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Dazzling Stranger: Bert Jansch and the British Folk and Blues Revival Hardcover – 21 Aug 2000

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 378 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (21 Aug. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747548102
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747548102
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 15.9 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,782,093 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


`A feast for anyone interested in Jansch or the 1960s' -- Scotsman

`A work of considerable importance ... intuitive and informed' -- Q Magazine

`An excellent biography of one of folk's cult figures ... Harper's
narrative is first-rate'
-- Independent on Sunday

`Compulsive reading' -- Folk Roots

`Harper's at his best when he digs deep into the microcosm of
British bohemia that the folk revivalists were a part of ... compelling' -- Will Hodgkinson, Guardian --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Colin Harper was born in Belfast where he still lives and has been a music journalist since 1994. He writes regularly for Mojo, Q, Independent, The Irish Times and Irish News. He contributed to the BBC2 documentary Bert Jansch, Acoustic Routes, and is on the panel of the Belfast Arts Awards. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 21 Sept. 2001
Format: Hardcover
Anyone who was witness to the British folk scene of the 60s and 70s will find this a fascinating book and a very enjoyable read. Anyone younger who loves the guitar as an instrument will be interested to read about the life of the almost mystical singer, songwriter and musician who was such an important influence on many more recent performers like Bernard Butler and Jonny Marr. The book is excellently researched and is clearly a labour of love which should inspire you to go out and listen to some of Bert's wonderful music.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By RiffRaff on 11 Aug. 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The previous review is so comprehensive that I won't repeat the content of the book, but I wanted to confirm the pleasure of reading a well written book about an underrated and underexposed artist. I had not appreciated the extent of his influence both on peers in the "folk-boom" and on thousands of steel-strung acoustic guitar players since. If like me you are a fan of acoustic music and the sixties musicians you will find yourself digging out old albums from Paul Simon, Al Stewart, Donovan, Martin Carthy, Pentangle and Bert himself to experience his influence in a new light!
The book is full of fascinating cross-references to the other artists of the time, and is constantly engaging. Highly recommended.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By G. COOPER on 19 Nov. 2006
Format: Paperback
Anyone with an interest in the UK folk/acoustic scene in the 60s and later years should read this book. Whilst its main focus is quite rightly on Bert Jansch, the book also contains a wealth of information and anecdote on others involved in the music of the time: talents as diverse as Donovan and Neil Young, as well or little known as Jimmy Page and Hamish Imlach, as firmly established as John Renbourn and Ralph McTell. Colin Harper traces Bert's story from his beginnings in Edinburgh (where he learned everything his guitar teachers knew in six weeks) to his meteoric rise to solo fame in the underground folk and blues scene which came to thrive in the basement clubs of Soho and a thousand pubs and colleges across the land. There is a good outline of his meetings with John Renbourn and the other musicians with whom the ultra-hip duo of 'Bert & John'joined to form The Pentangle. Harper narrates in some detail the story of Pentangle in its heyday and subsequent revivals and of Bert's solo career in the aftermath of that band. The author does not gloss over the difficulties: Bert's problems with alcohol and its effects upon his health and career, and his complex personal life are covered but only insofar as they impinge upon the music. The book ends with Bert beginning the renaissance which started in 1995 and continues to the present time, and the apparent peace and security brought about by his marriage to Loren Auerbach. Harper writes clearly and perceptively, with a guitarist's understanding of the complexities of Jansch's music and a true devotee's grasp of the man's significance. I bought a first edition of this when it was published and have read it several times since: it's absolutely essential reading for fans of Bert Jansch and of the 60s folk and blues scene.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Chris Glenn on 27 Nov. 2006
Format: Paperback
This is a fine book that uncovers a rich history of the folk revival and much more. Great anecdotes and tales are recounted. The influence of the Communist Party is dealt with well although this could have been analysed in greater detail. The CP really had quite a reactionary position in relation to music at the time. Folk was good because it was represented horny handed sons of toil, the new developments in jazz and rock'n'roll, mod culture etc were viewed with deep suspicion. In certain cities the CP had enough influence to be able to mobilise significant numbers and surely one of the organisation's many low points on the artistic front was the encouragement of the barracking of Bob Dylan's 1966 electric tour. Harper charts their declining influence as the young turks of the acoustic revival eschewed categorization, embracing jazz, blues, improvisation and 'world' music. Davy Graham, Robin Williamson, John Renbourn and Jansch were not interested in having their searching creativity confined by sterile cardboard cutout dogma.

I've always been puzzled by the lack of the widespread appreciation of John Renbourn. I saw them both within weeks of each other at the East Dulwich Tavern in South East London in about 2000. Renbourn was astonishing - easily Bert's equal and as the book acknowledges the superior technician. I think Mojo did a 50 greatest guitarists a few years ago and Renbourn didn't even figure whilst Jansch was number 9 or thereabouts. Maybe his life is not so romantic - a bit like John Martyn struggling to be recognised to the same extent as Nick Drake.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Rob Brook on 23 Feb. 2007
Format: Hardcover
Who needs a Tardis when you've got a writer who can so engagingly evoke a sense of time and place as Colin Harper does London at the birth of folk rock? Harper's lack of personal experience of these times is no barrier to his capturing the essence of the capital: for this reader, it was a thrill to be taken back to the clubs, the singers and songs, the beer and smoke, back to Soho, guided through the fog by a writer yet to be born. Dazzling Stranger is not simply for music lovers but for anyone interested in British social history. There was a lovely little b&w film documentary about Jansch shot at the time of first publication including interviews and performances by some of the artists in this book. They screened it at about 3-00am on British TV. Surely time to see this aired again? An entertaining 'tribute' album called People On The Highway, rounding the gang up all over again to cover their favourite Jansch creations, is still available. Book, film, album: not bad for a cult folkie you might say, but then this is Jansch.
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