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Current page: Magna Carta - A Meeting of Talents

Current page: Magna Carta - A Meeting of Talents

Two Old Friends Of Mine - A Meeting of Talents

Nigel Schofield

Nigel Schofield

In everyone's life there are things in which one is incredibly proud to have played a small part. My role in the story of Chris and Linda Simpson is incidental, but every time I hear them, live or on CD, whenever we meet up and renew our friendship (one of those where the longest of gaps seem to collapse to a mere few hours as we reacquaint), I feel a sense of pride that I played my part.

Long ago in a station far far away, I used to present a weekly radio programme of folk and acoustic music. Each week the show featured exclusive recordings by locally-based artists. When Chris Simpson offered to record a session I was delighted: when this extended into a regular event at which Chris revived classic material and tried out brand new unheard songs I was thrilled.

I had admired Magna Carta since buying their first albums. Any list of favourite songs that I drew up inevitably included a couple of theirs - the obvious like Two Old Friends or Airport Song; the less familiar such as Song For John or Mixed Up Sensations. Through those sessions, a hero became a friend. Those nights in a studio so compact Chris named it "the rabbit hutch" remain some of my fondest memories of a dozen years working on the wireless.

I first met Linda Taylor when she was a member of a local group called Titan. Their session included only one vocal by her, but even that one song made it clear that she was destined for greater things. When that group fell into disarray, I persuaded Linda to try some recordings on her own: she became a regular in the little station on Foster Square - her recordings ranged from her first tentative solo work, through jingles for commercials, to sessions as a harmony singer for other artists. As time went by, we became close friends.

Then, Linda's birthday approached. I asked what she would like, and her answer was simple and memorable: "What I really want is a band".

There are limits as to what one can achieve. But I knew Chris had a session scheduled and I hoped that if Linda was there, maybe she would end up adding some vocals to the work of a man whose talent was internationally renowned. (I am sure reading this she will smile at that take on events.)

Chris appreciated her talent, though with some reservations. He even suggested she take away some Magna recordings and see whether there was something she would like to try recording together. I was a little dismayed when she later said that she had found only one in that wealth of music - Time For The Leaving.

Unsure how Chris would react to this extreme selectivity, I arranged the session. In fact, he was rather pleased that only one song in his session time had been taken over. But Linda was soon finding harmony parts (sometimes multiple) for his new songs: sessions became collaborative efforts.

Over the months, the Magna Carta section of my tape shelf filled with new versions of old songs, new songs which were to become part of the group's repertoire, songs that moved on into pastures new or vanished after that one recording, even a lost 23 minute suite.

I had first asked Chris to let Linda sing with him as a favour. They were now a solid musical partnership. He was even writing songs for her to sing - Taylor-made, one might say. One day he rang to dictate some lyrics down the phone so that I could pass them on. They were the words to Love Is Forever, written for Linda's voice and destined to become the a-side of the single which was her first "official" recording with Magna Carta.

Next, an invitation to sing on stage as part of the group in Newcastle. Ultimately, the big step of quitting her job and joining full time on an extended season in the Middle East. The rest is history - the catalogue of albums, the tours, Linda's becoming with Chris the very core of the band (the heart of the State Of The Art), the musical partnership becoming a personal one leading to marriage. In my heart, I was wishing them well all the way down the long road home.

That present took a while to unwrap, but eventually Linda got her band and Magna Carta, at one time in danger of ceasing to be, found its old greatness and (thank goodness) continues to delight its many fans.

Nigel Schofield