Bill Fay

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Bill Fay
Pen and ink portrait of Fay.
Pen and ink portrait of Fay.
Background information
Birth nameWilliam Fay
Born (1943-12-20) 20 December 1943 (age 76)
Years active1970–1971, 2010–present
LabelsDeram, Durtro, Dead Oceans, Wooden Hill, Coptic Cat

William Fay (born 1943) is an English singer, pianist and songwriter whose early releases were made on the Deram label in 1967. Following the release of his second album in 1971, Fay was dropped by the label. His work enjoyed a growing cult status in the 1990s, and his older works were re-issued in 1998 and 2004/2005. Fay's 2012 album, Life Is People, was his first album of all-new material since 1971. His most recent album, Countless Branches, was released on 17 January 2020.


Early career[edit]

Fay was born in north London, where he still lives.[1]

His first single, "Some Good Advice" / "Screams in the Ears", was issued on the Deram label in 1967, and was followed by two albums, Bill Fay in 1970 and Time of the Last Persecution in 1971.[2] The recordings did not sell well, and Fay was dropped from Deram soon after the release of his second album.[3] They were re-issued in 1998,[4] and then again in 2005.[5]

Despite returning to the recording studio in the late 1970s, the follow-up to Time of the Last Persecution was not released until January 2005,[6] following the reissues of his earlier works.

Cult status and comeback[edit]

Bill Fay's work enjoyed a growing cult status in the 1990s.[7] His first two albums were re-issued in 1998,[4] an event which Bill Fay described in 2012 as follows:

Up until 1998, when some people reissued my albums, as far as I was concerned, I was gone, deleted. No one was listening. But then I got the shock that people remembered my music. I was doing some gardening, and listening to some of my songs on cassette, and a part of me thought they were quite good. I thought, "Maybe somebody will hear them someday." That same evening, 14 years ago, I got a call from a music writer telling me that my two albums were being reissued. A shock is not gonna get much bigger than that, David [...] It was astonishing to me. I won't ever really be able to believe that it happened. That's how I feel about it. I had come to terms with the fact that I was deleted, but that I had always kept writing songs anyway and that was good enough.[4]

In 2004, the British label Wooden Hill released a collection of demos recorded between 1966 and 1970 entitled From the Bottom of an Old Grandfather Clock. In 2005 his late 1970s recordings were released January 2005. Entitled Tomorrow, Tomorrow & Tomorrow, it was credited to the Bill Fay Group and was released on the Durtro Jnana label.[6]

The compilation album Still Some Light appeared on the Coptic Cat label in 2010,[8] a double CD containing a mix of older material and newer, home-recorded songs.[9]

Life is People, released 21 August 2012 on Dead Oceans, is his first new studio LP in over 40 years.[10]

A new album by Bill Fay was released in April 2015, titled Who Is the Sender?'. The second album track, "War Machine", came out as a single in February 2015.[11]

A feature article entitled "Bill Fay Was a Hidden Gem. One Musician Made Finding Him a Mission" was published in the New York Times on January 15, 2020.[12]

Covers and appreciation[edit]

The American band Wilco has played Fay's song "Be Not So Fearful" in live performances and the band's singer, Jeff Tweedy, can be heard singing it in the documentary, I Am Trying to Break Your Heart: A Film About Wilco. Fay has joined the band and Tweedy onstage for the rendition of the song at shows at the Shepherd's Bush Empire in 2007, and at the Union Chapel, Islington in 2010 respectively, both in London.[13]

The English singer-songwriter and pianist John Howard recorded a cover version of the song "Be Not So Fearful" for his E.P. Songs for the Lost and Found (2008). The song "Be Not So Fearful" was also covered by Ed Harcourt on the benefit compilation album Songs to Save a Life - In Aid of Samaritans (2011).

A cover version of Fay's "Pictures of Adolf Again", by producer and musician Jim O'Rourke and Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche, can be heard in the film from Kōji Wakamatsu, United Red Army.[citation needed] The title track of "Time of the Last Persecution" became a live standard of the British Apocalyptic folk group, Current 93.[citation needed]

The band Okkervil River covered Fay's song "Plan D" on their Golden Opportunities 2 EP in 2011.

The American band The War on Drugs covered Fay's song "I Hear You Calling" at shows throughout 2014.

His song "Be Not So Fearful" got a cover by A.C. Newman in 2014, and was used in the episode "Us" of The Walking Dead.[14][15]

In 2008 the English singer Marc Almond recorded a live version of "Cosmic Boxer" and it was released on his album In 'Bluegate Fields': Live at Wilton's Music Hall.



Compilation albums[edit]

  • From the Bottom of an Old Grandfather Clock (recorded 1966-1970; Wooden Hill, 2004)
  • Still Some Light (2CD, recorded 2009; Coptic Cat, 2010) (compilation of early 1970–1971 studio recordings and 2009 new material home recordings)[nb 1]


  1. ^ The first CD consists of studio recordings sourced from archival 7½" tapes and cassette from 1970 and 1971. The 1970 tracks are prior to the recording of Time of the Last Persecution, and contain alternative versions of songs on that album, two tracks from Bill's first album Bill Fay as well as previously unreleased songs. There are also previously unreleased songs from 1971. The second CD is a home-recorded studio album from 2009.[16]


  1. ^ Robert Helbig (23 August 2012). "Review: Bill Fay - Life Is People". Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  2. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "Bill Fay Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 10 January 2010.
  3. ^ Currin, Grayson (21 August 2012). "Bill Fay: Life Is People". Pitchfork. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  4. ^ a b c "The Strange and Wonderful Return of Cult Hero Bill Fay". 7 August 2012.
  5. ^ "Disc of the Day". Mojo. Archived from the original on 13 January 2009. Retrieved 10 January 2010.
  6. ^ a b Mulvey, John. "Some Bill Fay News". Uncut. Retrieved 10 January 2010.
  7. ^ NBHAP, Bill Fay returns with new album ‘Who Is The Sender?’, premieres ‘War Machine’,
  8. ^ "Still Some Light". AllMusic. Retrieved 10 January 2010.
  9. ^ Mulvey, John. "Bill Fay: Still Some Light". Uncut. Retrieved 12 July 2012.
  10. ^ Breihan, Tom. "Bill Fay Life is People details". Retrieved 12 July 2012.
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 22 February 2015. Retrieved 22 February 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ Currin, Grayson Haver (15 January 2020). "Bill Fay Was a Hidden Gem. One Musician Made Finding Him a Mission". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 19 January 2020.
  13. ^ Clarke, Betty (23 May 2007). "Wilco". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 January 2010.
  14. ^ "A.C. Newman – "Be Not So Fearful" (Bill Fay Cover)". 21 March 2014.
  15. ^ A.C. Newman takes on a classic folk song for this week's episode of The Walking Dead.,
  16. ^ "Bill Fay – Still Some Light". January 2020. Retrieved 21 January 2020.

External links[edit]

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