February 20th, Alan Hull’s birthday. Missed it by a day, but no matter. My offering for “lesser known”this time, is Hull’s 1973 solo album – Pipedream.
Released after the demise of the first lineup of Lindisfarne, Pipedream contains a typical mix of Hull songs, self-searching, self-critical and honest, upbeat, cheery, satirical and heartfelt. This was an album I originally bought on vinyl as a gatefold, but sadly lacking its book insert, and then bought the CD reissue with extra tracks.
Kicking off with he upbeat Breakfast, a list of ingredients in a cheery blast of a song, Hull pulls the rug from under our feet wit the final line as his adulterer faces the day alone,
“I feel so empty that I must be dead”.
Justanothersadsong, the second number up, is anything but – more positive than the opener, leading into the philosophical Money Game,
“Oh Anna, what does money mean anyway, we’re worth more than all that”.
Quirky instrumental STD 0632 follows, harmonica and mandolin led (Ray Jackson shines), followed by United States of Mind a beautifully picked guitar number where Hull concludes his state of mind
“needs no repairing”.
The side closer, Country Gentleman’s Wife tells a story of how the protagonist is seduced by the eponymous femme fatale, whose elderly husband is
‘Hardly ever at home”
. Hull’s character resists, in the strummed acoustic chorus where emphasis increasingly falls on the first syllable of country, only conceding defeat when the offer of regular food and drink is offered.
Numbers (Travelling Band) is a road song, but One For The Bairns sees us return to philosophy, as Hull lets his children into a secret,
“it’s only part of living, not life”.
“I rolled a joint, and crashed it on the floor”
“woe is me, I’ll never roll a joint no more”
as the thought of his coffin passing will make his mother very sad. Aaah!
Song For A Windmill does what it says on the tin, but Blue Murder is Hull at his darkest,
I am the apple man and I’m rotten to the core
I’m rotten to the core, the time has come for you to
Scream blue murder, scream blue murder.
Concluding song is a piano-led honesty piece, addressed by Hull,
I swear by the sun above, I’ll give you every bit of my love
If you’ll just let me see you smile, once in a while.
I think some of these songs melodically and lyrically are as good as anything else written by Hull, his honesty is occasionally painful, and worthy of a Plastic Ono Band Lennon, but he has a wit and levity sadly lacking in the former Beatle’s solo work. Recommended!