Back in the sixties, when I was just a lad, every once in a while there would be a musical interlude to liven up the school assembly. One of these stands out like a beacon in the fading fog of my memory. One of the boys in my year was an accomplished pianist – his name was Dave Nelson. On this particular day, Dave walked quietly over to the grand piano, sat down on the piano stool and started to play.
The piece was instantly recognisable. It was Fleetwood Mac‘s number one single, Albatross.
Albatross is a beautiful instrumental exploiting the tonal qualities of the electric guitar to the full. Peter Green, the composer and guitarist, strokes the strings and uses a ‘bottle-neck’ to slide gently from note to note, adding echo for a soothing, ethereal effect. Like an albatross soaring effortlessly on the wind. And underneath Mick Fleetwood’s deep tom-tom drums pulse like the waves of the ocean. This is a piece so obviously conceived for the electric guitar that it couldn’t be played on any other instrument. And yet, here was Dave Nelson playing it on a piano and, somehow, it worked.
I learnt something about music that day. Or, rather, I learnt how narrow my musical horizons were. That I couldn’t imagine a piano version of Albatross didn’t mean it couldn’t be done. And if that can be done all sorts of wild and interesting variations must be possible. So I’d like to thank Peter Green for composing the tune, Dave Nelson for daring to perform it on the ‘wrong’ instrument and the headmaster of my old school for giving them the opportunity to give me a music lesson I would never forget.
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