Tuesday, 17 June 2014


Cropredy was fast approaching and I was definitely in the mood for some serious relaxation.
It wasn’t going to be a typical ‘Croppers’ either, there was no way it ever could be, not with Alice Cooper topping the bill on the Thursday night.
It would be my second time seeing the guy and I was seriously looking forward to it.
The last time I’d seen him was in the early seventies when that Tory twat Leo Abse had tried to have him banned for Christ knows what ?
Violence and gore, probably ?
The thing you have to realise about Alice is that it’s kids pantomime brought into rock concert arenas.
The bad guy never wins.
Yes, it’s full of blood and gore but it never glorifies it, and like a rocked up Captain Hook being eaten by the crocodile at the end of Peter Pan, Alice always gets his just desserts.
Alice had been giving out his usual before tour interviews and seemed to be looking forward to it as much as we were, describing the event as the band’s ‘Springtime For Hitler’ gig.
If you’ve seen Mel Brook’s film ‘The Producers’ then you’ll know what occurs when the song starts up, if not, just borrow it from your local dvd emporium, it’s a laugh… The re-make is ok, but the original is better so you’ve been told, ok ?
Not only that, it was going to be his only British stop on a short European tour so missing it was definitely out of the question !!!
And playing to a field full of folk music fans appealed to his sense of humour as much as it did to mine.
God knows what Haddy was going to think about it ?
Music was music to her, if it was good then she liked it, but Alice was total theatre with a rock pulse underpinning everything so it was going to be a serious eye-opener to her.
That, and I intended us to be a lot closer to the front when Alice hit the stage…

So Cropredy weekend dawns and we’re loaded and off.

Getting to the Hare & Hounds at Wardington was reasonable and just as we’ve reversed into a parking spot, 

Jim and Vicki turn up, closely followed by Liz, James and Mickey and Annie and Shakey.

Liz and Haddy

A ten minute chat and the others start appearing at regular intervals. 

Jill, Haddy, Annie, Shakey, Mandy, Karen and foreground Rob with Uke'

We’ve all been aware of the dire implications of the loss of the bee population which has been on pretty much every news broadcast that you tune into recently, but it seems that Wardington has avoided a lot of it as there seems to be hundreds of the little blighters buzzing around the local flowerbeds and hedgerows.

Not only that, but the butterfly population seems to have come out in force also.
It can only be a good omen for what is to come.
Well, that’s what most of us have decided anyway.

Ian giving a Uke' some welly

By eleven we all seem to be there ?

On left Colin and Karen

Finish the drinks and we’re in convoy to Cropredy, but as usual, we’ve been directed around the back to field seven…
Oh well, it’s not as if we don’t know it ?
We’ve been camped on it for the past few years.

The usual arguments occur whilst putting up the tent...

It does help when it’s the right way up.

Home sweet home...

But finally we’re sorted and ready to go after the first two Guinnesses have slipped down like liquid velvet…

Right, let’s get into our second queue (the first is getting to the campsite) and get our wristbands  and park our backsides on site…

'I said don't take a picture of me queueing...'

I swear, getting the tent up and getting banded is probably the most stressful part of the whole weekend, but finally…

We’re in.

Collapse into a chair and think about food ?
This year we’ve decided to leave everything except breakfast and eat at the stalls.
Ok, we’ve brought a few rolls and a bit of Haddy’s home-made bread for snacks and such, but it looks like it’s going to be a fair bit of curry, Indian or Goan?
It’s not a bad choice as it goes, because both are very palatable especially when Fairport Acoustic are giving it some serious ‘welly’ from the stage.
Of course the black clouds appear at roughly the same time…
And guess what ?

It starts to rain.
Proof if proof were ever needed, that it’s Fairport who bring the bloody rain with them…
But it wouldn’t be Cropredy without it.
Well, it would, but it’s a very rare occurrence.
I think over the years that once we had the hottest day of the summer back at the turn of the millennium ?
A lot of people got seriously burnt that year.
I have no idea how I avoided it, but I do remember getting seriously ‘ripped’ on cider that particular year and sleeping through a couple of acts I’d wanted to see…
Since then I’ve managed to avoid getting totally plastered.
Mainly because I enjoy the music, and missing an act that I particularly want to see because of my own stupidity pisses me off somewhat, especially when it can be avoided by using a little common sense.

