album cover Sail On (1996)

[Greentrax CDTRAX 109]

Engineer Roy Ashby
Producer Dick Gaughan

Artist : Dick Gaughan


Track Notes

Land of the North Wind (Allan Taylor)

Dick Gaughan : Vocal, Guitars
Kathy Stewart, Tich Frier, Bobby Eaglesham : Backing Vocal
Mary MacMaster : Harp
Mike Travis : Drums
Stuart Smith : Bass

Allan Taylor's wonderful love song to Scotland.


songtext Son of Man (Dick Gaughan)

Dick Gaughan : Vocal, Guitars
Kathy Stewart, Davy Steel : Backing Vocal
Mike Travis : Drums
Stuart Smith : Bass

I have always been amused by the response Christ is reported to have given when his cousin, John the Baptist, sent word to him from prison asking if he was the Messiah. Throughout the New Testament, Christ consistantly describes himself as "the son of man" and these two form the basis of this song.

I am also amused by the contradiction at the heart of belief systems which insist that God is everything and then also insist that that Deity is above and separate from humanity. The way God is protrayed by the western/middle eastern religions appears to me to suggest a ruthless psychopath who has to be placated at all costs to prevent it venting its wrath upon us. Personally, I believe that poor old God has been made the scapegoat for our own shortcomings and that ultimately the path of "salvation" is for us to take absolute responsibility for all the consequences of our own actions, through informed choice rather than through fear of some kind of divine retribution.


Ruby Tuesday (Jagger/Richard)

Dick Gaughan : Vocal, Guitar
Mary MacMaster : Harp


songtext Waist Deep in the Big Muddy (Pete Seeger)

Dick Gaughan : Vocal, Guitar

Pete's great song about Lyndon Johnson and Vietnam is as relevant to today's politicians as it was then.


songtext No Cause for Alarm (Dick Gaughan)

Dick Gaughan : Vocal, Guitar
Kathy Stewart, Mary MacMaster, Patsy Seddon, Tich Frier, Davy Steel : Backing Vocal
Rab Handleigh : Keyboard
Alan Thomson : Bass
John Henderson : Drums

Written when I got fed up with people telling me that the collapse of the Soviet Union meant Socialism was dead.


songtext 51st (Highland) Division's Farewell to Sicily (Hamish Henderson)

Dick Gaughan : Vocal, Guitar, Keyboards
Mary MacMaster : Harp

A song which has obsessed me for 30 years. I recorded it in 1975 on "Kist o Gold" but the technical limitations imposed by tape noise meant I could not fully explore the dynamics as I wanted to. Digital technology removed that obstacle and I'd had a further 20 years in which to develop my understanding of the song and its structural relationship with piobaireachd.


songtext No Gods and Precious Few Heroes (Brian McNeill)

Dick Gaughan : Vocal, Guitar

In his book of Second World War poems, Elegies For the Dead in Cyrenaica, Hamish Henderson wrote of the desert war in North Africa, There were no Gods and precious few heroes. Brian took that image and turned it into this searing indictment on the tendency for Scots to use romantic myths about an illusory heroic past as a deflection from dealing with unpleasant political realities.


Geronimo's Cadillac (Michael J Murphy)

Dick Gaughan : Vocal, Guitar
Kathy Stewart, Mary MacMaster, Patsy Seddon, Tich Frier, Davy Steel : Backing Vocal
Rab Handleigh : Keyboard
Mary MacMaster : Harp
Mike Travis : Drums

Given that the Cadillac presented to Geronimo was utterly useless to him in the middle of the desert reservation, it is a wonderful symbol of the true effects of colonialism - "Stole their land and they won't give it back and they sent Geronimo a Cadillac". Who got the best of that trade? It has resonances of the comment which inspired my song, Amandla - "When the white men came to Africa, we had the land and they had the bible. Then they taught us to pray. With our eyes closed. And when we opened our eyes, something strange had happened - they had the land and we had the bible."


1952 Vincent Black Lightning (Richard Thomson)

Dick Gaughan : Vocal, Guitar

Yes, I know that the 1952 Vincent Black Lightning didn't have ignition keys. I'm sure Richard did as well.


songtext Sail On (Dick Gaughan)

Dick Gaughan : Vocal, Guitar
Kathy Stewart, Mary MacMaster, Patsy Seddon, Tich Frier, Davy Steel : Backing Vocal
Rab Handleigh : Keyboard
Patsy Seddon : Harp
Alan Thomson : Bass
John Henderson : Drums

There are a lot of images in this song. My father used to sing the song, Sail away ladies with the wonderful line "ain't no use in sitting crying, sail away ladies, sail away" and I grew up in Leith so the sound and smell of docks, sea and ships have been a natural part of my life since infancy.

It seems to me we can do two things with the inevitable pain and struggle and contradictory experiences which are part of any life - be crushed by them and waste the rest of our lives lamenting that life is horrible and cruel, or use them as opportunities to learn and grow stronger. That is the core of this song. "Never give up, never give in". Or, to put it another way, don't quit - the miracle might just be about to happen and you'll miss it.


songtext Freedom Come Aa Ye (Hamish Henderson)

Dick Gaughan : Vocal, Guitar
Mary MacMaster : Metal-strung clarsach
Patsy Seddon : Gut-strung clarsach
Fred Morrison : Highland Pipes

I believe this to be Hamish's great masterpiece and one of the greatest songs ever written in any language. Written to the pipes tune, The Bloody Fields of Flanders.


Historical Footnote

Recorded at Hart St Studios, Edinburgh.


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