album cover For A' That (1977)

[RCA PL 25066]

Engineer Mickey Sweeney
Producer Geoff Heslop

Artist : Five Hand Reel

Dick Gaughan : Vocal, Guitars, Tenor Banjo
Bobby Eaglesham : Vocal, Guitar, Dulcimer
Tom Hickland : Vocal, Fiddle, Piano
Barry Lyons : Bass
Dave Tulloch : Drums

Track Notes

songtext Bratach Bana (Trad arr Five Hand Reel)

"Mhic Iarla nam bratach bana" ("Son of the Earl of the white banners") - my first ever attempt at recording a song in Gaelic. Although my Gaelic is not very good, my mother was a native speaker and singer and she was the first person I ever heard sing this waulking song. My pronunciation was lousy but I still feel it was a worthwhile exercise as it did open the door and set a precedent. It seems odd in these days when it is now perfectly normal to sing Gaelic songs in a contemporary fashion that this was regarded as extremely daring and adventurous in 1977. We've come a long, long way since those days.

Pinch Of Snuff (Trad arr Five Hand Reel)

One of the aims of Five Hand Reel was the creation of a rock music which was totally Scots/Irish (now commonly called "Celtic Rock") and we were convinced that the most powerful this could get was the reel.

It all has to be viewed in historic context - in 1977, there was nobody else really trying it. The only other fulltime Scots bands around then were Tannahill Weavers, Battlefield Band and Silly Wizard, none of which had percussion so tended to be closer to the acoustic. The rockier end of the spectrum was mostly the province of the two major English bands of that period, Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span. While Alan Stivell and JSD Band had done some exploration into the idea of a "Celtic Rock" music, it was terribly unfashionable and they and we came in for a great deal of often quite savage and vitriolic criticism, not against the music we played but against the instrumentation with which we played it.

Although it did hurt, we couldn't really take it seriously - after all, as daft as it seems in retrospect, ten years before this there had been the same outraged screeching that using an acoustic guitar to accompany "folk songs" was a totally unacceptable departure from tradition and should be treated as anathema. And Dylan had been howled down at Newport and the Isle of Wight. "Never mind the music, judge it purely by what it's played on".

So Five Hand Reel were never very popular in Britain and were completely unknown in Ireland; most of our work was either in Punk venues in the UK - like Eric's in Liverpool and The Marquee in London - or in bars etc around Denmark and Germany. But even there we occasionally met with hostility - at the Braunschweig Folk Festival, people started hissing at the sight of drums and backline amps, before we had even played a note. I confess that I was not at all impressed by the arrogance of people who had been brought up within a completely different culture trying to tell me what was aesthetically appropriate for me to do or not to do within my own. Liking or not liking it is one thing, telling me I can or can't do it because it's against some imagined rule is quite another.

The popular vision of Celtic music at the time was the wonderful acoustic music coming from Ireland in bands like Planxty, the Bothy Band and the Chieftains. With the exception of Horslips, it wasn't until Moving Hearts that Irish bands started to explore the application of elements of rock to traditional music and, indeed, most of the developments in traditional Irish music are still pretty much acoustic. But the approach taken by Five Hand Reel is now routine for Scottish bands and I am proud to have played a part in breaking many of the phoney taboos.

songtext A Man's A Man For A That (Trad arr Five Hand Reel)

Robert Burns' great anthem to the unity of humanity. Our reading of it was met with howls of outrage from many Scots. But I have never found a satisfactory way of doing it in any other form than this. Others may do it better, but it's the best version I'll ever be part of.

songtext Haughs O Cromdale (Trad arr Five Hand Reel)

Never let historical fact get in the way of a good song. Factually, the song is nonsense, but it is one great song.

songtext Ae Fond Kiss (Trad arr Five Hand Reel)

Another song by Robert Burns, one of the great love songs in any language. Sung here by Bobby Eaglesham.

P Stands For Paddy (Trad arr Five Hand Reel)

Tom Hickland singing a song from his native Ulster.

Paddy Fahey's Reels (Paddy Fahey arr Five Hand Reel)

A tune the name of which escapes me, followed by a couple of Paddy Fahey's great tunes.

songtext The Cruel Brother (Trad arr Five Hand Reel)

One of the few songs which was in my solo repertoire which went into Five Hand Reel. I've never been able to sing it since as Dave Tulloch's percussion became such an essential part of my interpretation of the story. I learned it from Tom Spiers of the Aberdeen based group, The Gaugers.

songtext Carrickfergus (Trad arr Five Hand Reel)

Another song which I keep getting asked to sing - but it was sung by Bobby. I only sang the harmony.

Lochanside/ The Jig Of Slurs/ Linda Brechin's/ The Marquis Of Tullybardine

Both Bobby and Dave had been drummers in pipe bands and Barry Lyons apprenticed himself to a pipe band in London to learn how to play tenor drum. When we did this live, the three of them would form a small drum corps at the front of the stage - the sight of a rock band turning into a Scottish drum corps was outrageous and was one of the high spots of our gigs.

Historical Footnote

Recorded at Impulse Studios in Wallsend.

Like the first Five Hand Reel album, this was recorded entirely on 8 track and again was entirely constructed and recorded within about 8 days.

celtic knotwork

We were under desperate financial and personal pressures as the band was not popular in the UK so most of our touring was done in northern Europe, Germany and Denmark primarily. In Britain, we played mainly in Punk venues and to be honest, were much more popular with Punk audiences than amongst the folkies. There were exceptions, Tyneside and Lancashire being notable, and one of our favourite gigs was the Half Moon in Putney, where we had played our first ever gig after I joined. But we inspired strong reactions, pro and anti, and among most of the folk audience, it was largely anti.

We were told by the band's management that RCA records wanted to sign us. What we weren't told was a bunch of facts which I didn't learn until 15 years later. Although I cannot swear on oath to the truth of this, it appears from information I have received since that we were never signed to RCA, as we were led to believe, but to a company set up by the management of the band and the previous record company who then licensed to RCA. Although we each received a small share of the advance, none of us has ever received a penny in royalties since for any of the albums so far as I am aware. I certainly haven't. There is considerable uncertainty as to the ownership of the recordings now.

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