She Moves Though The Fair: Marianne Faithfull″





Marianne Faithfull “She Moved Through the Fair” (1966, 1990).

Faithfull’s two versions appear on the albums North Country Maid and Blazing Away. The first is a pretty girl-singer version with more than a hint of Davy Graham’s Indian influence in the musical backing; the second is an a capella live version from a woman whose voice has changed beyond all recognition. It’s hard to credit that it is the same person, but both versions are lovely – although I think that the deeper-voiced, unaccompanied version is the more affecting of the two.

In both versions, Faithfull sings variations on Colum’s lyrics (verses 1, 2 and 4), keeping the original poem’s brothers, but it is the father (not the parents) who won’t slight you. In verse two, it is the young love’s progress that is described, not the watcher’s reaction thereto: “And I watched her so swiftly move here and move there”. In the last verse , she dreams that her dead love came in, which is a fairly standard variation, albeit one more associated with earlier recordings such as McCormack’s than with the rock-influenced 1960s. Her use of Moved in the title rather than Moves is also indicative of this (it seems that Anne Briggs changed that d to an s, from the evidence I have).

Some light is shed by Faithfull’s liner notes in Blazing Away. First, she credits Padraic Colum as the author. Then she tells us,

I’ve loved it since I was 16, sung it all through these years with their twists and turns of fate.

She was 16 at the end of 1962. I suspect that Faithfull’s source, whatever it was, would have drawn upon the song as sung by John McCormack.


She Moves Through the Fair: Trees″

Trees, “She Moves Through The Fair” (1970).

This, another folk-rock version, is roughly contemporaneous with Fairport‘s version. However, the arrangement is distinctly different; there is a lot of acoustic guitar, a few drums quite a long way back in the mix, and this version is nearly twice as long as Fairport’s.

Tress make use of Colum’s lyrics, with many of the noted variations in place, including Mother/Father, hands being laid on and young loves visiting in the night (not as dreams).  Although the song retains its title, “She moves…” Celia Humphris actually sings he. In verse two, she sings, “so sadly I watched him” (this is more often the original fondly), and verse 3 is omitted, replaced with an instrumental break.

I originally bought this album because I was interested in the original version of the title track, “The Garden of Jane Delawney” – ably covered by All About Eve on a B-side – and was delighted to find “She Moves Through the Fair” here as well. In fact, I am fond of the whole album, as well as its follow-up, On the Shore.

She Moves Though the Fair: Fairport Convention″

Fairport Convention, “She Moves Through the Fair” (1969).

This is quite possibly the best known version of the song.  Fairport Convention – folk-rock pioneers – are widely credited with extricating the song from the folk ghetto. Their arrangement puts rock instruments: guitars and drums – to the fore. Sandy Denny, the vocalist, learnt the song from Anne Briggs‘ version and had also recorded it solo. Denny’s solo version (a home recording) is currently available on the box set A Boxful of Treasures.

Denny’s solo demo is also available on Youtube:

Denny sings the most popular 3 verses of Colum’s version, with many of the noted variations from the original. Her clear, pure vocals are supported by the music.

Fairport continue to record the song live at their annual Cropredy Convention, usually with guest singers.

Richard Thompson, a founder member of Fairport (and the guitarist whose work is heard behind Denny in the full band version streamable at the top of this page) who has since left for a successful solo career, has also been known to sing the song live. To my knowledge, he has not made a formal recording, but this rather lovely version is available on Youtube:

She Moves Through the Fair: Hazel O’Connor″

This comes from O’Connor’s 1995 album, Private Wars, which was only released in Germany. The album  is apparently quite difficult to get hold of now, but fortunately the song also features on the 2003 anthology, A Singular Collection (less fortunately, A Singular Collection is also out of print and seems to have risen in price since I acquired my copy).

Hazel O’Connor is an actress, a singer, a musician and a songwriter. She first came to prominence in the 1980 film “Breaking Glass”, which she starred in and also wrote and performed all the music for. Although labelled with a ‘post-punk’ tag, she has recorded music in a variety of styles. The album Private Wars is often described as being a return to her Irish roots (she was born in Coventry, England, but her father was from Galway, Ireland).

