At Monster Radio 99.9 fm
Monday 11th July 2022
The last time I was interviewed by AJ the DJ it had been in studio space in Playa Honda. This most recent interview, however, took place in the altogether more plush surroundings of a Studio on The Main Street of Tias. So AJ and I go back a few years now and so are pretty relaxed in our constant battles to have the final word ! She had plotted a clear route for this interview, though and I promised her that Where You Lead I Will Follow, as she guided me through The Perfect Storm, the title of her programme.
Hello and a very warm welcome to Monster fm radio. This is me, AJ the DJ and we´ve got a great guest for you today,…,but in truth it is too, too hot. There is nothing else to do but to stay cool, by pouring yourself a long, cold drink and sitting back to listen to Monster Radio for some great chat with my guest, Norman Warwick.
Now, people have been saying to me I need to get some Frank Sinatra back on to my playlists, and you know what, they are right. So I´ve decided to do that with this track, and I think it describes me today really. I´ve been blowing down the highway with the wind in my my hair,…and it´s all over the place,… I look like a bit of a tramp !
Play The Lady Is A Tramp by Frank Sinatra
I´ll tell you this, you need the cool, fresh wind in your hair today,…it is boiling. it is absolutely stonking hot here on Lanzarote and the calima has set in well and truly. We´re all dying from the heat and if you haven´t got air con then all you do is sit out on the terrace and drink and sunbathe. Find a light breeze blowing round the house or find some sort of shady spot on the beach. If you are here on holiday and enjoying the temperature remember to take care and get somewhere out of the direct sun, cos it is hot, and you will burn, you will burn !
Well my guest today is journalist, writer, poet and member of the folk duo, Lendanear, which leads me to a little song with which I´ve decided to introduce this section of the show.
I´ve chosen this especially for Norman, and all will become clear when you hear it. So this is for Norman Warwick who is here with me in the studio . He´s got the name of an author, the name of a writer, the name of a poet and the name of a folk musician. I love that name, Warwick. I was never blessed with such a name and I´m so jealous.
This is a song I have to play, I really do because this is the song that led to Norman and his song-writing partner Colin Lever, forming a folk duo many, many years ago and i´m sure he´ll be telling us all more about that in just a couple of minutes.
play Ye Jacobites By Name
Ha, just for that song alone I have adopted Norman Warwick as a citizen of Scotland. Its an absolutely awesome song. But you chose to name your band after a song yourwife, the lovely Dee, absolutely hated !
The Gallows That´s right, but to be fair, there weren´t many folk songs the lovely Dee could stand in those days. We chose it really because the song was a fixture at our local folk club, and was sung and played on the banjo by the host Steve Jones and the audience would join in with great gusto. So we thought that was great,….at least there´d be one club where fans would be shouting out our name. We never sounded as good as those guys did on the record there, though.
I´d like to take you back to that very beginning. Your whole list of attributes and talents is so long that the only place to begin is at the start. So, you grew up in Yorkshire, ..is that right?
Yeh, born in 1952 at the beautifully named Brewery Gardens in Tadcaster, which was a brewery town, with John Smiths and Sam Smith´s as centuries old breweres down by the River Wharf and the newcomers of Bass Charrington in town, too. My dad worked then for Joihn Smith´s as a junior brewer and we lived in a brewery owned property My memories of Tadcaster tell me it was absolutely slap bang in the middle of York on one side and Leeds on the other, and when I came to write about the place in later life I described the town as sticking out its elbows to nudge York and Leeds in the ribs to remind them tad was here. They knew that, though, because Tad was a real traffic bottle-neck, in the days of York Races particularly and in summer when everyone came over the Pennines from the Rochdale area, (where I ended up living most of my life), in cafs and charabangs heading along the A64 over the one lane Tad Bridge on the road out to the East coast of Scarborough, Bridlington, Filey and Whitby.
