Friday, 30 July 2010

Let The Record Show

“Babbacombe” Lee
Fairport Convention
Island ILPS 9176 (LP, UK, November 1971)
Island IMCD 153 (CD, UK, 1992)
Island IMCD 308 (CD w/ bonus tracks, UK, August 2004)

Recorded at Sound Techniques Studio
Produced by John Wood and Simon Nicol
Engineered by John Wood
Design: Roberta Nicol


The original album and CD releases listed tracks episodically rather than as discrete tracks, reflecting the structure of the narrative.

Side one
1."John's reflection on his boyhood, his introduction to Miss Keyes and The Glen, his restlessness, and his struggles with his family, finally successful, to join the navy." - 6:19
2."This was the happiest period in his life. All locked set fair for a career until he was stricken with sickness and invalided out of his chosen niche in life. Reluctantly and unhappily he turned to a number of menial occupations and finally returned to the services of Miss Keyes." - 10:12
3."Tragedy now strikes hard. The world's imagination is caught by the brutal senseless[ness] of the apparent criminal who slays his kind old mistress." - 3:57

Side two
1."John was hardly more than a bewildered observer at his own trial, not being allowed to say more than a few words. The tides of fate wash him to the condemned cell where he waits three sad weeks for his last night on earth." - 7:32
2."When it comes, he cannot sleep, but when he does, a strange, prophetic dream comes to him, and helps him to bear the strain of his next day's ordeal as scaffold and its crew try in vain three times to take his life." - 13:20
Each of the five sections is composed of a number of songs and fragments of songs that were not listed separately on the original album

2004 Compact Disc listing

The later release of the album abandoned the original five-part division of the album and lists the songs as separate tracks complete with songwriting credits, as follows:

1.The Verdict (Read by Philip Sterling-Wall) - 0:28
2.Little Did I Think (Dave Swarbrick) - 2:19
3.I Was Sixteen (Part 1} (Simon Nicol, Dave Pegg) - 1:29
4.John My Son (Nicol, Pegg) - 0:44
5.I Was Sixteen (Part 2) (Nicol, Pegg) – 1:17
6.St Ninian's Isle (Ronald Cooper) / Trumpet Hornpipe (Trad. Arr. Swarbrick) - 1:14
7.Sailor's Alphabet (Trad. Arr. A.L. Lloyd) - 5:50
8.John Lee (Swarbrick) - 3:04
9.Newspaper Reading (Read by A.L. Lloyd) - 0:46
10.Breakfast In Mayfair (Nicol) - 3:09
11.Trial Song (Swarbrick, Pegg) - 3:55
12.Cell Song (Swarbrick) - 3:35
13.The Time Is Near (Pegg) - 2:31
14.Dream Song (Swarbrick, Pegg) - 5:24
15.Wake Up John (Hanging Song) (Swarbrick, Pegg) - 5:25
Two additional bonus tracks appear on some post-2004 CD releases:

1.Farewell To A Poor Man's Son (Swarbrick) - 4:55
2.Breakfast In Mayfair (Nicol) 3:59
These tracks were recorded in late 1974 for the BBC 2 documentary about John Lee narrated by Melvyn Bragg. The programme was broadcast in the BBC 2 "2nd House" Series as "The Man They Couldn't Hang - John Lee" on February 1, 1975. The tracks are performed by a different lineup of the band than on the original album, one formed after the departure of Simon Nicol and the return of lead singer Sandy Denny.

The Man They Couldn't Hang

BBC (TV, UK, 1975)
BBC (video, UK, 1992)

In 1975, the BBC produced a version of Fairport's “Babbacombe” Lee for television, entitling it The Man They Couldn't Hang. It was recorded on September 24, 1974 and broadcast on February 1, 1975. This featured narration by Melvin Bragg, broadsides by Martin Carthy, most of the songs from the record by an unusual Fairport line-up (Donahue / Nicol / Mattacks / Pegg / Swarbrick), and one song, sung by Sandy Denny (three verses) and Simon Nicol (last verse). Although the original record of “Babbacombe” Lee has no song titles, Breakfast in Mayfair was the working title for this song. It appeared as this on The History of Fairport Convention and in 2002 on the Fairport unConventioNal 4CD set and was added as bonus track to the 2004 CD reissue of “Babbacombe” Lee.