Soundcheck Books 2016
Completing her comeback into collective conscious, former “lost lady of folk” finds the courage to go down memory lane and make it a highway to the future.
A footnote in the history of British popular music: that’s what Judy Dyble was for nigh on four decades – yet for all the singer’s shyness and refusal to accept her own importance, this story of the artist’s route is a fascinating tale. It’s riveting, and logical, too, even though there’s a great irony in the autobiography’s title indicating Judy’s unwillingness to see that she was bound to become what she is, and “accidental” can’t be the word to describe’s Dyble’s path, but that’s how she perceives her part in forming the identities of FAIRPORT CONVENTION and KING CRIMSON alongside smaller, if still integral to the big picture, achievements. “A story of me and my autoharp” is Judy’s method of describing her memoir and suggesting the instrument has been part of her own musical identity, although Dyble doesn’t hide behind it anymore when she weaves a yarn of life smoothly sliding into music, out of it and back again, and exposes her wonderment at all those events.
With nothing coquettish in Judy’s denial of being a star – the songstress knew she was “never going to become the new Annie Haslam or Sonja Kristina” whom she’d preceded as a frontwoman – this tome is as charming and modest as Dyble herself is, her precious little observations, from snapshots of the post-war London and its ’60s city scene to pictures of a village existence with its pantomime plays, fleshing out the main course, her music. The first word of this book is “Listen…”; and that’s what Judy’s readers have been, and will be, doing for years, but here the artist allows the listeners a peek into some of her creations’ origins without demystifying them. Instead, a few other secrets are revealed, so we learn where Dyble’s only tattoo is and what Robert Fripp used to think of colored toilet paper. Jimi Hendrix, Rod Stewart and Cat Stevens make cameo on these pages, yet Judy offers no anecdotes about the legends beyond those encounters and wouldn’t pretend to know them closer than she did – they were accidental acquaintances, indeed; as for Judy’s apocryphal on-stage knitting, there’s much more – or much less – to it, all depending on how one could interpret such a way to retreat from spotlight and still remain there.
Talking about her past and present with self-deprecating humor but at the same time with dignity – as befits a countess which Judy is by marriage, or an Englishwoman who mustn’t grumble – the only occasion where Dyble went as far as to admit the quality of what she did is in the chapter on TRADER HORNE: “we were good” may be the verdict which facilitated this band’s recent return, and with the same approach the singer’s mostly recent diary entries preface the tome’s parts to lead her to reminiscences of old, and not so old days. And that’s how, through Judy’s remembering that she wasn’t consulted on different decisions in various bands and recollections of her embarrassment at a Royal Albert Hall performance, she got her confidence, and music, back. Accidental, then? As accidental as a national treasure can be.