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Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?

31 Jan 05 - 08:36 AM (#1394169)
Subject: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: red max

Let me stress that I'm a big fan of both, and am not trying to instigate a "who's better?" debate here. I'm just puzzled by the decidedly different attitude folk fans have towards each band. They probably share equal credit for introducing thousands of people to folk music, but while Fairport seem to enjoy universal respect and affection, the same can't be said for Steeleye. Indeed, I've heard many condescending comments about them, almost as if their legacy had done more harm than good

There are several parallels you can draw between the bands: they started up within a few years of each other, both had commercial success, both split up towards the end of the seventies and reunited sporadically during the eighties. Both have settled into a reasonably stable period with several long-standing members still on board. But Steeleye's profile is decidedly lower- I'm afraid they're not playing to packed houses anymore. And yet, when you look back on their studio output they've maintained a pretty high standard, which can't really be said for Fairport, let's be honest

Is it really the curse of All around my hat? Does snobbery come into this? Or have Fairport managed to create more of a community via the Cropredy Festival? They certainly seems to be a real family atmosphere around them, whereas Steeleye don't even have an official website. Perhaps Fairport's repertoire is more accesible? Steeleye have stuck more to the trad-arr approach, which might not be to everyone's taste. I'm curious to know what people think about this


31 Jan 05 - 09:04 AM (#1394191)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: Weasel Books

Well, I for one didn't really appreciate Steeleye that much until a few weeks ago.
Last year I had bought a double CD The Lark in the Morning which is all of the first 3 albums. I bought it mainly because I am a fan of Terry Woods. Until now I didn't much care for it. Dunno why, maybe it takes time. But you must give Steeleye credit for sticking to playing the traditional stuff with new instruments.
Fairport crossed over more readily into rock.


31 Jan 05 - 09:18 AM (#1394201)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: Torctgyd

A good question. Personally I've always preferred Steeleye to Fairport but, off the top of my head here are a few possible answers to your question:

Fairport 'fell' into folk whereas Steeleye were folk who 'fell' into rock. Steeleye were from the wrong side of the tracks.

Most of Fairport's cannon of work has been self penned by the likes of Richard Thompson, Sandy Denny etc. whereas Steeleye relied more on traditional material and the self penned material was not considered to be by the quality of writers Fairport had.

Fairport had the 'dead pop star' effect with the tragic deaths of members (or ex members).

But perhaps it is that Fairport Convention got there first.


31 Jan 05 - 09:42 AM (#1394216)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: The Borchester Echo

The founder of both bands was Ashley Hutchings. Fairport didn't "fall into folk". Ashley was always involved in traditional music and brought his knowledge to the band which he quit after becoming dissatisfied with the musical direction it was beginning to take. He then proceeded to take exactly the same path with Steeleye. It was then with the early Morris On and Albion projects that the real ideological divide became apparent: those who stuck to the narrow folk-rock path by electrifying traditional material and those who considered this a blind alley and experimented rather with self-written material in traditional style.

Personally, I stopped taking either band seriously as credible exponents of the tradition more than 30 years ago. This isn't to say that quite a lot of their work isn't very well done for what it is, and listenable. And I'd agree that the Cropredy brigade seem a lot more vocal than the Steeleye camp. I just don't see it as an especially important argument.


31 Jan 05 - 10:16 AM (#1394269)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: red max

Probably not important, granted, but as Steeleye Span introduced me to folk I'll always be especially fond of them, and I think their contribution to the genre should be celebrated rather than - as sometimes is the case - derided


31 Jan 05 - 12:30 PM (#1394405)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: GUEST,Russ

Back when I was into that sort of thing I preferred Steeleye. More traditional stuff, less rock'n'roll.

Haven't listened to either in decades.


31 Jan 05 - 01:17 PM (#1394462)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: michaelr

Lead singers aside, I believe that Fairport, for the most part, had better musicians in its various lineups.


31 Jan 05 - 01:21 PM (#1394471)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: Nerd

Actually, it's not true that Ashley was "always involved in traditional music." He began Fairport as a teenager and it was, initially, just a rock band with no traditional content at all--any "folk" influences were limited to singer-songwriters and the Byrds. He began to be interested in traditional music while with Fairport. In this sense it is true that Fairport "fell into folk."

Steeleye did not fall into rock, however. Their whole point, intially, was to be an electric band playing traditional songs. One could say, though, that individual members of Steeleye "fell into rock." While some, like Tim Hart, had been in rock bands before, I don't think Maddy had.

Why the difference in respect? I think, first of all, that some of the premises offered at the outset weren't quite right: both Fairport and Steeleye have recorded albums that weren't so hot. Look at "Back in Line," for example.

I also think that Steeleye don't try as hard. This is not a musical criticism, I just think it's true. They see it as a band that will tour once or twice a year, and they don't make a big deal out of it. I remember when I interviewed them all back in the 90s, Liam Genockey was pretty frustrated because he thought there wasn't a lot of thought going into their set: one hour of "greatest hits," finishing off with Thomas the Rhymer and All Around My Hat, year after year.

Now Fairport are also frequently coasting on old material, but they have released many more albums than Steeleye and also put a lot of work into touring and into their festival.


31 Jan 05 - 01:51 PM (#1394504)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: McGrath of Harlow

If I had to choose for my desert island discs, it'd alway be Steeleye Sapn over Fairport. I'd have assumed that was the general opinion when it came to rating the two bands.

But putting musicians in some kind of ranking order generally seems to me to be missing the point of the music.


31 Jan 05 - 02:11 PM (#1394532)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: Nerd

I do agree with McGrath on both points, for the record. I personally listen to Steeleye more, and also think it's silly to rank musicians.


