John Fahey - American Primitive Guitar
March 22, 2002 11:44 PM   Subscribe

John Fahey - American Primitive Guitar. I got an e-mail from a listener about a John Fahey song I played on my show today and it prompted me to revisit his website. I've been listening to him ever since '67 or so. He died last year due to complications during a coronary bypass operation--I realized again today how I miss him. (more inside)
posted by y2karl (14 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I loved reading his liner notes, his early Takoma albums had such cool covers and titles--the '67 Blind Joe Death was the first record of his I owned. He used to include these cool booklets in the early albums--I still have a copy of the one with these notes. He led a hard life, went through many changes as a musician. I was fortunate enough to see him in '78. His picking was so awesome. I only wish I'd seen him more. He and Skip James--who he helped rediscover--were the inspirations for me to learn guitar. I'm glad I went back to the site and checked out the tab, oh, man. I always did want to learn the Yellow Princess... And thanks to the Intergalactic Fahey Committee, I finally learn the story of The Voice Of The Turtle--I had three copies, all different.

Check this site out--there's so much there. And read the tributes. Dean Blackwood's-his late-in-life partner in Revenant Records--gives the flavor--this man touched a lot of people. Me, for one.
posted by y2karl at 11:45 PM on March 22, 2002

The original American Primitive, John Fahey's raw mixes of blues, folk and musique concrete embody the spirit of American alternative music. But during the 60s and 70s, the authenticity of Fahey's blues cost him pain and near madness. With the debt now paid in full, he's making his best music yet, and building links with a new generation of musical refuseniks.

Oops, forgot to add this article on Fahey up there...
posted by y2karl at 12:31 AM on March 23, 2002

I've never heard of him, but consider myself introduced. I see him with Jim O'Rourke in that picture, so he must do the kinds of things I like. Any recommendations for what a John Fahey newbie should listen to?
posted by Fahrenheit at 2:50 AM on March 23, 2002

There's that box set The Return Of The Repressed, for one... Or you can click on the Fahey File in the upper left hand corner of the opening page at and get overwhelmed by the verbiage there... But the discography and reviews will give you a hint. I haven't really heard much of his newer stuff but The Yellow Princess and The Dance Of Death And Other Plantation Favorites are favorites of mine.
posted by y2karl at 5:18 AM on March 23, 2002

After checking out O'Rourke just now, I'd say Womblife would be a good example of Fahey's later work.
posted by y2karl at 5:26 AM on March 23, 2002

Blind Joe Death is a must have. While my father was in Viet Nam, he was lucky enough to have a turntable and a reel to reel. He would record any LP that happened to make its way through the base. As a young kid listening to the reel to reel tapes, Fahey's album stood out as divinely inspired against a backdrop of Iron Butterfly, Frank Zappa and the Mothers, and Mason Williams. Great post Karl.
posted by machaus at 6:40 AM on March 23, 2002

Amazon seems to have about a half dozen free MP3 downloads of Fahey's songs (although after hearing this stuff I'm sure I'll go out and actually buy some CDs).
posted by pjdoland at 6:43 AM on March 23, 2002

John Fahey was one of those artists all the older record raccoons told me I had to hear . I remember finally hearing him on Pete Fornatale's old Sunday morning show when I was about 15 and he was a revelation. I was blown away by how an acoustic guitar could be as dazzling and stunning as any electric(seems obvious, now, I realize). My copy of Blind Joe Death is one of my most prized CD's.I actually picked up his collection of short stories a while back, and it shows he was an original mind as well as an amazing musician.
posted by jonmc at 8:26 AM on March 23, 2002

Thank you for the link, jon. A great guitarist, with very pure, minimalist style.

I have an lp of his called "Popular Songs of Christmas & New Year's", don't know if it's still available, but it has to be one of the great xmas-time albums.
posted by groundhog at 6:46 PM on March 24, 2002

whoops, I meant where it's due.
posted by groundhog at 6:48 PM on March 24, 2002

Wow, from cruising through the guitar forum on yesterday, I found this RealVideo clip of John Fahey in concert in Chapel Hill, NC on July 17, 2000, playing a Fender Telecaster with beau coup reverb. The video's not so hot but the sound is so otherwordly. Check it out. Also, I've just perused John Fahey On The Nature Of Reality and it's quite worth the perusal, from random channeled dictations of the Great Koonaklaster:


This is what I did. People had forgotten me, the Great Koonaklaster. Great Pan was not dead. Some drunken sailors started this rumor and it was repeated by every bad poet from Parecelcius through William Burroughs. an involved dissection and critique of Greil Marcu's The Invisible Republic--Marcus wants us to believe that everybody on the Anthology has a homogenous Weltanschauung--with gems like this:

There is a certain morbidity, a certain despair, realism, disappointment and cynicism in American folk music that turns up again and again. The old American dream of democracy, unity, and equality---the dream of the new Zion built through hard work, agrarianism, populism, cooperation, camaraderie was gone by the end of the Civil War. Nobody trusted any large institutions anymore be it church, government, union, factory. No longer were railroads, electrification, large ocean-going vessels glorified. In particular enormous devices of power and transportation were no longer worshipped as they once had been. Giant harvesters did not yet exist. But in time they would. These recordings conserve sentiments which began in the previous century.

It's worth wading through...
posted by y2karl at 10:01 PM on March 24, 2002

Electric Fahey! Nice!
I wonder if John Fahey and Dick Dale ever met? That would've been an interesting collaboration, no joke.
posted by jonmc at 7:48 AM on March 25, 2002

Fahey played a lot of weird, weird electric. I would bet that overall, his catalog is half electric and half acoustic.
posted by rodii at 9:33 AM on March 25, 2002

« Older   |   Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments