but Peggy's been auditioning a new band member...
OK, it's actually a sculpture by Achiel Pauwels, poured in bronze by Dirk De Graeve and unveiled in 1993. It celebrates Lionel Bauwens, a singer and accordion player who often accompanied himself with a large bass drum - hence his nickname, 'Tamboer'. Peggy found him in Eeklo, East Flanders on the recent Fairport tour.
Off The Pegg is subtitled Bespoke Memories Of A Bass Player, but any reader expecting just that will be-spoke too soon (as it were), for there’s a myriad of activities to consider: not least, long-term membership of several bands (Fairport, Tull et al.), the founding and running of Cropredy Festival, Woodworm Studios, and so much more beyond the scope of this humble, spartan word-count. Peggy is one of music’s great raconteurs, and this book is liberally spiced with choice anecdotes and memories of times spent in the company of many of the great names in rock and folk. It doesn’t require a chronological approach (although a bass-ic timeline is provided). Along the way, the anecdotes prompt, and are prompted by, invaluable nuggets of information and clarification, “betcha didn’t know”-type stuff that pub quizzes and Mastermind rounds are made of but invariably with much more than temporary fascination value and of genuine interest to all levels of fan. There’s also a veritable gallery of photographic evidence.
Off The Pegg is a weighty tome (272 jam-packed pages), with the highest production standards; it’s also a gleefully picaresque (or should that be “peggaresque”?) volume that, with Nigel’s exceptionally simpatico wordsmithery, really captures the essence of Peggy. The book’s aspirational and inspirational scholarship ensures that the reader will do far more than just “touch bass” with the living legend that is Peggy."
- David Kidman, The Living Tradition
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
"Maartin Allcock, who has died of liver cancer aged 61, was a musician and record producer who spent 11 years as a guitarist with the folk giants Fairport Convention, doubling up for some of that time as guitarist and keyboard player with prog-rockers Jethro Tull.
He was also a fine bass guitarist and violinist, his other instruments including the pipes, mandolin and mandocello, or bass/baritone mandolin, and he was a session musician on more than 200 albums. In later years he championed Welsh-language rock and folk music.
He was born Martin Allcock at Middleton, near Manchester on January 5 1957. He studied music in Huddersfield and Leeds, and when he was 19 began playing in folk clubs and dance bands. The following year he toured with the comedian and musician Mike Harding in Harding’s band, the Brown Ale Cowboys.
He lived for a short time in Brittany then trained as a chef in the Shetland Isles. In 1981 he returned to music, joining the Bully Wee Band, a Celtic folk group.
He teamed up with Fairport Convention in 1985, making his first recorded contribution on the 1986 album Expletive Delighted! Dave Pegg, a stalwart of band, recalled: “[Violinist] Ric [Sanders] and Maart were both writing stuff, composing these great instrumental pieces … So we put out an all-instrumental album.”
The band’s new line-up would be one of the most stable in the band’s history, sticking together for 11 years, and Allcock played a leading role on such albums as Red & Gold (1988), The Five Seasons (1990) and Jewel in the Crown (1995), as well as touring with the band in the US, Europe, Australia, Hong Kong and Turkey.
He changed the spelling of his first name in the mid-1980s, he recalled, after talking to a fellow musician in Dublin, who, when Allcock told him his first name, recognised his accent as north Manchester, telling him he had to spell it with a double “a” from then on.
He stayed with Fairport until 1996, doing much to revitalise a band that had been together, with shifting personnel, for nearly three decades. Between 1988 and 1991 he was also a member of Jethro Tull.
He played on the band’s 1989 album Rock Island, which continued in the hard rock vein the band had recently begun tapping and went gold in Britain. He also toured with the band in Europe and the Americas.
Another project was Waz!, a band he founded with melodeon and concertina player Dave Whetstone and another multi-instrumentalist, Pete Zorn – they took the band’s names from their initials. They released two albums, the second, Fully Chromatic (1999), when Steve Tilston had replaced Whetstone.
In 2000 Allcock moved to Snowdonia. He studied Welsh at Harlech College and began working with the Welsh-language record label, Sain, as a session man and producer.
In the early 2000s he played bass for the Nashville singer and songwriter, Beth Nielsen Chapman. He recorded several solo albums, and worked with other musicians including Yusuf Islam, when the former Cat Stevens made his musical return in the 2000s; the experimental Tuvan throat singer, Sainkho Namtchylak; Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin; Adrian Edmondson’s band, the Bad Shepherds; Ralph McTell; and the former Seeker, Judith Durham.
In August 2017 he joined up with Fairport at the Cropredy Convention Festival – founded by the band in 1979 – to mark their 50th anniversary, and this year, a few weeks before his death, he made his final public appearance at the Festival.
Although he was ill, he played with the band on a rocking version of one of their best-loved songs, Matty Groves. At the end, he told Fairport’s fans: “You’re the best friends I’ve ever known.”
Maartin Allcock is survived by his wife, Jan, and by two daughters and a son from his first marriage.
Maartin Allcock, born January 5 1957, died September 16 2018."