RT Discussion List Q&A - Three
1/11/2007 (updated 1/12/2007)
- Did Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac influence the way that you and Swarbrick
harmonized the guitar/ fiddle leads in Fairport? Carlos Santana seems to
have noticed Fleetwood Mac's parallel front-line leads, and so did Duane
Allman. Did Fairport participate in the same stylistic experiment?
RT: Swarb and I played mostly unison, we didn't harmonize that much. I'd say
no, we were not influenced by Fleetwood Mac, we were following British
traditional models of ensemble playing. We did a lot of shows with FM in the
60s - nice lads.
- I recall that in the past you talked about a time when there was no
concept of "medium gauge","light gauge" etc strings, and that instead the
trick was to move the standard strings over by 1 and use a banjo string for
the 1st. So what else went on (or didn't) in those days? Who set guitars up?
Were there guitar roadies? Where there repair shops? What did a guitarist do
in an emergency?
RT: Aye, those were the days...we all seemed to use tapewound strings, that
had their own unique tone ('clunk'). To get a guiter set up, you went to
your favourite West End music shop - Selmers, Macari's, Sound City... my
Dad's old army buddy ran Lew Davis' in the Charing Cross Road, so I had a
bit of an 'in' there. In the Fairport era, people like John Bailey and Sam
Li would do refrets, and yer roadies would know who to take amps to, or
blown speakers. Roadies had their own network, and were mutually supportive.
If I needed a pickup. Our man would ask the Who's man, or Jimi's man, what
they had around. They would have a suitcase full of electrical bits from
smashed guitars, and were happy to throw us a Strat pickup or replacement
volume knob. Fairport had a crew of one, later two, so if you broke a
string, you'd quietly go off into a corner and change it yourself. From
early times, I always tried to have a spare guitar, though.
- I've often found that songs that I find striking say something that
I couldn't quite articulate myself (Dylan did a lot of that for me) but also
take something that seems insignificant by itself, perhaps that many other
people have seen but not noticed, and made a statement out of it (Louden
Wainwright is an example here). I would guess that these powers of
observation are important to artists. Can they be learned and perfected, or
are this one of those natural gifts that you either got or you ain't? Is it
an actual natural ability or more a matter of inclination/habit?
RT: There might be something in the way the brain is wired, that would give
less logical/more intuitive people an initial advantage; but I believe
anyone is capable of anything, and you may have to work harder, but you can
develop anything. The main thing is - you have to be awake to artistic
possibilities 24/7, and having caught something, you have to act on it right
there and then, or it may evaporate. Always carry a notebook.
- When did you get the Martin OM guitar first seen on the cover of 'Henry'?
Was it the same one you used earlier on Fairport recordings
(Fotheringay/Nottamun Town,etc).I ask 'cause you had a really nice
(acoustic) tone way back, but was it the guitar or the studio....or
RT: On the early Fairport stuff, I would have borrowed my friend/producer
Tod Lloyd's Martin D28, or used Sandy's Gibson J45. Tod then sold me his
John Bailey Acoustic, which I used till 1972, when I got the Martin 00018,
at the Music Inn in New York, for the princely sum of $120. The 000s are a
bit fragile to travel, and mine is very beaten up. Was it the studio? Well,
we used great studios, mostly Sound Techniques in Chelsea, and Olympic in
Barnes. We were blessed with the great John Wood as engineer, who could
always squeeze more tone out of an acoustic instrument than anybody else.
- You've almost always been associated with a Fender or Fender-type guitar,
yet in the early years of Fairport you played a Les Paul. Do you remember
specifically what prompted the change? Do you ever play around with Les
Pauls in the studio or at home?
RT: The sounds I liked on record came mostly from Fenders, so I switched in
1969. I had a Gold Top Les Paul from 1955, which was a great instrument. I
sold it to John Martyn, who had it stolen almost immediately.
- Is there another musical instrument that you would like to learn how to
RT: I quite fancy the cello. I was looking at baroque cellos in the Early
Music Shop the other day, and was getting quite excited. Or perhaps viola da
gamba - it's even got frets...
- Recently, a guitarist (maybe 25 yrs old) asked me who I listen to most. When
I said Richard Thompson, his eyes lit up and he said he'd heard of you but
never anything you'd done. I lent him Mock Tudor while we waited on the
check-in line. Soon he asked he could find one of those incredible guitar
solos he'd h heard so much about. Shame-faced, all I could come up with was
an offer to e-mail an answer. Help me redeem myself (and sell a CD or two?)
by giving me a couple of suggestions. Hell, I'll buy the CDs myself and send
them to him. Also, If I could have whipped out any of your CD's, which one
would have been best? (Maybe Honorable Son number one should answer that.)
Finally (I know, I'm pushing it,) any possibility of putting a ring-tone or
two on Beesweb? I'm losing it with the Motorola choices and a good riff
might lure a new fan or two into your web.
RT: I can't quite haul myself into the ringtone era yet, give me time. As
for solos, it's not for me to say, but the one from Hard On Me on
Semi-Detached Mock Tudor isn't bad.