Title: BBC Radio: Johnnie Walker Interview
Source: audio tape. Transcription by Gary Tausch as sent to Raindogs Listserv Discussionlist, August 7, 2001
Date: London. September 11, 1993
Key words: Gavin Bryars, Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet


BBC Radio: Johnnie Walker Interview


[BBC Radio 1-FM with Johnnie Walker, interview with Tom Waits and Gavin Bryars]

Intro - Gavin Bryars is a professor of music at Leicester De Montfort University - his composition Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet (1) is a 74 minute symphony.

Gavin Bryars - I came across the original tape that I used for this piece when a friend was making a film about tramps and people living rough near railway stations in London and he gave me the tapes to help him make the film and one of these was this old man singing a religious song, Jesus Blood Never Failed Me. He wasn't drunk, he simply just burst into song.

And I kept the tape and I played with it and I found when I played it through it was in tune with my piano at home and so I busked a short accompaniment - played some chords to see what fitted as it was in tune with the piano which was unusual and he was also in tune with himself. He had a very nice voice. His voice is good. Then I made a loop out of the first part of the singing and I thought about maybe adding an accompaniment and the thing which ultimately decided for me to use the piece was when I copied the loop onto a continuous reel and I was working in an art college at the time and I went to the recording studio and I was copying the reel and I left the studio door open while I went to get some coffee and when I came back the studio which was usually full of people making a noise, shouting, fooling about, splashing paint on canvas, that kind of thing. I came back and the place was very subdued, it was quiet, there were 2 or 3 people sitting around sobbing in the corner and everyone was moving very slowly and I thought well, what's gone wrong, what's happened? Then I realized this voice was still singing. I could hear the voice coming through the door and this voice had affected them and I realized it was very powerful so what I decided was whatever I did with the voice, adding instruments and so on, should keep that power and respect because it's a complicated thing.

Tom Waits - Yeah, you know, I was so moved when I first heard it. A similar thing happened when I first heard the song cause it was my wife's birthday and it was real late and everyone had left and there were only a few people sitting around with the balloons and the confetti all around and some people nodding out in the corner and the radio was on and all of a sudden this song kind of drifted into the room and it just put such a nice dust on everything. It kind of became the theme song of her birthday. Just the light in the room and the balloons and this old man's voice. It seemed a perfect score for the evening and I taped it and then I played it hundreds of times in the car and then I found myself singing it as well - to myself when I was out. There's something about it that's so naive and something that rarely happens when you're recording in a formal environment. There was some quality that it had. Also the ambience of where it was recorded cause it was recorded outdoors. Most recordings are made indoors so I noticed that as well. And I've kept it right up there with my favourite songs for a long time so this was really great for me to be able to sing along with the old man.


(1) Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet: Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet. Gavin Bryars, 1993 Label: Point Music (Point Music 438-823-2). TW contribution: "Tramp And Tom Waits With Full Orchestra" & "Coda: Tom Waits With High Strings" Read lyrics: Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me