Posts Tagged ‘Fairport Convention’

Alvin Robinson

Saturday, June 27th, 2015

Listen: Down Home Girl / Alvin Robinson
Down Home Girl / Alvin Robinson

I saw The Rolling Stones for the first time on October 30, 1965 at the Syracuse War Memorial. I had forged a press pass, a typed note actually, on letterhead from a weekly paper in my little hometown. My Dad had set me up with the pompous owner of it, as I wanted to interview the band for a feature.

Looking back it was quite a good idea on my part, but this self celebrating fellow was nasty and dismissive. Even though I ended up meeting the band, I still loathe him for his attitude, not towards me, but towards my Father. He was so busy being busy, running in and out of his pathetic office, that I just reached over and grabbed a few pages of letterhead when he wasn’t looking. I shook with fear at what I’d done. I was still a good Catholic boy, but too late, I’d done it. So he tells me, “We don’t need a piece on this dirty English combo”, and that was that, or so he thought. Indeed, they didn’t need a a kid in his late single digits writing a review.

To be exact, this was the Canastota Bee Journal, as close as you can get to Mayberry. He and the paper, I’m guessing, are long gone. Still, I composed this laughable letter, claiming to be a writer on assignment and needing to interview them for a feature.

In those days, arenas were filled with hysterical, screaming kids, so how I managed to slide backstage so easily still baffles. An usher fell for that forged letter, and brought me back, where Bill Wyman was wrapping up his cords. Bill reads it, stares me straight in the eye and says in hindsight with a knowing smirk, “Come on and we’ll meet the rest”.

Holy shit. Is this really happening? It was the first time I nearly blacked out. I seriously remember that vividly. We are suddenly walking up the steps to the dressing room, knees weak, where in years to follow, I would meet, more like pester, (here goes, I know this is all a bit name droppy, but it really, really happened. I met all these bands and I’m proud of it): The Mindbenders, Them, The Moody Blues, The Nashville Teens, The Ikettes, The Who, The Pretty Things, Manfred Mann, The Kinks, Humble Pie, Heads Hands & Feet, Fairport Convention, John Martyn, Steppenwolf, Canned Heat, Caravan, Toe Fat, Derek & The Dominoes, Jethro Tull, Grand Funk Railroad, Frampton’s Camel, Traffic, Wild Turkey, The Faces, Badfinger, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Mother Earth, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, The Chambers Brothers, Sly & The Family Stone, Savoy Brown, Iron Butterfly, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Big Brother & The Holding Company, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, even Vivian Green, who I worked with decades later, was in that very room when on tour with Maxwell. Talk about coming full circle.

The management knew me and my friends well early on, they must’ve gotten a kick out of these crazy little kids, who’s Mom’s & Dad’s would wait patiently for until the shows ended. Our parents befriended the office staff, and in turn, those nice ladies always let us backstage.

The Rolling Stones were great, so nice. No one was in their dressing room except the band, and one other guy, I’m guess Ian Stewart, the tour manager. No food, nothing but bottles of Coca Cola. They signed my copy of 12 X 5, it probably lasted all of a minute but I still can relive it to this day. Here I was, with this exotic band from England that changed my life, which prior I could only see on TV every three to four months tops. I thought at that very moment, “This is the life for me”. I’m completely convinced it led to my career in music. No question.

Their current album at the time, THE ROLLING STONES NOW, was not a real album at all. In those days, the English labels released singles and EPs, in addition to albums. Not only were the EP tracks not on the LPs, but the singles weren’t either. So the US companies were always dropping off intended LP tracks to make room for the singles and sometimes strong ones from those EPs. For this particular release, London Records basically cobbled together some singles and EP songs, as well as unused UK LP tracks. Remember, the UK LPs were 14 songs compared to our 10-12, thereby creating even more choices.

Probably by coincidence more than design, THE ROLLING STONES NOW actually works as a proper LP. It was certainly a big success, slowly but very solidly scaling the US LP charts and staying Top 10 for ages, as it deserved to. The record’s filled with dark, minor key classics like ‘Heart Of Stone’, ‘Little Red Rooster’ and ‘Pain In My Heart’ which they played on that night, Brian sitting at a huge B3 organ, wailing away.

It’s ok if you’re getting tingles. Take your time. You’ll need it. They were back, nine months later, during the AFTERMATH tour, and that’s whole ‘nother post waiting to be written.

This all leads us to ‘Down Home Girl’, a song on THE ROLLING STONES NOW. Little did I know then that it was a cover. I don’t even think I knew what that meant. They were all Rolling Stones songs to us. Years and years later I wised up, seeked out the original, and became a dangerous Alvin Robinson fanatic.

Here’s his version. Get any of his other releases. all of them actually.

