Tearing Hull A New One

Recorded, legend has it, in a student’s room late one night Davey Graham After Hours At Hull University, 4th February 1967 is one hell of a live document; albeit one hell of a live document in need of a less functional and more zingy title^.  Recorded on a single microphone, with some background chat it’s a miracle that it captured the music so well at all.

Davey Graham After Hours 01

It captures Davey Graham at the height of his powers and that, dear readers is a damn awesome thing.  Long unfairly ghettoized as a folk guitarist, Graham is SO much more.  Just listen to the absolutely seminal ‘She Moved Thru’ The Bizarre / Blue Raga’, where he twists his own take on the trad folk tune into astonishing new forms, weaving Eastern raga and blues stylings in seven minutes of jaw-dropping virtuosity.  Not only is it a talent bomb exploding on the San Andreas fault line of, umm, timely Zeitgeisty magicossity but it’s a wonderful, uplifting listen.  Davey Graham is often described as a guitarist’s guitarist and you can hear his influence acutely amongst the first rank of his contemporaries, Jimmy Page was a huge fan*, Richard Thompson and Blackmore too and I have no doubt there are scores of folkoids out there I’m not knowledgeable enough to tell you about.

Now much as I love a good screaming guitar and really want to own an Airline 59 Custom soon I know next to nothing about the act of playing them.  I do know is that there is the bangy, bangy fast hands end (usually the round end) and the widdly widdly fast finger sticky out bit.  So I’m probably not best qualified to tell you that Davey Graham is also credited with introducing the DADGAD blues tuning to Britain in 1964, which he used to better play along with/simulate Middle-Eastern music.

Davey Graham After Hours 02

I have a Rollercoaster Records 10″ reissue of After Hours … , which I picked up in 2006, which re-orders the whole LP and chops a few perfectly good songs off the original album, no matter all musical life is here.  We have Bach, ‘Bouree in E Minor’**, early blues, ‘How Long Blues’, gentle ragtime and genial shuffling, the Carl Perkins-penned ‘Grooveyard’.  Davey Graham’s vocals are a bit of an acquired taste and I tend to give ‘Cocaine’ a swerve as a result.  However, where it really strikes is where the genres are blurred and blended together, ‘Miserlou’ for example which could, depending on your own particular set of biases be a classical or an eastern guitar piece.  In fact at times it almost sounds a little like an oud or a sitar playing.  Davey Graham, well-travelled at a time when most were not, is often cited as the man who really brought such influences into, if not popular culture, then into the minds of the musicians who would later popularize them.

Davey Graham After Hours 03

Like all great players do he makes it sound, to a non-player like me anyway, effortless and like all truly great players the virtuosity is only there in the service of the tunes and not the other way around.

This is a real gem.

339 Down.

^if only they’d consulted me first:  Tearing Hull A New One, After Fucking Hours, Cold Kicking It Live In Hull, Goodness Gracious Hullacious Live!  to name but four.

*just check out Led Zep’s ‘Black Mountain Side’ and then deny it.  In fact I first encountered Davey Graham on a Led Zep compiled cover disc of influences.

**you listening Ritchie Blackmore?

11 thoughts on “Tearing Hull A New One

  1. The British Folk-revival of the early-mid 60s was probably the only time in the history of, well, history, when it actually would have been cool to be found in a folk club. I imagine sitting listening to someone like Davey Graham while John Renbourn and Bert Jansch observe keenly from a nearby table, plotting Pentangle. Or Robert Plant flirts with young Sandy Denny by the bar…

    A fabulous book on this rich musical heritage is ‘Electric Eden’ by Rob Young (Faber, 2010). Highly recommended.

    Terrific post, Joe.

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    1. I like your imaginary folk club, I’d imagine they serve a fearsome array of real ales there too and allow dogs in to sit at their master’s feet.

      I’m not a huge folkie, my knowledge is solely Dylan, Gutherie, Fairport, Graham and then 60’s takes on it. I’ve not read ‘Electric Eden’ but I’d heard it was damn good. You read the Joe Boyd biog ‘White Bicycles’ ? that’s a damn fine read and covers some of the same ground too.

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      1. Boyd’s memoir is one I do not have. Must remedy that.

        RE: Alternate titles for Davey’s album, I don’t suppose you would consider “Highway to Hull”? Too obvious?

        OK. What about “DADGAD’s Army”?

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      2. Sorry – ‘Highway to Hull’ gets you a yellow card and a warning as to your future conduct!!

        DADGAD’s army is a great one though.

        Best I can do in my current, slightly tipsy state is ‘Raspberry Bouree’ – which, in all fairness should earn me a yellow card and a warning as to my future conduct ..

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    1. No novice at all – he retired in 1970 and remains a bit of a secret, unfairly I think, to non-folkies. I only stumbled across him via Jimmy Page. Really amazing stuff though if you get a chance to listen.

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  2. I’m not going to act all cool as if I knew who Davey Graham is, but this sounds cool. I love the idea of a one-microphone live recording. I think we were talking about that recently.

    Also liked: “I do know is that there is the bangy, bangy fast hands end (usually the round end) and the widdly widdly fast finger sticky out bit.” Very nice.

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    1. Sorry to flaunt my technical guitarosity at you like that but I couldn’t think of a better way to put it.

      Check out ‘She Moves / Blue Raga’ if you possibly can, it really is awesome beyond all belief. Take it from Jimmy Page if you don’t believe me!

      Davey Graham retired in about 1970 for health, addiction reasons which is what’s kept his profile so low.

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