Thursday, 10 October 2013

Judy Dyble's creativity keeps flowing

For four decades now, Fairport Convention have been one of the most iconic folk-rock bands on the British music scene. In their 46 years they have had 25 different members.

Judy Dyble
Arguably, their greatest success came when the already established singer/songwriter Sandy Denny joined the band. 

However, before Denny joined, there was another female vocalist in the group. Judy Dyble was among one of the founding members of Fairport and featured on their hugely acclaimed debut album, 1968's Fairport Convention.

Judy recalls that it was an organic formation. "I'd known Ashley and Simon and Richard for, I suppose, about a year before Fairport was born. Ashley was always organizing bands of one sort or another; he had his little black book full of different musicians to pull together. Every now and again if they wanted a folk thing, because I played autoharp and had a bit of a repotoir of songs, he'd drag me in. So I was kind of on the edge of all the bands, I was going out with Richard at the time. We were both doing our A Levels, I think."

"They kind of got Fairport together and none of them really wanted to sing so they kind of asked me as the nearest singer if I would sing with them", she laughs. "It was quite a good name for a band, we thought.The funny thing is, if somebody invents a name like Fairport Convention in a book or on a film, it would sound ridiculously stupid, wouldn't it? Naff. But if a band uses it as a name, it becomes 'proper'." 

Like many of the bands around in the late 60's Fairport's live shows consisted largely of songs that went on much longer than the recorded version. But before the choreographed dance routines of Madonna, or the spontaneous twirls of Stevie Nicks, Dyble had her own way of gaining attention from the audience during the music breaks- namely, knitting whilst waiting to sing again. "They used to do these long breaks, improvising and doing a lot of stuff, and it's very hard to just stand there, waiting for the finish. I had these huge knitting needles and I thought I'll just do some knitting, though I can't knit- I never could knit and I will never be able to knit, so I used to just do Eiffel Towers and dishcloths. It wasn't that I didn't care about the music, it was just something to do. You can't gaze soulfully at everybody for 20 minutes- it gets a bit silly! I think at the Speak Easy, when Jimi Hendrix would get up and play, he'd get up and play with anybody who was there because he just loved playing, and off I'd go."

After a short stay in the band, she recorded with members of what went onto be the prog super-group King Crimson. She then went on to form the folk duo Trader Horne with Jackie McAuley, the former keyboardist for Them; but after one album, 1969's Morning Way, Dyble moved on once again.

"Fairport asked me to leave, they thought I wasn't a strong enough singer. So having been told that at quite an impressionable age, I joined other bands and thought 'well, it's been successful and I don't want to get thrown out again, so I'll leave'. I think that must have been the psychological thing behind it."

"Certainly, when I met up with Ian McDonald and Giles, Giles and Fripp, that was, kind of I suppose, behind it. I loved working with them. Giles, Giles were quite strange, I have to say. They were lovely, you know but I couldn't quite see where they were going to go. And then after I left of course and Pete Giles left they turned into King Crimson. They used to do some of the songs that I had brought with me. I had introduced Robert (Fripp) to Judy Collins. I think he still plays her stuff when he needs something to calm him down or whatever, so it's quite nice to know that what I brought with me to them is still useful."

"And then Trader Horne... that's another one, you see. That's kind of at the end of my tether; Jack and I were being worked really hard. In those days, gigs were kind of like: you were in Southampton one day and Peterborough the next, and then Scotland... there was not really any time to untangle. I was going through an emotional thing with someone at the time, and I just ran away- like you do, haha."

Trader Horne's album Morning Way was a critical smash, however, it did not fare so well commercially as Judy's work with Fairport Convention. "It's quite funny because people email me and say 'do you know your Trader Horne album's just sold for four-hundred quid?' and I think it's only done that because nobody bought it in the first place!" 

Soon after this era, Dyble retired from music for 35 years, leading a normal life for the most part, although she did keep her hand in music, doing small tours with various people. "I worked for Shelter music, which was set up for writers to give the copyrights of a song to Shelter. If the song was a success, Shelter would always give them the royalties. Then I started having a family. Once you stop going on the road and being in bands, it kind of leaves you behind. So I used to go and watch Fairport every now and again and think 'oh, I used to be in them!'- it was very strange."

"And I did that until 1994 when my husband died and went back to working in a library. The children moved out and went to university so it was a good time for me to start singing again, I think."

Dyble's first solo album, Enchanted Garden, was released in 2004. Two more albums, Spindle and The Whorl, followed two years later. In 2009, Talking with Strangers was released to massive critical acclaim. It featured several members of King Crimson and also the lead singer from All About Eve.

This July saw the release of Judy's latest solo effort, Flow and Change. Including songs that invoke memories of youth but also tell tales of growing old gracefully, the critics have once again been bigging up her latest release.

