The original line-up comprised Alan Hull (20 February 1945 - 17 November 1995) (vocals/guitar/piano); Simon Cowe (born 1 April 1948, in Jesmond Dene, Newcastle-upon-Tyne) (guitar, mandolin, banjo); Ray Jackson (born Lindsay Raymond Jackson, 12 December 1948, in Wallsend, Newcastle-upon-Tyne) (mandolin/harmonica); Rod Clements (born Roderick Parry Clements, 17 November 1947, in North Shields) (bass guitar/violin); and Ray Laidlaw (born Raymond Laidlaw, 28 May 1948, in North Shields) (drums).
In 1970 Tony Stratton-Smith signed them to Charisma Records and their debut album Nicely Out of Tune (so named because the group claimed they were 'nicely out of tune' with other prevailing musical trends at the time) was released, defining their mixture of bright harmony and rollicking folk rock. Both singles released from the album, "Clear White Light" and "Lady Eleanor", failed to chart, as did the album itself at first. Nonetheless, the band obtained a strong following from its popular live concerts.
Their second album, the Bob Johnston-produced Fog on the Tyne, followed in 1971 and began their commercial success, charting late in 1971 and reaching No. 1 the following year. Their profile was also raised when Jackson played mandolin on Rod Stewart's breakthrough hit single "Maggie May", even though Stewart only credited him on the sleeve of the parent album Every Picture Tells a Story as "the mandolin player in Lindisfarne.
Top 10 singles "Meet me on the Corner", written by Clements, and a re-release of "Lady Eleanor", followed in 1972, and Nicely Out Of Tune belatedly made the Top 10. By the summer of 1972 they were one of the biggest names in British rock music, stealing the show at festivals and selling out live dates wherever they played.
At the pinnacle of their success, they recorded their third album, Dingly Dell, which featured strings arranged by Laidlaw's brother Paul on several tracks. They were unhappy with the initial production, and remixed it themselves. It was released in September 1972 in a plain beige cardboard sleeve, to demonstrate to fans that it was the music which mattered. Some overseas markets insisted on redesigning it with a photo of the band instead, the design which has since been used for the CD reissue. Though it entered the Top 10 in the first week of release, it received lukewarm reviews; the ecologically-themed single "All Fall Down" was a Top 40 hit, but the second single, '"Court in the Act", failed completely.
Internal tensions came to the fore during a disappointing tour of Australia in early 1973. Hull initially considered leaving the band, but was persuaded to reconsider. It was agreed that he and Jackson, the two joint lead vocalists, would keep the group name while Cowe, Clements, and Laidlaw left to form their own outfit, Jack The Lad. They were replaced by Tommy Duffy (bass guitar), Kenny Craddock (keyboards), Charlie Harcourt (guitar), and Paul Nicholl (drums). As an interesting aside, Jackson almost persuaded Phil Collins of Genesis to join the Mark II line-up after Laidlaw reversed his decision to continue.
The new lineup lacked the appeal of the original, and with Hull also pursuing a solo career, the band's next two albums, Roll On Ruby and Happy Daze, plus the tracks released as singles, failed to chart. They disbanded in 1975, but the old line-up continued to play annual Christmas shows at Newcastle.
In 1977 they reformed, and with a new record deal with Phonogram Records via their Mercury Records label, they were back in the charts in 1978 with the top 10 hit "Run For Home", an autobiographical song about the rigours of touring and relief at returning home. It gave them a Top 40 hit in the US at last, and the album Back and Fourth made the British Top 30. Subsequent singles "Juke Box Gypsy" and "Warm Feeling" failed to sustain their newfound success, and after the failure of The News, their second Mercury album in 1979, they were dropped by the label.
In the 80s, throughout various lineup changes, they continued to release albums, with only their nostalgic live recordings achieving any real attention, recording singles like "I Must Stop Going To Parties" on their own Lindisfarne Musical Productions label in the mid 80s, with the catalogue numbers FOG1 to FOG4, as well as one album, Sleepless Nights. Saxophone player and vocalist Marty Craggs joined the group shortly afterwards. Throughout the 80s and early 90s they played annual Christmas tours. C'mon Everybody was a double vinyl LP consisting largely of old rock'n'roll standards, such as the title track, "Party Doll", and "Twist and Shout". Some diehard fans were horrified that their heroes should be seen to be "selling out" by recording a party album, though others thought the bad press was thoroughly undeserved.
In 1990 they introduced themselves to a new generation when a duet of "Fog on the Tyne Revisited" with footballer Paul Gascoigne rose to No. 2 in the UK singles chart (again accompanied by cries of "sell out"). Soon afterwards Jackson left the band after a dispute with Hull, chiefly related to Hull's view that Jackson was not sufficiently interested in being a member any more. Cowe left amicably in 1993, to run a brewery in Canada.
After Hull's death on November 17, 1995, the band continued to play in many incarnations, until they felt they had run their course. They sensed that interest was diminishing, and each member wanted to pursue separate projects. Their last show was played on November 1, 2003 to the packed Newcastle Opera House. Playing together for the last time as Lindisfarne were Dave Hull-Denholm, Billy Mitchell, Rod Clements, Ian Thomson and Ray Laidlaw. The final concert was recorded for posterity and released under the appropriately named Time Gentlemen Please. Clements, who had taken over as the band's principal songwriter after Hull's death, has continued to release solo albums and play gigs in England, accompanied by his new outfit The Ghosts of Electricity.