We left Tadcaster, where everyone else in my family, aunts, uncles, cousins, nans and granddads all lived, in 1956 when dad moved down for a job with Northampton Brewing Company but moved back to be nearer the family in 1958 to live in the North Manchester / Rochdale area. I was a six year old boy in the back seat of my dad´s Hillman Minx and as we turned into the4 street to our new house at 29 Nursery Road there seemed to be crowds of people in the street, and they were all crying ! News was just coming through of the Miunich Air Crash in which so many wonderful footballers lost their lives, and although I knew nothing about football at the time, I knew I would support Manchester United for ever. I would learn to support other clubs in the region, like Bury who no longer exist and Bolton Wanderers where I worked for 25 years in adult life as match day cctv operator. From Prestwich, dad eventually moved us up-market to Rochdale and I rocked up there at the age of twelve and lived there untiol coming here in 2017 to enjoy what we laughingly call retirement !
Didn´t you leave school early, though, at fifteen or sixteen’ Even though you dad hgd plans for you to get a nice secure job in an officed? Didn´t he have great plans for you?
Well you were saying earlier that you think Norman Warwick is a great name for a writer, but I disagree. I have always hated the name, especially as a name for a writer. Given that my middle name is Paul I have always thought that Norman Paul Warwick sounds just like somebody who might enjoy working in an insurance brokers or an estate agents. Very worthy jobs, but never what I wanted to do. I only ever wanted to be a writer,…with a name like, ooh, let´s say Ralph Dent Warwick,….that was a manly name, that was a writer´s name, …that would have made me the Ernest Hemingway of the Warwick family, and Lanzarote would have put up a statue of me catching a Marlin (as it has just done for Hemingway !),…but Ralph Dent Warwick was my dad´s name, and he was a brewert and he didn´t want to be a writer at all and he certainly didn´t want me to be a writer ! He didn´t think being a writer was back-breaking enough and wouldn´t earn me enough money
He was quite a brainy guy. He´d been the first in his family to have a grammar school education and he probably wanted me and my brother, Graham to follow in his footsteps and find secure jobs.
I wasn´t articulate enough at eight years old to explain what kind of poet I wanted to become and nor was I articulate enough at even sixteen to argue with him and threaten to leave home and live on the streets as a down and out in Paris-
I´d failed my eleven plus pretty miserably, and slid slowly down the ranks at Heys Road Secondary Not Very Modern School For Boys, where to put a hand up in class and say please sir can we read some poetry was effectively to put my hand up and say can you take m outside and give me a good kicking at playtime lads?´
They could and they did ! Regularly !
Nevertheless, I was so lucky to meet a teacher called Mr. Drury, who I may have told you about before I think. He was a massive guy about six feet ten tall and round, with a halo of red hair around a bald head. He looked like some kind of a fallen angel, and in those days of course teachers could impose corporal punishment on pupils, and to do this Mr. Drury would call you to the front of the class, bend you over his desk and pick up the biggest, deepest widest scariest looking Holy Bible land it in your posterior with a thump that made a mockery of Christian charity. .He would remind you afterwards that you had been smote by the wrath of God !
My God, that sounds so Dickensian !
He gave me one of those biblical belts when he caught me sribbling poetry in class when I should have been doing something else. He read it before he punished me, (it was probably a dreadful attempt at a Simon and Garfunkel style lyric but at then end of the lesson he called me over and gave me a book to take home and read. It was a poetry anthology and I took it home and read Dylan Thomas, Blake, Frost etc and I rubberstamped my work application to be a poet.
Sir helped me with technique, vocabulary, content but never enough to change what I was trying to say and we had one to one conversations every day throughout the final four years of my life at Heys Road School. He wasn´t trying to ´teach´ me as such, but he was helping me to communicate,…to communicate through my writing, and he would often ask me if the poem was saying what I wanted it to say,…and I think that was the biggest thing her ever taught me. He was just a great guy,…we´d play chess together and chat, …about poetry, mainly and he it was who introduced me to that wonderful prelude to Under Milk Wood.
There is a story here, though, that today would be considered a scandal.
Mr. Drury was good with all the kids and most of us really respected him. We had a lad in our class, though, that I´m ashamed to say we nicknamed Steptoe. This was the mid nineteen sixties, We were all kids off the local council estates and John, with a real surname I can´t remember to this day, was nicknamed Steptoe because he wore very obviously hand-me-down clothes. He wore them with a certain, scruffy pride and even a swagger as I recall, and seemed unaffected by the fact that his class mates had nicknamed him after a fictional rag and bone man. There was a bunch of is sitting in the classroom one lunch time and Mr. Drury was there and we were all chatting away when Mr. Drury, who I´m sure just fell into the trap of over- familiarity, called him Steptoe and suddenly the lad leapt at Mr. Drury and they were rolling around on the floor having a scrap,…..amazingly half a dozen of us kids pulled them apart. Mr. Drury apologised profusely and ¨Steptoe´ grudgingly accepted his apology. That would have ended a career today, perhaps rightly so, but I think it was a mark of respect all of us kids had for Mr- Drury that I honestly don´t recall the incident ever being spoken of again.
