Bringing It All Back Home

Author: Ian Clayton

Bringing It All Back Home

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Tags: Signed Copy, Ian Clayton Books, Coalfield Culture

Shortlisted for the PEN Ackerley Prize

When you hear a certain song, where does it take you? What is the secret that connects music to our lives? Heart warming, moving and laugh out loud funny, Bringing It All Back Home is the truest book you will ever read about music and the things that really matter.

Author Ian Clayton listens to music as a kid to escape and as an adult to connect. In Bringing It All Back Home he has created a book about love, friendship, family and loss – about life and living it. While searching for a soundtrack to his own life story, he has discovered the heart that beats inside us all.

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Andy Kershaw

Ian Clayton has written not just a masterpiece about music but a beautiful and important work of social history. He writes wonderfully, easily and conversationally about music’s capacity to electrify, liberate and expand one’s imagination, curiosity and sense of possibility. And no other book I have read captures the companionship of shared musical tastes as this does. Again and again, Bringing It All Back Home made me rush to the record shelves. But almost regardless of subject matter, this is a literary triumph of irrepressible humour, touching humility and downright humanity. At the end of this book, you’ll believe Ian Clayton is your best mate. Or you’ll really wish he were. Ian Clayton understands!

Alan Lewis, Record Collector

Ian Clayton has created one of the best books about popular music ever written.

Ian Harrison, Mojo

Full of wisdom and humanity.


The literary equivalent of a great evening in the pub.

Charlie Gillett, The Sound of the World

The writing is deceptively good, no long words, no self-conscious writing-as-wriitng of the kind that wins Booker prizes, but all the better for that. Very strongly recommended.

Richard Hawley

Ian Clayton is a warm, witty, funny, loving man and that shows in this brilliant compendium of true stories. This is a beautiful book, I think you will enjoy it whatever walk of life you are from.

John Aizleword, Q Magazine

An acutely observed and lovingly told tale.

Andy Miller, Daily Telegraph

Unexpectedly beautiful. Sheer sincerity.

Felicity Greenland, English Folk Dance and Song Magazine

The storytelling spins a musical web, glistening with treasured encounters and centred on home and family. Remarkable from both musical and human points of view…(it) crystallises Clayton’s humanity, candour and generosity.


I love this book. It resonates with me in so many ways, and I reckon it will resonate with most of the people who read this.

Joanne Harris

The best read I’ve had all year, at times very funny, genuinely touching and always deeply personal. The perfect book for anyone who has defined their life through music and the memories of their youth.

Waterstones, Book of the Month

An unforgettable journey. Vibrant, life affirming, immensely readable.

Leeds Guide

Deeply moving. Devastatingly beautiful.

Paul Vernon, fRoots

You couldn’t ask for much more.

Aled Jones, BBC Radio 2

A fantastic book.

Simon Show, Daily Mail

An engaging memoir. A trip down memory lane via Tin Pan Alley.

Bringing It All Back Home with CP Lee

Bringing It All Back Home with CP Lee

Ian Clayton in conversation with the great raconteur CP Lee at a Bringing It All Back Home themed ev...

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Ian Clayton on Talk Radio Europe

Ian Clayton on Talk Radio Europe

Ian Clayton chats with presenter Ger Sweeney about the updated edition of his music memoir Bringing ...

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Ian Clayton | Young Man Blues

Ian Clayton | Young Man Blues

Ian Clayton reads the 'Young Man Blues' chapter from his music memoir Bringing It All Back Home. The...

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Ian Clayton Bringing It All Back Home Interview

Ian Clayton Bringing It All Back Home Interview

Ian Clayton Bringing It All Back Home Interview

Volker and John Martyn

An extract from Ian Clayton's Bringing It All Back Home: the story of visiting John Martyn with his friend Völker Bredebusch.

I first meet Völker one evening in a bar called The Optimum. He is guest harp blower with a blues band that Jörge Petersmann has got together called Black Cat Bone. Völker is Jürgen’s younger brother. He is about my age, similar height and built like a brick shithouse. He has some right shoulders on him, through years of training to be in the German butterfly swimming team. If only Germany hadn’t withdrawn from the Moscow Olympics in 1980 he might have built a career as a swimmer. Völker took up joinery and music promotion. He has organised tours in Europe for artists who he’s a fan of, Eddi Reader being one, but mainly his hero John Martyn. Völker is a walking encyclopaedia of English folk rock, blues, jazz and Bob Dylan. At the last count I think he had over four hundred John Martyn live bootlegs on tape. Völker grew up in that peculiarly German 1970s tradition of political activism, street theatre and impromptu gig organising.

