‘Si Tu Dois Partir’: Fairport Convention In French, And On ‘Top Of The Pops’

Fairport LP

A Bob Dylan cover landed the folk heroes on TV and in the UK singles chart.

By Paul Sexton

Hit singles were never the name of the game for Fairport Convention, who made (and have kept) their reputation on full-length albums and fine live performances. But there was just one exception to that rule, and it showed itself on the UK singles chart for July 23, 1969 — when Fairport translated Bob Dylan into French, with a song that landed them on Top Of The Pops.

“Si Tu Dois Partir,” their French version of Dylan’s “If You Gotta Go, Go Now,” entered the bestsellers that week, tickling the bottom of the Top 50 chart at No.47. The very sight of Fairport in the hit parade was incongruous, especially sandwiched between Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ “Tracks Of My Tears” and Tom Jones’ “Love Me Tonight.” But they sensed the Island single had potential, and they were right.

‘A load of rubbish’

When the idea cropped up of covering the song in a Creole style, it was lead singer Sandy Denny that suggested they should also do it in French. She later disowned the entire idea, calling it “a load of rubbish” and adding venomously: “The people who bought that record were cheated. If they didn’t know us, they’d think we were some French group.”

Dylan wrote “If You Gotta Go, Go Now” in 1964, but didn’t release his own version in either the UK or the US until it appeared in his Bootleg Series of albums in 1991. A different version by Bob became a Dutch single in 1967, but by then it had been snapped up as rich cover fare.

British group the Liverpool Five won US airplay, but no chart honors, for their 1965 version, before the hit factory that was Manfred Mann took their rendition all the way to No.2 in the UK in 1966. French star Johnny Hallyday was among the other artists to record an interpretation.

Fairport translation

Fairport translated the lyric into French in their usual lighthearted way and released it as a single at the same time as their third album Unhalfbricking, on which it featured. The 45 climbed steadily, helped by the (inevitably lip-synched) appearance on TOTP, and spent two weeks at No.21.

That unlikely success helped Unhalfbricking climb to No.12 in the UK. “Si Tu Dois Partir” was the only visit to the singles chart that the band ever made, but it had been quite an adventure.

Source: ‘Si Tu Dois Partir’: Fairport Convention In French, And On ‘Top Of The Pops’

Fairport Convention: The tragedies behind the pioneers of folk rock

By any measure, it was a period of prodigious creativity. Between June 1968 and December 1969, Fairport Convention released their first four albums — and changed the course of music both in Britain and further afield.

By John Meagher

By any measure, it was a period of prodigious creativity. Between June 1968 and December 1969, Fairport Convention released their first four albums — and changed the course of music both in Britain and further afield.

The third, Unhalfbricking, was their first to chart, and helped make them one of the UK’s most critically acclaimed bands. The next, Liege & Lief, which came out in the last month of the 1960s, is widely regarded as one of the most influential folk-rock albums ever, a record that fuelled the creative juices of a young Christy Moore and continues to resonate with such contemporary luminaries as Lankum.

Fairport Convention have had more members than Everton and Watford’s recent managerial roll-call combined and they play a Dublin show this evening in the auspicious surrounds of St Patrick’s Cathedral. Co-founder Simon Nicol and longest-serving member Dave Pegg will be among the quintet to play in Jonathan Swift’s old stomping ground.

But, impressive as the band’s longevity has been, it’s the line-up centred on the rare talents of Richard Thompson and Sandy Denny more than half-a-century ago that ensures Fairport’s lofty place in the popular culture canon.

The story of early Fairport Convention is one of youthful ambition, magnificent musical virtuosity and seemingly boundless creativity. It’s also one underscored by a tragedy that threatened to destroy the band. Remarkably, they came back even stronger, even if Thompson and Denny were soon to take other creative paths.

The band’s origins date to 1966. Thompson was just 17 when he and Nicol, along with Ashley Hutchings, formed a band and started to knock out Bob Dylan and Byrds covers. They got their name from ‘Fairport’, the large mock Tudor house in London that was owned by Nicol’s family: the early incarnation was peopled by middle-class grammar-school educated kids.

The group hit the ground running. Soon they were supporting Pink Floyd, who were also going places fast thanks to their mercurial leader Syd Barrett. At one of those Floyd gigs, in July 1967, Fairport Convention opened, while the headliners had to contend with the fact that Barrett had just overdosed on LSD. David Gilmour had to deputise.

It was at that show that Fairport met the American producer Joe Boyd, who would produce their self-titled debut and the four albums that followed it, including the illustrious pair mentioned above. Boyd’s part in the great British folk revival should never be underestimated.

While they showed considerable promise on their debut album, there were few signs about what was to come. Having taken their sonic cues from the other side of the Atlantic, they were dubbed “the British Jefferson Airplane”.

Things started to pick up when Sandy Denny joined the band in 1968, replacing Judy Dyble, who later claimed she had been “unceremoniously dumped”. A couple of years older than Thompson, Denny had already cut her teeth as vocalist with English folkies the Strawbs. Continue reading

Fairport Convention “I’ll Keep It With Mine”

Judy Collins, Nico, Marianne Faithful and Bettie Serveert have covered this brilliant Bob Dylan song – but Fairport Convention’s is the best. I love Sandy’s vocals on this. Below are Dylan’s lyrics.

You will search, babe, at any cost
But how long, babe, can you search for what is not lost?
Everybody will help you
Some people are very kind
But if I can save you any time
Come on, give it to me
I’ll keep it with mine
I can’t help it if you might think I am odd
If I say I’m not loving you not for what you are
But for what you’re not
Everybody will help you
Discover what you set out to find
But if I can save you any time
Come on, give it to me
I’ll keep it with mineThe train leaves at half past ten
But it’ll be back in the same old spot again
The conductor
He’s still stuck on the line
And if I can save you any time
Come on, give it to me
I’ll keep it with mine

Richard Thompson on the Fairport Convention years: ‘I probably never went on stage sober’

The ex-Fairport Convention songwriter on booze, Irish folk and ‘volatile’ Sandy Denny

Veteran folk-rock guitarist and songwriter Richard Thompson is the quintessential journeyman musician. Now 72, his achievements can be best summed up not by Grammy nominations or OBEs (though he has both), but his setlist, a back catalogue that includes classics such as Persuasion, I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight, Wall of Death, Shoot Out the Lights and – perhaps his finest composition – Beeswing, a masterclass in melody, narrative and guitar artistry.

Beeswing is also the title of Thompson’s new memoir, subtitled Fairport, Folk Rock and Finding My Voice 1967-75, which is published this month.

“I think it reflected some of what I felt about the ’60s and ’70s,” Thompson says on a Zoom call from his home in Los Angeles. “There was a rejection of the traditional paths of life: you have to go to university; you have to get a job in a bank; you have to become this straight citizen. There were kids dropping out, saying, ‘I’m not gonna do that, I’m gonna go live in a commune in Denmark.’ You saw people like Vashti Bunyan, who’d get her gypsy caravan and her horses and go off wandering. The chapter called Beeswing is a summation of that spirit, and it seemed a logical title for the whole book.”

The song itself bears such a feeling of authenticity, of lived experience, this reader felt sure it must have had autobiographical origins. Not so, says the author.

Continue reading