Fake Thackray is Jake Thackray personified and John Watterson does a damn fine impersonation.
Well, I couldn’t tell the difference and I’d seen the original a couple of times in the late sixties.
The dryness of the bloke’s humour in songs like Sister Josephine and Bantam Cock still makes me chuckle, even though I’d heard them over and over because Nick does them occasionally at Parnassus gigs, still…
Romeo’s Daughter were next.
All I can remember about them is that they were a one hit wonder in the late 1980’s.
We’d sold a few of their albums at the time but I couldn’t put my hand on heart and say that I actually remembered them.
I couldn’t stand them.
Boring, pedestrian and leaden rock music with nothing whatsoever to lift them out of the rut.
Yeeuuuk !!!

The Cropredy Ladies Knitting and Crocheting Society...

How’s that for a revue ?
It even made you think that maybe I’d previously been a bit unkind to Badly Drawn Boy ?
They were both awful.
Why the fuck did they bother reforming ?
Don’t answer that because the answer is totally obvious.
I’m going shopping…
Anyone want to join me ?

By the time we’d managed to extricate ourselves from our row of seats and get to the back of the field, we had just enough time to check out the charity stalls where I picked up the first Joan Baez album on cd and then get to the Fairport tent for some t-shirts for the kids before they’d sold out of the smaller sizes.
Romeo’s Daughter had finished and now we’re ready for some serious dancing…

Edward 11 on screen...

It’s Edward the Second time, or Edward 11 if you want to be pedantic ?
They’d dropped the ‘& the Red Hot Polkas’ from their name a while back.
It had obviously been far too subtle for some people.
Check your English history, folks…
I’m saying no more but the joke is there in the pun if you want to see it ?
Back in the days when I used to own a record shop we’d sold quite a few of their albums, but they’d seemed to dry up a bit through the late nineties and you rarely heard them anymore.
But if we were going to get a reggae-ish band at Cropredy, these guys were going to be top of my wants list.
Anybody that creates a fusion of dub reggae with English folk song is definitely going to be alright in my book.
Some of their songs have been around for years, centuries even, so why not infuse them with a bit of West Indian culture ?
After all, it’s not as if the West Indian rooted residents of this country hadn’t heard them before ?
Their kids had grown up in a melting pot of all these cultures hammering at them and instead of filing them away as ‘English’ culture and not to be touched, they’d embraced the whole thing and dragged a lot of them out of the rut and into the late twentieth century.

Good for them I say.
They had done for folk song what Fairport had done when they’d gone electric with them.
Pissed off the puritans.
And I’ve always been in favour of that.
And you can dance to them, and anything that gets people up and dancing together can only be a good thing.
Haddy loved them.

Anyway, if you've never come across them before, this'll give you some sort of idea. Just click on the link above and you'll see what you've been missing.
Up and dancing, joining in, and loving every moment of them.
And isn’t that how it should be ?
Trouble is, you get to the end of a band like that and you’re knackered before the main act of the evening…
‘Come on darling, let’s move…’
‘We’ll probably be joining you in a bit…’ Came the chorus from around us
And down the front we went.
We couldn’t get stage central but we got as far as we could, and then it started…

Only another ten feet to go...

A fire’y set of stage pyrotechnics for a grand entrance, and Alice and the band were out there rocking it up.
We couldn’t get any closer than we already were as it was absolutely ‘sardined’ to our left which meant that any photographs were going to have to be of the screen which is not the best way of  getting a good shot of the main performer, but if that’s all we can get, then so be it. 
Here's a bit of Ballad of Dwight Fry for your delectation...
Now… If I can actually take a step back (pretty much impossible with our noses stuck in the stage barrier wiring, but with a little bit of muscle power…) I’ll be able to get the camera up and take a pict…’ 
Ow !!!
Shit !!!  
Try again…
And in about ten minutes I’d worked out a system…

Alice on screen

It wasn’t brilliant and the shots were mainly crap but at least I’d tried.

Orianthi on screen

Orianthi and Alice

An 'Alice' band' shot

As soon as Alice went into the ‘cover versions’ we knew the set was nearing the end, so push ourselves away and pull our faces out of the wire and slowly edge our way towards the right…
Jeezus !!!

It took about twenty minutes and Alice is winding up the set.
We know there’s more to come because he hasn’t done ‘School’s Out’ yet, but finally, exhausted, we make it back to the others.

Shakey missed most of it... This is what happens when you go to the pub...