31 Jan 05 - 02:12 PM (#1394535)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: The Borchester Echo

Nerd said:

Actually, it's not true that Ashley was "always involved in traditional music."

Actually it is, though I grant you Fairport's initial recorded output was pure rock, influenced more by west coast America than England's west country musical landscape.   And not just Ashley's, but Richard Thompson's musical experience was rooted in the tradition. My source? The first major interview I published on Steeleye's relaunch with Martin Carthy in the lineup in 1971. Prior to this, as a full-time EFDSS worker, I'd had the pleasure of meeting members of both bands on an almost daily basis as they researched Liege & Lief , Hark The Village Wait and Please To See The King.

To the best of my knowledge, Tim Hart had never been in a rock band before joining Steeleye, though Bob Johnson and Rick Kemp certainly had.


31 Jan 05 - 02:41 PM (#1394576)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: chris nightbird childs

Is this another Purist thread?


31 Jan 05 - 03:01 PM (#1394603)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: Nerd

Tim was in a rock band called the Ratfinks. And as you say, Bob and Rick had also been in rock bands. Terry had been in electric versions of Sweeney's Men, Peter had been a classical child prodigy, etc, etc.

I'm still not sure what you mean that Ashley was "involved" in traditional music prior to forming Fairport, let alone that he was "always involved" in it, which is of course a logical impossibility. What do you mean by "involvement" in this case? What do you mean by "always?" Remember that by the time you were meeting Ashley and he was researching Liege and Lief, he was already In Fairport and had been for a couple of years.

The one folky thing he HAD done in some quantity before Fairport was Skiffle/jug band music like the Ethnic Shuffle Orchestra, and in that context he did play some traditional English songs along with all the American blues and what was then called "trad," which was, of course, oldtime jazz. Is that skiffle experience what you mean?


31 Jan 05 - 04:14 PM (#1394687)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: McGrath of Harlow

Skiffle surely courts as traditional music, even if the tradition it came out of was from across the Atlantic.


31 Jan 05 - 06:46 PM (#1394901)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: Richard Bridge

I think one might want to re-play the music of both bands before assessing. I gleefully acquired a collection of Fairport on CD a few months back, and much of it seemed very banal, whereas I could not say the same of Steeleye. I would have thought it was Steeleye that generally had the greater respect. With the exception of a few great songs (eg Meet on the Ledge) Fairport just sound (to me) average tired and dated now.


31 Jan 05 - 08:09 PM (#1395040)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: Nerd

Okay, then, McGrath. But almost every English rock band began with people with some interest in American traditional music, namely the blues and the occasional folk song, which is precisely what Ashley had. I don't think you'd explain the Beatles or the Rolling Stones by saying "they were involved in traditional music." Likewise, I consider a primarily American-based blues and jug band player who forms a Byrds-like American-style rock band and then takes a sudden interest in traditional English folk music to have made a switch, not to have continued in the same stylistic trend. Certainly the other band members felt that way too, which is one reason the band went through a number of lineup changes in quick succession.

In the biography by Hinton and Wall, Hutchings himself talks about the Liege and Lief period as when he first got interested in traditional folk music: for example, he says he wasn't interested in magic at all in early 1968: "that only came later, with my reading of Child ballads and getting interested in the folk tradition." Prior to that his interest was in Blues, in American country music, in American rock music, and in jug bands. He doesn't call any of that "traditional music." Indeed, he doesn't even call the ethnic shuffle orchestra "skiffle," but rather "a jug band." "Skiffle" was my characterization of it, but I'm not sure he'd agree.   

I don't mean to split hairs about all this stuff, I just think in talking about Fairport and Steeleye there really is a distinction to be made, in that Fairport was a pre-existing rock band that took an interest in English folk songs, largely through Ashley suddenly becoming interested in them in late 1968 and early 69.

Steeleye, on the other hand, was an electric folk band, made up initially of people who were part of the folk scene. This was not an accident, but part of Ashley's design. Fairport was the group he happened to be in when he became interested in playing traditional music, while Steeleye was the group he formed in order to play traditional music. There's a big difference there as far as the groups' relationships to folk music go.

Looking back on his Fairport years, you can see how Ashley tried to convert Fairport to a more folk-friendly band by bringing in Swarb, but it didn't work that well. According to Joe Boyd, by the way, Ashley's bringing in Sandy Denny had been the catalyst that got him interested in English folk songs, but a desire to do folk songs was not why they hired her; she had simply auditioned and been brought in because she had the best voice of all those who showed up to try out. Over time, they realized that they could put a couple of her trad. songs in their set, hence "Nottamun Town" and "A Sailor's Life." Finally, Ashley decided that was where his interests lay, hence Swarb joining up full time and the creation of Liege & Lief.

Ironically, Sandy had seen Fairport as her ticket out of the folk club scene, and saw this as a backward step for her. Richard, who was synonymous with the band at that time, was enjoying the traditional stuff but didn't want to make a career of it. (There was in fact very little traditional background to RT's playing, by the way, except that he loved his Scottish father's Jimmy Shand records; not that that's unimportant, mind you! But he was very much a rock player, and also listened to classical music; he mentions Debussy as an early influence more than any kind of folk music.) Hence, there were tensions within the band about precisely that issue: was their goal to play traditional folk music or not? Richard's was not. Sandy's was not. Ashley's was. Simon, Swarb and Dave Mattacks were pretty open-minded about it, and just liked being in the band. It was largely because of this tension that Ashley, Sandy and Richard were all gone within about thirteen months of recording Liege and Lief, Sandy and Richard to do their own songwriting, Ashley to focus more on traditional material, and Fairport to follow what was sort of a middle path.

