Sunday, 25 March 2018

A conversation With Music: Gordon Giltrap.

This week, I'm thinking guitars and guitarists. Especially those with a few miles on the clock.

I was at a gig last week, packed with music veterans. Among them, the great guitar player Tony Kelsey, who, along with fellow muso Matt Worley, has criss-crossed the country collecting superstar guitarist signatures on a Fender, soon to be auctioned, to benefit Jerry Donahue: that particular story is here. There's hardly any room left on the guitar for more famous names. I came away thinking... guitar.

Guitarists. Skills. Seems to be a good combination.

Guitarists just seem to carry on longer than many in rock. The Guardian just ran a review listing the many incarnations of 70s prog-rockers Yes, all of whom tour; it's not just UB40 who have a bad case of multiple fractious identities. The last sentence was key:
Arguments still rage about which band is really Yes, but with 70-year-old guitarist (Steve) Howe’s virtuosity undimmed... these time-served warriors are surely entitled to a few more moments in the sun.”
So, the incredibly ancient Steve Howe still struts his stuff. Good luck to him. 

The joy of watching skills honed over a lifetime

I take huge pleasure in watching veteran musos still at the top of their game. It's long been said that the very act of playing music is good for you, and I believe that. Of course, you need to avoid rock and roll excess, and factor in the sheer physical strain of, say, strapping a plank of wood across your shoulders for half a century.

But it's heartening to see so many of the musos I know from back in the day, still spry, still up for it, still savvy, and still, above all, thoroughly enjoying their craft.

A reunion forty years on

And that brings me to the newest radio show I've been working on. In 1976, as a young rock DJ at the old BRMB, I was very taken with an album from Gordon Giltrap. Again, I invite you to look him up if you're under 40. We met when he did the radio circuit to plug his album; it was a nice interview. 

A few years later, Gordon hit pay-dirt with 'Heartsong', which he still plays. That paydirt got richer still when the song was chosen to be the theme tune for BBC TV's Holiday programme.

And late last year, we met up again. Gordon's still here, and happy to be here too. He's still spry, as nimble-fingered as always, and as positive as ever. I went to his house to for what turned out to be a long and very convivial chat. Gordon is a man with stories: he has extraordinary tales of the UK 60s folk scene, when, starting as a fresh-faced 18 year old, he met, befriended, played and collaborated with some of the giants of the UK folk revival.

Conversations with music. Live music.

Now, every so often, I've been lucky to conduct an interview with a musician, who in between the chat, will sing and play right there in the studio. I did one a few years back with Brum favourites Steve Gibbons and John Caswell; another with Steve Ajao and Dave Wakelin. They were lovely shows to do, recorded under studio conditions, and if you are interested, Brum Radio has both on its listen-again page, here and here.

I love this kind of show. I've long wanted to do more. But of course, you need the right elements. Those are: favourable recording conditions, a musician of stature and experience, who can, and will, switch seamlessly between story telling and playing, ideally as naturally as if you were simply having a conversation. I'm thinking fondly of some rather fine pub nights in Killaloe in the West of Ireland, some 16 years back. Music conversations flowed and sang across the room. 

Pick up your guitar and play....

But you know what? Those elements all came together when I sat down with Gordon Giltrap. Gordon rolled out some great stories, and the cherry on the cake was that he was happy to break out his guitars, talk about them, discuss structure and technique, and above all play some stunning stuff. It was thrilling to sit three feet away from a great virtuoso, watching him play, really close up. I was very lucky.

So now, after some careful assembly work, you can hear the results. It is, indeed, a conversation with music. I haven't made this as a DJ show, with in-show intros for every piece of music; Gordon's live work is front and centre in the show, but on top of this absolute luxury, there are snatches of music from influential stars of the day as they came up in the conversation.

If you know all of these pieces, you're probably over 40 years old. If you don't, I list them at the end of the show. And when the show goes on to listen-again, as it will after its two Brum Radio airings, every detail will come up on your player as it happens.

That's why it's a conversation with music. Listen online right here...

I'm planning on doing more.  

Links: Gordon Giltrap's website
Photos from Mick Dodsworth

See more music posts on Radio To Go


I'd love it if you signed up!

The Mailing List is the best way to follow topics on this blog. You get a short Monday email with each post, with the big recent topics, and once in a blue moon, an offer or an exclusive freebie. I won't pass your address on, promise. 

Pop your email in the box below, and you're all set.

No comments: