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The Herbs - Traders club 1990 The Herbs, Traders club Liverpool 1992 A musical journey by Ian M Lindsay

In the music industry, you are often asked by A & R men,
the press and even faces on the street:
     “So tell me, what exactly are your influences?....”.
Rather than merely providing a list of names and songs
and being me, I thought boring you with nostalgic anecdotes would be more appropriate. So here goes…

My earliest recollections were of my Dad playing the piano in the living room. Hearing 'Octopus’s garden' on the radio by the Beatles and singing along with Tom Jones -'Delilah'. My first records albums were by Pinky and Perky and Mike and Bernie Winters. I must have been about three.

Infant School

In the early 70’s, I attended Sefton County Primary School (the Infant and junior school the then Mayor of Sefton had attended and frequently visited).
I remember in those early days, my next door neighbour Stuart Stephenson who was three or four years older than me, entertaining the school (all 35 of us) on his newly acquired acoustic guitar, singing the popular ‘Coca Cola’ hit of the time 'I’d like to teach the world to sing’. My Mum and Dad both had two jobs, it paid for our nice house, but meant that I spent a lot of time being ‘baby sat’ by Stuart’s mum and dad.
Gary Glitter, Suzi Quatro, Alvin Stardust, Shawaddy waddy – all on ‘Top of the Pops’ every week, all in the then popular ‘Look In’ weekly kids magazine.

In school we had a globe. I used to run my fingers over it and make it spin singing to myself
'I’m on the top of the world...'. Reuben my best friend would sit next to me in class humming 'Rock Bottom, by Lynsey De Paul. We’d have a weekly music lesson. Folk songs on glockenspiel
or xylophone, maybe maracas or slay bells. We’d listen to a BBC radio broadcast and learn to play along. 'Sweet Polly Oliver' , 'Horses, Horses…white and dapple grey'. Once a year, we got to send our votes in for 'Most popular song of the year' - Ah but yes my selection 'The Yellow Rose Of Texas' won. In 1975 my Mum had to fly and stay in Big Spring, Texas for three months – My Aunty Kathleen was dying of cancer. My Uncle Lee worked for the USAF at the base there.

We would often put musicals on at junior school. 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream coat' and that piano duet that was Mrs Roberts and Mrs Crabtree’s party piece, then we would be taught music for the ‘Harvest festival’ and ‘May Queen’ procession. Oh well I remember the ‘Medieval’ concerts we engaged in. All the junior pupils – all sixteen of us, four ‘couples’ danced (I was a dancer), and played recorders (tenor and bass etc) and tambours. Henry VIII’s greatest hits: 'Pass time with good company' and 'Green sleeves'. It was all very C of E.

I remember the euphoria when cousin Nelly (A nun in the Sisters of Mercy), visited from Toronto. We had a party in the house and for once I got to see some of my relatives. Dad would get all his ‘Spinners’ records out and we’d sing ‘In my Liverpool home’ and ‘Liverpool Lou’ etc to welcome her home and there would be nibbles on the table and ham sandwiches.

We’d visit Aunty Lil (not my real aunty, just mums friend) in Skelmersdale and we’d stay for the weekend. Her teenage daughters were a few years older than me. Flared trousers, tank tops and platform shoes. McCartney ‘let ‘em in’, ‘Our Kid’ – Liverpool boy band sensation ‘You just might see me cry’ – number two in 1976. ‘Brotherhood of man’ – Eurovision. Posters of Donny and Marie Osmond and David Cassidy on the bedroom walls.

Junior School  II

I moved to St William of York junior school aged 10 and started to write songs. I remember the music lessons. ‘Football crazy’ – the music teaching chastising the boys for not joining in singing:
     “look at Ian, he’s not very good but at least he tries!”.
I’m still hurt by that one.
The school show with an American theme. ‘Glory, glory hallelujah’. Us all dressed up as American football players and cowboys and soldiers. Going to mass. Hymns. Parish priest Father Tom Lee came around the school to press gang for his church boys choir the ‘Poor choir boys’ (poore cantore – or something similar in Italian). We sang at all the main masses and we all wore cream cassocks.
The Herbs - New Brighton 1991 The Herbs, New Brighton 1992
Father Tom became ill with cancer and the choir was taken over by the older church group ‘The Speak Easy’, which some of us would progress into later. It was run by the charismatic Helen Exton, who was also Arkala and led our cub scout group 4th Sefton West with John Seddon – ex policeman and later a parish priest. I remember the midnight mass choir. Sitting up with the gods. ‘When a child is born’, ‘Silent night’ in four part harmony.

