The Great San Bernardino Birthday Party and Other Excursions

The Great San Bernardino Birthday Party
JF in 1990 called this masterpiece “a histrionic, disorganised outpouring of blather”.
The final section begins with a tune he learned in Texas from Little Hat Jones called Bye Bye Blues (sic), recorded in San Antonio, Saturday, June 14, 1930. The last few pitches, played in open G minor tuning (as is the rest of the song, with the exception of the Jones tune) is augmented with the use of a butcher knife (instead of the customary bottleneck) which thus produces a Hawaiian effect.
The last six notes express "futility, a hopelessness and general existential despair complicated by ontological absurdity".
Knott’s Berry Farm Molly
Played in standard tuning, key of C and D. Visit Knott’s Berry Farm, a Southern California theme park.
JF: “That was fun. I put that one together myself on a tape recorder. I played it backwards and thought it sounded beautiful – I still think it’s really pretty.”
The backward section is Canned Heat Blues by Tommy Johnson. JF stated that he got the backwards-guitar idea from the Beatles’ Rain! Not anyone more avant-garde than that, John? If so, surely the one and only time the Fabs influenced the Fahey.
Will The Circle Be Unbroken
Recorded at Saint Michael’s And All Angels Church, Adelphi, Maryland, in May, 1962. The accompanying organist is Flea. All from Fahey’s 1962 archives
A country hymn standard - check great versions by The Carter Family and the Stanley Brothers.
Words: Ada R. Habershon, 1907.
Music: Charles H Gabriel
Guitar Excursions Into The Unknown
Recorded at the Alcatraz Apartments, Berkeley, California, during the summer of 1963.
JF in 1968: I agree it’s one of my best pieces. I was afraid to issue it for a few years thinking that no one would be able to like it and I was not sure of my own feelings towards it were until Al Wilson virtually forced me to issue it. I can now listen to it without fear that I will freak out but it took a long time.”
JF in 1970: “God knows what key or tuning it’s in (if any of you can figure it out please let me know.” From Fahey’s 1962 archives (Note: It’s in standard tuning!)
900 Miles
Recorded at the same time and place as Will The Circle Be Unbroken. The fIutist is Nancy McLean. From Fahey’s 1962 archives
Cf Riding on that Train 45 by Ledford, Mainer, Morris, I’m 900 Miles from Home by Fiddlin’ John Carson and 900 Miles from Home by Riley Puckett, plus countless other versions.
Sail Away Ladies
Sail Away Ladies, was recorded in late July, 1965 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts. The accompanying Veena is played by Blind Owl Wilson.
JF in 1970 said it “consists of edited portions of an hour or longer improvisational session with Al Wilson playing what at that time was my Vina (predecessor to the sitar, no resonating strings). I later gave the Vina to Al because I owed him some money and because he learned to play it in two days. The recording was made the second day. I could never learn to play the damn thing anyways. Al was a real musical genius and a hell of a nice guy (and much else).”
In this song Fahey and Blind Owl take a simple fiddle tune (see AAFM for Uncle Bunt Stephens’ version) and make an Eastern psychedelic symphony out of it. The tune has words and in some versions some of the words are “don’t you rock me daddy-o”, under which title the song became a skiffle hit for Lonnie Donegan and The Vipers in Britain in 1957. They got the song from Leadbelly. Two traditions, two songs, same root.
Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel
Tune was first found in a book called “Hymnal Noted” by Thomas Helmore, 1856. Helmore states that it is “from a French missal in the National Library, Lisbon”. Later scholars, after much fruitless searching, concluded that Helmore himself had composed it.