THE TRUE AND TERRIBLE HISTORY OF JOHN ‘BABBACOMBE’ LEE by Kevin Burke

I can’t remember where I first heard of this staging of Fairport Convention’s celebrated folk-rock opera but it proved irresistible enough for me to obtain a copy of this trimmed down ‘sampler’ DVD from a 2 hour show to 30 minutes. For those of us that were lucky (and old) enough to have witnessed the National Theatre’s excellent Lark Rise To Candleford in the late 1970’s will much appreciate that folk tales such as ‘Babbacombe’ Lee should adapt well to the stage and by utilising the strengths of predominantly Dave Swarbrick’s original songs and tunes employing a diverse array of talent from the ‘house band’ Little Johnny England and the ‘cast’ writer/director Kevin Burke should be proud of his efforts in conveying this tragic tale. With inventive use of aerial acrobatics (think Cirque Du Soleil) particularly on the effective “Dream Song” sequence, dance, magic lantern style puppetry and screen projected images the production would appear to move at a reasonably brisk pace. With only (to my knowledge) one production of the show it would be a great injustice to the ‘folk scene’ to be deprived of more outings and if there are any festival organisers reading this review could I suggest that you check out the video below:

Further information can be found at Kevin’s website here www.kevinburke.co.uk

PETE FYFE

Fairport Convention Cropredy 2009 Festival Review

With the threat of hitting the big four O this year, it was time to try some new activities to try and prove to myself that I was still young and restless! Courtesy of “the one and only” ..Folkmaster.. (apologies Darren), I trotted along to Fairport Convention’s Cropredy Festival armed with cold weather gear (well, after 4½ years in ….Brisbane…., the ….UK…. is cold – and camping would be freezing!) and a very open mind – what had I got myself in to?

The day dawned fine and sunny as I arrived in Oxfordshire, the tent was erected with relatively little swearing and angst although it did take strategic and careful logistical planning to avoid the large lumps of cow dung! All sorted and unpacked and it was off to find out what all the fuss was about.

With no real prior knowledge of Fairport Convention (heresy, I hear!!) and my life obviously lacking, I was both enthusiastic and cautiously optimistic about the education that lay in store. Armed with vino, camping chair and souvenir programme, (note the priorities!), I set myself in amongst the other festival revellers eagerly awaiting the entertainment. We were not disappointed. What an array of talent, variety and sheer chutzpah! It was fantastic. There were acts for all – traditional folk; folk rock; folk punk (!) (or should that be punk folk?) and pop! It was three days of sheer delight!

Along with the music, there was the Cropredy atmosphere – an aura of comradeship, fun and don’t-care attitude prevailed. When they say that it is ….Britain….’s friendliest music festival, they weren’t kidding! Browsing around the many stalls, children’s entertainment and food vendors just added to the sense of ambience.

But back to the music and where to start. All the artists were excellent but my personal highlights included Richard Thompson and I was thrilled when he played Vincent Black Lightning 1952 as that was my introduction to his music; Dreadzone – energetic, crowd-pleasing and thumping good tunes!; Seth Lakeman – having danced to his set at Stokes Bay Festival, it was great to see him again and Cormac Byrne from Uiscedwr who joined him on Lady of the Sea; Nik Kershaw (my nostalgic return to the 80s and the heady days of youth.) Colvin Quarmby – with Gerry Colvin’s groovy hands – they deserved a set of their own!! And of course, the incomparable Fairport Convention who were joined by the lengendary Yusaf Islam aka Cat Stevens.

When Sunday morning came and it was time to dismantle the tent and begin the journey home, a sense of mild gloom came over me – my first Cropredy was over – never again would I be a Cropredy virgin but…. Although the first time is special, the next time I would be a veteran.. roll on Cropredy 2010!

Sarah Burch August 2009

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Interview with Dave Pegg from Fairport Convention on Saturday 29th April 2000

Peggy Cropredy 2012 Dai 2

Brief introduction…

A couple of weeks ago we visited Peggy’s place, the “Woodworm Hilton” supposedly to do an interview with him in the morning before shooting off to the Adderbury Morris. Peggy though had other plans for us and we ended up humping all his garden furniture from the shed to the patio for the first part of the morning.  It’s lucky that the Webmaster, Paul kept his mouth shut about his fencing skills (the panel variety not foil or rapier) or we may have never got away!

