A Tribute To Bert Jansch

Bert Jansch and I arrived at the same club in London within 3 months of each other in 1965. We’d both had very separate journeys to get there, we knew nothing of each other, but we arrived at Les Cousins in Greek St, Soho, for the same reason. We were both inspired to play music to people. I was introduced to the club by Peter Bellamy of The Young Tradition

Within a week I realised that this was going to be my new home. There was lots to take in. There were so many fantastic young musicians. I can remember being absolutely blown away by a young American called Danny Kalb in the first week. Going home and thinking that as far as the blues was concerned, I was miles behind where I could have been. I’d been in my own vacuum, it was time to get involved.

The young players were all very gifted but very different people. It was an amazing place to be. Among the many I saw in that first week were John Renbourne, Alexis Korner, Paul Simon and Alex Campbell, oh, and yes, someone called Bert Jansch. Bert who? How d’you spell that then? At first I didn’t know what to think about Bert except that, in all probability, from a woman’s point of view, he was incredibly attractive.

He was very softly spoken and obviously very shy. He was an attractive young man with a good average physique that seemed to have a wiry strength. His hair naturally flowed and fell in waves across a gentle but strong face with kind eyes. His Scottish accent was strangely only just discernible, but his playing, and his delivery, were both immediately stunning. Some of his words weren’t always that decipherable, but the combination of the guitar and vocal together were truly a perfect and unique fit. The one thing you knew was that this guy had really found his medium. And it looked like he’d been there for years.

For a young man of 20, his songs were astounding. Things like ‘The Needle Of Death’, ‘Running From Home’ and ‘Strolling Down The Highway’, as well as his own version of Davy Graham’s famous ‘Anji’ were truly magic pieces of their age. He was a humble powerhouse whose honesty was so obviously unquestionable.

Bert was always such a very private man. Getting him to respond was sometimes an undertaking. It was often a struggle for him to speak, but then again, his songs spoke for him. They were often among the most eloquent pieces of musical folk art imaginable. Plaintive, intricate and beckoning, with seemingly an ancient root reaching back across long centuries to some deeply pure and mysterious earth knowledge.

As a presence, and particularly as a young man, his effect on most of his friends was beyond description. He was unfathomably and instantly attractive. I will never forget that. He gave love in such a gentle way that it was impossible not to immediately identify with that and be forever enraptured by one so gifted in that respect. Bert wrote his songs, and treated his friends from the heart, and his friends will never forget him. Ever.

Wishful Thinking

The last blog was full of wishful thinking. I apologise. It gets like that sometimes. Especially when someone who should never have been in power is still there after 40 years. It shouldn’t be that difficult to remove a bully from the playground. I’ve wished for years that the poisonous and deluded wretch who controls Libya would be deposed. The majority of the population of Libya have this last few months tried to take control away from him. He has tried to retain power by using the billions he still has to buy a mercenary army, PR and propaganda. This time the international community have not faltered.

I’m very pleased to have to admit that Cameron and Sarkozy have done a lot better than Bush/Blair ever could have done. You can say that’s unfair, because they now have the Iraq experience to draw on, but there is a general consensus that society is now in a period where defending what we have from invasion and destruction is paramount. As I’ve probably implied many times before, Blair promised so much for those who fell for his schmaltzy charm, but he was always so clearly ego driven, to the extent of rendering much of his posturing cringe-worthy. In the end, a self-important insincere pop star waving a transparently fabricated ‘dossier’ around that would prematurely end hundreds of thousands of lives. His apologists will deny this, but the hard evidence eventually reaching the public domain isn’t ever likely to absolve him.

Continue reading

A New Light?

There is a new light in the world. Time alone will tell whether or not it’s a great new light. The young people of much of North Africa and the Middle East are developing a voice of their own. They have discovered the power and the democracy of the information age, and are beginning to be able to mobilise an alternative voice to the religious despotism and political totalitarianism that has controlled their lives for so long. In the main, their desire seems to be to become part of the modern world. I applaud them. Their achievement is timely, and is of course, if it’s carried forward for the next decade, likely to be one of the biggest social changes in all our lifetimes.

Certainly it has the potential to achieve just as much social change, for at least as many people, as the ‘Peace and Love’ generation achieved in the late 1960s, and if it continues to grow may even rival events such as The Russian Revolution of 1917. They have it in their hands, literally, to change the world. As some people will know, I’m a fervent anti-monotheist, and as such, I can see the possibility of a great new light in the world.

