Fairport Convention > Records > “Babbacombe” Lee

“Babbacombe” Lee

Fairport Convention: Babbacombe Lee (Island IMCD 153)

“Babbacombe” Lee
Fairport Convention

Island ILPS 9176 (LP, UK, November 1971)
Island IMCD 153 (CD, UK, 1992)
Island IMCD 308 (CD w/ bonus tracks, UK, August 2004)

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Recorded at Sound Techniques Studio;
Produced by John Wood and Simon Nicol;
Engineered by John Wood;
Design: Roberta Nicol


Simon Nicol: guitar, dulcimer;
Dave Mattacks: drums, electric piano;
Dave Swarbrick: fiddle, mandolin;
Dave Pegg: bass, mandolin

Philip Sterling-Wall, A.L. Lloyd: reading


The LP and the first CD reissue have only five tracks with narrative description instead of titles:

LP Side 1

  1. [1-5] John’s reflection on his boyhood, his introduction to Miss Keyes and The Glen, his restlessness, and his struggles with his family, finally successful, to join the navy. (6.19)
  2. [6-8] This was the happiest period in his life. All locked set fair for a career until he was stricken with sickness and invalided out of his chosen niche in life. Reluctantly and unhappily he turned to a number of menial occupations and finally returned to the services of Miss Keyes. (10.12)
  3. [9-10] Tragedy now strikes hard. The world’s imagination is caught by the brutal senseless of the apparent criminal who slays his kind old mistress. (3.57)

LP Side 2

  1. [11-12] John was hardly more than a bewildered observer at his own trial, not being allowed to say more than a few words. The tides of fate wash him to the condemned cell where he waits three sad weeks for his last night on earth. (7.32)
  2. [13-15] When it comes, he cannot sleep, but when he does, a strange, prophetic dream comes to him, and helps him to bear the strain of his next day’s ordeal as scaffold and its crew try in vain three times to take his life. (13.20)

All compositions by Fairport Convention except
Sailor’s Alphabet, for which, thanks to Bert Lloyd

2004 CD

  1. The Verdict (read by Philip Sterling-Wall) (0.28)
  2. Little Did I Think (2.19)
  3. I Was Sixteen (Part 1) (1.30)
  4. John My Son (0.44)
  5. I Was Sixteen (Part 2) (1.18)
  6. St Ninian’s Isle / Trumpet Hornpipe (1.14)
  7. Sailor’s Alphabet (Roud 21100) (5.50)
  8. John Lee (3.05)
  9. Newspaper Reading (read by A.L. Lloyd) (0.46)
  10. Breakfast in Mayfair (3.10)
  11. Trial Song (3.55)
  12. Cell Song (3.36)
  13. The Time Is Near (2.32)
  14. Dream Song (5.24)
  15. Wake Up John (Hanging Song) (5.25)

Bonus tracks taken from the 1975 BBC TV programme The Man They Couldn’t Hang (recorded 24 September 1974, broadcast 1 February 1975). The recordings include Jerry Donahue (track 16 and 17) and Sandy Denny (track 17 only):

  1. Farewell to a Poor Man’s Son (4.45)
  2. Newspaper Reading / Breakfast in Mayfair (3.59)

Fairport Convention > Records > BBC TV: The Man They Couldn’t Hang

BBC TV: The Man They Couldn’t Hang

The Man They Couldn’t Hang

The Man They Couldn’t Hang

BBC (TV, UK, 1975)
BBC (video, UK, 1992)

In 1975, the BBC produced a version of Fairport’s “Babbacombe” Lee for television, entitling it The Man They Couldn’t Hang. It was recorded on 24 September 1974 and broadcast on 1 February 1975. This featured narration by Melvin Bragg, broadsides by Martin Carthy, most of the songs from the record by an unusual Fairport line-up (Donahue / Nicol / Mattacks / Pegg / Swarbrick), and one song, sung by Sandy Denny (three verses) and Simon Nicol (last verse). Although the original record of “Babbacombe” Lee has no song titles, Breakfast in Mayfair was the working title for this song. It appeared as this on The History of Fairport Convention and in 2002 on the Fairport unConventioNal 4CD set and was added as bonus track to the 2004 CD reissue of “Babbacombe” Lee.

In 1992, the BBC released The Man They Couldn’t Hang as a video-cassette, making this the second video appearance of Sandy Denny (the first was Solo on It All Comes ’Round Again).