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GUEST,Philip Andrews, aka ((:o)x Bert Jansch - UK TV (BBC4) tonight (64* d) RE: Bert Jansch - UK TV (BBC4) tonight 03 Apr 14


Haven't got much to say really - I ran headlong on all fronts from about early 1973 to a few months ago without stopping for breath, and am only now picking up all of the bits and trying to make sense of what I've done.

I wasn't being critical of Martin Simpson earlier - not in the least - and I am well aware of his skill and creative ability, ever since seeing him for the first time at the Bedford (New St. George) Folk Club in 1979. All I was trying to say is that he couldn't very well just lift the original LA Turnaround arrangement for the Tribute Concert. (As an aside, I learned 'Blues Run The Game' from an excellent guitar player from Hull by the name of Dave Parker, last seen somewhere in the vicinity of Cheltenham in the early '70s, after he moved there with his job. I had no idea that what he played was more or less the way Bert put it together on LA Turnaround in 1974 - except that I made Dave's recording of it - which I've lost, unfortunately, or maybe not - it could be here - in 1971.)

I have a Facebook page too, but I'm not self-absorbed enough to think that much (if any) of how I've spent my time on Earth is actually worth retailing to anyone - and especially not to a world-full of strangers, pardon my diffidence. I haven't the literary skills that I'd need to be able to deploy, in order to describe the floating sensation I'd get (sober and straight, mind) when listening 'live' to players such as Bert. His gig at the New Theatre in Oxford in 1975, though, was almost a complete bust: because he'd clearly necked a few sherbets before the gig started, and carried on drinking throughout the set. After a few fumbles and mumbles, suddenly 'here it comes' - a fantastic fifteen minutes of sheer lucid brilliance ... which was succeeded by an almost incoherent and steadily-more-drunken wander through a few more tunes, before the gig sort of just ran out. I was pretty disappointed - it was the first solo gig of Bert's that I'd managed to catch, and my own small adventures in front of very forgiving folk club audiences during the preceding 2-3 years had taught me not to drink at all before the gig (in order to get up enough courage to play - 'sober and straight or not at all' became my unbreakable rule, or I knew that the performance would go to pieces and I'd be ill later as well); and yet here was the professional-musician guy I'd loved and admired for so long, literally falling off his chair with drink less than halfway through his gig. He more than made up for it a few years later at Whittlebury Folk Club, though - he was touring 'Avocet' with his band at the time, and was consistently and utterly brilliant throughout the evening. He was also completely sober, which may have had something to do with it. The deceptively thrown-away stand-out track of the night, emotionally, was 'Ask Your Daddy' (which I'd never heard before, and which had a similar effect on me as hearing 'I Am Lonely', performed ten years eariler at Bradford Uni during the Pentangle gig, also as a throwaway) - so the band would presumably have been Conundrum as at around 'Thirteen Down' time, with Polly something-or-other on perfectly-supportive vocals. It was a very good gig indeed - and on that occasion, the only problem the organiser had was to find where the band had disappeared to during the intermission. (They were seated around a table in the bar, heavily involved in a card game.)

The folk clubs were, of course, a lot more than just small music venues. They were - and presumably still are - social nexi, where a person on their own (and maybe in a new and strange area) could go along, join in or not but be accepted and included anyway, hear some great music virtually for free, and generally feel like a proper normal human being for a few hours. That, for me, was the true value of such places - that they had two functions, only one of which was musical. An outstanding place of that kind was, and I very much hope still is, The Grove in Leeds, where I hung out for a number of happy years before the long-term ill-effects of smoking home-rolled cigarettes finally caught up with me. After that series of episodes, I couldn't be in any place where there was smoke - of any kind - or dust either, in the air. At one stroke, my entire social life vanished in 1993, and hasn't been revived yet, even though most places are now smoke-free. I can count myself lucky that my tobacco-induced throat condition remains pre-cancerous (so far), and that I had so many good years of innocent entertainment playing the clubs and chasing around after a variety of excellent players. I would just have preferred that it had gone on for a bit longer ... which is why BBC Four and its music content is such a fantastic resource (for me) these days, because it's revived some of what I thought I'd lost forever and has also presented me with a great deal of thought-provking material that I'd never have had the resources (or imagination) to get access to any other way. And in spite of a certain amount of criticism that I've read of the Bert Jansch Tribute Concert, I'd say that everyone who played it did their part correctly - by leaving their egos in the cloakroom and doing their best to honour the memory of one of the most intriguing and genuinely valuable folk musicians of the era. In other words, they all acted like true old-style folkies - even though a lot of them weren't even born when Bert was busy upending things in spots like Les Cousins, playing 'proper' guitar for the rockers who'd dropped in for a music lesson, after their own gig was over.

OK ... I've just seen a couple of men in white coats walking past my window, carrying a gorilla net between them - so it's probably time for me to split. I'll have less to say next time, I expect ... all about stalking various solo players and pub bands with a cassette player and a microphone in hand, on my continuing quest to obtain outstanding but definitely niche-audience music. I had a great time, met some excellent people, and still have the recordings I made (which is certainly the best part). That way, all of those people are still very much alive (for me), even though so many of them have passed on.


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