Lady Eleanor (1971) rockets Lindisfarne to top of charts

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RICHARD PHILLIPS-JONES examines what happened when Edgar Allan Poe collided with one of Tyneside’s most beloved bands: Lindisfarne’s classic Lady Eleanor. 

Lindisfarne – Lady Eleanor
UK – Charisma CB 153, May 1971
US – Elektra EK 45799, July 1972

The works of Edgar Allan Poe have proven to be an ongoing source of inspiration to songwriters and musicians, with artists as disparate as Queen, Iron Maiden and Jim Reeves recording songs based on his writing, whilst The Alan Parsons Project, Tangerine Dream and Lou Reed have all created full-length albums around his work.

Lindisfarne Lady Eleanor inspired by Edgar Allan Poe

Lindisfarne – Lady Eleanor
The original UK single release of Lindisfarne’s Lady Eleanor, released on the Charisma Label in May 1971.

None has managed to bring Poe to the higher reaches of the UK singles chart quite like Newcastle’s Lindisfarne. In a musical landscape awash with glam rock on the one hand, with teen idols like Donny Osmond and David Cassidy on the other, their recording of Lady Eleanor sounded like nothing else in the top 40.

Lady Eleanor’s author, vocalist/guitarist/pianist Alan Hull was a great admirer and fan of Poe, and he would regularly read Tales Of Mystery And Imagination while working night shifts in a local mental hospital. The song was said to have come out of a strange nightmare he experienced following a long read…

Had my share of nightmares, didn’t think there could be much more
Then in walked Roderick Usher with the Lady Eleanor…

Hull weaved a variety of images from Poe’s tales into the lyrics, creating a dream poem of which Poe himself may well have been proud.

She tied my eyes with ribbon of a silken ghostly thread
I gazed with troubled vision on an old four poster bed
Where Eleanor had risen to kiss the neck below my head
And bid me come along with her to the land of the dancing dead

On first listen, and at this remove in time it might seem an unusual choice for a single, and failed to chart on its original release. However, after the later single Meet Me On The Corner provided Lindisfarne with their breakthrough hit, Charisma decided to re-promote Lady Eleanor. Band and label were finally rewarded as the record peaked at number 3 on June 10th 1972.

Lindisfarne – Lady Eleanor
Lindisfarne pictured around the time of Lady Eleanor’s release in 1971.

Hull bemused by Lady Eleanor’s success

Hull seemed somewhat bemused by the song’s ascent up the charts. Speaking to Sounds in May 1972, he said:

“Well “Lady Eleanor” I don’t really understand. I wrote it almost in a trance and I know it means something, personal to me, and it would take a long time to explain – I know it’s about death anyway, and I’m very worried about it being a so-called hit because I’m worried about the 17 and 16-year-old girls and boys who buy it… I mean it’s not a pop song and I don’t understand what they think about it.”

Regardless of what the listeners initially made of it, the song has proven remarkably durable. The band would revisit the track for Lady Eleanor ’88, a respectable reworking. However, it couldn’t hope to top the unearthly, somnambulistic charms of the original recording.

Alan Hull sadly passed away in 1995, aged just 50. His life and music are commemorated in a plaque on Newcastle City Hall, the site of many home town performances by Lindisfarne, whose status as local musical legends is indisputable. Lady Eleanor remains one of their finest achievements.

Lindisfarne Lady Eleanor Lyrics

Bashee playing magician sitting lotus on the floor
Belly dancing beauty with a power driven saw
Had my share of nightmares, didn’t think there could be much more
Then in walked Rodrick Usher with the Lady Eleanor

She tied my eyes with a ribbon,
Of a silken gossamer thread.
I gaze with troubled vision,
On an old four poster bed.
Where Eleanor had risen to kiss the neck below my head,
And made me come along with her to the land of the dancing dead.

But its alright Lady Eleanor,
Alright Lady Eleanor.
I’m alright where I am.

She gazed with loving beauty,
Like a mother to a son.
Like living, dying, seeing,
Being all rolled into one.
Then all at once I heard some music,
Playing in my bones.
The same old song I’d heard for years,
Reminding me of home.
But its alright Lady Eleanor,
Alright Lady Eleanor.
I’m alright where I am.

Then creeping on towards me,
Licking lips with tongues of fire.
A host of gold and demons,
Screaming lust and ways desired.
And when it seemed for certain,
That the screams could get no higher.
I heard a voice above the rest,
Screaming you’re a liar.

Listen to Lady Eleanor by Lindisfarne

But its alright Lady Eleanor,
Alright Lady Eleanor,
I’m alright here in your arms.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Richard, could you please alter the lyrics of the first paragraph so they are correct. It seems there are a few misheard words that are now incorrectly taken for granted as the actual lyrics. You actually print the correct words in your article then get them wrong in the song lyrics which seem to be a cut and paste job. Other than that I really liked to info in your article.
    correct lyrics
    Bashee playing magician sitting lotus on the floor
    Belly dancing beauty with a power driven saw
    Had my share of nightmares, didn’t think there could be much more
    Then in walked Rodrick Usher with the Lady Eleanor

    Stay safe,
    Thanks,
    John

    • Hi John,

      Thank you for pointing this out. The incorrect lyrics were appended to the article without my knowledge (Lord Boogasha indeed!)

      I have amended this very grave error, and the culprit will be sent to stay in the House Of Usher for the foreseeable future.

      Cheers,

      Richard

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