The interview finally happened in Adderbury, just across the road from the pub and I hope it’s as much fun for you to read it as it was for me to do it. Folkmaster 19th May 2000.

Folkmaster – Who’s been your greatest musical influence and why?

I have had many great musical influences.  When I first started playing the bass I was very influenced by music from America like Tamla Motown and other stuff that was nothing to do with folk music really.  Yes, I was a great fan of that whole Motown School of bass playing.

When I joined Fairport I was a big fan of The Band so Rick Danko, who unfortunately passed away last year, has to be up there as one of my all time favourite bass players.  I’ve also had the great privilege of meeting him.  I met him at this festival we did over in Denmark a couple of years back.  I was so excited to meet Rick that I drank so much Whisky I passed out in the bar of the hotel and had to be taken to hospital and given a stomach pump. It was the first time I had ever had a stomach pump and the next day I felt absolutely fantastic.  I could recommend it to people.

Folkmaster – They probably gave you a colonic as well.

Dave – Yes they properly did.

The next day all the guys came round to my room to see if I was still alive and we went bowling and I achieved my highest ever score. Which goes to prove that stomach pumps can be very beneficial to one’s system, but I don’t recommend drinking large amounts of Whisky to that extent to any of your younger readers.

Folkmaster – If you could be one person in history who would you be and why?

I would love to be James Taylor, but would like to have someone else’s haircut because James has got the same Haircut as I’ve got now.  I think he is just a wonderful performer a great songwriter and a wonderful guitarist. Actually I would rather be the bass player in his band, that way I would get the pleasure of hearing him every night.

Folkmaster – We’ll see what we can do there Dave and maybe we’ll make some enquiries for you.

Folkmaster – Where do you think the future of the Music Industry lies?

Oh I don’t know about the music industry because it’s something that luckily I have not really been involved in since 1979.

Folkmaster – Where do you think the future of Music lies?

Future of music?  Oh I don’t know that’s a difficult one.  Music is for people to play really, I’m not up with this kind of modern music and young people’s music.  I really cant listen to radio one any more as it really hurts my ears, probably because I’m a boring old fart.

The future of music is in the hands of the young people who are making it.  The fact that I don’t like it doesn’t really matter one way or another.

Folkmaster – Is it in the artist’s hands, or is it what the records companies think will sell?

It’s in the hands of the Record Company’s who are only interested in stuff that sells in vast quantities.  These people are looking for a very quick return which results in no longevity plans for the new artists of today.  That’s the main problem with music now, you can get a great singer or band who will put out one great single or album in their first year and then have a flop, their next album doesn’t hit the required sales target and then they are dropped from the label.  In fact it’s been this way since 1978-79 when the records companies were taken over by accountants.

There are a lot of people in the music business today that really don’t care about the quality of the act.  They are only interested in whether it sells, its just a business to them and that goes right across the board to the distribution companies and the chains of record stores in the high streets.  It’s still exactly the same story, if they are turning a coin out of the act it’s fine, if their not then it’s goodbye.

Folkmaster – We feel that music should come from the heart and should be given the room to grow its artistic direction.  The Internet is able to cover every aspect of Music on a Global scale and lets people choose the type of music that they wish to listen to. In our case, people that are interested in the many facets of the folk music genre have a site that’s directed more to the music not the money.  That’s why we openly promote and support any new initiative that empowers new musicians to keep that tradition going.

Yes it’s very good.  Folk music does not suffer as much because none of the major labels are really interested as they feel its something that will never sell in huge quantities.   There are a few exceptions like Kate Rusby who is selling CD’s by the bucket load and major labels supporting people like Richard Thomson, which is fantastic.   Most folk acts though have managed to survive by manufacturing their own CD’s and selling them at gigs, on through the net or by mail order.

In the case of the Fairport’s that’s how we’ve survived since 1979.  We were probably the first act to set up our own record label and start doing it all ourselves because no one else was interested at the time.

