Bert Jansch remembered: the songs (5) Blackwaterside
Tom Paxton: here’s to you, my rambling boy. Your ramblings bring us joy

Bert Jansch remembered: nights in Soho with Paul Simon, Jimi Hendrix and Noel Murphy


To be truthful, the late Bert Jansch - who would have been 80 yesterday - appears only fleetingly in this piece. But the writer, Ian Evans, added these priceless memories when participating in Salut! Live's series marking the date of Jansch's birth (Nov 3 1943). They cried out to be included in the series.

I, too, spent many hours in the fabled Soho folk dive, Les Cousins. I'd hitch down from the North East, head for Greek Street and enjoy the music. Once I was so tired that I fell asleep standing up. Awake, I marvelled at the Watersons, Ralph McTell, Long John Baldry, Alexis Korner and, among many others, a very drunk and truculent John Martyn. Happy days or rather nights - even if you couldn't get a proper drink ....




The building that housed Les Cousins, pictured in 2010 by KM’s Live Music Shots :

In his fascinating article * on the history on the history of Les Cousins, an unforgettable London West End folk venue, the bluesman and fRoots founding editor Ian Anderson made one error.

He is wrong to say in the split paragraph at the top of the third page that nobody seems to remember the surname of the "public school customer called Phil". In that was ever the case, they should have asked Noel Murphy, who told me that he was offered the gig as compere by Phil Phillips. But then, Noel had a phenomenal memory.

See all items covering the Bert Jansch 80t birthday commemoration at this link:

This is the link for tonight's special concert (MNv 4) on London's South Bank:


Close mates of mine, Rod Edwards and Roger Hand, played gigs at Cousins because of their connection with the Roy Guest Folk Directions, of which incidentally Jim Lloyd [renowned folk broadcaster on BBC Radio 2 and also an artists' agent]) was a part. Al Stewart was at one time a lodger in their flat.

They invariably played at least one Paul Simon number in their set. 

I was there on one occasion when they played The Flowers Never Bend With the Rainfall.

Cousins was a dimly lit basement and as they finished their set a small figure emerged from the gloom at bottom of the stairs leading down from Greek Street to compliment them on their performance. This was none other than Paul Simon himself.

Courtesy of Andy Mathews [as we knew Andy Matheou, son of the upstairs restaurants owner], we had open access to Les Cousins. This was my introduction to folk music from a very close quarter because we used to hang out, not only with Al but also the likes of the Young Tradition, Noel Murphy, Roy Harper and other Cousins regulars.

However, the seminal experience was spending time in the company of Jackson Frank during the summer of 1965, much of it in the Pillars of Hercules in Greek Street, just across from the Cousins.

After they left Folk Directions, Rod and Rog were taken under the wing of George Martin, who produced 2 albums for them. Rod also co-produced with George Martin a version of Under Milk Wood, with a host of Welsh actors, not least Anthony Hopkins.

Rod and Rog later had their own recording studio called Triumvirate, just off Queensway. Rod spent the last 25 years of his working life working for Bill Kenwright, as the MD of Blood Brothers in the West End.

One figure who frequented Cousins was Judith Piepe, a social worker who lived in Cable Street, where she kept open house to folk singers. Paul Simon lived there, as did Al Stewart, Jackson Frank and Sandy Denny, who at one time was Jackson’s girlfriend.

Joe Boyd, in his autobiography White Bicycles is critical of Jackson Frank and I wonder whether, as someone who recorded with her, he was jealous of Jackson’s relationship with her.

In the circumstances it is perhaps not surprising that Paul Simon produced Jackson’s 1965 seminal album and that Al Stewart played 2nd guitar on Yellow Walls.

One non musician I met at Cousins was John Bailey, a luthier who initially made a guitar for Bert Jansch and then, not surprisingly given Bert’s reputation, had commissions from a number of other musicians who played at Cousins.

John and I struck up a friendship as fellow Welshmen and met from time to time at the Scots Hoose in Cambridge Circus.,_London

We'd grown up in neighbouring villages. In the mid to late 50s there was a tradition for Teddy Boys to parade through my village on a Sunday evening, a spectacle I used to watch with fascination as a junior school pupil. John, who was 14 years older than me, confided in me that he used to come to my village in his drain pipes and drape jacket to participate regularly.