I remember the final day at school. We had a brass band in the early afternoon. Class mates Donna and Mark Hurst who were ballroom dancing partners (and sister and brother), got up in front of the whole school to give us a demonstration. I was so impressed. The evening ended with a disco, when perhaps we all said goodbye or hello. I remember ‘Brown girl in the ring’ being played.

High School

I was now 11 and in big school – or Holy Family High School to be exact. Proper music lessons. Some learned violin, piano or flute. The latter two were my bag. There was no scope for the guitar in my school in those days. I did enjoy both the practical and theory lessons at school. Unfortunately I was trying to cope with the usual high school issues of fitting in and bullies etc and it was deemed ‘puffy’ to be ‘good’ or indeed interested in music classes. How times would change! My priorities were to be seen as ‘one of the lads’. I did however have out of school hours, weekly piano lessons with an elderly spinster. She was your typical piano teacher. I felt uncomfortable and at the time home from school involved eating dinner, changing into shorts and top and then a two hour football session on the playing fields behind my house. All the children from my street, both girls and boys would be in attendance. It was part of our tribal makeup. We played hail, rain or snow. Regrettably, this was detrimental to my piano practise and ultimately, this led to its demise. Shame.

The situation changed however. Mr Pat Booth was my high school music teacher – he was ‘the’ music teacher. I have the greatest, fondest memories and admiration for this man that was deputy head and so supportive throughout my years at high school. He ran the Merseyside school boy choir. As saprano’s we performed with the Liverpool Philharmonic orchestra, conducted by Walter Weller - Carmina Burana (Carl Orff) and later Brittens’ Spring symphony. I remember sitting high up at the back of the Philharmonic hall. We were there all day rehearsing, waiting to do our bit. Both performances were broadcast on BBC radio 3.

School plays and musicals: Noah’s ark (Noyo’s Fludde). I remember my fascination with national anthems of the world. They could be played before the start of those all important Subbuteo table soccer ‘World cup’ internationals.

The Mod revival had begun before my arrival at Holy Family High School. Lads and lasses in Fred Perry shirts and Doc Martin boots and shoes. My music outlook had changed forever. The Jam, The Specials, Madness, The Beat, The Chords, The Lambrettas, Secret Affair, Bad Manners. All new bands recreating a Ska and Mod sound. Yes there was The Who and the Kinks, but beyond that, there was no scope for delving any deeper into what it was all about. No Stax, Motown, Soul or R'n'B. It was very plastic, but still it gave us a uniform and we felt part of one big gang.

