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The Lost Soul Band - Gordon Grahame Finds Himself Again

Things have never run smoothly for The Lost Soul Band. By rights, in the early 1990s when the Edinburgh based five piece were at their peak, they should have become one of Scotland’s national treasures. As it went, however, an uncaring record label dropped them after releasing two albums, the loose-knit Friday The 13th and Everything’s Rosie and the more polished The Land Of Do As You Please. This left the band’s classic Bob Dylan and Van Morrison inspired song-writing high and dry in an era dominated by American grunge bands that would later give way to Brit Pop. The Lost Soul Band sound - heartfelt and euphoric as it was on songs like Looking Through The Butcher’s Window, Coffee and Hope and their masterpiece, You Can’t Win them All Mum – simply didn’t fit in with the prevailing orthodoxies. A final, self-released album, Hung Like Jesus, was a more strung-out affair than its predecessors, and the band imploded shortly after.

Thirteen years on, singer/songwriter and guitarist Gordon Grahame, keyboardist and writing foil Mike Hall, bass player Richard Buchanan, drummer Brian Hall and percussionist Gavin Smith have reunited to go through their back catalogue for just two very special festive shows. Already, however, the curse of The Lost Soul Band has struck again, when following last week’s fire in Edinburgh’s Victoria Street, The Liquid Rooms, where the band were scheduled to play, was damaged to the extent of rendering the venue unusable. Fortunately, all scheduled Liquid Rooms shows have been transferred to the recently opened Picture House, allowing The Lost Soul Band to make their comeback in style.

At time of writing, however, they haven’t been in the same room as each other for thirteen years. Presuming everything comes together, the new shows promise to be emotional occasions, both for old time Lost Soul Band fans who’ve come out of the woodwork, and for the band themselves.

“I’m really feeling quite nervous,” gushes Grahame down the line from London, where he now lives. “Not in a bad way, but I’ve been running through the tracks, sitting in the lounge with my guitar on visualising the first song of the night. I just went to jelly, and had palpitations and stuff. Because we’re going to be playing these songs again to people who’ve been sitting on the recorded versions for eighteen years and know exactly what they want. I haven’t even had the albums for ten years. I had to get them on ebay. But I downloaded them and they sounded pretty rough and ready, and I’m thinking, how am I gonna do this. Richard says to me, ‘Yeah, you’re a bit of a crooner now.’”

The current gigs came about after Smith heard a Sugarcubes song on the radio, and started rooting through boxes of old tapes to see if he had a copy. What he found instead was a recording of a 1992 Lost Soul Band show broadcast on Radio Forth. Smith played it on car rides to gigs with his current band The Vagabonds, who also feature singer/guitarist, The Sandyman. The Sandyman is a legend on the pub band circuit, and is a pivotal figure in The Lost Soul Band, even joining them in their final incarnation. Smith suggested it might be an idea to get the original band back together, and The Sandyman contacted Grahame.

“There were one or two occasions when it might have happened before,” according to Grahame, “but it never got off base. This time, though, Gavin got on a mission. I said I was up for it, but wasn’t sure if everyone would want to do it. Then once Mike said yes, and is probably the most gung ho about it out of all of us, I thought, oh, no, I’ve got to do it now. Even then we weren’t sure if there’d be any interest, but DF Concerts jumped at it, and we just have to re-learn the songs now.”

Grahame grew up in Penicuik, where, inspired by the Velvet Underground and Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks album, he fell in love with music at an early age. Moving to Edinburgh, he began playing solo pub gigs under the name Sal Paradise, named after the hero of Jack Kerouac’s novel, On The Road. The band came together organically, and in 1990 began a Sunday night residency at the old St James Oyster Bar (now Pivo) beside Calton Hill. Initially playing to small numbers, word spread quickly, and by the summer as many as two hundred people were crammed into the bar to bear witness to what was rapidly becoming the hardest working band in town. After a couple of independently released singles, The Lost Soul Band signed to Silvertone Records, then best known for signing The Stone Roses, and started playing sell-out gigs at Edinburgh venue, London’s Borderline and other mid-scale venues. Grahame and co should have been massive, but the person who signed them left the company, and suddenly the band were stranded.

“We all have our own take on what happened,” Grahame says today. “In hindsight, if we’d been around three years later, things might have changed, but at the time we didn’t fit in with any particular scene. Once you’ve invested so much time in something you’re passionate about, we had a really depressing time. But having said that, if we had crossed over, I’d have probably been dead by now. I was a madman back then.”

The story doesn’t end there, however. All five Lost Soul Band members have taken widely diverging paths since the band’s original demise. Smith played with The Joyriders, and continues playing with The Sandyman in The Vagabonds. Brian Hall moved to Germany, where he plays with a band called Sophie So. Until recently, Buchanan hadn’t picked up a bass since the day the band split up. Mike Hall moved into more dance-based fare with Scuba Z and as The Leisure Assistants, and has had tracks featured on the soundtrack of the feature film, Red Road.

Grahame’s journey over the years, meanwhile, has been peripatetic to say the least.
Decamping to Amsterdam, Paris and Andalucia, he ended up busking and playing New York’s open mike circuit. Eventually Grahame moved to Brighton, then London, where he writes and records under the name Lucky Jim. With four albums released, one of Grahame’s songs, You’re Lovely To Me, can be heard on a television ad for Kingsmill bread.

“Suddenly people like David Holmes are on the phone telling me how much they love the album,” says Grahame. “Stuff like that had never happened before. I’d been in the wilderness. But I’ve got myself into a position now where things are finally happening for me, which is why it’s okay now to go back to Lost Soul Band stuff. Who knows? We might even do it again in another few years or something. It will have been twenty five years then, and if anyone’s still interested in dredging up my past, that’s fine by me.”

The Lost soul band play The Picture House, Edinburgh, Sunday December 28, and King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow, Tuesday December 30.

The Herald, December 24th 2008

ends

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Great Band I still love listening to their stuff

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