How Bert Jansch Has Ruined My Life (Or The Day My Bass Guitar Almost Died)

About a year ago, I was addressed by the Jemsite and they asked me to write a piece about my musical influences.
So I did. And here it is:

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Bert Jansch

It was a cold morning in Camden Market, when I entered a local CD shop and browsed through the shelves and the CDs on the display. The year was 2003. I left my homeland Israel to live in London for some time, and to see what life would bring me.

I had a cheap Epiphone acoustic guitar, which I took with me for the lonely moments, and my Rickenbacker bass, that came all the way with me, in order to find a psychedelic rock band, join them, get signed, make records, destroy hotel rooms and live a John Bonham lifestyle, including the fancy cars.
What I didn’t know, was that I’d be in for a big surprise and what they’d call – a lifetime changing moment. That moment happened when I saw, Bert Jansch’s first album on display. He was sitting with a guitar in hand, looking at the occasional consumer in the shop. He had been staring at them  like that since 1965, the year it was released.

I had no idea who he was, and no idea why I decided to pick the CD up and take a look at it. It was far from my musical taste back then, which was focused mainly on psych rock bands and singer/songwriters.
Next to his album, there was another album, again, with a guy and a guitar in hand. He wasn’t staring at me, but the two CDs were there next to each other, and something talked me into getting them both. I never took a CD because of a cover, and let’s say it wasn’t THAT pretty of a cover–just plain pictures of musicians that looked, well, plain.
My Rickenbacker 4003

When I came back to my flat, the CDs remained in their plastic bag for three days before that Saturday morning when I decided to play Jansch’s first album. The first three notes on the record, of the song “Strolling Down The Highway”, immediately grabbed my attention. One minute into the song and I knew I’ve never heard anyone playing like that. I was literally, under a spell.
After the first listen of the album, I was in such a shock, that I had to check the other CD I bought right away.
It was Jackson C. Frank’s sole record. My jaw, couldn’t face the tension, and dropped eventually.

That following week I decided to switch my position. I put the bass guitar in the closet and started thinking of how much I’d get for it and if it would be enough for a Martin D-28. Lucky for me, I didn’t end up selling it, but the day I heard Bert Jansch, was the day my life had changed. Completely.

I started investigating the fingerpicking world, got to know the alternating bass technique, and practiced endlessly on playing ‘Angie’. From there, it was a rollercoaster.  I compulsively started gathering everything Jansch had ever recorded, and moved onward to more and more guitar players who used that style, like Richard Thompson, Wizz Jones, John Renbourn, Steve Tilston and more and more.

Last month, I released my first album ‘Remember’. It’s a mixture of all the influences I gathered in the past 6 years, moving from British folk to British blues to  Mississippi Delta blues. John Fahey and Robbie Basho are my heroes on the American side of things, and the album combines all of them.

For those of you who aren’t into playing fingerpicking guitar, or who want to investigate the playing of Nick Drake or Paul Simon and even Neil Young’s acoustic guitar playing – go ahead and listen to the names I’ve mentioned, and especially to Bert Jansch. He is THE music for me. Him, and Coltrane of course, but we’ll get to that some other time…

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