Tuesday 29 May 2012


(with two lines sampled from Brian Aldiss

how wonderful it must be
on Mars tonight,
I mean now, at 02:15...

through bursts of silence
I feel sciences that
as yet have no name,
I feel them through
the pulses of my
nervous system...

from here, I can smell
orchids on Venus, and
dream photographs of
ultimate strange devices
rising from the wells
of buried cities, hear
the shadow prowlers
of the singing void
and sense the
enchanted sleepers
in their metal moon...

I get this far
and my visions fail,
but how wonderful to be
on Syrtis Major tonight
while they invent songs
that resemble fragments
of darkness, that smell
of gasoline
and napalm...

and dream
that tomorrow
we’ll watch the
snowfall on Saturn...

Published in:
‘ICE RIVER no.6’ (USA - March 1990)
‘EASTERN RAINBOW no.1’ (UK - July 1992)
‘A RIOT OF EMOTIONS: DARK DIAMOND no.4’ (UK - January 1994)
‘HANDSHAKE no.52’ (UK – May 2003)
‘LEEDS POETRY WEEKLY no.18’ (UK – June 2003)



He had ‘Runaway’ hits through the early sixties,
but when DEL SHANNON’s ambitions could no
longer endure the post-fame come-down – he took
his own life with a .22-calibre shotgun on the brink
of what could have been a major career revival as
a Traveling Wilbury…
the enduring legacy of a great Rock ‘n’ Roll star…

Del, shot to fame
Del, shot to obscurity
Del, now just shot to hell…
(Poem published in ‘COKEFISH Vol.1 no.9’ – USA,
October 1990 & ‘FLESH-MOUTH No.3’ – UK, April 1991)

As the first seismic Rock ‘n’ Roll tsunami receded, with its greatest practitioners either dead, in jail, or mellowed out into safe family-friendly entertainers, Del Shannon found his space. He’d never be a pretty-boy for the pin-up fan-mags like the Bobbys – Vee, Rydell or Vinton, although he scrubbed-up reasonably OK. Memory says I saw him a lot on TV. A tough-looking guy, shadowed in atmospheric darkness, with a big rhythm guitar and ears resembling a ‘Star Trek’ Vulcan. But it seems memory lies. Unless it’s playing tricks and I’m seeing mind-picture clips shown subsequently that brain-cells have re-shuffled and re-ordered, bought-in clips from American TV shows – after all, Pop-videos didn’t yet exist. Search YouTube and the earliest evidence of Del miming “Runaway”, shirt open, collar turned up, is dated 28 August 1965, lifted from a KHJ-TV ‘Hollywood A Go-Go’ with go-go girls cavorting on a gantry behind him. Then there’s a UK ‘Top Of The Pops’ clip of him doing an ear-bending “Keep Searchin’” to a cooler more Mod response, and he can be seen cameoing “You Never Talked About Me” – ‘B’-side of “Hey! Little Girl”, in Milton Subotsky/Richard Lester’s Pop-exploitation movie ‘It’s Trad Dad’ (Amicus, 1962), although no, it most definitely isn’t Trad.

Further text-research says I saw Del Shannon’s first British TV-screen appearance 20th April 1963, on ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’ (Series 3:30) hosted by the immaculate Brian Matthew, although there’s no surviving film. Yes, by then he was promoting “Two Kinds Of Teardrops” – his eighth straight UK chart entry. He shares billing with Johnny ‘Poetry In Motion’ Tillotson, they were double-heading a package-tour together, but more significantly with him on the show were the Dave Clark Five, Mike Berry… and the Beatles. For a visiting American artist, at a time when Beatlemania was strictly a local phenomenon, with the Fabs yet to make inroads outside Britain, it must have seemed he’d dropped into mayhem. Del was the star. So who are these moptop guys kicking up pandemonium? Many American musicians felt threatened, resentful, and hostile. Not Del. He also appeared with the Beatles on the BBC radio special ‘Swinging Sound ‘63’, and played a ‘Royal Albert Hall’ date with them. He was sharp enough to see beyond the hysteria, recognising the potential of it all. When he jetted home he’d stashed a Beatles song in his luggage, recorded it, and became the first American artist to chart Lennon & McCartney on the US chart – with the number he’d seen them perform, “From Me To You”. Later that same year he returned to London to guest on ‘Ready Steady Go’ (25 October 1963, Series 1:12), doing “Sue’s Gotta Be Mine” – his tenth UK chart hit, alongside Joe Brown, Billy J Kramer & the Tornados. He went down a storm. The record peaked at no.21… but times were a-changin’. It would be his last Hit Parader. For a while...

‘…While Our Hearts Were Young…’

In an era when the shaken-up American music machine had firmly reasserted control, with a homogenised Pop scene dominated by malleable Teen-idols told what and how to sing in the studio, Shannon was a genuine self-contained talent who not only wrote his own stuff, but was active at the mixing desk too. Born to parents Bert and Leoni 30th December 1939 as Charles Weedon Westover he was raised with sisters Ruth and Blanche in Coopersville – a one-horse town by Grand Rapids, Michigan. By Coopersville High School age, around fourteen, he’d begun singing, playing guitar and ukulele. He listened to country music because that’s what they played on the radio, Hank Snow, ‘old Buck Owens stuff’, Lefty Frizzell, and especially Hank Williams. He’d later cut an album in tribute to that influence – ‘Del Shannon Sings Hank Williams’ (November 1964), before country became cool, with “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”, “Cold, Cold Heart” and “Your Cheatin’ Heart”.

Drafted and stationed in Stuttgart, Germany as a Seventh Army Field Artillery radioman in 1957 – more or less overlapping with Elvis Presley’s 1958-1959 German Army-stint, and more than a little like a sequence from Elvis’ ‘GI Blues’ (1960) movie, he played guitar with an off-duty group called The Cool Flames, and appeared on the 1958 Special Services radio-show ‘Get Up And Go’. On demob in 1959, he returned home to Battle Creek, Michigan, for a series of dead-end day-jobs, driving trucks, working in a furniture factory, and selling carpets, while playing rhythm-guitar nights in the local low-lit ‘Hi-Lo Club’ dive with the Doug DeMott Group. Unlike his hometown contemporaries who were content to live smalltown lives, his restless ambition demanded more. Too insecure to start out as frontman, but with the urge ‘to show those people I could be somebody’, he renamed himself ‘Charlie Johnson’ in a group reshuffle that dealt him lead-vocals when the group became The Big Little Showband. Pianist and long-term friend, Max Crook joined around the same time. Crook already had industry connections, and blagged the group to the attention of Ann Arbor black entrepreneur and Radio W-GRV DJ, Ollie McLaughlin. McLaughlin took the ambitious singer to Detroit to ink a contract with Harry Balk & Irving Micahnik of ‘Embee Talent Artists Management’, who also managed Johnny & The Hurricanes.

