Sandy Fights Back

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Colin Irwin - Melody Maker, 12 November 1977 12th November 1977

“If I have to sing Matty Groves one more time, I’ll throw myself out of a window… I’ll be doing a lot of stuff from my early albums, but one of them will NOT be Matty Groves. Or Tam Lin. There, you can write that down.”

There you have it. This week embarking on her first tour for two years, Sandy Denny remains as strong-willed as ever and is anxious for you all to know she won’t be singing her two most famous traditional numbers, no matter how long she’s been away.

Her long absence hasn’t, apparently, been by design. Along with her old man, Trevor Lucas, and Jerry Donahue, she quit Fairport Convention for the second time in 1975 and then decided on a long break to recover her sanity.

But the break dragged on, she gave birth to a daughter, Georgia, and practically the only thing her fans have had to go on has been an album belatedly issued by Island earlier in the year. And Sandy has become increasingly frustrated, yearning to get out on stage and sing in public again.

“I’ve virtually never stopped working since I was 18 – and I’m not telling you how long ago that is – and these two years have done me a lot of good. When you’ve been working so long, you gradually lose your sanity without realising it. But there have been moments recently of total boredom – I got to the stage where I turned the television off if a pop programme came on. I pretended the pop world didn’t exist.”

No, she says, she has no fears that people won’t remember her; or that she won’t be able to handle an audience after so long away. There was never a time when she seriously considered not coming back, and she didn’t intend it to be so long before she did.

Though still friends with Fairport (they all live round Banbury Way), she now concedes it was a mistake to re-join the band. She had done so for emotional, as much as any other, reasons; Trevor Lucas was in the group and they saw each other only occasionally between tours, so when Fairport asked her to re-join it was logical for her to accept and bring some order into their relationship.

“It was a mistake, but in a way I had to do it. My marriage is quite important to me and I hardly ever saw Trevor. In the early part it was quite good, but there were a lot of musical conflicts.

“Swarb is an entity of his own, and we’re both strong personalities . . . I’m not saying we didn’t get on, but we did have our moments. I think they’re better as they are now with just one focal point, instead of two or three.

“And there were politics – sometimes I wonder how they kept going – I keep expecting the big explosion to be splattered all over Britain. But they seem to have it all sorted out now.”

She agrees there seems to be something uncrushable about Fairport. After one sequence of personnel changes they decided to split if anybody else left; a bit later Dave Mattacks quit, but they conveniently forgot their earlier resolution and brought Bruce Rowland into the band.

Now she’s confident of re-establishing herself. She’s proud of all the solo albums she’s made and is writing new material now. There may be one or two traditional things in her concerts, she says, adding the proviso:

“I was never in the traditional clan – I was in the layabout section with Bert Jansch and John Renbourn and all that lot.

“I’m not ashamed of any of my records. Some of them are really good, and I’m surprised they haven’t sold more than they have. They haven’t done bad, but I feel they deserved to be more successful. I feel it’s a style of music of its own. I’ve never consciously copied anybody.”