In the mid 1980’s, as I expanded my musical tastes and likes, I became aware of the folk-rock pioneers Fairport Convention. Their music, to me, seemed a natural extension, albeit in a slightly different direction, from the music I’d began to cut my teeth on as a teenager. Central to that desire to hear more of this band was the wizard like guitar playing of Maartin Allcock who sadly lost his battle against liver cancer this weekend.
Maart, as he was universally and affectionately known, was a hugely talented and amazing multi-instrumentalist, who added to the Fairport sound during his eleven year tenure with the band, both a rock edge and an experimental electronic sound that kept the band at the forefront of music progressiveness all the while remaining true to the folk sound that the band had developed over their then 20 odd year existence. And no album better demonstrated that than their 1991 release, The Five Seasons, which to me, as a reasonably new fan, both confirmed my love of the band whilst leading me to explore and find other bands and artists in the same field.
Maart was born, in 1957, in Middleton, Lancashire which is now part of Greater Manchester, with Maart’s Mancunian wit and view on life not ever being diminished, even right up to his death. Watching Maart play was to see someone totally in love with what they were doing, always performing to the best of his talents, and always with a smile on his face and in his heart and soul. Although naturally a huge presence on whichever stage he performed, Maart also had the talent to complement and allow to shine whoever he played with and for. Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to have not only seen him perform with Fairport Convention but also such disparate acts as Jethro Tull, The Bad Shepherds, Blue Tapestry and more recently, at this year’s Cropredy Festival, with the Bar Steward Sons of Val Doonican a band whom he has helped over the years by producing their albums.
Indeed, judging by the comments, status’ and eulogies from all over social media it is obvious that Maart was much more than just a great multi-instrumentalist and performer as time and time again instances of how he supported, encouraged and helped musicians achieve are numerous and heartfelt. With always a friendly word for whoever wished to chat, Maart’s presence was always keenly felt and will be hugely missed.
It is perhaps fitting then that Maart was able to leave the stage he graced, at Fairport Convention’s annual reunion, in a fitting style just over a month ago where he led the band and crowd, firstly in a totally rocked out Matty Groves before ending the show with Meet On The Ledge. With not a dry eye on the field or stage, Maart went out as he deserved, with adoration and love around him. And so, therefore I can say to Maart, thank you for being the catalyst for me to find out about one of the greatest bands of all time, and that I’m sure your space on the Ledge with those guys such as Dave Swarbrick and Pete Zorn, with whom you created such great music, is assured as you put together that awesome band up along the road somewhere.
Photo Credit: Ian Burgess – Friends of Fairport
5th January 1957 – 16th September 2018