By the time I was in the 4th year, my best mate Stu was forming a band. He’d been bought a Kay Gibson SG guitar copy for Christmas. He was obsessed with the Beatles. It must have been 1980, because John Lennon had just been shot dead. He invited Keith Bold, another friend of his (and later mine), to play lead guitar. He been receiving classical guitar lessons. I was very keen to get involved. The only thing I had to offer was the ‘beep’ sound from my ZX Spectrum computer – completely unplayable and sounded utterly dire, still thankfully Stu’s response was:
     “we don’t want any synth shit in the band, but I could do with a bass player”.
So began my career as a ‘Muso’, Bass player and Beatle fanatic. At the time, the only guitar I had was the old acoustic from uncle Chris. Stu and Keith would come around to my house on a Monday night with their guitars and copies of ‘The Beatles complete’ – guitar edition. I had my dads piano version. We’d work through them A-Z, with no particular set in mind. For me it was just a case of playing any ones I knew, or had heard (which at the time wasn’t many). I started to learn to play chords (well the one I had been taught by my History teacher Mr Cooper – in my one and only ever guitar lesson. I could, if I concentrated really hard, play a ‘G’ chord – though it took about 20 seconds to get my fingers in the right place.
Because we were going to be ‘The New Beatles’ I jokingly exclaimed one day to the lads:
     “Right, I’m going to learn the guitar left handed like Paul McCartney”.
Keith replied:
     “You’ll never do it!”.
He was left handed. I’m a stubborn sod and decided to prove him wrong. Keith lent me his left handed classical guitar and I learned my first song ‘Maggie May’ from the ‘Let it be’ album – all one and a half minutes of it. We even did the ‘collapsing’ outro. ‘G’, ‘C’ and ‘D’. It took me weeks to be able to play it at the correct speed. Somewhere I even have an old cassette tape of me playing it over weekly intervals and you can hear me gradually getting up to speed as it were.
I remember the first Beatle songs I learned weren’t necessarily the best ones, but rather the ones with the fewest chords and preferably in ‘G’. an open ‘F’ or a Barrè chord was completely out of the question at this time and I hadn’t yet heard of a capo. ‘She’s a women’, ‘One after 909’, ‘Kansas City’ and ‘Yellow submarine’.

The first live band I saw was The Specials – Ghost Town tour. I met drummer John Bradbury, shook his hand and got his autograph.

I remember the last school disco. Fishtail parka, three button jacket and one of dad’s 1960’s Slim Jim ties. Class mate Jim Brown brought a record to be played ‘Ghost in my house’ by R Dean Taylor. Still naïve, I was thinking what the hell is this supposed to be? Still we bopped to ‘Goin’ underground’ and ‘Town called Malice’. As a result of everyone's eagerness to join in with the 'Fxxk Off!' refrain, Headmaster Mr Barker had banned 'My Generation' from being played. I remember that afternoon as my high school days came to an end, pogoing with everyone to ‘Anarchy in the UK’.

Ian the Goth Ian the Goth 1986
College and University Post school I was still a Mod. I was now playing a right handed electric guitar strung left handed, with the top two strings removed (so it was like a bass). By taking all the treble out and putting the bass on full it still sounded awful, but at least I had a bass of sorts. I couldn’t play and sing at the same time then, so it didn’t matter too much. Phil the punk, Stu’s college mate had lent us this guitar. We’d go around to Phil’s house and listen to Adam and the Ants.

At this time 'Relax' by Frankie Goes To Hollywood was released and became a massive hit. It had an impact on everyone it seemed, including Stu and myself. I remember him excitedly bringing the 12inch single round to my house. It was the first time I'd hear it. It broke with tradition. Usually these days we’d stick my dads Beatle LP’s on and play over the selected tracks with our guitars and sing along with John and Paul. We did this for years, but I suppose it helped me in the long run because I learned to play the way The Beatles played.

After school, I spent 12 months on a Youth Training Scheme doing Information Technology. I remember fellow trainee Dave (Chinese slippers and pigtail) was into China Crisis and OMD and played Bass synth in a local Bootle based band. I didn't really have any knowledge or interest in the 'New Synth' bands. Tony Roberts, an old school friend and classmate had now joined our band playing my (guitar) bass. I’d bought a cheap guitar and moved onto lead now that Keith had left. Tony was into Kiss. His dad Jim was into Eric Clapton and had an American Fender Strat. We’d rehearse around his house. Stu had now got into U2 and we’d play ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ and 'Pride' . The 'Joshua tree’ had just come out. I’d later see U2 on that tour in Elland Road Leeds, supported by The Fall, The Pretenders and The Mission.

I began to write and write until I had boxes and boxes of paper, containing lyrics and chords. I still have them all in my mums attic. There must be hundreds of songs. I could however, count on one hand the ones I would still play to people today.
Dad had picked up two secondhand cassette recorders for me, and using a combination of these and my Dads Hi-Fi, produce a crude way of multi-tracking my songs.