With Charles Westover renamed ‘Del Shannon’ – after a Michigan wrestler and the Cadillac Coupe de Ville, test-sessions in New York followed soon after, but frustratingly nothing of value emerged and he retreated to Battle Creek where – jamming with Crook in a small club one afternoon, they’d come up with a song called “My Runaway”. Max ‘hit an A and then a G, and I picked up my guitar and took it from there. We had a tape recorder going for twenty-minutes’. Rewritten at Ollie’s urging, cut at Bell Sound studios 24th January 1961 with Balk & Micahnik grabbing production credits, then leased to Big Top in New York, the renamed “Runaway” soon became one of the year’s biggest hits. Del made his radio debut on Michigan’s ‘WELL’ station, his TV debut on New York’s ‘Clay Cole Show’, then the single was accelerated by a slot on ‘Dick Clark’s American Bandstand’, until it sat astride the top of the US charts, and was UK No.1 from 29th June 1961 for three weeks.

From the strong electric guitar-strum phrasing, joined by faint keyboard, the haunted vocals begin ‘as I walk along I wonder what went wrong’ then ‘as I still walk on, I think of the things we’ve done’, not so much developing the narrative as returning it to line one. No-one claims it’s Bob Dylan’s ‘skipping reels of rhyme’. Blues traditionally uses lyrical repetition as a motif. And it works, by emphasis, returning in a feedback-loop again to ‘I’m a-walking in the rain’ opening verse two to stress the gumshoe persistence of his obsessive quest to unravel the complexity of his runaway-love. The mixed-down eeriness of the dramatic slightly-echoed voice peaks into shrill ‘why-why-why-wonder’ falsetto. Then the unearthly high-pitched ‘new sound’ instrumental mid-break cuts through sharp as cheese-wire, delivering the energy-jolt of a tazer. A persistent rumour said it was Big Top label-mate Johnny Paris of Johnny & the Hurricanes. Not so. It’s not even an organ – but a ‘musitron’, a kind of early clavioline-based semi-synth not only played by, but invented by Crook too. The song was revived in a storming live recording by The Small Faces (on their ‘From The Beginning’ LP, June 1967), Elvis Presley did a live version of it on his ‘On Stage’ LP (June 1970), Bonnie Raitt and the Sensational Alex Harvey Band did it, and it was done even later by The Traveling Wilburys (bonus track, 2007). If Del Shannon made only this one single it would guarantee him a place in the Rock pantheon.

He played a prestige-bill at Brooklyn’s ‘Paramount Theatre’ with Jackie Wilson, sharing a dressing room with Dion DiMucci who sneered at the black sharkskin suit he’d just paid eighty dollars for. ‘And I stepped on his foot’ recalled Del, ‘I had the no.1 song in the nation and I still felt like an outcast’. Yet he followed up with a second million-seller, “Hats Off To Larry”, with a semi-spoken intro and vocal-lines punctuated by little squeaky-trill Farfisa-organ riffs, while retaining the atmospheric ‘your turn to cry-cry-cry’ falsetto. It, and third hit “So Long Baby” take no prisoners. Not for Del Bobby Vee’s polite-considerate simpering ‘take good care of my Baby’. Here, it’s just ‘so long Baby, be on your way, I had a ball’. “Hats Off To Larry” might take great delight in the fact that his former-Babe’s been dumped and humiliated by new-guy Larry, he can’t resist gloating that ‘it may sound cruel…’ but ‘you told me lies, now it’s your turn to cry-cry-cry’, but he holds out the chance of redemption, he’ll take her back, she’s learned her lesson, ‘I think you’ll change’. Nothing as generous as he wreaks revenge on “So Long Baby”. They’ve both been playing the cheating game, ‘I got news for you, I was untrue too’ he gloats, ‘you had one jump on me, but I jumped twice you see’. No sympathy, no remorse, ‘so go and laugh some more ‘cause Baby I don’t care no more’. It’s delivered through a denser, murkier production, and instead of the ascending chorus-chords its ‘step by step you put me down’, with what sounds to be a comb-&-paper kazoo mid-break. Each single is short and punchy. Portraying Del as a forlorn loner, unlucky in love and at odds with the world, with none of that wimpish self-pitying stuff. With those three debut 45rpm’s timed at 2:18-mins, 2:00-mins and 2:03-mins apiece you could, and did chain-listen to them on the Dansette without a break, with never a temptation to skip forward.

Prime juke-box jive, they charted at no.1, no.5 and no.28 in the US, to corresponding British placings of no.1, no.6 and no.10 when released in the distinctive black-and-silver London American label. Then 1962 kicked off with another run of hits. The first of them – and fourth hit in a row, “Hey! Little Girl” (US no.38, UK no.2), adds sax to the compulsive mix, with a welcome return of the tinny musitron. He’d seen a girl briefly at a party. She was with mean-mistreater Joe. Now, later, the master of the break-up sees the ‘shadow of a girl I had known’ and – hey, he can fix her broken heart, replace each broken part, treat her right, with double-tracking enhancing his plaintive appeal. “Cry Myself To Sleep” (UK no.29) and “Swiss Maid” (UK no.2), may have charted lower in the States, but although less popular at home they retained high-visibility in Britain, a pattern that would continue across a four-year arc of fine vinyl. “Swiss Maid” – a song written by the struggling unknown Roger Miller, saw a change of pace, the lyric carried on flowing pipe-organ, and a yodel that fortuitously snagged a short-lived British novelty-trend that put Frank Ifield and Karl Denver’s popularity into overdrive. My mother complained that ‘is that all she does – sits on the mountain-top pining away until she dies?’ Well, maybe… but LISTEN to the sound – ‘oom-pa-pa-oom-pa-pa-oom-pa-pa… yodel-lady-ay-a-yodle-lady-ah’! And “Little Town Flirt” (US no.12, UK no.4) carried the ‘Runaround Sue’ warning that, although guys are allowed to go around breaking hearts, it’s different for girls. So you may fancy her now, but ‘you’ll think you’ve got a paper heart, when she starts to tear it apart…’

‘The Further Adventures
Of Charles Westover’

Each single remains a sliver of sharp Pop sensibility, barnstorming arrangements driven by Del’s raucous barrel-chested delivery and aggressive testicle-squeezed falsetto. By now, he was a name. Many Pop Stars have carved out long-term careers from less. But already he was showing signs of his restless ambition to do more. Decisively he quit Big Top and temporarily severed all links with Balk & Micahnik, to form his own Berlee label, for which he recorded “Sue’s Gotta Be Mine” (aka “Sue’s Gonna Be Mine”). Simultaneously he was testing out other approaches, operating in other gears. ‘Sue’ was done in a consciously Four Seasons style with a girl-chorus chanting the response. Switching to Nashville studios, roping in Elvis’ vocal-group the Jordanaires to provide the ‘did-doo-wadi-wadi’ back-up, “Cry Myself To Sleep” owes a stylistic debt to the New York Italianate Doo-Wop of, say, Dion & The Belmonts, while retaining the rich falsetto ‘cry-yi-yi-yi-yi’ over churning hard-driving guitar. For poor Del ‘the party’s over, everybody go home, I’m sorry but I’d like to be alone’, because he used to be her little buttercup, now she loves to see him in misery.

