Fairport Convention celebrated their 45th year anniversary today…

Fairport Convention, legendary pioneers of British folk rock and still one of the most enduring names in popular music, celebrated their 45th birthday today as band (Sunday 27 May 2012).

Happy Birthday Fairport!

Formed in north London during the ‘summer of love’, Fairport Convention played its very first gig on 27 May 1967 in a Golders Green church hall. Avidly championed by John Peel, the band rapidly became popular on the club and college circuit. A record contract followed and Fairport went on to ‘ invent’ the musical genre of British folk rock.

Fairport Convention went through frequent personnel changes in its early days nurturing world class talents such as Richard Thompson and the late Sandy Denny along the way. However, maturity has brought stability and the current line-up has been together for over a dozen years.

Fairport Convention has outlived most of its contemporaries from the fertile 60s music scene and, 45 years on, remains one of the busiest bands around. During that time, Fairport has won a coveted BBC Lifetime Achievement Award and Radio 2 listeners voted their groundbreaking album Liege & Lief  ‘The Most Influential Folkrock Album of All Time’.

Fairport Convention and its 45-year history will be the subject of a major music documentary to be screened on BBC4 television in summer 2012.

The current line-up of Simon Nicol (lead vocal, rhythm and electric guitars), Dave Pegg (backing vocals, bass guitar, mandolin), Ric Sanders (violin), Chris Leslie (lead vocal, fiddle, bouzouki, mandolin) and Gerry Conway (percussion and drums) still packs venues on its annual UK-wide tours.

The band is also well-known for staging one of the UK’s major music festivals, Fairport’s Cropredy Convention. Now in its thirty-second year the festival attracts up to 20,000 festival-goers and was described by The Guardian as “as much a British summer institution as Wimbledon.” The event is also a partner of the BBC Young Folk Award and provides a main-stage showcase for each year’s winner.

This year, Cropredy will also reflect the anniversary with special guests and Fairport alumni joining the host band on stage – confirmed guests include co-founding member Richard Thompson, fiddle maestro Dave Swarbrick, drummer Dave Mattacks and guitarist Jerry Donahue. Thompson will also play a headline set in his own right.

Fairport will be celebrating its forty-fifth anniversary throughout the year. The band started 2012 with a forty-date British tour, the concerts featuring songs from Fairport’s recent studio album, the critically-acclaimed Festival Bell, as well as material drawn from the band’s extensive repertoire.

By Popular Request is precisely that – an album of 13 songs, voted for by the fans and rerecorded by the current line-up of Fairport Convention and produced by John Gale. Fairport tell us, that they are absolutely delighted by the results and hope the fans are too. Here is the track listing:

01 WALK AWHILE 4:22
02 CRAZY MAN MICHAEL 4:41
03 THE HIRING FAIR 5:42
04 THE HEXHAMSHIRE LASS 2:30
05 RED AND GOLD 6:42
06 SIR PATRICK SPENS 3:34
07 GENESIS HALL 3:29
08 FAREWELL FAREWELL 3:01
09 ROSIE 4:16
10 MATTY GROVES 5:06
11 FOTHERINGAY 3:24
12 JEWEL IN THE CROWN 3:32
13 MEET ON THE LEDGE 4:23

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FAIRPORT ACOUSTIC CONVENTION – Fairfield Halls, Croydon (11.05.11)

Taking their seats for this performance at Croydon’s Fairfield Halls the legendary Fairport Convention (Simon Nicol, Dave Pegg, Chris Leslie, Ric Sanders and Gerry Conway) delved into their extensive catalogue of songs/tunes starting with a spirited version of “Walk Awhile”. Following on with Leslie’s take on Lord Franklin’s ill fated expedition “I’m Already There” with it’s evocative two chord introduction (a bit like that employed on Paul Simon’s “Old Friends”) the group have found a songwriter to vie with Steve Tilston and Jez Lowe when it comes to writing in the traditional idiom. This is possibly just as well as Nicol somewhat humorously (or negatively depending on which way you read it) dismissed the ‘folk’ element of the band’s material even though, as he said, it is the ‘folk’ material that set the band apart from that of other mainstream ‘rock’ acts. Armed with an array of instruments that would have made a Hobgoblin stall proud including fiddles, mandolins, ukuleles, bass, guitar and drums the quintet really lived up to their reputation as multi-instrumentalists and with a set that predominantly featured tracks from their latest ‘Festival Bell’ CD along with several tunes courtesy of Sander’s sawing strings the onstage bonhomie made the time whistle by. Of course, established favourites such as “Matty Groves”, “Meet On The Ledge” and a truly superb Nicol led version of Sandy Denny’s “Who Knows Where The Time Goes” were wheeled out to the obvious delight of the audience whilst the anthemic “Meet On The Ledge” brought everything to a fitting finale.

PETE FYFE

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Artist website: http://www.fairportconvention.com/