IN 1979, when the UK new wave music scene was arguably at its most creative period, XTC made an impression on the pop charts with Making Plans For Nigel.
The song by the Swindon band ticked all the punk boxes: spiky guitar riffs, pounding drums, a hint of anger and lyrics about disaffected youth (“We’re only making plans for Nigel, he has his future in a British steel”).
Thirty-one years on and Colin Moulding’s song has been re-recorded – with the guitars and drums replaced by mandolin, pipes and fiddle.
The reason for the transformation is that Making Plans For Nigel sits proudly on a list of familiar tracks on By Hook Or By Crook, the new album by Adrian Edmondson and the Bad Shepherds, who have made a name for themselves in the past couple of years by reworking largely punk classics on folk instruments.
The result is songs such as Down In The Tube Station At Midnight, London Calling, Anarchy In The UK and now Making Plans For Nigel as you’ve never heard them before.
“I just choose songs I like and then have a go at them,” said Adrian, when asked why he selected Nigel for the album. “I try to arrange them, to get them to sound truthful. Then I get Troy (Donockley, a Bad Shepherd and Uilleann pipes, cittern and whistle wizard) on board and change them again.”
This, of course, is the same Adrian Edmondson who has been making us laugh for more than 30 years as a comedian and writer, working on such shows as The Young Ones and The Comic Strip Presents.
But music has always been a passion, discovering punk as a teenager and then folk later in life when he woke up one morning with a hangover and discovered he had somehow acquired a mandolin.
Tinkering with that instrument eventually led to the formation of The Bad Shepherds, and that unique punk/folk fusion, laying down unforgettable versions of songs by the likes of The Sex Pistols, The Undertones, The Clash and The Jam.
Making Plans For Nigel has been in the Bad Shepherds’ “ball park” for some time and Adrian is delighted to have worked it into the live set. “It had its first outing in Yeovil the other week,” he said. “It went down well – it’s a cracker. It’s quite a spirited version.”
As accomplished and fun as the albums are, it’s on stage that the Bad Shepherds come into their own.
Their UK tour will see them on the road until the end of October – they will have played 100 gigs since April by then – and Swindon fans may like to catch them in Stroud tonight, Bristol tomorrow or Reading on October 24 (the support act, incidentally, is Ella Edmondson, an accomplished singer/songwriter who is the daughter of Adrian and his comedy star wife Jennifer Saunders).
And the mix of punk certainly goes down well with audiences – the one that packed out the 12 Bar in Swindon to see the Bad Shepherds a year ago certainly appreciated the gig.
So, plans for the future? “I don’t really plan anything much – never have really,” said Adrian.
“My prime motive is to have fun, and I’m having fun and so we are booking stuff next year.
“But we are not a novelty act.
It’s hard to get over the fact that we do not think of ourselves as a novelty band. Troy and Andy (Dinan, the third Bad Shepherd) are extraordinary musicians and we do it because we like doing it.
The whole thing about punk was that it was DIY, and it’s the same with folk. Nothing is written down. They are very similar in that way.
“A lot of songs we do are either protest songs or story songs, or social commentary, which is what Making Plans For Nigel is, I suppose.”