Well, as we always say, it would not be Cropredy without our annual Chris Leslie interview.
Darren Beech and Paul Johnson tracked Mr. Leslie down on the Friday, luckily just before he was about to do a runner in the pink buggy to go off and do a gig with the ‘Banana Splits’.
In the interview, we talk about how the act of walking fuels the art of song-writing, the process of writing the ‘what Chris Leslie has been up to piece’ for the Cropredy programme each year and how this year’s article conjured up the visions and words of the John Tams version of Ewan MacColl’s ‘The Manchester Rambler’.
We also talk about the ‘Fairport Extension’ set, why Fairport are the best backing band in the world, the much loved and dearly missed Maart, we revisit the 25th Anniversary 1992 Cropredy year and remember when Robert Plant played a very special set as part of that celebration.
The interview should start playing automatically, if not click on the play button below to listen.
I had heard of the Cropredy Festival before, and had even heard of Fairport Convention, but as I had grown up with British Heavy Metal and Rock, listening to such bands as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, AC/DC and the like, my experience of Folk music was limited. I remember taking a guitar to a chap in the Medway Towns for rewiring, and him telling me he would be travelling to Cropredy that summer as he always did and always had.
However, it was several years before I attended the festival at the village of Cropredy, near Banbury in Oxfordshire. I went with my wife Sue and a couple of friends; Paul Johnson of Folking.com and his partner Yvonne.
Paul had a press pass, and was kind enough to organise a guest pass for me before the event so I could help with the photos for the backstage interviews that Paul and Darren Beech, of Folking.com had arranged to do with Chris Leslie (of Fairport Convention) and Edwina Hayes.
I saw some famous people backstage (including Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, who attends Cropredy regularly and Steve Hogarth of Marillion) which added to the excitement of the weekend. My wife was particularly taken with Edwina Hayes, purchasing her CD, and I passed her message on to Edwina herself, who told me she would be spending time with friends near the bar that evening and would be happy to sign the CD.
Unfortunately, Hurricane Bertha had decided to visit Cropredy too, spoiling that plan and sending pretty much everybody, artists included, back to their tents and campers to dry out. I have been to festivals before, including Download in 2012, and was no stranger to camping in the wet, but despite the storm our field (the newly added Field 8, to cater for the sold out show’s additional camping) did not flood, although Bertha did her best to make striking camp as unpleasant as possible on the Sunday morning.
The concert area (Field 9) has a single stage and around the perimeter are the various food stalls and other emporia. The food prices were a little on the high side, but this was expected; the quality was good, although a pizza we bought could have been passed through the machine another time, and queues got longer as the time went on (which was not surprising due to the festival selling out). We sampled the very tasty Cropredy Hop ale too.
As for the music, it was mostly very good, and I enjoyed the Chas and Dave and Marillion sets, and the Australian Pink Floyd Experience (who I have seen before in Rochester in Kent). The Waterboys were excellent, as were Edwina Hayes and Blackbeard’s Tea Party.
Fairport Convention concluded the show, and theirs was a polished performance, ending with the traditional Meet On The Ledge, their second single, released in 1968.
I didn’t see every artist, but the general atmosphere was very pleasant. The place was secure, and despite warnings of thieves operating we saw nothing to trouble us. This festival is a family event, with plenty of young people and dogs too. We took Jack, the Giant Chihuahua, who enjoyed it as much as the rest of us.
Although Bertha did her best, we all had a great time and look forward to going there again.
Sandy Denny was one of the UK’s finest singers. She was voted Melody Maker’s greatest female singer for 2 years in a row in 1970 and 1971. She was also, legendarily, the only guest vocalist Led Zeppelin ever used. Robert Plant later said, ‘It was a beautiful spectacular moment for both of us. A beautiful exchange of two vocalists.’
Sandy Denny’s signature song Who Knows Where The Time Goes was voted All Time Greatest Folk Song by BBC Radio 2 listeners but this is just one song among over fifty songs she wrote and recorded between 1968 and 1978, the greatest body of work by any British female songwriter of her time. Sandy Denny’s finest recordings and song writing were celebrated on a sell-out UK tour in May this year. The Lady: A Homage to Sandy Denny featured an array of singers interpreting her work, including Maddy Prior, Joan As Policewoman, Green Gartside and Thea Gilmore alongside fiddler Dave Swarbrick and guitarist Jerry Donahue who originally played with Sandy in Fairport Convention and Fotheringay. The Barbican Show on May 23rd was filmed and will be shown on BBC4 in the coming months (the final date is yet to be confirmed).
Now, due to the phenomenal and totally unprecedented demand for Island’s Complete Sandy Denny Box Set, released in November 2010, Universal Music is issuing a limited edition 4 CD version.
The original box set has become one of the most collectible box sets of all time; changing hands for between £1000 – £1500 and now, for fans that missed out, this new four disc edition will include choice selections from the box set’s 19 discs. The new 4 CD edition will be limited to 3500 copies worldwide and boasts 75 tracks, including 17 demos taken from Sandy’s home recording tapes. Among these is the first known recording (from 1967) of Who Knows Where The Time Goes, plus further home demos, rarities and alternate versions of many Fairport and Fotheringay classics as well as outtakes and demos from her solo albums.