Folkmaster – What is your favourite movie and why?

Top Secret is definitely my favourite movie because I wet myself every time I see it. It’s the sort of film that the more you see it the more you see the things that you have missed before.

Folkmaster – That’s like me with the movie Spinal Tap!  

Well, Spinal Tap would be my second choice, I am a big Spinal tap fan, I even saw it in French last year and it was still pretty amazing.

The first time I saw Top Secret was about 18 years ago.  We were all struck in the front room and my son Matt said, “Oh has anybody watched Top Secret”.  I thought oh no, the 11 year old son is going to put on this film on and we’re all going to be bored out of our brains but It was the funniest thing I have ever seen and I still love it and I watch it all the time.

Folkmaster – Can you tell us anything about the New Album?

“The Wood and the Wire” was the last CD Album that came out in January and we are still playing a lot of material from it on this current tour.  We are very happy with it, I particularly like it because it’s the first time for many years that Fairport has been able to utilise the song writing talent of one of the members of the band.  In this case Chris Leslie, who has come up with a bunch of really great songs. I am very pleased with the way the album has been received and its also selling well.

I have also been involved in another album project in which I have recently spent about 5 days re-mastering.  It involves some bootlegs that we’ve had from 1982 and 1983 which until now had only been available on cassette.  We will be launching them soon as a quadruple CD set called “AT 2/ and the boot”.  It was 5 days of really good pleasurable work and it sounds great, its amazing what you can do with technology nowadays, you can clean all the tape hiss off and reposition the stereo image and instruments and stuff.  Everybody that’s heard it thinks it’s really good so in a way that’s our current release at the moment.

Folkmaster – I have the other boot and the 3rd leg on cassette, which both are great favourites of mine.

Well, that’s our project for next year to put those two out.  There is a big demand from Fairport collectors to have everything we have done transferred to CD.

Folkmaster – Where was your most memorable live performance?

I enjoyed it when we played the Sydney Opera House, way back in ‘74 with Sandy Denny. We had just come from Japan and she wasn’t in the band at that time as it was the Fairport 9 line up. Sandy joined us for the shows at the Sydney Opera House and we did two shows in the same evening which went on to become an album that was called “Live Convention”. I think that must be one of the nights I’m most proud off.

We also did Carnegie Hall with Sandy in ‘75 which was also a very memorable gig.  I really enjoyed the Rising for the Moon line up of Fairport.  We had some great concerts and were very good in those days, well we still are but different.

Folkmaster – If you could use one of your Songs to promote something, which one would you choose and why?

I suppose we could use “Meet on the Ledge” to advertise bits of mountaineering equipment, that would be quite good.  Ropes, pulleys and shackles.  Yes that would be good – Meet on the Ledge – I could see a TV advert coming from that.

Folkmaster – When you are not involved with the Band what do you spend your time doing?

Well, my wife Chris and I work very hard with Fairport and have lots of dates and schedules to organise and because we are kind of self-sufficient we do everything ourselves.  We also organise the Cropredy Festival, run the Fairport office, which is every day of the week when I’m not on the road so it’s more or less a full time job.

When I am not working I like doing things like losing tennis to our tour Manager, Rob Braviner, who I always let, win.  We don’t play often enough but he thinks he is really good now but one day I am going to get up and show him.

I like to go sailing when I get the chance, I’m going in June for a week. I have this Breton friend who built his own boat and last year I managed to get 10 days off and sailed from Lisbon to Malaga which was great fun and a really good holiday.

Folkmaster – Is there anywhere that you haven’t played but still aspire to play?

Well, we’ve played in a lot of places, all the nice placed in England really.  I like the NEC in Birmingham, but we are not big enough to play there.  We’d only get about 1000 people in it and it holds 11,000.  In fact Fairport did play there at a Charity gig that Jasper Carrot organised 2 years ago at Christmas to raise money for Birmingham Hospital.  I love the NEC, when I used to play with Jethro Tull we played there every year.  I come from Birmingham and its great to go back to your hometown and fill a big venue and see everybody having a good time.