Funnily enough, Steeleye had the same sort of issues. Although their initial lineup's breakup was more personal than musical, it's also true that Gay and Terry Woods were not particularly interested in traditional songs anymore by the time they joined Steeleye. They were known for them, of course (or Terry was; Gay was known primarily as Terry's wife at the time) but both went on rather quickly to rock. It was the second lineup, with Martin Carthy and then Peter Knight, that finally gelled because it was finally a whole group of people whose primary interest was in playing traditional music in an electric way. That had never been true of Fairport.


31 Jan 05 - 08:23 PM (#1395061)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: Teresa

Max, I've noticed the sort of polarity on this subject, too, and never understood it. I like both equally. Of course, this may be because I discovered both bands in the mid-80s, so I don't have the context that some do.

I think I have a slight preference for steeleye, but that is just subjective.

Teresa


31 Jan 05 - 08:23 PM (#1395063)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: woodsie

Fairport Convention were brilliant - I was priveliged to have seen them several times in 1968 - 69. There is still a band knocking around with the same name, but I'm not sure who the are.


31 Jan 05 - 10:00 PM (#1395172)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: GUEST,folkrocker

I think one difference which has not been addressed above is the fact that Fairport had a much looser feel to their music, whereas Steeleye's arrangements were more complex. Both have a place, but I don't think comparisons should be made.

Both bands had wonderful musicians in the line up over the years, and I would never try to rate one over the other, they were different and that made them worth listening to. I have great respect for both bands and all the variants of them, but I do not think of them as competitors or even as equals, they are just different entities with their own sounds and approaches to their music.

Sorry for the rant.


01 Feb 05 - 04:24 AM (#1395366)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: IanC

I used to listen to more Fairport, but now it tends to be Steeleye. I think that's because the Steeleye stuff is basically just folk played with electric instruments, and is more timeless because of this.

In fact, I think the Shirley Collins / Albion Band era might just prove to be more long-lasting in the end. It's only their tapes that I have ever taught myself songs from. The Steeleye stuff still tends to bend the tunes etc. a lot more.

I think it's faily clear that Ashley Hutchings was interested in folk music before Fairport. Here are some useful early details

Ashley Hutchings started his musical life as a fan of skiffle, a highly rhythmic British answer to American folk and R&B, played at its most basic level on acoustic guitars, washtub bass, and washboard percussion, which became popular in England in the middle and late '50s. He also had an appreciation for "trad," a British form of Dixieland jazz that had become popular in Britain at the beginning of the 1950s. He listened to a lot of early English and American rock & roll, but by the early '60s had developed a deep and abiding love for folk music as well. He began singing and playing bass in a skiffle band, and later graduated from the washtub version of the instrument to a proper upright bass.

In 1966, he formed the Ethnic Shuffle Orchestra with Simon Nicol (guitar), Steve Airey (guitar), and Bryan King (washboard), which played a mixture of English skiffle, American R&B, and folk music from the British Isles. Their work together led Hutchings -- who was known then as "Tyger," a nickname he'd picked up because of his aggressiveness on the football field -- and Nicol, and new colleague Richard Thompson to form Fairport Convention in 1967, with Martin Lamble (succeeded, after his death in a car crash, by Dave Mattacks) and Judy Dyble (later replaced by Sandy Denny) added to the line-up. Fairport Convention performed a similar mix of traditional English folk, original songs, and American singer/songwriter material. After three albums structured along those lines, the band recorded Liege and Lief, a record drawn largely from traditional folk material. When it became clear to Hutchings, however, that future albums would include far more original material, he exited the line-up and began organizing a new band, Steeleye Span.


:-)
Ian


01 Feb 05 - 04:30 AM (#1395368)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: Teresa

Thank you, IanC. I think you nailed the reason I tend to listen to more steeleye. Again, not saying one is "better" than the other.

Teresa


01 Feb 05 - 05:29 AM (#1395395)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: red max

Some good points here, thanks. Let me repeat, I don't want to compare the merits of the bands, it was just the contrast in people's attitudes towards them that puzzled me

Nerd makes an interesting point about Steeleye perhaps not trying as hard. On the face of it they're hardly putting a foot wrong: They Called Her Babylon was a very strong album, and the gig I saw on the Winter tour was very enjoyable. BUT the theatre was half empty! I gather Fairport's last appearance at the same venue sold out completely. They're obviously doing something right, and I strongly suspect Cropredy has really galvanised their fanbase. Steeleye fans don't even have a website to visit!

About the trad aspect, would it be helpful to specify British/Irish trad here? Wasn't Liege & Lief advertised as "the first British folk rock album"? I don't think Fairport have recorded what could be termed a "trad" album since Tipplers Tales, a fact that probably emphasises Swarb's influence. As has been pointed out, Steeleye were pretty much formed around Ashley's desire to play traditional music, and as it gave them such huge success I guess they feel a stronger affinity to it than Fairport


01 Feb 05 - 07:37 AM (#1395462)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: SarahNash

Possibly the fact that Fairport have their own festival as a platform for their music, whereas Steeleye haven't really been a full time band since the 80s?

Both have made albums I like and albums I don't, but I've noticed that Fairport put themselves in the public eye considerably more.


01 Feb 05 - 08:07 AM (#1395483)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: John Routledge

In my younger life everything had to have a pigeon hole so Steeleye were "Folk" and Fairport were "Rock" :0)

So I listened to almost no Fairport.

My loss I think.


01 Feb 05 - 09:52 AM (#1395601)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: Merina

Marketing. Great over-generalisation but a lot of Fairport's continued following rests on rousing the troops at the annual Cropredy beer picnic. Having not had a great or charismatic singer since the early 1970s, they've successfully gone for the beery blokes. It's basically pub rock meets rugby club with jigs'n'reels, and they've built a significant community out of that audience. Steeleye never had that marketing drive. Neither band have musically produced much of real significance since their innovative years when they were hungry and motivated, but as barnetfolkbabe said, Fairport have definitely been much better at keeping in the public eye. And as somebody else said, since SS were considered 'folk' and FC 'rock', the latter have been helped more by the rock nostagia press too.


