FOTHERINGAY-NOTHING MORE: THE COLLECTED FOTHERINGAY.

FOTHERINGAY-NOTHING MORE: THE COLLECTED FOTHERINGAY.

Sandy Denny left Fairport Convention in December 1969. The reason she gave, was that the wanted to hone her skills as a songwriter. However, less than a year after her departure from Fairport Convention, Sandy Denny formed a new group. That group was Fotheringay, who although they were a short lived band, made a lasting impression on British folk music. So much so, that recently, a four disc box set Nothing More: The Collected Fotheringay was released by U.M.T.V. It celebrates the music of Sandy Denny’s “other” band.

The Fotheringay story began in 1970, not long after Sandy Denny’s departure from Fairport Convention. Sandy decided to put together a new band. One of the first musicians she brought onboard was guitarist Trevor Lucas. 

He had been born in Australia, but was now based in Britain. Trevor was now a familiar face in the British folk scene. Previously, Trevor was a member of Eclection. That’s when Trevor met Sandy Denny. The pair started dating in May 1969, and eventually, married in 1973. However, Trevor’s career began back in Australia, in the early sixties.

Back then, Trevor Lucas was a solo artist. He released his debut solo album See That My Grave Is Kept Clean in 1964. Then on New Year’s Eve Trevor boarded a ship and made the journey from Australia to Britain. That’s when he became a member of Eclection, and met drummer Gerry Conway.

Eclection were a folk-rock band, who were formed in 1967, and broke up two years later in 1969. However, by then, Trevor Lucas and Gerry Conway were firm friends. They renewed their musical partnership in Fotheringay.

Gradually, Sandy’s new band was taking shape. The final pieces in the musical jigsaw were two former members of the Poet and the One Man Band. Guitarist Jerry Donahue had moved from Manhattan to Britain,  where he quickly became stalwart of the folk scene. This wasn’t surprising.  Jerry’s father was big band saxophonist Sam Donohue. However, Jerry wasn’t inspired by his father. Instead, Gerry McGee, Earl Scruggs, Chet Atkins and Duane Eddy inspired Jerry, who in 1970, joined Fotheringay with Edinburgh born bassist Pat Donaldson.

By 1970, Pat Donaldson was a familiar face in the London music scene. He had moved to London in the early sixties. Since then, he had been a member of Bob Xavier and the Jury,  Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band and the reformed Dantalian’s Chariot. Fotheringay was just the latest group the twenty-seven year old bassist work with. 

With the lineup of her new band finalised, all Sandy Denny needed was a name for the band. She decided on Fotheringay, after Fotheringay Castle where Mary Queen Of Scots was imprisoned. With its lineup complete and a name in place, Sandy Denny’s new band could begin work on their debut album.

Fotheringay.

Sandy Denny didn’t waste any time recording Fotheringay’s debut album. She wrote four tracks and cowrote Peace in the End with Trevor Lucas. He also penned The Ballad of Ned Kelly. Other tracks included covers of Gordon Lightfoot’s The Way I Feel, Bob Dylan’s Too Much Of Nothing and Banks of the Nile. These ten tracks were recorded between February and April, 1970 at Sound Techniques, in London with Joe Boyd producing what became Fotheringay. It features on disc one of Nothing More: The Collected Fotheringay.

Once Fotheringay was completed, the album was released in June 1970. It was one of the most eagerly awaited albums of the year. Critics and record buyers eagerly anticipated the release of Fotheringay. 

They weren’t disappointed. Critics hailed the album a masterful debut. Sandy Denny was back, and better than ever. Her enchanting, ethereal vocal was complimented by a tight, talented band. They won not just the critics, but record buyers.

Fotheringay sold well upon its release in June 1970, and reached number eighteen in Britain. Good as this was, it wasn’t good enough for Island Records. Their expectations and Fotheringay’s differed. Island Records hoped the album would be one of the label’s biggest selling albums. That wasn’t the case. This resulted in Island Records’ pressurising Sandy to embark upon a solo career.

Sandy Denny dug her heels in. She was determined to continue with Fotheringay. So work began on what was meant to be Fotheringay’s sophomore album.

Fotheringay 2.