Flow and Change also sees Dyble teaming up with Alistair Murphy (The Curator). "I was talking to Tim Bowness (No-Man) via Myspace and saying that I wanted to do something different with the new songs I'd written. He'd said that he thought his friend Alistair might be keen to record and work with him and me. Everything I've done has been kind of done via the internet with Alistair coming to record my vocals, then taking them away adding to everything else that he adds in. He's done a lot of the musical side of it. I really like the stuff I'm doing now because it's all me."

"We did record another three songs, but they didn't quite fit. I'm not sure what we're going to do with them, but something will happen to them."

Flow and Change, Judy Dyble's latest album
Although still recording, Dyble, 64, does not see herself hitting the road full-time again. "I don't really enjoy doing live gigs. I haven't done them regularly for years and years. Plus, I have rheumatoid arthritis and emphysema so those two things make it quite hard to travel far. But I'm quite happy just to do occasional gigs because it's quite hard work, touring. I think you've got to be either mega-fit or mega-hungry to do it, I don't think I'm hungry enough to do it", she laughs.

By James Nuttall

Thanks to Judy Dyble for her time.

Judy's official website.
Judy Dyble's music can be purchased here.
Trader Horne's Morning Way can be purchased here.
Fairport Convention can be purchased here.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Patti Smith speaks out against Margaret Thatcher's funeral expenses and plans second memoir

 Godmother of Punk, Patti Smith, returned to Britain last month for three intimate acoustic performances in the North of England. 

Speaking to her backstage at Burnley Mechanics before her first show, coincidentally the same day as Margaret Thatcher’s funeral, Smith spoke of her disgust at the amount of money that was spent on the funeral in relation to all of the government cuts.

“I think it’s terrible… terrible”, she begins. “It doesn’t matter who it is that they were honouring. It doesn’t matter whether it was Martin Luther King. I don’t think Martin Luther King, or anyone who cares about the people, would have wanted to see a government spend £10m in their name.”

“The people, in the end, are paying for that. Anyone who is there for the people would not want all of that money spent on anything but the people. Especially in these times; we have such difficult economic times. To take away from children’s education or the arts, which are so important. Ten million pounds could take care of a lot of things… it is such poor judgement, I think.”

“There are so many ways to honour the dead. If she is beloved by some people, then let them remember her in their daily lives. I just think it’s wrong.”

Smith is famous for her outspoken views and political activism. In her documentary film, ‘Dream of Life’, she famously indicted George W. Bush for “… squandering a vast federal surplus, while giving tax breaks to the rich.”

None the less, Smith believes that such a grand funeral would not have taken place in her native America. “I can’t imagine that. The grandest funeral I can remember was the Kennedy funeral. It was beautiful, but it wasn’t opulent. They had a black coach and a horse and four, like Abraham Lincoln did, and the family walked behind.”

“I know that, for instance, Mother Theresa wouldn’t allow the Nobel Prize people to throw a party in her honour. She wanted the money they would spend on the party to go to the people. It just seems like common sense to me.” 

In other news, Smith, who won the National Book Award for non fiction with her 2010 memoir 'Just Kids', which documents her life with Robert Mapplethorpe, is planning another book. 'It's [set in] more or less the same time frame, although it sort of bleeds into the early 80's. But it's not centered on Robert. 'Just Kids', I wrote for Robert; he asked me to write it and it was really filtered through my relationship with Robert and Robert's evolution as an artist.'

'This one would be, perhaps, more autobiographical and have more to do with the evolution of the records, performance and, really, what I did in life. But it would be in the same time frame.'

James Nuttall
Photographs from Facebook

Saturday, 19 January 2013

T'Pau Back For 25th Anniversary Trek

Listening to the excitement in Carol Decker’s voice as she describes how she will play the Isle of Wight Festival this year, it is easy to understand how that same voice took T’Pau’s third single to number one in 1987, where it stayed for five weeks.

Carol Decker
Still possessing the powerful voice that took her to the top, Decker, 55, is taking T'Pau on its first headline tour in 15 year to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the band’s debut album- the quadruple-platinum ‘Bridge of Spies’. 

 “I thought I would mark our anniversary in some way and come out and sing a few tunes… hopefully some people will come and see me”, she laughs. “Of course I will play hits, but also classic album tracks. I’m thinking of having a little acoustic set in the middle.” 

The unusual name was taken from a Vulcan high-priestess on the TV show 'Star Trek', which Decker happened to be watching at the right time. 

'Bridge of Spies' has sold over five million copies. Decker holds the rare honour of having both an album and single at the number one spot at the same time. Even more impressively, the single, 'China In Your Hand', which was the biggest-selling single of 1987, kept George Harrison off  the number one spot in the UK singles charts. 'Bridge of Spies' kept Paul McCartney from hitting number one on the album charts. 

