White Bicycles


That’s the title of Joe Boyd’s not-quite-new book (published in 2007, but I finished it just yesterday) , and anyone interested in the rise and fall of 1960s rock and folk rock needs to read it.

Boyd was the stage manager at Newport when Dylan plugged in and Seeger freaked out (his version of the story rings truer than any other I’ve read or heard); he was at the heart of the Boston/Cambridge folk community in the early 60s; he discovered Nick Drake and produced the Incredible String Band, Fairport Convention, Eric Clapton and Pink Floyd, among many others. He knew everyone, did everything and went everywhere.

While Boyd writes warmly and often affectionately of most of the artists he worked with, he clearly had a special relationship with Sandy Denny. Denny is best known as writer of Who Knows Where the Time Goes, but was a vocalist of rare gifts. The last album she made with Fairport Convention, Liege and Lief, managed to show a preservationist’s reverence to traditional English folk music and to transform it beyond recovery, both at the same time. Its brilliance has not been matched since.

She left to form Fotheringay, a group that included her less talented husband, Trevor Lucas, on lead guitar. It was never an adequate showcase for her talent, and she broke the band up in 1970. Alcohol had always been a problem for Denny, and as her marriage crumbled, she drank more heavily and was finally killed in a drunken fall that caused a cerebral hemorrhage. She was 31. I think Joe Boyd was in love with her. I know I was.

Not too many Sandy Denny videos out there – here’s the best I could find – Crazy Lady Blues. It’s not perfect, but hell, neither was she. Please enjoy.

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