‘We never saw you…’
‘We never saw anyone… Couldn’t get our faces out of the wiring…’
‘He’s fuckin’ brilliant !!!’
‘Best thing I’ve ever seen at Cropredy… EVER !!!’
‘Brilliant !!!’
And everybody was saying the same thing…
Alice Cooper had pulled out all the stops and just done what Alice does on a regular basis at rock gigs everywhere, but this time he’d taken on a bunch of recalcitrant folkies, who, in the vast majority of cases, are happy to be entertained by a good act and definitely appreciate one when one plays.
They had been and one did.
Alice Cooper raised the bar.
Whatever and whoever Fairport book in the future for Cropredy, Alice Cooper is going to be the act providing the benchmark.
Can you measure up to that ?
Can any act measure up to that performance ?
I seriously have my doubts, but it’s going to be fun watching them try.
The confetti cannon just fired all over the first twenty rows.
School’s been blown to pieces…
I pity the cubs and scouts having to clear that lot.
And we didn’t get ‘Elected’ because of the curfew…
But we floated in a total wave of sated euphoria back to the tents.
Andrew says it’s probably one of the best ‘performances’ by any act he’s ever seen, and I have to be honest, it’s going to be a very brave or idiotic person who disagrees with him.
Oh, and before I forget, that Orianthi on guitar has to be seriously one of the rocking-ist I have ever seen.
She was a perfect foil for Alice and at some point I want to see her solo show. Brilliant stuff from the lass.
THAT… Was something special.
THAT… Was something to file in the memory banks and bring back out when you’re feeling a bit down…
THAT… Was what a gig was all about. 
THAT… Was a band firing on all cylinders and a frontman who KNOWS what an audience wants from a gig.
THAT… Was Alice Cooper at Cropredy !!!
And you can’t say that about many acts these days…
The morning after and we’re all still talking about it.
Sod the showers, I’m not in the mood.
Maybe I’ll have one later in the middle of the afternoon ?
Breakfast, and then hit the queues to get in.
Half the others will be going to the school for breakfast but I’d sooner eat earlier than wait for half of them to materialise in the mornings, and I think Haddy would also ?
And everybody around you is talking about last night…
So it’s the usual three for the festival site and the rest for breakfast and the pub, then ?
When Alice’s tweet is read out to the crowd you’d have thought that they’d just introduced the guy all over again ?
Ok, let’s all calm down and see what today offers ?
‘Darling, if you’re going to the cd stall, can you get me an Alice Cooper dvd and an Edward the Second cd, please ?’
Bloody Hell !!!
I can do that…
And that is what a couple of damn good performances do for an artist’s sales figures.
When I got there it was quite obvious that I hadn’t been the only one to receive the same orders from the other half…
It seemed like a couple of hundred others had received the same instructions ?
But I’ve got sharp elbows when I need them.

Annie and Andrew

And the weather has turned out nice and warm.
The clouds are up there but so far no black ones and the sun is shining through an intermittent greyness.
It looks like it can only get better ?
Let’s see what’s in store for us today ?
When they start playing it looks like they are a couple of school kids, but then I suppose they were in the not too distant past ?
Greg Russell and Ciaran Alger were the winners of the BBC Young Folk Award and they were bloody good.
Their jokes weren’t as good as their singing, but they’ll learn.
That Greg Russell can’t ‘arf sing a bit.
These kids are gonna go far.
Whether together, as they are at present, or in the future, they’ve both got whatever it is to make it and survive.
Great opening set, and that always helps because opening any day is not something I’d wish on many people.
Danny and the Champions of the World make a nice rocking noise full of influences that we’ve all heard over the years, but they put it together in an entertaining way and they can rock, too…
Good set, and enjoyable too.
And back to folk music…
I have to admit I enjoyed Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman more than I thought I would.
Kathryn I’d seen before when she played with Kate Rusby and blimey !!!  How long ago was that ?
Back in the nineties ?
Ye Gods !!!
But they really have got it together and some of their arrangements are quite original and that’s seriously saying something.
Good for them.
Good set.

The day just seems to be flashing by and the weather is holding nicely, too.
Now when I’d told ‘Rhythms’ Steve Smither I was off to see The Moulettes at Cropredy  he’d just said ‘Whatever you do, don’t miss them…’
Annie had already seen them once and was very enthusiastic but it was going to be my first time…
‘Kin’ell !!!
You don’t see a lead bassoon player very often ?
I think the last time was when I saw Captain Beefheart ?
Distinctly quirky, but it never seemed just for the sake of it, this band are good.
No… Hang on a mo’

