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Davy Graham at the Zanzibar, Liverpool

By Dave Richards

I get a text message off The Duke - "Davy Graham playing the Zanzibar, 15 quid ?". What ? That's got to be worth a nose. One of the most legendary guitarists who ever played, nearly 70 now with years of bag abuse behind him, a biffy eye, and a reputation for live performances that can be spellbindingly brilliant or toe-curlingly wonky or both - I'm there baby.

You get a lot of bang for your buck in the Zanzibar, at least 5 acts on during the night. The bill started off with a couple of long haired young yonners doing fingerstyle folk tunes before they got accompanied onstage by some salty old sea dog with a harp. No ideas about the names of any of the tunes they did, but they were probably all about Lifeboat Rescue Disasters or something. Next up was some young lad who's name I missed who was tremendous, doing Nick Drake sounding geet stuff and mellow banjo solos. We realised at this point we had a twat of a speck so we decided to scale some couches on the side of the low roofed venue and spent the rest of the night with badly ricked necks and a decent view both of the stage and the doormen. The gaff was chocker now, one third in there were arlarse Lark Laners and the rest were the vanguard of the Liverpool Beard Revival, all sneakily bliffing away on weedless one skinners. They provided good cover for us short haired, clean living, green chonging gents though.

Third up was Phineas Freak look-a-like and Stands frontman Howie Payne doing a straightahead acoustic set that was OK but worth missing to get a load of ale in, so we did the latter and got our speck boxed off before the start of Davy Graham. At this point I didn't really know what to expect. Obviously you want him to be boss, but I've heard loads of stories about what he's like these days (nuts basically), particularly from the book "Guitar Man" which came out a couple of years back which painted a picture of someone not of this earth and not that good on the plank any more either. That book had Davy Graham's spirit hanging all over it as the author tried to master his most famous tune ("Anji" or "Anjii" or "Angie", fuck knows what the spelling is), eventually tracking down Graham and having a weed/ale/tunes session with him but getting no guitar playing tips at all. It's not even the Davy Graham version of the tune that most people have heard either, the song was made famous by his contemporary, the similarly talented guitar weirdo Bert Jansch. Davy Graham was often dismissive of Jansch though, claiming he played "Anjii" all wrong. Then again, having read the book "Dazzling Stranger" which details the late 50s early 60s British folk boom I've come to the conclusion that most of them on that scene were generally uttter bellends. It can't be denied though that in a era of great guitar players Davy Graham was something else - all the folkies were in awe of him and his playing style, which was brought to a wider audience by Jansch who was more well known but who never hid his debt to Graham, was a influence on the likes of Jimmy Page, Neil Young and Johnny Marr. As well as the unconventional playing technique that he pioneered, Graham lived the troubadour life, often bailing abroad for months on end to sit in with musicians in Tangiers or busk in Paris. Apparently he even deliberately got into the brown as a lifestyle choice just to emulate one of his old jazz heroes. What a tit.

Davy Graham came out to a big ovation, the crowd willing him to be half decent, compos mentis and in-tune. After getting himself sorted he muttered something to the crowd (thankfully not shouting out "Good Evening Clacton" or somesuch) before launching into........well.......just fuck all basically, just a bit of chordy up and down stuff for about 2 minutes. Everyone applauded at what sounded like the end, he muttered something else, then played the same thing again. Oh fucking hell. I became aware of a commotion below me as some bloke (50 odd, grey hair) and his bint started loudly kicking off - "He shouldn't be on the stage. The man's ILL. ILL. He needs help, he's lost it". Loads by us tried to shush him so his bint chipped in with "Some people are easily pleased, 15 pounds for this". Some middle-aged parrothead kicked off on Grey Ming then - "Shut up you, you're an arsehole", as I kept a wary eye on Young Treehead with us who was leering menacingly over the combatants and more than capable of webbing all of them out the gaff if they persisted with the unpleasantness. Luckily, crying arse and tart fucked off with a gob on, and they missed a minor miracle as Davy Graham, who throughout this altercation had been stood on stage flapping his hands around like a chillblaned goalie with wet gloves on Jericho Lane in January, finally warmed up and turned into Sublime Guitar Hero Man. I couldn't believe it, the first two tunes must have been looseners as the next pile were jawdroppingly good renaissance-jazz-blues-fingerstyle-world numbers, each one apparently called "Muffled Unintelligible". Apart from a 3 song "vocal only" spot which was 3 shanties too many on the night, he was superb. He left the stage without playing "Angie" and nobody cared as he was roared off. 10 mintes later I went for a slash and he was in there "Har Har Har"ing at the bog grafitti. Result. I've pissed next to Davy Graham AND Ike Willis now - Stitch that.

 

 

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