It doesn’t happen all too often that in a decade of following the latest musical trends of some cultural author, his or her detailed completion of their records and of course their necessary self-indication in all of their musical volume, you finally manage to hear them, totally unexpected, live at a concert, are able to talk with him or her and all the expectations you had of the person indeed confirm themselves and not disappoint you in any way. I would not even dare to imagine in my dreams for such a thing to happen, until I, I don’t even know how it happened till this day, I came across some information, that the American singer Shawn Phillips is going to perform in Udine, one of my favorite musical authors ever. He is one of the most sincere lone musicians there is, one who travels the plains in search of new music, travelling to the opposite side of popular music, a man, who made music with Tim Hardina in the first half of the 60’s and played in folk clubs in Greenwich Village, and is the one who taught Joni Mitchell her first guitar lesions, when she was a bartender in the Canadian Saskatoon. He is the one musical genius, who at the concert of Ravi Shankar, who was a total stranger in those times, had to teach him how to play the sitar after a concert in Toronto. In 1964/65 Shawn decided to go to India and teach musical instruments, but then, one lone summer, he decided to go to London, where he played alongside Donovan, taught the sitar to George Harrison, and even before meeting Shankar, recorded his accompanied vocals with David Crosby while playing Lovely Rita on the record Stg. Pepper. He played with Hendrix, played at the Isle of Wight festival and recorded epical records.
All these things were running through my head, when at Sunday, 6.11.1999, Lili drove her dark blue car from Ljubljana till Udine, along with 3 hungry souls: her friend Jane Weber, musical editor from Radio Slovenia, who brought along his DAT cassette player, the connoisseur Matjaž Mišiča from the Oton Župančič library and my unbelievable self, a collector by heart, in remembrance how I first heard the masterpieces of Shawn Phillip called Faces, which Igor Zalokar brought in 1974 to listen to, all the way from London. This record, of course, became a local remnant and lived a whole new life for itself. Amongst other things, it also contained recordings in which Shawn, who recorded in London, played with the members of Traffic and other British bands, with an unreleased trilogy, which came, piece by piece, on later records that followed.
The drive left behind Trieste and all the way to Udine we came about 1 hour before the concert, and suddenly remembered that the concert was in a suburb in Colugn, in a smaller social concert hall named Teatro Del Bon, where almost all the local gatherings took place, from votes, new year celebrations, till cultural happenings and liturgies. I thought that Shawn had to be there, so I entered the hall and thought the backstage door I could see how the acoustic guitars were set up, his famous 2-neck electrical Yamaha DX7. When I stepped into the empty backstage hall and made my way through the stage, I had a feeling like I was going to Sunday church. Shawn, when seeing me, knew then and there what was going on and immediately shook my hand and started to talk to me and I just stared and stared at him. He showed me his 2-neck guitar up close and told me that he made it himself by cutting off (and destroying) the half priceless Stratocaster and his other Gibson Les Paul and combined them into a whole. He was so friendly and that sort of guy, which you think you know your whole life while, although you just met. When he signed my autograph, the other team members showed up as well, Lili, Jane and Matjaž; and Shawnie had so much time he was able to do an interview for us in the backstage improvised dressing room they set up for the band.
Thanks to my eloquent nature he told me many things; about how he is a volunteer firefighter in his free time and a male nurse in serious interventions, how he outgrew his Texas musical roots into a huge tree, full of different styles of music, from classical to country, and that he always writes his music according to his own life’s adventures; and about how he wrote the music to Donovan’s hit Season Of The Which, which he didn’t take the credit for, and also about his happy neighbor Will Nelson who he said that he is hearing constant noise from his ranch every day. At the end of the half-hour long interview, I also came to understand some things about my life at home, how I see it now as a pure miracle and luck and as a Krishna-Murthy-kind of perception of steady focus, without any kind of strain and effort. The interview and the 2-hour long concert Jane recorded and even took some photos, all with the consent of the master himself.
The concert was an unforgettable subtle event, which showed Shawn’s flawless voice and captured the once felt 70’s vibe, from which he took all of his inspiration and music repertoire, adding in 2 of his newer recorded songs and joining everything into a mixture of a fulfilled epiphany, which enabled the ones listening to return the their magical land of their personal Shangri-La.
Siv in star bik, ki se mi še danes malo zamegli, ko slišim Ticket To Ride, rojen leta, ko se je rodil tudi rock & roll in je Bill Haley s svojimi Kometi zasedel prvo mesto na Billboardovi lestvici najpopularnejših s skladbo, s katero je zmešal ameriško mladež v usodnem filmu Džungla v razredu. Vodnar, kakopak, ki sem imel srečo, da sem ravno prav star zapopadel orakelj z imenom Beatles in ves tisti srečni hipijadni cvetlični ringlšpil, ki je mežikal iz Radia Luksemburg na malem tranzistorju, pa iz prve runde Džuboksa in preko fenomena Kameleoni, da ne omenjam vse pripadajoče parafernalije med Liverpoolom in San Franciscom s postankom v Trbovljah (Amebe, Eden's, Jutro, Črni bliski, Kon-Tiki). Ujel sem še vse vibracije občinskega travnika, štafetnih časov in tudi onih, ki so ubili Lennona, pospremili Titota in potem zamenjali še državo in celo tisočletje.