Moulettes on stage and screen

Make that ‘this band are bloody excellent’.
I’m gobsmacked, but Annie is making like the Cheshire Cat and grinning all over her face…
‘Told you they were good…’
She definitely got that right, and Haddy had seemed to like them too.
The thing was, they weren’t just different to what passes for the ‘norm’, they were VERY different to what passes for the norm and sometimes that is quite difficult to get your head round.
I would definitely pay to see this lot again.
Great set, but even more important is the fact that they can be recommended to anybody looking for something a little challenging and out of the ordinary.
I know I’ll probably have a couple of dozen Moulettes fans writing in and saying that they aren’t that different to blah, blah, blah…
But honest to God, they ARE different, and what’s more they are bloody good different.
Excellent stuff.
Note to Dave Pegg:  Give ‘em a couple of years and then can we have ‘em back again, please… Pretty please ?
Lunasa followed the Moulettes and although I’d never seen them before, they play a sort of Irish or Celtic jazz/folk.
Brilliantly, I might add.
Two bands in a row that I can thoroughly recommend to anybody who likes something a little different.
Today is turning into a seriously good day musically.
There hasn’t been anybody on the stage so far that I’ve actually felt like going cd shopping to…
Result !
And Lunasa are followed by Martin Barre’s New Day…
Now come on…
There can’t be many rock fans especially those of the ‘prog rock’ fraternity who have never heard of this bloke, can there ?
Because his usual outfit are not touring these days, Martin has put together a band that plays stuff from his own back pages, but not necessarily the songs we all know.
Oh no.
Martin’s gone for some of the obscure little beauties that you find buried away in albums that you may not have played for a little while.
(Well, I’m talking for myself, here…)
I’ve got about ten of this guy’s albums on vinyl but only three (so far) on cd.
And Martin, for those who have been living on a different planet or deep in a cave these last forty years is the lead guitarist for a band named Jethro Tull…
Here's a bit of 'New Day Yesterday', remember that one ?
And yes, he certainly picked some obscurities among those songs he chose to feature.
Good set, and enjoyable too.
It was nice hearing some different Tull tracks in a live situation for a change.
Now it was time for Brighton’s finest.
Ladeez an’ gentlemen I give you… The Levellers…
We don’t get too much Anarcho’ Folk at Cropredy, so it was nice to see and hear them belt through a very enjoyable set before the main headliners of the day.
We just looked at each other at that moment.
Thinking of you, mate...
Rest in peace, Jon.

And then it was time for 10CC…
Well, we got through three quarters of the set before we found ourselves flagging and thinking that a quick burst now would put us ahead of the pack when they’d finished, and so we left the others to it.
They were very professional sounding as you’d expect, but it’s not me…
Clever, witty, good musicians, but all worked out in advance.
It’s just not me.

We stayed up to share out the first shots from Haddy’s special bottle when the rest returned.
This was going to sort out the men from the boys, and even the girlies from the ladies…
Haddy had recently been introduced to an alcoholic beverage at a friend’s party that she’d attended and she’d brought a bottle of aforesaid beverage for warming us up at Cropredy.
I refer of course to that wicked concoction named ‘Toffee Vodka’.
If you’ve never had any, then I suggest you might like to try a bit ?
It certainly warms the cockles of your heart.
Trouble is, when you’ve had one shot you almost immediately want another one…
We had no problem sleeping that night.

Well, Saturday dawned bright and fair… Although it might have been the vodka causing a few dodgy hallucinations ?

Clean showers...
Showers first, because there are only about twenty people in the queue at the present moment in time…
And then breakfast.
And then the boot-fair in the village…

Preferably all to be done before Richard Digance takes the stage.
Ok, it’s not impossible to do it all but it’s pretty close.
I think I overdid it at the boot-fair ?
Haddy is after clothes and I’m after dvd’s and cd’s so as soon as we get in we split up and just ring each other if we need to ask each other anything ?
It seems to work.
One guy on a cd stall with a clothes stall next to him recognises the pair of us from the previous year so thirty minutes goes by just chatting…
Big mistake because now we’re rushing around like blue tail flies, but it can’t be helped…
Well, for a music fan that was a worthwhile shopping exercise.

The dvd and cd haul from Cropredy...

Now we just have to leg it back to the tent to get our gear and get onto the site…
Blimey !
That was a rush.
Made it though, with about three minutes to spare.
Fuck this !!!
I’m knackered.
Which is definitely NOT a good sign.

See, it's not just us who are loonies...

