One of the differences between the 1960s or 1970s and later decades was that there were a few basic guitar pieces that were pretty much universal. If you were a folk-blues player in the US, you knew “Freight Train,” “Buckdancer’s Choice,” and Doc Watson’s “Deep River Blues.” In Northern Europe, those tunes might show up as well, but if you had the chops you were also expected to play “Angie,” or in France might substitute “Windy and Warm.” Those were a little fancier, and I actually don’t remember that many people doing them, but I sure was asked for them all the time. That first two-year journey, I didn’t yet know “Windy and Warm,” but I’d picked up the basics of “Angie” with the help of a Happy Traum book — my memory is that I hadn’t actually heard it when I picked up a version from his tablature, and only later found a copy of Bert Jansch’s recording somewhere and made a cassette tape of it.
I knew Jansch’s work from Pentangle, though what particularly struck me was his singing. I had heard and loved John Renbourn’s Sir John Alot of Merrie England LP before I knew about any of the other English guitar masters of that generation, Jansch’s playing didn’t grab me the same way, and in those days there was no way to find Davey Graham recordings in the US and damn hard to find any in England — I knew Graham’s name but it was probably another thirty years before I got a chance to hear his original version of “Anji” (as he spelled it).
Nonetheless, by the time I went to Europe I had a sort of half-assed version of Jansch’s version and pulled it out now and then when someone asked for it or something like it — in France, for example, it tended to satisfy requests for “something from Marcel Dadi,” though I don’t think Dadi actually recorded it. And I remember playing it in Spain that first winter for the family that worked as guides to the prehistoric paintings in the Cueva de la Pileta near Ronda, and them saying it sounded like Paco de Lucia. So it basically served as my generic contemporary European-sounding guitar showpiece.
I was still playing a pretty messed up version, but got lucky when I was back in Málaga in the winter of 1978-79. I showed up at the house of some friends, Kika and Eugene Huellin, who rented rooms to young women studying Spanish, and one of that year’s young women turned out to play guitar. She asked me to play “Angie,” and then asked why I didn’t play the last section, and I said I didn’t know it, so she showed it to me — she’d learned it off the Paul Simon version, on Sounds of Silence, which I didn’t even know existed.
So that’s that story, until the incredible resurfacing of Davey Graham recordings in the 21st century. His version of “Anji” is the least of it — the stuff that blows me away is his ability to get all the rhythm, soul, and virtuosity of hard bop: Junior Mance’s “Jubilation,” Carl Perkins’s “Grooveyard,” the Adderley Brothers’ “Work Song,” Horace Silver’s “The Preacher,” Art Blakey’s “Buhaina Chant,” Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro Blue.” It’s one of my favorite bodies of guitar work ever, especially the live recordings at Hull University and the St. Andrews Folk Club, which show him in full flight in a way the studio albums never quite manage.
Which said, although I learned a few of Renbourn’s pieces and have listened assiduously to Graham, what sticks in my fingers is pretty much Jansch’s version of “Angie.”