The violinist's tale. Helen O'Hara decided she was going to be a violinist at the age of 9. She was good to her word. Longlisted for the Penderyn Music Book Prize 2023.Read More
Nominated for the 2019 Association for Recorded Sound Collections Awards for Excellence in Historical Recorded Sound Research
Iain Matthews is one of the music industry’s great survivors. He has been making pitch-perfect records for over fifty years. During the golden era of English folk-rock, he was lead singer with Fairport Convention, Matthews Southern Comfort and Plainsong. In the halcyon days of the West Coast singer-songwriter scene, he moved to Los Angeles, and then spent thirty years criss-crossing America with extended stays in Seattle and Austin. Today he is settled back in Europe where he continues to record and perform with some of the continent’s finest musicians. In Thro’ My Eyes he writes with a gentle candour about the highs and lows of the music business. Here is a reminder of artistic integrity and authenticity in a sometimes over-amplified world.
‘I value the times Iain has been my fellow traveller in music. He is one of the great folk/rock/pop singers and writers, and his life and music trajectory have both been extraordinary … and he keeps getting better.’ Richard Thompson
Available in Paperback Edition and Hardback Deluxe Edition
The Deluxe Edition of the book comes complete with a hardback book and a double CD of Iain's music which soundtracks the story. Only available direct from Route. Select from drop down menu.
By buying direct from Route, you are helping to support independent publishing. If you prefer other options, here are links to Amazon and Kindle
Richie Unterberger's Top Twenty Rock Books
He’s been through the highest highs—a #1 UK single (and substantial US hit) with a cover of Joni Mitchell’s 'Woodstock' and a #13 US solo hit in 1978 with 'Shake It'—but also the lowest lows, couch-surfing when he’s been between labels, jobs, and relationships. This swing between the extremes isn’t rare for musicians, but it’s not often told as well as it is in Matthews’s account. It’s plain-spoken; detailed about most phases of his career; and told with a personal flavor uncommon in books done with a collaborator. It’s highly recommended both for its historical value and as a quick-paced, absorbing reading experience.
If there was an award for the role of Godfather of Americana in the UK, serious consideration would have to go to Iain Matthews … It’s all there in [his] excellent autobiography, a great look at the harsh reality of the musician’s life – through the eyes of someone who has really lived it.
A great read, from the enticing artifice of LA to the barrooms of Seattle, from New York (Lou Reed sings Matthews’ song ‘Call The Tune’ to him and says 'Iain… I’m a fan') to the Netherlands and newfound happiness. This is the story of a man who loves music, stretching himself to excellence.
What sets this bio apart and what makes it worth reading is Matthews’s relentless openness, to himself and his very personal problems. You never have the feeling that he is covering up breaks or concealing depression and communication problems, and that is precisely what makes the book and Matthews as a person so credible and understandable. The musician Iain Matthews was unknown to me before this book except for a few highlights. After reading it, I am certain that I have a lot of catching up to do.
A terrific book. It does a great job of balancing the musical with the personal. It doesn’t shy away from the mistakes made or the times shyness made Iain behave badly. As a consequence he comes across as a fully rounded character, which makes us want to see how his story comes out. Though I feel like I already knew Iain pretty well, I came out of the book knowing him even better – as if, in that Joe South song that I’m quite fond of, I’d truly walked a mile (or a few thousand miles) in his shoes. One of the many strengths of the book is that Iain never tries to put himself in a box or sum himself up in 25 words or less, he lets himself emerge in three dimensions, even when there are contradictions. If I have any complaint, it’s that it left me wanting more, it could have been twice as long and still not filled me up.
Allan Wilkinson, Northern Sky
A warts and all memoir, which takes us on a journey from an early Northern childhood in both Scunthorpe and Barton-upon-Humber, through to the bright lights of Piccadilly Circus and Carnaby Street in the ‘Swinging Sixties’, and on through his earliest involvement in music, to his middle years in the States and more recently that of mainland Europe. Though the story takes us from one exciting episode to another, there’s also an inherent sadness that looms in the shadows. Through the decades, we see a singular artistic bent and a desire to make good music and write great songs, both alone and in the company of others, a pursuit that continues to this day.
I read it through in one day. Sometimes I cried, sometimes I laughed, sometimes I thought, damn, why did you do that!? A great memoir with lots of amazing stuff. Did you know that Richard Thompson turned down the offer to join the first version of The Eagles?
In this extract from Thro' My Eyes, Iain Matthews describes the moment he was asked to leave Fairport Convention.
I’d been uneasy and feeling a little like a fish out of water in Fairport Convention ever since Sandy had joined the band. It wasn’t enough for me to want to leave, but I was never sure where I stood, or even sometimes where to stand. Sandy brought a wealth of unsung traditional material to the table and I was both puzzled and threatened by that. The music was alien to me and the band were embracing it wholeheartedly, absorbing it, while I had been perfectly happy with the direction we were moving in. Sometimes Sandy would begin to play and sing a traditional tune and the others would join in playing. I wasn’t an instrumentalist back then, I only had my voice to fall back on. The music was strange to me, I didn’t care for it without knowing why and I didn’t know where to go with it. It became more and more apparent that the band was quietly but positively morphing towards that style and it started to become a bone of contention for me. One night, Sandy played something backstage before a show, it could have been ‘She Moved Through the Fair’ or ‘A Sailor’s Life’, and the rest of the band said, ‘Let’s put it in the set tonight. Sandy knows the song and we can all busk around it.’ The band had no fear of improvisation, so it was left to me to thump around on a conga drum, trying to contribute something of my own to that alien music. The cracks and the writing on the wall were beginning to appear.
When we travelled to concerts we’d usually meet at the Witchseason management offices on Charlotte Street in the West End. One day I arrived at the agreed time, but I was the only one there apart from Joe Boyd. It later transpired that I had been told one time to arrive and they had been given a different one. Joe asked me to come into his office and sit down.
‘We need to talk Ian,’ he said.
He didn’t beat around the bush, that’s how Joe was.
‘The band have asked me to tell you that they want you to leave.’
It was a huge shock, I didn’t see it coming, after all I was singing with them most nights and sharing a house with two of them and no one had implied anything of the kind. As uncomfortable as I was with the direction, deep down I loved being in the band and in my naivety when Joe said leave, I presumed he meant soon. It never occurred to me that I was expected to leave immediately, within the hour.
While Joe and I were talking, the rest of the band began to arrive. When they went down to the van, naturally I followed and took my usual seat. There was a hushed silence until Ashley turned to me.
‘Where do you think you are going?’ he said.
‘With you of course.’
‘No you’re not, you’re out of the band.’
Sandy swivelled in her seat and narrowed her eyes at Ashley.
‘You cruel bastard,’ she said.
I sat there for a moment or two, stunned, trying to take it all in, before climbing back out of the van. I heard the door slide shut and off they drove. I stood rooted, trying to make sense of what had just happened. In the blink of an eye I was out of the band. I took a walk around the West End to let it all sink in. It was raining. Then I went home.
We were young and ambitious. I see now that they did what had to be done and I had become expendable. For the band, it was about forward progress and it needed to be made at all costs and as quickly as possible. As far as I’m aware, there was never any malice intended. We were in a musical dogfight to be recognised and to quote a well-worn phrase, ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going.’ Fairport Convention were tough and going places.
Thinking about it now, fifty years later, I still feel that same huge, gut-wrenching sense of disappointment and failure that I felt at the moment of impact on that chilly February afternoon. It’s the first and only time in my long career that I’ve ever been asked to leave a band. I silently vowed there and then that it would be the last.
A History of Fairport Convention and Its Extend Folk-Rock Family In June 1968, a group of Muswell Hillbillies made their official album debut as Fairport Convention. In the next fifteen years, three of those founding Fairportees – Richard Thompson, Ashley ‘Tyger’ Hutchings and Simon Nicol – along with the next generation of Fairport recruits – Iain Matthe..Read More