October Answers, Part IV
11/7/2009 (updated 11/7/2009)

re: VBL

Believe it or not, I just heard this song for the first time recently and it has gone right to my very soul somehow.. very nicely painted picture, and i can't wait to start learning it.  I would be interested in any commentary you might have as to the origins of the story?  It seems like it has to be based in real life.  Did you just make it up, or is there some background or history to this. Thank you, Adam Yavner

This is just a piece of fiction, based on nothing I know of.

My favourite solo album of Sandy’s has to be her second, SANDY. You play a fair bit on that record, and the track For Nobody To Hear has you playing with Allen Toussaint – what are your memories of that? Thanks. Jamie Taylor

Sandy’s husband, Trevor Lucas, took the multitracks to New Orleans, and overdubbed the horns with Allen Toussaint.

Friday night at the City Winery in NYC was my first time seeing you perform, it won't be my last. I just wanted to say thank you for the wonderful evening. My request, Take Care The Road You Choose, was not picked. However, the Monster Mash more than made up for it. Since this is a forum for questions I do have one. Leonard Cohen also performed in NYC Friday night, did I make the correct choice in seeing you over him? Seriously now, are there any Leonard Cohen songs that you are fond of? Thank you. Thomas Bromirski, New Jersey

You should have gone to see Len, we are not worthy, etc. He has written some classics, as mentioned previously in this space. I’ve probably said this before, but Famous Blue Raincoat is a really good song.

I have a lot of your stuff -- current and going back to the Fairport days. And I was just listening to an interview you did on Fresh Air. And the thing that got me thinking was what you said about your work in the early days with Fairport, how you guys managed to explore the deep wellsprings of traditional music while doing kick-ass rock -- something more unique than any of the other Brit groups of the time trying to imitate American blues. And I wonder what would happen if you tried that direction on a new album. Not trying to redo Fairport, that was then. But going back to your traditional roots maybe with a few other musicians who can keep up with you in that arena (Kate Rusby, etc.), while bringing to play all the years of experience you've gained over the years. To me that could be amazing. Something with the universal power of the traditional stuff yet informed by your current sensibilities.

You should think about that. The Fairport thing was a huge influence on us all for a reason. And there's about 15 or 20 of those old songs that still grip my heart like few current tunes do. Somehow the requirements of that tradition and the collaborative nature of the journey you guys went on, helped you guys to create music that is as universal as anything done by Dylan or Springsteen or anyone else who is considered a legend. Yet it made me realize that what I was feeling at that time was no more or less important than the lonely traveler on a country road or a woman deceived by her lover. The themes were universal but the playing was as raw and powerful as Clapton. And it connected in a way a group like the Chieftains never will. There is more to this vein of music than anyone knows and you are the only one who can nail it. Just a thought, Tim Truby

I would do an album of traditional material, if I had 12 good songs that hadn’t been over-exploited.

Considering your droll, ironic sense of humor, I am curious as to whether you listened to The Goon Show growing up,or if you are a fan of Monty Python.  If so, what is your favorite Python sketch? Film?  Do you know any of the Pythons?

We always heard the Goons. That really was the beginning of something, the surreal deconstruction of Victorian Britain, or something like that, which Monty Python completed 10 years later. Round the Horne was a Sunday Lunch ritual, amazing that it ever got broadcast, it was so riddled with innuendo. When TV was crap, radio was king. Journey Into Space used to terrify me – not the dialogue, but the silences in between. Yes I love the Pythons. I met Graham Chapman a couple of times when we had the same manager. I’ve bumped into Eric Idle a couple of times, and Terry Gilliam, but that’s about it.

It is apparent from songs such as “Al Bowlly’s in Heaven” and “Yankee Go Home” that you have an interest in WWII. Is there any particular battle, campaign, etc. that you find especially inspiring, heroic and interesting? How did your mum and dad spend the war years?

I take a general interest in both World Wars, as events that shaped the modern world, and to help to decipher my parents’ and grandparents’ generations. I also like the hardware, and of course the Nazis are the perfect Bad Guys.

My mother was an ARP (Air Raid Precaution) up on the roof of Bourne and Hollingsworth. She spent one night sheltering down a tube station, and never went back – she said the smell was so appalling. She said in many ways it was the best years of her life; everyone was so friendly, and because you never knew if it was your last day on Earth, you were alive to every moment.

My father was in the Metropolitan Police at the outbreak of war, stationed at Edgware Road. An early dose of reality was cleaning up after a direct hit on the bomb shelter at Marble Arch. He helped drag the hundreds of bodies of men, women and children out of the shelter. I don’t know his first army regiment, but they were about to be shipped out to Burma when he got transferred the East Kent Regiment – he would have been dead or in a prison camp if he’d gone. He was a rifle instructor for a year or two, when the Buffs were part of the Territorials, and then was with Monty’s 21st Army Group Northern arm, pushing through the Low Countries into Germany. He was stationed in Antwerp from about 1945 – 47, doing something with Military Intelligence – he never talked about it.