Steeleye Span - "Back in Line" Tour Programme

Maddy Prior Letter
Rick Kemp Interview
Robert Johnson Favourite Quotes
Peter Kinght Text
Nigel Pegrum Text

Back In Line Tour Programme, signed by Nigel Pegrum On the left:
tour programme front cover,
signed by Nigel Pegrum

courtesy of Eric Bergman


  Maddy Prior Letter

Cumbria, England, May'86.

Dear Adrian,

          You said you wanted me to do an interview with myself to put in a programme. But I'm not a good interviewer. I've thrown away three drafts already and am now staring at a blank piece of paper again.

          What sort of questions should I ask? The old chestnuts. How did the band get its name? But everyone knows it comes from the ballad of Horkstow Grange, which is about John Span (nicknamed Steeleye for a hard miserly man) and contains the immortal line "Pity them that see him suffer, pity poor old Steeleye Span".
          And I think that people that come to see us will know that the band began in 1969 with the intention of using traditional English music in an electric band format with the idea of re-introducing young audiences to their own tradition which had become alien through lack of familiarity, since the radio, which is the main source of music, is dominated by American influences, albeit transfused through UK artists. Ironically our music has survived more intact in some parts of the USA than it has here.

          I think it's fairly obvious that we still continue in this vein, with adaptations including our own compositions. We've also reworked some songs that we did in the early days of Steeleye, and this has given us a new vitality and connection with our roots as a band. I think anyone would agree that we are playing better than ever and comprehend the material in a new way.
 Maddy Prior           Traditional songs are largely songs of experience, and as our experience increases so does our appreciation of the beauty and depth of the big ballads and the poignancy and pertinence of the industrial songs. Even the romantic visions of country life epitomised in 'Spotted Cow' merely reflect our own Laura Ashley, pine-stripped longings for a golden age that never was.
          People have asked if we're crusaders. Carrying the banner for traditional music (not 'folk' which is a term too widely abused and misused). I suppose we are, in as much as if you have something and believe in it, it is natural that you should want to share it. I read in a magazine about interior design an article which described a room set romantically as reminding the writer of "morris dancing, spirituality and boring things like that". In which case I carry the banner for the boring things in life. Long may it wave!
          Traditional lyrics deliberately reflect the everyday. The songs are not ashamed that what they discuss is not new. Novelty is not the only quality revered. They have a longevity. They improve with age. As good things usually do. Their energy is more profound and less obvious. Not for the quick turnover. The fast buck.
          Time has gone into these songs. Like trees they cannot be quickly replaced.

          And it may need time to understand the weaving modal melodies. We try to do these songs justice while incorporating our own endeavours alongside and around them.
          But if I write about all that I'11 get relegated to "pseud's corner".
          And if I write about how great the new album is, and how one track was recorded "live", direct onto cassette (no overdubs or remixes) with my husband's raunchy bass intro - no-one will believe me and think I'm just writing a blurb.
          So, I give up.
          Just put a picture of Alex and Rosie in instead.

          Best love,



  Rick Kemp Interview

Rick Kemp was interviewed on 28.5.86 by the notorious Screaming Skull
who came by courtesy of Dem Bones Records.

Screaming Skull - Rick. do you think that Back In Line is the best album that S. Span ever made?

Rick Kemp - Yes. For many reasons: a) It is the best and most cohesive selection of songs both written and traditional. b) The combination of John Aycock and the band producing, worked better than any previous co-operation. c) For the first time I think that we have used the technical advances available to us at the time to their best advantage. d) The most important factor I think is that we are playing better as a band than ever before. in a live situation.

S.S. - Can we take these points one at a time? You say, that Back In Line is a combination of traditional and written material - how much of each can we find in this selection?

R.K. - There is no clear line in terms of substance. For instance. Blackleg Miner (the only live recording on the album) is the only song with both words and tune that are traditional. Most of the remainder are written on traditional themes and are true stories. The three songs about the life of Robert the Bruce; (i.e. Isobel. Lanercost. and Take My Heart) where all the content is taken from the history of the time, or Edward where the words of a traditional baliad are used. are part of what the band has always sought to do. I think that what is important is (whether the song has been written. collated. or is traditional) that it have some Political or Social relevance.

S.S. - Your second point about the combination of producer John Aycock and the band - why, apart from an obvious need for a sympathy with both music and personalities, was this liaison with John so successful?

R.K. - The results of the liaison. and the reaction to them. Never before after any of the twelve or so studio albums that the band has made has the reaction from all quarters been so positive and encouraging. All reactions count for me, reviews, friends, crew, record distributors, and this time they all seem to like what we've done.
It has also been the first album that I've been able to listen to, hot off the press - usually, it takes me a long time to appreciate them after mixing.

S.S. - The third point was that you felt abreast of the technical advances - do you consider this to be important? And why?

