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.

What We Did Instead of Holidays

Fairport Convention And Its Extended Folk-Rock Family
A History by Clinton Heylin

Route is delighted to announce the publication of a stunning new biography from one of the leading rock historians in the world. Click here to pre-order a signed first edition hardback.

In June 1968, a group of Muswell Hillbillies made their official album debut as Fairport Convention. In the next fifteen years, three of those founding Fairportees – Richard Thompson, Ashley ‘Tyger’ Hutchings and Simon Nicol – along with the next generation of Fairport recruits – Iain Matthews, Sandy Denny, and the three Daves: Swarbrick, Pegg and Mattacks – would form a veritable dynasty of English folk-rock, each pursuing their own path, but always returning to work with each other, to collectively produce albums with a near-eternal appeal.

Which is why every year since 1979 in a field somewhere near Banbury, 20,000-plus fans have congregated to celebrate this music’s enduring appeal at the Cropredy Festival.

So, fifty years on, now seems like the right time to tell the full story: to collect all the family lore that surrounds Fairport and its surrogates, and to disentangle the many highs and lows from those first fifteen years of Fotheringport Confusion.

Drawing on interviews with all the musicians and key figures in English folk-rock – including producers extraordinaire Joe Boyd and Sandy Roberton – Clinton Heylin has produced the definitive history of a folk-rock family in its golden era.

Candid, clear and cogent, presented with insight and chronologically, Clinton Heylin ties the loose threads of Fairport and its offshoots together in their own words. Diving deep beneath the surface of the music into the lives of the principals, he answers many un-asked questions.
Simon Nicol, Fairport Convention co-founder & longest serving member

We were young and ambitious. Learning the game without a manual or safety net. No one was exempt. Clinton Heylin has absolutely nailed the way it was. I recognize myself in this story and realized some interesting things about my former band mates. An enthralling read for any Fairport fan.
Iain Matthews, lead vocalist of Fairport Convention 1967-69

First edition hardback contains three colour photo-sections with previously unpublished photos.

ORDER: Be among the first to read this book. Click here to pre-order an exclusive author signed first edition hardback.

Clinton Heylin is one of the leading rock historians in the world, with over two dozen books to his name. These include biographies of Bob Dylan (Behind The Shades), Van Morrison (Can You Feel The Silence?), Bruce Springsteen (E Street Shuffle) and Sandy Denny (No More Sad Refrains), as well as his acclaimed pre-punk history, From The Velvets To The Voidoids, and the one and only history of rock bootlegs, Bootleg. His highly acclaimed titles It’s One For The Money and Anarchy In The Year Zero were nominated for the Penderyn Book Award. His most recent titles, JUDAS! and Trouble In Mind, are in-depth accounts of the two electrifying periods in Bob Dylan’s career when he was roundly booed. He lives in Somerset.


Concert for Billie 2011

Last Friday saw the fifth annual Concert for Billie, which was once again a heart-warming mix of school choirs and impromptu bands, junior jazz, professional musicians, special guests, a raffle and presentations of new musical instruments to nine competition-winning schoolchildren

Amongst the special performances this year was harpist Fiona-Katie Roberts who premiered her self-composed ‘Billie’s Tune’, and actor Steve Huison who swapped Coronation Street for Featherstone for one night and stepped out of his comfort zone to perform the Bob Dylan song ‘Forever Young’. As always, the star of the show was Edward Clayton, who has played piano at all the concerts. Starting in 2007 when he was 10 years old, the concerts have charted his development both as a pianist and as a growing boy. His entrances to the stage are becoming increasingly more protracted and the swagger in his step is starting to show itself. Here he is above, filmed from the middle of the audience, playing along to Mark Witty’s saxophone.

The concert is the annual prize-giving concert for Billie’s Violin Trust, a charity that donates musical instruments and tuition to the schoolchildren of Featherstone. The trust was founded by Ian Clayton and Heather Parkinson in memory of their daughter Billie Holiday Clayton, Edward’s twin sister. For more details on the trust visit:

Booktunes Interview with Amadou and Mariam

Booktunes is a new website we feel is worthy of your attention. It is an infant idea of Erik de Loor of Amsterdam, and it makes the link between books and the music that surrounds them.

