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A tuneful rendezvous with Lindisfarne's Rod Clements

Lindisfarne's Rod Clements is rightly proud of his new album which acts as a meeting point for all his songs

Rod Clements, former member of Newcastle folk group Lindisfarne
Rod Clements, former member of Newcastle folk group Lindisfarne

“Looking at it, it feels like a body of work and I’m proud of it.”

And why wouldn’t he be? Rod Clements - one of the founding pillars of North East music legends, Lindisfarne - is holding a nicely packaged double CD, which he can pretty much take full credit for.

“It is nice to hold it and think, ‘I did that’,” adds the 66-year-old with an expression I’m going to call modest pride.

We arranged to meet in the upstairs bar of Newcastle’s Tyneside Cinema, where Rod, who made up the original line up of the North East folk outfit with Simon Cowe, Ray Jackson, Ray Laidlaw and the late Alan Hull, is a volunteer guide and supporter of its ambitious redevelopment funding appeal.

But in this new world where snappy under-140-character tweets are apparently king, I can’t help regretting the location for the interview.

How I would have like to have been able to tweet: ‘Off to meet #rodclements on the corner’. Or something to that effect.

Rod Clements' album, Rendezvous Cafe
Rod Clements' album, Rendezvous Cafe

It may surprise some Lindisfarne fans to know it was Rod who wrote the band’s first hit, Meet Me On The Corner, and not Alan, who was the band’s chief songwriter.

There are similar surprises to be found among the two CDs-worth of songs which represent Rod’s considerable songwriting achievements to date - both in and out of Lindisfarne and its associated spin offs such as Jack the Lad.

“It’s nice to have been able to gather these songs together in one place and let people know that I wrote them,” he says.

Hence, in part, the first bit of the record’s title, Rendezvous Cafe.

“There’s also the lyrics of Meet Me On The Corner of course, and then the cafe in Tynemouth offered another link.”

It also offered the front cover of the CD, which was designed by Lindisfarne’s long time and last bassist Ian Thomson who continues to play live and record with Rod.

Indeed Ian played with him at the launch of the album, which was held in the Tyneside Cinema’s Classic screen in April - on the same night as our Culture Awards as it happens, which accounted for our absence.

I’m reliably informed though that the event saw Rod play around 10 tracks in front of the big screen which was peppered with images from days gone by.

Lindisfarne (Left to right) Ray Jackson, Rod Clements, Si Cowe, Ray Laidler and Alan Hull, 4th March, 1979
Lindisfarne (Left to right) Ray Jackson, Rod Clements, Si Cowe, Ray Laidler and Alan Hull, 4th March, 1979

“Even some from the pre-Lindisfarne days... it’s hard to believe there was such a thing isn’t it?” laughs Rod, reacting to my confused face.

“It was a great night and it worked out really well because I donated the proceeds of the gig to the Tyneside’s appeal and we got to use this fantastic space, which was a bit different to your normal music venue.”

It was around two years ago when Rod began thinking about assembling and re-recording his lyrical back catalogue for a new release.

“That’s when I had the initial idea and then I started recording in November 2012 in Ron Angus’ studio down in Chester-le-Street,” he explains. “I’ve just been popping back and forwards when I could, and when he could fit me in.

“I’ve more or less recorded everything that I wrote which was recorded by the band, and in a couple of cases other people as well,” he continues.

So anyone who gets a copy will hear Rod’s stripped-back take on tracks such as Road to Kingdom Come, Don’t Ask Me, Unmarked Car, Can’t Do Right for Doing Wrong and of course Meet Me On The Corner

“The main thing is that it’s my voice - the writer speaks if you like - so it’s not Jacka (Ray Jackson) or Billy (Mitchell, Lindisfarne’s last lead singer) or Dave Hull-Denholm (who was also in the final line up),” he says.

“Although they all did great jobs, I’ve always had this belief that the writer can sing it like nobody else can - not as well maybe - but they bring something to it which no-one else could.

Rod Clements, former member of Newcastle folk group Lindisfarne at the Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle
Rod Clements, former member of Newcastle folk group Lindisfarne at the Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle

“I’ve always maintained that a good song would stand up on its own two legs whoever is doing it. This is me kind of putting my money where my mouth is I suppose,” he adds with a smile.

As well as having his own perhaps obvious reasons for putting his stamp on the songs he wrote and recording them for posterity, he was also confident there were people who wanted to hear them.

“When I go out and do gigs on my own, that’s what I do. I sing those songs to people and they often ask afterwards whether I have a CD with those version of the songs on. Up until now I’ve always had to say ‘no’.”

Now though. he’ll be able to more than oblige, and a gig in Northumberland on Saturday night offers a nice place to start.

“I don’t gig as much in the North East as other places - or as much as I’d like to,” says Rod, who lives in Rothbury.

“I have pockets around the place. I tend to play Wales and the Midlands a lot at the moment.”

Rod says he’s certainly planning to give the album a good outing during his upcoming dates - and has undoubtedly enjoyed the nostalgia of putting the collection together - but he’s equally eager to get back to the creative process of making new music.

“Some of the songs I hadn’t revisited for a long time so it was nice to remember where they came from and bring them back to life. But I also feel in a way the album is drawing a line under what has been done,” he says.

“I’m letting everybody know that these are all my songs and they’re all here in one place for the first time, stripped down to as basic form as you can get really. Now I can move onto some new stuff.

“For me, songwriting has always been as the mood takes me,” he smiles. “Alan was a lot more prolific than me and was quite competitive too. I think it always irked him a bit that Meet Me On The Corner was the first hit... he never let me forget it.”

Well, it is an unforgettable song.

:: Rod Clements’ Rendezvous Cafe is available online at www.rodclements.com


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