It was not an uncommon occurrence. Richard got in touch – would I like to see ……? In this case it was William Tyler. On other occasions, it was Sharon van Etten or Dar Williams or Kathryn Williams or This Is The Kit. I had never heard of William Tyler but I said yes because I generally trust Richard’s judgement as much as I trust Peter’s. After I had agreed to go, I explored who William Tyler was and what sort of music he played. I was, frankly, horrified to find that he played instrumentals because a strong voice is normally essential for me to enjoy a gig. I listened to “Goes West” once and thought it was okay but then I read on The Komedia website that William Tyler was playing solo. It was going to be a whole gig of one guy playing an acoustic guitar. Could I possibly maintain concentration?
I have rarely been so engrossed by a concert. There’s something about how he plays a hook line and riffs on it but changes the melody slightly that makes watching him a real treat. Here’s a good example, the first track from “Goes West” called “Alpine Star”.
The album is slightly different as his sound is fleshed out with electric guitar, piano, drums, bass and synths. “Fail Safe” is lovely and is a typical example of the extra instrumentation that appears on the album.
Listening to this album today inspired me to think about other instrumental tracks. “Flying” on “Magical Mystery Tour” was a throwaway and I never really thought much of it. “Albatross ” is okay, I suppose but if I’m thinking about Fleetwood Mac instrumentals, I really like Side Two of the “Oh Well” single. There was also “Green Onions” by Booker T and The MGs is excellent and achieves an effortless groove. The first instrumentals I think I heard were all by The Shadows and “Foot Tapper”, “Apache” and “F.B.I.” were all great (and a huge influence on Neil Young).
Possibly, of all the Sixties instrumentals, “Sabre Dance” by Love Sculpture is my favourite. Dave Edmunds on lead guitar was flashy and exciting. The music is from a ballet called “Gayanne” composed by Aram Khachaturian.
Then there is “Nut Rocker” by B. Bumble And The Stingers which is a version of the march from Tchaikovsky’s ballet “The Nutcracker”. This was very annoying and could obviously have been improved if it had included an extended drum solo. Luckily, a few years later, Emerson, Lake and Palmer would oblige.
On the other hand “Classical Gas” by Mason Williams always seemed a bit artificial. I suppose it felt like it was a pop song masquerading as a serious piece of work. It was classical, so it would appeal to my Dad but it was also a “gas” so it would appeal to me. Sorry, it appealed to neither, although it did get into the UK Top Ten.
At the time, I had a sneaking appreciation of “Stranger On The Shore” by Mr. Acker Bilk. When, several years later, he played a beautiful clarinet solo on “Full Moon” by Sandy Denny, I felt my uncoolness melt away. “Stranger On The Shore” stayed in the UK Charts for 50 weeks and he was only the second British artist to have a Number One song in the USA. His first name was Bernard and “Acker” is Somerset slang for “mate”. According to Wikipedia, anyway.
There are many many more instrumentals. If we think about the seventies, there are a few people who actually like “Hocus Pocus” by Focus. I always loved playing “In Dulce Jubilo” by Mike Oldfield in lessons leading up to Christmas; it made a big change from “Merry Christmas Everyone” and “All I Want For Christmas Is You”.
Here’s another instrumental that is lurking on YouTube. I wonder if it’s genuine?
No worries about appreciating the lyrics in today’s blog. Thank goodness.