It is said that 90% of success is turning up, and here’s a small anecdote to support that idea. We recently got an email from Erik at Booktunes to request a review copy of Away From the Light of Day as he felt it was something that would fit nicely on the site. We replied saying we were happy to oblige, then Erik rang through saying that he’d seen the London launch event publicised and he was going to jump on a plane or train and come over to see it. Impressed by his dedication we managed to find an interview slot for him with Amadou and Mariam. Here was a young man backing his idea own idea for a new website and on the strength of a phone call and a dedicated manner, he was slotted in between two BBC interviews and one with the Sunday Times. He was also the only interviewer of the day to get Amadou to open up on his love of the Bee Gees.

Erik has recently posted the interview and a selection of 21 tunes that accompany the reading of the book. It’s a neat idea. Here’s a small extract from the interview. Follow the link below to see the whole of it and to read/download Erik’s accompanying music.

Booktunes: Which songs by Amadou & Mariam would serve as a soundtrack to Away From the Light of Day? Which songs illustrate the story being told in this biography?

Amadou & Mariam: ‘À chacun son problème’, ‘La Realité’ and ‘Terre La Sebin’.

BT: What about songs by other artists?

Amadou: ‘Staying Alive’ by the Bee Gees really inspired me, I love the way they use harmony in their songs. ‘Money’ by Pink Floyd also really helped us. And we both love Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’.

BT: Are there any other African artists we should listen to when trying to get deeper into your story?

A: Tabu Ley Rochereau with his ‘Pitié’ and Youssou N’Dour’s ‘Immigrés’ are both favourites.

BT: And what about you Mariam, in Away From the Light of Day you refer to French music. Which songs in particular?

M: ‘Pendant les Vacances’ by Sheila and Nana Mouskouri’s ‘Soleil Soleil’. Ah, I shouldn’t forget Sebastian Iradier with ‘La Paloma’.

BT: James Brown?

A: Yeah before I started playing with Les Ambassadeurs (du Motel de Bamako) I played in a group from Koutiala called Koulistar. That was definitely my James Brown period. ‘Popcorn’.

Soon you will start working on the new album. Do you have plans on working with any of your favourite artists?

A&M: It’s a work in progress…

Click here to read more of the interview on the Booktunes website and the list of accompanying tunes.

Click here for more details on Away From the Light of Day.

Bamako Bus Stop

A recounting of the famous incident in which Amadou and Mariam came into contact with their now long time manager, Marc Antopine Moreu. This extract is taken from a feature in The Sunday Times written by Mark Edwards.

Back in 1995, Marc Antoine Moreau, an A&R man at a French record label, was in Senegal visiting one of his artists, Ismael Lo. Deciding that he couldn’t come all the way to Africa and not see more of the continent, he took the train from Dakar to Bamako, the capital of Mali. After a few days in Mali, he was ready for the next stop on his itinerary, so, as he remembers: “I went to the bus station to take a bus to Ivory Coast. It was a small bus station, and the company I took the ticket with was just starting. They wanted to wait until the bus was full before they would go. So we had to wait three days.

Moreau had little money, so he basically stayed at the bus station for three days. “One day, a little boy came to me with a big box full of tapes. I looked at one. The cover said, ‘The blind couple from Mali — Amadou & Mariam.’ I looked at the title of the first track, A chacun son problème [Everyone’s Got Their Own Problems]. I liked the title, so I played the tape. I loved it.

While he was playing the tape, the woman sitting next to him on the bench said: “That’s my sister you’re listening to.” At first, Moreau assumed she meant it in the sense “We’re all brothers and sisters”, but, astonishingly, it really was Mariam’s sister. The couple were on tour in Burkina Faso, and Moreau didn’t have the money to stay and wait for their return, so he asked Mariam’s sister to pass on the message that he liked their music.

Over the next year, Moreau played their tape to friends and colleagues. Then, one day, someone who had heard the tape told him Amadou & Mariam were playing at a restaurant in Paris. Moreau headed down there and introduced himself. “Ah,” said Amadou, “you’re the guy from the bus station.”

Click here for the article in full.

Click here for Away From the Light of Day, the autobiogrpahy of Amadou and Mariam