He also used ‘B’-sides to expand his palette. His definitive take on Burt Bacharach’s “The Answer To Everything” is an aching slow burner, which later became an Irish hit in its own right for Joe Dolan (no.4 in September 1964). While “Kelly” might favourably have made a strong top-side, a compelling melody with a ‘Girl Of My Best Friend’ narrative, a forbidden love soon to be tested by the return of their mutual significant-other. With the Berlee project curtailed Del signed to New York-based Amy Records in 1964 to make a sizeable comeback with Jimmy Jones’ “Handy Man” and then smashed back into the Top Ten with the excellent “Keep Searchin’”, his third million-seller. Breaking the ‘English Invasion’ deadlock, all of a sudden he was hot as a pistol all over again. With a dramatic ‘Fugitive’ storyline of star-crossed lovers fleeing from society’s disapproval, driven by percussive hand-clap breaks into ‘doesn’t matter, doesn’t matter, what people might say-ee-yay-ee-ay… if we gotta keep on the run, we’ll follow the sun-ah, wee-ooh’, it assembles all of the elements that had worked so well for him in the past, but accelerates the ingredients with renewed vitality and a killer tune. Although the sequel scored much lower, maybe by being too over-similar, “Stranger In Town” continued the story. But the resurgence was not to continue…

‘…To End This Misery…’

Into the late sixties, he joined Liberty for a fine singles revival of Toni Fisher’s “The Big Hurt” (with Leon Russell), but when the hits no longer came, he diversified into studio work. As early as 1964 he’d told a ‘New Musical Express’ ‘Life-Lines’ feature that his professional ambition was ‘to produce other singers and write more songs.’ Now he supervised demos as an early champion of Bob Seger, he cut singles for Dunhill records as manager-producer for a Los Angeles group called Smith, he discovered wrote and produced for country singer Johnny Carver, and produced Brian Hyland’s massive comeback hit “Gypsy Woman”, an American Top Three in 1970, featuring the reliable Max Crook on electric keyboard. Del’s writing credits were also appended to Peter & Gordon’s big American hit “I Go To Pieces” (also done as a 1979 Stiff single by Rachel Sweet). In his own right ‘The Further Adventures of Charles Westover’ (Liberty, 1968) was an ambitious musically successful – if commercially failed, attempt to highjack current trends to his own autobiographical ends. Using his own birth-name as a getting-real grassroots indicator, reaffirming his impassioned vocal prowess, Del’s voice high-flys above sitar-sounds, assertive guitar, and soaring baroque string-arrangements both dreamlike and achingly intense by turn. As pop-psychedelshannon at its finest, it’s fully engaged and totally engaging, with brooding undertows of desperate darkness underpinning the whole affair. With standout tracks “I Think I Love You”, “Silver Birch”, “New Orleans (Mardi Grass)” with slight funk trace-elements, and singles “Thinkin’ It Over” and “Gemini” it was critically well-received, and has since been favourably reassessed, yet the album got lost in the rush of newer trendier names. Record-buyers knew the Del-boy. They know what he does. They know what they like. He does “Runaway” and “Little Town Flirt”. That’s a powerful legacy to surpass. When they buy Del Shannon albums, they buy veteran greatest hits compilations, not elaborate concept fantasias.

Into the new decades, his restlessness burned. It wasn’t so much the eclipse of his star status. When he wanted to be a star, the acclaim and audience reaction was there, albeit for the old hits. He made annual UK visits, commanding £2,000 a week playing Northern cabaret dates. The album ‘Live In England’ (United Artists, 1974) catches his hits-heavy act at Manchester’s ‘Princess Club’, adding Roy Orbison’s “Crying” and his novelty hometown tribute “Coopersville Yodel” to twelve solid hit-tracks. Many sixties survivors settle for less, and live very well by playing the nostalgia-circuit. For Del Shannon, that was never going to satisfy him. Neither was it financial. In 1972 he sold a hunk of California land – an investment from early income, for more than he’d made in a decade in Rock music. No, it wasn’t anything as shallow as wealth or celebrity he craved, he had them, it was his need to be part of what was creatively happening. It was more that he was no longer an active participant in the game. It was the marginalisation of his work that chafed. That’s what hurt. Plagued by recurrent bouts of depression, both alleviated and accelerated by booze, the seventies was not a good decade.

On a rebound series of labels he recorded with admiring new supportive fan-collaborators, Andrew Loog Oldham and Dave Edmunds, and then the basis for a future Traveling Wilbury connection with Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne. Two later albums were critically lauded, ‘Drop Down And Get Me’ (Demon, June 1983) recorded with Petty and praised by Cynthia Rose as Shannon rising to the challenge ‘over and over with no cynicism or loss of hope – but with an honesty and a voice which will make you bleed, almost shock you’ (‘NME’ 4 June 1983). Predominantly his own songs, his cover of Phil Phillips “Sea Of Love” even managed a little chart action, ascending to a US no.33. Then the posthumously-released sequel ‘Rock On’ (Silvertone, May 1991), with final mastering by Petty, who later rationalised that ‘we loved him, really, he was a great fella, a really talented guy, but I think he had a tragic side to him in that he could never really get his thing going again’ (to ‘Vox’ September 1991).

For no matter what Del Shannon achieved, his past continually exerted such powerful gravitation, his back-catalogue plundered as nostalgia time-fixes for a clutch of ‘American Graffiti’-style movie soundtracks, and “Runaway” even reconfigured to theme NBC-TV cop-drama ‘Crime Story’ (1986-1988). They were peaks he’d never be able to surmount. His reputation as a Rock past-innovator was never in doubt. That was never enough. When his ambitions could no longer endure the post-fame come-down – he took his own life with a .22-calibre shotgun on 8 February 1990, on the brink of what could have been a major career revival as a Traveling Wilbury…

But search ‘YouTube’, he’s still there.

Album Review of:
(Silvertone ORE-CD514)

Before he put that .22 rifle in his mouth and pulled the terminal trigger, Del laid down these sides, mixed and dubbed posthumously. As such ‘Rock On’ is to Charles ‘Del Shannon’ Westover what ‘Mystery Girl’ was to Roy Orbison – and certainly the lead-in track “Walk Away” should have done for Del what “You Got It” did for Roy, and given him a last hurrah Top Ten hit. It’s strong and forcefully melodic with compulsive three-way harmonies that work arrestingly well when given its sparing and inadequate radio time. Like the Big ‘O’, Del was one of the few pre-Beatles stars to control his own destiny by writing original material. He was a Rocker with a piercing switchblade falsetto buoyed up on helium, and a back-catalogue that still sells ‘Greatest Hits’ and ‘Best Of’ collections in respectable amounts. He also wound up with Traveling Wilbury connections. He never worked with U2, but he’d recorded with Jeff Lynne as early as the 1975 “Cry Baby Cry” single, and with Tom Petty for the 1982 Elektra LP ‘Drop Down And Get Me’. Both voices are clearly discernible on “Walk Away” – which they also helped write, and Petty’s clear harmonies follow the delicious twelve-string play-in to “I Go To Pieces”. They’re elsewhere too, as is co-producing Heartbreaker Mike Campbell, but their role remains supportive, it’s Del-boy who dominates. He wrote “I Go To Pieces” in the first place as a ‘B’-side, and although it subsequently charted high for wimpoid duo Peter & Gordon, this is the definitive version. And it’s the only over-the-shouldering he allows himself. The remaining tracks are new Shannon. “Are You Lovin’ Me Too” and the Fifties-ish “What Kind Of Fool Do You Thing I Am?” (the only non-Del composition) are just about as good as his best.

Del Shannon could have made a lucrative living rehashing his past on the Oldies circuit – he was better qualified hit-wise than most. But his pride rejected such an admission of irrelevance. He wanted a slice of today, and it’s this failure to equal his own aspirations that led to the fatal .22. He comes closest to achieving his aim with “Walk Away”, but too often he trims his Rockist instincts and his fiercest falsettos to what he imagines to be the requirements of a Nineties market. Hence some undistinguished mid-tempo MoR jog-alongs, but “Let’s Dance” – the final track, eschews all such strategies and plunges into a glorious hoe-down that even takes in a sly Jerry Lee Lewis growl midway down – ‘I’m sick and tired of being tied down… so I packed up my guitar, and threw it in the trunk. Gonna have myself a ball, just keep playin’ those good old songs. Let’s dance, let’s dance, pass that bottle around’. The joy bursting out of the mix is impossible to miss. So while it’s ‘Hats Off To Del’ and ‘S’Long Baby’, perhaps most importantly, on his own evaluation, it’s also ‘Rock On’ too…

Sunday 27 May 2012



“Bad Moon Rising”, “Proud Mary”, Up Around The Bend”,
Andrew Darlington investigates the latest incarnation of classic
asks why John Fogerty is suing, and what angry young
New Wavers The Cars are doing involved in the project...? 

Before you ask, no. Creedence Clearwater Revisited are not a tribute band.

For a space on the precipice at the sixties end, Creedence Clearwater Revival were just about the hottest Rock band on the planet. At a time when there was a tedious drift towards maudlin country, or towards involved improvisational solos CCR slammed back with a run of hard-edged singles characterised by driving guitar riffs, churning rhythms and tight catchy-as-hell songs. Creedence Clearwater Revival, of course, is John Fogerty. His songs. His voice. ‘Creedence’ taken from a friend’s name. ‘Clearwater’ from a TV Beer ad. And ‘Revival’, as a manifesto of back-to-basics intent. The core was songwriter John and brother Tom Fogerty. But that’s not the whole story. Fogerty may have been the maverick genius. But the band were propelled by the faultless rhythm duo of Stu Cook and Doug ‘Cosmo’ Clifford who provide the tight support structure. It’s their driving mood-sensitive rhythm section that powers Creedence. There from the very start. It’s Doug’s drums and Stu’s bass you hear on all those ‘Creedence Gold’ (1972) hits compilations, on the ‘Forrest Gump’ soundtrack, and over the chilling comedic opening sequences of ‘An American Werewolf In London’. It was that line-up which held fast throughout the hits – “Bad Moon Rising”, “Proud Mary”, “Up Around The Bend” and the rest. Then – they were there at the very end, following Tom Fogerty’s departure, clear through to the final split in 1972. So it’s only natural that it’s Stu and Cosmo powering Creedence Clearwater Revisited, on their current tours, and on their highly listenable ‘Recollection’* (1998) album which features a wealth of new takes on old Creedence hits, recorded live across three nights in Alberta, Canada.

So what’s this new incarnation’s current relationship with John Fogerty…?

‘With John Foe-gart-y…? There is no relationship. John is suing us!’ There’s a tense moment of dead silence, as though I’ve asked an inappropriate question, until ‘yeah. It’s a real pain in the ass – right, because all we’re about is celebrating HIS music, as well as the band’s, you know? We put ‘Revisited’ together so Doug and I could play Creedence music for Creedence fans, before we got too old to travel, ha-ha-ha! That’s the whole premise of this project. And I think it does great honour to the original band, it celebrates the music in a very late-nineties way. And right now, with the release of this CD many more doors have begun to swing open for us. So yeah, he’s suing us, and it’s a tremendous waste, but whatever he’s doing, it’s not slowing us down.’

Stu is the geeky-looking guy in specs and poodle-cut hair on all those old album covers, beside the huge and massively bearded ‘Cosmo’. Only difference now is ‘I’ve got less hair, and more weight, ha-ha-ha!’ Fogerty met Cooke and Clifford at school – Portola Junior High to be exact, in blue-collar El Cerrito, California, and even before John’s older brother Tom expanded the line-up to a four-piece they were playing garage-band Rock ‘n’ Roll together as a teen trio. It was that unchanged and unchanging personnel which played all the seedy Bay Area Bars and Clubs as the Blue Velvets before signing to Fantasy and recording – first as the Golliwogs, and finally as Creedence Clearwater Revival. And while the rest of the world was going through its most indulgent Hippie-Trippy phase CCR were reaching out for the future, by way of the past, by plugging their gutsy ‘Swamp-Rock’ directly into their Blues and R&B roots. ‘Yes. Our format was based on the single record. The three-minute 45rpm single. When we were learning and first turning on to music, we grew up listening to that. There weren’t any ‘albums’, except for collections of singles. No-one made CONCEPT albums! So – to us, the best approach was not to be indulgent. We rehearsed a lot, and we didn’t waste much time in the studio. We just went for it. We played the stuff pretty much live, what you hear is basically live takes, just the four of us, Rocking! Initially our approach was to get the job done in two or three minutes. We had the end-product in mind, rather than the ‘Summer of Love’ approach ...although I mean, we later became as indulgent as anybody, ha-ha-ha. But there’s really nothing about the music that would demand a much more in-depth approach. It’s pretty straight-ahead. I tell you, John’s vocals on “Travellin’ Band” are unreal, off the planet, and the band is rocking too. That’s as REAL as it gets. Even today, that may still be – like, one of the best vocals ever.’

