Today the sea was a mystical billowing sheet of different currents and random waves that seemed to be a stampede, a chaotic rush, it was less an ocean and more an undulating landscape without the dust of hooves. Water was scrambling towards the shore but the waves seemed to be out of order as if the first waves were being overtaken by the second before the first had arrived. It was a free for all, a sea undisciplined by its own nature as if all of history had been disregarded in a race for each selfish wave to reach the shore before the next. It’s as if the planet itself was confused as if it had forgotten what it does. The natural order of things had been interrupted by the loss of ice, pollution and the abscess of plastic on its belly in the Indian ocean and it was starting to lose instinct, think for itself, but like a child, had no experience of what to do.
There was an awakening, there had to be, the ancient idea of rolling waves, a sea full of marine life, dotted fishermen in small communities around the landmasses, it had all changed with the human population explosion. Now, the sea was a garbage dump, it was overfished and poisoned, it was a slow death and the time had come for the sea, the Earth, nature itself, to wake up and fight back. The humans had taken it all too far, they had invented a world that based organic creatures’ worth on the concept of riches. One man was worth more than the other if he had more. So everything became a race to secure the prize but now and inherent in nature itself was the fundamental problem that nature competes too, everything preys on everything else but today was the first day that it had ever been seen in the waves.
To see August cold, windy, rainy, and to see the tourists in the town covered in macs and hats, the whole family, a small child covered in canvas instead of suntan cream. They were trying to make the most of one walk around town in a bunch, a walk that takes 30 minutes from one end to the other with casual browsing and window shopping. Perhaps another 30 minutes in a cafe, an hour, and then you’re done. Too cold to go to the beach, too windy to even sit there wrapped in blankets, the holiday is a washout. It was meant to be an escape from the virus, let’s go to Cornwall, beautiful, somewhat isolated in the southwestern corner of Britain, beaches, coves, cliff walks, low registered infections, perfect. But they failed to take into consideration the inclement weather, the famous mizzle, the sea on both sides of the landmass up to mischief. There was even a thunderstorm, a rare occurrence in these parts, perhaps something to do with a long peninsula, sea on both sides. The deep dark rumbling voice barked in the middle of the night and threw down torrential rain that trapped everyone indoors. It was exciting but it wasn’t a holiday.
On the beach today, the seagulls were scarce, struggling with their balance on the wind, it was hard to imagine where they had all gone because there’s usually so many of them, shrieking, gliding, ruffling their feathers in the shallows to get clean, but not today. On the beach was a large crab upside down, giant claws and eaten from the inside out, the legs missing, someone’s lunch. I turned it over with a stick of seaweed, its rough rusty shell, its armour, had proved useless as something or some things had got to its underbelly. Or perhaps it had died and been eaten after the fact, it reminded me of the days when I would eat a crab at a restaurant, the thought horrifies me now. A barbaric tool of torture delivered to the table on a side plate, clinking as it’s placed on the table. It’s something like a nutcracker that was supposed to split the claw in half and with another sadistic instrument you would scoop out the meat. The seagulls hadn’t figured out how to break the claws and the carcass was left abandoned on the beach, more dignified in death with its giant pincers intact.
Also by the shore today the oddest site, a giant yacht parked in the car park, leaning against the land side of the sea wall where the recycling used to be. It was surrounded by a makeshift fence and propped up by wooden struts jammed into the concrete. The rudder, the propeller exposed and that uncomfortable awkwardness when you see a swan waddling on land instead of graceful in the water. The boat was called ‘Dynamite’, who calls their yacht ‘Dynamite’? Who parks their yacht in a car park by a town beach, who owns a yacht? It must have taken a huge truck to get it there, a crane to unload it? It’s more likely that Poseidon lifted it out of the sea and placed it on the land more out of kindness than anger.
The beach was as sparsely populated by humans as it was by seagulls. Two teenagers huddled together against the sea wall, another couple, one carrying a Lidl bag, walked the length of the beach and back again. On the rocks by the shore two people, a man and his child, were scouring the rock pools for interesting specimens while they still could as the sea was advanced in its return. There were no boats on the horizon today, no boats anchored, no fishing boats on their way out of the harbour, the sea wouldn’t allow it. It’s had enough.
Music today has been loosely sea-themed (not really) with the wonderful Fotheringay album (1970), the only one they released in the period. It has a track called The Sea, it seemed an appropriate place to start. Sandy Denny had decided to leave Fairport Convention and form her own band with Trevor Lucas on vocals and guitar, Pat Donaldson on bass, Jerry Donahue on guitar and Gerry Conway on drums. The results were exceptional and it’s one of my favourite albums in the genre of Folk-Rock, especially The Sea…
Do I ever wonder? You don’t know.
