I started writing this series of articles purely for my own fun. It gave me the opportunity to revisit my youth. I was, and still am a huge fan of this English prog-electric folk band, particularly during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.  I doubted that many people would be interested in my music reviews of some albums from four decades ago, but that was unimportant to me.

I have to admit that I was somewhat surprised when the articles started to pop up on other web sites, including Rick Wakemans  internet kingdom. I was even more surprised when I received comments from Strawbs alumni keyboard player Blue Weaver and bass player John Ford.  Both agreed to talk to me, Blue Weavers interview can be found here. Blue is a musician that I have the greatest respect for, he is what I call a musicians musician. An artisan but not a prima donna. His story about his time with the Strawbs was interesting, and made me hungry for more.

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John Ford was my next port of call. He was remarkably candid about The Strawbs. I had long thought that the cause of the bands implosion in 1973 after Bursting At The Seams had its roots in the departure of Rick Wakeman in 1972. I now know that I might be wrong.

Simon Barrett: How did you become interested in music and how did you learn the craft?

John Ford: My father bought pop records when I was a child “ Elvis Presley, Lonnie Donegan, etc.  I was singing Rock Around The Clock, at an early age.  My grandmother bought me a ukulele for Christmas, and I started playing that.  But, my parents could not afford a real guitar for me.  At school, I sat and played the ukulele.  Some of my friends did have real guitars, but really couldn’t play them.  I am totally self-taught — reading music never really appealed to me, as I could listen to something on the radio, then play it by ear. Jimi Hendrix played with his teeth, I play by ear.

SB: How did you become involved with Dave Cousins and the Strawbs?

JF: Dave Cousins had seen me play in the Velvet Opera (band) at his folk club.  So,  when I heard they i.e. Strawbs, needed a bass player, I headed on down with the hope he would ask me to join  and he did!  Those early days with Rick Wakeman and Tony Hooper were great. I recently listened to Where Is This Dream Of Your Youth — its got such a great groove, and we had only been together a short time. From Ricks great solos to Huds fanatical congo playing and screaming, the whole thing works tremendously.  As good as Dave Lambert is, the old Strawbs sound was lost when he replaced Tony Hooper.

This got me thinking. Where Is This Dream Of Your Youth is a track from the album Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curios. It is by no means the most well known track, but certainly a very interesting one. My original copy of Antiques And Curios is some 2000 miles from where I live, my daughter is the curator  of my album collection, so I went off to YouTube to see what I could find.


I cannot vouch for where these versions came from, but both are interesting in their own way. But yes, this track is an important little piece of Strawbs history.

It was also very clear in Johns answer that life in The Strawbs was going well. A cohesive unit, people working together for the greater good. John may seem a little bitter with his comments about  Dave Lambert and Tony Hooper, but he is correct. A band has a sound, and that sound comes from the people in it. He went on to add:

Check out Rick Wakemans Gastank version of The Hangman and the Papist. Hud and I took timeout from the Monks to do that programme, and its still got the old magic.  As well as one of Dave Cousins best vocals of that song I think  For some reason, Tony did not sing a note.

Hud for the uninitiated is Richard Hudson. The Hangman And The Papist is a wonderful track that has a very disturbing story line. It is a short story put to music and like any good short story the sting is in the tail, or should that be tale? If you have never heard it, here is the Gastank version:

Whenever I think about the Witchwood album this track is always at the forefront of my memory.

John Ford can be found here.

I feel rather like a writer on a TV show. I have to leave the audience wanting more. So, here is the tease, in part two we will be exploring the dynamics of the band members, and the huge bone of contention, Part Of The Union, that in some ways parted the union.

Simon Barrett

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