"John Fahey: On Air" - 2005
Who was John Fahey? A simple question defying an easy answer. But this seems to be clear: when guitar-player/composer John Fahey passed away in February 2001 just one week before turning sixty-two, the world lost an artist whose expansive oeuvre qualifies him as being one of America’s true eccentrics and musical pioneers. Fahey not only inspired many of his successors, his 40-year-legacy stands as a body of work that has no resemblance in American popular culture whatsoever. Fahey‘s couple of dozen albums, along with his books and articles, speak eloquently of his uniqueness. But even with this expansive legacy in mind, it’s astounding how little the music world at large took notice of his lonely passing in a hospital room in Salem, Oregon. A fact that tragically corresponds with the latter years of Fahey’s life, a time that was mostly spent in motel rooms and automobiles, with failing health and in poverty. But – as clichéd as it may sound – the music and the myth live on. „John Fahey is one of the heroes of whatever this country has to offer in terms of culture, Leo Kottke once remarked about of one his idols, „what he conveyed was a musical perspective that simply didn’t exist before him.“ The music to be heard on the second release in Tradition & Moderne’s ON AIR series, respectfully communicates this jugdement and presents a historic Radio Bremen live recording of a John Fahey solo peformance in Bremen/Germany from March 20, 1978.
To separate the man and the myth seems to be crucial to get an understanding of Fahey‘s music, but it’s a task that inevitably leads into a labyrinthian jungle of fact and fiction. John Fahey’s personal odyssee was marked by strange twists of fate and mad behaviour while his personal journey lead from the quiet life of a middle-class family on the East Coast to the desperation to be found on the outer limits of American society. In the process John Fahey’s life and times seem to have gained the aura of a piece of fiction complete with hidden meanings. The interpretation of which will almost inevitably lead into hazy psychological territory and a personal consciousness that was further and further removed from „normality“ as time went on. Generally speaking, John Fahey seems to have been more than just a musical alchemist who fused diverse strands of American music in order to create something new. The eccentricity of his trains of thought range the gamut from intellectual brilliance to confusion and madness. All things considered, the realization that this troubled figure created a kind of music that was deep and different, must lie at the heart of any evaluation of his legacy. John Fahey is an American guitar legend, who may have started out in a small kind of way, but who in the end was hailed even by the American rock underground as a sort of avantgarde father figure. His story is a tale that can never be repeated.
This historic Radio Bremen recording from March 1978 reminds of this legacy and presents an ingenious artist the way he probably will be remembered in the time to come: a wordless and lonesome figure with a six-string acoustic guitar, a couple of fingerpicks, a bottleneck and probably some beverages on stage, playing unsentimental American music of openness and timelessness. ON AIR – 70 minutes of John Fahey AKA „Blind Joe Death“ live in Bremen/Germany 1978. The second release in TRADITION & MODERNE’S series of historic and contemporary live recordings.