Tuesday, August 12, 2014

In praise of...Simon Nicol.

I have had a piece included in the Fairport's Cropredy Convention programme. They get about twenty thousand folk in on a good year and the 2014 festival was a sell out, so at a conservative estimate I'd say that was the most readers I've ever had in one hit. In case you couldn't make it, or you didn't buy a copy, I've included the full text below. And if you did so, yes, I am 'SK from Ipswich'.

"Simon Nicol is round the back of the bus, parking the Tiger". That was the first time I saw reference to Fairport Convention founder member, singer, guitarist and de facto office administrator, in print. Q magazine, it was. Some time later I was at the bar at the Cropredy Festival (and let's face it, who hasn't?), anxiously awaiting the arrival of the winner of the Talkawhile forum's All Round Good Egg Folkie award, me having been nominated by a quick show of hands of those present to hand the self-style 'Norm' the glittering stained glass plinthette, and say a few words. He ambled up, all bonhomie and beard, and waited patiently as I relayed a story I'd heard from my friend Paul, who had written to Fairport towers expressing his appreciation regarding how the music of a group of chums from Muswell Hill had helped him through a difficult time in his life - a bereavement, as it happened. Simon had written back enclosing a unique mash-up mix of two versions of an old song, mixed on his own time, with a kindly but firm entreaty that this not be shared. As I said in my address, that's the sort of thing that you don't have to do. Simon was generous with his time, gracious, and very kind to a toungestruck fanboy like me. In between times I'd enjoyed his contributions a number of my favourite records, not least those of his friend Richard Thompson. That anecdote about having too loud a guitar strap for Art Garfunkel's sensitive ears tickled me, and his rendition of Rosemary's Sister reduces me to tears to this day. My first Glastonbury was defined by hearing that rock steady rhythm guitar holding down Sloth. When I watched a BBC documentary wherein a pink-faced post-Cropredy Simon confessed that he'd quit Fairport (for the first time) at the age of twenty one I was astonished that he'd packed so much in to that short a life. At twenty one, I was working in a record shop and trying to sell people Expletive Delighted (and explain why there was no lyric sheet...). There is an old saw that you should never meet your heroes. You should. Especially if they are Simon Nicol.



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