A's to Q's, Part IV
10/17/2006 (updated 10/18/2006)

Could you tell me the tuning and string gauge for the small acoustic used on the Main Menu screen of the DVD? I don't know the name of the tune, but it's in D. Regards, Euan Barr 

I can’t remember if it’s ‘Bonnie St Johnstone’ or ‘Do it For My Sake’. If the former, the tuning is drop D, light gauge strings. If the latter, it’s played on mandolin and mandocello, medium strings, regular tuning.

Many years ago Richard and Linda featured on a radio programme, can’t remember what it was but it asked them to chose their favorites along the lines of Desert Island Discs !!! They included a track of Jewish Mouth Music, music made by jewish prisoners who had no instruments but mimicked the instruments orally.I had a recording of it but a dear little one has recorded over it. Please could you find out for me whether or not anyone can recollect the music and where it can be found to be listened to again. Many thanks for your time. Barry Thompson-Newark, Notts

I’m pretty sure you mean the Comedian Harmonists. They were a five-piece (+ piano) pre-war German vocal group. They were hugely popular in Germany and other countries, but when Hitler rose to power, their situation became increasingly precarious – three of the members were Jewish. The Jews had to leave the country, but the others felt they could not leave ageing relatives, etc., so the band split in two, and both branches continued for several years more. The last surviving member just died in his nineties – he was cantor at a Temple in Palm Springs. There was a very good eponymous German language biopic a few years ago, which I would recommend. Among other things, it showed the extraordinary concert at which the Brownshirts were up in the balcony, heckling and protesting the Jewish element on stage; then the SS officers in the front row, who were there because they loved the music, stood up, turned around and told them to shut up! The concert continued. I’m fairly sure the track I played was ‘Creole Love Call’ in which the Harmonists imitate the entire Duke Ellington Orchestra, solos and all – an extraordinary tour de force. This track is available on EMI Germany – it is on a 5-disc ‘Greatest Hits’ collection, CDs available singly.

Browsing the site the other day I couldn't resist following some of the links to the video clips on, which resulted in a happy hour of work displacement activity enjoying old Fairport and Sandy Denny clips that I had never seen before. Ah, them were the days! There was also one of you playing with Dylan on "All along the Watchtower". I never realized you had played with the great man. Was that just a one-off? What was it like? Frankly, I didn't think the performance worked very well. You seemed to be struggling to fit your style to his (either that or - perhaps more likely - he did not seem to be making any effort to accommodate anyone's style but his own. What do you think of Dylan's new album, by the way. Michael  

I thought ‘Watchtower’ wasn’t bad, I also did three acoustic songs with Bob, where there were sound and tuning problems. It was a thrill, of course to play with him. I think his new CD is very good – best for a while. I hope you’re all loving Bob’s radio show. It’s a great selection of music, and the style and delivery are eccentrically wonderful. Worth getting XM for – although the best show on XM, and, sorry Bob, with an even better DJ, is Tom Petty’s Buried Treasure.

I have noticed that you have not worked with many different rhythm guitar players in your live bands over your career. Simon Nicol and Clive Gregson are among the few who have played for more than one tour. (unless you count Henry Kaiser in FFKT – I think those were tours of 2 gigs and 1 gigs – which I enjoyed thoroughly.)  What do you look for in the second guitar player in a live band? Do you prefer to be the only guitar player?  What other rhythm guitar players do you like? David S. Lee

It depends who else is in the band, and how much space they are occupying. With Michael Jerome and Danny Thompson, I don’t need much else – Pete Zorn playing rhythm on half the songs is enough. My favourite rhythm player is Simon Nicol. He’s a great guitarist on acoustic or electric anyway, but he is just a perfect foil when he plays second guitar, and perhaps because we came out of the same school, it’s always effortless to play with him.