Bert Jansch – Unsung Guitar Hero

Bert Jansch performing at the Green Man Festival

Image: c. Chris Barber. Dartford, England


You probably didn’t notice it, but a guitar legend died recently. No, not Eric Clapton or Jimmy Page or even Slash – but someone who probably influenced all of these fine musicians. He certainly influenced one of my early Folk Heroes, so I’ll pass you on to that man, Ralph Mctell, who had this to say on his Homepage about the gifted Bert Jansch:


Should Bonn Open-Air Close?

Jeff Beck in Bonn

Will I be back? You choose Bonn

We are now well into the  Open Air concert season in Bonn’s Museumsplatz and the future of the venue is similarly very much ‘up in the air’.  The present Contract for the Open-Air Season is due for renewal in October, but who will take on the challenge?

Despite top acts this season like BB King and local draw Bläck Fööss, a recent interview with Bundeskunsthalle Financial Director Bernhard Spies in ‘General Anzeiger’ seemed to suggest that the future  of concerts on the Museumsmile appears bleak.  Complaints by the public. Complaints by local traders, falling attendances, crippling renovation costs.  Is there still a glimmer of hope that Bonn can avoid losing it’s premier Music Venue?

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Balancing Act – Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse performing in Berlin in 2007

Image via Wikipedia

‘I cheated myself,
Like I knew I would,
I told you I was trouble,
You know that I’m no good

Sad news this week that Amy Winehouse joined the infamous 27 Club of famous musicians who ended their lives almost before they truly began.  „They will never grow old“ to paraphrase the lost souls of the Great War.  Truly they never will.  Who can imagine Hendrix without a frilled shirt and bell bottomed trousers?  or Morrison without a lean, hungry look and leather trousers?  Amy Winehouse will now forever be the girl with a bee hive on, and sadly in, her head.  A crazy mixed up kid with a musical gift that was greater than she could carry.

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Support your local Record Store


Saturday (April 16) was ‘Record Store Day’ internationally, so it seems like a good time to reminisce about the good old days of searching out those rare (and often scratched) black vinyl gemstones in grubby old shops that really seemed as dirty and dark as a real mine.

My first record purchase was actually made as a birthday pressie from my parents.  It was ‘Bits & Pieces’ – a pop masterpiece from the oft under-rated Dave Clark Five.  (Up there with Freddie & the Dreamers for forgotten heroes of my musical youth).  The shop, indeed every house that stood around it, has now been replaced – ‘Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy like – by a main road (and there isn’t even a restaurant at the end for consolation).  By the time I was old enough to actually enter such shops on my own, which had less to do with age but rather more to do with having enough pocket money to actually buy anything, there were two shops in the same road selling records.  Imagine that today people, two shops selling more than the top twenty in the same Street never mind the same city.  Add  the Top Twenty’ specialists like Woolworths and Weston Harts (who?) and the likelihood of spending all your candy money on black plastic was high – a healthy alternative to all that sugar, records should have been subsidized by the National Health Service.

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Johnny Cash – Walking the line of Fiction?

Comparing the Film ‘Walk the Line’ with the Autobiography ‘Cash’

Whilst never a big Country fan I couldn’t help but be mesmerized by ‘The Man in Black’ Mr Johnny Cash. There were times when it seemed like he must have been granted parole from prison just so he could visit it to make one of his famous recordings. No wonder his fan mail was often from inmates and outsiders who seemed to think he was an inmate too.

In his autobiography ‘Cash’ Johnny writes of their being four of him in effect:
‘Cash’ – the musician and star (and as wife June put it ‘the star and egomaniac)
‘Johnny’ – to friends and aquaintancies
John – To June and very close friends
J.R. – (his initials) to family

It’s not surprising then that when Fox  came to film his early years getting a character to fit all of these was going to literally be a case of ‘Walk the Line’. I settled down to watch the film of that very name this weekend.

All credit to Joaquim Phoenix who has no right to look anything like Cash but makes an incredible job of it. Onstage he has all the right moves and gestures. Musically he also hits all the right notes, quite literally. Reese Witherspoon is the spitting image of the picture in Johnny’s book depicting June Carter at The Grand Ole Opry in 1958 and rightly deserved her Oscar in 2005.

Problems arise with what’s actually depicted and how. Almost anticipating this problem Johnny actually started his 1997 book admitting that no two people see anything alike. He uses the story of a break-in at his Jamaica House to illustrate the point. Not surprisingly then there are cries of ‘This is just Hollywood’, This is not how it was’ especially from Johnny’s daughter Rosanne, who says the film hurts because it’s people she knew and loved and situations she knew but she doesn’t recognize them. A sort of ‘Village of the Damned’ cry of ‘These are not my children’ in reverse you might say.

It’s a reason I’ve never cared to read books about historical figures written long after they were dead. How can anyone really write a biography about Henry VIII five hundred years after he died? We all know the party game: Start a story and pass it on around the table – the more people that pass it on the less semblance it has of the original story.

The best we can ever hope for are small scraps of information. That’s all we can truly trust.
Charles Dickens didn’t always have that beard, Churchill was once a small boy who didn’t smoke cigars, Robert Johnson will always be wearing a fedora hat in our minds eye. If we want to add to that basic information then we have to realise that it’s all subjective and based on how others saw reality.

There’s a lot made in the film of the death of Johnny’s older brother in a sawmill accident, it’s used very much to explain his inner anger and emotion for the rest of the film (the point is made so heavily at the opening that the the director even felt it was safe to drop scenes depicting the funeral and one where the adult Johnny sees his brother in a dream during his troubled first marriage).

Johnny Cash says in his autobiography – “events start slipping and sliding” and Rosanne Cash claimed in an interview that ‘Walk the Line’ is “just a Hollywood Movie” and not how it was.
Reading Johnny’s book gives me the impression he would have said about the movie:
“I guess everyone sees things differently, maybethat was it, maybe it wasn’t”

The film version of Johny Cash? Mesmerizing performances by the main stars and super music (not surprisingly). Whether it’s truth or Hollywood maybe even the real characters couldn’t tell you for sure.