Jon Kirkman is well-known in rock music circles having started his life as a roadie and worked his way up to tour manager for his friend’s band in the seventies. Following this, Jon went on to work in many rock venues in Liverpool; both as a promoter and DJ. From here the obvious next step for Jon was to move into media and he went on to establish a radio career that has lasted for more than thirty years, working for both local and regional commercial radio stations in the UK and occasionally appearing on local television.
Over time Jon applied his talents to writing sleeve notes and to this end Jon is featured on the major music resource “The All Music Guide”. Click Here for a rough guide on some of Jon’s sleeve notes. Jon has also appeared on many commercially released videos including: Yes, Rick Wakeman, Chris Squire, Patrick Moraz, Van Der Graaf Generator, The Space Movie, Jack Bruce and Tony Palmer’s legendary and ground breaking film “All My Loving”. Jon also provided the commentary on videos by Deep Purple, Rainbow and Frank Zappa. In keeping with Jon’s love of radio, Jon launched his online radio station Classic Rock radio in 2011.
- Introduction adapted from the Cruise To The Edge Facebook page).
Since 2011, Jon has authored books in particular about Yes and most recently about Genesis. He has been invited to MC and host the Q and A sessions on numerous Cruise To The Edge’s since 2012, a role he continues to be involved in. We caught up with Jon just as he had received a printers sample of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway book, this he was leafing through prior to giving permission for the coffee table tome, to go into the printers presses for a production run.
TEJ: Jon can you tell us about your experience in music that started you down the road of writing books?
JK: I have been a music fan for over fifty years and like most people got my musical cue as it were from my mother. Onto my teenage years, I wrote about my favourite bands in essays for school and for my O Level English. I suppose my first considered written piece was an essay on how bands recorded an album. Fast forward through my varied career in the music business where I would have to write radio commercials that I did voice overs for or write out running orders for radio shows. Through my radio shows was then asked to write sleeve notes for albums which I have been doing for over 25 years now and from there I have written pieces for magazines including Kerrang and Classic Rock and Prog magazine.
TEJ: So it was a gentle progression…
JK: Writing has always been part of what I do really and over the last ten years I have tried to organise my huge archive of recorded interviews and I have organised them into sections on various groups and genres. This is how my first book on Yes came about in 2012. I found I had so many interviews with Yes that I had enough for a book so drew up a rough plan for that and approached a publisher who was interested and subsequently published the first edition of the book which was called Time And A Word: The Yes Interviews. There was a second edition in 2017 called Dialogue and that also sold out. There is a third edition in print now due at the end of 2018.
TEJ: Where did you decide to move onto writing about Genesis?
JK: The Genesis idea came about originally in 2013 when I thought it would be good to write a book on the Genesis album The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway and publish it for the fortieth anniversary of the album and tour in late 2014. Unfortunately, I got involved with a publisher who only had two speeds. Dead slow and stop.
TEJ: You have worked on a few books prior to this book, but obviously Genesis must be a big influence on you, are they your favourite band?
JK: Genesis is one of my favourite bands, not my all time favourite. I think many have a band that they love above all others and in my case, it is The Beatles. But I have a handful of favourite bands that I really like and Genesis are one of them. Oddly enough although I chose to publish a book on The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway although I did not see the show myself. I saw the tours either side of that tour but not The Lamb show. Tickets were at a premium and outside the touts were asking £8 which seems reasonable now but then bear in mind the average ticket price was £4 so I could not afford that and would not pay that anyway, [at a time when the average weekly salary was £54 pw]. I thought The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway was an interesting album and it still polarises the fans now. It was a concept album and the album was the last Peter Gabriel made with the band and the show was a groundbreaking show albeit cutting edge in a budget. There were and still are many things that attracted me to the album so that is why I thought a book would be a good idea
TEJ: What is about The Lamb that appeals to you?
JK: For me it is a great album first and contains some of my favourite songs from the band including The Chamber of 32 Doors and also The Carpet Crawlers, but as a concept it still intrigues me and to be honest having read the story and the cover of the album many times and listened to the album more times than that I am still not altogether sure what the concept is and maybe that is the way Peter Gabriel wanted it in that it perhaps means so many things to so many different people listening to it. I do still play it right the way through at least once a month, so it has an enduring interest for me.
TEJ: There have been delays connected to this book, how did you overcome them?
JK: The problems were not of my making. basically, the publisher did nothing on the book save for preparing a cover and preparing twenty pages and then left it for 4 years. All the time he told me he was working on it and yet was doing nothing. In late February of this year (2018) he then informed me he did not want to continue with the book and that maybe we could come back to it. I have to tell you that after four years of being led down the garden path as it were I was not very happy at all so I told him I wanted to continue the project myself. He agreed in the understanding that I did not use anything that he had done on the book.
TEJ: That’s quite a frustration.
JK: That actually was not a problem as he had not really done anything on the book. Having made the decision I then had to organise photographs and deal with collectors and gain permission to use their memorabilia and what is basically for these fans their “treasure”. Pretty much everyone was very happy to do so and very helpful indeed I also contacted a couple of fan sites, your website (- sister website to TEJ, The Genesis Archive) and another one, (The Waiting Room) and that also helped enormously with contacting various people. I also had many contacts from my career in music and contacts from publishing the Yes book regarding licensing in photographs, so that was relatively easy, not necessarily cheap but easy
TEJ: Was there any involvement from the members of Genesis on board with the project?
