1967-2012: Fairport Convention celebrates anniversary
45 years and still going strong!
Fairport Convention, one of the most enduring names in rock and pop, celebrates 45 years as a band this year.
Formed in north London during the ‘summer of love’, Fairport Convention played its first gig on 27 May 1967 in a Golders Green church hall. The band rapidly became popular on the club and college circuit. A record contract followed and Fairport went on to pioneer a new musical genre, British folk rock.
Championed by John Peel, Fairport went through frequent personnel changes in its early days nurturing world class talents such as Richard Thompson and the late Sandy Denny along the way. However, maturity brought stability and the current line-up has been together for over a dozen years.
Fairport Convention has outlived most of its contemporaries from the fertile 60s music scene and, 45 years on, remains one of the busiest bands around. During that time, the band has won a coveted BBC Lifetime Achievement Award and Radio 2 listeners voted Fairport’s groundbreaking album Liege & Lief ’The Most Influential Folkrock Album of All Time’.
Fairport Convention and its 45-year history will be the subject of a major music documentary to be screened on BBC4 television during 2012.
The current line-up of Simon Nicol (lead vocal, rhythm and electric guitars), Dave Pegg (backing vocals, bass guitar, mandolin), Ric Sanders (violin), Chris Leslie (lead vocal, fiddle, bouzouki, mandolin) and Gerry Conway (percussion and drums) still packs venues on its frequent tours. For the past 32 years the band has also staged one of the UK’s major music festivals, Fairport’s Cropredy Convention.
“Forty-five years is quite a milestone,” says co-founder Simon Nicol, “but we don’t intend to rest on our laurels. Fairport is a band that always looks to the future. I think the key to our longevity is live performance. We’ve never been a studio band - we much prefer being out there in front of an audience. Our festival at Cropredy also plays a role in sustaining us as a band – it is a highlight of so many peoples’ year because it has a great feeling of continuity.”
Fairport will be celebrating its forty-fifth anniversary throughout the year. The band will start 2012 with a forty-date British tour beginning on 21 January and continuing until early March. The concerts will feature songs from Fairport’s recent studio album, the critically-acclaimedFestival Bell, as well as material drawn from the band’s extensive repertoire.
In August, the band’s festival at Cropredy will also reflect the anniversary with special guests and Fairport alumni in attendance. Co-founding member Richard Thompson will play a headline set at the event.
Two new CD releases will add to the celebrations in 2012. By Special Request is a studio album featuring brand new versions of Fairport’s most popular songs from the past 45 years. But this isn’t just any old ‘greatest hits’ compilation – it is the band’s loyal fans who have chosen the songs. Through Fairport’s website and social media, the fans were invited to list their individual ‘top twenty’ from the band’s repertoire. These lists were analysed and the dozen most popular numbers were re-recorded for this album.
The second anniversary release revives one of Fairport Convention’s most popular musical projects. Last year saw the fortieth anniversary of Babbacombe Lee, the band’s 1971 ‘folk rock opera’. To mark the occasion, the band performed the work in its entirety at every concert on their 2011 Winter Tour. They also performed it during their set at Cropredy in August. These performances were recorded and will be released in a new live version of the original concept album.