Plainsong | The Folk Fairport Concert

On 25th April 1972, Plainsong played an intimate, after-hours gig at the opening night of new cafe in Amsterdam called Folk Fairport. They played without a PA, and generated percussion from the clogs they were wearing. The recording of this very special gig has remained unreleased for 50 years.

Iain Matthews: The Folk Fairport show came from a visit we had at the Paradiso. The guy who ran it came to the show and asked us if we’d consider playing for his opening night and we agreed. We were all night owls at that time and it seemed like a good idea.

Andy Roberts: After the gig at the Paradiso we were invited to a cafe on Prinsengracht called Folk Fairport. It wasn’t a booked gig but we played there after our main evening show as a favour to the club owner who, as the name suggests, was a big fan of Fairport Convention. It didn’t have a PA, and we played purely acoustically, but it turned out to be a great little gig. I clearly remember David singing the lead on ‘The Poor Ditching Boy’. We were all wearing clogs. We were obsessed with clogs that we bought in shoe shops over there.

Iain Matthews: It’s a really good little club, a rectangular room with breeze-block walls and benches. We played without a PA, just two mics and a bass.

David Richards: We did the same kind of thing at Les Cousins in the early days of the band. It’s really, really good and I think all of us would like to do it all the time but it’s not possible in terms of economics.

The Folk Fairport Concert is part of the Deluxe Edition of the book In Search of Plainsong by Ian Clayton. Advance copies will be signed and numbered. Click here to order.

New Title: Pit-folk and Peers Volume I

Pit folks and Peers: The Remarkable History of the People of Fryston: Volume I – Echoes of Fryston Hall (1809-1908) by David Waddington

‘Meticulously researched, David Waddington vividly resuscitates the nineteenth-century lives of the inhabitants of long-lost Fryston Hall.’ Catherine Bailey, author of Black Diamonds: The Rise and Fall of an English Dynasty

In the first volume of a two volume history of the pit village that raised him, David Waddington has dug deep to present with joy and relish the undiscovered history of Fryston Hall, which was, as he describes it, ‘the most important hub of Victorian society outside of London, attracting the most eminent poets, writers, politicians, adventurers and other celebrities of the era.’ And he’s not joking.

Central to the story is the larger-than-life figure of Richard Monckton Milnes, the first Lord Houghton. He’s best remembered as the first biographer of Keats and for almost marrying Florence Nightingale, but there is much, much more to him than that. He was the Victorian hostess with the mostest, famous for his parties and gatherings that brought together people from across the political and social spectrum. Possibly the best description of him comes from the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle: ‘Richard Monckton Milnes would make the ideal president of a Heaven and Hell Amalgamation Society.’

The people who pass through Fryston (and the pages of the book) include the cream of Victorian literary and political society, including the writers Alfred Lord Tennyson, William Makepeace Thackeray, Anthony Trollope, Wilkie Collins, Elizabeth Gaskell, Henry James, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Robert Browning and Algernon Charles Swinburne, who Milnes introduced to the great adventurer Sir Richard Francis Burton and the works of the Marquis de Sade (Milnes’s library was filled with the biggest collection of erotica in Europe – he was an enthusiastic Libertine). The book is a ‘who’s who’ of Victorian politics too, with prime ministers Lord Palmerston and Benjamin Disraeli amongst the prominent visitors to Fryston Hall. Milnes was the long-standing MP for Pontefract and was a classic paternalist, fighting for help for the poor, for women’s causes and against public executions and religious prejudice (rife in the Victorian era). He was also a great instigator for free public libraries. Milnes sat on the House of Commons select committee on the Establishment of Free Public Libraries in 1849. The purpose of the resulting Act was not only to promote the emergence of public libraries, but also to establish and extend the presence of scientific and artistic museums for the education and recreation of the general public. On 2 September 1852 he sat alongside Dickens, Thackeray and Bulwer-Lytton as a guest speaker at the opening of the Manchester Free Library, the first to be instigated following the passage of William Ewart’s Public Libraries Act of 1850. In rising to speak at Manchester, Milnes ‘did not mention politics, except to applaud the ideas of community, reconciliation between different classes, and social amelioration’.

When Milnes leaves the stage, the story carries on with his children, notably his son Robert, the second Lord Houghton, and daughter Florence (named after her godmother, Florence Nightingale). Robert took on Milnes’s title and his mantle in the political arena, he married the daughter of Lord Rosebery and Hannah de Rothschild at the end of the century. Milnes’s daughter Florence followed her father’s footsteps as both a writer and great hostess. She was the object of Thomas Hardy’s attention, and is the inspiration for Sue Bridehead, the heroine of Hardy’s final novel, ‘Jude the Obscure’. We also see the birth of the coal industry that would dominate Fryston in the 20th century (and Volume II of this story) in particular the rise of trade unionism and long, protracted strike action, led by the two sons of Kippax, Benjamin Pickard and Herbert Smith.

That sounds like an exhaustive list, but it’s only just scratching the surface of this truly joyous romp through history. We’ve been working flat out to make advance copies of this available before Christmas. It’s at the printers now and we’re due copies back in just over two weeks. We’ll be shipping as soon as they arrive, so if you want to be amongst the first to read one, you can pre-order by clicking here

David P. Waddington is Professor of Communications at Sheffield Hallam University, where he has been employed since 1983. Fryston-born David has written extensively on the sociology of mining communities, industrial relations in the British coal industry, the regeneration of former coal-mining areas, and the policing of political and industrial protest. One of his previous books, Coal, Goals and Ashes: Fryston Colliery’s Pursuit of the West Riding County FA Challenge Cup, was published by Route in 2013.

