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A Magazine for Sheffield

Reappraised: Lighthouse Family

When two likely lads from the fishing port of Newcastle upon Tyne stormed the charts with the soulful, easy listening pop gem ‘Lifted’, the fishing community rejoiced as one of their own had hit the big time.

That band was the Lighthouse Family, and the lighthouse in question was St Mary's Lighthouse in Whitley Bay.

Many people wrongly assume that fisherman pop is sea shanties or whale music, both of which are egregious slurs on proud fishing communities’ musical heritage. Real fisherman music is about the difficult conditions they face out at sea - the rough and hostile oceans, the unpredictable weather conditions, the unbearable loneliness – all set to acoustic lounge guitar and soft percussion.

The Lighthouse Family’s soothing, spiritual songs are hopeful lilts to help seafarers persevere through violent waves and bone-chilling storms to reach the secure bosom of the shore with a bounty of fresh fish. Or in my case, driving to family holidays in Devon along the M5 stuffed in the back of a heavily-rusting Ford Granada with a windbreaker wedged across my lap.

Throughout the nineties, the Lighthouse Family faced much prejudice from landlubbers who misunderstood their music as bland, inoffensive wallpaper for estate agents and MPs. They were deemed as exciting as spam on a Valentine's date or a Shipping Forecast disco. But when you’re looking down the porthole of a 15-hour shift, dragging out heavy nets from icy cold water, clawing out fish offal with your bare hands, all on a soggy hard bouncy castle, then Tunde Baiyewu's velvety vocals are just the warm embrace you need as you hold back the fish smell-induced vomit.

Even if your voyage isn’t as cumbersome, there are times in life when it can feel just as tough - it’s not, it’s definitely not - when you just want to be eased through the port of life. There are times when you want to be carried away from despair like a mother cradling her exhausted child to bed. For this, you don’t need overly elaborate lyrics or a modulating vocal style. A fish is a fish, the sky is blue, the sun is going to shine on everything you do.

It’s that warm comfort that people feel at a Christian rock concert or watching Heartbeat. Choir songs for a secular society. The solace of living in a place where Greengrass and his weird sheep-hound are your biggest threat of anti-social behaviour. Watching the Lighthouse Family live is like witnessing one big collective gasp of carbon dioxide. Everyone’s a little giddy and carefree, with a vacant expression across their faces while they struggle to clap in time.

Which is largely how I’d like to plan my exit from this world - high, hurtling towards the rocks at 1,000 knots, soon to be lifted, lifted, lifted up to new horizons. Waking up where they film Heartbeat and seeing what high jinks Greengrass has got up to now. Pass the salmon.

Stan’s top recommendations:

  • Ocean Drive
  • High
  • Lifted

Next in series

Reappraised: The Beautiful South

In 1998 a song about the male appendage reached the top of the charts. I can’t think of another song with a similar subject matter to achieve the same dazzling heights of success since ‘My Ding-a Ling’ became a hit for Chuck Berry in 1972.

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