Before heading to Europe, I sat down with my records and made four or five cassettes that served as my music library for the next couple of years. I had various criteria for choosing the cuts, but most were songs or guitar parts I wanted to learn. It was a pretty good method, since with so few options I heard those tracks over and over, and kind of absorbed most of them by osmosis.
There were some, though, that involved concentrated attention, and I still remember the two days I spent working on this one, in a small bedroom in Annecy, France. I’d spent a month there when I was sixteen as part of an exchange program — I’ve written about part of that trip in my post on “Suzanne” — and when I headed north from Spain I decided to stop through and see if I could find my host family. I can’t remember their name, but the mother was a judge and the son was named Etienne, and memorably took me out riding on the back of his moped one night, went down a steep hill, and turned into a street that had a metal barrier across it at night… with the result that I scraped the skin off one side of my face and came near losing an eye, while he was walking with crutches for the next few weeks.
They had moved, but a neighbor gave me their address, I showed up at the door, and the mother welcomed me and invited me to stay a few days. Typically, having the chance to spend some time in one of the loveliest parts of France, a famous vacation destination with a lake and rivers and beautiful old stone houses, I spent that visit holed up in my room learning how to play a Joseph Spence arrangement — the only local culture I picked up was when the mother came in one day having found fresh donkey meat at the market, and made steak tartare, which apparently is best made from donkey….
None of which has anything to do with Joseph Spence or “Glory of Love,” but it’s etched in my memory because I had never attempted to learn anything like this off a recording before, and I found that I could actually do it. It wasn’t perfect, and I’ve added a lot of Spencifications since that I didn’t get on that first pass, but it was a breakthrough and started me off on one of my favorite musical journeys.
(For those who want more background on my attachment to Spence, I’ve posted about it with his arrangement of “Sloop John B,” and although I’m not 100% sure, I would guess I got the lyric of “Glory of Love” from Werner Lammerhirt’s recording, discussed briefly in my post on the German version of “Cocaine Blues.”)