Fairport by Fairport is an in-depth and even-handed work, probably not to be surpassed in terms of first-hand accounts from the band themselves. Even for Fairport fanatics, there are likely to be bits here and there than surprise
Richie Unterberger, Flashback
From Muswell Hill to Cropredy – in their own words Any attempt to encompass the 45-year history of any group will be fraught with difficulties and call for tough executive decisions. When that group is Fairport Convention, renowned for having travelled a rocky road strewn with line-up changes, tragedies and a variable musical catalogue, those concerns will be amplified, to say the least.
This deluxe book gathers together band member quotes from a long series of interviews by Schofield, editing them into a band narrative that will delight the faithful. A cohesive voice rises to the top, telling the story of a group that’s faced many difficulties, yet survived them all to become the national treasures they are today. With input from most band members both past and present, some outside thoughts come with quotes from John Peel, Robert Plant, Joe Boyd and even Ken Russell, who filmed Fairport at their Cropredy Festival for his 1997 documentary In Search Of The English Folk Song.
Printed in an initial run of just 2,000, this lavish book is bound in silk-screened buckram cloth and is signed by the current configuration of the group. There’s also a 60-minute DVD documentary, specially commissioned for the project, which can be ordered from fairportconventionbook.com.
Kingsley Abbott, Record Collector
One third of the way into this book you realise that Fairport Convention was not just an English folk-rock band. Fairport By Fairport isn’t merely an exploration of the career of a group of musicians, it’s also a historical perspective on the reinvention of English folk music of the 19th and early 20th centuries that took place in a few weeks of inspired genius that became Liege & Lief. That single moment changed the lives of a band and their audience and probably the topography of the British musical landscape forever.
Fairport are in many ways, like the Grateful Dead, a band who become more than just a band; a life-affirming family bound by a tradition made of music. Nigel Schofield has done justice to his subject. Years of finely aged interviews with every Fairport member – along with a number of musical and professional associates and admirers – have been opened up and woven into a gripping narrative tale. From Fairport’s beginnings in a rehearsal house in London through the tragedy of a motorway accident that nearly destroyed them, to the band’s rejuvenation of the UK folk idiom, the book is filled with the various comings and goings of a bewildering array of some of Britain’s finest musicians. It’s a tale of high and lows and of a varied and ever inventive career culminating in the creation of Cropredy – the best annual folk festival in the world – and a canon of music that has entered the tradition.
Schofield’s personable, fireside style carries the reader through a story spiced with the reminiscences of Sandy Denny, Simon Nicol, Ric Sanders, Dave Swarbrick, Richard Thompson, Dave Pegg, Dave Mattacks, Judy Dyble and many others. Details of each album, and where relevant an analysis of its significance, give a fascinating insight into the song’s writing process and origins of the band’s material, interspersed with the author’s own personal memories as well as those of colleagues, including Robert Plant, John Peel and Joe Boyd, this is a real insight into the evolution of the truly unique phenomenon that is Fairport.
Richard Allen, Shindig
Immersed in Fairport by Fairport … splendid weighty tome on the mighty Convention.
It’s a joy to have … beautifully put together.