I think you´re right, but I also think that today there´d have been a few kids ready to rumble with Sir, don´t you?
I do, but I I also think that Mr. Drury was absolutely mortified by what he had, I´m sure inadvertently, done.
I´m going to play your first choices of music, now,…..and they could hardly be more different.
The second song is Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley: Why did you choose this, Norman.
Partly, I think its because it’s the first pop song I remember. My dad was actually a good singer and knew what seemed to me to hundreds of songs. I wish so much that I had asked him where he had learned this sort of stuff,….but he would often sit me on his knee and sing to me- And my dad had a good way with a murder ballad, —and here we had everything. adultery, murder and death by hanging,….a really cheerful little ditty,.. but one that had me recognising even at the age of six or seven that you can read a whole novel in a very short song.
And this first track will also remind you of your old man. It’s a Beatles´song.
Yes it is, well it’s a Beatles cover rather than a Lennon McCartney collaboration, and it was on the album With The Beatles, the first album I ever owned, bought for me by my dad´s sister, my Auntie Marlene. I was expecting the Love Me Do and Twist And Shout stuff but here was a song my dad had been singing to me for years. It’s a reflection,, I know now, of McCartney´s love of show tunes,…but there you go, dad knew them before I did, and maybe even before McCartney did.
Play Till There was You by The Beatles
Hand Down Your Head Tom Dooley by Kingston Trio
Well, The Beatles Track was lovely, but that last one wasn´t very charming. My God
Yeh, thanks dad, like a horror crime movie in in one song,—-
But am I right in saying you dad had a good singing voice?
I learned much later on that he had done a lot of Am Dram in Tadcaster when he was a teenager, playing lead roles in Carousel and Oklahoma and stuff, and he did have a great voice. He and Uncle Sid, who was actually my step grand-dad went out round the pubs at night singing songs I came to love, like Only A Shanty In Old Shanty Town. Whatever they earned, they drank, so would often come home pretty blotto. Maybe it was because he knew how tough it could be to be a musician on the road that he tried to put m off it.
Truth is dad and Sid were pretty good, and each had voices that complemented the other and Sid was pretty good on the piano so they would do the Tony Bennett, Sinatra and Matt Monroe stuff. And they were still doing this years later whenever nan and unc came to visit it mum and dad.
So where did all your folk music influences come from ?
From Dad, really. He had quite an eclectic repertoire, though I don´t think he would have bothered to categories it as folk or country or jazz or whatever. I think he just thought of it as good music, and so did I. Not that I was qualified to judge but when I listened to dad singing this stuff as he drove us to school in a morning I would find myself thinking, oh that´s a good line, or a clever rhyme or a neat phrase and yeh, I can see what the writer was trying to do there. I´m honest to God not sure dad ever wondered who had written a song or how hard the writer might have had to work on that song,….though he might have become more interested if he´d ever learned how much writers like Sammy Cahn used to earn, or Mancini for Moon River,
I could always commit the words to memory, I just had a natural ability to do that and I would do that with stuff I heard on my own radio, listening to Luxembourg 208 and the BBC Home Service, and that´s how I got into Tom Paxton and some of the folk stuff.
I think that was around the time I learned that everything that comes into our life, even as a one-off, invariably creates a legacy, adds to a skill set or leads you down sidetracks and detours you might never have ever even dreamed you might take.
So that one song about Tom Dooley opened me up to the ballads taken over to America on The Mayflower, it opened me up to other murder ballads like Silver Dagger as recorded by Joan Baez and Long Black Veil as written by Marijohn Wilkin. And that´s all there in that one song about Tom Dooley and you realise that there is a wealth of songs like that, delivering further wealth of information just like that.
That´s all there in country music, too, I think. Country music has so many story songs, by people like one of your favourite artists, Townes Van Zandt. He was amazing wasn´t he?
