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Fairport’s Cropredy Convention Memories – Simon Nicol: Time Tunnel

Simon Nicol returns to the site to share his memories of Fairport’s Cropredy Convention’s past! Another fascinating read about one of THE best festivals.

Scuppered due to COVID and lockdowns, Fairport’s Cropredy Convention is back, and with a bill that is, as expected, varied and plentiful. You can read our preview here.

We have been honoured to have all of Fairport Convention back on At The Barrier over the past few weeks. This week, we complete the quintet with Simon Nicol adding his thoughts to the Cropredy memories. BUT…we still have one more article to share on top of Simon’s next week…who could the mystery contributor be?!

Simon previously wrote for us in our Why I Love column, and put a different spin on the traditional article. You can read that one here. Here, Simon scatters legends everywhere in his recollections.

simon nicol cropredy 2018 75 fairport

Lots of happy but highly focussed memories are triggered by the question of most memorable guest slots.

Early ones would include one of Robert Plant’s early visits in the late ‘80s where we avoided the Zep catalogue and were more stripped back: he and I did a version of ‘Girl from the North Country’ while the others had a tiddle break.

Whether it was the rapturous reception to the unexpected appearance of this impossibly famous person on our humble stage or our sublime interpretation of the song in duet form, but it went down an absolute storm: at the end of the applause he said to me, on the mic, “You wanna grow your hair back and f*ck this lot off you know”…. We still haven’t formed a band together though.

And a few years later we got the rare chance to rehearse up a set of half a dozen Zep classics and perform them as a set within a set during the Fairport Saturday night. DM (Dave Mattacks) got his Bonzo head on, and Maart was absolutely in his element throwing shapes around the stage and making love to his guitar. At the end of one of the classics, I launched into the solo acoustic  guitar intro to “Ramble On” with the enthusiasm of one making the best of his moment in the spotlight. Coughing and confusion from the rest of the company as I’d over-keenly missed out an entire number which DM was just about to count in. A good lesson in paying a bit more attention to the list and less to oneself.

Learning songs that ‘everybody knows’ because they have become national earworms is often fun and sometimes surprisingly difficult as they can be more cunningly crafted than at first sight: a couple stay in my mind.  A couple I still needed the chord charts for them even on the day were Glenn Tilbrook’s “Tempted” and Nik Kershaw’s “The Riddle” – fiendishly clever songs that I know are now spinning in your heads as you read this.

And the first time Gary Brooker (now so sadly gone before – RIP you star!) graced us as a surprise guest and obliged the nation with ‘A Whiter Shade…’ my heart leapt when at the end of the song as I knew it he began singing the third verse – the one that was cut from the gazillion-selling worldwide hit – and we got to go round that glorious tune again!

Our thanks go to Simon Nicol for these recollections. I wonder what the odds of a mini-Led Zep set are this year?! Probably slim, but we will get Full House, Fairport’s seminal 1970 release, played in full with Dave Mattacks and Richard Thompson in the ranks.

Fairport’s Cropredy Convention takes place on 11th, 12th and 13th August. You can buy tickets online here and you can read our previous articles, here.

Get in the mood for Full House by taking a listen to a lesser spotted Full House number in the form of Flowers Of The Forest.

Fairport Convention: Official Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

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