available and all three of which I’ve had newly mastered – available to be freely downloaded.

Extracts from the book may also appear on two leading jazz websites in due course and in one UK magazine. More details nearer the time. A first extract from the book was posted on the splendid Afterword site:

http://www.theafterword.co.uk/content/book-extract-john-mclaughlin-tony-meehan-combo-1963

In the ‘old days’ people might take the trouble to write you a letter if they had something to say about your book. These days anyone can express an opinion at the click of a mouse. So if you don’t like a word that I’ve used, social media will help you express that view! On the other hand, it’s a great way to have genuine factual slips come to light (as has happened in this case, ahead of print publication). No one is infallible!

On November 13 I will be appearing in a rather ambitious ‘author event’, with small invited audience, at Cormac O’Kane’s studio in Belfast. Northern Ireland jazz colossus and local radio personality Linley Hamilton will compère and conduct a Q&A with me about the book with periodic musical interludes. The event will be filmed in black and white with multiple cameras and Cormac ‘Wizard Of Sound’ O’Kane on the mixing desk, with a view to a podcast shortly after.

The musical interludes will include three or four Mahavishnu Orchestra numbers performed by a specially assembled team under MD Pat Gribben (guitar), best known as songwriter for the Adventures, with Linley Hamilton (trumpet), Scott Flanigan (keys), Ali McKenzie (bass), Peter McKinney (drums). 

Local blues legend Ronnie Greer (guitar) will also perform in R&B trio format with Ali McKenzie and Peter McKinney, with guest vocalists Tina McSherry and Triona Carvill, resurrecting three Duffy Power/John McLaughlin co-writes from the mid ‘60s.
Fingers crossed…

In other news… I spend a feverishly busy day at the excellent Irish Traditional Music Archive in Dublin recently, collecting material for an essay on the history of Uilleann (Irish) piping. I’m at the early stages of working on a book with Belfast piping maestro John McSherry and the essay will form part of that.