Sure, he was amazing, but there are always several elements to a Townes song. We´re going to play a track later on, I hope, which is about, or may not be about, two Mexican bandits called Pancho And Lefty. I believe, though, from my own reading of the song and from conversations I had with Townes, that the song is actually about the extremities of his own bi-polarism and it acknowledges the fact that the quiet, placid courtly side of Townes was his mother´s favourite son but that his louder, frenetic side was one of her biggest worries and greatest sadnesses. I remember having to play hide the vodka bottle with Townes in his dressing room to prevent him being drunk before taking to the stage. He was a sweetheart of a man, though, and enjoyed a life-long friendship with fellow Texan songwriter Guy Clark and Guy´s wife Susanna.
I remember when you and I were members of The Lanzarote Creative Writing Group and how you would constantly say that every song and poem has several stories contained within it and you might have just proved that with your anecdote about Townes there.
Despite the fantastic encouragement from Mr. Drury you surely weren´t intending to start a career as a poet on leaving school, were you? So what did you do when you left school at only sixeen years old
When I left school at sixteen years old University was, for me, still thirty years away. I only went to Uni as what is jokingly called a mature student. My two O levels in English Language and English Literature from my school days wouldn´t get me into the teacher training college dad had ear-marked for me, but he did have mates in Round Table with whom he might be able to pull strings to get me a job. He was mates with Stan Foster, the editor of The Prestwich Guide and could have enquired about a trial for a budding sports writer. I had learned to type football reports on dad´s old Underwood on his desk at the brewery when we would call in on the way home from a United match. Dad so much wanted to show me the mash tons, the rising yeast, the piles of hops, and the thousands of bottles and barrels on the brewery floor. But I always had to get my match report for my scrap book typed up to describe Denis Law´s latest brilliant goal, or Charlton´s cannonball or Best´s bewitching dribbles. A little alliteration, though, is better than a lotta alliteration !
I filed all my reports in a scrap book which I took with me to the match each week, and collected autographs and even did a few very brief interviews. I had no idea that this was me learning my trade but its all still there, in glorious red and white, a fantastic souvenir of that part of my life.
Dad never approached Mr. Foster, though, and instead asked another mate who was a bank manager and somehow wangled me a job. I had failed maths but hey ho, I could add up the seventeen syllable of a haiku ! With figures though I could only ever add two and two and make five. I remember one day I was sitting at my desk whistling the theme tune of The Big Country, and the Manager shouted through to me, in earshot of all the customers, to…. shut up, as this is a Bank not MacFisheries,…a phrase that seemed to upset the woman from MacFisheries who was actually paying in their daily takings at the till,
I ended up where I deserved I suppose because I gave up on formal education way too early. I thought, and still think, that everything you need to know in life can be found in poetry and song, but a dab of history and geography and science might have speeded up a more comprehensive education.
I was actually really good at learning, so long as I was allowed to learn in my own way. Preferred learning methods are recognised and encouraged by teachers these days, but that was not the case in mine or Tom Brown´s Schooldays !
For instance I didn´t really know where Bury was although it was only five miles down the road from Rochdale but I could always tell you the departure time of The Last Train To Clarkesville.
So I had decided quite early on that I wanted to leave school and to write, albeit that such notions might have been fanciful. I´m not sure I had figured out I wanted to be a poet, and indeed I´m not sure I have become a poet in the real senses of the word.
So, you were now ensconced in a bank because your dad wanted you to have a safe and secure job, but didn´t you have a brother who, like you, was similarly artistic and wanted to do something creative with his life, but was thwarted.
At sixteen, Graham was quite a talented chef, having spent his weekends in the kitchen with our mum, Mavis, who was a great cook. When he left school two years later than me but with two less O levels, he saw the writing on the wall and took the Midnight Train To Padstow to start work as a junior chef in a hotel. He hadn´t informed me, or mum and dad, and although I´m not sure we ever found out how mum and dad found out where he was, they drove down to Cornwall, found him at work and bundled him into the car and brought him home !
For the next forty years he was a tax inspector in a post one of dad´s mates found for him, but he retired to security and a pension. Dad was so proud.
And yet really, it was just about stifling creativity.
To be fair, I´m not sure dad saw it that way. He was misguided, for sure, but I don´t think he was malicious.
