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Archive for April 6th, 2014

BJI’ve just been watching The Genius of Bert Jansch. I’d recorded it some time ago so it must be in its last days on BBC iPlayer so click now or lose the chance of hearing Neil Young do a moving version of ‘Needle of Death’ in a recording space the size of a telephone booth, and Whizz Jones, towards the end, with a brilliant rendering of Jansch’s High Days, a later lament over another friend who died and for whom he thought he should have done more.

I dug out my copy of his first LP. I’m lucky to have it still. When I was sharing a flat in the late sixties, one of my flatmates at the time upped sticks and left for the States taking all my Bob Dylan LPs with him. It made me value the ones he left me even more, this one among them. It’s scratched in places but Bert’s lyric gift and powerful guitar playing still make it through the crackle.

Hearing the concert also brought back memories of my folk club running days in the 60s rather as the Julie Felix concert did, that I blogged about. I wrote then:

The guests I will always remember best from those days running the club were Bert Jansch and John Renbourne. They played separately – their appearances were pre-Pentangle.

It was the first Bert Jansch appearance in particular that took us completely by surprise. The first time he played at our club was just after his debut LP came out and before he raised his fee to £45, a month’s wages for me in those days. We turned up on the night, with a biscuit tin for a till as usual, to see a queue all down the side of the pub, round the corner and heading up the hill to Ally Pally – sorry, Alexandra Palace.

We were authorised to have 50 people in our long but narrow room upstairs. After a quick word with the landlord, who clearly saw a huge escalation in beer sales on the way (this was long before I had even heard of the Bahá’í Faith so I had no scruples about increasing the profits of the breweries at that time), we tripled the limit and kept counting them in. Even so there were a few sad people left to drown their disappointment downstairs to the delight of the landlord.

Our takings were more than enough to cover his subsequently increased fee so we booked him again about a year later.

Afterwards I also found this footage of his 60th birthday concert on YouTube: he lacks the drive and precision of the guitar playing of his prime, but he still can convey the spirit of a song as in Crimson Moon and The River Bank for example.

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