Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Bert Jansch

Bert Jansch was born in Glasgow in 1943, but brought up in Edinburgh. As a teenager he began playing the folk guitar, enjoying the music of such artists as Pete Seeger, Big Bill Broonzy and Woody Guthrie. He also met and shared a flat with Robin Williamson, with whom he travelled to London in 1963.
Between 1963 and 1965, he travelled around Europe and beyond, hitch-hiking from place to place and living on earnings from busking and playing in bars and cafes. Then, in 1965, he met engineer and record producer Bill Leader at whose home they made a recording of his songs on a reel to reel. Leader sold the tape for £100 to Transatlantic Records who produced an album, called Bert Jansch, directly from it. It went on to sell 150,000 copies. One of those copies was mine.

I loved it and, along with John Wildash, who introduced me to Jansch’s music, it formed the basis of the folk guitar style that I still use. I remember listening to his version of Davey Graham’s Angie and thinking – but how can he play all those different things at once? (With the bass line and the tune – it sounds like two guitarists playing – at least it did to me then.) Angie is still great fun to play – in its day it was the folk equivalent of Stairway to Heaven, played by aspiring folk guitarists everywhere. It was definitely an album for teenagers featuring tracks such as Running From Home, and the influential Needle of Death, about drug addiction. Many of the songs on that album were covered by others such as Donovan, and it’s an album I often return to for a folk fix.

I saw Bert Jansch play in Coventry Cathedral with Pentangle in the early seventies. That was a magical night. And he’s still going as strong as ever with around thirty or so albums to his credit. In 2001 he received a well-deserved Lifetime Achievement Award at the BBC 2 Folk Awards.

If you like folk music and are unfamiliar with this man’s work, do yourself a favour and look him up. .
Here's Angie...


C.J.Duffy said...

I have heard a lote about this chap. Was he responsible for the theme tune to 'Take Three Girls'?

if both you and Michael are up for it, I have a recent recording of Revolver by a host of 'Americana' artists. Rather good as it brethaes not only new life into a classic album but also gives it a new 'feel'. If either of you want a copy then let me know. (I think I owe both of you one - if you know what I mean?

C.J.Duffy said...


wastedpapiers said...

I always get him and Martin Carthy mixed up. Certainly very under rated folk singer.

The Revolver comp. sounds like fun C.J. I would be happy to give it a listen though I cant imagine any Beatles song being done better than by the fabs themselves.

Roger Stevens said...

I'm up for that. I may well have it though. tell me who a couple of the tracks are by. I've a Mojo version - there's a great version of yellow Submarine by Chris Eckman.

C.J.Duffy said...

It may be Mojo. It may be UNCUT but def not Q. I'll have a look.

C.J.Duffy said...

Was the Pentangle song 'Night Flight'? It featured on the TV series 'Take Three Girls'.

Roger Stevens said...

I don't know.

Roger the Saurus said...

The "Take three girls" song was "Night Flight" by Pentangle - a truly wonderful group that combined the folk genius of Bert Jansch, John renbourn and Jacqui McShee with the jazzier sensibilities of Danny Thompson on bass and Terry Cox on drums. They reformed for a tour this year which was well worth seeing.

C.J.Duffy said...

An excellent band that were true innovators. Jazz and folk had not mixed before. Certainly not in the weay they wrote and performed their songs. A big influence on the likes of Nick Drake and John (wotshisname with the slurred voice?)McCarthy>
? No, can't remember.

YES! John Martyn!!