Thursday, October 02, 2008

Gordon Giltrap: a Deptford Guitar Hero

Gordon Giltrap is probably best known for his work from the 1970s, in particular the track Heartsong, but he has 40 years of performing and recording acoustic guitar behind him dating back to the 1960s folk clubs. According to his website:

'Gordon was born on 6 April 1948, at the British Home for Mothers and Babies in Brenchley, Kent. The son of a labourer, he grew up in an austere but protective community of terraced houses in Deptford, south-east London. His obsession with stringed instruments began nine years later, when a friend turned up at the house with an out-of-tune Spanish guitar. Keen to encourage his new hobby, his parents bought him a plastic ukulele with a picture of Elvis on the headstock, then a Martin Coletti archtop jazz guitar with a sunburst finish and a brown canvas case. Without a teacher to guide him, Gordon unwittingly taught himself a hybrid technique of plectrum and little finger, but in doing so, created the individual sound that is still his trademark'.

Good to hear that he started on the uke, there's a stool with his name on it at Brockley Ukulele Group!

In 1969, Giltrap took part in a festival at Goldsmiths organised by Malcolm McLaren, then a student at the college. Seven years before becoming manager of The Sex Pistols, McLaren had his first go at 'the Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle' when he advertised a summer free festival at Goldsmiths with claims that Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones and John Lennon were 'awaiting confirmation'. Naturally they didn’t turn up, but thousands of people did. The local paper(Kentish Mercury 10/7/1969) reported that music was supplied by 'Local folk singer and guitarist Gordon Giltrap' and 'local folk trio the Strawbs'. The report was headlined 'Free festival, free beer, free shambles' and made much of the presence of 'dolly birds' and 'girls [that] seemed to strut about with an "I’m groovier than thou" expression' (every Goldsmiths girl's perogative, now as then). A debate featured radical psychiatrist RD Laing, the Scottish writer Alexander Trocchi and an intervention by a Women’s Liberation group complaining about the all-male platform.

Anywhere, here's Giltrap performing his best known track, once used as the theme tune on the BBC's Holiday programme:

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