Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
UK folk-rock band formed '66 in London, by Ashley Hutchings (b Jan. '45), Simon Nicol (b 13 Oct. '50) and Richard Thompson, guitars, vocals; Martin Lamble (b Aug. '49; d in road crash 12 May '69), drums; Judy Dyble (b '48), vocals; Ian Matthews (b 16 June '46, Scunthorpe) (rest all from London). Named after Nicol's home, the band was a mainstay of the London 'underground' circuit late '60s alongside Pink Floyd and Soft Machine; debut LP Fairport Convention '67 was a motley collection of original songs and covers of Joni Mitchell material (prod. Joe Boyd being a friend of hers). What We Did On Our Holidays '68 introduced Sandy Denny following Dyble's departure, emphasized Thompson's development as a writer (e.g. 'Meet On A Ledge'). Matthews left to pursue solo career, though playing on some tracks on third album: Unhalfbricking '69 was transitional, with substantial original work, imaginative Bob Dylan covers, eleven-minute workout on trad. 'A Sailor's Life' incl. fiddler Dave Swarbrick (b April '41, London), who then became a full-time member. Dave Mattacks (b March '48, London) joined for seminal Liege And Lief '69, the first full flowering of English folk-rock, trad. material performed at full throttle by a rock band, but the landmark caused a schism in group; Hutchings, keen to pursue folk-rock, left to form Steeleye Span; Denny formed short-lived Fotheringay; bassist Dave Pegg (b Nov. '47, Birmingham), colleague of Swarbrick's, ex-Ian Campbell, joined for Full House '70, which boasted impressive Thompson/Swarbrick compositions such as 'Walk Awhile' and 'Sloth' (which became mainstay of live act). Thompson left '71; four-man band persevered with patchy Angel Delight and impressive concept John Babbacombe Lee '71--2. Return to form on Rosie '73 incl. guest appearances from Denny, Thompson, Ralph McTell; guitarists Trevor Lucas (b Dec. '43, Melbourne, Australia; ex- Eclection, Fotheringay; Denny's husband) and Jerry Donahue (b 24 Sep. '46, NYC) joined for Fairport 9, the most cohesive post-Thompson LP, featuring Swarbrick's growing skills; joined by Denny for Fairport Live Convention '74. Rising For The Moon '75 was fragmented, with impressive moments; Mattacks left halfway through recording, replaced by Bruce Rowland (ex-Joe Cocker, Ronnie Lane); Denny, Lucas and Donahue quit, leaving Pegg and Swarbrick to make limp Gottle O'Geer '76 with Nicol helping. Live At The L.A. Troubador was made '70 with the Full House lineup (tapes of Led Zeppelin jamming with the band at club were rumoured to exist). Bonny Bunch Of Roses '77 was a return to form, with four-man lineup convincingly tackling their own and lengthy trad. material; by Tipplers' Tales '78 the punch had gone for a while.
Fairport seemed to split '77, with desultory live souvenir Farewell, Farewell '79. Pegg joined Jethro Tull; Nicol and Swarbrick formed duo for folk-club work; Mattacks was a busy session drummer, working with Elton John, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Nick Heyward; came back with other ex- Fairports at annual reunions, high spot of the UK folk calendar: Moat On The Ledge '82 was brilliant live record of '81 meeting. Fifth Swarbrick solo LP Smiddy Burn '81 reunited Full House lineup for the first time in ten years; Gladys' Leap '84 was first Fairport studio LP in years, refreshing and experimental, with Nicol's vocals to the fore, and the first Fairport record not to feature Swarbrick in 16 years, his place taken by Ric Sanders (ex-Soft Machine). Swarbrick formed acoustic quartet Whippersnapper with second fiddler Chris Leslie, Kevin Dempsey on guitar and Martin Jenkins, mandolin. Expletive Delighted '86 was the first all-instrumental Fairport LP, with Sanders, Martin Allcock (b 5 Jan. '57, Manchester; guitar, electric bouzouki), rhythm section of Mattacks, Nicol and Pegg, help from Thompson and Donahue; House Full '86 reissued Live At The Troubador, remixed with three more tracks. Heyday '87 on Hannibal was a commercial release of a previously 'bootleg' cassette-only compilation of BBC broadcasts from '68- -9, and helped start the fashion for raiding the BBC's archives.
Their infl. was profound, inventing folk-rock almost single-handed, paving the way for Steeleye Span, Lindisfarne, infl. countless others by showing a way to avoid domination of US music at end of '60s. Two-disc History Of Fairport Convention '72 was a good selection; rare tracks appear on Thompson LP Guitar, Vocal '77, Denny anthology Who Knows Where The Time Goes? '86; book Meet On The Ledge '82 by Patrick Humphries was useful. Donahue released solo debut Telecasting '86. Jewel In The Crown '95 was a new studio set with Nicol, Pegg, Allcock and Mattacks; Old, New, Borrowed, Blue by Fairport Acoustic Convention '96 was live unplugged from the previous December plus some studio tracks; Who Knows Where The Time Goes? '97 yet another set of treatments old and new; all on Woodworm. The Woodworm Years on Silver Mist '97 was a compilation. The Cropredy Box '97 on Woodworm was a Three-CD live 30th-anniversary meeting.