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I’ve Always Kept a Unicorn: The Biography of Sandy Denny

PostPosted: Sun Feb 22, 2015 11:30 am
by NormanD
Review by Barney Hoskyns.
Denny could sing jazz or country as well as she could sing traditional folk. “When I sit down at the piano, the words come in their thousands,” she said in 1972. “Doomy, metaphorical phrases, minor keys, weird chords … and I can’t do a thing about it.”

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/f ... phy-review

Re: I’ve Always Kept a Unicorn: The Biography of Sandy Denny

PostPosted: Sun Feb 22, 2015 12:08 pm
by Adam Blake
Bless her. I daresay I'll buy it but I must admit that my enthusiasm for warming over these long dead embers is sapped by the frankly idolatrous attitudes to be found on F***book. Poor Sandy: A phenomenally talented musician with impeccably high standards. How she would have hated this veneration of even her tattiest demos and dodgiest live recordings. To say nothing of the raking over of her sad descent into alcoholism and tragic accidental death. Reminds me of that guitar player from Seattle...

Re: I’ve Always Kept a Unicorn: The Biography of Sandy Denny

PostPosted: Sun Feb 22, 2015 12:40 pm
by NormanD
Another comment, on the enduring influence of her singing voice and style, which too many current singers would be well to reflect upon:
“When other singers try to sing like Sandy,” folk doyenne Shirley Collins tells Houghton, “they throw their voices at top lines, rather than just singing them.” Wise words from one who knows.

Re: I’ve Always Kept a Unicorn: The Biography of Sandy Denny

PostPosted: Sun Feb 22, 2015 1:33 pm
by Chris P
NormanD wrote:Another comment, on the enduring influence of her singing voice and style, which too many current singers would be well to reflect upon:
“When other singers try to sing like Sandy,” folk doyenne Shirley Collins tells Houghton, “they throw their voices at top lines, rather than just singing them.” Wise words from one who knows.


nail or tin-tack on best point of impact, rings clear and true, or that seems to me to be well said. Shirley would know!

Re: I’ve Always Kept a Unicorn: The Biography of Sandy Denny

PostPosted: Sun Feb 22, 2015 5:23 pm
by AndyM
I found the Heylin biography mention in this review to be pretty gripping and informative. Not sure what another biog can add.

Re: I’ve Always Kept a Unicorn: The Biography of Sandy Denny

PostPosted: Sun Feb 22, 2015 6:02 pm
by Adam Blake
AndyM wrote:I found the Heylin biography mention in this review to be pretty gripping and informative. Not sure what another biog can add.


Oh, the Sandy Denny industry moves on apace. Still plenty of money out there to be mopped up now they've all but finished with Nick Drake. Next up is the Fotheringay 4 disc box set. (This from a band that lasted less than a year, made one album and did a handful of gigs.) Pardon me if I sound cynical but I tried to get publishing interest in a Sandy book about 22 years ago. "No commercial potential", came the uniform response. One publisher I met with personally told me he was a massive fan but that they "would be lucky to sell 500 copies of a book". As no-one would offer me an advance, it never got past the drawing board. Some years later, I provided my notes for Jim Irwin when he wrote a massive piece on Sandy for Mojo. I didn't get a credit. This in turn set the ball rolling for Heylin's biography which angered a lot of fans with its downbeat atmosphere. I wanted to concentrate on the music, but who cares about music when you can write about sex and drugs? (Sorry, the cynicism is like an old shrapnel wound...) More recently, Philip Ward has written a very good book that concentrates more on the music than anything else - as it's title states: "Sandy Denny - Reflections On Her Music". Recommended.

Re: I’ve Always Kept a Unicorn: The Biography of Sandy Denny

PostPosted: Sun Feb 22, 2015 6:46 pm
by Chris P
AndyM wrote:I found the Heylin biography mention in this review to be pretty gripping and informative. Not sure what another biog can add.


Dave Swarbrick and Linda Thompson have both said that this new one (by Mick Houghton) is 'the one'. As close as it's possible to get, very recognisable and very moving

All previous bios are thought to be majorly flawed

I'm just passing this on 2nd hand, via those who knew her well

Re: I’ve Always Kept a Unicorn: The Biography of Sandy Denny

PostPosted: Mon Feb 23, 2015 2:15 am
by Garth Cartwright
Houghton is a press officer who represents a lot of folk artists - I'm not wishing to sound cynical, Chris, but as I have occasionally dealt with him I know he represents many of the top older artists.

