[originally posted October 2011]
Bert Jansch – The Bert Jansch Sampler
Like many, I’m genuinely saddened to hear of Bert Jansch’s death yesterday, aged 67. I’ve seen him play once with John Renbourne – a local gig, supported to encourage artists to play in the wider, small-venue community – and have listened to and followed his career with enjoyment, though I couldn’t claim to have been a massive and consistent fan. No reason for not being; just the amount of music out there. But his influence as guitarist and songwriter on the folk and wider music scene is enormous.
Being honest, I doubt I would have initially picked this album as a top fifty, but I have no problem doing so now having been prompted by this news. A top fifty was always going to be a movable feast anyway; never ever a finite thing. There is no question, however, that this album was hugely influential in my fledgling listening experience. As I have recounted before, the sampler albums of the late 60s/early 70s had a massive impact because of the quality of music presented but also, and obviously, their cost. As a teenager I didn’t have much cash for records. Bert’s sampler album came out in 1969.
Favourite tracks are Rabbit Run, Go Your Way My Love, Needle of Death [and what a powerful impression this made on a young mind yet to experience the drug culture], Blackwater Side, and David Graham’s brilliant Angie made popular by Jansch [and which I heard last night played on Planet Rock and thought it odd for that station, not having heard then of his death]. Every single song resonates because being one of the few albums I had at the time it was one I always played. So each – in addition to the inherent excellence – conjures images and remembered feelings of growing up at that time, and this fuels the emotion I feel today in hearing he has gone.
Unlike some of my friends at the time who were more skilled and diligent as budding guitarists, I never learned to play Angie as well as I should. I can still turn out a near approximation, but it’s pretty basic stuff. Bert Jansch will have encouraged so many young guitarists at the time to emulate his style and hone their skills. What a legacy that is in addition to the recorded music and live performances.
In reading other tributes today I came across this quote from Neil Young and it sums up with huge affection the high regard fellow artists had for Jansch: With deep regret Pegi and I acknowledge the passing of Bert Jansch. Pegi and I were lucky to play with him on all of our shows for the last couple of years. He is a hero of mine, one of my greatest influences. Bert was one of the all-time great acoustic guitarists and singer songwriters. Our sincerest sympathies to his soul mate Loren. We love you Bert.
Additional: Loren sadly died two months after Bert. A friend and I were working in London in December 2011 and we visited Highgate Cemetery – my first time – and just beyond the entrance to the East Cemetery we came upon Bert Janch’s burial place and, to our surprise, the freshly dug grave of Loren’s beside him. This is the tribute there today,