Sandy Denny – 1967

Today, I post a track laden with hindsight of what could have been. There was a time when the English folk rock history books could have been rewritten if but a few minor things happened. Released in 1973, but recorded in 1967, by the Strawbs on their album All Our Own Work, in this completely forgotten album laid the foundation for something major that could have changed the trajectory for both groups involved. “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” a Sandy Denny original, would later catapult a different group the Fairport Convention into stardom and bring about English new folk rock’s heyday and the Strawbs would take a different route to rejoin what they gave up.

Born, in 1947 at Wimbledon, England, Sandy was a young girl born to a proper English family who wanted her to get proper schooling and pursue a career in nursing. However, from a young age she had studied piano and guitar learning traditional songs like the ones her Scottish grandmother would sing to her. She followed the path her parents set out for her, for just a bit, but was lured by her own muse again, the sound of music. 
As a student in the Kingston College of Art she would escape in the evenings to play in the folk club on campus. Originally, she would sing American-influenced folk songs and pop, mixed with traditionals she would learn to play herself. Around this time she had become the girlfriend of Jackson C. Frank, and had been signed to a small label to record some demos of traditional songs and songs she enjoyed from other people, including Jackson. Around that time, she was kicking around a demo for “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” an original song of hers.

Sandy and the Strawbs 1967

Its this voice, song, and music that wowed the Strawbs when they first heard her play at the Troubadour. The Strawbs by then were another one of those English Skiffle bands who were more interested in Americana music and American folk pop than anything coming from England’s “antiquated” past. However, something about the passionate way that Sandy knew how to sing those forgotten traditional songs and the way she could create her own songs that could mutate and harken back to that same feeling, drew them to her. 

In 1967, she traveled with them to Denmark to record an album. It was the time spent there that finally gave the first taste of what kind of music could be created when someone backed her ideas. She saw in the traditional English songs a unique pastoral quality that American folk songs couldn’t quite capture. The Strawbs themselves worked diligently to learn some of these new traditional songs they had by then ignored most of their lives. Influenced by each other they created the first strains of English folk rock. However, fame that should have arrived from this album wasn’t meant to be. Somehow, the record label bungled the release and shelved it from being released deeming it too unlike what the Strawbs should sound like and removing string arrangements that they recorded for it. After this bungling, Sandy would part from the Strawbs and look for a band willing to go further with her.

All Our Own Work album cover.

Listen to these two songs though, can you hear why Richard Thompson and Simon Nicol, both guitarists from the then thoroughly American-psychedelia influenced Fairport Convention would jump on the chance to get her in their band? They were, unknowingly, all peas that belonged in the same pod and who could help each other realize their full potential. For damn sure, English music wouldn’t be the same after Iain Matthews and Judy Dyble were replaced by her, and by the time she had shifted those two talented musicians into recognizing the brilliance yet to be discovered in their own heritage and minds. More of that tomorrow, though…

and Two Weeks Last Summer presented a skeleton-like frame for the Strawbs of a Dave Cousins original influenced highly by Sandy:

that would be transformed enormously much later on…then three years later, with her post-Fairport Convetion band, Fotheringay, into this neo-folk triptych: