A life entwined with Lindisfarne took another twist this week when it was announced Ray Jackson had retired from the famous band – or at least its latest manifestation as Ray Jackson’s Lindisfarne.
The band performed three Newcastle City Hall gigs in the run-up to each of the past two Christmases, going down a storm on home turf, and also entertained around the country.
“It is with regret that we have to announce Ray Jackson’s retirement from Lindisfarne,” stated a posting on the ‘Lindisfarne Official’ Facebook page.
“Although his decision has come as a surprise to us, it was always Jacka’s intention to hand things over at some point and ensure the great name of Lindisfarne continues to keep the songs and spirit alive well into the future.
“The band intend to honour all diary commitments through 2015 and will be announcing more details very soon.”
This seemed to take Ray Jackson by surprise, judging by his response to an initial call to his home in Oxfordshire.
Following a later call he explained: “The band knew, obviously, but I hadn’t made an announcement and they made one without telling me.”
But there were no hard feelings. The man who once shared lead vocalist duties with Alan Hull said: “I originally got into the whole idea of this Lindisfarne in 2012 when I became aware of a campaign to save Newcastle City Hall from closure.
“I didn’t really want to go back into it again and for nine years had turned down offers to perform with the band. But because of this City Hall problem I agreed to take up the baton.
“It was great fun to perform again all the original songs that the band had recorded in the 1970s. Most of them have become British classics.
“I was really glad the fans had a chance to relive some of the shows from the 70s and 80s but it was never a long-term plan for me. I achieved my objective in that the City Hall is still open and I enjoyed revisiting the songs because they stand up to the test of time.”
Ray, who was born in Wallsend in 1948, said: “I’m 66 now and when next Christmas comes along I’ll be 67. I’m not getting any younger and I feel I’ve done it. I’ve come back and relived the glory days, as it were.
“I wish the band who were behind me doing all of this the best for the future.”
Ray, the only original Lindisfarne member in Ray Jackson’s Lindisfarne, studied at Newcastle College of Arts and Industrial Design where he met Ray Laidlaw, who became Lindisfarne’s drummer.
Because they shared a first name, Ray Jackson was known as Jacka.
Accomplished with a pen as well as on mandolin and harmonica, he designed the band’s logo and the sleeve of the debut album, Nicely Out of Tune.
His is the voice we hear on early hit single Meet Me on the Corner.
Like many famous rock bands, Lindisfarne’s history is characterised by comings and goings, splits and comebacks.
Ray stayed on when some original members broke away to form Jack the Lad in 1973 but he left when Lindisfarne agreed to record Fog on the Tyne with Gazza after the footballer’s tearful rise to fame at the 1990 World Cup finals.
He was reunited with fellow Lindisfarne players at Newcastle City Hall in 2005 for a concert in memory of Alan Hull who had died 10 years previously.
The brief comeback with Ray Jackson’s Lindisfarne enabled the musician to get his own back on Rod Stewart who, in acknowledging Ray’s contribution to his 1971 mega-hit Maggie May, credited “the mandolin player in Lindisfarne. The name slips my mind.”
Ray, who has smarted over the omission, said: “I played Mandolin Wind (the Rod Stewart song he had originally been asked to perform on) on stage this year for fun and said, ‘That was a song by someone whose name slips my mind’.”
Having moved to Witney, Oxfordshire, 17 years ago – to “escape the rat race” after 13 years in London – he rediscovered his skill as an artist and now specialises in transport subjects, making pictures of old buses and cars, “vintage stuff”.
He also enjoys visiting his two children from his first marriage – a son on Tyneside and a daughter on the south coast - and spending time with his three grandchildren in Lewes, Sussex.
Expressing his continuing fondness for Newcastle, he said: “I’ve been up and down to Newcastle many times this year. It’s a fantastically aesthetically pleasing city but with a few traffic problems.”
On a subsequent posting on that Facebook page, he confirmed his departure, thanked everyone for their warm wishes and clarified: “Just to be clear, there is only one gig to be honoured in my name in 2015.”
The remaining members of the band, which presumably will no longer be Ray Jackson’s, are Dave Hull-Denholm, Paul Thompson, Ian Thomson, Charlie Harcourt and Steve Daggett.