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Music / Unhalfbricking

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"Hello, Sandy's mum and dad!"

"My memory of it is bound up with the terrible car crash. On the back cover we're all eating around a table. The shirt and the leather waistcoat I'm wearing are what I had on when the crash happened. I can clearly remember them being bloodstained. You don't forget things like that."
Ashley Hutchings

The third album from Fairport Convention and the second of three released in 1969 that marked a change in the band's direction. Many regard it as the band's masterpiece while others prefer its followup, Liege & Lief.

Unhalfbricking came at a difficult time for the band. Singer Iain Matthews left during the recording sessions and appears only on "Percy's Song". Then, just a few weeks before release the band's van was involved in a crash on the M1 that killed drummer Martin Lamble and Richard Thompson's girlfriend Jeannie Franklyn, injuring other band members. This event triggered a lot of thinking about the band's future. Folk fiddler Dave Swarbrick joined in as a session musician on some tracks, notably "A Sailor's Life", and became a permanent member of the band afterwards, signalling a change away from the American country folk and bluegrass style to an exploration of the more deep-rooted and traditional British folk ballad. One such traditional song, "A Sailor's Life", was brought in by Sandy Denny from her solo folk club days and given a full rock makeover. Nothing quite like it had ever appeared on a mainstream rock album before but it would be a blueprint for what was to come.



Side One

  1. "Genesis Hall" - 3:41
  2. "Si tu dois partir" - 2:25
  3. "Autopsy" - 4:27
  4. "A Sailor's Life" - 11:20

Side Two

  1. "Cajun Woman" - 5:44
  2. "Who Knows Where the Time Goes?" - 5:15
  3. "Percy's Song" - 6:17
  4. "Million Dollar Bash" - 6:29

Additional tracks on CD release

  1. "Dear Landlord" - 4:05
  2. "Ballad of Easy Rider" - 4:55

The band:

  • Sandy Denny - vocals, harpsichord
  • Ashley Hutchings - bass, backing vocals
  • Martin Lamble - drums, stacked chair backs (on "Si tu dois partir")
  • Iain Matthews - vocals (on "Percy's Song" only)
  • Simon Nicol - electric and acoustic guitars, electric dulcimer, backing vocals
  • Richard Thompson - electric and acoustic guitars, electric dulcimer, piano accordion, organ, backing vocals



  • Bilingual Bonus: "Si tu dois partir".
  • Break-Up Song: "Autopsy"
    Come lend your time to me
    And you will know that you are free
    And when you look at me
    Don't think you're owning what you see
    For remember that you're free
    And that's what you want to be
  • Character Title: "Percy's Song".
  • Cover Version:
    • Two previously unreleased Dylan songs: "Percy's Song" and "Million Dollar Bash". "Si tu dois partir" is also a Dylan cover, a French language version of his song "If You Gotta Go, Go Now"
    • The traditional ballad "A Sailor's Life".
    • Averted with "Who Knows Where The Time Goes", which Sandy Denny had recorded earlier with The Strawbs for an album. That album wasn't released until 1973, however, so the version here was the first to be released.
    • The CD release includes Dylan's "Dear Landlord", from the album "John Wesley Harding", and "Ballad of Easy Rider" by The Byrds, from the soundtrack of Easy Rider.
  • Epic Rocking: "A Sailor's Life" runs almost eleven and a half minutes, and all the songs on Side Two are over five minutes.
  • Everything Is an Instrument: Martin Lamble plays "stacked chair backs" on "Si tu dois partir".
  • Face on the Cover: No, not the middle-aged couple in the foreground. They would be Sandy Denny's parents, Edna and Neil, standing outside their house in Wimbledon. You can see the band on the other side of the fence, sitting on the lawn. Inside the gatefold sleeve the band are sitting round a table though this is missing from the CD version.
  • Hanging Judge: "Percy's Song". 99 years for involvement in a fatal car crash seems excessive in any jurisdiction. The Cook County judge ain't listening, however.
    At that the judge jumped forward and his face it did freeze
    Turn, turn, turn again
    Saying "Could you kindly leave my office now please?"
    Turn, turn, to the rain and the wind
  • In It for Life: "Who Knows Where the Time Goes?" is a reflection on the passage of time, the cycle of the seasons, and the sense that some things, like close relationships, are timeless at least until death.
    And I am not alone while my love is near me
    I know it will be so until it's time to go
    So come the storms of winter and then the birds in spring again
    I have no fear of time
  • Kill the Poor: "Genesis Hall". Genesis Hall was the nickname of a squat in the Seven Dials area of London in the 1960s.
    You take away homes from the homeless
    And leave them to die in the cold
  • Neologism: "Unhalfbricking" emerged from a word game the band members were playing while travelling between gigs.
  • Non-Appearing Title: The album title doesn't appear in the title or lyrics of any of the songs. Songs with non-appearing titles are: "Genesis Hall", "Autopsy", "Percy's Song" and, on the CD release, "Ballad of Easy Rider".
  • One-Word Title: "Autopsy", as well as the album itself.
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word: The album's title came from a word game the band would play making nonsense words to pass the time on the road.
  • Special Guest: Folk violinist Dave Swarbrick. Following this album he joined the band permanently and turned it towards more traditional British folk music.
  • Textless Album Cover
  • Together in Death: "A Sailor's Life". The protagonist drowns herself by steering her boat into rocks when she hears that her beloved has been lost at sea.
    Well, she wrung her hands and she tore her hair
    She was like a young girl in great despair
    And her little boat against a rock did run
    "How can I live now? My sweet William is gone
  • Translated Cover Version: "Si tu dois partir", a French version of Bob Dylan's "If You Gotta Go, Go Now" which had been a British hit for Manfred Mann.
  • Uncommon Time: "Autopsy" switches between 3/4, 4/4, and 5/4.


Example of: