Dave Pegg Pulls a Bo Jackson, Plays Bass for 2 British Bands
Dave Pegg has never heard of Bo Jackson.
That’s understandable. Pegg is an English musician who knows little of the American sports world.
But Pegg’s current double duty as bassist for both Jethro Tull and Fairport Convention is something of the rock equivalent of Jackson’s twin tenure with both the football Raiders and the baseball Royals.
Jackson does one at a time, though; Pegg is currently occupied by both of his jobs simultaneously, as the pioneering folk-rock Fairport is the opening band on Tull’s current American tour, which includes a stand at the Universal Amphitheatre, ending tonight.
“It’s not something middle-age musicians should be subjected to too often,” the balding, 40-year-old Pegg said recently in a telephone interview. “I’m sure (Jackson’s) a bit fitter than I am.”
Still, he said, “I hope to be doing this when I’m 65.”
Age aside, the tour raises another question. Suggested a one-time fan: “Ask him why he’s in two bands that should have broken up 10 years ago.”
Pegg has heard the complaint before. But noting that Fairport’s music draws on several centuries of traditional forms, he said with a laugh, “Our music was obsolete to start with. It’s never been fashionable music that depends on whether you have a hairline.
“It (the question) is something you never think about,” he continued. “If it’s valid for us, that’s our only concern. If it appeals to people, the fact that you’re 40 years old doesn’t matter. The fact that you’re still making music, that both groups have stayed together and are still making original music is what counts.”
And the truth is, both bands seem to be at new peaks, at least commercially. Tull’s latest album, “Crest of a Knave,” is in Billboard’s Top 40, and the songs “Steel Monkey” and “Farm on the Freeway” have been big radio hits.
“We’ve been working almost non-stop since 1985,” Pegg said enthusiastically. “We’re about to start our biggest ever British Isles tour. We’ve got an awful lot of young people coming out to see us. The group’s got an identity again, so we had to keep it together, you know?”
Pegg’s double life began in 1979 when he accepted an invitation from Tull leader Ian Anderson to join the band. Fairport, which he’d been in since 1969, had ostensibly dissolved after an often tenuous and occasionally tumultuous 12-year history. (A 1979 Fairport family tree lists 15 different lineups with a total of 23 different members, including founder Richard Thompson and the late Sandy Denny.)
But, thanks in part to a loyal following, Fairport never vanished entirely, and in the summer of 1980, workaholic Pegg put together a Fairport reunion concert featuring members from some of the many lineups.
The reunions became an annual summer event, held in a cow pasture in rural Oxfordshire, near Pegg’s Banbury home. The latest two-day fest drew 15,000 people. “It’s become the biggest festival in Europe for that kind of music,” said Pegg.
In 1985 Pegg, Fairport founding guitarist Simon Nicol and drummer Dave Mattacks, who had been in the band since 1969, decided to record a new album, “Gladys’ Leap,” for their own Woodworm label.
Then, taking on new members Ric Sanders (violin) and Martin Allcock (guitar), the latest edition of Fairport Convention hit the road for a few dates in England and the Eastern United States. In 1986 this lineup made its first album, “Expletive Delighted,” and Island Records has now picked up “In Real Time,” a live album recorded at last summer’s festival, to go with the current tour--Fairport’s first full U.S. jaunt since 1975.
All this, of course, came between recording sessions and tours with Tull, and the work load’s not about to get any lighter.
“Tull hopes to come back to America in June to do some outdoor sites and hope to do another album then,” Pegg said. Plans for Fairport, he added, also call for another U.S. tour in spring or summer and another studio album. Which means, said Pegg, “I don’t get much time off.”
The one break he has on the current tour is that as a member of Tull he gets to fly between stops, while the other members of the lesser-budgeted Fairport must drive.
But his Fairport mates aren’t too jealous. “They know I have to do another two hours work every night.”