On the training coarse, Sarah from Southport was a Goth – the first I’d met properly. She loved Bauhaus. I loved the look and so by the time I went to college, I’d abandoned my Beatle haircut and opted for the long, back combed look of Robert Smith from The Cure. It was combats, studded belts and army surplus boots. The college cafeteria Juke box was an education in itself. ‘The Cutter’ – Echo and the Bunnymen’, The Smiths, The Cure, The Clash, The stranglers and even ‘Love missile F1-11' – Sigue Sigue Sputnik (which fellow punk Simon, and myself we’re hoping would be the new Sex Pistols, as we were too young first time round).

We’d all go clubbing on Friday nights. ‘The Swan’ in Wood Street, Liverpool town centre. It was a bikers pub. The Who, Small Faces, Stones, Hendrix, Cream, Doors, Motorhead, Hawkwind. Simon Finlay from college and his fellow Kirbyites we’re into heavy Rock: Dave Lee Roth, Kiss and Aerosmith.
After one Friday lunchtime college liquid lunch, in the pub down the road and opposite the train station, a few snakebites later I’d taken the bus home and crashed out on my bed. I woke at seven and decided I’d go to see The Cult gig that night at the Royal Court theatre. I paid £15 to a tout. I moshed near the front. It was the ‘Love’ tour and definitely The Cult at their best. It was a fantastic gig. Their image was a fascinating cross between Goth and late 60's Hippie. I would later model my image on Ian Astbury the lead singer (who’s original stage name had been Ian Lindsay after his grandmother). The Cult's music & lyrics, were very much influenced by American Indian and ancient Egyptian culture. I wrote a dozen or so songs at this time, including: 'Greasy Grass River' (Little Big Horn) and 'Ahkenaten's dream', inspired by this.

I went out with a girl Janet from Huyton. We’d met at ’The Hangout’ – a psychedelic night, at the then O51 club. At hers, we’d listen to Bob Dylan, Tim Buckley, Velvet Underground, The Chocolate Watchband and the soundtrack from Hair. She was a real hippie chick.

Simon Finlay (who played drums – I’d bought his kit off him), John Murphy (bass) and I hitchhiked that year from Kirby to the Reading Rock Festival – 1994. Saxon, Dumpy’s rusty nuts, Hawkwind and many, many others. I was too intoxicated on the whole ambience (and flagons of homebrew scrumpy someone was selling from a blue transit van). It was my first visit to Reading. Who’d have guest that I’d later live there.
I formed a duo with old cub scout friend Dan Williams. He played guitar (just). I played bass a little and using my Yamaha CX5 music computer as a drum machine, we sound like Joy Division. Simon was well into them and had taped their anthology for me.

Siouxie and the Banshees, The Cult – listening to the Indie chart (when it was a real Indie chart) on channel 4 on Friday evenings. I got into The Mission. I would eventually go and see them fifteen times and meet the band members. I saw The Damned on the Eloise tour.
With two male nurses from Moss Side Mental hospital (guitar and drums) and a bass player we formed a band: ‘Dave’s Van’. I just sang. Led Zeppelin, ‘She sells sanctuary’ Jethro Tull, ‘Opium for the people’ etc. it was short lived and I was short of front man experience. Next came rock band ‘Wet Paint’. Same set up. ‘Hey Joe’, ‘Purple Haze’, ‘Sunshine of your Love’, ‘I feel free’, ‘White room’, ‘Moby Dick’. We even played a couple of my own psychedelic rock tunes. Guitarist Steve the Hippie loved Dire straits. Brothers in arms.
Next Bootle punk/ alternative rock band ‘The Virgin Dead’ with me on lead guitar. ‘California über alles – Dead Kennedys. The Mac lads, ‘Born to be wild’, ‘Holiday in the sun’, Anarchy in the UK’, ‘God save the Queen’. Billy the drummer taped ‘Dark side of the moon’ and ‘Animals’ by Pink Floyd. I loved ‘Eclipse'.

I was now working for The Home Office. Workmate Phil, had all the Jean Michel Jarre albums. He lent me Oxygene and Equinoxe which I would listen to, laying in bed at night, speakers to the left and right of the foot of my bed with a bottle of Thunderbird wine.

