12/09/2009

The BBC Sessions, 1971-73

From: John Penhallow, 13 May 1997

Hi Tyler, you wrote: Two weeks before the latest BBC CD was released a dear friend gave me "One Last Sad Refrain", which appears to be the same concert, along with the Swedish Fly Girls tacked on the end. While I love One Last Sad Refrain for its historical significance (in the realm of SD/Fairport), the sound quality is quite spotty. Am I correct in assuming that the BBC is in better shape? I feel obligated to respond to your message so that you get a couple of wrong assumptions cleaned up.

1) In the main, both the illegally issued bootleg CDs of Sandy's work, comprise of tracks "stolen" from our "Attic Tracks" series of Cassettes that bought to the fore many of Sandy's outtakes and previously un-issued versions of her songs in a "fans only" cassette format. The revenue raised by these tapes helped out the family that Trevor left behind here in Australia in the years immediately after and subsequently financed the start of FoF Music by Mail, Liz's business. No money from these bootlegs has ever been offered or received by Sandy's estate from the sales generated despite a written request sent to the person believed to have something to do with their appearance. What's more my copy won't play the Swedish Fly Girls tracks as it is faulty! So as you can guess I'm not impressed with them at all!!!

2) The Sandy BBC Sessions CD is 20 never-been-commercially released tracks recorded while Sandy was persuing her solo career between 1971 and 73 before rejoining Fairport for the second time. None of the tracks appeared on your "Sad Refrain" Bootleg which is from a 1977 Concert. 8 of the tracks appeared on another companion Boot called "Dark the Night" probably lifted from our cassette and one or two songs have also appeared on yet another Bootleg taken from BBC transcription service discs made of Fairport's, Fotheringay's and Sandy's recording sessions and sent out to the colonies for transmission on the ABC, NZBC and CBC and Hong Kong Radio services complete with aging DJ Brian Matthews' introductions and interviews. I remember him as old in the 60's and he's still on the air on Saturday mornings in London! On the BBC Session CD only 4 tracks were taken from Trevor's cassette collection as the Masters for the other four sessions were located in the archives and cleaned up by Strange Fruit before mastering so 16 of the tracks are the best we're ever going to get of those sessions and the 8 tracks that are duplicated by the boot version pale into "waste of money" by comparison. Somebody out there back me up on this!

3) We do hope that one day we will be able to recover enough useable tracks recorded during Sandy's final tour (as it turned out to be, unfortunately) in 1977 and get them properly mixed and released, but that will be down to Polygram's willingness to cooperate with us, for all the right reasons.

4) We've still got stock of the BBC sessions at FoF Music if you want one. Visit our website and order it. Cheers! JP PS For Tim, Wild Mountain Thyme was recorded by Sandy with Fotheringay on one of their BBC Sessions. When the BBC Licence Contract fuss is over we plan to lobby the winning Record Label to go searching in the archives again for their recordings of perhaps a dozen songs. The research is done re-session dates and song titles etc. and Jerry D wants to hear them all over
again. Yes of course I've got it on cassette, the best version is off of that last bootleg - damm it!
From: John Penhallow, 13 July 1997

Mitch wrote in:

"1- What was the nature of the non-concert BBC sessions? Were they rehearsals for an upcoming broadcast? Recorded for a special they were going to broadcast about Sandy"

The BBC's policy during the '60's and '70's was to include a quota of BBC studio recorded songs to meet a Musicians Union requirement about work and exposure for British artists otherwise Britain would be overrun by those damned Americans and the rock & roll and Boogie Woogie Music! So there is a legacy of recordings that has included the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, Pentangle and of course Fairport, Fotheringay & Sandy. They all trouped into the BBC's Studios around London and laid down 4-5 tracks per session, in one take mono originally, without overdubs and with minimal production gizmo's on hand. So it was a great learning curve for the bands that went through the routine, you had to have a disciplined approach for the Beeb. Once the recordings were done then the 4 tracks would be sprinkled in to the playlist of a 2 or 3 hour music radio show on Radio On. They then got passed around to other shows, got played on the BBC World Service Short Wave Folk Programmes and had acetates (short life 12" records) made that were shipped out to the "Colonies" national broadcasters like Australia's ABC, NZBC, Canada's CBC, Hong Kong's HKBC and a few others who had agreements to play them whenever and destroy them after 8 years. The Folk Song Cellar tracks on our Attic Tracks Vol. 3 cassette come from an acetate NOT destroyed but kept in the archives at the ABC in Perth, WA, and copied for me in their studios by a Fairport Friendly presenter, producer and penfriend who also sent me some Ralph McTell, ISB and John Martyn shows from the Cambridge Folk Festivals in the early 80's - damm good stuff.

