John Fahey

Chris Calcroft and I went to watch John Fahey play the guitar in Manchester. Fahey was then a slim ordinary looking sort of man, slightly balding and a real contrast to the hippie fashions of the day. He dressed in ordinary clothes.

He played before a small audience; Fahey is an acquired taste although some acquire it more easily than others. He played a steel stringed guitar, with finger picks. He pluck so clean and so hard that after every piece he spent an age retuning his guitar, even when it needed no tuning. He also put his guitar in exotic tunings, being able to play resounding open chords with an impeccable timing.

As he played he smoked. Before he tune he lit up a cigarette, had a few puffs on it and then stick it in the strings at the head of his instrument, so as he played he dropped ash.

Fahey is probably one of the most underestimated artists of his day. His music deserves to be played more than it is, but as music it is hard to play and sometimes hard to follow. He did not show off virtuoso but played like a man who was working in an office, perfectly delivering his tunes.

But that was the sixties and Fahey never became famous; he died in penury, never really being able to make more from his music than to keep him barely alive. But I cannot hear his rendition of Auld Lang Sang, or Silent Night or the Yellow Princess without stopping to listen to each perfectly struck note and chord, and not many musicians can in these days of constant music do that.

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