T'Pau seemed to live on Top of the Pops in the late 80's. Selling out the likes of Wembley Arena, they were one of the hottest tickets in town. Decker was the flame-haired pinup for a decade of teenagers.

'Rage', released in 1988, peaked at number four in the UK and also went platinum. 1991's 'The Promise' also made the UK top 10. Altogether, they have scored eight top 40 singles, including 'Valentine', 'Heart and Soul', 'Secret Garden' and 'Road to Our Dream', and sold over 15 million records worldwide. 

Speaking to Carol over the phone, however, these accomplishments are modestly lived down. Decker describes having a male roadie pose as her to distract the throng of people waiting for her at venues for her own protection as " 15 minutes, as Andy Warhol would say. couldn't get out of the stage door at the Hammersmith Odeon for the fans and press. Our roadie just put on this red wig, leather jacket and shades and jumped into the back of the limo and everybody sped after him. He had better legs than me as I recall!”

It was all steaming along nicely until 1991, when the original lineup of the band disintergrated. "It's the cliched old tale. We had, behind the scenes, been falling out for quite some time. It's ancient history now and I'm friends with several members of the original lineup. We send Christmas cards and keep in touch. 

We were having creative differences. Ronnie (Rogers, the band's rhythm guitarist, and Decker's ex-boyfriend) and I put the band together; Ronnie and I wrote all the songs. The other boys began to find that frustrating, and of course, because we wrote all the hits we started to earn more money than they did. Creative differences... powerful personalities, and a lot of time living in each other's pockets. It's quite sad really, because you go from being like the three musketeers to sort of 'I think you're a complete t***!'

And the music-scene had changed. When we came out with The Promise it was all club music, Stone Roses. It was all groove-orientated stuff, and we couldn't find our place. We lost our footing. Ronnie and I ended up splitting up. In the last year, it all went tits up."

Decker also put the breakup down to the fact that although they were marketed as a band, it was more about her than anyone else, which caused friction. This is evident on the cover of 'Bridge of Spies', as she is in the foreground and the rest of the band are at the back in a blur.

Decker released an album, 'Red', in 1998 under the name of T'Pau, although she was the only member of the original lineup to feature on it. 

In recent years, she has been a regular fixture at 80's nostalgia shows, such as Rewind Festival. These shows  fill the biggest arenas in the country, and their summer festivals can bring up to 40,000 people to see acts like The Bangles, Heather Small, The Human League, and of course, T'Pau. 

These shows consist of the artists playing a handful of their biggest hits as part of a package show with many of the 80's biggest acts on the bill. Carol is thankful for the 80's revival as she does not find herself writing that many songs anymore.
"I have been trying just lately. I've found it incredibly difficult to knuckle down to do it in the last few years. I don't know if that part of my brain has withered on the vine. I'm a very practical person and I'm a very busy mum (Carol has two children with her husband) and I find that takes over.

I am trying. I'm about half way through three or four songs with my keyboard player. I'm just very critical of my ideas. I want them to be special and sometimes I struggle to get that special quality that you do when you're young- everything's alive to you, and you're angry about stuff, passionate about stuff; and that goes, haha." 

The last new material Decker released was 2007's 'Just Dream'- a song released exclusively through iTunes, and sold from her website. It was a collaboration with Ron Rogers, who will be performing with Carol on some of the upcoming UK tour dates. "He can't do the whole tour with me, which is a shame, but he's going to do as many  as he can. He's one of the most talented rhythm guitarists ever."

In 2011, 'The Story Behind the Tracks' was released. A CD/DVD set, it contained a one hour film, which documented Carol and Ronnie's road to stardom, along with a CD of original demos of the 'Bridge of Spies' album, and also unreleased demos, not featured on any other album.

Carol has always maintained that selling out Wembley Arena as a headline act is the highlight of her career so far. "We played it many times with Brian Adams and Prince's Trust stuff, but the lights went down and we heard this roar went up and we went on the stage and people went mental. Thinking about it now, it's like it was yesterday.

This is very generational, but the first time I did the Top of the Pops was incredible. I ticked all the boxes like the old Marquee Club in Soho. Long, long gone, but every band worth their salt played the Marquee, and we played the Marquee." 

Despite being a busy mum, and finding it a little harder to get inspired like she used to, Carol is determined to release a new album, with the possibility of selling an EP of new songs at the shows. "This year I will get an album out. It won't be in time for the tour, but I'm going to get on with it."

By James Nuttall

Tour dates and T'Pau news can be found on the official website.
Follow Carol on her official Facebook site.
The Story Behind the Tracks can be purchased here.
Older albums can be purchased here.

Decker in T'Pau's heyday
Photographs copyright James Nuttall and Carol Decker.