Rod Clements

Live Review | The Regent, Doncaster | Review by Allan Wilkinson

I recall a youth dominated by LP records advertised and reviewed in such delightful rags as Melody Maker, Sounds, New Musical Express and my own particular favourite, Disc and Music Echo (well it was in colour after all).  My paper round wasn’t long, but it did take me a lifetime to get around due to my frequent stops behind the allotments, where I would read about all these obscure and fascinating bands and dream of one day being allowed to grow my hair out of the crew-cut mother insisted upon and embarking on a lifestyle of sex, drugs and rock n roll.  I ended up dabbling in each of those with varying degrees of success and failure, but alas, the road ignored me and therefore I’m still here to tell the tale.  The problem with the late Sixties and early Seventies for a twelve year old music fanatic was that it was difficult to distinguish between musical genres and during that time, anything that sounded reasonable cool went under the label ‘Progressive Rock’, whether it was a bog-standard blues band (Groundhogs, Canned Heat, Ten Years After), a jazz fusion band (Soft Machine, Matching Mole – which I only discovered later was Soft Machine in French), classical music disguised as rock (ELP, Curved Air), or any number of weird and wonderful bands that defy categorisation other than Prog Rock (Third Ear Band, King Crimson etc etc..)  What defined the music in those days was the label the bands were signed to.  You knew immediately upon picking up an album on the Harvest label, you were in for a real treat (Pink Floyd, Edgar Broughton Band, Third Ear Band), or the Island label (Free, Amazing Blondel, Traffic).  Charisma was one such label and the band that rose to the top loud and clear, yet nicely out of tune, was Lindisfarne.  I believed Lindisfarne to be very much Prog Rock Gods in 1970 by virtue of the fact that they rubbed shoulders with label mates Genesis and Van Der Graaf Generator, and I delighted in telling my school mates this, but of course they were nothing more than a fun loving north eastern folkie outfit who just looked great in Disc and Music Echo (in colour).  These guys looked seriously weird and I wanted nothing more than to look exactly like them.  One of my favourite records in the charts at the time, and one frequently played on the radio as well as on my Dansette was “Meet Me on the Corner”, with its instantly accessible Dylanesque harmonica, jingle jangle acoustic guitar and bassline to remember forever.  That bass line was played by the man who wrote the song, which subsequently went on to reach the dizzy heights of the pop charts of the day.  A top five single by a progressive rock band?  I began to have my doubts about Lindisfarne being Prog after all.  Rod Clements appeared at the Monday Music Club at the Regent tonight to a large gathering of folks who remember the heady days of 1972 and were presumably glad to hear “Meet Me on the Corner” in its rawest state.  It’s a great pop song and if you are going to hear it by anybody, then why not by its composer?  Rod has pretty much returned to his roots these days, playing to small audiences in hotels and bars, the music he grew up on, which is essentially country blues with a Woody Guthrie flavour.  He describes it as ‘coming full circle’.  Gone are the days of touring the concert halls of the world with the likes of Lindisfarne and Jack the Lad, his spin off band, but he sure looks like he still enjoys the road nevertheless.  It’s been a while since I last saw Rod.  I was pleased to see him with Lindisfarne in 1995 at the Cambridge Folk Festival, being one of Alan Hull’s last appearances on stage, anywhere.  By November of that year, he had gone to play the great gig in the sky after submitting to heart thrombosis.  A few years before this, I caught Rod on tour with Bert Jansch promoting the album Leather Laundrette and it was during that tour that I discovered Rod’s command over the slide guitar.  Alternating between a resonator dobro type guitar, a bog-standard electric guitar and an acoustic box with a headstock so unfeasibly large, it qualifies as the only other thing beside the Great Wall of China that is visible from the moon, Rod brought back to life early Lindisfarne songs such as the aforementioned “Meet Me on the Corner”, a revamped “Train in G Major” (now in E Major due to voice age), Bert Jansch’s “Rambling’s Going to be the Death Of Me” (from the Bert tribute album People on the Highway) and Rod’s second ‘hit’, “Can’t Do Right For Doing Wrong”, a hit for Erin Rocha a couple of years ago.  Rod forgot to mention that he has a third hit under his belt, being the bass player on the much lauded “Streets of London” by one Ralphie McTell.  One outstanding song from tonight’s gig was Rod’s “Existentially Yours”, a scathing observation on organised religion and consumer culture, chiefly aimed at a North East car dealership.  The support came courtesy of Roger Davies, a West Yorkshire songsmith with a delicate touch.  I only caught the end of his set but I was instantly taken by his cool delivery and easy going relaxed stage presence.  “Going Solo” and “James Dean” are songs I know I am going to remember for a long time.  Roger’s namesake Ray Davies proved once and for all that you can write a song about places with British names and make them just as cool as the Americans, “Waterloo Sunset” being the definitive example.  “Huddersfield Town” captures that essence in the same manner and it once again makes me proud to be Northern Trash.  I need to check this guy out again sooner rather than later.