FROM SCRATCHWOOD TO WYCHWOOD

One more time

has another claim to fame. Every year, sundry folkies and faded hippies gather here for a summer folk festival - and to welcome another reunion of British folk-rock veterans, Fairport Convention.

I've always enjoyed the Fairport's music - Liege and Lief is still one of my favourite albums, even if the vinyl is almost worn smooth with playing - and I still recall fondly the gig when Dave Swarbrick fell off the stage, drunk as a skunk, still fiddling away.

In April 1999, the Daily Telegraph published a glowing obituary for Dave Swarbrick. At the time, Mr. Swarbrick was recovering from a serious illness, in a hospital in Coventry. When he read the obituary, Dave said, "Ah, well - it's not the first time I've died in Coventry."
But I've also felt a special sort of affinity with them. You see, I used to live in Muswell Hill, in London. Every day, I would pass by a big white house on the corner of Fortis Green and Fortis Green Road. The house was called Fairport. That was Simon Nicol's family home, and that was where the band "convened".

In those days, they must have been just a bunch of enthusiastic kids, never imagining they would make it in the music business - especially with their dreadfully-unfashionable "folk" music, even if they did mix it with a rock beat.

They must have thought it was all over when a horrendous motorway accident killed two of their number, and seriously injured the rest of the band (that evening, DJ John Peel devoted his entire show to Fairport Convention, believing that the entire band had been wiped out). But they re-emerged with a new line-up (featuring the truly wonderful Sandy Denny), and then another line-up, and then another.

In fact, the Fairports went through so many permutations, that artist Pete Frame had to create a huge family tree to try and keep track of them all - eventually managing to make a career out of rock family trees.

Eventually, the remaining Fairports finally called it a day, and disbanded. Not long after, tragedy took Sandy Denny (who had left the band some time before the end). Her death was most unfitting for a rock legend. No plane crash, no drug overdose, no crazy fan - poor Sandy had the most banal of deaths - she fell down the stairs.

The remaining Fairports found themselves other bands, or faded back into normal life, but a hard core of fans wouldn't let them go. After persistent pressure from them, in the early eighties the remaining players gave in and held a Fairport Convention Reunion at Cropredy - a one-off event.

But everyone enjoyed it so much, that they did it again, and again - and they're still doing it now. The Fairport family is augmented by a series of top-line folkie acts, and the event has evolved into a full-blown folk festival. If you want to know more about future plans, follow the links on the left to websites maintained by stalwart fans.

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