01 Feb 05 - 12:54 PM (#1395807)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: McGrath of Harlow

I don't think you'd explain the Beatles or the Rolling Stones by saying "they were involved in traditional music."

I would actually. That's what made the differenc e.


01 Feb 05 - 01:32 PM (#1395836)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: The Borchester Echo

Well, Nerd, I can only repeat what Ashley told me about his early musical influences as I didn't - as you point out - meet him till 1969. OTOH, the writers of all the bios you've been reading could just have been making it up as they went along. Or just didn't ask the right questions...

True, Ashley might, after all, have been lying through his teeth when he spoke with vast knowledge and great affection about the English tradition which had interested him for some years. But it didn't sound like it. He was particularly annoyed at those who just assumed that Fairport's embracing of English traditional music was down to Swarb and Sandy.   And that love of the music has never left him. I don't pretend to like everything he has done because some of it didn't really work but I admire his tenacity and perseverence.


01 Feb 05 - 02:43 PM (#1395916)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: Nerd

McGrath,

yup. That would make the difference alright :-)

countessrichard,

if you judge by all the recorded output of every band and demo tape Ashley was involved with before 1968, you will see little evidence of any interest in traditional English song. An interview I had with him in 1996 suggested essentially the same thing (for I too have met all these folks or in Ashley's case, spoken on the phone), as does the direct quote from Ashley in the Hinton and Wall biography putting his interest in the folk tradition still in the future in early 1968, and everything else that has been published. His influences and interests were Blues first of all and then Americana in all forms. As McGrath says, some of it was traditional music, so I must concede that point! But it was not English folk music; it was the same traditional music all British rock bands were starting from, and does nothing to suggest Fairport's future direction.

I don't think Ashley was "lying through his teeth," if he did indeed profess a long-time love of English folk song in 1969, but I do think at nineteen one tends to exaggerate and say "I've been interested in this for a very long time" when in fact you mean about a year, which would have been right when you met him. Especially if you're trying to look serious to an impressive full-time employee the EFDSS! It's similar to RT: when they were doing publicity for Liege and Lief it was natural to emphasize whatever traditional influences he had had--primarly, as I said, his dad's Jimmy Shands. But he doesn't emphasize that nowadays when talking about his early influences.

IanC, as I said, "skiffle" was an interpretation put on the Ethnic Shuffle Orchestra by music journalists; Ashley himself says it was a jug band and is quite clear on influences like Cannon's Jug Stompers. I've never seen much evidence apart from your quote that they played "folk music from the British Isles," though I have seen that article before. Indeed, it was written by my colleague Bruce Eder from New York, for a book of which I was one of the editors! (Too bad I didn't catch it then--but I never noticed the paucity of references to Skiffle in Ashley's own statements until looking through them for this thread!) I think some reviewers, including me, have assumed ESO was a "skiffle band," and then put their generic expectations of skiffle onto it. Ashley called it a jug band, though he certainly knew about skiffle too.


01 Feb 05 - 03:36 PM (#1395987)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: The Borchester Echo

an impressive full-time employee (of) the EFDSS

Moi?

Ashley is exactly the same age as I am. In 1969 we were 24.


01 Feb 05 - 03:44 PM (#1395992)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: red max

"they've successfully gone for the beery blokes. It's basically pub rock"

A little like Lindisfarne, perhaps?


01 Feb 05 - 03:53 PM (#1396002)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: Phil Cooper

I'm fond of both Fairport and Steeleye. Especially the trad oriented work. Fairport had better songwriters for their contemporary songs. The original workings of Steeleye Span didn't do much for me. What I particularly liked about fairport was the fact that they knew how to play electric instruments when they went into their traditional experiments. I liked what Steeleye Span did in that respect as well. Some of the bands that followed, I felt, plugged in before they really knew what they were doing.

Case in point, in my opinion, was the first Five Hand Reel recording. I love the recording, don't get me wrong. But, I don't think they had quite all the nuances down that electric instruments were capable of. I recently got the CD version of Liege & Lief and was reminded of how great a recording that is. As far as Steeleye goes, the records you can't touch for quality are anything in the early Carthy line up through Commoners Crown. Below the Salt and Parcel of Rogues are particular favorites.


01 Feb 05 - 04:38 PM (#1396040)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: Nerd

Ah, he was older than I thought in 1969! But that doesn't mean you aren't impressive, countess richard :-)


01 Feb 05 - 06:12 PM (#1396141)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: Bobert

Hey, I know that I ain't 'sposed to say who I like the most so I won't but, IMHO, Fairport Convention's songs seem more interesting, better written and their songs & harmonies more memorable. Now if someone wants to equate that with respect, fine...

Like I said, IMHO...

Bobert


02 Feb 05 - 06:24 AM (#1396688)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: GUEST,Wolfgang

I also prefer Steeleye when it comes to the small island choice, but like many of my music tastes this could change next decade.

Wolfgang


02 Feb 05 - 09:01 AM (#1396731)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: GUEST,Dáithí Ó Geanainn

Well I get a chance to update my opinion of fairport ....they're playing my town (Lincoln)tomorrow night, so will be interesting to hearwhat they're doing nowadays. (Promoting a new album, for one thing).
Meanwhile, I'm still in love with Maddy Prior's voice anyway..her album about the wheel of the year a cupla years ago was excellent.
Dáith


29 May 07 - 10:10 PM (#2063694)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: sleepy jim

I agree that what helps Fairport is their annual bash in North Oxon and i understand Steeleye are having their own annual bash towards the end of July (this year 2007)so perhaps they understand the value of the annual pilgrimage for the devotees. No one has really mentioned that Fairport produced Richard Thompson - one of our most talented musicians - and he still sort of "belongs" to Fairport as he turns every couple of years at Cropredy. i dont think Steeleye have produced anyone of a similar ilk but then not many bands have someone who can at the same time rank alongside Dylan as a songwriter and Clapton as a guitarist ?


