With the news that Fairport Convention have committed their Cropredy 2022 performance of their seminal 1970 album Full House to CD, we were delighted to be able to speak to the line-up about the show and the release. Legendary fiddler Dave Swarbrick is not with us anymore, so current Fairport member, Chris Leslie, filled in with Swarb’s parts. You can read our review of the album here.
We extend a warm welcome to Simon Nicol (SN), Dave Pegg (DP), Dave Mattacks (DM), Richard Thompson (RT) and Chris Leslie (CL)
All live pictures by Mike Ainscoe from Fairport’s Cropredy Convention 2022.
We loved the Full House set at Cropredy 2022 and we’re delighted that you’ve decided to release it as a live album. What were your feelings and emotions as you played the whole thing in front of the Cropredy audience?
DP: It was such a joy to be able to play the Full House album live at Cropredy last year. it was meant to happen in 2020 and again in 2021 but COVID ruled it out. For me it was very special, as It was the first album I played on when I joined Fairport in 1970. I knew that Chris Leslie would do a great job in covering Swarb’s input as indeed he has done when we have performed some of the songs from the album with the current line up.
SN: When the ‘big set’ starts on the Saturday night, my focus is solely on the song I’m singing and playing and what’s coming next: whether I need to change tuning or instrument, who’s going to introduce the next song, or is someone about to join us or is somebody going off? That, and keeping half an eye on the clock sidestage and checking we’re not drifting from the planned timeframe so we can finish the set on time. In other words, I never see ‘the big picture’ as it’s going past.
DM: I confess, I felt a bit nervous (I’m usually not) as I knew expectations were rather high – as much from ourselves as the audience. However, once we started and got into the set, I thought we gelled rather well.
RT: After a couple of cancelled Cropredy’s, the audience seemed to have an extra emotional charge, which definitely fed into the performance. That and the fifty (and change) years being celebrated made it a memorable and quite overwhelming experience.
CL: I would be the only one in the 2022 Full House line up who actually bought Full House when it came out! I loved it so much… and while a lot of my peers at school would be carrying Pink Floyd and King Crimson albums around… I felt me and my close friends were even cooler… I had Full House under my arm. So having the chance to play in that line up for the irreplaceable Swarb, was an honour, and a blast, and a personal thank you from me to Swarb for all his musical inspiration.
Are there any particular fond memories you have of that time in the band?
DM: I was still the ‘deer-in-the-headlights’ back then, but towards the end of that line-up’s tenure, my confidence was gradually growing. The music we made then has held up well, I think.
SN: I think the highlights for me would have been the touring days in The States. We’d recorded the tracks at Sound Techniques in Chelsea as usual but we were all a bit hesitant about stepping up and doing the vocals for real. John Wood and Joe Boyd booked us into Vanguard Studios in NYC and that’s where we finished the recording: it all suddenly felt very grown up. And then we set off for our first American tour – as a teenager in a boy band in the sixties, what a time it was to be alive!
DP: I have many happy memories of that line up and our times at the Angel. My book “Off the Pegg” recalls some of them! (Buy that here if you wish to read more!)
RT: It was a very strong band instrumentally, and a bit tentative vocally, but my main memory is of a bunch of pals having a great time playing and exploring music.
Chris stepped up admirably to fill Swarb’s shoes – but did it feel strange to play Full House in full without Swarb being there?
DM: Not for me…of course we all miss Swarb, but Chris’ contribution was exemplary in my humble opinion.
SN: No, partly because of the complete faith we all have in Chris’s performance and commitment. And partly because we’ve probably played songs like Walk Awhile, and Sir Patrick Spens more times with him than with Swarb now!
RT: Chris channelled Swarb as he needed to, but was also the unique and wonderful Chris!
After returning home from Cropredy, I (John Barlass) dug out my VCR of the 1970 Maidstone concert which, of course, featured Fairport’s Full House line-up, alongside some vintage footage of Matthews Southern Comfort. Is there any prospect that that particular movie could see light of day once again?
DM: I thought it was still ‘out there!’
SN: A question far beyond my pay grade, I’m afraid. It was filmed by Tony Palmer but heaven knows who owns the rights now. I know it went out decades ago on the cinema circuit as an opening feature for a Pink Floyd film.
