A Few Words From Gavin Livingstone
After Alistair arrived back in Glasgow in 1996, I was introduced to him by Mick West and together we formed a musician’s cooperative called The Song Factory along with Wendy Weatherby and Fraser Fifield.
In November of 1997, The Song Factory, along with The St Francis Pipe Band and The South Side Chorus, presented a show subsidised by the STUC at the Tramway Theatre in Glasgow, entitled “Songs of the People” which incorporated some of Alistair’s songs, as well as traditional material. This was well received, and led to the show being done again at 1998’s Maydaze festival, albeit with Rod Paterson replacing Alistair who was touring at that time.
The Company then worked on Alistair’s next project – “A Ballad of John Maclean” which pre-empted Alistair’s “Red Clydeside” album, and incorporated much of the material that appeared on that CD. This played in November 1998 at The Arches theatre in Glasgow as part of the 75th anniversary of the death of John Maclean, and again garnered good reactions.
The last show that involved Alistair in The Song Factory with myself was “Ranters, Lovers and Chanters”, a celebration of the life of Robert Burns. This toured throughout Scotland in 1999 and even made a profit during a week-long run at the Edinburgh Festival!
Throughout this period, Alistair and I worked closely on songs and arrangements, leading to Alistair asking me if I would record his next solo album, “In Sleepy Scotland” at my studio in 2001. I played guitar and keyboards on some of the songs, and we formed a friendship and musical alliance that was to last the rest of his lifetime. During this year, Alistair was involved in the campaign to keep Govanhill swimming pool open, and this presented another opportunity for us to work together on many songs for the CD “Save Our Pool”, again recorded mainly at my studio.
Thereafter, Alistair and I often played together as a duo, mainly in small pub and club gigs, performing a mixture of original songs and mutually agreeable contemporary and traditional songs. This, in turn gave rise to some of the material on Alistair’s 2005 “Riches and Rags” album which was again recorded at my studio. I took a greater role instrumentally and vocally on this CD since I already knew some of the songs and arrangements, and was able to provide what Alistair called “fairy dust” for his great performances.
This didn’t always click, though, as I remember for Al’s song “Militant Red”. He told me that he wanted a “Clash type of attitude” on the song and I took that literally – recording drums, bass and spiky electric guitar. When Alistair heard the backing track, he was horrified and, in no uncertain terms, made me understand that it was a punk attitude to the arrangement that he envisaged, not a full blown punk track.
For the track “Old King Coal”, Al wanted an appalachian dulcimer on the track, so he hired one for a few days and asked me if I would learn to play it on the track – he demanded that others have the same high standards as himself! And, yes – it was done.
One other aspect of Alistair’s talent that I’ve not seen mentioned was the fact that he was a professional cocktail mixer in Australia, and I’ve witnessed him harnessing the same care and precision that was characteristic of his approach to his music to make some delightful and extremely potent concoctions!