Remember, though, that my son, who enjoyed a superb education through dad´s largesse, phoned Dee and I from University at the end of his three years and said, ´dad, I´ve got a job,….and I´m off to South Korea to start work on Wednesday´.
I tried to be pleased for him, and not to be worried about his safety as I knew dad would be.
Andrew has been there for more than twenty years now, is married to a South Korean girl and they have a twelve year old daughter. Andrew is settled into her community with her S Korean family and friends. He and his wife own their own school, Andrew teaches s and facilitates and plays his banjo in his spare time at some pretty well known venues, and plays pretty much the same songs as we´re playing here tonight ! Go figure.
That´s a hell of a leap of faith, though.
Well, yeah, but none of us could have foreseen the future that would bring us technology like Skype. Because of that we have been able to spend so much quality time with our family, despite the fact that from the home we shared in Rochdale we set off three thousand miles in one direction after Andrew, about ten years earlier, had set off three thousand miles in the other.
The paths we follow don´t necessarily go from A to B to C, and I think I knew that at an early age and so have used the titles Sidetracks & Detours to better describe my life style. But they are perhaps sidetracks & detours of the imagination, rather than of travel in a literal senses, I actually spent sixty years of my life living within five miles of my mum and dad, and my brother lived just across the roiad from them. I hope I accumulated some skills sets along the way that would then help me in whatever the next step of the journey was to be.
Everybody said, seven years ago, how brave we had been to start a new life here on Lanzarote. Nah,… starting a new life in South Korea at twenty was brave, but even though Dee and I had been preparing for this all our lives, it was Andrew´s courage that persuaded us we could do it.
You should think about getting that published. It’s a snapshot of a moment in time and there´d be thousands of a guys of certain generation who would love to read that. Something for you to think about.
Meanwhile I´m going to play your next choice of music now, and it is..
Play: The Last train To Clarkesville by The Monkees
Now, Norman, since you came to live here on the island you have launched your own daily blog, which uses that phrase of yours, Sidetracks &And Detours as its title. Tell us about that.
Sidetracks and Detours were the titles of the first two print magazines I ever published, and they were basically u collection of news, interviews, previews and reviews of what the world was beginning to reference as the Americana-music scene rather than the former country and western scene. I cpmbined and re-cycled those names when I set up my blog three year sago and that I at first posted twice weekly, but I now produce daily from Monday to Friday. Same simple format of writing around the arts I love and I´m free to explore all around the world, (from the comfort of my desk) so we focus on the UK, obviously, on the USA, Africa, Vietnam, South Korea, Japan, Germany and of course Spain and The Canary Islands.. To be honest I could focus on Lanzarote alone, as there are so many great art events to see here. I was so lucky that when I was looking for work over here, seven years ago, just to keep my hand in at writing I was delighted when Miguel, editor and owner of the excellent Lanzarote Information service, offered a weekly column to write about the arts on Lanzarote.
In fact, Lanzarote and Rochdale are almost identical in the numbers of the indigenous populations, the square mileage of their areasand are even similar in how they run their arts and cultural deparmtments. and so successfully intergrate them into the island life-style.
For instance we have a government funded Circus School in Haria, much as we had Skylight Circus Arts in Rochdale teaching people life skills from circus skills. We have dance troupes, visual arts groups, creative writing groups, an-dram and so many other art forms in common as well as folk lore music, jazz and classical heard and played live so frequently
There is a strong media support group in Rochdale of print and, electronic outlets just as we have here on Lanzarote. Look at how much support is lent by stations like Monster radio, magazines like Gazette Life Lanzarote, Lancelot, Lancelot Digital and of course Lanzarote Information. Dee and I are out at least twice a week at various arts events publicised in these outlets..
We can often go and see live music for free, or we can pay something like 20 euros to hear world class musicians play in a unique auditorium deep down in the caves. And the world still knows very little about the place.
But that´s the beauty of your daily blog,… and your weekly column. Its all the arts in one place. People can read your blog and see photography exhibitions, art galleries, theatres, music venues and can compare and contrast all that right around the world. They can see the whole breadth of our arts and culture. But how do you fit it all in?
By not having a timetable. I have a routine, and pretty mush start my blog at six in the morning and usually have it posted by ten. And then the rest of my day is just my usual one of keeping my eyes and ears open for the arts I love. Dee and I rarely plan anything,….we just trust we´ll find something somewhere. And I have twenty or so regular contributors to the blog who send me news,…from my son in South Korea, from Colin on the Channel islands to my former colleagues in the UK, friends in the States and Canada. I´m blessed, really !
