Earl O' Moray (1978)
[RCA PL 25150]
Engineer Mike Pela
Producer Simon Nicol
Artist : Five Hand Reel
Dick Gaughan : Vocal, Guitars
Bobby Eaglesham : Vocal, Guitar, Mandolin, Dulcimer
Tom Hickland : Vocal, Fiddle, Piano
Barry Lyons : Bass, Whistle
Dave Tulloch : Drums, Harmonica
My Love Is Like A Red Red Rose (Trad arr Five Hand Reel)
This surely has to be the greatest love song ever written. By Robert Burns and sung here by Bobby.
Sherrifmuir (Trad arr Five Hand Reel)
A combination of several bits and pieces from the Jacobite Wars. The main elements are Adam Skirving's Battle of Sherrifmuir and Will ye go to Sherrifmuir. The former is set to a tune by the Irish harper, Turlough Carolan and I learned it to that tune from Archie Fisher.
Child On The Road (Trad arr Five Hand Reel)
An Irish version of one of the classic ballads sung by Tom. I believe he learned it from Seamas Ennis.
The Bonnie Earl o' Moray (Trad arr Five Hand Reel)
This is a Scots song which, strangely, few people have ever recorded and not many sing but everyone knows.
It has actually given birth to a literary phenomenon. (The significant line here is, "They have slain the Earl o Moray and laid him on the green")
Many people lay claim to having been the one who coined it but the first I ever heard refer to it was Hamish Imlach who, many years ago, told me that he had been talking to an American woman during the break at one of his gigs and she had asked him if he sang "that wonderful old song about Lady Mondegreen". He expressed his total bewilderment until she tried to jog his memory by singing him the line, "They have slain the Earl o Moray and Lady Mondegreen". This has given birth to "Mondegreens" the misunderstanding of a song lyric.
The Trooper And The Maid (Trad arr Five Hand Reel)
There are two excellent tunes to this song and by coincidence I always sang it to one and Bobby to the other. So we decided simply to combine them and use the change in melody to give emphasis to shifts in the story.
The Beef-Can Close (Trad arr Five Hand Reel)
My favourite Five Hand Reel track - indeed, one of my favourite tracks of any I have ever recorded. The riffs used here grow naturally out of the melody and were great fun - I used to love playing this live; I'd look forward to it throughout the whole gig!
Jackson And Jane (Trad arr Five Hand Reel)
Song from N Ireland about a famous racehorse. I don't know what it is about the Irish and talking horses. Sung by Tom.
Freedom Come-All-Ye (Hamish Henderson)
Five Hand Reel only ever played two modern songs in all the time I was with them. One was Bobby's Death of Argyll on the first album, Five Hand Reel and Hamish Henderson's magnificent Freedom Come All Ye was the other.
Recorded at Rockfield Studios. Mixed at CBS
With this album, Five Hand Reel came of age musically, in my opinion. The raw, wild energy which we generated was finally held in check under the guiding hand of producer Simon Nicol and there is a focus here which was previously only hinted at. On this album we abandoned the 'sets of tunes' approach and integrated songs and tunes completely, with the tunes being used as dramatic interludes in the stories. From the intensity of Sherrifmuir and Beef-can Close to the exuberance of Trooper and the Maid and the passion of Red, Red Rose, I loved every minute of making this album. We worked round the clock at Rockfield Studios and, in retrospect, were probably grossly unfair to Simon and Mike in our insistance on driving ourselves and them to the point of exhaustion. Some things you look back on and cringe.
But the personal and financial problems were getting worse. RCA and our management decided to launch the album at Ronnie Scott's Club in London's Soho with a rather expensive press launch - I had to borrow the money for my train fare from Edinburgh to be there. When we played at Reading Festival that year, RCA laid on a chauffeur-driven limo and cases of booze - there we were in a large black limo being driven to the gig and we hadn't enough money between us to buy hamburgers.
We had a caravan dressing room at Reading and these two guys came in, announced themselves our 'minders' and proceeded to unload cases of booze and tell us that, whatever we wanted, their job was to provide it. The entire concept made me feel ill and I knew this wasn't for me. I wasn't the only one to feel that, I know. This wasn't music any more, it was showbiz. All we really cared about was going on stage and making that big, wild, manic, glorious noise we made. And making enough money to feed ourselves and our families. And we were surrounded by people whose job it was to make sure they got as much out of us as they could by feeding our egos and filling us with alcohol and other substances.
RCA had been looking for a band with which they could pick up some of the chart success being had by Steeleye Span. They had thought we might be it. We weren't. It didn't take them long to realise it. We became a tax loss.
At the time of writing this, no one seems to have any idea where the master tapes of 'Earl o Moray' are or who is the legal owner of them. RCA deny all knowledge of it.
In November that year, 1978, the nightmare every musician on the road carries in their soul came true - my daughter was knocked down by a car while I was on tour and had her thigh broken. It was the final straw and pushed me over the edge - I resigned from the band. I was replaced by Sam Bracken and the band recorded a further album, 'Bunch of Fives', for Topic before finally throwing in the towel a year later. (I actually think this is the best Five Hand Reel album but that might be because I wasn't involved and so it's the only one about which I can really be impartial.)
This all probably sounds quite bitter even after all these years and, while I don't lose any sleep over it any more, I suppose there is a certain residual bitterness. I could have been making a reasonable living being solo but this was a band I loved with a ferocious loyalty, making music I loved to people who loved hearing it and it was killed by a bunch of people who couldn't pick out three consecutive white notes on a piano and others who sneered because couldn't they see beyond the superficial resemblance to a rock band to find the sometimes startling innovatory essence of the band and its significance for the future of traditional Scots music and song. Five Hand Reel had an influence disproportionate to its status and still has, even on people who never heard us. I believe that some day its true significance in the development of Scots music will be seen.
A few months after I left I had a total breakdown which, at the time seemed to be the end of everything but, like these things always do, turned out to merely be the beginning of a new stage in my life.
Definitive answer to a Frequently Asked Question -
Will Five Hand Reel ever play together again?
I cannot think of a single valid reason for it ever to do so. The music was the result of those five people being who we were at that stage of our lives, good, bad and ugly. It is impossible to go back to being somebody you were twenty years ago. I haven't a clue if any of the others might try one day but it will not involve me. I have many good memories and the bad have dissolved over the two decades since it collapsed.
(Since I wrote the above, Bobby has died so the question is now redundant.)
Footnote to the Five Hand Reel story: In my opinion, the best recording Five Hand Reel ever made in the time I was with them was the album of traditional Danish songs, "Ebbe, Dagmar, Svend og Alan", we were asked to provide the musical arrangements and accompaniment to for our friend, Danish singer Alan Klitgaard. I do not know if it is still available anywhere.