Steeleye Span: Some Background

In 1996, I spent about a week interviewing the members of Steeleye Span during their U.S. tour.  They did two nights in New York City and two nights in Philadelphia, and since I had homes in both cities in those days, I was able to interview them during all the spare moments they had on five different days.  A few weeks before their tour, I had interviewed Martin Carthy, a former Steeleye member.  I had already been assigned the Steeleye article at the time of the Carthy interview, so I took the opportunity to get his thoughts on Steeleye Span's history as well.  As a result of all this, I was able to do an unusually thorough job in my article, even for me.

I was so thorough, in fact, that it presented my editors at Dirty Linen a problem. They had to decide either to break the article into two parts for two different issues, or cut it back rather severely.  In the end, they chose to do the latter; it disappointed me, but that's par for the course for a working writer.  They did a very good job on the edit, and it was still an unusually thorough article.  When it came out, as they usually did with such features, the editors sent a copy to the band's management. 

To all our surprise, Steeleye's management got back to us and requested to license the article to use in their 1997 tour programme book.  We said yes, and some manner of deal was reached--the details now long forgotten.  I sent them the original, longer version of the article so they could do a fresh edit. 

The band was going to send me a few copies of the book after the tour, but they never did.  I therefore never saw the book, and concluded that either they had dropped the idea of a book, or they had rethought what would go in the book.  Again, it was disappointing, but par for the course for a feature writer; we've all had pieces killed for various reasons.  They had fulfilled their end of the bargain, and it was their decision to make.

I didn't think of it again for fifteen years.  Then, while preparing to put the article online at my website in 2011, I ran across an item called "Steeleye Span 1997 Tour Programme Book" selling on ebay.  I emailed the seller, and sure enough, he was able to confirm that my article was in it.  I bought the programme book, and digitized it for the Web.


Nineteen years after I interviewed her for the programme book, Maddy Prior signed my copy. It's still the only copy I've ever seen! Thanks to Kari Estrin for taking this photo.

I did make one correction to the text of the article.  In their fresh edit, they somehow deleted a "p" from the word "rapper," and added an "'s" to the end of the word, resulting in the embarrassing typo "raper's and longsword dance" instead of "rapper and longsword dance."  Photoshop to the rescue!  (The three amusing typos in the chart on pages 10-11, "Keek Folk Festival," "principle members," and "Ten Man Hop," were not written by me...the chart was added by the band's management!)

The first link below is to the programme book.  The pdf is text-searchable, but the search text was created by performing OCR on the page images, resulting in the usual errors and artifacts of the OCR process.  For your quoting pleasure, I therefore provide a second link to a plain HTML version of the article, which has the added advantage of using a different set of photos of Steeleye Span and related groups.