Fogerty’s three-minute visions conjured up a mythic America that felt timeless, but with an apocalyptic bad-acid edginess that chimed with the violent unease of the Vietnam War years. And Creedence were considered sufficiently a part of the scene to play ‘Woodstock’. ‘Yeah-yeh, we headlined Saturday night, but because we were not included in the Movie or on the soundtrack album, most people don’t even realise we were ever there! It’s a shame. My band didn’t FIT INTO that scene in the classical sense, but it wasn’t like we were totally outside of it either. We came from the same San Francisco Bay area as The Grateful Dead, Quicksilver (Messenger Service), Janis (Joplin), Jefferson Airplane. I lived in the Bay area when this was all happening. So we were a part of it to some extent whether we wanted to be or not, just because of the timing and the geographical proximity. We played the same ballrooms, the Fillmore Auditorium, and Winterland – it’s just that we had a different approach. I enjoyed the music scene that was going on, it’s all part of my musical experience. I saw Frank Zappa & The Mother Of Invention at the Fillmore. The other act on the bill was Otis Redding. It was a postponed show, because they were originally planned to play the day Martin Luther King was assassinated. And as a result they rescheduled the show and held it the following week. And I remember sitting on the floor – and just loving Otis Redding so much, and being so BORED by Frank Zappa. It was just too MENTAL, as if it was designed to challenge my attention-span. Whereas with Otis there was nothing contrived or planned about that. It was just pure Soul Music. Otis Redding was the best you could get. As REAL as it gets.’ The story says a lot about Creedence. With them, it’s always emotional intensity over artiness. Energy over artifice.

And ‘Real’ is the greatest compliment in Stu’s vocabulary. ‘It’s that quality people recognise in ‘Revisiteds’ music too’ he adds. ‘And now, with this new product we’re already starting to get attention from promoters, so we might be back touring Europe – the UK and Ireland, as early as 1999. But for sure by 2000. We’re very proud of our album, production-wise it’s a great recording, and there’s some fine performances. Elliot Easton – our guitar player (formerly of Punky New Wavers The Cars), really jumps on this material, and he has three pretty long extended solo’s on “Suzie Q”, “Run Through The Jungle” and “Heard It Through The Grapevine” – that’s a seventeen-minute version now, ha-ha-ha. The DEFINITIVE Creedence version of it. John Tristao, the lead vocalist is just fantastic with this material, his “Long As I Can See The Light” is an excellent version, and “I Put A Spell On You”. And we’ve added a fifth member – Steve Gunnar to overdub keyboards, harmonica, percussion and acoustic guitar. He helps add an extra dimension and fills out the sound of the performance in the live situation.’

But wait, isn’t the fusion of Creedence Clearwater with bratty upstarts The Cars, a bizarre combination? ‘It is, on the surface’ he admits agreeably. ‘But you know, if you listen to the Cars records, you hear Elliot just rip off the perfect eight-bar solo. And to me, that was my favourite part of the Cars. I never cared much for the Cars. I liked that they were a very different-sounding band. But without Elliot, I don’t think I’d have been that interested in them. The rest of their sound – the keyboards and synthesizers, is very cold and not very accessible. But Elliot’s playing just puts in that Rockabilly hard-Rock ‘n’ Roll kind-of distorted guitar thing. He makes it organic. Elliot’s roots are the same musical roots as ours too. Urban and Country Blues are some of his first influences – as well as CREEDENCE! When he was much younger, ‘Bayou Country’ (January 1969) and ‘Green River’ (August 1969) were a couple of his favourite albums, y’know, and fronting some of his own early bands they played some Creedence songs…’

Full circle. Creedence Clearwater Revival as the memory. ‘Recollected’ and ‘Revisited’ as the new manifesto of intent. But isn’t that two too many re-re-re’s? The last occasion the original line-up of John, Tom (who died in 1990), Stu and Doug played together was for a one-off school reunion gig – in El Cerrito, in 1983. But now, although the vocals may lack something of the bite and energy of Fogerty’s original, Creedence Clearwater Revisited remain the closest thing to ‘real’ we’re likely to get. ‘We’re not doing anything other than what people seem to want’ Stu persists. ‘If the fans didn’t appreciate the ‘Revisited’ project we’d put it on the shelf. But there’s tremendous positive feedback and enthusiasm about it. So we see no reason to stop or change anything.’

Original version published in:
‘ROCK ‘N’ REEL no.32: Spring 1999’ (UK - April 1999)


Bass-player Stu Cook was a founder member of
He was with them on all their hit singles and classic albums.
Now he – and original drummer Doug ‘Cosmo’ Clifford
are touring and recording with a new Creedence line-up.
Despite litigation from John Fogerty!
Andrew Darlington investigates… 

Creedence Clearwater Revival split in 1972. This is Creedence Clearwater Revisited. A band put together by original drummer and bass player Doug ‘Cosmo’ Clifford and Stu Cook, to tour and record on the strength of their still very-much-in-demand back-catalogue. John Fogerty, needless to say, doesn’t figure in the equation. But any doubts about the wisdom of the project should be placed on hold, says Stu – at least until their live album is given fair consideration. ‘You haven’t heard it yet, huh? Oh – that’s too bad. You should have a good listen to the CD. It’s just a superb album from beginning to end. We’re very proud of it. You think you can get it before you write your piece?’ He oozes genuine concern during our initial encounter.

