21.07.2005 21:30 - The Jazzman's Revenge
In my formative years as a guitarist, I struggled to learn the songs of my heroes. Being young and foolish, rather than taking lessons, I thought I could short-cut and learn the chords of the songs by buying many of the lavishly-printed volumes of music that were displayed so conspicuously in the window of Stafford Music Centre.
Oh Wrong, wrong, wrong, little Rock guitarist manqué.
You see, somewhere, deep in the bowels of Music Publishing International, in a dark, dank cellar lit only by what little light manages to creep in through the grimy skylight, there sits an old, evil Jazzman, before an aging upright piano. On the top of this piano sits an ashtray that hasn't been emptied since Miles last drew breath, and a bottle of the cheapest Aldi whisky. Next to the piano, on which the evil Jazzman is slumped, is a dansette portable record player, of similar age and decrepitude as the evil Jazzman himself. No-one knows the evil Jazzman's name, even his employers. He's been there since the late 1950's, and his once-sharp zoot suit shows signs of considerable wear. In the corner of the room is a tube, of the antique vacuum document delivery type.
As we take in this scene, the evil Jazzman is semi-comatose, snoring fitfully and twitching in his sleep, as he imagines swapping eights with Dave Brubeck. Suddenly, there is a violent hammering on the door. A record is pushed under it. It is Buddy Holly's greatest hits. The Jazzman stumbles over to the door, picks up the record, looks at it in disgust, and scratches his crotch. He moves over to the record player and puts on the record. A noise comes out of the dansette which would have the editor of "HiFi Monthly" in fits of apoplexy. Somewhere in between the platter rumble and disc-wow comes the urgent hiccupping and energetic strumming of a young Texan as yet unaware of the terminal possibilities of private chartered airflight. The evil Jazzman grimaces, and farts.
He turns to the aging piano, and opens the keyboard. Like him, it is long out of condition, and stressed to the point where the whole shebang may collapse any minute. He props up a fresh piece of music manuscript in front of him, and draws on the treble clef resignedly. His hands flutter over the keys, and a brief, yet tortured, passage from Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" emerges from the piano. Then he grimaces again, and looks at the record player.
Did he spend a lifetime of endentured musical servitude in Ted Winterbotham's Rhythm Tuxedos, for THIS? Him, who Ronnie Scott once congratulated on a particularly smooth break, having to write down A, D and bloody E? Major, for Christ's sake, Major! In straight eights! Not a single minor 7th to be heard! And the little gits with their bloody banjos can't even work this out for themselves? They're not going to get away with this.
So, with a fiendish grin, the evil Jazzer proceeds to transcribe a version of "Peggy Sue" which would give Pat Metheny pause for thought. Chord substitution is piled on chord substitution, IIm-IVm7-I, added-minor-ninth-flat-seventh, let's see the little bastards play THAT without getting terminal cramp in their fretting hands, then! His work done, the evil Jazzman places the transcription in the vacuum cylinder to sucked away to realms unknown, drains the bottle of whisky, and then urinates into it. Such is the foulness of the whisky, and the alcohol content of his bloodstream, that he doesn't realise that he did the same thing yesterday. He then passes out on the piano.
And that, dear reader, is why you still get transcriptions of rock tunes which insist on the key of Fminor.
You know who you are.