A total of eleven tracks were meant to feature on Fotheringay’s sophomore album. This time, Sandy Denny only wrote two songs. Trevor Lucas and Pete Roach penned Knights of the Road and Restless.Among the other tracks were traditional songs, a cover of Bob Dylan’s I Don’t Believe You and the Dave Cousins’ composition Two Weeks Last Summer. These eleven tracks were recorded by an expanded lineup of Fotheringay.

Joining the usual lineup of Fotheringay was Linda Thompson. She was going to add backing vocals when the sessions began in November 1970. The sessions continued into December 1970. Everyone thought that things were going to plan. Sadly, that wasn’t the case.

In January 1971, it was announced that Fotheringay were no more. The band broke up and what would eventually become Fotheringay 2 was shelved. 

It wasn’t until 2008 that Fotheringay 2 was released. By then, many of the tracks had been released. However, Fotheringay 2 was the first time the album had been released. 

When Fotheringay 2 was released, the long lost album was well received. It was a reminder of Fotheringay’s potential. If they had stayed together, they could’ve become one of the great British folk bands. That was apparent by listening to Fotheringay 2. However, critics wondered what Fotheringay 2 would’ve sounded like if more time had been spent on the album? If Fotheringay hadn’t split-up, would’ve Fotheringay 2 have rivalled the groups debut album?

Nothing More: The Collected Fotheringay gives fans of Fotheringay the opportunity to compare the two albums. Fotheringay features on disc one. It’s augmented by two audio demos, a trio of alternate tracks and the original version of The Way I Feel. These bonus tracks, plus the original version of Fotheringay document the first chapter in the band’s career. Disc two documents the aborted Fotheringay 2 sessions.

On disc two of Nothing More: The Collected Fotheringay,the first eleven tracks feature Fotheringay 2 in its entirety. After that, there’s another six tracks. This includes versions of Late November, Gypsy Dave, Bold Jack Donahue and Two Weeks Last Summer. That’s not all. There’s versions of Silver Threads and Golden Needles and Bruton Boy from 2004. The other track is an interesting artefact. It’s a band rehearsal of Bruton Boy. It shows the song coming together and taking shape. However, that’s not the end of Nothing More: The Collected Fotheringay.

The first nine tracks of disc three of Nothing More: The Collected Fotheringay feature Fotheringay live. These tracks were recorded in Rotterdam in 1970. The other seven tracks feature Fotheringay at the BBC. These sixteen tracks feature Fotheringay at the peak of their powers.They’re a reminder of just how good a band Fotheringay were live. So do the four tracks on disc four, which is a DVD.

Disc four of Nothing More: The Collected Fotheringay, features Fotheringay Live At The Boat Club, in Bremen, Germany. Although there’s only four tracks on the DVD it’s more than enough to realise that Fotheringay had the potential to become one of the biggest folk rock bands of the early seventies. Sadly, that wasn’t to be.

Fotheringay were only together for a year. They split-up in January 1971, whilst recording Fotheringay 2. That album was shelved, and didn’t see the light of day until 2008. Until then, Fotheringay’s musical legacy numbered just one album. Then on September 30th 2008, one album became two. Both these albums feature on Nothing More: The Collected Fotheringay, which was recently released by U.M.T.V. 

This four disc four box set documents Sandy Denny’s short-lived, “other” group Fotheringay. They were the band that could’ve gone on to rival Fairport leaving behind a musical legacy that numbers just two albums and 

If Fotheringay hadn’t split-up in January 1971, would they have become a serious rival to Fairport Convention for the title of Britain’s premier folk-rock band. While that might seem unlikely, Fotheringay had something Fairport Convention didn’t…Sandy Denny. Her enchanting, ethereal vocal was at the heart of the sound and success of Fotheringay. So was her songwriting skills.

That’s why Sandy Denny left Fairport Convention. She wanted to improve as a songwriter. While she formed Fotheringay not long after leaving Fairport Convention, Sandy Denny was already a talented songwriter. She got the chance to shine on Fotheringay’s 1970 eponymous debut album. Not only did Sandy pen four tracks, but she wrote Peace in the End with Trevor Lucas. It seemed away from Fairport Convention, Sandy Denny was maturing as a singer and songwriter. Maybe, it was because was Fotheringay was her band? No longer was she surrounded by strong personalities who maybe, overshadowed Sandy. Given time, Sandy Denny’s new group could’ve rivalled Fairport Convention.

