Cardiff-based Andy Fairweather Low has had a 50-year career in the music business in four distinct phases. In the 1960s he was a teen-idol – ‘the face of ’69’ – leading the Welsh band Amen Corner. It ended in youthful naivety – ‘we’d sign anything,’ he has said – managerial problems and debt. In the 1970s he borrowed money from his mother in order to write songs and make his own music as he’d always wanted. Some success followed but he continually struggled hand-to-mouth to fund making records and keep things going. The Punk tsunami proved the last straw and he felt stranded as his style of music became ‘unfashionable’.
Needing to earn a living he packed his guitar and for 26 years became a rhythm player for hire to the great and the good – Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Roger Waters, George Harrison and The Who among others. But despite having a good time travelling the world, the desire to do his own thing began to nag again and in his late 50s he concluded it was now or never. He ‘handed in his notice’ and went back to basics – writing, getting a band together, releasing his first recording since 1980 and driving to gigs in a transit van.
The man certainly demonstrates resilience, and in that context a song he wrote in the mid-1970s, simply called Reggae Tune, is notable in retrospect. I loved it at the time but probably didn’t fully understand its import. The song has a bouncy, loping rhythm, catchy wah-wah guitar licks and great sing-along scat-like chorus delivered in Fairweather Low’s trademark reedy, self-proclaimed ‘Marmite’ voice. Written after the experience with Amen Corner it is self-aware, reflective and a statement of intent.
I'm so glad that everything I've done
Has taught me how to be prepared when trouble comes…
And I've learnt a lot from the battles that I’ve fought And now my feelings depend on my thoughts…
There was a time when I wanted so much more
But I only ended on a stairway to the floor
Never no more will I be found
Sitting in a corner in a world that's round
Singin’ ooo shandaa, ooo Shandaa-ay
Ooo shandaa, ooo Shandaa-ay.
I’ve always regarded Fairweather Low as a down-to-earth, honest, likeable writer. In interview he has cautioned people against looking for great worldly insights or philosophising in his songs. But he has things to say and his lyrics are thoughtful and quirky, employing neat turns of phrase and word play, and sprinkled with references to his experiences in the music business and nods to his Welsh Valley roots.
We’ve now seen him live five or six times with his excellent three-piece band The Low Riders in this latest stage of that long career. The range of material is wide – from his Amen Corner back catalogue to his most recent songs, plus covers of his blues, soul and gospel favourites. They even do the jazz standard Petite Fleur. We never fail to come away smiling.
At 68 years old Fairweather Low still just loves playing music and that comes across on stage in abundance. Although his appearance may have changed since he was the ‘face of ‘69’ his enthusiasm hasn’t. He will soon be the face of 69 again. Resilient indeed.
Click below to hear more from Andy Fairweather Low & The Low Riders...