You’ll never follow, and I’ll never show.
D’you see the water and watch it flow
And float an empty shell,
And you think that I’m hiding from the island.
You’ve a fault in your senses. Can you feel it now?
Time? What is that? I’ve no time to care.
I’ve lived for a long while nearly everywhere.
You will be taken, everyone, you ladies and you gentlemen.
Fall and listen with your ears upon the paving stone.
Is that what you hear? The coming of the sea?
Sea flows under your doors in London town.
And all your defences are all broken down.
You laugh at me on funny days, but mine’s the slight of hand.
Don’t you know I am a joker, a deceiver?
And I’m waiting for the land.
It’s an album that shares a song with Trevor Lucas (The Ballad Of Ned Kelly), Dylan (Too Much Of Nothing) and Gordon Lightfoot (The Way I Feel). Peace In The End is sung by Denny and Lucas together and a co-write, Banks Of The Nile, is traditional and arranged by the pair with four Sandy Denny classics, Nothing More, Winter Winds, The Pond And The Stream and of course The Sea. It’s one of the great Folk-Rock albums, a must-have – order it now. There is also a live in Essen album from 1970 and a Fotheringay 2 released by surviving members finishing the started 2nd album. There’s a box set of everything available called Nothing More.
Fotheringay only made one album as there was pressure for Denny to go solo due to her popularity, which she did, releasing four albums before her untimely death on the 21st April 1978 at the age of 31. Lucas died on the 4th February 1989 at the age of 45.
One of the issues about these album recommendations and the fact that I may choose one album by a band or at the most 4 albums by one band in a night is that a band like Steeleye Span have released 23 studio albums, 11 live albums and 3 box sets, then there’s compilations! So, I chose Now We Are Six, their sixth album released in 1974, it reached No. 13 on the chart. It was also called Now We Are Six because they were usually a five-piece, the title taken from A.A. Milne’s poems for children (Winnie The Pooh author). The band had brought in a permanent drummer in Nigel Pegrum (amongst other instruments) from Gnidrolog. The band was now Maddy Prior on vocals with Tim Hart, Peter Knight, Bob Johnson and Rick Kemp on lots of different instruments and vocals. The album is a mixed bag, with standout tracks but you have to be careful which version of the album you get. The Australian album has a different order and my favourite track Thomas The Rhymer is cut from 6.44 to 3.15. Agggh!!! I didn’t realise at first and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. So if you are in Australia, get the English version and write a letter to the boss of Chrysalis records in 1974 and ask him to change the dumb decision he made.
The album has a classic Folk-Rock sound with the aforementioned track and also the UK album opener (Seven Hundred Elves). I say this often, it’s a classic but you have to like it. Not for everyone. There’s also a spoof track or two where they sing two songs pretending to be children under the name ‘St Eleye’ Primary School Junior Choir (the title track and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star) and then there’s a cover of To Know Him Is To Love Him (with Bowie on sax), eclecticism is great but on this record, an open-minded person would go with it, others might cry. Mostly though the album is really great and I even like the dubious bits, just not as much as the great bits. Founder member Tim Hart died in 2009 age 61. Original members Gay and Terry Woods left early but Gay returned as lead singer when Maddy Prior took a break. Ashley Hutchings, founding member of Fairport Convention, was also a founding member of Steeleye Span.
Two Magicians (Chorus repeats after every two lines).
She looked out of the window as white as any milk
And he looked in at the window as black as any silk
Hello, hello, hello, hello, you coal blacksmith
You have done me no harm
You never shall have my maidenhead
That I have kept so long
I’d rather die a maid
Ah, but then she said and be buried all in my grave
Than to have such a nasty, husky, dusky, fusky, musky
Coal blacksmith, a maiden, I will die
She became a duck, a duck all on the stream
And he became a water dog and fetched her back again
She became a star, a star all in the night
And he became a thundercloud
And muffled her out of sight
She became a rose, a rose all in the wood
And he became a bumble bee
And kissed her where she stood
She became a nun, a nun all dressed in white
And he became a canting priest
And prayed for her by night
She became a trout, a trout all in the brook
And he became a feathered fly
And caught her with his hook
She became a corpse, a corpse all in the ground
And he became the cold clay and smothered her all around
Pentangle is another classic Folk-Rock band from England featuring Bert Jansch on guitar and vocals, John Renbourn on guitars, Danny Thompson on double bass, Terry Cox on drums and Jacqui McShee on vocals. Between 1968 and 1972 they released 6 albums. My favourite is the last one, Solomon’s Seal (1972). It’s also Jacqui McShee’s favourite but not the deaf critics’. They reformed in 1985 minus John Renbourn and gradually shed members till just McShee and Jansch were left with Gerry Conway from Fotheringay on drums and other assorted musicians till 1995. For the next 15 years, it became Jacqui McShee’s Pentangle with Gerry Conway (they are married) – and assorted musicians.