Sadly, that wasn’t to be. When Fotheringay reached a respectable number eighteen in 1970, this wasn’t good enough for Island Records. They started whispering in Sandy Denny’s ear, encouraging her to embark upon a solo career. While this wasn’t what Sandy Denny wanted, it would be financially advantageous to Island Records. However, Sandy Denny wanted to continue with Fotheringay. Sadly, Fotheringay was short-lived.

In January 1971, the announcement came, that Fotheringay had split-up. Island Records got their wish. Sandy Denny embarked upon a solo career. 

Her debut album was The North Star Grassman and the Ravens. It was released in September 1971, and featured many of the tracks that originally, were meant to feature on Fotheringay 2. Critical acclaim accompanied the release of The North Star Grassman and the Ravens. Sandy Denny it seemed, could do no wrong.

A year later, Sandy Denny released her sophomore album Sandy in September 1974. It was released to the same critical acclaim as The North Star Grassman and the Ravens. However, Sandy surpassed the quality of The North Star Grassman and the Ravens. Indeed, it would prove to be the best album of her solo career.

It wasn’t until 1974, that Sandy Denny released Like an Old Fashioned Waltz followed in June 1974. The album saw a philosophical Sandy consider themes like loneliness, fear of the dark, the passing of time and even the changing seasons. Essentially, Sandy was fixating on growing old and death. That would prove ironic

When Like an Old Fashioned Waltz was released, critics noticed Sandy’s stylistic departure. Pop and folk featured heavily. It seemed Island Records were trying to turn Sandy Denny into something she wasn’t. Maybe that’s why Sandy returned to Fairport Convention.

Sandy rejoined Fairport Convention in 1974. By then, Sandy’s husband Trevor Lucas was also a member. They joined for the Fairport Convention’s world tour. It was captured on the 1974 live album Fairport Live Convention. Sadly, Sandy and Trevor left Fairport Convention in 1975. Their swan-song was Rising For The Moon.

Following her second departure from Fairport Convention, Sandy returned to her solo career. She released Rendezvous in May 1977. Rendezvous saw Sandy embrace a contemporary rock sound. Despite touring Britain promoting Rendezvous, the album didn’t sell well. The final night of the tour took place on 27th November 1977, at the Royalty Theatre, in London. It was recorded and was meant to be released as a live album, Gold Dust. Problems with the guitars meant this didn’t happen until 1998, when Gerry Donhue rerecorded the guitars. Ironically, that ill-fated concert was Sandy Denny’s swan-song.

When Rendezvous failed commercially, Island Records dropped Sandy. She was already drinking heavily, smoking and snorting cocaine. Her behaviour became erratic. Sandy was also suffering from severe headaches. So a doctor prescribed a distalgesic. However, Sandy continued to drink. Whether this played a part in a fall she had in late March 1978 is unknown. What we know, is that tagedy struck on 17th April 1978. 

That night, Sandy Denny was admitted to the Atkinson Morley Hospital in Wimbledon. She fell into a coma, and four days later, on 21st April 1978, Sandy Denny died. The cause of Sandy’s death was a brain haemorrhage and blunt force trauma. It’s likely that when Sandy Denny fell, this played a contributory factor in her death. Tragically, Sandy Denny was only thirty-one. That day, British folk music lost one of finest voices.

While Sandy Denny is remembered for her two spells with Fairport Convention and four solo albums, often her time with Fortheringay is often overlooked. That’s a great shame, as Sandy Denny’s short-lived other group features Sandy Denny at the peak of her powers. With Sandy Denny at the helm, Fotheringay could’ve gone on to rival Fairport Convention. Sadly, they never got the opportunity to do so, and the Fotheringay story was over before it had began. It’s documented on Nothing More: The Collected Fotheringay, which is a poignant reminder of Sandy Denny’s “other,” sometimes forgotten group.

FOTHERINGAY-NOTHING MORE: THE COLLECTED FOTHERINGAY.

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