Two from Fairport Convention…


Fairport Covention circa 1968

(top l-r) Iain Matthews, Ashley Hutchings, Richard Thompson,

(bottom l-r) Simon Nicol, Martin Lamble, Sandy Denny

Listen – Meet On the Ledge – MP3

Listen – Tale in Hard Time – MP3

Greetings all.
I hope that everyone is well and that you all had a chance to dig the Walker Brothers tune in the previous post.
I’ve been on quite the reading jag over the last few months (I’m in kind of perpetual reading jag, but having two little kids, and two blogs doesn’t always leave me conscious enough to read). In addition to the Phil Spector bio I mentioned in the previous post, I just finished Joe Boyd’s memoir ‘White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960’s’.
If the name doesn’t ring any bells, get to Googling, because Boyd was kind of the Zelig of high quality music, starting out as a tour manager for blues, folk and jazz artists, co-founder of the UFO club in London, producer of Pink Floyd’s first 45s, and producer of the leading lights of late 60’s UK folk rock, including John Martyn, Nick Drake and today’s artists, Fairport Convention.
Boyd is an excellent writer, and though I picked up his book due largely to my longtime love for Drake and Fairport, I came away with an interest in exploring artists that I’d never heard of before, especially the interracial South African jazz group the Blue Notes. I started listening to Fairport Convention in the mid-80’s thanks to an ex-coworker, who over the years turned me on to a wealth of great music, books and films. This cat made me tapes (remember those???) of Richard Thompson’s solo albums, and I moved on from there working my way backwards when I realized that Thompson and Fairport were contemporaries of Nick Drake, who I was already a huge fan of.
Oddly enough, many years before, my father – via a coworker who had spent time in the UK in the mid-60’s – brought one of Sandy Denny’s solo LPs into the house. It was years before I made the Fairport connection, but the seeds were certainly there.
The first Fairport LP I bought was the US (A&M) issue of the UK LP ‘What We Did On Our Holidays’, which had a different cover here, and was retitled simply ‘Fairport Convention’ (not the same as their UK debut with vocalist Judy Dyble, also called ‘Fairport Convention’) . Initially, the record didn’t make much of an impression on me, probably because I went into it expecting something much more rustic, filled with Morris dancing and balladry, when what I got was much closer to Jefferson Airplane and the Band working out of a London bedsit.
Some years later, when I had explored the Thompson-era Fairport discography in its entirety, and was able to place them in the context of late-60’s English rock, ‘What We Did On Our Holiday’s’ became a favorite album of mine.
This had a lot to do with the presence of the two songs I’m posting today, ‘Meet On the Ledge’ and ‘Tale In Hard Time’ (both written by Thompson).
I first heard – and was blown away by – ‘Meet on the Ledge’ via Thompson’s mid-80’s live album ‘Across a Crowded Room’, where he performed a solo acoustic version of the tune. His performance was intense, but hearing it done by a full band, with Iain Matthews taking the lead vocal was something else.
Both songs feature somewhat dark lyrics, especially ‘Ledge’ (see below) which is an extraordinarily pessimistic confrontation of the 60’s hippie vibe, but any darkness is masked by the glimmering harmonies of Matthews and Denny, as well as Thompson’s brilliant guitar playing. In the end it’s an extremely powerful song that also manages to sound like it was written as an anthem for stadium full of people who’ve just been confronted with the cold, hard truth about life.
‘Tale in Hard Time’ isn’t quite as dire (nor is it a lullaby) but it’s shimmering harmonies, along with Thompson’s monumental guitar solo makes it one of the great lost treasures of folk rock.
Both recordings are very powerful, and if you haven’t already, they ought to serve as motivation to seek out those first four Fairport albums (their first UK album, Fairport Convention, What We Did on Our Holidays, Unhalfbricking and the seminal Liege and Lief).


Meet On the Ledge

We used to say
That come the day
We’d all be making songs
Or finding better words
These ideas never lasted long

The way is up
Along the road
The air is growing thin
Too many friends who tried
Were blown off this mountain with the wind

Meet on the ledge
We’re gonna meet on the ledge
When my time is up I’m gonna see all my friends
Meet on the ledge
We’re gonna meet on the ledge
If you really mean it, it all comes round again

Yet now I see
I’m all alone
But that’s the only way to be
You’ll have your chance again
Then you can do the work for me

Meet on the ledge
We’re gonna meet on the ledge
When my time is up I’m gonna see all my friends
Meet on the ledge
We’re gonna meet on the ledge
If you really mean it, it all comes round again

Meet on the ledge
We’re gonna meet on the ledge
When my time is up I’m gonna see all my friends
Meet on the ledge
We’re gonna meet on the ledge
If you really mean it, it all comes round again

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  1. This one will come as a pleasant surprise to Leslie for sure… She has a few FC albums that I’m about to put in the ol’ playstack.

  2. I saw Richard Thompson live a year ago at the World Cafe in Philly. I’ve never heard so many sounds come from one guitar (frequently at the same time). Great performance. Thanks for posting.

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