Off The Pegg - reviewed!
But there is so much to “Off The Pegg”, Dave Pegg’s long-threatened and finally released autobiography - 272 pages of quite small print - that I expect to take a while to get through it all, and it’s only fair to let everyone know of its existence and worth well before then!
Peggy either has an excellent memory or has kept lots of notes, for his descriptions of long ago events are quite detailed, to the extent that stories concerning the formation and career of earlier bands such as The Way Of Life become much more vivid and real to the reader, rather than just a vague footnote.
John Bonham as a bandmate in that group and a lifetime friend altogether also provides a lot of colourful stories, including around the time Fairport played the infamous LA Troubadour gig in 1970. The fact Dave was in any condition to play at all is remarkable! My only concern, though, is that giving away too much of any individual story would take away from the pleasure of reading it in Dave’s own words in the book. Suffice to say, his friends who badgered him into finally getting it done, with the assistance and persistence of Nigel Schofield, were right in thinking there were too many tales that needed to be told.
(Peggy was the guitarist in Jimmy Cliff’s band when the latter first arrived in the UK? Cliff stayed at Dave’s parents’ house and used to descend the stairs on his hands?)
The fact it’s done in an entertaining way is another bonus. The book is by no means chronological, and sometimes this can be a bit confusing, but it also makes it easier to dip in and out of the thematic chapters at will. Nigel Schofield adds his own narrative throughout, but uses a different font to make clear who is saying what.
A later chapter deals with Fairport’s Australian connections, with a nice nod to the Aust Friends Of Fairport, and another story of an ill-fated hike in the Blue Mountains with Dave Swarbrick.
As opposed to the dramatic story from many years previously - hey, if the book can jump timeframes, so can I - when it seemed Peggy would be going to prison for an accident he didn’t cause, but being recognised as a member of the Ian Campbell Folk Group got him off.
See, this is what I mean. So much to read, and trying to relate everything of interest would become a short story in itself. Regardless, the distinct impression throughout, along with the humour, is that Dave has approached the story-telling with fairness and respect, and an ability to describe situations evocatively enough to make the reader feel they were almost there in so many different times and places. I get the impression he is amazed to have fit so much into his life, too.
The story goes right up to 2017 and therefore Fairport’s 50th year. He also mentions his recent hip operation - “My hip’s behind me now. Not literally of course, otherwise I’d be having words with my surgeon!”
The small print is unfortunate but also necessary to keep postage costs to a minimum, while not relegating too much to the book equivalent of the cutting room floor. It would be handy if it came out as an e-book for the sake of easier distribution and font adjustment but I have heard of no such plans.
Sadly, the chance of Dave or Fairport touring Australia again appears to be remote as well. But “Off The Pegg” can act as a worthy reminder of the man, his life and his music. Maybe we now need a bio-pic!"
- Michael Hunter