fRoots at 40, a life of championing folk, roots, world music and blues - and history consigned to oblivion
June 18, 2019
fRoots can be found online at frootsmag.com
By nature, I am a hoarder. I have files, newspapers and magazines going back decades. My wife is the opposite and when the need came to clear out the garage, there would be only one winner.
A slice of contemporary French history had already gone to the déchetterie - OK, the council tip - and been dumped in the oversized paper waste bins.
These were the files, dozens of them, containing French newspaper and magazine cuttings dating from the 1950s and covering every aspect of France's political, social and cultural life, meticulously maintained and organised by a succession of my predecessors as Paris correspondent of The Daily Telegraph. All were unwanted, in the philistine way of modern business, when the paper sacked me and closed its grand, rented office-cum-apartment overlooking the Tuileries.
I had saved them - and piles of books - from the indiscriminate attentions of the firm that cleared the flat, and had made use of some of them when working on articles as a freelance journalist, but in truth never had enough space for them.
This heartbreaking destruction of invaluable if outdated material was followed by the similar disposal of scores of DVDs, as many CDs, shelfloads of books and copies of fRoots going back very nearly to the pre-1984 era of its predecessor, Southern Rag.
Had any of these collections been housed in Paris rather than a small southern town, or in the UK, homes might have been found: a university media studies department for the cuttings, charities for the film, music and books and A N Other for the fRoots back issues.
As it was, there were just the knowing, helpless shrugs of council staff to accompany their miserable burial. By coincidence, a package from England a few days later delivered the 40th anniversary edition of fRoots, complete - on page 142 out of 148 - with the humble ad for Salut! Live you see above.
This important milestone for anyone enthused by the sort of music fRoots and Salut! Live champion carried a reminder of another era coming to a close. In his Editor's Box slot, Ian Anderson confirmed that his own efforts to pass on editorship and ownership were close to a successful conclusion. Ian is a giant of folk, folk roots and world music and his boots will be desperately hard to fill.
For about a month towards the end of the 1960s, he was in his own words "the known Ian Anderson", a skinny, pale-faced young man from an oddly non-musical family in Weston-super-Mare making a modest name for himself in the burgeoning British blues scene. Then Jethro Tull came along "and that was the end of that".
Even Tull's record label objected to having to share occupancy of the stable with another Ian Anderson. Our Ian eventually added the initial A to avoid confusion.
And with music, journalism and relentless advocacy, he helped to make sure that the sort of non-corporate sounds that appealed to him would also have as strong a media platform as he could build.
The 40th anniversary is marked by a whopper of an issue including gems from the past - two priceless Colin Irwin interviews from the 1980s, with Kathryn Tickell and Billy Bragg, stand out - a fascinating look back at Kate Bush's folk inspirations, an illuminating interview with Ian himself ... and so much more besides.
And whoever now steps in has a duty to ensure the magazine retains the heart and soul that won it a Lifetime Achievement Award at this year's Folk Alliance International conference in sub-zero but smoothly functioning Montreal (they don't tend to worry about the wrong kind of snow).
Bravo, Ian and all those who, from the beginning or joining in as the years went by, have made fRoots such an indispensable resource.
* And what about the Salut! Live ad? Just a whim really. It was offered at a reasonable rate and it seemed right to have the site promoted on fRoots's pages. I am under no illusions; readership will not suddenly burst into three or four figures daily (it may, as now, climb above 100 from time to time).
Nor am I likely to be much more active in updating the site in the near future. I suppose I just want fRoots readers to know we exist. There is, as the ad boasts, a formidable archive which can be reached by scrolling down the sidebar or performing a simple search. I hope more people come to these pages as a result and promise to be more conscientious about keeping in touch with more recently produced work than has been my musical diet.
I shall make a useful start with the less familiar names jostling with those of June Tabor, Flook and Rob Harbron on the free download compilation that comes with the magazine.