30 May 07 - 10:02 AM (#2063993)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: Bee

I like both bands, they get equal listening time, pretty much. All of the above opinions and information are interesting. But here's a little quirk: it took me ages to even listen to Steeleye Span, because I had their name firmly mixed up with Steely Dan, which band I did not like.


30 May 07 - 11:27 AM (#2064076)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: greg stephens

My knowledge of both band lies in the future(except for All Around my Hat and Si Tu Vois Partir).Folk rock never attracted my attention at the time, so I think it's time I bought a couple of CDs and had a listen to them. Which one most represents each band, would you say? Then I could have a little study of the subject.


30 May 07 - 11:50 AM (#2064102)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: IanC

Greg

Fairport - no doubt - Leige & Leif
Steeleye - could be any of half a dozen ... Rocket Cottage? ... Original Masters might be a good place.

:-)
Ian


31 May 07 - 07:58 AM (#2064796)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: Folk Form # 1

I call Steeleye Span, Fairport Convention and the Albions the Holy Trinity of English Folk Rock; so I see them all as equally good.


31 May 07 - 11:19 AM (#2064953)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: GUEST,baz parkes

Interesting question Greg

I think the "which steeleye" question is much harder to answer than the which fairport. I think after the sad loss of Sandy, there evolved a "generic" Fairport sound...which is a good one.

Carthy Steeleye is very different from Kirkpatrick Seeleye is very different from....and they're all good ones.

I do believe Bob Johnson to be one of the most underrated guitarists in this field though

Baz

Donning false beard disguise and ducking behind parapet....


31 May 07 - 12:52 PM (#2065023)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: Geordie-Peorgie

Quite right Baz!

Bob Johnson IS a superb guitarist and VASTLY underrated.

Peter Knight is also (IMHO) every bit as fine a fiddle player as Swarb

But..... They are both great bands who, over the years, have produced some superb music

I love 'em both!


31 May 07 - 02:11 PM (#2065087)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: Ruth Archer

"Pity them what see him suffer
Pit poor old Steely Dan..."

Nope - doesn't work quite so well.


31 May 07 - 02:25 PM (#2065095)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: The Borchester Echo

I went to get my SS pics out of the drawer in the newspaper's art department (this was 1971 and digital cameras hadn't actually been invented) and found them not there.

Turns out somebody had filed them under Steel Ice Band.


31 May 07 - 02:39 PM (#2065104)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: GUEST,Spidey Bobe

And I played in 2 bands with [Steve Airey (guitar)] and am still in touch with him today!


31 May 07 - 02:42 PM (#2065108)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: The Borchester Echo

Yes, well we can all play Airey Guitar and it often sounds better than the real thing, especially when it's a blue Telecaster sans pickup.


31 May 07 - 03:44 PM (#2065151)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: GUEST,Mr. Gubbins (no not that one!)

*Ashley Hutchings started his musical life as a fan of skiffle, a highly rhythmic British answer to American folk and R&B, played at its most basic level on acoustic guitars, washtub bass, and washboard percussion, which became popular in England in the middle and late '50s. He also had an appreciation for "trad," a British form of Dixieland jazz that had become popular in Britain at the beginning of the 1950s. He listened to a lot of early English and American rock & roll, but by the early '60s had developed a deep and abiding love for folk music as well. He began singing and playing bass in a skiffle band, and later graduated from the washtub version of the instrument to a proper upright bass.

In 1966, he formed the Ethnic Shuffle Orchestra with Simon Nicol (guitar), Steve Airey (guitar), and Bryan King (washboard), which played a mixture of English skiffle, American R&B, and folk music from the British Isles. Their work together led Hutchings -- who was known then as "Tyger," a nickname he'd picked up because of his aggressiveness on the football field -- and Nicol, and new colleague Richard Thompson to form Fairport Convention in 1967, with Martin Lamble (succeeded, after his death in a car crash, by Dave Mattacks) and Judy Dyble (later replaced by Sandy Denny) added to the line-up. Fairport Convention performed a similar mix of traditional English folk, original songs, and American singer/songwriter material. After three albums structured along those lines, the band recorded Liege and Lief, a record drawn largely from traditional folk material. When it became clear to Hutchings, however, that future albums would include far more original material, he exited the line-up and began organizing a new band, Steeleye Span.*

Rather odd that this account doesn't include Mr Hutchings' time with Dr. K's Blues Band, of which,I believe, he was a founding member.


31 May 07 - 05:20 PM (#2065226)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: GUEST,Shimrod

There are many reasons why Folk Music is my favourite musical form but there was a time (a Golden Age?) when I could say it was because it didn't contain all this bollocks about 'bands' and 'guitar heroes' (yawnnnn!!!!) etc., etc. ... then along came Fairport, Steeleye et. al., and I had to tick that one off the list ... oh dear!


31 May 07 - 05:48 PM (#2065246)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: BanjoRay

I agree Shimrod. It was all the folk rock that made me concentrate on American Old Time - the guys in the US still play good stuff like their grandfathers used to.
Ray


31 May 07 - 06:28 PM (#2065286)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: ClaireBear

I am coming rather late to this conversation, but when these bands first became known to me in California -- which would have been about 1969, I think -- I rushed out to acquire everything I could from Fairport and from my third member of the holy trinity, Pentangle. (Didn't discover Ashley Hutchings until years later.) Steeleye Span I liked very much too, but I never got around to rushing out to buy any Steeleye records, though I happily listened to them when someone else put them on.