"2- Who is Elizabeth Hurtt-Lucas?"

As Levent said she is Mrs Lucas - the third, my good friend and business partner in FoF Music, mother of Clancy Lucas and Curly the Ayrdale, stepmother to Georgia Lucas, Trevor & Sandy's daughter, whose 20th birthday was yesterday - the 12th. Send your greetings emails via the list and we'll print them out for her on Tuesday.

"3- The "In Memory Of Sandy Denny Homepage" says that 3500 copies of this CD were saved from destruction and released? Is this true? Can you tell me more about the nature of the legal battle, and the issuance of the CD?"

Yes 3500 only pre-ordered copies was the first production run on this CD. Yes Polygram changed their mind in a "spoiling" tactic and withdrew approval for it's release (they have to give approval because Sandy was signed to Island at the time these recordings were made and they do pick up an overriding percentage for their troubles). This was done because the BBC licence is up for renewal and Polygram are making a bid to take it off of Strange Fruit - as I understand it. Obviously, if Polygram were successful they wouldn't want Strange Fruit to have sold all the copies possible before they got to reissue it themselves - a typical record company spat! A compromise with them was reached to let the 3500 into the market on the Monday of release and then to delete the title. By Thursday they had changed their mind again and the order to destroy the product was written, by which time, fortunately, the stock had all been shipped so the got the one finger salute from Strange Fruit! As I compiled it for them and Elizabeth is the executor of the Sandy Denny Estate we were able to secure a substantial quantity of those 3500 but I may say we are down to the last box of stock and if anyone's waiting for the CD tent at Cropredy to get theirs - forget it -I don't think they'll last 3 weeks at the current rate of orders from the internet web page and our mailing list. However the light on the horizon says that Polygram will have sorted out their situation with the BBC and will no doubt see it's re-release closer to Christmas - this year, cross your fingers and everything else!. Our contact at Strange Fruit told me last week that it's been the best "Teaser" campaign ever and when it's back in stock there won't be a shop in the UK that won't buy it, every overseas distributor wants it, and the frustrated CD buyers of the UK, USA and Europe must have all rung her over the last 3 months for an explanation about the lack of stock - it's quite extraordinary! The Mojo review made things worse - in a nice kind of way! Whew - is that the end? Hope your happy now Mitch! (Levent, please save this reply as a FAQ reply and copy and paste it to any new member privately who asks the same question in the future so that I don't have to do this all over again! Thanks)

Cheers! jp

From: John Penhallow, 30 July 1997


Two days to go before we leave for London on the Festival Tours trip to Cropredy and my good friend Bruce Elder has decided to publish the review he said he'd do back in April in this Monday's Sydney Morning Herald Entertainment Guide! Talk about putting Liz and I under pressure, the phone's been ringing with Sydney and NSW Country people ordering copies. Anyway here's the review: If Sandy Denny had been born and raised in America she would easily eclipsed Joan Baez and been lionised as the greatest folk voice of her generation (A Great Statement!- jp).

Being born in England, she had to live with modest acclaim, work hard to gain a level of success with Fairport Convention and struggle to convert herself from lead vocalist to solo performer. This 77-minute unpretentious and beautiful rarity was recorded by a number of BBC producers on five seperate occasions from August 1971 to November 1973. It showcases Denny's voice which, with th exception of the last four tracks, is accompanied only by guitar or piano. For those who love Denny's voice when it is simple, passionate and unadorned there are gems - Northstar Grassman with solo piano, Sweet Rosemary and the glorious Who Knows Where the Time Goes? with guitar - which will send shivers down the spine. This is much more than a bootleg. It is well recorded, the performances are universally excellent and the choice of material offers not only an insight into Denny's quite remarkable songwriting and arranging talents but some of the best singing the 1960s-1970s folk boom ever produced. **** (a 4 star review is rated as "excellent"-just one star short of "exceptional") I am understandably very happy with this review.

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