Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day: 1979 Ian Matthews – Shake It

1979 Ian Matthews – Shake It

Ian Matthews MacDonald grew up mostly in Lincolnshire, England, and went to work for a local painting and decorating first as an apprentice sign-writer in the early sixties. He also sang with a few local bands before moving to London and getting a job at a shoe shop.

In 1966, Ian formed the band Pyramid with Steve Hiatt and Al Jackson. Steve wrote the song The Summer Of Last Year, which the group successfully recorded as a surf music single. Sadly, nothing much came from the venture.

Fairport Convention recruited Ian as a singer in late 1967. Ian remained a member of the band during the recording of their first two albums, but he and the band parted ways after Ian sang on one of the songs for their third album. The rest of the band wanted to move into singing more traditional English folksongs while Ian wanted to focus on singer/songwriter tunes, and it became difficult to work through their differences. There must have been few hard feelings over the split since several of the members of the band worked on some of Ian’s future albums. Ian began using the name Ian Matthews because of the rising prominence of the King Crimson musician Ian McDonald.

With the help of an assortment of studio musicians, Ian recorded his first solo album, Matthews’ Southern Comfort. To support the album, he recruited a group of musicians. His intent with the album name was to identify a solo album named Southern Comfort, but everybody seemed to think the album was the name of the band, so he named the band Matthews Southern Comfort (without the apostrophe). After a few lineup changes, the band stabilized and recorded a second album.

In June 1970 the band went into the BBC’s studio to record a “live” performance, and when they arrived, they were informed that they would be playing four songs. The group only had three songs prepared, so they quickly worked up a soft rock harmony arrangement of Joni Mitchell’s song, Woodstock. Crosby, Stills, and Nash had a minor hit with the song that reached #11 on the US Hot 100, but their version was not getting much airplay in the UK. Thanks to the BBC appearance, there was a demand for the Matthews Southern Comfort version, so they recorded a single and released it in the UK and most of Europe. The record spent three weeks at the top of the UK record chart and also reached #23 on the US Hot 100 in 1971. After that, Ian disbanded the group to begin work on solo projects again.

In 1971, Ian recorded two albums. He then joined the group Plainsong and recorded another album in 1972. After Plainsong fell apart, Ian recorded his next solo album with Michael Nesmith of the Monkees as his producer. The standout cut on the album was a cover of the Steve Young song, Seven Bridges Road. The Eagles recorded a live version of the song using a nearly identical arrangement seven years later.

Ian finally had another hit in 1978. He released Shake It, and the single peaked at #13 on the Hot 100 that year. Ian has been prolific, and estimates that he has performed on over 200 albums during his career. He has taken part in revivals of several groups and appears to have been a member of at least eight distinct groups.

In 1988, Ian began using the name Iain Matthews.

In 2000, Ian permanently moved to Amsterdam, and he has continued recording music and appearing live as recently as 2019.


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