The reason, I've always thought, is that I saw what both Fairport and Pentangle did as "fusion" -- of folk and rock in Fairport's case, folk and jazz in Pentangle's.

I found this fusion, an entirely new concept to me at the time, deeply stimulating and conceptually more interesting than SS's music, which it seemed to me was performed in straight folk style and just happened to have some electric instrumentation in the background. Steeleye didn't "challenge" me the same way the fusion bands did. I listened to them more for source, background, and singalong material rather than for intellectual stimulation.

So I guess what I'm saying is that I found the fusion style more innovative and transformative of my own budding musical style than the electrified folk of SS. But again, let me stress that I think I liked all three bands equally, if in different ways.

My two cents...

Claire (ducking and covering)


31 May 07 - 06:37 PM (#2065290)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: The Borchester Echo

But Ashley Hutchings founded both Fairport and Steeleye.
How come you didn't 'discover' him till years later?


31 May 07 - 08:27 PM (#2065359)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: ClaireBear

Because I live in California, where it was difficult to get independent recordings back in 1969 -- also I was a teenager at the time, and not as diligent as I am now at researching whose energy devised the music to which I listen.

As I recall, I was able to get Fairport and Pentangle LPs from the big Tower Records in San Francisco at that time, but there was no "British Isles" section back then to rummage through for other related works. Honestly, had there been such a section, I doubt that much would have been available in it.

Most of my then acquaintance with the music came from two or three very alt radio stations that were available to me at that time: KFAT (see the Laura Ellen obit posted on Mudcat yesterday), KSJO (now mainstream, but at first owned and operated by three young men who each took 8-hour shifts every day and played a wild mish-mash of whatever the heck they wanted), and tiny KTAO in my home town of Los Gatos. All three were noncommercial independent stations with eclectic recording collections -- but none of them had Hutchings except in the context of the aforementioned bands.


31 May 07 - 08:43 PM (#2065371)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: Severn

One thing I seldom hear mentioned much, is that Dave Mattacks, to me at least, is the first person I ever heard on either side of The Pond that ever found a way make a drum kit fit into a UK or US Folk context and make them sound like they actually belonged there and felt relatively at home (other than in some dance oriented traditional contexts). Drums tacked on to a Bluegrass or folk recording by a producer who seemed to be on some sort of misguided attempt to make the music sound more "commercially appealing" usually made me cringe, i.e. the later Flatt & Scruggs recordings. "Liege" & "Full House" era Fairport (actually encountered in reverse order after a year's exile in Vietmam)made me say to myself, "That's cool!", while I thought that, while they'd used an occaisional session player on their first album, Steeleye was doing just fine before they added the full time drummer for "Now We Are Six" and that their rhythm section sounded a bit on the overly bouncy side a lot of the time, and a bit of a distraction. Mattacks could find ways to add to things beyond merely keeping time and even in later times could make something like "Polly On The Shore" sound like something that I'd have rather heard behind Steeleye's vocal prowess that what they had going, for the most part.
The flexibility of the Fairport rhythm section was a secret weapon for them apart from the ever changing parade of singers, songwriters and lead virtuosoty on guitar and fiddle.


31 May 07 - 10:48 PM (#2065434)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: GUEST,van lingle

This is yet another reason that we need a Trad/Rock playoff.The bowl system soesn't seem to be working. Fairport by 11&1/2 in IMO.


01 Jun 07 - 12:13 PM (#2065788)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: GUEST,Mr. Gubbins (no not that one!)

For Trad/Rock try Twangin'an 'a Traddin'by The Ashley Hutchings Big Beat Combo, it's more than a novelty record...


11 Jul 13 - 04:07 PM (#3536431)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: GUEST

Hiya,

I love both Steeleye & more recently Pentangle.
As to Steeleye v FC – Dad always preferred the former, so did I. They were played loads; I never seemed to hear any Fairport. Dad was crying during Steeleye's last gig, he hardly ever cries . We can't imagine living in a world w/o said band, although one day we're going to have to. I could talk about them all day. I friggin love 'em.

I don't care about them having no website cos there's various ways to find out which dates are near me; nor am I bothered whether the venues are half empty as long as I can get there, w/ whoever wants to come w/ me (people don't exactly queue up) it's actually a lot easier for me to get to ½ empty venues cos there's more chance of a wheelchair space. I would've liked the Spanorak (hoody) though. If they had merchandise I'd be skint.

I agree – heard Maddy's hare song as a little girl & cos she said "I" I thought she was referring to herself. Was always in awe of/in love w/ her voice (& perhaps her as well) & when I met her I shook like a leaf.


11 Jul 13 - 06:15 PM (#3536475)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?There was
From: GUEST,mayomick

I don't think the original post was asking people to rate the bands against each other rather than explain why the response to the two groups was so different. There were rival camps between fans of the two groups. The Fairport fans I knew in seventies England were studenty types who tended to be slightly condescending towards both Steeleye and their fans. Fairport were esoteric and underground - often "appreciated" more than enjoyed . Steeleye was played on the radio - so it was folk-pop versus Fairport's folk-rock. I doubt if any of this fan rivalry came from the musicians.

I don't think I could listen to Fairport much these days , and you never hear them played anywhere, do you? I heard All Round My Hat on the radio two weeks ago and it sounded very fresh .


12 Jul 13 - 03:57 PM (#3536804)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: GUEST

Hiya,

Well, Steeleye got me into Pratchett cos of hearing their songs about his books, I've made good friends (mostly online) – & found this place – through my love of said band, they cheer me up when I should need it, & (so far) I've never been led wrong by them. They're also a good deterrent for really annoying people.

