Tony Glynn chats to Simon Nicol, of Fairport Convention.
ALMOST half a century after they emerged from the 1967 Summer of Love, Fairport Convention are still doing their thing – with a founding member still at the helm.
On Friday they head to The Plough, and singer and guitarist Simon Nicol has a definitive answer on why the folk icons have endured so long:
"The changes in line-up over the years have kept us fresh," said Simon. "When a new member has come on board we have had to re-assess and change, so we take on a new path."
Since 1967, Nicol himself has had to adapt by altering his role within the band as new members came and went. As well as guitar he has played electric fiddle, autoharp and dulcimer. Also, after Sandy Denny left the band in the Seventies he stepped up to a front-line position, so he has been by no means content to sit back and coast along in the group.
"Apart from a brief period in the Seventies I have always been in the band," said Simon. "Fairport Convention is my life, it's always been there.
"But it is bigger than its members, and can go on without us. I see no difference between it and a football team or choir – it could go on forever, it doesn't need any of the original people to survive."
One enduring feature of the band – apart from the name which, for a time, had them mistaken for a West Coast US band due to its similarity to Jefferson Airplane – is its association with folk music.
The label, however, is not entirely correct in Simon's view: "In terms of traditional folk, I wouldn't say our sound was exactly that. Other bands such as Steeleye Span were much closer to it. But in terms of the storytelling in our songs we are very much influenced by the folk tradition. That's where we have our basis."
Fairport will be playing songs from their recent album Festival Bell and works from their extensive back catalogue including Farewell, Farewell. It is part of an autumn tour which also takes in Wimborne and St Ives, and so there's more than one chance to catch them in the South West.
For more information visit www.fairportconvention.com.
For the time being, however, the Fairport train is happy to keep on rolling and shows no signs of slowing down yet.
Fairport Convention are at The Plough Arts Centre, Torrington on Friday September 13, 8pm. Tickets: £18 (full), £16 (concession), £15 (supporter). Box office: 01805 624624, www.theploughartscentre.org. uk. Pre-show meals available.