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Pete Heywood talks to Robin Morton
Battlefield Band
B
attlefield Band’s 1980 1970s. The band have pioneered the constant factors. They had Bairns. Robin found himself in a
album ‘Home Is Where the use of such diverse gone through a series of changes delicate situation where he was
the Van Is’ is now justly instruments as pedal organ, in line up; the realities of a life on both the manager of the band
regarded as a landmark in cittern and synthesiser, in concert the road summed up in the title and the label owner, but the
the contemporary evolution with the more usual fiddle and of the LP. decision to release the album on
of Scottish folk music. Its the Highland and Northumbrian the Temple label was the band’s
pioneering integration of non- pipes as an integral part of their Jamie McMenemy had settled own.
traditional instruments like sound. in Brittany and was playing in
synthesiser and electric piano, a band, Pat Kilbride was back Robin takes up the story. “Home
with harmonica, fiddle and By an approach that is ever in Belgium, again with his own is Where the Van Is was the
bagpipes proved an enduring respectful of their tradition and band. Jennie Clark was in first Battlefield album that really
inspiration to countless other yet allows them to be startlingly Aberdeen and still very much sold in substantial quantities
musicians – among them original in their arrangements involved in music making. Sylvia and also sold extensively in
being current Battlefield Band and presentation, they have and Jim Barnes, past members of America. It was only the fifth
fiddler, Alasdair White, who broken down many artificial Kentigern as well as Battlefield, release on the Temple label and
recalls hearing it in his father’s music barriers, reaching an had moved to Reading to ‘real we were able to concentrate on
record collection as a child. It ever widening audience both at day jobs’ although still playing more specific promotion for the
also marked longtime member home and throughout Europe in as a duo. John Gahagan was album instead of it being just
Brian McNeill’s first notable general. Their records have been making his living from his design one release among many on
emergence as a songwriter with acclaimed for their fresh and and drawings and was a familiar a larger label. It was also the
‘The Lads O’ the Fair’. It was sympathetic approach to Scottish figure in sessions in Glasgow first album to feature new tunes
also the group’s first release to music. They have also been playing whistle and fiddle. written by band members. Brian
be distributed widely in America. the inspiration of the many new had written a Strathspey ‘Look
bands that have appeared over Up to this point Battlefield had Across the Water’ during a band
‘Home is Where the Van Is’ the past couple of years. released six albums and one EP, tour of Brittany in 1978 and
certainly has all the credentials all the time experimenting with Alan Reid wrote the tune ‘Mary
of a ‘Classic Album’. It was ‘of At a time when musical quality instrumentation and expanding Cassidy’ and named it after his
its moment’ and yet has stood is much more important than their repertoire and influence wife. I made a chance comment
the test of time. It was awarded categories Battlefield Band’s on the growing revival of in the studio, “Do any of you
the ‘Pries der Deutschen vocal and instrumental prowess Scottish music in the mid-1970s. guys write songs.” and Brian
Schallplattenkritik’ (the prize combine with an inventiveness Although ‘Home is Where the Van McNeill, who was quite secretive
of the German Record Critics) which makes their music exciting, Is’ was the first Battlefield album about his writing at the time, said
in 1980. The line up was Alan creative and accessible to all.” released on the Temple record that he had one. The rest of the
Reid, Brian McNeill, Duncan label, it was not the first album band, including Alan Reid, were
MacGillivray and Ged Foley. These comments were from the they had recorded at Temple unaware of Brian’s song writing
sleeve notes of Battlefield Band’s Studios. Robin had previously at this point.”
“The name of Battlefield Band ‘Home is Where the Van Is’ LP recorded several albums for
has been in the forefront of first released in 1980. By this Topic Records including three The result was ‘The Lads of
the tremendous resurgence of time Battlefield had been on the Battlefield Band LPs, the award the Fair’, a new song that was
Scottish music and song that road for about eight years with winning ‘Cilla & Artie’ LP and the as instantly at home among a
has been going on since the mid Brian McNeill and Alan Reid as debut album of Jock Tamsons traditional song repertoire as
The Living Tradition - Page 22
Issue82.indd 22 24/2/09 10:46:50 pm
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