Bert Jansch Profile: Tour Opener for Neil Young
A fairly substantive profile of influential guitar legend Bert Jansch -- who will open for Neil Young's upcoming tour -- in today's Times Union (Albany NY) by MICHAEL ECK.
The Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr -- who collaborated with Jansch on his 2000 release "Crimson Moon" -- credits his hero with an even wider swath of influence.
"He completely reinvented guitar playing and set a standard that is still unequalled today. Without Bert Jansch, rock music as it developed in the '60s and '70s would have been very different. You hear him in Nick Drake, Pete Townshend, Donovan, The Beatles, Jimmy Page and Neil Young. There are people playing guitar who don't even realize they've been influenced by him one step removed."
Jansch's debut album influenced Young lyrically as well as sonically, with Jansch's harrowing "Needle of Death," about a friend's overdose, creating an obvious template for Young's "The Needle and the Damage Done" -- which followed Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten's downward spiral into heroin addiction.
Jansch's guitar style is marked by ringing open tunings, which allow the player to create rich, droning harmonies as well as complex chord voicings that eschew major or minor tonalities in favor of modal characters that float between the two.
Young similarly explores a shadowland of sound in his acoustic work, which is often as gentle as his electric playing is fierce.
Here's some more on tour opener the legendary Bert Jansch.
Here's what Neil Young said about Jansch in an interview Guitare & Claviers Magazine (French guitar magazine) in April 1992:
Q : Of all the guitarists you know, who has made the biggest impression on you?
NEIL: Bert Jansch (Pentangle guitarist) is the best acoustic guitarist ; he's my favourite anyway. For electric guitar, I'd say Jimi Hendrix.
But as for acoustic guitar, Bert Jansch is on the same level as Jimi. That first record of his is epic. It came from England, and I was especially taken by The Needle of Death, such a beautiful and angry song. That guy was so good... And years later, on On the Beach, I wrote the melody of Ambulance Blues by styling the guitar part completely on Needle of Death. I wasn't even aware of it, and someone else drew my attention to it. I'd met him in England in the early 70s, with Pentangle, but I this huge limousine and all that shit and they had a strange attitude with me, considering me as one of those bonehead superstars.
An excellent overview on Bert Jansch on YouTube:
The first part of Acoustic Routes, the Bert Jansch documentary from 1992. Sorry about the poor video quality: the video has been ripped straight from VHS.
The first part features Billy Connolly, Hamish Imlach, Archie Fisher and Anne Briggs. Bert talks about his first album, his early influences, Anne Briggs, Jimmy Page et cetera.
Bert Jansch - Strolling Down the Highway
Anne Briggs - Go Your Way
Anne Briggs - Blackwater Side
Hamish Imlach & Archie Fisher - Solid Gone
"Ambulance Blues" - Folk legend Bert Jansch and Neil Young. Live at Bridge School Benefit 2006
Compare and contrast from Beautiful And Angry | For The Sake Of The Song: "I was especially taken by Needle Of Death, such a beautiful and angry song. That guy was so good… And years later, on On The Beach, I wrote the melody of Ambulance Blues by styling the guitar part completely on Needle Of Death. I wasn’t even aware of it, and someone else drew my attention to it."
[listen] Bert Jansch - Needle Of Death MP3
[listen] Neil Young - Ambulance Blues MP3