Anthony John Clarke writes...
All I ever wanted to be was a writer of songs. From the minute I heard Barry Maguire singing the song “Eve of Destruction” and held the single “Like A Rolling Stone” by Dylan in my hand. From those beautiful Sunday evenings I would sit and watch Al Stewart, John Martyn, Claire Hamill and Christy Moore and a host of other greats grace the University Hall stage in Belfast, and from the time I spent my paper round money on a second hand Eko Ranger 6 at Smithfield Market, I was doomed.
I was doomed to that life that could so easily end in failure. The failure being that nobody may want to be with your songs. Even to this day, always searching for that lyric or that melody or that fusion of the two I stand here alone on this website thinking, “I’m still just doing ok.”
But we’ve come a long way haven’t we. We have CDs, Songbooks, MP3s, tuners: and they were few and far between at Smithfield Market. But it was there, in that dusty grubby selection of market stalls that I unearthed great treasures. These were round vinyl objects with pretentious covers adorned by sulking artistes wearing fabulous names. Savoy Brown, Pentangle, Magna Carta, Jethro Tull, Ten Years After, Taste, Cream, the Mothers of Invention, Atomic Rooster, Fairport Convention, The Kinks, Joni Mitchell, Wishbone Ash, Yes and millions more. And all these bands were driven by the greatest hero of them all. The songwriter. He or she would be our guiding light and we would forever be the apprentice.
I remain an apprentice for life. It’s compulsory and there is no escape. In 1984 I stopped playing for a couple of months. I was fed up and getting nowhere. I left the guitar in the case and worked, played poker, tried squash and read the paper worrying about Thatcherism. But there was no escape. I was at a friend’s house one evening and he put on Jackson Browne’s album “The Pretender”. I listened transfixed without speaking a word. He followed that with “Russians and Americans” the Al Stewart masterpiece and we finished the evening off with John Martyn’s “Solid Air” which to this day is still the greatest living collection of songs.
The prodigal son had returned. How dare I think that I could stay away from such beauty. So whether it’s a passing fancy or a lifetime’s work one thing is for sure. Once you let a song under your skin it’s harder to remove than a tattoo. Thanks for dropping by at this website and oh I forgot, this was supposed to be a biography.
... It is.
Anthony John Clarke xxxxx
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Stafford two years ago - we were waiting to see Fairport Convention. Then this softly spoken, fast talking, amusing man came on; funny yes and after his first song we were smitten. In the end you and Chris Lesley stole the evening for us. Your songs made us sit up, listening to each and every word, thinking about the tale behind those words. Now, nine Cds later and we still love your voice, your songs and the varied instrumental accompaniment. Irish songs, storytelling songs with an edge, songs of love and social comment on everyday life, we love them all. (Chris and Jeya, Barnstaple, Devon)
He storms it every time he gets on a stage. Brilliant!!! He had our audience eating out of his hand every night on the Fairport Convention Tour. (Dave Pegg, Fairport Convention)
I have loved Anthony John Clarke's songs for over 30 years. I have watched him perform since he was an 18 year old student in Liverpool. One word... Outstanding! (Niall Crozier, Belfast Telegraph)
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So what do we really know about this man ? It’s all here
- Workingman Blues (Bob Dylan)
- Sabu Visits the Twin Cities (John Prine)
- Leave The Light On (Chris Smither)
- Last Time I saw Richard (Joni Mitchell)
- Night Train To Munich (Al Stewart)
- When I was a Child (Claire Hamill)
- Sweet Little Mystery (John Martyn)
- Slapstick (Kurt Vonnegut)
- Jailbird (Kurt Vonnegut)
- Mother Night (Kurt Vonnegut)
- A Passage To India (E M Forster)
- Adam Bede (George Eliot)
- Pies and Prejudice (Stuart Maconie)
- Espresso Tales (Alexander McCall Smith)
- My leather chair
- John’s house
- Hills with my dog
- The Giant’s Causeway
- Calderstones Park
- The Seaside
- Blyth (Northumberland)
- Al Stewart
- John Martyn
- Joni Mitchell
- David Bowie
- John Prine
- Conor Clarke
- Ray Davies
- Solid Air (John Martyn)
- Between The Wars (Al Stewart)
- Ziggy Stardust (David Bowie)
- The Pretender (Jackson Browne)
- Blue (Joni Mitchell)
- October (Claire Hamill)
- The Wild and the Innocent (Bruce Springsteen)
- Galaxy Quest
- Remains Of the Day
- Mary Poppins
- The Empire Strikes Back
- Time Bandits
- Bob Roberts
- Betty Blue
Favourite TV Shows
- Question Time
- Diagnosis Murder
- Murder She Wrote
Papers and Magazines
- When Saturday Comes
- The Telegraph on Saturday because the crossword is easier
- Community Care
- Take A Break
- Stamp Collecting
- Queues at airports
- Cruel words or people
- Not having gloves
- Changing my guitar strings
- That artistes listen to every song they get sent and not just their own.
- That singers and performers always tell the truth about themselves.
- That having a supply of Sports Mixtures will give you a lift.
- That one knows one’s song well before one starts singing. (circa 1962 Dylan)
- That encouragement is the gift we all thrive on.
- That you can only enjoy playing with other people if you like them as people and as musicians.
- That if your partner has a saxophone it’s a good idea to have a shed.
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