When the original group were getting it together and playing Clubs and Bars around the San Francisco Bay area, as variously the Golliwogs or The Blue Velvets, they were John Fogerty alongside Doug, and Stu. Later there was Fogerty’s brother Tom as well. Soon – as the hippie bubble burst at the tail end of the Sixties, Creedence Clearwater Revival were dominating world charts with hits like “Bad Moon Rising”, “Green River”, “Sweet Hitch-Hiker”, “Proud Mary” and “Travellin’ Band”. Eight American Top Ten singles in just two years, with a lean brand of blue-collar Rock and R&B. Everything you now think of as the Kings Of Leon, CCR did first, and better. Glory days now recreated with sometimes uncanny authenticity, and other times with new twists on old formulas, on the live ‘Recollection’* album from their current ‘Revisited’ band. Now ‘I’m calling from my home at Lake Tahoe, Nevada’ Stu begins, with an easy and relaxed telephone-interview style. And in response to my next enquiry ‘you’re looking at an old picture? Well, now I’ve got less hair, and more weight, ha-ha-ha!’

Q: Can you talk me through the current album? It’s done live... Q: Yes, it is, it’s totally live. ‘Recollected’ is made up of three concerts performed in Alberta, Canada, about the middle of November (1997). They’re all complete songs. We took the best takes from each evening. Mostly we had three to choose from, but some nights – because of technical problems, we only had two options. But we just went with the best one, and made a complete set. A complete show. I think it does great honour to the original band, and it celebrates the music in a very late-nineties way. You should check out our new version of “Suzie Q”. And “I Put A Spell On You”. “Long As I Can See The Light” is an excellent version too. Give it a FULL listen, and see if you don’t agree that Doug and I – and our band, have done a fantastic job of celebrating the music and recreating the sound.

It’s all familiar material, you haven’t added to the repertoire. It’s all material recorded by the CCR quartet. We don’t play any material recorded by the trio, because Doug and I don’t feel that represents Creedence work at all (Tom Fogerty quit the group in 1972, and they subsequently recorded the final Creedence album, ‘Mardi-Gras’ (April 1972) as a trio). And no, there’s nothing on this record that’s new – except for our performance! Mainly, it’s a great recording production-wise, the sound is very good, and there’s some great performances. Elliot Easton – our guitar player (formerly of The Cars), really jumps on this material, and he has three pretty long extended solo’s on “Suzie Q”, “Heard It Through The Grapevine” and “Run Through The Jungle”. John Tristao, the lead vocalist (and rhythm guitar) is just fantastic with this material, and we’ve added a fifth member – Steve Gunnar to overdub keyboards and harmonica, percussion and acoustic guitar. He helps fill out the sound of the live performance.

Is it still good working live? Ah – that’s the whole premise of this project, Andy. We put it together so Doug and I could play Creedence music for Creedence fans, before we got too old to travel, ha-ha-ha! We’ve toured Europe twice now, in 1996 when we played Scandinavia, Germany and Spain. And this year (1998) when we did Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania... and Germany, twenty-two shows in thirty-one days. Our tours were mainly based on where CCR is the most popular. Creedence stuff stills sells, like, two million CD’s a year. But current sales of the old catalogue in the UK or Ireland, Spain, France or Switzerland show that we don’t sell as much THERE as we do in Scandinavia and Germany. So we haven’t made it to the UK yet, but right now, with the release of this CD many more doors have begun to swing open for us, and we’re already getting attention from promoters, so we might be back as early as 1999. But for sure by 2000.

You and Doug started out, with John Fogerty, as early as 1959, going on to record seven Beatles-style singles as The Golliwogs (between 1965-67), including one called “Brown Eyes Girl”. Was that the Van Morrison song? No. No it’s not, it’s a completely different song actually.

People associate Creedence with John Fogerty’s songs, but your first American hit single (as CCR) was a cover of Dale Hawkins’ “Suzie Q”, a version spread over both sides of the record as Part one and Part two. The album it came from – ‘Creedence Clearwater Revival’ (July 1968) also included Screaming Jay Hawkins’ “I Put A Spell On You”, and other old R&B songs. While cover versions were to remain an important part of your set. Correct. And again, “I Heard It On The Grapevine” (the original eleven-minute CCR version is on the July 1970 ‘Cosmos’s Factory’ album) was a cover of a Motown classic, a (Norman) Whitfield (Barret) Strong song.

Once you broke through commercially, particularly with the ‘Bayou Country’ album (January 1969), the press labeled you ‘Swamp Rock’. Even though you come from California, which is hardly noted for its swampy terrain! Well, you know, the media will eventually put a label on you no matter what you do. And they never paid any attention to where we were from. The music sounded like ‘Swamp Rock’ or ‘Louisiana Bayou’ to them and so that label just stuck. I guess we should be happy that we at least have a label, huh?

There must have been a strong collective bond within Creedence, as you maintained a constant line-up throughout the band’s lifetime. There were no changes. Not ‘till Tom Fogerty departed in ‘72, no. And – honestly, we rehearsed a lot, and we didn’t waste much time in the studio. We just went for it. What you hear is live takes, basically. We played the stuff pretty much live. You know, the vocals and the lead guitar were obviously done again, or added later. But the band playing the music is THE BAND! That was just the four of us rocking. So there’s nothing, there’s really nothing about the music that would demand a much more in-depth approach, I don’t think. It’s pretty straight-ahead.

At the time you emerged the scene was dominated by Hippie indulgence, experimentation and long meandering solo’s, whereas you were very much against that, you stuck very much to traditional Rock value. Yes. Quite a lot... but our approach was more with the end-product in mind, rather than the ‘Summer of Love’ approach. That, and – you know, our format was based on the single record. The three-minute 45rpm single. That was the approach we took. That was what we grew up listening to, when we were learning, and first turning on to music. There weren’t any ‘albums’, except for collections of singles. No-one made a CONCEPT album! So – to us, the best approach was not to be indulgent. Initially the approach was to try and get the job done in two or three minutes, and not to... although I mean, we later became as indulgent as anybody, ha-ha-ha.

But you toured on the same bill as all the big Hippie bands. Did you socialise and fit right in with those other musicians? Right. Right. The Grateful Dead, Quicksilver (Messenger Service), Janis (Joplin), Jefferson Airplane. We all came from the same area, the San Francisco Bay area. So yeah, I thought so, I lived in the Bay area when this was all happening. And even though my band didn’t FIT IN in the classical sense, I was able to personally enjoy all the music scene that was going on. All that has become part of my musical experience. And I think Doug too. And to an extent, Tom. I don’t know about John. But, whether we wanted to be a part of it or not, we were a part of it to some extent just because of the timing and the geographical proximity. So, y’know, we were there. We played the Ballrooms many times. We played the Fillmore, and Winterland – so, I mean, it wasn’t like we were totally outside of the scene. It’s just that we had a different approach to it.