Fairport Convention

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

FairportSirB, Fairport Convention, Island

Listen: Sir B. McKenzie’s Daughter’s Lament For The 77th Mounted Lancers Retreat From The Straights Of Loch Knombe, In The Year Of The Lord 1727, On The Occasion Of The Announcement Of Her Marriage To The Laird Of Kinleanie / Fairport Convention FairportSirB.mp3

Although the song title earned the Guinness Book award for ‘longest ever’, Fairport Convention were guaranteed not to have a hit single because of it. Besides, this was oddly relegated to the B side. A last remnant of Richard Thompson’s days with the band, by the time of it’s release, he was gone.

I was desperate to own this single, not having been included on FULL HOUSE, their current album at the time. Far from being amongst the majority vote, I considered the new four piece lineup, sans Thompson, their best yet. And although the prior release, LEIGE AND LIEF got, and still gets, all the praise, it’s FULL HOUSE hands down that’s my favorite. Possibly due to it coinciding with my first ever Fairport Convention concert, supporting Traffic. A wondrous night that. I was spellbound.

FairportJohnLee, Fairport Convention, Island
FairportJohnLeePS, Fairport Convention, Island

Listen: John Lee / Fairport Convention FairportJohnLee.mp3

Less spellbound were the critics. Everyone missed Richard Thompson and Sandy Denny. Okay, I get it, but Dave Swarbrick and Simon Nicol were equally powerful, unsung frontmen. Tiny Dave in dark blue platform boots swirling around the stage, attacking his violin, and creating a whirlwind of sound and nuts-ness. Showmanship in addition to being a superb songwriter. It was Dave Swarbrick who wrote all of these A sides. What the fuck’s not to like?

Their next album, BABBACOMBE LEE, ruled my world. That tour was a special night out for us British music followers, being sandwiched between The Kinks and Lindisfarne. This my friends was heaven on earth, the absolute best place to be in the entire solar system.

‘John Lee’, one the the album’s two singles, still brings back that raging blizzard of March 1, 1972. We’d driven through blinding snow for well over an hour. Being pre-cell phone days, I was terrified of finding the show’d been cancelled once we arrived and approached Kleinhand’s Music Hall with a deadly pit in the stomach. Besides, this was my first date with Corinne, who finally agreed to accept an invitation out. Please God, make it all happen.

Miracle. The show went on as planned, thankfully. It was in the stars I guess.

Let me tell you about it: This was Lindisfarne’s first ever US date, though you’d never have known. ‘Fog On The Tyne’ made it clear this was going to be a very English night. Bring it on, we had waited long for this.

Not to worry, Fairport Convention, despite being of the folk rock classification, powered that stage the moment they hit. Straight into ‘Walk Awhile’, “Sir B. McKenzie’s…’, ‘The Journeyman’s Grace’, ‘Sickness And Diseases’, ‘Sloth’ and the above ‘John Lee’, Even the balcony was jigging in the aisles, or at least they thought they were.

Then came The Kinks. At this point, in their high camp era, Dave decked out in a tailored tangerine red suit and Ray with bright green velvet jacket and clown sized bow tie, perfectly sloppy, opening with ‘Till The End Of The Day’, then satiating us with ‘The Village Green Preservation Society’, ‘Victoria’, ’20th Century Man’, ‘Death Of A Clown’, ‘Apeman’, ‘Dedicated Follower Of Fashion’, ‘Holloway Jail’, ‘Autumn Almanac’, ‘Have A Cuppa Tea’, ‘Arthur’ and ‘Waterloo Sunset’. Sweet Jesus have mercy!

FairportRosie

Listen: Rosie / Fairport Convention FairportRosie.mp3

“Rosie’ is as vital a song and single in Fairport Convention’s history as any of the others, which by the way, seem to get all the name checks. It came to represent the beginning of a comradery amongst former members that eventually defined lineups ahead, whereby any or many would float in and out of the band.

For this one, it was Sandy Denny who guested on the call and response type chorus, hinting at the full time member she would return to be just a year or so down the road. For proof of the fantastic vocal clarity she could bring to any song, just listen to ‘Rosie’.

FairportWhitePS

FairportWhite, Fairport Convention, Island

Listen: White Dress / Fairport Convention FairportWhiteDress.mp3

Supporting the reunion album, RISING FOR THE MOON with another Anglophile crushing US package (Caravan and Renaissance), the horribly under attended September 24, 1975 stop in Rochester had to be a demoralizing, why-are-we-here moment. Unfortunately, the stark, vast theater seemed ironically fitting during ‘White Dress’, their most haunting track ever, and in some ways, most powerful simply via Sandy Denny’s ability to evoke chills so effortlessly.