I think we’re correct in saying that Full House was the third album that you’ve revisited in its entirety at Cropredy – Liege & Lief and Babbacombe Lee being the others? Do you have any plans to give any other albums the “full and unexpurgated” treatment? Personally, we’d love to see you perform Angel Delight in the same way – and you’ve now got most of the personnel from that album back in the ranks…
SN: Never say never! Reviving Babbacombe Lee in its entirety on the fortieth anniversary back in 2011 was great fun and very rewarding – but a game of two halves of course. Peggy and I merely had to brush up on the lyrics and arrangement and then muscle memory (to an extent) takes over. Ric, Chris and Gerry had to start from scratch and learn someone else’s parts. So maybe Angel Delight could be project at some point in the future….
DP: Having Dave Mattacks in the line up for Cropredy hopefully means that we could tackle performing the “Angel Delight” album at some time. Other Fairport albums would be difficult to do as one can never replace a Sandy Denny or a Jerry Donahue in my humble opinion.
DM: I’ll leave those decisions to the band!
We were ecstatic to be back at Cropredy last August after that interminable three-year wait. How did it feel to walk out onto that Cropredy stage once again after all the agony and frustration of lockdown?
CL: It was such an amazing feeling. My biggest emotions were of love and gratitude… The vibe from the crowd was so warm and positive. Here we all were again, back where we belonged, celebrating music. Having experienced the loss and isolation of the whole COVID thing, and having personally felt so powerless whilst watching such bravery from all the key workers across the public sector etc. at last we could share and send what makes us tick back out into the world again.
DP: Cropredy was such a fabulous festival last year after 2 years absence and basking in 35 degrees heat for 3 days and hearing the audience applaud the one and only mini cloud that passed overhead was a perfect build up for me before mounting the stage.
It was a case of ‘who knows where the time goes’ for me as I got so carried away in the Full House segment of the show that I failed to see that we were running out of time and would over run our midnight curfew. So Little Matty Groves had to make a non appearance! He’ll be back this year hopefully.
SN: It would have been overwhelming had I not been on site since Wednesday’s sound check and been comprehensively immersed in the glorious vibe of the whole event. Gratification postponed can be twice as potent and the three year moratorium had built up a considerable head of pressure for every single soul who has their own attachment to the postcode and its ethos. It was wonderful, in short – but then, it’s the highlight of the year for me anyway!
DM: Since being invited back as a guest, I’ve continued to enjoy the festival…and it was good to have the three year gap behind us all.
We loved Shuffle and Go, Fairport’s most recent studio album. Are there any plans for another album of new material anywhere in the pipeline?
DM: Over to you chaps!
DP: We hope to have another Fairport album but have no need to plan a release or a schedule time wise. When we have enough good material to put down in the studio we will. Chris gets better and better as a writer and we have chums like Ralph McTell and Rob Beattie and P.J. and James Wood and annA Ryder who from time to time come up with great material that suits F.C. to record. Shuffle and Go for me was a really good example of the band’s work and is still very satisfying to perform.
SN: We’ve not booked any studio time yet, but it’s something to be discussed over the next twelve months when we’ve got another batch of gigs out of the way. The Shuffle and Go material still feels very fresh despite having been released in January 2020 because we couldn’t play it for well over two years!
CL: Well, I’ve been writing some songs recently. We really enjoyed making Shuffle and Go. Fairport besides having such an incredible back catalogue of material to draw from, has always had a current album as well. It probably is time for another album… So watch this space…
Every year, we’re knocked out by several of the upcoming, usually young, acts that you introduce us to at Cropredy and 2022 was no exception to that. We loved, for example, Maddie Morris, Emily Barker, Holy Moly & The Crackers, and The Thumping Tommy’s (to name a few).
Do you have any special personal memories of acts that have broken through to a wider audience at Cropredy?
CL: I feel it is so important that good music gets an opportunity to thrive and grow and reach out to a wider audience. The Cropredy audience really does respond to this… I think the most wonderful take up and response by the crowd I have experienced – and you could feel it travelling from the first row to the back of the field during the first couple of numbers, was the first appearance of The Pierce Brothers… it was just magic!
SN: The Travelling Band, The Pierce Brothers, Skinny Lister and Ahab are the ones who spring to mind first. Each of them were probably known to a couple of hundred people in the audience when they tuned up to go on stage and ten minutes later had perhaps ten thousand new best friends. That’s a wonderful thing to witness and to have been partially responsible for!
DP: Cropredy is a great festival for us to introduce to our audience, young acts that they may not be familiar with. We are always on the look out and when we see performers that we enjoy and therefore our audience might we do our best to get them on the Bill. Thumping Tommy’s who we saw at Costa del Folk fitted this category perfectly and gained lots of new fans as a result.
Many thanks, as ever, to Fairport Convention plus Richard Thompson and Dave Mattacks!
Fairport will be on tour this winter on their annual Wintour. You can check out tour dates here. The tour runs through February and into the start of March.