Housed in a hard back book style package like the 2007 Live at the BBC collection, The Notes & The Music – A Collection of Demos and Rarities also includes rare photos, art work, and explanatory notes about the tracks selected.
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(Los Angeles, Date, 2012) – On December 10, 2007, Led Zeppelin took the stage at London’s O2 Arena to headline a tribute concert for dear friend and Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun. What followed was a two-hour-plus tour de force of the band’s signature blues-infused rock ’n’ roll that instantly became part of the legend of Led Zeppelin. Founding members John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant were joined by Jason Bonham, the son of their late drummer John Bonham, to perform 16 songs from their celebrated catalog including landmark tracks “Whole Lotta Love,” “Rock And Roll,” “Kashmir,” and “Stairway To Heaven.”
Although 20 million people applied for tickets, the band’s first headline show in 27 years was seen only by the 18,000 ticket holders who were fortunate enough to have secured seats through the worldwide lottery.
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Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.
Celebration Day will then be available in multiple video and audio formats on November 19 from Swan Song/Atlantic Records. Click on the link below to pre-order.
Led Zeppelin has also been selected as one of the recipients of the 2012 Kennedy Center Honors. The band is set to receive the Honors at the annual gala on December 2 in Washington, DC.
LED ZEPPELIN PRESS CONFERENCE – 21 September 2012
“Last memory? Getting through it all. It was pretty good I think it worked out really well but it was a relief come the end of it I have to say” John Paul Jones
“To get back in the middle of that music was a spectacular experience. I was approaching it from a different angle so to get through it and out the other side was not much short of miraculous but great fun” Robert Plant
“I remember walking up the steps onto the stage and then the moment right at the very end of it. The rest of it has past very very quickly but I knew that what we had intended to do which was to go out there and stand up and be counted and that people who didn’t know Led Zeppelin but had heard a lot about it to show why we were what we were…” Jimmy Page
“Five years is like five minutes in Zeppelin time I am surprised we got it out so quickly” John Paul Jones
“There was a willingness to do this” Jimmy Page
“The whole concert was a fantasy sequence really.” Jimmy Page
[when asked about the emotions that were in the room with regards to Jason Bonham representing his dad on the drums] “His vigour was so fantastic… he drove us… Jason would blast through the whole thing… It was peculiar and strange at times but at the same time it was very rewarding for all of us and it really did work as a performance, him driving us on.” Robert Plant
“There was a real feeling of camaraderie, and actually, successful adventure.” Robert Plant
“I wasn’t aware of anybody being there apart from us on the stage and communicating with an audience. I heard there were like three generations of Presley’s there which was quite something.” Jimmy Page
“The idea of going to play the O2 wasn’t to make a DVD or a film or anything like that at all. It just so happened that we had all of this material going on behind us… it just made sense to record it at least to record it for our own collection and our own amusement. It is what it is now though and I’m really pleased you are all enjoying it, because it’s great.“ Jimmy Page
“The concert was what it was, there was very little that needed to be messed about with because we really did it well in the first place.” Jimmy Page
when asked about what rock ‘n’ roll means to you now compared to 30 or 40 years ago] “That music that I heard when I was 12 or 13 really seduced me and still does.” Jimmy Page
“The blues and rock ‘n’ roll for me is still part of the pulse of my life.” Robert Plant
Roy Harper is seventy and living in semi-retirement as far as making new music is concerned. He has, however, been preparing to make his complete catalogue available as digital downloads for the first time beginning with this double set which is also released on CD.
These are, as the title suggests, love songs so there are none of the long musical excursions that Roy is also noted for. Thinking of a song like ‘I Hate The White Man’ it’s easy to pigeon-hole Roy as a political song-writer but that’s not really the way he is. Certainly he has strong views and principles that have made for edgy relationships with record companies. He is firmly opposed to organised religion of any kind but his thoughts on the existence of a deity are more complicated than the simplistic “God is dead”. Most of his songs are about people, family and lovers, and England in all its beauty and ugliness. Included in this set is ‘South Africa’ which could be an ode to a country imprisoned by apartheid or a metaphor for a woman of whom he says “We have never met each other but it can’t be long”. That’s the beauty of Roy Harper: you can analyse his lyrics fruitlessly for hours.
This album includes some of Roy’s perennial favourites: ‘Francesca’, ‘Commune’, ‘Another Day’ and ‘North Country’ amongst them but there are songs from later, perhaps lesser-known albums: songs like ‘Sleeping At The Wheel’, ‘On Summer Day’ and ‘Waiting For Godot’. The quality of the remixing/remastering is astonishing. Even listening in the car I swear I can hear things I’ve never heard before. The tracks drawn from Valentine are gorgeous with David Bedford’s orchestrations soaring and leaping from the speakers. Most of my Harper albums are on vinyl and although I’d never part with them I’m seriously considering supplementing them with new digital versions. Dai Jeffries
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Few survivors from the golden age of British folk-rock have kept their reputations intact. Of the generation of troubadours who came of age in the folk clubs of Londonin the mid-1960s, there is one figure whose body of work, comprising 23 studio LPs and almost as many live and compilation releases, has come to stand for a particularly single-minded form of integrity. That man is Roy Harper.