Folk scene

Since leaving school I had been a member of the 'Speakeasy' folk group, playing bass and singing at the church. As well as providing the music for the 6.30 mass on Sundays, we would also play at weddings and funerals. I attended many for the victims of the Hillsborough disaster. We would also put on variety shows, raising money for parish funds. We’d play a lot of Irish songs ‘Wild Rover’, ‘Wild colonial boy’, ‘Irish Rover’ and ‘Let it be’ which became my party piece. The others would do ‘Teenager in love’ and ‘We are the world’ etc.

The Revival - New Brighton 1992 The Revival, New Brighton 1990
With 'Speakeasy' co-members Nicky singing, and John Haines on guitar, we formed a folk trio 'Windmill' (there's an old windmill near my mums house).
I'd become a folk musician. I experienced eight years of entertaining pilgrims at hotels in Lourdes, building a repertoire that would later form the foundations of 'Modern Moods': Dylan, Donovan, Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel and my own songs including ‘Land of the Free’, ‘Spanish Signorita’. I played bass on John Haines studio recording of his Liverpool folk hit ‘The Skippers Lament’. We would play with charted folk stars from the 50’s Jackie and Bridie at their popular folk night on Wednesdays in Wavertree - usually ‘Jet plane’ by John Denver. On Sunday afternoons at The Trident hotel in Liverpool we take part with The Spinners, in their Folk club. I even did a stint on guitar and vocals with the Irish O’Cajun band.

Folk taught me the beginnings of how to play and pick an acoustic riff (John Haines was a mystro at finger picking). A skill I have developed over the years and the reason for my ability to feel confident about playing solo.

During this era, with performing at mass every Sunday and gigs with various outfits and in Lourdes for the sick/ pilgrims, Songs of Praise (twice) and loads of private parties, I must have notched up a couple of hundred live performances, so by the time I was playing gigs for real (money!), I was quite relaxed and use to it.

At the same time, I briefly formed a Techno pop band with Adrian Crayford, fellow 'Speakeasy' member, Nicki's brother and good friend - Now sadly departed. He'd been having piano lessons and had recently purchased a Yamaha DX27 synth. Lawry, neighbour and old friend had a Casio CZ-1000 synth. I played guitar, my Yamaha CX5 and sang . Accompanied by a Cheetah Spec-drum (digital drum card for the ZX Spectrum)and BBC model B micro (crude synth program), we rehearsed a set of half a dozen original songs and compositions. Very U2 meets Tangerine Dream. Apart from recording a few tunes on cassette tape, we never performed live and it soon fizzled out.

After 'Windmill', I joined Dave Laing and another John, playing Beatles and 60’s. ‘This boy’, ’World without love’. It never got beyond the rehearsal stage, but when John left, Dave and myself formed The Revival: Creedence Clearwater revival, The Drifters, The Searchers, Roy Orbison, The Christians ,The Byrds. ‘Walk in the room’, ‘Feel a whole lot better’, ‘Blockbuster’, ‘Let’s stick together’, Gimme some lovin’. With Mal James and Barry Lloyd on board, we spent the next couple of years performing cover songs around the local pubs and clubs. During this time, we began to include original songs into the set. One of my songs 'Don't pass me by', was an instant success with the customers. It was decided that in future, we would just play our own songs and so 'The Herbs' were born.

On a union meeting visit to London I bought The Byrds Anthology and played it and played it. It became the stalwart of what would be The Herbs sound: catchy pop melodies, 12 string guitar, tambourine and four part harmonies. The early influences were plain to see: Beatles, Hollies, Simon and Garfunkel, early Who.

At an evening performance at the Cavern Club, we would meet accomplished singer/ songwriter and musician Gerry Murphy
. Impressed by our sound, he would give us invaluable help and secure paid gigs in Liverpool. Gerry became my mentor and life long friend. In later years I was proud to be the best man at his wedding.

We attracted a lot of interest around Liverpool at this time, achieving a cult status. We received some radio airplay for our 1991 debut album ‘These are the days my friend’.

