Such an amazing performance. This is part of the new hour-long Fahey documentary film that’s making the rounds. The film was up on YouTube illegally for one day, but I didn’t get to it in time. DVDs are available right here.
John Fahey performing “The Red Pony” for Guitar Guitar, an instructional show on San Francisco public television, 1969. Fahey had been invited to demonstrate his “American primitive” technique. At the end he helpfully explains that the last chord in the song is lifted from Gustav Holst’s The Planets.
The Fahey Files list three titles for this same tune:
- The Red Pony – Wine and Roses – The Approaching of the Disco Void
“Wine & Roses is a graceful minor melody learned by Fahey from an old Indian he met while visiting the Mississippi Monner Monument Coffee and Gift Shop in West Heliotrope, Maryland. He was given to understand that the song was an anthem used by the Indians in their heroic struggle on Capitol Hill in the early 1930’s against the political entrenchment of the brief alliance of the Episcopal Ministry with Captain Marvel and the Mole Men.” – from the liner notes by “Elijah P. Lovejoy” for the first recording of the song, on the LP The Dance of Death and Other Plantation Favorites,1964. The Rev. Lovejoy also includes a footnote: “‘Wine and Roses’ is mistitled, it is actually ‘The Red Pony.’”
“According to Fahey, swinging soundtrack composer Henry Mancini deserves a nod for inspiration for the opening ‘Wine and Roses,’ a moody minor-key testament to the powers of syncopation. After hearing Mancini’s ‘Days of Wine and Roses’ on the radio, Fahey tried to play it from memory later and came up with this tune, which he later retitled ‘The Red Pony.’” – from Lee Gardner’s liner notes to the CD reissue of The Dance of Death, 1999
“I made an orchestra out of the guitar. It was immediately available to me, from Sears and Roebuck… I bought one but employed no teachers. I could tolerate none, nor they me. Would that there had been a wise and quick teacher – one who knew more than the music on the page, on the radio, in the concert hall – one who knew the music of men and women. Perhaps he could have taught me about that instead. I would prefer that it would have been that way. But there was no teacher like that around. So I taught myself all these things, and now I must play.” – from Fahey’s liner notes to the LP Requia, 1967
“John Fahey went insane in 1964 and died shortly thereafter. He spoke to me in his last minutes on his dying bed and said: ‘Take down my old guitar and smash it against the wall so I can die easy.’ I did so and he passed away with a chthonic smile on his face.” – from the liner notes by “Chester Petranick” for the LP Blind Joe Death, 1964.
There’s another well documented version of the tune, as “Wine and Roses,” from the German television show Rockpalast, 1978.
And here it is introduced by, “Now it’s time to go into the Void!” at the Varsity Theater in Palo Alto, 1981.
“A good piece, but I don’t play this anymore. I don’t know how you write a song that you later find is too frightening to play, but I did. I don’t like to hear it, it’s scary. Open D minor tuning, D-A-D-F-A-D.” – Fahey on “The Approaching of the Disco Void”, as quoted by the Fahey Files in their documents for the album Live in Tasmania, 1981. The Files also note that, “Some Fahey scholars suggest this track may not, actually, be Fahey at all.”