The Guinness was flowing in a Belfast bar, and the arts editor of a British national broadsheet - we had broadsheets then, though an Ulster pal of mine had already begun to call them broadloids - demanded to know who or what I, as the Telegraph's folk critic, thought was at the cutting edge of the music.
Since he had already told me that he considered me far too old for the role, and that the DT should be looking around for a yoof replacement, my reply might have been calculated to humour him. "Fairport Convention," I said.
But it wasn't a wind-up, at least not on my part. I believed then, and believe still, that no one has produced more inspired, exciting folk-rock than Fairport. By which, of course, I mean early Fairport, the band as it was when twice fronted by the incomparable Sandy Denny.
This is not to say that I dismiss what the band has done without her. In fact, I have remained a firm admirer and will shortly be posting here an interview conducted with Simon Nicol on 40 years of Fairport. But the simple truth, so far as I am concerned, is that Fairport of the era- eras - to which I refer reached extraordinary heights of artistic achievement and sheer entertainment value that will always be hard to emulate.
So I now propose to offer two free tickets for the annual Fairport festival at Cropredy, an English Civil War battlefield site near Banbury from Aug 9-11. The Friday night (Aug 10) promises, in particular, to be special, as it will be given over to a reproduction of the trailblazing Liege and Lief album by almost the original band (Chris While taking poor Sandy's place as lead vocalist).
I have set an offbeat Fairport-related question which you will on the continuation page but the answer to which, I think you will NOT find on Google. Answers should be sent not as comments on this posting but by e-mail , here or by using the e-mail link at the top of this page.
The winner will be drawn from correct answers received by June 30.
Read on for the question........
In 1999, the Daily Telegraph inadvertently published an obituary of the great former Fairport fiddler Dave Swarbrick. Someone thought he had died in hospital in Coventry.
Profuse apologies followed, Swarb - a Telegraph reader as it happened - eventually saw the funny side of it, famously quipping: "Not the first time I've died in Coventry." And he told me later that it was, in retrospect, an unusual pleasure for anyone to be able to read a complimentary assessment of his or her life, published in the belief that the life in question was over.
My question is this. Who wrote the obituary? Was it:
1) Colin Harper
2) Colin Irwin
3) Colin Randall
4) Colin Firth
Answers, as mentioned earlier, should be sent to me by e-mail here - or by using the e-mail link top right -and the closing date is June 30. My decision, to be taken in conjunction with the Fairport office organising the festival, will be final.