Tuesday, 1 May 2012

*Dick Gaughan Interview with Phil Cunningham

This photo of Gaughan was taken at Milngavie Folk Club in 2011
Dick Gaughan Interview with Phil Cunningham Radio Scotland March 2012
Dick chose five songs that have influenced him –
(1) Big Bill Broonzy – Glory of Love
(2) The Shadows – Apache
(3) The Beatles – Love Me Do
(4)  Bob Dylan – Subterranean Homesick Blues
(5)  Davy Graham – 67

Gaughan talked about his musical influences. His chat is often profound, sometimes humorous and always entertaining.
He said that The Shadows were the first eclectic guitar group and that back then we were discovering all these new sounds for the first time. Before that nearly every American singer  seemed to be called ‘Frankie’ and sang songs about what it was like ‘to be a young lad at summer camp!’   
Gaughan said that ‘Love Me Do’ from the Beatles was another defining song.

He became obsessed with songs - he was like a magpie and studied songs at the National Library. In 1979 the Thatcher government made him first think about ‘why’ he was singing the songs and he became a political artist then. He said that Traditional music is about fair play, the totality of life and about the community.
Nowadays the barrage of media attempts to put forwards ‘one’ message he claimed and he likes to be part of what he calls the ‘awkward squad’ who are the grain of sand in the ointment and have other ways of looking at reality - and try to at least think about it!
He spoke about Dylan’s beautifully crafted songs that punched out images such as ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’. Gaughan played with Aly Bain’s Boys of the Lough and a punk band called Five Hand Reel. Like many others on the folkscene back then he developed a drink problem and then he had a breakdown. He had to clean up and dry up.
Lastly he talked about Davy Graham’s guitar which was tuned differently. His musical ideas were unbelievably creative - he was predictably unpredictable!  Hearing Graham's guitar it becomes clear where Gaughan had learned his distinctive playing style from. His list of favourite song choices is interesting too and shows the breadth of his roots in both traditions and more contemporary musical styles. 

Gaughan is best known for singing the songs Both Sides the Tweed and Westlin’ Winds. 
Some very few artists have the ability to transport and transcend the moment, and Dick does so with forceful guitar playing and classic traditional songs with a strong message and a deep expressive, growling voice.  He draws from both Irish and Scottish folk traditions. I first heard Gaughan play in the 70s in Edinburgh when I was dating a folk guitarist who raved about how incredible and very distinctive his playing was. Many years later (after being in America for nearly ten years and having three children) I heard Dick again at Milngavie Folk club in 2007, and this was an intimate gig where his chat between songs was worth going for alone. In his own so distinctive style, Gaughan hammers and speaks with his acoustic guitar. He performs traditional folk tunes, Robert Burns, favourite cover songs and his own songs.
He doesn't play the predictable smoothed-over sugar box 'tartan shortbread' songs - and he may not be to everyone's taste. Gaughan is plain spoken and holds firmly held beliefs on the rights of everyman and at one time he took past folk stories and songs from the library archives and put new melodies to them. You come away from his gigs questioning but ultimately renewed in the faith of our shared humanity. Dick Gaughan is a Scottish living legend, and he usually performs every January at 'Celtic Connections' Glasgow.