Continue reading

Politics For Beginners Part 3

In the event, the left/right split is less than 38% to the right, and more than 62% to the left of center. And the horse-trading has begun.

I was wrong about Brown. He found his soap box again during the last couple of days of the campaign. He no longer looks tired. He’s still tarred with the Iraq brush, as is Cameron, and with other more minor stumbles, such as Duffygate but for the first time in years, he is looking like his own man again. Perhaps this is because he’s been given a mandate to trade, deal, and argue his case, and let’s face it, he is the most articulate of the three, by quite a distance.

I thought, on election day and today, (Friday 7th May 2010), that he articulated his thought and policies in a far more lucid fashion than either of the other two. Clegg was all but royal and arrogant at times during the week, but I still went with him, while Cameron wavered between arrogance and wet. Brown’s policies are also more fully formed, and he has a precise map of his own vision which he’s able to refer to as he speaks. He wants to preserve as many of the people in work as he can, and he seems to have the most joined-up kind of plan to do that. Which would seem to be ideally ‘conservative’!? Cameron showed some promise in his speech today, but he still needed the frequent glance at his notes.

The next few days should be pretty interesting. For sure, Clegg would be mad to trade away his position on Proportional Representation for a seat at the Tory table. As Ming Campbell says, “We’ve been down this route before”.

For the wanabe and bedroom anarchists among you, don’t worry, it’s coming, but meanwhile, wouldn’t it be better to enfranchise more people? We’re all well aware of the fact that Westminster sucks, but it’s just slightly better than death, pillage and destruction, and with a bit of luck, and if we play it right, we just might be able to control a whole lot more of it. That’s what this fight is about. It’s about opening the doors as fast as negotiation will allow us to, and then keeping them open for as long as it takes for all of us to be inside.

Parliament is just that, and consists of who we want to put into it every 4 or 5 years. It’s the place where we parley. It’s the place where our council sits. If you don’t want one, fair enough, but societies have to speak to each other. We all know what happens when we don’t. We’re the ape who speaks. We have to make full use of that facility in order to pass human culture to our children. You can choose which bits to pass down, and what to leave behind. That’s how we progress this thing. A vote is an element of that, and an act of conscious volition.

If you want to you can turn your back on it and become a traveller, a tramp or an aesthete, or turn ‘god save the queen’ into a drum solo. Or you can stay in the bedroom. We have slowly developed the ability to give ourselves choice. We can choose not to have children. We can choose not to hand this kind of a fate to another being. Over 95% of life on the planet is bacteria. Their choice is more limited. They’re born, they have sex and they die. And that’s it. Not much different, but different enough. If you don’t want to be taken over by people like yourself, you’re best plan is to try to do something about it…

Politics For Beginners Part 2

As an amendment to yesterdays blog, ‘Politics for beginners’, I’d just like to add that I think that this is only the second election in my lifetime that has a chance of achieving some electoral reform. The other one was possibly the election of 1987.

Electoral reform is important, because it progresses everyone’s ability to have a voice in Parliament. If we have Proportional Representation, then all the smaller parties have the chance to have some representation in parliament and government. This means that The Green Party will potentially have more representation. The fact that it also means that the BNP will potentially have more representation can be mollified by the actions of the parliament we put in place.

Equality is the master of prejudice. We are who we are, we are what we are and we are where we are. Wholesale movement of people on the scale of the 90s and naughties is very unlikely to happen again before the deluge, so that the social unrest created by immigrant populations is going to abate considerably as the children of those immigrants become British in the widest sense, thus diminishing the message and effectiveness of organisations like the BNP.

None the less, make no mistake, this election represents the best chance we have for electoral reform in my lifetime. And I’m just about a thousand years old now. I feel that it’s important to have the power residing in the maximum amount of people voting. Electoral reform will give us that. A vote for the Liberal Party will help to achieve this, because they are the ONLY party who have advocated it in their manifesto. They are the only party to want to move on it after the election. They need the power to do that. Voting tactically is probably going to achieve a political step forward in your lifetime. It maybe the only one you get.

You can vote against adopting the Euro, and jump other such hurdles as they arrive.