I'm told that they were seen as a bit of a joke in the '70s, but a lot of people think my taste is a bit odd anyway, & the older I get, the less I care.


13 Jul 13 - 05:22 AM (#3536942)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: GUEST,eldergirl

Listened to Fairport's "Tam Lin" a few months ago for first time in Ages. Was horrified. All those instrumental breaks getting in the story's way! And I used to love that track. Hearing Frankie Armstrong's version some years later has maybe spoiled me for any folk-rock versions. A ballad is a story. Still love Sandy's voice tho. And I always loved Steeleye's "Thomas the Rhymer". It just works..


13 Jul 13 - 02:36 PM (#3537061)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: Claire M

Hiya,

I love that too. & 'Tam Lin' is a favourite, both story & song. One makes me think of the other, & I was overjoyed to get a fairy tale book one Xmas that used the old-fashioned language & versions of the tales. I was disappointed Maddy didn't say "where came ye from?" to me. I still melt away thinking about said gig.

Had Dad been as into FC as much as/more than SS I would've probably preferred them. Since I was little, when/if I had a favourite of anything – as I generally did -- similar stuff was never as good (this has changed somewhat w/ hitting 30 & finding Pentangle – nearly didn't notice 'Solomon's Seal' [1] cos it looked so plain, which would've been a real shame; it's unbebloodybefrigginglievable.

As for SS; occasionally look at the fan websites (& contribute to one) & I've got their tour alerts on ents24 but it'd still be nice to have an official website w/ shiny stuff & like-minded people cos there seems to be one for everything else – perhaps they don't have one cos soon they won't need it, or don't try as hard cos as FC there's no need to ?? Please no....owh I've upset meself now.)

I'm a jewellery fiend so some would be nice w/ their logo/something to do w/ their songs.

[1] Oh dear, that sounded wrong. Oh no, a footnote.........


13 Jul 13 - 05:05 PM (#3537100)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: MGM·Lion

Steeleye Span had a name taken from a traditional song {Horkstow Grange}. & were yer actchul folk group ~~ i.e a group which sang traditional songs and played traditional dances, more or less straightforwardly, except that they used electric backing; and occasionally went in for some creative collation, as in combining three different but topically-related songs to make a rather fine IMO track of Weaver & Factory Maid; &, less successfully, for some reason singing the words of Farewell He to the tune of All Round My Hat, which I always found profoundly irritating {I mean ~~ WHY?}, but underlined the taste of the fine old pop-listening public by hitting the charts. Oh, well!...

Fairport Convention, OTOH, had a name which communicated zilch SFAICS (what sort of "Convention" would that have been then?), & were an indifferent (to my ears - but I admit I was never much into yer·ole·rock'n'roll) rock group who played a few jigs'n'reels for no reason particularly apparent to me, & sang mainly rather boring self-composed songs, with one or two traditional ones included, as I felt, a bit ½-♥-edly & absent-mindedly, interrupting them in the middle with apparently improvised show-offy instrumental interludes ['breaks', I think they are called with some appropriateness] of such tedium & interminability that by the time they were over one had forgotten what the bloody song was about — an odd habit which worked much to the detriment of a few initially quite promising soundalike groups who formed in their wake, e.g Trees, who however could never quite shake off this particular irritating compulsion, apparently feeling it was somehow expected of them as a soi-disant folk-rock group.

I think it obvious where my preferences lay.

~M~


14 Jul 13 - 09:49 AM (#3537264)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: Claire M

Hiya,

It's not as if I didn't have a say in what I listened to, far from it; in actual fact dad says it was me that wore that SS tape out cos I kept asking for it on.

I didn't know who the character they were named after was or why they were called that, I just thought they'd got a funny name. I did try listening to FC on one of dad's compilations but felt nothing; FC didn't seem as nasty (song-wise) unlike w/ SS I couldn't imagine them drinking out of crystal goblets in their little cave, saying ridiculously polite old-fashioned things to each other, or shape-shifting. 'Lyke Wake Dirge' reminded me of my beloved 'Gaudete'.

As for singing 'Farewell He' to 'All Around My Hat' now that I think about it that actually sounds quite sensible – of course we wouldn't use those terms now but a little bit of reason & sense go a long way.


15 Jul 13 - 07:31 AM (#3537592)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: GUEST,Spleen Cringe

Steeleye Span for me, but only really the first three albums (minus the rubbish Buddy Holly cover). The arrangements are rawer and more unorthodox, though Fc are probably the better conventional rock band. Some of the guitar playing on early Steeleye Span is almost like the Velvet Underground, which is a good thing in my book. Neither band are as good as Pentangle or Mr Fox, though...

The main problem with the overall Fairport/Steeleye/Albions sound is that it inadvertantly set incredibly limited parameters for how folk rock should sound now. It's an increasingly self-referential sub-genre that, with a very few notable exceptions, desperately needs to get out more. Essentially it's caberet.


15 Jul 13 - 07:39 AM (#3537597)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: GUEST

Any band with M Carthy in it is good enough for me...


15 Jul 13 - 07:53 AM (#3537601)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: Andrez

Oi'll drink ter dat Guest!

Cheers,

Andrez


15 Jul 13 - 08:18 AM (#3537608)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: GUEST

Totally agree with Spleen Cringe regarding the first three Steeleye albums - to be pedantic though, 'Rave On' doesn't appear on the original 'Please To See The King' album, only on reissues.

I only really like the early Fairport stuff mind. I think the largely non folky 'What We Did on Our Holidays' is something of a gem.


15 Jul 13 - 09:06 AM (#3537620)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: RTim

I have never like Steeleye, mainly because I don't like Maddy's voice! However, I may be baised because I know some of Fairport as friends!!!

