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Family Business

And you've said before that when you used to go out performing, the audiences expected the same dozen or so Coppers' greatest hits.

Jill, John, Bob, Jon, Lynn. Royal Festival Hall 1986spacer
Jill, John, Bob, Jon, Lynn. Royal Festival Hall 1986 (Photo: I. Anderson)
J.C. Well now we leave that sort of thing much more to chance, if we have a booking. We sing much more what we would like to sing, some of the songs in the repertoire which, if you're not careful, get pushed to the side and neglected. I'll spring a song on him that he hasn't even thought of for five years - but they're all in there somewhere with Dad, it's like riding a bike! It's nice to have that spontaneity, then there's that freshness in it that you lose very quickly if you're singing the same songs night after night.

B.C. If you're professional musicians and performers, you can make it sound fresh every time, but not bums like us. We just sing mostly because we like the songs, we're not clever enough to make it professional. It's like those long players we did for Bill Leader. He came down in the afternoon after closing time, about half past three, and we had to open the club again at six. We just rattled them off.

J.C. We recorded 82 tracks in 4 sessions like that, with 12 re-takes. We were appalled - I thought it was a bit too extreme at the time, but maybe he did have a good idea. I don't know. I've never heard 'em right through. It's like looking in the mirror - it's bloody awful, but you can't do anything about it!

But right back to your original question - my father's generation were the old traditional singers who never sang in front of an audience at all when they first started. They were suddenly thrust into a world of concerts, folk platforms, etc. But don't forget that happened a whole generation ago - it was over 30 years ago that Dad was performing in the Royal Albert Hall. I was absolutely brought up with it, and I have to almost contrive a singaround situation or a family sing-song. It's something you have to organise, whereas in Dad's younger days, these sort of things happened naturally. So even for Dad, it's a long time ago to remember.

This feature first appeared in issue 20 of The Southern Rag (the original title of fRoots) in April 1984.


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