 Rick Kemp R.K. - Yes - I think that this in part accounts for the immediate and positive reaction to the album. People's awareness of better recording techniques (and therefore sounds) is much greater as time goes by. Home equipment is much more sophisticated. The introduction of the crossover and graphic equaliser etc into the domestic market, and the greater availability of technical information in the music press and manufacturers advertising all go toward a more demanding record buying public; and let's not forget the thousands of home studio owners who know how a record has been put together. and how much care has been taken, just on a first listen.
Of course we would have gone further had our budget allowed - recorded digitally or on compact disc, but a line has to be drawn somewhere. and at the end of the conversation, our development as players is more important.

S.S. - You said that there has been an improvement in the Band's live performance - what has changed?

R.K. - Mainly we've placed more importance on playing and singing the music, and less on the trappings of what we used to call "the show". Each of us has had a wide experience outside the band now. All other projects have their influence.

S.S. - Being my own instrument, l'm interested to know how you view the Bass Guitars role in the context of S. Span.

R.K. - Playing for some years with the brilliant but underrated guitar player Michael Chapman, I learned a large part of the instrument`s scope, and for the first time since joining S. Span I feel able to range further. We have as a band left spaces for each other, and have increasingly become more sensitive to each other`s playing. Whatever the instrument, the key seems to be in the listening - although I have to admit to taking a large number of cues from Maddy's voice - can you think of anyone better to listen to?

S.S. - Don't ask me questions. Gasbag. I'm dead. Remember!


  Bob Johnson Favourite Quotes

Bob's Headmaster:
"Unless you've got at least 7 'O' levels and 3 'A' levels there`s no point in even leaving school."

Bob's End of Term Report:
"Very good at vaulting".

Bob's First Job as Greengrocer's Assistant: "Now. I want you to polish all the apples and turn them so that the red bits face the front . . . .`

Bob's Second Job as Assistant Storekeeper in Hearing-Aid Factory in Balham: "Now. remember son, whatever happens in the world outside, in the stores you`re king!"

 Robert Johnson Bob's Third Job Delivering Bread In Catford:
Bob to old deaf lady: ''Do you want to owe this?"
Old lady to Bob: "Alright dear. I'11 have two Hovis"

Bob's Lst Job In 'earl Sheridan and The Houseshakers' (1960):
Earl: "What I like about you is that you play good old Rock'n Roll"

Bob's 10th Job in Gary Glitter's Band (1968): Gary: "The only trouble with you is that you look like an old rocker."

Melody Maker Concert Review (1974):
Critic:''The beautiful sound of Maddy's voice was only spoiled by the heavy rock 'n roll coming from the other end of the stage."

American Music Critic (1985):
Critic: "What I like about you is that you play rock n roll"


  Peter Knight Text

Saying It (June '86)

          To say, that what you have said to someone who has already said it and then said it to you is saying something to them. is like saying that to have said something to someone who has said it before but not to you, is like saying what was said by someone else to you. This means. that if you said something to someone who couldn`t hear you and then said they couldl they would say it as they said it because they couldn't hear you. But if they heard you and lied about it, theywould be saying it first to themselves and then to you in the way that you said it to them.

 Peter Knight           This simply means that to say something that someone says to you back to them, and say for instance, that saying it like them is not really saying it at all, saying that saying it, whether you have or haven't said it before and or not lied about it, is saying less than not really saying it.

          My advice, is to say that to have said that saying it to someone who has said it who could be saying it because you said it to them and they pretended they couldn't hear you, is the same as saying that if they had said to themselves that hearing it from you, and saying that hearing it was the same as saying it or saying that they had heard it, they couldn't actually have heard it or said it. So where did it come from if no one said it? My advice is to keep your mouth shut.


  Nigel Pegrum Text

          We didn't come to live in England till I was about six years old. Soon after, so I could tell a friend where we had lived before, I asked my Mum where I came from. Realizing the full responsibility of a modern parent of the 1950's she said she found me behind the clock on the mantelpiece in Granny's room. I don't think I have ever recovered from that blow.

          The family had moved to London from a beautiful granite and slate house in a tiny Welshspeaking village between the mountains and the sea of North Wales. My father saw no future for my brother and I tucked away in a remote corner of the Principality. He had come to the Metropolis to set up a fruit and vegetable business with an old friend.

          The business flourished. I was sent to the best schools. I was taught the Arts - Literature Languages - then disaster struck! I discovered Buddy Holly! Hundreds of pounds worth of school fees were dashed to smithereens as in every waking hour I strummed and twanged, crooned and sobbed the messages that youth - for the first time in the history of mankind - was able to convey to the world.

 Nigel Pegrum           I had discovered Buddy Holly late in his career, and by now the Beatles were eclipsing all previous "pop' music artists. I would watch the school "beat group", The Banshees, rehearsing Please Please Me and She Loves You - not imagining myself strutting the front of the stage as lead singer - not extracting gasps of admiration for my dexterity on the lead guitar - but intoxicated by the NOISE the drums made!! My nylon strung acoustic guitar was traded in for a pre-war snare drum . . . I sold my model racing car set for a cymbal . . . and for a tomtom I used a purple plastic bucket turned upside down on the kitchen table!

          With this magnificent kit, and after many, many days of diligent practice(!) - I was given the chance to join a local group - The Lawmen. I loved every second of being in a group with a passion, and not in my wildest dreams thought it would ever be possible to actually do this sort of thing for a living. . . .