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June 2007

Cropredy competition: the dying hours, and news of a winner


Please do not be distracted from the closing instalment of the Simon Nicol interview, but do take note of my final reminder of the Who Killed Off Swarb? competition. Midnight tonight, which I am happy to regard as midnight UK time, is the deadline for entries to be received.

Details appear in previous postings.

But while on the subject of competitions, I declare Smiley - as he prefers to sign himself - the winner of the first, which appeared very early in the life of this site. That earlyness also accounted for the fact that his was the only true response, so winning was not on this occasion a great accomplishment.

His prizes: three CDs.

The Chieftains The Wide World Over

Pentangle Sweet Child (that's Pentangle's Jacqui McShee in the picture)

Jackson C Frank Blues Run the Game (in a slightly battered CD box, I am afraid)

Happy listening, Smiley.

Fairport: so British, so conventional (2)

With half my files from Paris still in cartons in the garage, despite months having passed since my move, I cannot be sure how many years ago I first had the thought - and committed it to print - that Simon Nicol's vocal delivery had become a key to Fairport Convention's enduring appeal.

My point was that his voice had developed so strongly that he was the solution to a post-Sandy problem I identified as "who do we get to do the singing?".

Not everyone agrees that the problem was as acute as that in the first place. Dave Swarbrick has been hailed as having the perfect folk-rock voice. Salut! Live, as may have become clear, is a passionate fan of Swarb, but feels that description is, to say the least, extravagant.

In our conversation, Simon hinted that he saw some truth in my original assessment: "We did our best to muddle through.......and by dint of application, I managed to educate myself in what to do with the voicebox and chest, to make it more appealing, more under my control.

"I like to think that whatever job I might have chosen, I would be better at it now than when I was 16. Theory won't get you very far; experience and learning are worth much more and it's the same whether you are a brain surgeon, a carpenter or a musician."

Continue reading "Fairport: so British, so conventional (2)" »

Del Shannon, Bobby Vee and me

What on earth has this got to do with folk music?Bobbyanddel

Absolutely nothing is the only honest response but on a day heavy with Fairport, I have decided to stray a little off-piste before concluding the Simon Nicol interview, which will take the form of a second instalment.

The high points of the careers of Bobby Vee and Del Shannon, pictured together above with due thanks to Bobby's web site, were not their separate appearances, years after the hits dried up, at the New Shildon Workingmen's Club in County Durham.

But I bet they both took away particular memories of their evenings there.
Del Shannon's encounter with the admirable but sometimes unbending nature of the workingmen's club movement - I speak with affection since my late father was a long-serving club secretary, also in Shildon - actually made the national press.

The Daily Mirror, possibly only in its northern editions, ran the story of the great man's arrival at the front door as that night's star turn.

"Where are your club cards?" growled the steward on duty at the entrance.

"But I'm the artist who's appearing here tonight," Del protested, perhaps struggling to suppress that famous falsetto.

The steward was not impressed. "Aye," he said, "they all say that. As far as I am concerned, if you're not a member or an affiliate, you're not getting in unless someones signs you in."

Continue reading "Del Shannon, Bobby Vee and me" »

Swarb then and now: amazing pictures

Some time today, the essential Simon Nicol interview - being posted in stages as I fit Salut! Live duties around trying to earn a living - should appear in full.Swarb3

But on related matters, I do have to remind readers that the competition for a pair of Cropredy festival tickets is nearing its climax. June 30 - Saturday - is the deadline for sending the correct answer to this question:

Who, in 1999, wrote the Daily Telegraph's premature obituary of the former Fairport fiddler Dave Swarbrick?

1) Colin Harper

2) Colin Irwin

3) Colin Randall

4) Colin Firth

It's your last chance to phone a friend (if Swarb happens to be a friend, so much the better since he knows the answer). There is no option here to ask the audience, go 50-50 or switch to another question (a lifeline the French version of Millionaire has added since I've been living here, but I assume they merely followed Tarrant & Co).

Answers to me via e-mail - see link at top right of this page or go back to previous postings about the competition. The winner will be drawn at random from all correct replies received by close of play Saturday June 30.

A great Swarb one-liner on Sandy Denny, promised earlier, appears on the continuation do some illuminating photographs*, including one taken less than half an hour ago as I write.

Continue reading "Swarb then and now: amazing pictures" »

Fairport: so British, so conventional (1)

The way Simon Nicol tells it, there was no more conventional path for a young man to take in mid to late 1960s Britain. You joined a group.

"There was nothing special about it at the time," recalls Simon Nicol, the only founding member of Fairport Convention still to be part of the band.

"Everyone I knew had a guitar and knew how to play three or four chords. It was a phase you went through - for six months, a year, a season, whatever, until it was time to go off to proper jobs or college."

Aims, in those days, would differ. Some people were just killing time between school and higher education, or before settling into that respectable career. "We forgot about those bits," says Simon.

Some who stuck at the music had higher hopes, though in most cases these would be crushed or succumb to a triumph of realism. Fairport's road was not to be the smoothest imaginable, but it has proved, so far, never-ending. The band, as has been thoroughly documented, convened at "Fairport" the north London home of Simon and played its first concert in a church hall in May 1967.

Fairport Convention, therefore, has just turned 40.

Continue reading "Fairport: so British, so conventional (1)" »

Competition reminder

A spot of help for those who rather like the idea of freebies but could not be bothered to venture beyond the first page of my last posting.

The great Salut! Live Fairport Convention competition - prize: two tickets for the Cropredy festival (Aug 9-11) - is already attracting replies. But the closing date is not until June 30.

My question: who, in 1999, wrote the Daily Telegraph's premature obituary of the former Fairport fiddler Dave Swarbrick?

1) Colin Harper

2) Colin Irwin

3) Colin Randall

4) Colin Firth

The admirable Swarb is, of course, very much alive and will be playing at Cropredy.

Send answers by e-mail, here or by using the e-mail link top right. The winner will be drawn at random from correct replies. See the previous item - in full! - for more information.