Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Guitar innovator Davy Graham dies at 68; popularized tuning that inspired Zeppelin's 'Kashmir'

Guitarist Davy Graham, a contemporary of Jimmy Page's and whose work inspired him, died yesterday, Dec. 15. A note posted at his official Web site, www.DavyGraham.com, says:
"It is with great sadness that we have to announce that Davy died yesterday amongst friends and family from a massive seizure at home after a short battle with lung cancer. There will be a private family funeral held in the next few days and a public memorial in January; details of which will be available at www.lescousins.co.uk shortly. Davy will be missed by those of us who loved him. The many fans who came to see his last concerts gave him much joy and satisfaction and was something he drew great strength from. Messages of condolence can be sent via davygraham@lescousins.co.uk."

Graham was 22 years old when he was performing a piece titled "She Moved Through the Fair." Its melody was derived from a traditional Irish tune and sometimes credited to Herbert Hughes. Graham adapted it to the acoustic guitar, playing it in the alternate guitar tuning DADGAD. In live versions, he sometimes combined it with another piece, "Blue Raga." One recording of this made in London in May 1963 was released that year on a four-song EP on the Decca label, called The Thamesiders and Davy Graham: From a London Hootenanny.

Upon hearing Graham's "She Moved Through the Fair," anyone familiar with Page's guitar instrumental "White Summer" would recognize the influence immediately upon hearing that piece. (Graham's original recorded version can be found among the bonus tracks on this remastered version of his first album, Folk, Blues & Beyond....)

Page would very soon be getting into session work in London at that time, and so it would take a few more years for his developing guitar style to manifest itself in front of a wide audience. In the final days of April 1967, when the Yardbirds were spending some time at De Lane Lea Studios in London, Page took the opportunity to record his own arrangement of the same guitar instrumental, which he was now calling "White Summer." Over two days, Page recorded it once on electric and another time on acoustic. A studio musician by the name of Chris Karan provided the exotic tabla drums on this studio effort. (Page's original released version can be found on the Yardbirds' Little Games; the other take can be found on the Yardbirds' outtakes collection, Cumular Limit.)

Page was using the DADGAD tuning, which was becoming common primarily among folk guitarists at the time since Graham's first use of it early in the 1960s. Among rock guitarists, this alternate tuning was unheard of. For the most part, it has stayed this way, but Page went on throughout his career to contribute some of those few exceptions.

The next one was recorded the following year, with Page on acoustic again and assisted by another session tabla player, this time Viram Jasani. That track was "Black Mountain Side," released on Led Zeppelin's first album. When Page played it live with Led Zeppelin, he inserted it into his longer solo showcase of "White Summer," adding rhythmic support from drummer John Bonham. One live version of the two was broadcast live on BBC Radio One's "Playground Theatre" in June 1969, with that performance finally seeing its release on Led Zeppelin's four-CD box set in 1990.

The live performance of "White Summer" and "Black Mountain Side" shown above is taken from the Led Zeppelin performance on Jan. 9, 1970, at the Royal Albert Hall in London. It was included on Led Zeppelin's DVD in 2003.

Page turned to DADGAD again in the 1973/1974 recording sessions for Physical Graffiti. This time, it provided him with two completely original compositions, the better known being "Kashmir." That song, originally included on Physical Graffiti in 1975, is on the above-mentioned box set as well as nearly every Led Zeppelin compilation released since then. A remarkable live version recorded at the Knebworth Festival in 1979 was released on DVD in 2003 and is included below.

The other of Page's two known DADGAD compositions from the mid 1970s was then called "Swan Song," although at the time it did not survive beyond the demo stage. Page revisited it nearly a decade later, by which time Led Zeppelin had disbanded. Then collaborating with Paul Rodgers who helped to provide lyrics, they called their shaping composition "Bird on the Wing" in their early performances of it in 1983. Again, the piece was later retitled, this time to "Midnight Moonlight," in time for its first official release on record. It was included on the self-titled debut album of Page's band with Rodgers, The Firm. A live version is included below.

Davy Graham was not responsible for inspiring every note of Page's work on these songs, but without his influence, Page would not have developed these songs as easily. Graham's death, reported today, must deliver some sadness to Page, who recently mourned the passing of his one-time bandmate, drummer Michael Lee.

As further information becomes available about the public memorial currently being planned for Graham, LedZeppelinNews.com will deliver it.

1 comment:

  1. 1-3-2009

    The "quiet one" in Led Zeppelin was also the one responsible for many of that band's innovative nuances, not to mention his startling low end brilliance. We adore every little thing about John Paul Jones - his musicianship, his versatility, his gentlemanly ways. JPJ is everything good about serious rock musicians, and he embodies my philosophy of: “Walk softly, and carry a Big Bass.



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