As with her very own version of Elton John’s ‘Candle In The Wind’, a solo single from ’78, ‘White Dress’ can be overwhelming, and many times, still challenges my courage to play it all the way through.

If

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Listen: The Promised Land / If
The Promised Land / If

Jazz rock didn’t usually work for me. The description of If, a UK version of Blood, Sweat & Tears, was not inviting. But hey, they were from England, and when booked to open a show for The Faces who were still in their newly formed prime, I went along early.

No question, this was a live act almost like no other. The sheer power of two saxophones, part of their seven piece lineup, featured an incredible virtuoso in Dick Morrissey. Wow. Other than Family, Blodwyn Pig, Jethro Tull or Fairport Convention, my live experiences were strictly guitar based line-ups. Shortly thereafter, The Flock and Edgar Winter’s White Trash would pass through town, but at that moment, it was all new.

On record, things were a bit less spontaneous. Sounding more like Chase than the intended BS&T, If produced a rather controlled racket. Not unlike The Keef Hartley Band, occasional tracks or singles became favorites, especially some of those played live.

‘The Promised Land’ can still return me to that live show years later. Trust me, this one sounds way different having watched it up close.

Joni Mitchell

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

JoniYellowUKA, Joni Mitchell, Reprise, Asylum

Listen: Big Yellow Taxi / Joni Mitchell JoniBigYellowTaxi.mp3

When it came to folk, I stuck to the UK stuff. Even then, it was never high on my list. I did have a mad patch for Fairport Convention, especially around the time of FULL HOUSE and ANGEL DELIGHT. Plus there were moments when Lindisfarne or The Incredible String Band topped the list. As for the North American stuff, not so much. Songs here or there.

Warner Brothers started doing these double album samplers for $2 (including postage) around 1968, showcasing the spectrum of their varied roster. They had most of the good progressive acts, and one of the four sides was always skewed toward folk, including the likes of Pearls Before Swine, Tom Northcott, The Pentangle or Joni Mitchell. Often the songs were album tracks, but on this one occasion, ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ ended up a single. Despite my ambivalence toward female singer/songwriter voices in general (Joan Armatrading and Phranc excluded), I developed an unlikely attraction for Joni Mitchell’s. Her forays into other musical styles worked fine, better even, in my book.

JoniRaisedUKA, Joni Mitchell, Asylum, Reprise

Listen: Raised On Robbery / Joni Mitchell JoniRaisedOnRobbery.mp3

COURT AND SPARK was one of those albums that everyone loved. Like Carole King’s TAPESTRY, it was hard to find a non-believer. As a career step, she took that big one forward, proving her future would be long and respected. The album may be flawless.

‘Raised On Robbery’ got a lot of album rock play, but not much Top 40. Perfect. It proved her depth at a time when full length sales meant way more than the single. It was almost jazzy, who knew then it’s dixieland leanings would play out down the road as she took on Charles Mingus?

JoniHelpMeUKA, Joni Mitchell, Reprise, Asylum

Listen: Help Me / Joni Mitchell JoniMitchellHelpMe.mp3

COURT AND SPARK gained such traction, and sold so well, there was no choice but for Top 40 to play the next single. ‘Help Me’ always sounded good over the air. I don’t believe I switched it off once. Deservedly, it climbed to #7 and became a staple for years.

JoniFree, Joni Mitchell, Reprise, Asylum

Listen: Free Man In Paris / Joni Mitchell JoniParis.mp3

One night in the late 60′s both Joni Mitchell and Judy Collins played shows in Syracuse – at different venues. What were the promoters thinking? ‘Both Sides Now’, written by Joni and then a hit for Judy, lured me to attend the latter’s. I would say “mistake’, but to be fair, Judy Collins was great that night, mentioning her good friend was across town and thanking her for the hit.

Sandy Denny

Friday, April 24th, 2009

Candle In The Wind / Sandy Denny

Listen: Candle In The Wind / Sandy Denny SandyDennyCandle.mp3

I hadn’t even thought about meeting Sandy Denny for the longest time, not until writing my Fotheringay post a week or so back. It’s unbelievable how much email I got as a result. People wanting the most specific details of our conversation, what she drank, what she wore, did she seem depressed. Not that I’m surprised she is so revered.

‘Candle In The Wind’ was always a song that got me choked up and not many do. Then when Elton John’s version became the signature Princess Di track, forget it. I literally had to switch it off. It weirded me out. Combine such a powerful song with Sandy Denny’s immaculate voice and, well, it was a hard one to pull out and play.

But I did it just now and it really is so spectacular. I don’t know if many people have heard this as the single is quite rare, at one time booking for 100 GBP in The Record Collector Price Guide. Fact is it never made it beyond the promo run.