Fotheringay with Gerry Conway's Words
I sort of fell in love with Gerry Conway watching the recently posted Fotheringay clip and then having the opportunity to see more footage of the band thanks to the kindness of a fellow fan. I've always been deeply enamoured of Conway's drumming in various recordings of Sandy with and without Fotheringay--no lack of respect here at all for the fabulous work of Dave Mattocks; Conway's touch and sense of contrapuntal rhythm just always seemed special. After going doe-eyed over the films, I wanted to find out more about Conway's career, so I ran a Google.
Here's a snippet from the interview where he talks about Fotheringay (see below).
Gerry Conway on Fotheringay:
It was a very happy band. It was very nice working with Sandy. Everyone in the band adored her. I loved to play her songs. I think had the band not been forced to quit, it would have continued for quite a long time. Sandy was the type of person who once she felt comfortable with her musicians, would stick with them. It was a very difficult decision she had to make. Even when she made the decision to be a solo singer, the first thing she did was employ the musicians from the band to play on the solo album. That speaks for itself.
Every so often, someone will come up to me with a Fotheringay album to sign. Every time that happens, I get a very nice feeling. I have a real soft spot for that album and period. It was a very nice thing. Musically, the album's not perfect, but a lot of people tell me how much they enjoy it. It still happens quite often. It's like you suddenly have a bond with that person. It's a weird thing.
Q: What thoughts run through your head when you think about the break-up of the band?
The break-up was very upsetting at the time. We had a meeting with the band after we learned Sandy wasn't going to be in it anymore. We were deciding whether or not to continue without her. I'm usually the last person to say "Let's stop," but I recall in that situation, I said "No Sandy equals no band for me." I was pretty clear-cut on that. So, that's it. It folded.
Q: Did anyone else in the group briefly consider moving ahead with another singer?
It didn't get that far. Had we decided to stick together, we would have had to undoubtedly find another singer. Whether breaking up was a misguided emotional decision done on the spur of the moment in terms of "If Sandy's not doing it, then I don't want to do it," I can't really say. All I know is when she went, I didn't want to continue.
Q: Would you like to see the aborted Fotheringay sessions released?
They sort of are on the Fotheringay CD reissue. There's a few tracks there that were meant for the second record. Because they needed more material to fill out the CD, they were sort of put together and went on there. There's not a lot else that was recorded that could have been put out. There's maybe a few other tracks. I think we did a version of "Silver threads and golden needles," but I'm not sure where that ended up.
Q: What was Denny like as a bandleader?
It was more of an unspoken thing. Without a rehearsal, we'd play something and it was mostly an intuition thing. You could always see if she was happy or not. When you got it right and it sounded right, she would let you know she was really happy. She was no taskmaster.
With Sandy, it was about a kind of feeling from her when you had it right. She would never say "It would be nice if you'd play the fiddle here or do that." It was never that. It was always up to me to construct my own parts and when it was right, it was right. It also had to do with the fact that you had to first gain her acceptance as a musician, but once you did, she really trusted you to do the right thing and you were left to do that.
Q: What was her perspective on rhythm?
Rhythmically, Sandy was pretty laid back. We didn't play anything frenetic. As a drummer, I learned how to play slowly which is possibly twice as hard as learning to play fast. [laughs] Chordally and lyrically speaking, she was fantastic. When I started working with her, it was the first time as a drummer that I was aware of the song. The songs she wrote grabbed me. They did something for me. Suddenly, I found myself wanting to play the best possible thing for the music. That's often quite difficult. The creative process, no matter which instrument you play, is quite a painful thing when you're going from square one to bring something to fruition. It was quite a big learning curve for me to learn how to do the best thing for those songs.
Note by Steve: there were posts a couple of years back stating that Jerry Donahue was close to having finished off on the work on the Fotheringay sessions for the second album. Don't know anything about a potential release at this point.