On September 19th Union Square Music/Salvo Records releases the physical version of the 2CD set ‘Songs of Love and Loss’ Volumes 1 & 2 – 23 songs of raw, uncompromising honesty and emotion spanning Harper’s work from 1966 to 1992. One of the most innovative song writers to come out of the mid 60’s folk boom, ‘Songs of Love and Loss’ displays his remarkable array of styles, from the early folk finger pickings of Black Clouds and mysterious All You Need Is, to the bluesy ‘Little Lady’, the resonating ‘Frozen Moment’ and the lamenting ‘Another Day’.
Now officially ‘retired’, and living in a secluded corner of Ireland, Harper has recently been hailed as a key influence by a much younger generation of devoted starsailors who instinctively recognise his innovations, his refusal to compromise and his visionary world view. The likes of Fleet Foxes, Joanna Newsom and Jim O’Rourke are avowed fans; and in previous decades he has enjoyed public endorsements and tributes from the likes of Led Zeppelin, Kate Bush, Pink Floyd’s Dave Gilmour and many more.
Born in 1941 near Manchester, he was raised by a father and Jehovah’s Witness stepmother (his mother died when he was a baby) and developed an early aversion to dogma and organized religion. Running away he joined the Royal Air Force as a teenager, but didn’t take too well to their rules and regulations. Leaving wasn’t so easy as running away from home, however, and Harper opted to plead insanity to get his release. Part of the discharge deal meant he had to undergo unpleasant ECT treatment at a mental hospital. Harper later drifted throughout Europe, and by 1965 was a mainstay of London’s Les Cousins folk club, performing alongside the likes of Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, and Nick Drake.
In 1966 the tiny indie label Strike issued Harper’s debut LP, The Sophisticated Beggar; the record brought him to the attention of Columbia, which released his sophomore effort, Come Out Fighting Genghis Smith, the following year. In 1968, Harper mounted a series of free concerts in London’s Hyde Park, which greatly expanded his fan base in preparation for the release of 1969’s Folkjokeopus, which included “McGoohan’s Blues,” the first of his many extended compositions.
After meeting Pink Floyd manager Peter Jenner, Harper was signed to EMI’s Harvest subsidiary, and in 1970 he issued Flat Baroque and Berserk, recorded with contributions from members of the Nice; that same year marked the appearance of Led Zeppelin III and its track “Hats Off to Harper,” a tribute penned by longtime friend Jimmy Page. Upon relocating to the Big Sur area of California, Harper began writing 1971’s Stormcock, regarded by many as his finest record; the following year he starred in the film Made, releasing the music he composed for the picture’s soundtrack in 1973 under the title Lifemask.
Valentine, a collection of love songs, appeared in 1974, and was quickly followed by the live album Flashes from the Archives of Oblivion, featuring appearances by Page, Keith Moon, Ronnie Lane, and Ian Anderson. In 1975, Harper formed Trigger, a backing group including guitarist Chris Spedding and drummer Bill Bruford; however, after releasing just one LP, HQ, the unit disbanded. In 1975 Harper also took lead vocals on “Have a Cigar,” a track on Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here.
Harper rode the unsteady waves of the music industry during the 1980s but kept up a productive output and in 1994, he set up his own record label, Science Friction, to curate and re-release his entire back catalogue, along with a clutch of CDs of live and unreleased material covering his entire career. In his book, The Passions Of Great Fortune (2003), he published his complete lyrics together with photos, annotations and re-evaluations of every one of his songs. In 2005, old pal Jimmy Page presented him with the prestigious Mojo magazine Hero Award.
2011 will see a great deal of Roy Harper activity; Roy celebrates his 70th birthday, ITV Home Studios are to release a live concert DVD newly recorded at Metropolis studios and Roy will also play a sell-out gig at the Royal Festival Hall. Along with the reissue of a number of his original albums in digital form, Roy Harper’s incredible, visionary catalogue of work enters the digital domain in time for his music to take on a new, urgent and timely appeal, in an age in which the hypocrisies and injustices he railed against are more present than ever before. It’s been a damned good innings and he’s still not out.
Track listing sequence:
3. All You Need Is
5. East Of The Sun
6. Little Lady
7. North Country
8. I’ll See You Again
9. Naked Flame
11. Frozen Moment
2. Another Day
3. South Africa
4. Hallucinating Light
5. Sleeping At The Wheel
6. Waiting For Godot
7. The Flycatcher
8. On Summer Day
9. Cherishing The Lonesome
10. My Friend
11. One More Tomorrow
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