Watch this if you wanna laugh...
('The biggest bunch of tossers in the world... It'll be on youtube and it'll go all around the world...')  
Thanx Richard...)
Well, we got through Richard’s set and waited quietly for the Mediaeval Baebes, who, after seeing their picture in the programme, we all (the blokes at least) are definitely leching over…
The strange thing is, as soon as they start singing and playing you realise that they are so good that all thoughts of lechery vanish anyway.
Well, that’s a turn-up for the books.
What a great band.
Excellent songs, instrumentation and harmonies.
Another band I’d happily pay to go and see.

And they were followed by Brooks Williams, an American singer/songwriter guitarist who I’d actually seen before.
I really enjoy that sort of acoustic bluesy Americana but I know it’s not everybody’s cup of tea.
Annie’s not a blues fan anyway, but then as long as I’ve known her she never has been so she’s away for food while Brooks hits the spot for me.
And that was it for me until I woke up in the middle of the Peatbog Faeries…

Sod it !
I knew I was tired but I really hadn’t had any intention of missing The Dunwells
Shit !!!
Shit !!
Shit !
Sod it and fuck it !!!
At least when Ian posted a pic’ on ‘Wastebook’ he told everybody I was having a ‘power-nap’ between bands…
‘Did you enjoy your sleep ?’
‘Gruuurrrrohmfg… Off !!!’
‘There’s no need to be like that… Hahaha…’
Either I’m getting old or else it was the after effects of the vodka ?
I’d prefer to think it was the latter…
But at least I don’t feel knackered any more.
The weather’s held up too.

Rosie and James
Looks like we’re more than usual by the looks of the bodies around us ?
Some would probably still be at the pub, but there seems to be a nucleus of about ten right now and it’s definitely time to eat…
Nick Kershaw’s on next.
He didn’t do a bad set last time he was here and Mickey is really looking forward to him.
I think it’s probably too soon for me to see him again, but we’ll see…
I never rated the bloke back when he was having hits, but now he isn’t he’s developed into a really good arranger and musician.
And… The songs, even the hits are arranged in such a way that you could see this guy in a club date and wonder why he isn’t more popular ?
I guess what I’m trying to say is that he’s actually developed from a hit machine into a consummate performer.
Really good set.

Now it’s Fairport time… Except it isn’t ?
They’ve given away the first fifteen odd minutes of their set to a reasonably well known Brummie comedian who some of you may have heard of ?
I have to admit that the Brummie bonhomme that seems to characterize Cropredy occasionally sees us getting a few old faces (and voices) year in and year out, but to my knowledge this bloke was a Cropredy virgin until tonight.
Jasper Carrott !!!
And he’s still as amusing and funny as he ever was back in the late seventies when he first started getting popular.
It made a nice change anyway.

Finally they’re ready…
And off they go.
At a fair old lick I might add.
What is it about this lot ?
Here's one you don't hear them play that often... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QLh9qilX_dw
They’ve rung the changes again and forsaken a few of the more folkie numbers for what is, to all extents and purposes, a serious work out with a few manic instrumental tunes just to spice things up.
And three hours goes past in a matter of minutes…

Back: Shakey, Annie and Haddy, Front: Phil, Rosie, James and Mandy

It doesn’t matter to us because we were rocking it up in the audience and all too soon that dodgy song about lust, adultery and come-uppance rears its head and we’re heading into the usual finale.
The band are singing it, the audience is singing it, and just to show how these things get into your psyche and under your skin, my wife is singing it.
It might have originated in the British Isles, crossed the Atlantic to Appalachia and then come back again, but it’s now gone to West Africa…
And why not ?
The story is timeless.
Now there’s a thought…
I wonder if the kids fancy a crack at it ?
That would be interesting, three kids and a fistful of drums and percussion taking on what has become a folk standard…
Meet on the Ledge brings the sadness of the past few weeks a little closer to the surface.
This one’s for Jon Falconer and ‘Ta’ Ros’
‘Meet on the Ledge
We’re gonna meet on the ledge
When my time is up I’m gonna see all my friends
Meet on the ledge
We’re gonna meet on the ledge
If you really mean it, it all comes round again…’

And that was Cropredy 2013…
It hadn’t ended yet because we’d still got half a bottle of toffee vodka to ‘shoot’ when we got back to the tent.
Most of us were reasonably upright and there was some alcohol left and tea and coffee in the pots, so why not ?
Two hours later, after some well thought out arguments about how they’d never be able to top Alice Cooper we all decided to call it a night and turn in.
Tell you what ?
If you suffer from insomnia, toffee vodka is a pretty good cure for a couple of days…

The next morning was the usual round of sad goodbyes to old friends and new friends until probably the following year and a drive home.
This time it didn’t rain.
See, there is still some justice in this world…

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