Fairport will play anywhere they can and will literally get into a Car without taking any PA and do our acoustic thing.  On May 13th we are playing at Bloxham Church which is a really nice venue in the next town over that way.  We are playing there to raise money for heating that they need.  We’ve also played at Deddington Church three times which was also great fun to do totally acoustically.

Folkmaster – If you could sit next to anyone famous at a Dinner Party, who would it be and what would you ask them?

Well I would like to sit in between Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell.  I probably wouldn’t say much, I would leave them to do the talking because my questions would be too embarrassing.  Whenever I meet somebody famous I am always at a loss for words, I never know what to say.  The same as most people do actually, it’s like when you go back stage after a gig and meet one of your heroes most people find it difficult.

The most famous person I ever met was Paul McCartney.  I completely froze up, as everybody does when they meet Paul, but he was the perfect gent. A very, very nice person as was his wife Linda. God Bless her.  They were absolutely charming and very genuine people.

Folkmaster – What was the first single you ever bought?

It was Apache by the Shadows.

Folkmaster – What luxury would you take with you to a Desert Island?

Folkmaster – You can take a musical instrument.

I thought you meant luxury!  Well I would take my sailing boat I think if I had a choice.

Folkmaster – That’s a good answer and then you could get off it couldn’t you!

Folkmaster – What’s your favourite all time Fairport Album or track?

Rising for the Moon is probably my favourite Fairport Album, I particularly love that track as well because it was when Sandy had come back to the Band.  It was a very difficult time for us to be honest.  The group kind of split up as a result of it when Dave Mattacks left the band.  It was a great Album to make though, because we had a guy called Glyn Johns producing it.  Fairport didn’t often use outside producers but it was great having somebody else’s input and Glyn was a real motivator.  Glyn Johns has produced some fabulous Albums, he did all those Eagles Albums for example. We recorded Rising for the Moon at Olympic Studios in Barnes and it was great fun to do despite the problems that were happening at the time.  It’s also one of the few Fairport records that I still play from time to time.

Folkmaster – If you could be remembered for one thing what would it be – What’s your legacy?

If I could be remembered for one thing – Well I did have a nasty accident at the Krumlin Festival in the 70’s when I was wearing a pair of white trousers.  I had rather too much to drink and when I got on stage I actually shat myself which was very embarrassing as the back of my white trousers changed colour very quickly.  Behind me were all the other acts that were on, including Elton John who wasn’t very famous at the time and The Move who were people that we knew from Birmingham.  I was a laughing stock.  It was incredibly embarrassing and I couldn’t turn around to adjust the volume on my amp because the audience would have seen the brown mass that was attached to my arse and would have know for sure what had happened.

Folkmaster – So they never knew?

The audience never knew.  In fact the Festival was a complete disaster, it all went terribly wrong for us.  Dave Swarbrick didn’t actually shit himself on stage but was desperate for a tiddle and there was this hole in the canvas on the stage.  He went over to the side of the stage, stuck his chopper through the hole and had a waz.  Unfortunately the press area was on the other side of the hole and consequently we’ve never been popular with the Melody Maker since 1970, which I think was the last time they gave us a review.

Folkmaster – That leads me into the next question, What was the most embarrassing thing you have ever done, but I think you have answered that one!

I have done some very outrageous things in my time, usually when under the grip of grappa, because I used to drink excessively as a child, but now I am very mature and old and things like that don’t tend to happen to me as much.

I have done some very outrageous things when drunk, usually involving the music press.  In fact there was a Melody Maker journalist called Chris Charlesworth who I once tipped a pint of beer over his head at this festival we did in the south of France.  Afterwards I went up and apologised to him and said “Please feel free to come up anytime you like and do the same to me” but then several hours passed and I forgot all about it.  When he finally came up and did the same to me I picked a fight on him having no recollection of the previous incident.  So once again it was like nil points for Fairport in the Melody Maker.

So shun the fatal curse of drink that’s the answer. Drink can only make you do stupid things, its better to do other useful things like mowing the lawn – what am I saying, lets go and have a pint!

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Links: http://www.fairportconvention.com/