JK: I spoke briefly to Peter Gabriel at his studio when I was making a film with another band but that was totally off the record and I thought it unfair having agreed to speak to him off the record to use what he said. I informed his people about the book however and was told Peter would like a copy, which he will get. We were told early on that Genesis and the management would not support this book but we had support from Steve Hackett; huge support in fact and encouragement actually; and we eventually did get Tony Banks to talk briefly in the album and tour. We also got Anthony Phillips to talk about the recording sessions for what became The Geese and The Ghost. Originally this was going to be a duo album with Mike Rutherford and it would have been the first solo project for a member of Genesis away from the band (at the end that honour fell to Steve Hackett with Voyage Of The Acolyte).
JK: Ant and Mike were recording the backing tracks for The Geese and The Ghost at the same time that The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway was being recorded so there is an interesting parallel to what was going on while The Lamb was being recorded. Other interviewees were Aubrey Powell from the design company Hipgnosis and Dale Newman who started to work for Genesis during The Lamb tour as Mike’s guitar technician. We also had some photographs from David Lawrence, another tour technician and we had his photographs of some of the concerts including the set up at Wembley Empire Pool as it was known then and scans of his handwritten cue sheets for the live show regarding the lighting and slides.
TEJ: We are aware that Steve Hackett has personally signed the hardback version of the book, what other lengths did Steve go to in order to help you realise this project?
JK: I first approached Steve in 2014 when I was on Cruise To The Edge and Steve was a performer on the cruise. I talked to him about the book and showed him the Yes book that I had done. He agreed to be interviewed for the book and give me as much information as he could from his point of view. He has subsequently promoted the book on his website and also his social media sites and even filmed a short promotional clip for the book as well. He has been 100% supportive and behind the book and very encouraging.
TEJ: Did you receive much support from the fans and collectors of Genesis?
JK: Huge support and really I was amazed at what was out there in terms of paper goods and collectible items. Those who allowed me access to their collection were generous in the extreme and I am really excited by what is in the book in terms of collectible items
TEJ: Can you describe what research you was undertaken during the writing of the book?
JK: I played the album a lot I can tell you, but also did the usual research on the album online and via news clippings and interviews from the era. There does seem to be some confusion regarding the release date of the album and some of the live dates. After consulting many people including Steve and people who worked for the band at the time and we feel that we have got it right or as right as anyone can do.
TEJ: What was the biggest surprise you uncovered in the course of researching the book?
JK: The biggest surprise was the amount of material associated with the album and tour. Really there was so much out there and of course for the avid collector and Genesis fan they must have that single from that territory or that poster from that show or that ticket from that show. It really has amazed me the dedication of the fans regarding collecting material from the tour and album and of course it wasn’t just that album and tour. Some people have material dating back to the early UK and European tours. That level of dedication to a band always impresses me
TEJ: Which type of fan would the book appeal to?
JK: I don’t think the book will appeal to the casual fan who maybe owns the hit singles. Nothing wrong with that because you find that fan bases are made up of all sorts of people from the casual fan to those who really like to go in deep. I think the book will appeal to the committed fan and avid collector and also fans of the album and believe me there are more of those fans than you might think. The album was a strange one. It actually went gold but was not seen as a huge success, even by some members of the band and almost fifty years on people are still talking about it so in effect the album had a far bigger impact than many might think.
TEJ: Would you consider another Genesis book project?
JK: I am thinking of another book about a specific album and tour but am not going to announce it just yet …… Soon though
TEJ: Your at the Liverpool Empire Theatre today, Genesis played three Lamb shows there. Has the theatre changed much in 40 plus years since the Lamb tour?
JK: No, and the memories are very clear. It was the main venue in Liverpool for concerts and it is a beautiful theatre. The backstage area has been changed and improved and updated but inside it remains exactly as I remember it. I was not lucky enough to get a ticket for The Lamb show as I have already said but I saw he Selling England By The Pound tour and also the Wind and Wuthering tour and the Duke tour at the Liverpool Empire so it really does hold many memories for me and the concerts I saw with Genesis. There are also many other major gigs I have seen here over the years by bands including Paul McCartney, The Who, The Rolling Stones and Yes. The list goes on and on really but it is the same old Empire and I love coming here no matter what the event. It is one of my favourite theatres in the UK, I also believe that it has the biggest stage outside of London.
TEJ: Do you have further books lined up?
JK: I am working on books for next year which will cover Jethro Tull, David Bowie, and Eric Clapton. I also have a series of books which contain various interviews from my career in radio. These books are called Tales From The Rock Vaults and we are up to Volume II of that series and are about to launch another ongoing series called Tales From The Prog vaults. I am also considering that other book on Genesis!
Jon had more interviews lined up, so with time short we left him to get on with things. Thank you to Jon for sparing us the time on this occasion.
To purchase either the paperback or hardback version of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway book by Jon Kirkman please click on this link Jons Lamb Book
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