The photo on the album cover showed a painfully thin, unlovely young man holding a guitar. In contrast to all the other albums on display, no attempt had been made to show a pretty picture. “If a man as ugly as that has made a record, his music must be good” I reasoned, and bought it, without hearing a note of his music first. This was pretty reckless of me because it cost 32s 6d, which, as my pocket money was only £3 a term, was nearly half of everything I had.
My teenage instinct turned out to be spot on. Bert Jansch’s first album was one of the best folk/blues records made. I became such as fan that I even persuaded my school to invite him to play at a concert. Heavens knows what the dour Glaswegian made of the posh public school, or of the boy who followed him into the gents and got him to sign his album.
Bert Jansch went on to found Pentangle, a folk band who were too girlie for me. But not long ago he recorded a new solo album, Black Swan, which recalled his glory days. Over the years his looks had changed to the extent that he had become painfully fat and his record company made a sensible move in putting a picture of a black swan on the album cover.
These reflections have been prompted by the news of his death (news which reached me late, as I was abroad when he died in October). I’m dismayed that none of his early recordings are on Youtube, but the video below contains ‘Needle of Death’, from his eponymous album.