Sep 292020

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

Judy Dyble

Singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Judy Dyble occupies a unique place in music history. Dyble, who passed away in July at the age of 71, played a role in the origin stories of two long-running British musical institutions. She was a founding member of the folk-rock outfit Fairport Convention, and she sang with a band called Giles, Giles and Fripp; they would go on to morph into the legendary prog-rock group King Crimson.

Dyble’s music career spanned five decades. Whether it’s on her early recordings from the ‘60s or her albums from the 2010s, the quiet power of her voice resonates like a haunting echo from the past, carrying nearly every song she sang. Throughout her life and career, she performed many excellent cover songs, proving herself as a powerful interpreter of other artists’ music.

Born and raised in London, Dyble began her musical career in the city’s folk scene as a teenager in the mid-’60s. Eventually, she joined several other scene regulars, including Richard Thompson, Ashley Hutchings and Simon Nicol, to form Fairport Convention. The group blended elements of folk, rock and blues to create a distinctly British version of the ‘60s San Francisco sound. Still active today, with Nicol as its sole founding member, the band tours regularly and hosts an annual folk festival, known as Cropredy.

Dyble sang lead on the Fairport Convention’s debut single “If I Were A Ribbon Bow” and sang and played multiple instruments on the band’s 1968 self-titled debut album (which was not released in the U.S. until 1970). The original 12-track album contains five covers, three of which Dyble sang lead on. Shortly before the band released its debut, Dyble was, as she put it, “unceremoniously dumped by the band.” The group went on to greater heights as they tapped the great Sandy Denny as her replacement.

Dyble’s time in Fairport was the first chapter in her long musical career. “Had it not been for leaving Fairport, I would not have been in the next right place at the next right time,” Dyble wrote on her website.

King Crimson’s 1969 debut album In the Court of the Crimson King is a sacred text in the genre known as progressive or prog rock. In the years prior to its release, founding members Robert Fripp and Michael Giles, along with Giles’ brother Peter, were part of a quirky power trio called Giles, Giles and Fripp. Shortly after the band released its debut, Peter Giles answered an ad by Dyble and her then-boyfriend, saxophonist Ian McDonald, looking for musicians to collaborate with. “Ian and I spent some time at their flat in Brondesbury Park, Kilburn and tried out a lot of songs together,” Dyble wrote. Dyble and Peter Giles eventually moved on, while the other three formed King Crimson. The demos would resurface years later on the 2001 compilation The Brondesbury Tapes. In a review of the album, the BBC would refer to Dyble as being “criminally underrated.”

For her next project, Dyble teamed up with Jackie McAuley, who had played in the Van Morrison-fronted group Them, to form the duo Trader Horne. They released one album, 1970’s Morning Way, and then began touring extensively. Dyble became worn down by the grind of it all. “I don’t know what happened,” she said. “We were supposed to play at the Hollywood Festival but I had some sort of tantrum/brainstorm and ran away from everything.”

From 1973 to 1997 Dyble took an extensive hiatus from the music business. According to her website, “I went back to library work and [her husband Simon Stable] began a small cassette duplicating business, which began to grow and grow. We moved to a small village in Oxfordshire and the tape company really started to take off. We had two children and just kept working.” During this period, she made the occasional recording and appeared at Fairport’s Cropredy festival a few times.

Dyble cites her appearance at Fairport’s 35th anniversary show at Cropredy several years after her husband’s death as her return to music. “I came on stage to start singing at the rehearsal and suddenly the years fell away. I remembered where to stand and how to sing. I think the others were a bit surprised. I know I was really startled, but happy, and when it came to the evening performance it went really well. The audience was so friendly and positive and all at once it was wonderful to be singing with Richard, Simon and Ashley again. Just like the old days…”

In the early 2000s, she returned to making music with a renewed intensity. Between 2004 and 2018, she released seven studio albums, one live album, and four compilations. A posthumous album with multi-instrumentalist David Longdon came out on Sept. 25, under the moniker Dyble Longdon, entitled Between a Breath and a Breath.

“I’m still singing,” she said in 2016 interview . “I’m still open to all sorts of odd things. I decided to say ‘yes’ to everything and hope for the best, which seems to have worked out quite well.” We’re still listening.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the great covers Dyble recorded throughout her career and even revisited in her later years.

