Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Bert Jansch

Bert Jansch Blackwaterside

How often have I played Blackwaterside, from my late teens onward. Its beautiful mumbling melancholy sent a chill through the bones and still does. The voice is within itself, not looking for any windows. The tune is old, with the air of something newly old, as though it had always stood at some distance from the present but had just emerged. The finger picking guitar is what I would have loved to have emulated. I played Anji, but then everyone played Anji. Jansch turned Anji into a haunting.

Like Davy Graham, who composed Anji, Jansch didn't like the limelight. He composed Needle of Death which is a fine lament for a dead friend, but I have always preferred Blackwaterside. Listening to it you can hear the withdrawal in it. That may be what I most loved about it. It is a kind of bottomless comfort the song is seeking, that and a pint, and maybe another.

Sometime in 1967 or so he was playing at Bunjie's off Piccadilly Circus. A brief and lovely girlfriend was a keen fan and we planned to go but then didn't. We meet sometimes - we met at a public event a month or so ago - and she is still lovely. Death is always sad but it's very sad to hear of Jansch's death. Here is today's Telegraph obit.

And here he is in 2008 as good as ever.

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