It must be impossible to pick out one memory from that time, or a memory of one musician or band you played with, but could you try? When you played with Zappa perhaps (at the Denver Pop Festival – 27th June 1969)? You know, I don’t know if we ever did play with Zappa. But I saw Zappa at the Fillmore Auditorium. The other act on the bill was Otis Redding. It was a postponed show. A rescheduled show, because they were originally planned to play, but on that day Martin Luther King was assassinated. And so they postponed the show, and I think held it the following week. And I remember sitting on the floor – and just loving Otis Redding so much, and being so BORED by Frank Zappa. It was just too MENTAL. I think a lot of it was designed to challenge my attention-span. Whereas with Otis there was nothing contrived or planned about that. It was just pure Soul Music. The best. Otis Redding was the best you could get.

You also played on the same bill as Little Richard, didn’t you (at the Atlanta City Festival – 1st August 1969)? I don’t recall playing with too many of older guys. Maybe we might have done a TV show or some kind of a gathering with him, y’know – a Festival or something. But I do remember once we played with Howlin’ Wolf, at one of our early early shows in Southern California. It was wonderful for us because that was... that kind of Chicago Blues music, was pretty important to us. It goes right to our musical roots as well. To actually play with him was just fantastic. And we actually got to hook up with a lot of our heroes. Johnny Cash, the Everly Brothers, Rick Nelson were all people we actually got to meet along the way, and sometimes perform with. The stuff that we grew up on. So – those are great moments.

I’m intrigued by the story behind your excellent single “Travellin’ Band” (a US no.2 in March 1970), lyrically it’s an autobiographical account of your life-style as musicians in a touring Rock band... but then Little Richard sued you over the song (a suit claiming it plagiarised “Good Golly Miss Molly”). Yes, well – it was his publishers that sued actually. I don’t believe it was Little Richard himself. But there’s always the fine line between a ‘lift’ – when you’re stealing, and a tribute. I mean, obviously the song was meant as a tribute to Little Richard. But his business people felt that it was too derivative, and so that always messes up what should be a good thing. Sometimes the business gets in the way and it becomes a sour thing. But I tell you, John’s vocal on that record is unreal, off the planet. That – today, may still be – like, one of the best ever vocals. And the band is rocking too. That’s as REAL as it gets.

There’s now a huge backlog of covers of CCR songs, from Hanoi Rocks (“Up Around The Bend”), to Tina Turner (“Proud Mary”), to a recent electro-Dance version of “Long As I Can See The Light”. Oh yeah? I’d like to hear that one.

One journalist at the time suggested that, because of your intuitive feel for the kind of R&B-based Rock ‘n’ Roll he seemed to have become alienated from, CCR should kidnap Elvis Presley and record an album with him. That never happened. But the next best thing, Elvis did record “Proud Mary”, a song you had a part in creating. He did, yeah. We actually went to see Elvis the night he played it, and he dedicated it to us. He knew we were in the audience. I think it was the Oakland Coliseum, a big big place. And yes – it’s certainly ‘another-world’ experience. At the time it was just amazing that we even had a career of our own y’know, ha-ha-ha – to be honest with ya! We were still pretty much overwhelmed by all that.

Since the break-up of the original band you’ve all been involved in various projects. Tom in Real Estate (until his death from tuberculosis in September 1990). John in successful solo albums like ‘Centerfield (a US no.1 in 1985). While you’ve done production work, and played with Doug Sahm’s Tex-Mex Trip Band. Oh yeah – ‘Groovers Paradise’ (1974). That just ‘happened’, I don’t know how. A mutual friend introduced us to Doug Sahm. And he said ‘hey, you guys wanna play with me?’ And Doug (Clifford) said ‘hey, you looking for a producer?’ We owned a recording studio at the time, so it just kinda all fell together. That was the first album, subsequently Doug has made two additional albums with Doug Sahm – spaced over the last twenty years.

Movies have something to do with the continuing interest in Creedence music. You’re on the soundtrack to ‘Good Morning Vietnam’ (with Robin Williams, 1987). While “Bad Moon Rising” is used very effectively in the opening sequences of John Landis’ ‘An American Werewolf In London’ (1981) which is still shown regularly on TV. That was an excellent usage of it, y’know. And it was a successful film. That helps maintain awareness of the music, and spreads it to new fans as well. But that’s quite an old film actually. We had “Fortunate Son” in ‘Forrest Gump’ (1994). And a film called ‘The Big Lebowski’ (directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, 1998) has two Creedence songs in it. It’s the big hit domestically over here in the States this year – although I haven’t seen it yet. And I don’t know how it’s fared with overseas distributors. But we do get a lot of interest... and that’s where we get a lot of our new twenty-five-year-old and younger audience from. Sometimes between thirty to fifty-percent of the audience at ‘Revisited’ concerts wasn’t even born when we were recording, which is wonderful. When ‘Creedence Revisited’ started we had no idea of that tremendous amount of new fans, new enthusiasm.

There does seem to a high level of inter-generational awareness of music at this time. A Rolling Stones concert also seems to cut across age ranges. It’s exactly the same thing for us. We can’t... no-one can explain why this is happening. I mean, there’s lots of reasons, right? CD’s are a great part of it, the reissue of back-catalogues. Classic Rock Radio in the States too, where the kids can listen, and push a button if they don’t like a song. Or if they DO like a song. Kids like Creedence, the Who, the Doors, or Zeppelin, as much as their parents do. They know the music, and a lot of them know the words better than I do. Shocking!

The ‘Revisited’ fusion of Creedence Clearwater with Elliot Easton, formerly of bratty New Wave upstarts The Cars, seems a bizarre combination on paper. It does on the surface. But Elliot’s roots are the same musical roots as ours. When he was learning to play guitar he was listening to guys like Mississippi John Hurt and Robert Johnson – and so the Blues, Urban and Country Blues, are some of his first influences – as well as CREEDENCE! When he was much younger, ‘Bayou Country’ (January 1969) and ‘Green River’ (August 1969) were a couple of his favourite albums, and fronting some of his own early bands they played some Creedence songs. So anyway, he was introduced to me by a mutual friend and we developed somewhat of a relationship as friends before Doug and I started this project. So when we got around to putting names and faces together, Elliot was my first suggestion, and turned out to be our first choice.

The obvious final question concerns your current relationship with John Fogerty. With John? There is no relationship. John is suing us! Yeah – right, we don’t quite understand what he expects to gain from it, but it’s a tremendous waste and we’d be eager to see it behind us, but it’s his decision and he’s going to have to come to terms with the situation, and make that decision. Hopefully he’ll make the correct one. Whatever he’s doing, it’s not slowing us down. It’s a real pain in the ass, because all we’re about is celebrating HIS music, as well as the band’s, you know. We’re not doing anything other than what people seem to want. If the fans didn’t appreciate the ‘Revisited’ project we would certainly put it on the shelf and find something else to do. But from everything we’ve seen there’s tremendous feedback, positive feedback and enthusiasm about it. So we see no reason to stop or change anything that we’re doing.

