top of page
  • Writer's pictureKate Clarke

Mother Indigo

Updated: Nov 14, 2022

Terry Clarke's sleevenotes from his 1999 release, Mother Indigo, on Gadfly Records.

Chris Britton's Wired Studios...

....just over the road from East Street where my maternal grandmother Florence Ada Edmonds was born in 1889 and across the traffic lights from London Street, where I did a lot of growing up in the sixties.

Saw my friend Mike Cooper play down there for the first time with his band The Blues Committee at the Alexandra School of Dancing, whose main business was ballroom and ballet. Later on it was known variously as The Glow Room and Wheels.... saw Cream play there and one of Mick Taylor's first shows with John Mayall. Played there myself with my first ever band, The Statesmen. I heard a lot of Stax and Motown there too. After that it was known for a long time as The Carribean Club, and the room at the back, which was walled with mirrors from its ballet days, was filled with the sound dominoes rapping on the tables and the riffing of ska, bluebeat and reggae.

On the other side of London Street was the Olympia Ballroom. Saw Gene Vincent there while I was still attending school. He hit the stage and sang 'Mama May' and my life was changed. Later on saw Marty Wilde, Tommy Roe and one of the greatest English Rock/Soul bands ever...Cliff Bennett and The Rebel Rousers. That was then....

Wired Studios 1994.....

My friend Terri Hooley and artist Gerry Gleason were once over from Belfast for a few days for an exhibition of Gerry's paintings in Newlyn, Cornwall. So, Hooley phones me..."What about you Terry, what are you up to?"

I told him that I was going into the studio to lay down some new songs that I'd been working on and suggested he take the train up to Reading and come along. 1994 had been a good year. In March I'd gone to Austin, Texas and had travelled out west with Butch Hancock and Jesse Taylor for a river trip on the Rio Grande through Santa Elena canyon. On returning home I toured Ireland for a month with Henry McCullough, a few weeks later Henry came over and we played some shows in England and Scotland after which the two of us went to Canada for some dates. October saw me reunited with Butch along with Rosie Flores and 'Slim' for a month long tour through England, Scotland, Ireland and most of Europe....

I'm telling you this because most of these songs grew in one way or another on all of these roads. November found me without a record contract, a lot of new material and a 1963 Gibson B45 twelve string guitar that I'd picked up the previous year and was really excited about recording with.

So, a cold, damp, late autumn night saw Terri Hooley and me load up my coffee coloured 1980 Ford Cortina, which I managed to keep on the road until 1995 (had it it back) and make an album.

The first song cut was Candyman's Last Night (Coming Home). Hooley said he was going up the road to the Greyhound Bar for a quick drink, he came back about four hours later and it was all finished. Turned out that he'd met a young man who had seen service with the British Army in Northern Ireland and had spent the evening drinking and swapping stories with him.

Before we left that night/early morning we recorded a version of Terry's poem: Be My Friend. Me improvising on the twelve string guitar and him speaking the words that he'd said to me the first time that we met in North London in 1990. Be My Friend isn't on this album, but Hooley's own poem/story album is worth waiting for.

Three of these songs; Walk With Me, Back To The Well and Bruce Channel in this Town were recorded the following year for my Transatlantic release The Heart Sings, which came out in 1997. However those versions featured a full band line up and are very different to these solo performances. Regarding the other songs.....

Candyman's Last Night (Coming Home), I know there'll be many more last nights. I hope that Frankie Murray still sings Kansas City, Tally Ho lodge still stands, as does Jack Noone, cattle dealer and first cousin of my father. My own first cousin Frank Clarke still drives through Ballysadare. Bruce Channel is today writing great songs and singing them with the same fire and rhythm that he did Hey Baby in the beginning.

I've seen Mother Indigo in many lovely guises at North Devon, Cornwall, Sligo, Kerry, Sicily, Rimini, Aberdeen, Lindisfarne, Bergen, Portstewart, Dingle, Boston, Maine, Morecambe Bay, Whiyby, rolling on....

I first saw the sea en route from Holyhead, Anglesey, to Dublin, bound for Sligo, on the west coast of Ireland, where, as a child we'd go to visit my father's family. Later, our family holidays were usually spent in and around Hayle and St Ives in Cornwall. The Northern Cornish coast and that of North Devon, remains one of my favourite places.

Over the years I've grown to love and admire the work of painters Peter Lanyon, who was born in St.Ives and that of Alfred Wallis, who was born in Devonport but who lived and painted in St. Ives.

Very often when I'm there these days, it's difficult to look at the land and sea and not think of the work of Lanyon and Wallis. The song Mother Indigo was written in and around Bideford Bay which enchants me and takes my breath away as much now as when I first saw it in the early seventies.

There is a line in Mother Indigo which quotes from Alfred Wallis: 'Where the boats have the souls of fish' I believe they do.

The inscription on Peter Lanyon's grave in the churchyard at Lelant overlooking the Hayle estuary reads: "I will ride now the barren kingdoms in my history and in my eye.'

Terry Clarke

Reading, Berkshire, England


"Don't these sea towns talk like Dylan Thomas

tiger prawns, crabs and cats,

marmalade skies

spread all over

down along the mud flats."

from 'Strawberry Water'

by Terry Clarke

Recent Posts

See All


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page