Read more about Pit-Folk and Peers here

Anne and Betty TV Features

Amy Garcia interviews Anne Scargill and Betty Cook about their activism for both women and miners in the 1980s, detailed in their book Anne & Betty: United by the Struggle.

ITV Feature
Click here for a feature on Anne and Betty on ITV. Joined by Ian Clayton, they chat with Christine Talbot about their life and book.

Click here for more details on Anne & Betty: United By The Struggle

Blood on the Tracks New York Sessions | 19 September 1974

Dylan knew his vision for these songs, [which] was very pure and unadorned … Bob lived these words as he created them. Most of the tracks grew and changed organically … He knew as soon as he heard something whether or not it was what he was going for. It never took him more than one time to know … He worked so instinctively, more so than anyone I’ve ever worked with. – Ellen Bernstein, Columbia A&R person & girlfriend.

Dylan cut the whole [album] in six hours on a Monday night … Then came back in on Tuesday and cut most of [it] again … That seemed to work, but it turned out not … On the Thursday, we recorded the album for a third time … Now that blew my mind. – Glenn Berger, assistant engineer.

On 19th September 1974, Bob Dylan was back in A & R Studios for the fourth and final day of recording on the Blood on the Tracks New York sessions. A revivified Dylan was determined to finish what he had begun on the Monday. Starting proceedings at seven, he recalled Tony Brown, and Brown alone, to (re)capture the last few tracks. However, if Brown was thinking this will be like Tuesday – fourteen takes and home – he was soon disabused. It was 3.30am before Dylan was satisfied. By then, he and Brown had endured a recording marathon, capturing eight songs whole over a multitude of takes. Mick Jagger was once again looking on.

By the end of the evening, they recorded takes of ‘Buckets of Rain’ and ‘Simple Twist of Fate’ which would make it all the way to the final album. They also got takes of three further songs that would make it to the original test pressing of the album: ‘If You See Her, Say Hello’, ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ and ‘Idiot Wind’. Bob had his album… for now. Three months later a last minute change of heart would propel him to Sound 80 Studio in Minneapolis to rerecord five of the ten tracks that would appear on the released album. But that’s a different story…

Read all about it in No One Else Could Play That Tune: The Making and Unmaking of Bob Dylan’s Masterpiece by Clinton Heylin. Get your copy here.

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Blood on the Tracks New York Sessions | 18 September 1974

By the next afternoon, Dylan was not so sure of himself and all he had wrought. As they began to mix songs from the master reels, a few takes fell foul of the review process, perhaps reflecting a darker mood on Dylan’s part.

On 18th September 1974, Bob Dylan was back in A & R Studios in New York for the third day of recording Blood on the Tracks. Engineer and studio chief Phil Ramone was busy mixing tracks pulled to master from the previous two days, and pedal steel player Buddy Cage was brought in to add overdubs on a few of the takes. As far as recording goes, this was the least productive day of the four. Bob had a go at recording ‘Buckets of Rain’ under the gaze of Mick Jagger in the control room, but abandoned it after four attempts. He left the studio early to go watch a concert and think about what he needed to do the following day to get the album he was hearing in his head.

Read all about it in No One Else Could Play That Tune: The Making and Unmaking of Bob Dylan’s Masterpiece by Clinton Heylin. Get your copy here.

More > Blood on the Tracks New York Sessions | 16 September 1974
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Blood on the Tracks New York Sessions | 17 September 1974

I got a call the [ following] afternoon from a woman, who I believe worked for Columbia, telling me to come in for that evening’s session. I remember asking her if she had called Eric about this, and she replied something like, ‘No, Bob just wants you.’ … I was almost a bit surprised they called me back, because I did not think the first day had gone well. – Tony Brown

On 17th September 1974, Bob Dylan was back in A & R Studios in New York for the second day of recording Blood on the Tracks. The feel for the album’s sound was starting to take shape, with bass player Tony Brown the only member of Deliverance invited back for the session. Keyboardist Paul Griffin came in to try organ and piano on a few takes, sometimes with Brown, sometimes without. There was a change in the assistant engineer’s chair too, Glenn Berger who had sat in the chair on the 16th had moved next door to work with Mick Jagger on mixing a Rolling Stones live tape for radio broadcast. His chair was taken up by Rich Blakin.

In all there was less than half the takes of the previous day, but the session was no less productive. Five songs intended for the album were attempted over 13 takes, plus one warm-up cover. From this session, the fourth take of ‘Shelter From The Storm’ and the third take of ‘You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go’ made it all the way to the released album. The second take of ‘You’re A Big Girl Now’ was released later on Biograph and the second take of ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ was released on Bootleg Series Vol 1-3. An edited version of the first take of ‘Shelter From the Storm’ recorded this day featured on the soundtrack to the film Jerry Maguire.

By the end of the day, all 12 songs in consideration for the album had been attempted.

Read all about it in No One Else Could Play That Tune: The Making and Unmaking of Bob Dylan’s Masterpiece by Clinton Heylin. Get your copy here.

More > Blood on the Tracks New York Sessions | 16 September 1974
More > Blood on the Tracks New York Sessions | 18 September 1974
More > Blood on the Tracks New York Sessions | 19 September 1974