I have to be honest, though, and say that trying to write creatively about the arts only serves to remind me that I have never quite become the artist I would like to have been. I will never be a Gary Hall as a songwriter, and I will never write ´I must down to the sea again´,….I like to think I can write, and have maybe penned a few good songs, or even written a couple of poems that might endure but then I go to see and hear another artist and usually come home and throw all my pens away.,
You started off though by going out into Rochdale Folk Clubs. What drew you to British folk music?
As they said about Everest, (because it was there !
The North West folk scene was there and at that time we had a choice of half a dozen folk clubs every night within ten miles of our home. I used to be able to name all our weekly clubs. We soon started one of our own at The Kings in Heywood. There was the Spring Inn, The aptly named Gallows, where Lendanear died every Tuesday,…..but it was fun, each club had its own atmosphere, a tolerant audience who would listen to new songs by local writers and covers of Last Thing On My Mind and Sounds Of Silence by people like Pete Benbow, who was a regular provider of the best Amercana songs.
I was married by this time, living in a house mum and dad had given us the deposit for, so long as we agreed to live only a mile and half from them in a new build they had seen whilst driving round one Sunday !
We had only been in our new home for maybe a month when I heard the sounds of a guitar coming from a few houses away. I found Colin Lever sitting on his doorstep playing his guitar and singing along softly. He had moved in earlier that afternoon and was just ´doing a bit of work´ while his wife finished unpacking. I already knew this was my kind of guy, and after listening to his singing i nodded sagely, and said, ´hey good song, man´. He told me that Fishes And Coal was a true story of a conversation between Colin´s dad, a miner on the Scottish coal fields and an old guy from the local fishing fleet who came to sell the day´s catch to the miners every Friday as they left for home from the pit head. I was as hooked as the cod !
That song has been part of my life ever since. The first songs Colin and I wrote together were to complement Fishes And Coal, and we ended youp creating a short musical of five songs, Fishes And Coal, Moonbeam Dancer, Two Thousand Feet and Black Kisses, incorporating snatches of songs too by the likes of Kim Price and Ted Edwards.
I am still working today on a series of four novels called Fishes And Coal that tell a hundred year history of the UK´s coal-mining and fishing industries and following the lives and legacies of the miner and fisherman who held those Friday afternoon chats at the colliery.
That gave us the idea of incorporating into song some other characters one or other of us had known as we grew up. So we introduced audiences to the kids who played Cup Finals Every Night out in the street, and Mr. Cole The Haircut Man who sang in a barber-shop quartet with a menacing grin. We even looked up to the skies and wrote Doing The Spacewalk
Over the next twenty years we embellished these songs and wrote in other characters, always based on a grain of truth in someone we had known.
Let´s just pause here, though to listen to a couple more choices of songs from you. We´ll play the two Tom Paxton songs, The marvellous Toy and The Last Thing On My Mind, and then me through your reasons for choosing these if you will.
Play The Marvellous Toy and Last Thing On My Mind.
Marvellous Toy, that had been regularly performed by our occasional Lendanear member Pete Benbow and was a song I was still taking out into schools long after Lendanear had broken up. It’s a perfect non time-specific children´s song about whatever eight to ten year olds imagine it to be about. I know we´re going to talk later about the work I delivered in school in my last few years in the UK, but the fun of watching kids march to the beat of their own drum whenever I played the song, and the answers they gave whenever I asked for more detail of what the toy might be was just magic. The song showed how musicians and the arts and good question and answering sessions can deliver so much in the classroom.
I learned that song when I was six or seven years old maybe, and later sang it to my son for the first time when he was about the same age, as Colin did for his two children, too. My son took the song over to South Korea with him and delivers the same lesson with the song as I used to, only he´s delivering it to six and seven year old South Korean students ! He also taught his daughter the song when she was six or seven and she´s twelve now and has taught it to all her friends.
These lessons I was delivering into schools were certainly evolutionary, if not revolutionary, at the time. We made up plays, comedy sketches, and songs and dances on the spot and some of the things the kids wrote were incredible.
