The sixth of October, 2011: you play your fucking blues and I’ll play mine

Bert Jansch died yesterday. My childhood was accompanied – intermittently, but persistently – by my Dad’s unsuccessful attempts to master Jansch’s version of Anji. My adulthood has so far been intermittently yet persistently accompanied by my own unsuccessful attempts to do the same.

Here’s a story from Colin Harper’s masterly Jansch biography, Dazzling Stranger (Bloomsbury, 2001). In May 1964, Jansch was at a party with the American blues guitarist Walter ‘Brownie’ McGhee. After playing a few songs himself, McGhee urged Jansch to “play us a blues, man”. Jansch began to play, in his own idiosyncratic style.

“That ain’t the blues, man!” shouted Brownie. Bert lowered the guitar. “Listen, man,” he said. “You play your fucking blues and I’ll play mine.”

Another story mentioned in the book – that Jansch was the only man in the UK during the 20th century to develop scurvy – is one of those that comes under the heading Should Be True But Sadly Isn’t.

One more story, from Jansch’s drinking days (on which subject, by the way, one of Jansch’s ladyfriends delivers the final word in Dazzling Stranger:  “Bert spent a lot of time in pubs. He was always a great observer”). This one’s recounted by Wizz Jones.

I remember on one occasion saying to someone at a hotel at about one in the morning, “Have you seen Bert?” and they said, “Well, the last time I saw Bert he’d just gone into the lift with a tray of drinks.” The last thing the guy saw was the doors closing, the lift starting and Bert toppling over with this tray of twenty or thirty drinks, crashing in a heap. I’d love to have been there at the other end when the doors opened.

Shouldn’t laugh, I suppose – but then, he made it through okay. RIP and all that.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s