Her version of “She Moves Through the Fair” is an unusually muscular one. It features drums quite heavily, but also fiddles and, I think, tin whistles; all traditional instruments, but there is a ‘rock’ feel to the energy with which they are played. O’Connor’s voice is strong and high in the mix. This is no airy fairy atmospheric evocation of Olde Ireland!

O’Connor sings all four verses of the modern version. She is quite close to Colum’s original words, for all that she sings “mother/father” and “dead love”.

In addition to the noted variations, O’Connor also sings “move here and move there” (as opposed to “go”) in verse 2. In verse 3, she sings “And I watched as she went with her goods and her gear”. Verse 4 runs:

I dreamt it last night that my dead love came in
So softly she moved that her feet made no din
She came close beside me and this she did say
“It will not be long love ’til our wedding day”

O’Connor then repeats the last line and we are left with a lengthy instrumental playout.

All in all, this is a wonderfully entertaining version. It isn’t played as an atmospheric ballad like may of the other versions; it isn’t trying to be overtly traditional, nor does it have a classical leaning. It stands in a class of its own.

I’m very fond of this version; I would never have discovered it if I hadn’t started this project.

She Moves Through the Fair: Davy Graham (and Jimmy Page)″Davy Graham, “She Moved Through the Fair” (1962)″Davy Graham, “She Moved Thru the Bizarre / Blue Raga” (1967).

Davy Graham (1940 – 2008, also known as Davey Graham) was a British guitarist, born in Leicestershire to a Guyanese mother and a Scottish father.

These are both instrumental versions, notable for Graham’s innovative DADGAD guitar tuning on the first and for the (additional) eastern influence on the latter. Graham is widely considered to be a virtuoso guitarist and his playing has been influential on other musicians in both the folk and rock worlds.″

The Yardbirds, “White Summer” (1968)

Jimmy Page, then in the Yardbirds, famously based his instrumental, “White Summer” on Graham’s recording “She moved thru’ the Bizarre/Blue Raga”. There is, or was, some controversy surrounding the lack of acknowledgement of this debt. Page then moved on to Led Zeppelin, taking “White Summer” with him. It appeared as part of a medley with another song, “Black Mountain Side” (based – also without acknowledgement – on Bert Jansch’s version of the traditional British folk song “Blackwater Side”). A studio version is available to listen to on YouTube.

There’s a great post on Guitarkadia on Graham’s influence on Jimmy Page and beyond.

There’s a nice tale, related here, about the episode:

In 1963, Davey Graham recorded “She Moved Thru the Bizarre,” a unique guitar arrangement of the traditional Irish song “She Moved Through the Fair.” Graham’s version was a complex instrumental piece based loosely on the original that incorporated Indian influences. Page’s version, titled “White Summer,” is nearly identical to Graham’s. The Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin releases do not credit the piece’s original authorship and history. Apparently irked at the lack of acknowledgement to song and arrangement, Davy Graham approached Jimmy Page at an English music awards ceremony and greeted him with, “Hello Robert”.

She Moves Through the Fair: All About Eve

All About Eve, “She Moves Through the Fair” (1988).

This is where I came in; the first version of the song I ever heard. Julianne Regan’s beautiful voice is barely accompanied by a drone type instrument, so that it is almost an a cappella rendition. She sings a variant on the modern (Colum) lyrics.

All About Eve are difficult to categorise beyond the broad ‘rock’ bracket. They were associated with the mid to late 80s goth movement, but, despite an avowed early Siouxsie and the Banshees influence, their music shared relatively little with gothic rock . This, their eponymous debut album, also includes the ballad, “Martha’s Harbour”, which was their biggest hit, and a song written about Janis Joplin (“Wild Hearted Woman”). Later albums diverged further, occasionally shedding fans en route.

Julianne has declared an interest in 1960s folk rock, notably Sandy Denny, the one-time singer with Fairport Convention. Sandy did sing “She Moves Through the Fair” with Fairport, and was partly responsible for repopularising the song. It seems fair to say that All About Eve’s version is influenced by Fairport’s, although the instrumentation is remarkably different.

The drone reappears in a later version by Feargal Sharkey.