60 ALBUMS @ 60 : #34


Boat To Bolivia – Martin Stephenson and The Daintees (1986)

It was the power of the cathode ray that brought Martin Stephenson and The Daintees to my attention.

Whistle Test on BBC 2.  It proved to be love at first sight and sound. Martin played a lively but short instrumental on an acoustic guitar. The tune was called A Tribute to The Late Rev Gary Davis. I’ll confess I had no idea who the tribute was aimed at.

He then changed his guitar as it was time to play a second song alongside his band, The Daintees.  It was at this point he discovered his guitar strap wasn’t fastened properly as he almost dropped the precious instrument. He gave a sheepish look at the camera, said ‘God Bless’ into his microphone, before strumming the opening notes of Crocodile Cryer.

I was so taken by the song that I went out the next day and bought the album it was included on.  Boat To Bolivia turned out to be their debut long-player.  With a matter of months, I had to go out and buy a new copy of the album as I had played it so often, usually in a drunken but enthusiastic stupor, that I often dropped the stylus and caused havoc. Late 1986 was not a particularly easy time in my life….

Boat To Bolivia is a wonderful listen.   There’s a real breadth of musical influences across its eleven tracks*, and many of Martin’s lyrics are incredibly personal –  miscarriages that his mum had suffered and his sister’s lesbianism are among the subject matters – but they also come laced with gentle humour and affection associated with those who come from the working class communities of the north-east of England.

*the title song Boat To Bolivia wasn’t included in the original album, but was added to later pressings.

Over the course of the next six years, during which I went through all sorts of turmoil in my life (all of it self-inflicted!!),  the one constant was the music of The Daintees.  They were a hard-working band, constantly recording and touring, and so the opportunities to see them play live were numerous.  And they never disappointed.  Well, maybe once, but that occasion in itself is a story.  Any of their first three studio albums would have found a place in this rundown, but in all honesty, the debut is the one that not only has stood the test of time, but continues to be one that never fails to blow away any dark clouds that may be circling above my head.

mp3:  Martin Stephenson & The Daintees – Look Down, Look Down

Martin Stephenson is still making excellent roots-based music as a solo artist, as well as occasionally getting the old band back together and performing.He never seems to stand still as all the news from this, the official website reveals.


9 thoughts on “60 ALBUMS @ 60 : #34

  1. Similar experience . However heard crocodile cryer on the radio and bought the lp that day . For the next 4 years lost count of the times I saw the daintees live . This lp is magical

  2. I always liked Martin Stephenson but remain surprised by how little I own. I don’t own this album. I did see them live in support of Gladsome, Humour & Blue, which I do own. It’s a record that helped me soothe away the troubles of the day in the wee small hours – all this years ago.

    I’m enjoying this series.

  3. Bingo (semi).
    A friend and I did our top 40 all-time albums in August 2021 (top 50 with compilations). Today is the first crossover with NVV – although only with regard to the artist. I ‘discovered’ the Daintees back in 1984 with ‘Trouble Town’ (fantastic single!!) which I vaguely recall seeing on T V early one morning.
    In my top 40, it was ‘Gladsome, Humour and Blue’ which came in at 32, with my brief notes: “First encountered with the Daintees ‘Trouble Town’ and followed them
    ever since. This was my favourite album, saw them in c.1991 in
    Boat to Bolivia is great, but ‘Gladsome’ has a bit more of that secret sauce I mentioned before.

  4. New to me and I like it! Wonder if they toured much over here in the US. Thanks for introducing it to me, JC.

  5. Saw him the other week in Leeds in an intimate venue – just him and a brilliant young guitar player. Touring with the Daintees in bigger venues later in the year.
    new album out now.
    Lives somewhere in the North (Cromarty?)

    BTW if you do go to see him you can expect a LOT of chat – maybe as much as playing.
    Loves a good yarn.
    As for the USA, he told us about recording at a studio in Venice Beach at the same time as Michelle Shocked. Possibly toured then?

  6. Similar affection for MS as JC. First saw him at Bristol Poly in 1986? and just thought he was fab from that moment on. Agree that it is the first 3 albums where the true gold lies.

  7. This series just keeps getting better! First heard The Daintees in late 1984 on NME014, the Raging Spool tape where their track was titled “I’m A Hypocrite (Crocodile Cryer)”. Fell in love with the song then and saw them in 1985 in Edinburgh before BTB came out. It is a beautiful record with so many amazing songs and Martin is just such a great bloke. Someone mentioned the Trouble Town single above; the b-side Better Plan is also fantastic.

  8. I had the first three albums for many years, but I’m afraid to say I traded them in recently when I realised I hadn’t played any of them for over 20 years and was unlikely to do so much again. I quite enjoyed them at the time, and I saw Martin Stephenson play a fine solo gig in a small pub in Cambridge in the early 2000s, but even that wasn’t enough to rekindle my interest. Sorry!

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