The album opens with a classic version of traditional songwriter Cyril Tawney’s Sally Free And Easy, originally a sea shanty. Danny Thompson’s double bass and these two great guitarists with Jansch’s voice make an instant classic. Jacqui McShee sings the two traditional songs on Side 1, The Cherry Tree Carol and High Germany with Jansch singing another great track, The Snows. People On The Highway sung by both of them closes Side 1.
Another traditional song, Willy O’Winsbury, opens Side 2, it seems that McShee gets these songs in the band. No Love Is Sorrow is Jansch and McShee singing together again as they do on Jump Bay Jump and the last track, Lady Of Carlisle. This might be the appropriate time to mention the fact that as a Folk-Rock band they are as equally influenced by Jazz and Blues. Jansch and his wife Loren both died of cancer within two months of each other in late 2011, he was 67. John Renbourn died in 2015 aged 70.
Last album today is the Fairport Convention classic, yep, I’ve said it again, Liege And Lief, which was released in December 1969. The band was Sandy Denny on vocals, Ashley Hutchings on bass, Dave Swarbrick on violin, Simon Nicol on acoustic guitar, Richard Thompson on electric guitars and Dave Mattacks on drums. Like Fotheringay it was produced by Joe Boyd and features the perennial Matty Groves. The album has a mostly traditional influence and is considered one of the great influential albums of the era, creating a genre. There’s books about it, it’s hard to nail in a paragraph or two, so I won’t try, just listen to it.
Songs Of The Daze
Steeleye Span’s Greatest Hits – All Around My Hat mimed on Top Of The Pops:
And Gaudete, which you can tell from this that they don’t need to mime:
Fairport Convention – Folk Heroes documentary 2017:
A note from the makers:
THREE AUDIO TRACKS HAVE BEEN “MUTED” DUE TO COPYRIGHT REASONS. THIS IS NOT AN ERROR. CONTINUE WATCHING AND THE SOUND WILL CONTINUE.
The film tells how five young musicians in North London formed Fairport Convention during 1967’s ‘summer of love’. The band went on to shake English folk music to its roots by fusing it with rock, an approach which outraged some purists but delighted a new and devoted audience.
In the subsequent five decades, Fairport Convention has attracted widespread critical acclaim, won a coveted BBC Lifetime Achievement Award, and Radio 2 listeners voted Fairport’s groundbreaking album Liege & Lief ‘The Most Influential Folk Album of All Time’.
The documentary has been made by London-based independent producer Special Treats Productions. The company’s previous television music documentaries include ‘XTC: This Is Pop’, ‘I’m Not In love: The Story of 10cc’ and the award-winning film ‘UB40: Promises and Lies’.
The film features rare archive interviews and footage as well as newly-filmed interviews with the current Fairport members and, among others, Ashley Hutchings, Richard Thompson, Iain Matthews, Judy Dyble, Joe Boyd, Ralph McTell, Maddy Prior, Bob Harris, Suggs, Rick Wakeman, Steve Winwood, and Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull.
Through these interviews, the film examines Fairport’s first five years in detail, including the tragic motorway crash which killed drummer Martin Lamble. It goes on to explain Fairport’s pivotal role in the evolution of British folkrock; how the band fostered major talents such as Sandy Denny, Richard Thompson and Dave Swarbrick and spawned other notable bands including Matthews Southern Comfort, Steeleye Span, and Fotheringay.
The story is brought up to date with contemporary material filmed at Fairport’s annual ‘own brand’ music festival held at Cropredy in Oxfordshire. The closing sequence features the band’s 2017 festival performance when virtually all the surviving former members joined the current line-up on stage.
The Producer/Director has been working closely with Fairport for over a year. He says: “Our aim is to explain how important Fairport’s influence has been and continues to be – in other words, why the band matters.
“We have not set out to make a comprehensive, year-by-year history of Fairport; that has been done before. The film concentrates on two periods – the first five years and the band today. The result is a celebration of a very British institution and an assertion of Fairport’s continuing relevance.”