Requia John Fahey


Catalogue Id:
VMD 79259

Following the intermittent connection between John Fahey at Sam Charters at Vanguard Records since the former had sent his first 1959 small-scale Takoma album release to Vanguard, it was almost inevitable that Fahey and the well-known folk label would combine. Though initially confused and sceptical about his music, Charters had not failed to notice how Fahey's music had crept into and been welcomed by the cognoscenti. The records were finding their place, and his playing was becoming distinctly influential, so by 1967 this became the second of two albums (the other being “The Yellow Princess”) that Vanguard Records put out. The move was in part brought about by Fahey's increasing sophistication with recording after his somewhat embryonic beginnings and his interest in developing other sounds in his records. Takoma had remained a small company so John had looked around for a deal that could allow him to extend what he did. Vanguard's better resources permitted him to travel and record 'found' sounds that attracted him, like a particular bridge that made a clanging sound when cars crossed it. These sounds, or what has become known as Fahey's 'musique concret' can be found here integrated with his guitar playing in the four sections of ‘Requiem For Molly’, making this album very distinct from all those Takoma issues that had preceded it.

The album begins with three tracks of more standard Fahey form. The first, ‘Requiem For John Hurt’, recalls Fahey's early fascination with the three-finger picking style that Mississippi John used, with the playing reflecting the gentleness of delivery that characterised the older man. Musicologists also point to the backwards picking style that Fahey used on this track, echoing another piece, ‘Tell Her To Come Back Home’, from the earlier “Transfiguration Of Blind Joe Death” album. ‘Requiem For Russell Blaine Cooper’ (a great-uncle of Fahey's), and ‘When The Catfish Is In The Bloom’ are recognisable Fahey territory, with the latter apparently being composed at a Californian coffee house in April 1966 in the presence of the 'Beautiful Linda Getchell' and influenced by a strong Old Grand Dan ( a well-known Kentucky Bourbon). The over twenty minutes of the four sections of ‘Requiem For Molly’ then appear, with interwoven sound effects that include fairgrounds, workers songs, hymns, speeded up tapes, cows, German speeches, children and guns. It is as if someone is tuning a radio and finding a cacophony of foreign stations drifting in and out, but with it all strangely melding together with  Fahey's guitar. Section three even included him gently playing the recent hit song ‘California Dreamin'’, but onto which he adds a discordant ending. The album concludes with the short ‘Fight On Christians, Fight On’, which in John's own words is "A hymn, as always, to end."

The excursion to a bigger label had allowed John to experiment in a way that he had not previously done, and this time the short notes are his own, as himself. Vanguard man Charters saw his experimentations as very much a part of what was happening within other areas of music in San Francisco at the time, but taken purely within the Fahey canon this album was indeed a bold and progressive statement in its own right.


Track listing


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