54 Duncan Terrace

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Allan Holdsworth’s Untold Secrets + Worthy Quotes (Guitar Player 1990)

"54 Duncan Terrace"

My late friend Pat Smythe was a very inspirational character, a wonderful piano player, and a very musical, mellow guy. He played the nicest chords, and his technique was very delicate. He had this old Bluthner piano and got a great sound. His original tunes were always so pretty. I got the first four chords of this and said, "Man, that sounds like Pat." Originally, the long solo section in the beginning was going to be for myself, and then I thought it would be really great to get Alan Pasqua to put some acoustic piano on it. He's just incredible; he played a beautiful solo.

The distortion splashes near the beginning and end were the SynthAxe through a Rockman. For the rhythm guitar I ran the Boogie Quad Preamp straight onto the tape machine, without a microphone. I'd never done that before. At home, I have a couple of good mike preamps and line amplifiers, so I don't have to run anything through the console. That way, I'm only monitoring on the console, and I can bypass all the electronics. I try a couple of different mike preamps or line amps to see which one best reproduces that particular sound. That gives you more coloration flexibility when you're mixing, because I don't think the best results come from mixing and recording on the same console. It's quite often preferable to record on one thing and play back on another.

I was considering an acoustic solo on this one. I tried recording it in my room, and it was just too noisy. If a car drove by, you'd hear it, because I'd have to have the mike really cranked. I guess I don't really have any technique on the acoustic anymore; I was getting all these noises with my hands, so I just bailed on it and went for something unusually percussive with the SynthAxe: a sampled mixture of steel-string guitar, harp, and synthesized guitar. Jimmy Johnson plays a great, really beautiful solo after Pasqua's solo, and then I do the short solo at the end. It was kind of a strange feeling, playing with that sound.

Is it any more difficult to play a legato line when a synth patch isn't predisposed to smooth transmission?

It makes it sound different. I played a couple of legato lines, but they just came out like somebody trilling a hammer on a xylophone; they don't have the natural sustain.

Guitarist's Guitarist (Jazz Times 1989)

"The guys all played incredibly. I was really moved by what they did. Among some of the highlights noted by Holdsworth are drummer Gary' Husband's City Nights (Very nice," says Holdsworth; "with good chord progressions."); Steve Hunt's Maid Marian [sic] ("When he first presented it to us it reminded me of something from Old England, like Robin Hood, but it was quite soft so we renamed it Maid Marian."); Endomorph, a solo piece in which Holdsworth dubs guitar over Synth-Axe; Spokes ("I really liked bicycling riding when I was a kid, and this piece reminded me of it - of wheelies, actually."); 54 Duncan Terrace (This was the address of a really great piano player friend of mine who died a few years ago. He had this wonderful room in his house.. A white room with blue clouds painted on it or maybe it was vice versa And he had this old Bluthner piano in there. The music he used to write was soft and gentle, with colorful harmonics. And I wrote the piece for him. The chord sequen ce sort of reminds me of something he would have done.").

Jimmy Johnson’s Bass Concept (Guitar World 1989)

Quite literally at the other end of the sonic spectrum is Holdsworth's blissful analog mayhem, Although his soloing abilities are documented extensively throughout the catalogue - see Metal Fatigue's remarkably lyrical "Panic Station," Sand's frantic '4Pud Wud" or Secrets' sensitive. "54 Duncan Terrace" for the tip of the iceberg - it's with thick, five-string support that Johnson adds color, depth and melody to the foundation of Allan's provocative compositions.

The Unreachable Star (Guitar World 1989)

Another new tune, "54 Duncan Terrace," is named for an address of a friend of mine who died a few years ago, Pat Smythe. He was a great piano player, and he had this old Bluthner piano in his house. That piano just sounded so nice, man. It had a beautiful sound, and those particular chords in that type of sequence reminded me of him. It's a very quiet piece, and I think I might even do another solo on that one, maybe an acoustic guitar solo. Alan Pasqua plays an acoustic piano solo on it that turned out great.