In his beer-drinking heyday Völker was unstoppable, the most drunken sessions I have ever been on have been with Völker. Once in Poland we drank so much vodka that it took us three days to come round. Völker drives a big black Dodge van. Inside it is decorated with beer mats from Tetley’s and Sam Smith’s. On a trip to Sam Smith’s brewery we drank eight pints in one hour in the hospitality bar and then he ordered another round for good measure when we got into the Angel and White Horse, the brewery tap. Völker is such a regular visitor to Featherstone that he and his wife Michaela make it their base. Northern England is their favourite holiday destination.

On one trip Völker decides that we should go and visit John Martyn; at that time he was living in Roberton in an old church with one bell. Later John Martyn will name one of the best of his latter day albums The Church with One Bell. We arrive outside his house in Roberton in the Scottish borders in the black Dodge. John’s tough looking henchman Archie is there to greet us. ‘Ullo Völker.’ He pronounces the ‘V’ like a guttural Scottish ‘V’ rather than the softer ‘F’ as in ‘folk’ the way the Germans do. It is two o’clock in the afternoon and John hasn’t got up yet. We sit in the kitchen round a big table drinking tea. John stirs and lumbers down the staircase like a bear, one with a sore head. He opens the fridge door, takes out a bottle of vodka and has a huge swig. I’ve seen people do that with milk or mineral water, but never vodka. He sits at the table, eyes me up and down and then says, ‘Are ye staying for a few days then, Völker?’ The hard ‘V’ sound again.

‘No, we want to go up to Edinburgh to see Alan.’

‘Fuck him! Stay here and we’ll have a party. Who’s your friend?’

Völker introduces me. ‘This is Ian from Yorkshire.’

John goes into a stream of consciousness monologue in a very passable Yorkshire accent that stereotypes the type of Yorkshireman that I try not to be. ‘Giz a fuckin’ curry Abdul and make it snappy. By gum I could eat a scabby fuckin’ donkey. Bring us plenty o’ them chapattis we’ it. By, fuck my old boots. Turned out nice again. Can y’hear me, Mother? Eeeh! By gum.’

I don’t know what to say. So I laugh.

‘By fuckin’ hell Abdul look sharp wi’ that curry!’

In 1976 I bought John Martyn’s One World album from Celia’s record shop in Castleford. I thought at the time and still do that it’s a beautiful record. Even the title ‘One World’ is lovely and twenty-odd years in front of its time. Now I’m sitting round his kitchen table and he’s taking the piss out of me. Later in the day we end up in a pub in the next village. We down a few halves with chasers. John continues with his ‘Fuckin’ curry Abdul’ monologue and at one point kicks me on the shin. I go to hit him back and get pulled up by henchman Archie who says, ‘I would nae do that, son.’ Back in the Dodge on the road to Edinburgh Völker says, ‘John can be like that sometimes.’ I still buy John Martyn records. I even have a special section on my record shelves for them. His version of the Portishead song ‘Glory Box’ was on repeat on my CD player for many weeks.

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Ian Clayton

Ian Clayton is an author, broadcaster and storyteller from Featherstone, West Yorkshire. His stories are about making sense of where we come from. His books include Bringing It All Back Home, a bestselling book about music; Song For My Father about his lifelong search for a father figure; Our Billie about loss; It’s The Beer Talking, about adventures in public houses; In Search of Plainsong tells the full story of the original 1972 incarnation of the folk-rock group and their debut album In Search of Amelia Earhart. He co-wrote Iain Matthews’s memoir Thro’ My Eyes and Anne Scargill & Betty Cook's memoir Anne & Betty.

Books: Bringing It All Back Home, Song For My Father, It’s The Beer Talking, In Search of Plainsong

Co-author: Thro’ My Eyes: A Memoir, Anne & Betty.

Ian’s website:

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