Rab Noakes

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Rab Noakes
Noakes at the Oran Mor, Glasgow, 2010
Noakes at the Oran Mor, Glasgow, 2010
Background information
Birth nameRobert Ogilvie Noakes
Born(1947-05-13)13 May 1947
St Andrews, Fife, Scotland
Died11 November 2022(2022-11-11) (aged 75)
Glasgow, Scotland
GenresFolk, country
Occupation(s)Singer-songwriter, musician, record producer
Instrument(s)Vocals, guitar, keyboards
Years active1970–2022
LabelsNeon Media production
WebsiteOfficial website

Robert Ogilvie Noakes (13 May 1947 – 11 November 2022) was a Scottish singer-songwriter. Noakes was at the forefront of Scottish folk music for over 50 years and recorded over 19 studio albums. He toured folk clubs and often performed at the Glasgow music festival Celtic Connections.

In 1970 he released his first album Do You See the Lights, a blend of easy-going country rock, and included songs "Too Old to Die", "Together Forever" and "Somebody Counts on Me". In 1971 Noakes was a founding member of the folk rock band Stealers Wheel, along with Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan. He played on Rafferty's Can I Have My Money Back, notably "Mary Skeffington". He recorded with Lindisfarne in 1972, on songs "Turn a Deaf Ear", "Nicely Out of Tune", "Together Forever", and "Fog on the Tyne". He performed with Lindisfarne for a John Peel concert and in 1995 produced a BBC Radio 2 programme The Story of Lindisfarne. One of his best-known recordings, "Branch", from his Red Pump Special album, received airplay on BBC Radio 1. Noakes' songs have been covered by Lindisfarne and Barbara Dickson.


Robert Ogilvie Noakes was born in St Andrews, Fife, on 13 May 1947,[1][2][3] and brought up in Cupar.[4]

In 1963 Noakes moved to London and worked for the Civil Service, where he played folk clubs at night. He returned to Scotland in 1967 and began a duo with Robin McKidd; they played their first gig at the Glasgow Folk centre, and in the same year he secured a month's residency in Denmark.

Noakes released his first album Do You See The Lights in 1970,[1] with a line-up that included ex-partner Robin McKidd on electric guitar and Scottish jazz bassist Ronnie Rae. This recording included the songs "Too Old to Die", "Together Forever", and "Somebody Counts on Me".

Noakes was a founding member of the folk rock band Stealers Wheel, along with Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan in 1971. He sang backing vocals and played on the first solo album by Rafferty, Can I Have My Money Back,[1] most notably on "Mary Skeffington", a song about Rafferty's mother. After these sessions he became an early member of Stealers Wheel,[1] while he left them before the release of the band's first album.[1]

Noakes recorded and performed with Lindisfarne, whom he supported on a national tour in 1972, and recorded his songs "Turn a Deaf Ear" on their first album, Nicely Out of Tune, and "Together Forever" on their second, Fog on the Tyne. Barbara Dickson recorded "Turn a Deaf Ear" on her album Do Right Woman, on which Noakes performed.

In May 1972, the British music magazine NME reported that Noakes was to appear at the Great Western Express Lincoln Festival on 26 May that year. Other acts to perform in the 'Giants of Tomorrow' marquee included Budgie, Skin Alley, Tea & Sympathy, John Martyn, Warhorse, and Gnidrolog.[5] One of Noakes's best-known recordings, "Branch", was released as a single in the summer of 1974 from his album Red Pump Special,[1] which was recorded in Nashville, Tennessee, and produced by Elliot Mazer, attracted considerable airplay on BBC Radio 1, but without making the UK Singles Chart.

The album Restless (1978) was produced by Terry Melcher at Starling Sounds, based at Tittenhurst Park, Ascot, former home of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, then owned by Ringo Starr. The albums, Rab Noakes (1980) and Under the Rain (1984) followed, but it was 1994 until Standing Up appeared.[1] Noakes subsequently toured with the Varaflames, containing Pick Withers, Rod Clements, and the harmonicist Fraser Speirs.

Later career and albums[edit]

Noakes became the senior producer for music programmes on BBC Radio Scotland.[1] He left to create the production company Neon.[1]

In November 2007, his album Unlimited Mileage, again with the Varaflames, was released. In 2012, CDs of Standing Up Again made in 2009 and Just in Case (recorded in 2007) were made available; those albums only having been available to download up until then.

