Joan As Police Woman & Andrew Batt on Sandy Denny
Joan Wasser (aka Joan As Police Woman)
Sandy Denny has that "thing" I love in a songwriter who sings her own songs. She sings to soothe her own sorrow, that blank space inside her, and in doing so, brings the listener great comfort. Our spaces may vary slightly or greatly, but we've all got them; that place where things get lost, where life doesn't and won't make sense, where loneliness exists and feels as if it will never retreat.
Because we all know that Denny ultimately died from the complications from a fall, while inebriated. We know that she had her share of this kind of pain, as well. Is this why she didn't become a bigger star at the time? I don't know. No one can know this. Certainly if she had lived longer, she'd have had more time to show the world how stunningly talented she was.
I do feel that the cream always rises to the top, no matter how isolated or adverse to success or appreciation one might be. In this case, a songwriter and singer of her calibre seemed surely ready to experience renewed interest, especially because her songs are classics. They are timeless and enduring; simple enough to be sung and interpreted by others, distinct enough to be undoubtedly hers.
I was interested in this project because what Denny created is what I am interested in doing in my own life as a songwriter and singer. I want to sing from that place we all share; from the space that can feel indescribably painful and confusing but also unites us all. Learning through living in another's songs makes me a protégé and a believer of her truth.
And I do believe in Sandy Denny.
Andrew Batt, Creative producer.
I still remember the first time I ever heard Sandy. I was at university and was wiling away my Saturday in one of the then many second hand record stores, when I came across the North Star Grassman and the Ravens LP. I bought it partly on the strength of it’s extraordinary cover, and because Kate Bush, whom I was then in thrall to, had name checked her in a song – and so the connection was made, in the way that interest in one thing often leads to the discovery of another. Having put the LP on I was instantly blown away by the opening track 'Late November'. All the elements that make Sandy special are present, from the unexpected harmonies and elusive lyrics, and of course that voice, which leads you on siren-like; intrinsically melancholy without ever being sentimental, both powerful and restrained. I think I decided that day, right there and then that I was going to have to buy all her albums! Thus was my introduction to Sandy; not through Fairport Convention or even her collaboration with Led Zeppelin, which led many to Sandy’s door.
Since that time, a passion became a hobby which became a career: I’ve been lucky enough to have been invited to work on some great music projects including many of the Sandy re-issues that have surfaced in recent years including the Live at the BBC box set, the 19 CD box set and now the forthcoming deluxe editions of Sandy’s last three solo albums.
It was on the 30th anniversary of Sandy’s death that I first thought of doing a show celebrating Sandy’s music, a friend and I had done an intimate show at the London Troubadour; one of the venues that Sandy had made her name in back in the mid-sixties which proved to be a success beyond our expectations. After that I felt there was room for something more ambitious, and so began work on ‘The Lady: a Homage to Sandy Denny’, which was first performed at Southbank in London at the end of the year, and was a real success. I’d always planned to take the show on the road at some point, but we all got involved in other projects so it rather went on the backburner. It was only when Thea Gilmore got involved in the project that became her album Don’t Stop Singing - where she set to music lyrics we found amongst Sandy’s paperwork - that I knew the time was right to tour a show that could now look at Sandy’s complete musical legacy. This tour isn’t a mawkish tribute, it’s an attempt to redirect the focus back to Sandy’s song writing at a time when more and more of today’s rising stars are acknowledging Sandy’s contribution and significance not just as a singer but as a songwriter; artists such as Laura Marling, Joanna Newsom, Florence Welch and the Unthanks. It’s heartening that Sandy is finally getting the sort of recognition she always deserved as I believe these songs have a future, and this tour is part of giving them one.
The Sandy Denny deluxe reissues are out now on Universal and follow the recent live shows, The Lady: A Homage to Sandy Denny, a special tour commemorating Sandy's songwriting legacy.
'The Songs of Sandy Denny: Who Knows Where The Time Goes', directed by Janet Fraser Crook, will be broadcast on BBC4 on 17th September.