A couple of albums and years later, Barry had left, the band changed its name to The Green Room and its influences and direction to a much more upfront and edgy sound. We’d all been through the Mod revival days on the 80’s. Out came the Fred Perry’s, bowling shoes and parka’s and matching Italian suits. Later drummer Mal and myself would acquire Vespa scooters. Our three piece sound of jangly Rickenbacker 12 string guitar and driving Rickenbacker bass and cacophony of drums – three part harmonies was reminiscent of early Who, Small Faces and The Jam. We'd also learned a set of our favourite Stax, Mowtown and Soul hits. We did a cracking version of 'The Snake' by Al Wilson.

Later I also joined a 50’s Rock’n’Roll covers band – The Rockafellas. Johnny B Goode, Apache, Roll over Beethoven, Hound Dog, Blue suede shoes , Hats off to Larry’, ‘Guitar Boogie’. I’d left the safety of The Home Office now, needed some cash and session work seemed the answer.

Next after studying drama, in May 1994 I was offered the co-staring role as Paul McCartney in Bill Kenwright’s ‘Imagine’ – The John Lennon story. I got to learn many songs that I’d never even attempted before (some I still at that time didn’t know and still had to learn – ‘Golden Slumbers’, ‘The End’ and ‘Beautiful Boy)’. ‘Being for the benefit of Mr Kite’ and ‘Don’t let me down’ were very interesting bass lines to say the least. It took a bit of effort with some of them to be able to play and sing.

Post 'Imagine' there was still time to get back together with The Green Room for a couple of keynote gigs, including our farewell show at Liverpool's Royal Court theatre.

The Moptops The Moptops Live 1995
The Moptops - Theatre and beyond

1994 -97 I would spend the next few years in ‘The Moptops’ Beatle tribute band. By the end we were playing theatres, TV and radio. I began playing piano and keyboard again and using my arranging/ production experience, began to write my own material again. I had also made quite a few useful contacts along the way.

It was now 1997. I’d moved to Windsor the previous year and using an 80’s Roland sequencer and sound modules, began recording a whole new repertoire of songs including a lot of 80’s techno. I’d been going around all of the charity shops buying cassette tapes and vinyl - The Human League, Erasure and Ultravox. With then partner Zoe, I was also listening to Wings, solo George Harrison ‘All things must pass’, Lennon and even Ringo. Beatles spoof ‘The Rutles’, which led us into the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band and Neal Innes. Zoe would also play Madonna’s ‘Ray of light’, The Corrs and Alisha’s Attic. We played a few gigs together during this time. Zoe sang, I played guitar and sang, the sequencer did the rest.

1n 1998 I joined Mersey beat and 60’s tribute band ‘The Silver Searchers. I did a crash course in The Searchers and The Hollies.

2002 I bought all of REM's albums and performed as 'Michael Stipe' with a 'Stars in your eyes' tribute band at 'Jumpin' Jacks' in Portsmouth. I wrote an Pop/ Rock/ techno inspired album 'Entropy or evolution' and over Christmas and New Year in 2003, using afore mentioned sequencer and lots of guitars, the album was recorded. I do intend to re-mix and revamp this. There where some good tracks on it.

Next in the same year, I find myself living in a static caravan in the woods of a holiday village near Hastings. The romantic, earthy lifestyle lent itself to renew my acquaintance with the music of Django Reinhardt. I was playing Gypsy Jazz. I was becoming quite an accomplished guitarist.

By 2006 I’d been living in Reading, then Winnersh. Introduced to Tony Barter, we would listen to album after album of Johnny Cash – then after forming The Black Diamonds our attentions spread into Lonnie Donegan and then the whole 1950’s Skiffle scene. I then introduced Tony to Leonard Cohen, The Sisters of Mercy, The Mission, Soft Cell and Morrissey.

In the last couple of years I’ve been listening to Amy Winehouse, Duffy and recently Lady Gaga.
I do like to hear well produced songs.

As you will see, there’s been a very varied play list over the years, that’s no doubt had some bearing on my writing, production and performance.

Ian M Lindsay - October 2010

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