My footpath through music (2) – post-Ghosts

Polly Phillips.
On the breakup of Hungry Ghosts, my two main collaborators were singer Polly Phillips and guitarist Gil Murray.

Polly is a superb singer, who had just released her first album I Wish I Had Your Life. We had a weekly residency in a cafe called Common Grounds at the top of the Mound, and also played in a few other Edinburgh and Glasgow venues and radio sessions. During that time I wrote New Eyes and Time Starts Now and Polly had a strong influence on their final shape. .

In 1998 Polly, along with Woodstock Taylor, organised a Songwriters Festival at the Edinburgh Festival in a marquee alongside the Spiegeltent at Waverly Market, a marquee which became known as the SpiegelWendyHouse. By that time Polly had her own band, but she joined me for my set. I was also joined by Gil Murray, a friend from Queensferry whom I had met through our contributions to the Incredible String Band fanzine.

Norman and Gil at 98 Festival.

Over the next year I worked more and more with Gil. His skill on guitar covers all the guitar sounds I like, from Renbourne/Jansch picking to Fripp’s singing sustain. He always came up with the sound I heard in my head for new songs. By the middle of ’99 we had a residency in the same cafe that I had played with Polly, although the audiences were smaller! We called ourselves the Invisible Brethren (from a Robin Williamson song). A video exists of our performance in the Ross Theatre in Princes Street Gardens, where we played the co-written Wind Like Lace on Greenan Shore, The Desert Was Better, and Hungry Ghosts.

From Invisible Brethren video.


After the residency folded, Gil and I continued to jam for fun and to record, but our performance career was over. I took a break from singer-songwritering. Since living in Egypt in 1977-8 and 81-2 I had always wanted to play Arabic music, and through belly-dance teacher Hilary Thacker I was able to ‘apprentice’ myself to some excellent drummers at her dance classes, where I played the duf and darabouka drums.

By this time I had started to record the songs that would make up the Wolf album but didn’t have a band to play them with.

Finding myself composing This Horse about the very act of giving up songwriting made me realise it was in my blood, and by the end of 2001 I started playing at the first sessions of the open mic night Out of the Bedroom, where virtually the entire performer list and audience consisted of Jim, Nelson, Freeloading Frank and myself.

Soon afterwards I renewed my acquaintance with the G, who had returned to Edinburgh from Newcastle University, and we discussed the possibility of a band. That was to lead to the first lineup of the Innocents.

© Norman Lamont 2004

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