Talking of the Scots Hoose reminds me of a story that Noel Murphy told me the last time I spoke to him before he died last November. He had a regular gig there after it was turned down by Derroll Adams, who recommended Noel to Bruce Dunnet. He said it was the only pub from which he had been banned, Bruce claiming - in jest, it has to be said - that he was making his  mynah bird talk with an Irish accent.

Noel was the first resident musician and compere at Cousins.

Another of his stories was that Chas Chandler brought Jimi Hendrix to Cousins for his first gig in the UK. While Noel, Andy Matheou and Chas were outside in Greek Street, there was awful loud screeching noise from downstairs which caused great consternation, until they realised it was Hendrix doing a sound check.

When first introducing Hendrix, much to Chas's chagrin, Noel introduced Hendrix as Johnny Hendricks.

Thinking back, Noel was the best raconteur I have known and now he has sadly died a huge fund of stories has been lost. I miss our long telephone conversations, which were always fascinating [and I miss his long letters, equally fascinating - Ed].

.Typical of his humour was his introduction of a number as ‘an instrumenstrual by Tam Paxton’. It still brings tears to my eyes while typing this, even after nearly 60 years later.

Where we have had a home for 29 years in France, Le Bearn, I have introduced a close friend Bruno to my taste in folk music, which he has in turn passed on to his son and my filleul, Hadrien. It is a real pleasure to visit them and hear the strains of Hadrien practising Angie or Blues Run the Game upstairs in his bedroom, almost 60 years since I first experienced the same music.

Both Bruno and Hadrien are mad keen on Irish music, having regularly visited Ireland for over 20 years, particularly County Clare, where they have forged friendship with Irish musicians, with whom they have performed in public.

Both are self-taught musicians, Bruno plays the violin and Hadrien guitar and banjo.

They have recently formed a group with Lionel Enard, a national prize winning luthier:

* From Ian Anderson's superb piece:


For impecunious youths like myself, hitch-hiking up to London to see all these amazing artists who were being advertised in the Melody Maker Folk Forum each week and enjoyingngrowing fame nationwide, it wasn’t only a musical honeypot but the cheapest hotel in London. And once you’d become accepted as a performer, you even got in for free. Diana has Andy’s pocket diaries and address book for the Cousins years and they make mind-boggling reading for people familiar with the burgeoning folk scene of the day. Not daring to ask if these valuable artefacts could be borrowed, I read some of the entries into my recorder. Apologies for imminent anorak list overdose and excited squeaks …

“April 1966: Al Stewart £3. Diz Disley half the door. Trevor Lucas £8. Davy Graham £15.
Long John Baldry £15 for the all-nighter. Sandy Denny, John Foreman… Spider John
Koerner £25! (I was probably there for that, 10th April 1966)… Mox & John Lemont.
Tuesday 26th, Van Morrison £3. Wednesday 27th, Jo Ann Kelly £6. Malcolm Price, Gerry
Lockran, Sandy Bull (the American equivalent to Davy Graham), Bert Jansch, Sandy
Denny… what a week!”
“June 1967. Friday, Tom Rush; Diz Disley for the all-nighter. Saturday, John Renbourn;
Long John Baldry for the all-nighter. We go through to the following week… Friday 9th
June, Sandy Denny in the evening, Cliff Aungier doing the all-nighter. Saturday 10th, Bert
Jansch; all-nighter Noel Murphy and Wizz Jones. Friday 16th, Indian music.
Saturday 17th, Alex Campbell in the evening, Davy Graham on the all-nighter. Friday 23rd,
Roy Harper evening, Al Stewart all-nighter. Saturday 24th, Young Tradition evening, Alexis
Korner the all-nighter. It’s amazing, isn’t it?”


Ian Evans on himself:


Welsh born, bred and educated. Passionate Welsh rugby supporter but increasingly less passionate Ipswich Town supporter (though currently at least, they more than merit my support). After teaching law for 3 years practised as a solicitor for 20 years before working in the court service for 27 years. Francophile and Hispanophile with a home in the French Atlantic Pyrenees near to the Spanish border. Eclectic music taste but a rock and roll folkie at heart.


Ian Evans - see also this article dealing with his youthful musical experiences - with fellow students (including, to his left, Jude, who became his wife), during university days at Aberystwyth, west Wales in the summer of 1965


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