June 1970: Fotheringay – Fotheringay
Fifty years ago this month the eponymous debut from the British folk group Fotheringay was released. The band was formed by Sandy Denny after she left Fairport Convention in 1969, and included her future husband Trevor Lucas on guitar as well as Gerry Conway on drums, guitarist Jerry Donahue, and Pat Donaldson on bass. The band’s name was derived from a castle where Mary, Queen of Scots was once imprisoned. It was also the title of a Denny song recorded with Fairport Convention. Fotheringay was the only album they released during their original incarnation. The group disbanded in 1971 during sessions for their second album when Denny chose to pursue a solo career. Fotheringay 2 was finally released in 2008.
I began to take an interest in the late 1960’s/early 70’s British folk scene in the late 90’s, about the time I, like many others, discovered Nick Drake through a Volkswagen commercial. The first group whose music I explored was Fairport Convention, and I immediately became a fan of the late Sandy Denny’s vocals on their second through fourth albums. It turned out I had heard her sing before; she was the only guest vocalist to appear on a Led Zeppelin album, on the song The Battle of Evermore. As a natural progression I gave this album a listen and found it to be a continuation of the Fairport sound I like, then dove into Denny’s wonderful solo work. She was a brilliant composer and vocalist, but a somewhat tragic figure who passed away in 1978 at the age of 31.
Fotheringay was produced by Joe Boyd, whose fingerprints are all over recordings from the British folk and underground scene including the aforementioned Drake, as well as The Incredible String Band, Pink Floyd, Fairport Convention, and others. My favorite tracks on the album overall were written and sung by Denny, especially Nothing More (with its Jerry Donahue guitar solo that I wish was about five minutes longer), though Trevor Lucas’s rendition of Gordon Lightfoot’s The Way I Feel is a particularly strong example of the British folk rock I enjoy. They also took a turn at Dylan’s Too Much of Nothing, another song from his 1967 basement sessions with the group that would soon be named The Band that wouldn’t see the official light of day until 1975. Interestingly, Fotheringay wasn’t even the first to release a version. Peter, Paul and Mary had a Top 40 hit with it in 1967, and Spooky Tooth also released it on their debut the following year.
Below is a live clip of Fotheringay performing perhaps my favorite song of theirs on the German TV program Beat Club, followed by the album itself.
- Nothing More
- The Sea
- The Ballad of Ned Kelly
- Winter Winds
- Peace in the End
- The Way I Feel
- The Pond and the Stream
- Too Much of Nothing
- Banks of the Nile