Fairport Convention – If I Had a Ribbon Bow (Maxine Sullivan cover)

Dyble sang lead on the band’s first single. In retrospect, the track seems like an odd choice. “If I Had a Ribbon Bow” was originally recorded by jazz singer Maxine Sullivan in the ‘30s. Fairport Convention gave it a bouncy, “Penny Lane”-style pop feel. One can picture fashionable Londonites in top hats and canes swaying to it on Carnaby Street. The single failed to make an impact, and the band did not include it on their debut (though it did make it onto subsequent reissues). The song itself has held up well over the years and remained a part of Dyble’s performing repertoire. Watch clips of her singing it live at the Oxford Folk Festival in 2010 with the Roots Union and in 2019 for her 70th birthday concert.

Fairport Convention – I Don’t Know Where I Stand (Joni Mitchell cover)

Joni Mitchell was still relatively unknown when the Fairport Convention included two of her tracks on their debut. In fact, Mitchell had not even released “I Don’t Know Where I Stand” and “Chelsea Morning” yet. The band obtained copies of her demos through their label and reworked them for the album. They played “I Don’t Know Where I Stand” as a dreamy piece of psychedelic pop.

Fairport Convention – Chelsea Morning (Joni Mitchell cover)

Mitchell’s “Chelsea Morning” is an acoustic folk-rock tune. Fairport kicked the song into overdrive. They sped up the track, playing it all electric with some hard-pounding drum fills and trippy interludes.

Fairport Convention – One Sure Thing (Jim & Jean cover)

Fairport bassist Ashley Hutchings cited the husband and wife folk duo Jim & Jean as a major inspiration for the band’s early sound. “Anyone wanting to understand us then should realize that the Jim & Jean album [Changes] was very important to early Fairport,” Hutchings said. The group covered the duo’s track “One Sure Thing” on its debut. The original is a haunting folk-rock tune about lost love. As with “Chelsea Morning,” Fairport plugged the song in, sped it up, added in a drum track and some guitar solos. The cover highlights Dyble’s abilities as vocalist, especially when she hits the thunderous final chorus. Listen to the album version and then watch her perform it with Fairport at their 1997 reunion show.

Fairport Convention – Lay Down Your Weary Tune (Bob Dylan cover)

In 2018, Fairport Convention released a 17-track compilation of Bob Dylan songs they’ve covered throughout the decades. The album includes a take on Dylan’s “Lay Down Your Weary Tune,” which Fairport had recorded with Dyble for a radio broadcast. The band likely covered it because Jim & Jean had played a version on their 1966 album Changes. Fairport’s folky acoustic guitar and vocal arrangement closely mirrors Jim & Jean’s rendition, with Dyble singing the harmonies.

Fairport Convention – Reno, Nevada (Mimi and Richard Fariña cover)

Just before Dyble’s departure, Fairport made a television appearance on the French musical T.V. show Bouton Rouge in April 1968. The group delivered a fiery 14-minute set. The highlight was this extended cover of “Reno, Nevada.” The song was recorded by another husband and wife folk duo, Mimi and Richard Fariña. The band played the track in full jam-band mode. Dyble took on co-lead vocals, while Richard Thompson delivered a lengthy blues rock guitar solo.

Fairport Convention – Both Sides, Now (Joni Mitchell cover)

The third of Fairport’s early Joni Mitchell covers, “Both Sides, Now” remained unreleased for decades. Listening to it, you have to wonder why. The band does to Mitchell’s song what the Byrds did to Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man.” With Dyble taking the lead, they keep the song’s folk sensibilities while playing it with a light rock jangle that makes you want to sing along.

Trader Horne – Down & Out Blues (Jimmy Cox cover)

Trader Horne’s one album included a lone cover song, a take on the blues standard “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out.” Titled “Down and Out Blues,” Trader Horne played the track about the perils of blowing all your cash as a slow piece of folk blues. With the sparse arrangement, Dyble’s voice shines as she sings of longing for better days.

Judy Dyble – See Emily Play (Pink Floyd cover)

Pink Floyd first released “See Emily Play” as a single in 1967. The song is a short, tight piece of spacy hard rock. Dyble recorded an unreleased demo in 1982 that fuses ‘80s pop with new age grooves. She revisited the song again on her 2006 album Spindle. One of the rare covers released by Dyble in her later years, the 2006 track is an earthy dance pop track, with hints of her psychedelic rock past embedded in the mix.

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