Tim Radford


15 Jul 13 - 10:08 AM (#3537649)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: MGM·Lion

Oddly, I was just going to say that it was Maddy's superb voice that really gave Steeleye its edge -- infinitely better than McShee or Denny or Humphriss or Pegg. So - no accounting, as the Wisdom hath it.

~M~


15 Jul 13 - 12:36 PM (#3537716)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: Claire M

Hiya,

& when I've seen SS live they seemed to rock their songs up more, which was/is great.


15 Jul 13 - 12:56 PM (#3537727)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: MGM·Lion

Oh, indeed ~~ Steeleye have always done a lovely live gig, with creative costuming & Maddy's basic but effective [& infectious!] dance!

~M~


15 Jul 13 - 04:05 PM (#3537812)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: Edthefolkie

I have equal respect for them both, but I've always loved Fairport, from the first time I heard them on Peel's show around 1968. There is genuine greatness, joy and tragedy which is inseparable from the band - we old folks doddering around Cropredy with 6X in one hand and adjusting our hearing aids with the other know this.

Someone said Fairport had succeeded through marketing to the beery blokes. MARKETING? Fairport? Are you kidding? Any success they've had is in spite of marketing. Mind you they did discover mailing lists around 1979, which helped a bit.

Alleged marketing success is far more relevant to Steeleye - for God's sake they had Jo Lustig for a manager! To steal a few lines from my old classmate Richard Williams -

"One day (Lustig's) sceptical Yiddish mother asked him what it was, exactly, that he did for a living. Well, mom, he said, people pay me to get their names and addresses into the newspapers and on to the radio. "You get people's names and addresses into the newspapers and on to the radio?" Yes, mom. "And you get paid for it?" That's right, mom. "Who pays you? The newspapers and radio?" No, mom, the people pay me. "And their names go in the newspapers and radio, because you ask?" Yes, mom. "So what are you, such a big shot?""

Then of course, Steeleye also had Mike Batt as a producer.....

Michael asks "what sort of Convention would that be then?"
Around the mid 1960s an assorted bunch of young musicians convened in a house called Fairport, at the corner of Fortis Green Road in Muswell Hill. That's the sort of convention it was. A musical one.


15 Jul 13 - 07:15 PM (#3537887)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: Phil Edwards

The first three are good, but it's Steeleye albums 4 and 5 for me - say what you like about MC and the Woodseses, for me Prior/Hart/Knight/Kemp/Johnson will always be the lineup. No drummer on any of those first five albums, which may be relevant - the 70s folk-rock rhythm section is a dreadful thing.

As for Fairport, speaking as a child of the 70s, I never got into the singer-songwriter end of folk-rock back then (with the partial exception of Pentangle's original compositions), and I'm not likely to now. (In the 70s I was a fan of Roxy Music, Slapp Happy and Faust, and I wanted folkie strummers to do something more interesting with their material - more lyrically complex, more texturally abrasive, less obvious. These days I'm a fan of P. Bellamy, R. Copper and F. J. Child, and I want the strummers to stop messing about and get back to the old songs - it's not as if there's any shortage. (When did you last hear a False Foudrage?))

I'll take Jacqui McShee over Maddy Prior, I think; her voice is more controlled and less mannered. But June Tabor or Norma W over either of them.


15 Jul 13 - 07:39 PM (#3537892)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: GUEST,Gerry

Phil, Brian Peters, who sometimes posts here, did a fine recording of False Foudrage. There's some discussion at http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=73959


15 Jul 13 - 07:56 PM (#3537894)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: Steve Shaw

Flippin' 'eck, The, you're far too old to get into that spurious comparison malarkey, innit! Maddy Prior and Sandy Denny both have/had voices that are out of this world, given the right material. Vive le difference, say I.

As for June Tabor, she does grim better than anyone. Sometimes I like grim. But not that much.

By the way, one of the very best Steeleye efforts (for 'twas that in all but name) was "My Very Favourite Nursery Rhyme Record" which actually went under the guise of Tim Hart And Friends. It was the soundtrack of my two kids' childhood and it's utterly, unaffectedly, uncondescendingly fabulous! Buy this for your kids and they'll love you for it forever. Mine are in their 30s now and they wouldn't be without their copies. Or just buy it!


16 Jul 13 - 12:08 AM (#3537934)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: GUEST

My very ofavourite nusery record was also followed by a video release. Amusing to see martin carthy singing the man in the moon.


16 Jul 13 - 04:46 AM (#3537962)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: melodeonboy

Slight thread drift (I'm good at that!), but I'd rather listen to Shirley Collins singing than either Denny or Prior.
(No slur intended against either of them, mind; I interviewed Maddy for my radio programme some years ago, and she's a charming lady!)


16 Jul 13 - 05:26 AM (#3537969)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: Tootler

We had the Hart/Prior nursery fhyme album. I loved it . My daughters didn't.


16 Jul 13 - 01:20 PM (#3538127)
Subject: RE: Fairport/Steeleye - unequal respect?
From: Claire M

Hiya,

I'll take both, Phil.

I've never liked 'Rave On', probably cos I've never liked the original . I've always loved Tim's dreary voice, same w/ Maddy's , but I wouldn't want the Nursery Rhyme Record – no children :. no need – perhaps if mum/dad had had it things would've been different.

One thing that has always puzzled me re SS is why Maddy sings a couple of songs w/o changing the pronouns, like 'The Bonny Black Hare' (she seems to enjoy that one, as do I)

That said a little Claire M happily sang "those women will fret, those women will fuss, they spend 5hrs before their glass....." w/o seeing anything strange.

As odd as it makes 'The Bonny Black Hare' sounds it doesn't stop me wishing I was a character in said song though. Ooh!