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Thursday, February 2, 2012

"Needle of Death"

Bert Jansch - Needle of Death (1965)

Neil Young stole his melodies and Jimmy Page ripped off his accompaniments.

This Scottish folk singer eventually inspired Neil Young, Led Zeppelin, Paul Simon and Donovan; as well as founding the folk-rock-jazz group Pentacle. This, his most known song in his whole career was written about a friend of his that died of drug addiction. Jansch himself was not a drug user, and in fact lived and performed until late last year.

He was known for his quality acoustic guitar finger picking. This song is not a master class in the skill, but it is serviceable. He does manage to follow his voice up the scale while still maintaining the backing playing. The end is also particularly poignant as the vocals die out and the guitar stumbles into minor before finishing.Other songs off the album really show off what he can do on the guitar, but this one is more about the lyrics.

He starts off describing the mind set of the drug addicted: /When things go wrong each day/You fix your mind to 'scape your misery/. He then goes on to discuss how the addicts actions are perceived by loved ones: /How strange, your happy words/Have ceased to bring a smile from everyone/. His description of the parents standing at the addicts funeral is heart breaking: Your mother stands a cryin'/While to the earth your body's slowly cast/Your father stands in silence/Caressing every young dream of the past/. The most poetic line in the whole song is in the heart of it, as he describes the actual taking of the drugs: One grain of pure white snow/Dissolved in blood spread quickly to your brain/. Powerful words, simple melody, pure British folk.

1 comment:

  1. Wow; gorgeous. Can't believe I've never heard it before.