Anyway, even if his biography is the "one" I won't be reading it - I went on spotify and had a listen to Sandy again tonight and again she leaves me cold. I just don't "get" her or the Fairports. Each to their own. Ian Anderson used to rage against Charlie as being a "self-hater" because he didn't like Brit folk - a charge Charlie rightly denied. Speaking of which, Charlie was good friends with Joe Boyd and after he'd had Joe on the radio I saw him the next day and mentioned how Joe's productions were not what I imagined Charlie liked and he replied how he had hoped to never have to play Nick Drake on his show!

Adam, i think you and your sister should both look into doing e-books. You write with such knowledge and passion I can see you doing mini-books on Sandy, Ari-Up and Hopy. While I would not expect you to earn much out of such I can see you finding this a good way to share your passion and it being recognised by the core fans.

Re: I’ve Always Kept a Unicorn: The Biography of Sandy Denny

PostPosted: Mon Feb 23, 2015 11:49 am
by Rob Hall
My memory is that it was Joe Boyd who accused Charlie of being a self-hating Englishman, which seems to be supported by this post from Charlie:

viewtopic.php?p=54276#p54276

Re: I’ve Always Kept a Unicorn: The Biography of Sandy Denny

PostPosted: Mon Feb 23, 2015 12:15 pm
by Garth Cartwright
Well spotted, Rob! I think Ian A might have used the accusation at times. He being a folk firebrand.

Re: I’ve Always Kept a Unicorn: The Biography of Sandy Denny

PostPosted: Mon Feb 23, 2015 8:13 pm
by Chris P
Garth Cartwright wrote:Houghton is a press officer who represents a lot of folk artists - I'm not wishing to sound cynical, Chris, but as I have occasionally dealt with him I know he represents many of the top older artists.


No you're wrong there Garth, I'm not quoting publicity puff, but those people's personal reactions, as shared amongst facebook friends, many of whom are personal friends or at least long-time aquaintances, too.

Incidentally neither David Cyril Eric Swarbrick or Linda Thompson used the actual term 'the one', but that was what I presented as the gist

Re: I’ve Always Kept a Unicorn: The Biography of Sandy Denny

PostPosted: Mon Feb 23, 2015 11:20 pm
by Garth Cartwright
Again, I stand corrected. Thanks Chris.

Re: I’ve Always Kept a Unicorn: The Biography of Sandy Denny

PostPosted: Mon Feb 23, 2015 11:44 pm
by Adam Blake
Garth, thank you for your vote of confidence but there are already three books about Sandy Denny. A book about Ari Up would have to be written by a woman, otherwise it would never be taken seriously by the very people who would be most likely to read it. And a book about Hoppy should be written by Barry Miles. If I see him, I'll tell him!

Re: I’ve Always Kept a Unicorn: The Biography of Sandy Denny

PostPosted: Tue Feb 24, 2015 10:24 pm
by Garth Cartwright
Adam, I hope you will reconsider. With Kindle you can put up all kinds of things - no need to write a 100,000 word book (and I often find biographies full of unnecessary detail) but develop your Hopy and Ari essays into larger essays: maybe you could write 15-20,000 words on each individual?

Currently your excellent Ari essay is hidden away on rocks back pages - which costs a fortune to use. And as Viv's book didn't give anywhere near the kind of profile of Up as you did I think it worth developing your essay into a longer piece (you could even comment on giving guitar lessons to Albertine and what you think of her book - and the Slits book - and share your passion for Ari and her music).

Hopi deserves lots of books - Barry Miles can write the epic and and you can write that of the kid who became his Sancho Panza.

Sandy - your passion for her music and knowledge and long thinking on her would result in an excellent critical essay. You are one of the best music writers going (even if you don't think of yourself as such) so go for it. Oh, only negative for kindle is you have to pay someone about £100 to turn your writing into a computer document to it can be uploaded. But if you price it at a couple of quid you should earn that back after a while. You may eventually find yourself as the Barry Miles of the Kindle rock writers!

Re: I’ve Always Kept a Unicorn: The Biography of Sandy Denny

PostPosted: Tue Feb 24, 2015 10:33 pm
by Adam Blake
Thanks, Garth, I really appreciate your confidence in my writing. I don't subscribe to Rock's Back Pages myself, but I'm glad they keep my stuff up there. Prompted by you, I had a look at my old Sandy Denny essay but it's really not that great, and I have a feeling that I posted it here once before. The Hoppy stuff I will add to at some point. I like the description of myself as playing Sancho Panza to him. It did feel like that sometimes when I was helping him on video shoots in the early 80s. Most of my writing is up on my neglected blog anyway : http://ab77blues.blogspot.co.uk