I was also doing this with care home residents too. For instance, I remember hearung ladies in their eighties tell me what they thought The Marvellous Toy was,…and again songs were an inspiration to these people to write, We took a group of pensioners around The Howarth Art Gallery in Lancashire where the Tiffany Glass exhibition was housed, and one lady looked at one piece, and said ´oh, I love that colour. It reminds me of the first dress my husband ever bought me !¨
I asked her what sort of man her husband had been and her reply, took my breath away.
¨He was a wonderful man. He was so polite, a real gentleman. He always opened doors for me ,….opened the doors then showed me the world.´
Lines like that are like gold for any writer.
As for The Last Thing On My Mind it was chosen because even that was a great song to discuss in the classroom too. I often used to work with secondary school students because there are so many points to talk about, such as clever linguistic and instrumental air about. it and old-fashioned element to the lyrics (no word of farewell) that enabled us to talk about how language and idioms change over time, and whether and why that impacts on the truth they are seeking to tell..
The Last Thing On My Mind was one of the seminal songs of the sixties folk revolution and was still being performed by the world and his wife when we started in the folk clubs in the seventies.
Once we learned that audiences were prepared to pay money for cds and tapes by their favourite club groups, we started recording.
Our first album was Moonbeam Dancer, twenty songs, (sixteen of which were original) all told our life stories in chronological order from our first haircuts, first girlfriends, our marriages and our parenthoods and even our hopes and ambitions and fears.
We then recorded a live album, with a girl singer called Cath Barlow and that shift from a male duo to a boy-girl- boy trio was a massive change of writing and performance direction.
Our third album, Songs For Sarah, for instance, was about the murder of a girl I had known as a teenager. We were back to a duo by now and these were romanticised tales, of course, and some characters had been invented to move the stories along. It was fiction that told at least a truth if not the truth. And that, I think summarises Lendanear. We had created scores of characters over the course of three albums and we have, between us, used those characters in plays, novels, short stories, and creative writing and literary sessions.
Two of our songs were even recorded by artists in the USA.
For about ten years I probably earned as much from working round the clubs and picking up freelance radio work and freelance journalism, writing about the music industry, as I would have earned working a six day week in Asda, so no deal.
But then Col fell out of love with the chalk-face and even Lendanear had brought one or two tensions, so he packed off and settled on Jersey with his family and wrote education columns for the likes of The Daily Mail and became a great novelist and also a writer of non-fiction.
At around that time I ……
Whoa, just hold on there for a second and lendanear to me, I d like to play your Townes Van Zandt song before you move on to somewhere else.
Play Pancho And Left by Townes Van Zandt
I gave my journalism a catch-all name of Pass it On and formed a synergy with a guy called Ian Johnston of Stampede promotions who brought over American artists, little known to the UK but seeking to build an audience. Hello and welcome, Guy Clark, John Stewart and Townes Van Zandt.
I continued working in the clubs occasionally, delivering poetry slam type material but most of my evenings were spent interviewing American singer-writers like John Stewart, Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Tom Russell, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Katy Moffatt for the likes of Country Music People, Country Matters, North Country, Sidetracks, Detours, Omaha Rainbow and Pass It On. I was also picking up plenty of radio work as guest or occasional presenter on a number of programmes.
Townes became a good friend, though as I´ve mentioned, this song was also an excellent example of technical writing when used in creative writing classes. You can hear clearly in the song, in that separation of Pancho and Lefty, and their particular characteristics that. Towns was addressing his own bi-polarism I think, for which he had endured horrific treatment when he was young
It was during this period of, the early nineties, though, that my dad was losing patience with this elder son who had ´never done a day´s proper work in his life´´ and began badgering me about pensions or the lack thereof. I was by now fifty and my own son was off to University.
And so was I,………. after a bit of a crash landing of trying but failing to buy out an ailing magazine I was left with nowhere to go, really,….so after long talks with my wife and son, and my dad inevitably, I set off on a daily rail commute to The University Of Leeds for the next three years. That was a sixty minute trip of utter contentment, chatting away to a young Asian girl from the en route Bradford University about all aspects of multi-culturalism, misappropriation, reciprocity and other new words we were learning in our respective course of English Language And English Literature (mine) and Pharmaceuticals. (Shaz´) We bonded, though, because we were both huge fans of Coronation Street !