In 2015, he released the album I'm Walking Here. It was his 19th solo album and many of the songs tell the story of his working life as a songwriter and performer. It is a double album containing 26 songs. The first set consists of new compositions that show his gift for melody and love of Americana, and include "Out of Your Sight", influenced by Buddy Holly, a tribute to a 1920s minstrel singer, and a poignant lament for Rafferty. The second album is dominated by "interpretations" (he hated the word covers) of songs from early Cliff Richard to Garbage and Beck, along with the skiffle standard "Freight Train", on which he was joined by Jimmie MacGregor, and a finely sung treatment of the traditional "The Two Sisters".[6]

On 20 July 2017, he appeared on the BBC quiz programme Eggheads.[7]

Personal life[edit]

In 1988, he met Stephanie Pordage and they married in 1998. She became his muse, manager and collaborator. They both left the BBC to set up their own production company Neon in 1995. Pordage died from the effects of Parkinson's disease in 2021. Noakes was diagnosed with tonsil cancer in 2015, but treatment was effective and he was back recording The Treatment Tapes in 2016. He also toured in 2017 – at the Leith folk club and with a full band at Celtic Connections. In 2022, Noakes continued to tour and work in collaboration with other singers.

Noakes died on 11 November 2022, suddenly, at the age of 75, in hospital in Glasgow.[8][2][3]

Albums (including reissues)[edit]

Date Artist Label Cat. # Name
1970 Rab Noakes Decca SKL 5061 Do You See The Lights?
1972 Rab Noakes A&M AMLS 68119 Rab Noakes
1974 Rab Noakes Warner Brothers BS 2777 Red Pump Special
1975 Rab Noakes Warner Brothers K56114 Never Too Late
1978 Rab Noakes Ringo O' 2339 201 Restless
1980 Rab Noakes MCA MCAC 3251 Rab Noakes
1984 Rab Noakes Black Crow (CD)CRO 207 Under The Rain
1988 Black Crow (CD)CRO 217 Woody Lives!
1995 Rab Noakes Mediart Music MDMCD 003 Standing Up
2000 The Varaflames Neon NEONCD001 Throwing Shapes
2001 Rab Noakes With Fraser Speirs Neon NEONCD002 Lights Back On
2002 Rab Noakes Neon NEONCD004 Demos And Rarities Volume 1
2004 Rab Noakes River Records RIVERCD003 The River Sessions
2004 The Varaflames River Records RIVERCD042 Throwing Shapes (Re-issue)
2004 Rab Noakes With Fraser Speirs River Records RIVERCD043 Lights Back On (Re-issue)
2007 Rab Noakes Neon NEONCD007 Standing Up (Re-issue)
2007 Rab Noakes and the Varaflames Neon NEONCD009 Unlimited Mileage
2008 Rab Noakes Neon NEONCD010 Do You See The Lights? (Re-Issue)
2012 Rab Noakes Neon NEONCD011 Just in Case Songs Of Boudleaux & Felice Bryant
2012 Rab Noakes Neon NEONCD012 Live at the Reid Hall Edinburgh 2005
2012 Rab Noakes Neon NEONCD013 Standing Up Again
2013 Rab Noakes Warner WPCR15119 Red Pump Special (Re-issue)
2013 Rab Noakes Warner WPCR15120 Never Too Late
2013 Rab Noakes Neon NEONCD014 Demos And Rarities Volume 2 Adventures with Gerry Rafferty
2013 Rab Noakes Neon NEONCD015 Red Pump Special – 40th Anniversary Edition
2013 Rab Noakes Universal UICY75904 Rab Noakes (1972 Album Re-issue)
2014 Barbara Dickson & Rab Noakes Neon NEONCD016 Reunited EP
2015 Rab Noakes Neon NEONCD017 I'm Walkin' Here
2018 Rab Noakes Neon NEONCD021 Welcome to Anniversaryville


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Harris, Craig. "Rab Noakes". AllMusic. Retrieved 4 June 2010.
  2. ^ a b Denselow, Robin (21 November 2022). "Rab Noakes obituary". The Guardian.
  3. ^ a b Shepherd, Fiona (21 November 2022). "Scotsman Obituaries: Rab Noakes, respected Scottish singer-songwriter". The Scotsman.
  4. ^ "Rab Noakes – Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame". Projects.handsupfortrad.scot. 26 September 2017.
  5. ^ Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 238. CN 5585.
  6. ^ Denselow, Robin. "Rab Noakes: I'm Walkin' Here review – effortlessly connecting pop and folk". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 December 2015.
  7. ^ "BBC Two - Eggheads, Series 19, Episode 13". BBC. Retrieved 20 May 2022.
  8. ^ MacDonald, Ben (11 November 2022). "Rab Noakes tributes paid as Fife music legend dies". The Courier. Retrieved 11 November 2022.

External links[edit]