John Fahey – Zabriskie Point Sessions (1969)

FrontCover1The Story, basically… In 1969, John Fahey was asked (and paid) to compose music for director Michelangelo Antonioni’s film, Zabriskie Point. Fahey flew to Rome, tinkered around, recorded some solo guitar, and had some additional recording sessions with various musicians. Fahey got into a fight with Antonioni during a dinner, and his recordings were scrapped in favor of other artists – although an edited version of an old Fahey song was included in the film. History aside, here we have John Fahey playing some nice solo guitar for 50 minutes. It’s good stuff, enjoy. (by badpainter)

Zabriekie Notes, from John Fahey:
(from John Fahey’s book “How Bluegrass Music Destroyed My Life”)

“If I had to do it all over again, I honestly don’t know whether I would do it or not. I did make a lot of money. But it wasn’t any fun. I’ll tell you that.”

MoviePoster“I played and improvised and worked out on the guitar for many, many hours. I had the guitar fixed so the low A string was where the B string should be and vice versa, and I put it at a random tuning. It was harmonicallly in tune but was scordatura, that is, detuned. That way I would get a unique sound. And furthermore nobody would ever be able to figure out how I did it. And I played and played and played until I came up with a reasonable facsimile of some desert young-death-love music”

“I had a closed session of just me and an engineer. And with my detuned guitar, I made three takes of Antonioni gangbang, young-love obscenity music out on the desert…”

“When I first recorded with just my guitar, the third take was just what I think the Big Ant (Antionioni) wants. I have listened to it again and again and it’s really good… I had a copy of the third take made, see, and I’ve heard it time and time again and it’s great.”

The Antonioni Fiasco, by Byron Coley (Spin magazine, 1994):

“To assemble the soundtrack, Michaelangelo Antonioni (the director) reportedly asked various American hippies what music they liked.

‘Zabrieski Point’ features one particularly long sequence with couples making love in the desert, and this is the one Antonioni wanted Fahey to score.”


Fahey, 1994: “Antonioni says ‘What I want you to do is to compose some music that will go along with the porno scene.’ I kept saying, ‘Yes, sir.’ Then he starts this, ‘Now John, this is young love. Young love.’ I mean, that’s young love? All these bodies? ‘Young love. But John, it’s in the desert, where there’s death. But it’s young love.’

He kept going ‘young love/death’ faster and faster. I was sure I was talking to a madman.

So I experimented. I had instrumentalists come in and I told them just to play whatever they felt like. They had to pretend to understand what I was talking about, especially if Antonioni came in the room.

I came up with some sections of music that sounded more like death than young love. I played it for Michaelangelo and he thought it was great.”

John Fahey

Alas, it seems that after the music was all agreed, there was a celebratory dinner, and as the wine flowed the discussion turned heated. Antonioni began explaining to Fahey how he hated the USA. Fahey made him govern his Marxist malevolence.

Antonioni took offence and couldn’t understand why Fahey wasn’t part of the revolution which was engulfing the nation at the time. They had reached the point of no return.

Fahey left, and Antonioni, strangely, ditched the composed music and just used the first 3 minutes of “Dance of Death” instead.

What happened to the stuff with the instrumentalists playing whatever they felt like, and who were they anyway? What we have left to us is just Fahey alone, as usual, but sounding very subdued.


Elsewhere, Fahey has said: “This stupid film is in the book ‘The 100 Worst Ever Films Made’. It deserves inclusion.”

Thanks to badpainter for sharing the tracks at Dime.

Michaelangelo Antonioni


John Fahey (guitar)


01. Track 1 10.49
02. Track 2 18.39
03. Track 3 17.18


Music composed by John Fahey




John Fahey – The New Possibility – John Fahey’s Guitar Soli Christmas Album (1968)

FrontCover1The New Possibility: John Fahey’s Guitar Soli Christmas Album is a 1968 album by American folk musician John Fahey. It is a collection of solo-guitar arrangements of familiar Christmas songs and has been Fahey’s best selling recording, remaining in print since it was first released. The album is especially noteworthy since holiday music had never before been played in Fahey’s acoustic-steel string blues guitar style.

As Fahey recounts, “I was in the back of a record store in July and I saw all these cartons of Bing Crosby’s White Christmas albums. The clerk said it always sells out. So I got the idea to do a Christmas album that would sell every year.” The New Possibility has been one of Fahey’s best selling recordings, selling over 100,000 copies initially, and has been continually in print.

Fahey’s original liner notes discuss the German-American theologian and Christian existentialist philosopher Paul Tillich’s reference to the birth of Jesus Christ as “The New Possibility”. Fahey notes the scholarly research on the secular and mythological/superstitious ideas connected with the “Christmas Story”. These liner notes were removed in later reissues. When asked why, Fahey said, “I just didn’t feel that way any more.”


In 1979, Fahey said, “Well, the arrangements are pretty good, but on the other hand there are more mistakes on this album than on any of the other 17 albums I’ve recorded. And yet, here’s the paradox… this album has not only sold more than any of my others, I meet people all the time who are crazy about it. I mean really love it. What can I say. I’m confused.”

Fahey recorded three more Christmas albums, as well as re-recording the tracks of The New Possibility. There were numerous reissues on LP, 8-track tape, and cassette. Some later reissues confusingly used the cover art from the 1975 album Christmas with John Fahey Vol. II. A 2000 CD reissue of The New Possibility includes the entire contents of both that album and Christmas with John Fahey Vol. II.


In his Mojo magazine review, critic Andrew Male wrote “This beautiful collection of the American steel-string guitarist’s festive efforts, from 1968 and 1975, possesses a deliciously deep and spooky ambience, a disjointed jauntiness coupled with a frost-fall morning melancholy, Fahey’s guitar somehow sounding like an Elizabethan harpsichord grown wild and mad out in the Appalachian mountains.” However, another Mojo article, “How To Buy Fahey”, dismisses these recordings as “Cliff-territory bland”.

Jonathan Widran, writing for Allmusic writes it “reminds one of the simple charms of the season and how easy it is to capture that when you keep a no-frills approach. Because he rarely varies the tempos among the tracks—he’s mostly in the slow to gently loping ballad mode—the songs have a slight tendency to run into each other. (by wikipedia)


John Fahey (guitar)


01. Joy To The World (Mason/Watts) 1.52
02. What Child Is This? (Dix/Traditional) 3.02
03. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing/O Come All Ye Faithful (Mendelssohn/Traditional) 3.10
04. Auld Lang Syne (Burns/Traditional) 2.01
05. The Bells Of St. Mary’s (Adams/Furber) 2.10
06. Good King Wenceslas (Neale) 1.10
07. We Three Kings of Orient Are (Hopkins, Jr.) 1.50
08. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen Fantasy (Traditional) 3.00
09. The First Noel (Sandys) 2.12
10. Christ’s Saints Of God Fantasy (Hopkins/Traditional) 10.12
11. It Came Upon A Midnight Clear (Sears/Willis) 1.28
12. Go I Will Send Thee (Traditional) 3.00
13. o, How a Rose E’er Blooming (Praetorius/Traditional) 3.45
14. Silent Night (Gruber) 1.14



John Fahey – God,Time And Causality (1989)

FrontCover1John Fahey’s the missing link between Delta blues and new age acoustic enlightenment, with a broad stylistic range that also touches on indian ragas, the modal sound of Gregorian chants, dusty flamenco shadings and classical forms as well as Hawaiian and bottleneck pickings. The steel string superman has been at it for over 30 years now since starting Takoma records back in `59, and has continually enriched his style to incorporate a deeper sense of his Delta blues roots, taking his compositions beyond the standard pop framework to create breathtakingly picturesque mood-scapes ranging from somber and dark to finger-pickin’ ecstasy. God, Time And Causality is an all-instrumental record with several extended medleys (three over 11 minutes) that give the listener a front seat taxi ride through the unpaved backroads, shanty villages and enchanted forests that Fahey summons on his acoustic guitar. Fans of Ry Cooder’s soundtrack work, Leo Kotke, Jorma Kaukonen, Taj Mahal, Michael Hedges and Will Ackerman should dive into the guitar artistry of John Fahey, the man who’s been an influence on them all. Guaranteed to cool off even the most severe cases of hot foot this summer. (by CMJ New Music Report Issue,1990)

John Fahey (guitar)

01. Revelation (Patton) 3.47
02. The Red Pony (Fahey) 6.28
03. Lion (Hawkins) 6.38
04. Medley: Interlude / The Portland Cement Factory / Requiem For Mississippi John Hurt (Traditional/Fahey) 11.37
05. Medley: Snowflakes / Steamboat ‘Gwine Around The Bend / Death Of The Clayton Peacock / How Green Was My Valley (Traditional/Fahey) 11.46
06. Medley: Sandy On Earth / I’ll See You In My Dreams (Hawkins/Travis/Traditional/Fahey) 16.29