Thursday, 10 October 2013

Judy Dyble's creativity keeps flowing

For four decades now, Fairport Convention have been one of the most iconic folk-rock bands on the British music scene. In their 46 years they have had 25 different members.

Judy Dyble
Arguably, their greatest success came when the already established singer/songwriter Sandy Denny joined the band. 

However, before Denny joined, there was another female vocalist in the group. Judy Dyble was among one of the founding members of Fairport and featured on their hugely acclaimed debut album, 1968's Fairport Convention.

Judy recalls that it was an organic formation. "I'd known Ashley and Simon and Richard for, I suppose, about a year before Fairport was born. Ashley was always organizing bands of one sort or another; he had his little black book full of different musicians to pull together. Every now and again if they wanted a folk thing, because I played autoharp and had a bit of a repotoir of songs, he'd drag me in. So I was kind of on the edge of all the bands, I was going out with Richard at the time. We were both doing our A Levels, I think."

"They kind of got Fairport together and none of them really wanted to sing so they kind of asked me as the nearest singer if I would sing with them", she laughs. "It was quite a good name for a band, we thought.The funny thing is, if somebody invents a name like Fairport Convention in a book or on a film, it would sound ridiculously stupid, wouldn't it? Naff. But if a band uses it as a name, it becomes 'proper'." 

Like many of the bands around in the late 60's Fairport's live shows consisted largely of songs that went on much longer than the recorded version. But before the choreographed dance routines of Madonna, or the spontaneous twirls of Stevie Nicks, Dyble had her own way of gaining attention from the audience during the music breaks- namely, knitting whilst waiting to sing again. "They used to do these long breaks, improvising and doing a lot of stuff, and it's very hard to just stand there, waiting for the finish. I had these huge knitting needles and I thought I'll just do some knitting, though I can't knit- I never could knit and I will never be able to knit, so I used to just do Eiffel Towers and dishcloths. It wasn't that I didn't care about the music, it was just something to do. You can't gaze soulfully at everybody for 20 minutes- it gets a bit silly! I think at the Speak Easy, when Jimi Hendrix would get up and play, he'd get up and play with anybody who was there because he just loved playing, and off I'd go."

After a short stay in the band, she recorded with members of what went onto be the prog super-group King Crimson. She then went on to form the folk duo Trader Horne with Jackie McAuley, the former keyboardist for Them; but after one album, 1969's Morning Way, Dyble moved on once again.

"Fairport asked me to leave, they thought I wasn't a strong enough singer. So having been told that at quite an impressionable age, I joined other bands and thought 'well, it's been successful and I don't want to get thrown out again, so I'll leave'. I think that must have been the psychological thing behind it."

"Certainly, when I met up with Ian McDonald and Giles, Giles and Fripp, that was, kind of I suppose, behind it. I loved working with them. Giles, Giles were quite strange, I have to say. They were lovely, you know but I couldn't quite see where they were going to go. And then after I left of course and Pete Giles left they turned into King Crimson. They used to do some of the songs that I had brought with me. I had introduced Robert (Fripp) to Judy Collins. I think he still plays her stuff when he needs something to calm him down or whatever, so it's quite nice to know that what I brought with me to them is still useful."

"And then Trader Horne... that's another one, you see. That's kind of at the end of my tether; Jack and I were being worked really hard. In those days, gigs were kind of like: you were in Southampton one day and Peterborough the next, and then Scotland... there was not really any time to untangle. I was going through an emotional thing with someone at the time, and I just ran away- like you do, haha."

Trader Horne's album Morning Way was a critical smash, however, it did not fare so well commercially as Judy's work with Fairport Convention. "It's quite funny because people email me and say 'do you know your Trader Horne album's just sold for four-hundred quid?' and I think it's only done that because nobody bought it in the first place!" 

Soon after this era, Dyble retired from music for 35 years, leading a normal life for the most part, although she did keep her hand in music, doing small tours with various people. "I worked for Shelter music, which was set up for writers to give the copyrights of a song to Shelter. If the song was a success, Shelter would always give them the royalties. Then I started having a family. Once you stop going on the road and being in bands, it kind of leaves you behind. So I used to go and watch Fairport every now and again and think 'oh, I used to be in them!'- it was very strange."

"And I did that until 1994 when my husband died and went back to working in a library. The children moved out and went to university so it was a good time for me to start singing again, I think."

Dyble's first solo album, Enchanted Garden, was released in 2004. Two more albums, Spindle and The Whorl, followed two years later. In 2009, Talking with Strangers was released to massive critical acclaim. It featured several members of King Crimson and also the lead singer from All About Eve.

This July saw the release of Judy's latest solo effort, Flow and Change. Including songs that invoke memories of youth but also tell tales of growing old gracefully, the critics have once again been bigging up her latest release.

Flow and Change also sees Dyble teaming up with Alistair Murphy (The Curator). "I was talking to Tim Bowness (No-Man) via Myspace and saying that I wanted to do something different with the new songs I'd written. He'd said that he thought his friend Alistair might be keen to record and work with him and me. Everything I've done has been kind of done via the internet with Alistair coming to record my vocals, then taking them away adding to everything else that he adds in. He's done a lot of the musical side of it. I really like the stuff I'm doing now because it's all me."

"We did record another three songs, but they didn't quite fit. I'm not sure what we're going to do with them, but something will happen to them."

Flow and Change, Judy Dyble's latest album
Although still recording, Dyble, 64, does not see herself hitting the road full-time again. "I don't really enjoy doing live gigs. I haven't done them regularly for years and years. Plus, I have rheumatoid arthritis and emphysema so those two things make it quite hard to travel far. But I'm quite happy just to do occasional gigs because it's quite hard work, touring. I think you've got to be either mega-fit or mega-hungry to do it, I don't think I'm hungry enough to do it", she laughs.

By James Nuttall

Thanks to Judy Dyble for her time.

Judy's official website.
Judy Dyble's music can be purchased here.
Trader Horne's Morning Way can be purchased here.
Fairport Convention can be purchased here.