Saturday, 27 August 2011

Fairport Convention, Cape Horn, and loving your life to the full

First off, a health warning. This song may be a bit folkyblokey, rollicking bollocking for some cool dudes who read this blog. (Not for me, I loves it.) And the sound quality is not so good, but that's all part of it.

I think it's a terrific song, but there is a point to this other than "Hope you enjoy the song." I'll come to that in a minute. But first, hats off to a bloke in the West Country who had a wonderful, simple idea.

So there's this bloke down in Somerset who offers his very large garden shed to musicians who want to record in there. Large shed, but too small for an audience, so he videos them and puts them on YouTube. And he records them just with his digital camcorder. No backline, no PA, more or less as you might hear the music wafting in from the bar over the road if you were strolling past. No lights, no DJs, just the chaps (in this case) and their instruments and their voices.

Apparently he thought he'd attract locals who'd fancy a bit more exposure. He did at first, then he got Seth Lakeman, Martha Tilston, Daft Monkeys, Ahab, Steve Knightley, and for the 100th session, he got - Fairport Convention. Big fish. I just love the idea that Fairport get 20,000 of us at Cropredy, and also are happy to do a home video in a garden shed with no-one and no gear apart from a little camcorder.

The website is, of course,

What a brilliant idea.

As for the song - well I love it. It's written by Ralp McTell, and it's on Fairport's latest album "Festival Bell," where of course it's well recorded, and Gerry Conway can play his full kit, pushing things along beautifully. Fairport are the band who can play anything, and watching their fluency and drive is one of the many great pleasures for me at Cropredy. And can they ever tell a story! As the above demonstrates.

The song itself is based on the home-made movie of Irving Johnson, a farm-boy from Massachussets who dreamed of sailing round the Horn on the square-rigger "Peking." So he did, and made a home movie, "Around Cape Horn."(1929.) He added a narration much later, and this inspired McTell to write a rattling good ditty about it. (If this stuff grabs your imagination as it does mine, your other text might be "The Last Grain Race," by the wonderful Eric Newby.)

And the song's relevance to this blog?

"If you want to love your life you have to flirt with death."

You don't have to sail round Cape Horn on "Peking" to do that, but perhaps somehow, you have to get close enough to the fact of your own mortality to understand and live the true wonder and intensity of your own, one-off, unique life. On this planet. Here. NOW.


  1. I like the video
    I like the song
    I like your post

  2. That just shows your excellent taste and judicious choice of blog reading, Arkers...many thanks.