Thanks for your time. Good speaking with ya, Andy. And hey – would you mind sending me a copy of what you write? Because I don’t know if I’ll be able to locate the publication in any kind of timely manner. I’d be glad to give you my mailing address…?

 *‘RECOLLECTION’ by CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVISITED (SPV 2CD 085-29232, US label Fuel 2000, June 1998) First album by Creedence Clearwater Revisited, consisting of material originally recorded by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Despite not charting well, the album was certified platinum September 19, 2007.
Doug Clifford (drums), Stu Cook (bass, vocals), Elliot Easton (lead guitar), Steve Gunner (keyboards, acoustic guitar, percussion, harmonica, vocals), John Tristao (lead vocals, rhythm guitar). Producers: Stu Cook and Doug Clifford at Varese Sarabande Records Inc
All songs written by John Fogerty unless otherwise stated.
Disc One: “Born On The Bayou” (5:20), “Green River” (3:23), “Lodi” (3:19), “Commotion” (2:41), “Who’ll Stop The Rain?” (2:38), “Susie Q” (Eleanor Broadwater, Dale Hawkins, Stanley Lewis - 10:10), “Hey Tonight” (2:36), “Long As I Can Seen The Light” (3:40), “Down On The Corner” (3:03), “Lookin’ Out My Backdoor” (2:44), “Cotton Fields” (Leadbelly – 3:21), “Tombstone Shadow” (3:56)
Disc Two: “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” (Norman Whitfield & Barrett Strong – 15:45), “Midnight Special” (traditional – 4:13), “Bad Moon Rising” (2:18), “Proud Mary” (3:23), “I Put A Spell On You” (Screamin’ Jay Hawkins – 4:36), “Fortunate Son” (2:48), “Have You Ever Seen The Rain” (2:44), “Travelin’ Band” (3:24), “Run Through The Jungle” (8:09), “Up Around The Bend” (3:52)

Friday 25 May 2012



Mark Lavon ‘Levon’ Helm died 19 April 2012.
I thought, The Band. I saw The Band perform, way back in 1984.
So I dug out my long-lost review of the event, intending it as some
kind of tribute-piece. Only to discover Levon Helm had not appeared
with The Band that night. So, as a tribute, this may be a little flawed…

Gig Review of:
Wakefield, Yorkshire (24 & 25 August 1984)

Refugees from the 1967 and 1976 revolutions jostlingly assemble in near-identical regalia, and things get confusing. Old ‘New Wavers’ Revival Night gets Doctor & The Medics booed off in antique tribal ritual to create air-space for Chelsea’s ponderous hard-edge riffs and rabble-rousing agit-prop verbal GBH. While Dave Vanian’s finest lose Capt Sensible en route ‘where’s Sensible?’ chant the moshpit – ‘he fucked off to Razzamatazz’ according to Rat Scabies, yet they turn in a Damned-on-45 with “Love Song”, “Neat Neat Neat”, “Smash It Up” and “New Rose” speeding at something faster-miles-an-hour than 250rpm, mixing and matching the Brockwood Fest’s “Anarchy In The UK” with tonight’s “Pretty Vacant”. Roman Jugg acquits himself well standing in for his first live Damned set. But as Robin Hitchcock later confides to me ‘the Damned are just a bunch of old Hippies’, and even later still I catch up with Rat Scabies drumming for Donovan at Leeds ‘City Varieties’ music hall. Can this nostalgia be the escape clause for the post-Punk-Funk-Get-On-Down malaise? Does it matter? Time-warping further back there’s Pallas doing some kinda tribute to Alex Harvey, and there’s Steppenwolf, direct from your local Blockbuster ‘Easy Rider’ rental. Although, own up, I always loved their “Magic Carpet Ride” wall of roaring feedback, ‘fantasy will set you free’, yeah, you bet. And in black head-to-toe leather vocalist John Kay’s resonant “The Pusher” is standout, especially considering the rows of gipsy-stalls bartering Lebanese hash, acid and every dream-menu of hallucinogenic resins, pills and powders known to peoplekind in the Festival runway.

For miles around there’s the Living Dead of two Rock revolutions in their Desolation Row elephants graveyard psychedelic shacks and Hippie tat with joints at a going rate of seventy-pence a time. The trees have leaves of prisms that break the light in colours, in a warped corrupted version of what ‘Monterey Pop’ might have been like. I’ve even disinterred my antique Grateful Dead T-shirt for the occasion, greeted by an amiable ‘hey, Deadhead’. The occasional Mohican looks oddly in context, and there’s not a Frankie Goes To Hollywood T-shirt within eye-shot.

Lurching in with “Shape I’m In”, The Band have lost Robbie Robertson en route, and Levon Helm ducks out this night – for reasons never properly explained. Someone says he refused to fly transatlantic for a one-off concert in the arboreal grounds of a Palladian mansion outside Wakefield. Whatever, they fill in the gaps created by their dual absence by spattering their set with harvested oldies such as Johnny Otis’ “Willie And The Hand Jive” and Rick Danko doing Elvis’ “Mystery Train” (from their ‘Moondog Matinee’ album, 1973), done deceptively simple, but done with consummate craftsmanship. Richard Manuel leans into the mike across his keyboards, head lifted high to harmonise “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” with a cracked soulfulness that lifts itself, ascending above the event. With the guesting Cate brothers, guitarist Earl and Ernie on keyboards, closing in on Garth Hudson for an up-swinging “Up On Cripple Creek”. Van Morrison, steps up to join them for the first encore, “More And More” and – from their highpoint Martin Scorses’ ‘The Last Waltz’ (1978) collaboration “Caravan”. Their second recall consists of their lurching and shuddering Gothic masterpiece “The Weight”. Can this visually non-descript but musically slick group be the same Levon & The Hawks who revolutionised Rock by electrifying Bob Dylan in 1965? Can this short bored paunchy Belfast Cowboy really have written garageland’s finest text – “Gloria”, for Patti Smith, Shadows Of Knight, et al? Does it matter? I think that maybe I’m dreaming… although listening to the playback bootleg tape now, it all sounds scarily amazing.

So, it’s no Levon Helm, and not Sensible at all. But as a luminous postscript to the event the Nostell Priory estate eventually has to summon the good constabulary after the raggle-taggle Traveller’s encampment refuses to be evicted. Thus dragging the Festival’s full arc out into weeks. And as a second add-on, I’d like to thank the girl with the ratty hair dancing in the black sheer top, she made the whole thing even better…!