My eventual degree, after being taught in a poetry module by Simon Armitage,now our poet laureate, changed my world. It gave me the validation I had secretly always craved and I found contracted work as a creative writing facilitator visiting hospital, prisons, reform centres, care homes to give one-off sessions or serial form courses.
I did all this by forming Just Poets with Pam McKee, a keen writer, good communicator and hard worker and we were retained by Artists In Schools and from 2000 to 2012 when Pam retired, I achieved everything I ever dreamed of. I wrote a biography of a bi-polar sufferer, delivered a weekly radio programme for three years with Steve Bewick, and won poetry slams and read my own work at poetry festivals.
Those twelve years of working in school, after auditioning for and being accepted by the government agency Artists In Schools, were the first years of my life I was undertaking contract work. Pam and I created and delivered courses and lessons plans for all curricular key-stages, and we worked with all ages in the education and adult education systems. And basically all we did was enthuse about the arts and urge others to enthuse too.
In 2014 Colin Lever and I and Steve Roberts who had partnered Colin in The Renovators when Lendanear split, reformed for a night in Bolton, where it had all started.
The following year Dee and I came here to live on Lanzarote. I met you and Jim Loughrill in Lanzarote Creative Writing Group, I got that job writing a weekly column for Lanzarote Information and met Larry Yaskiel, a man I had idolised whilst reading his work in Lancelot over several years here on our holidays.
When we finally met I realised we shared the same hard work ethic (so long as it didn´t feel like hard work) and the same love of the island´s arts And cultural history. We even realised we had followed parallel career paths through the music business, albeit he was several floors above me. He and his wife Liz are lovely people, much respected here on the island for what their magazine has achieved for tourist awareness over the years. In fact, a few weeks ago, it was announced that Larry had been awarded The MBE in the Queens Jubilee Honours List.
He is (they both are) so deserving of that honour but Larry would shrug and probably say he has just been doing what he loves doing, but he will know too, how many people whose lives have changed for the better because of something he has done or said.
I recycled the names of two of my earliest print publications, Sidetracks & Detours, and launched a blog three years ago as lockdowns were imposed. It was a twice weekly post at first but soon became daily from Monday to Friday and we now have nearly 700 posts in our archives of a not-for-profit blog, the lay out of which was designed by my computer man, Ned Benjamin, who is always responsive and helpful in a crisis.
At Sidetracks And Detours, we enjoy a superb press release service from Miguel Ferrer in the arts department of the Cabildo, and I know Miguel at Lanzarote Information enjoys a similar service. Our other UK listings come from Steve Cooke at All Across The Arts and from jazz publicists like Jazz In Reading, Ribble Valley Jazz and Blues and Music That´s Going Place.
This seems a good time to play your final song selection and to then perhaps summarise where you, and Lendanear, and Sidetracks & Detours, now stand.
Play Last Boat Home by Lendanear © Warwick Lever
So, how old is that song?
It is actually one of only three lyrics I have written whilst living here on Lanzarote, along with Playa Blanca Skyline and Para Lara.
I sent this lyric over to Colin, and he immediately sent me a live demo recording very similar to what you´ve just heard. Colin spent all lockdown re-mastering the Lendanear recordings and we also released ten new or previously unreleased songs on a new album, on which this was included.
I´m thrilled because it already opens new doors. Who is this girl waiting for her man to come from the sea? Is she a lover, sister, mother, descendant of that man who used to talk to Colin´s dad at the pit-head?. Where does she fit in my series of novels telling that imagined history of the coal and fishing industries?
Since re-energising our recorded portfolio, Colin is now creating a radio comedy series called Open Mic which brings together a number of characters created from our songs or who are drawn on other performers and audience members we met during those years..
I´m already looking forward to hearing a final version of Para Lara, my latest song I wrote about a young lady here on Lanzarote, who is studying interior design, who exudes glamour and good taste but who is also something of ´a red bull girl in a white wine world´!
So, watch this space.
It´s been quite a story to pack into forty years, Norman, let alone into these two hours tonight.. We´ve got there, though, and I thank you for sharing it
Its been a pleasure for me, honestly, and I feel pretty honoured to have been interviewed in the same studio as the likes of recent guest Sharon Shannon and the forthcoming guests, who were members of Prelude. Seriously, they released one of the central albums to my entire record collection. I can´t wait to hear that interview.