I bought Hedges' first record, Breakfast in the Field, when I was making music tapes for a health food restaurant. He was on the Windham Hill label, who had just put out a bunch of records of solo acoustic guitar and piano, which all seemed to work out well in the restaurant. In maybe '82 or '83, a Windham Hill tour came to Oklahoma City - Shadowfax, Liz Story, and Michael Hedges. I hadn't listened closely to Hedges all that much but I really liked Solid Colors, Liz Story's first record of solo piano. I drove to OKC by myself and found a sign at the Civic Center saying that the show had been moved to Doc Severinson's club (since only a couple hundred people showed up). I got there in time for Hedges, who was the opening act. He played for 30 or 40 minutes, I don't think he sang at all. I couldn't believe it. I had assumed there was overdubbing on his record, but he was playing all the parts right in front of my eyes. Everyone was blown away, he stole the show. He was unforgettable. After his second record, Aerial Boundaries, he came to Norman and played at the Sooner Theater. I found out he was from Enid, so he would be coming around to Oklahoma regularly. This time it was his show, he played two hour-long sets, and this time he sang on maybe half the songs. It was an incredible show, a religious experience (all of his shows were). He of course got a standing ovation (which ocurred every time I saw him). He joked about being a "new age" guitar player - right after just about catching his guitar on fire with one of his more intense pieces. Audiences always loved him. He joked about moving to California from Oklahoma for "cultural reasons". He had to joke about something while he retuned his guitar - almost every song is in a different non-standard tuning. He came back maybe a year later and played another incredible show at the Sooner Theatre. Later I saw him in Stillwater with Pierre Bensusan, whom he had brought over from France. Pierre played for about 2 hours, Hedges played for an hour and they played a couple of songs together. He brought one of his teachers, a piano player, with him for a Christmas show at the Sooner Theater one year. I saw him in Tulsa at a very stuffy auditorium downtown. They tried to tell us we had to wait for intermission to take our seats since we were a couple of minutes late (no thanks, we're going in). I once drove to Enid where he did some kind of benefit show. He was joined on at least one song (Love Bizzare) by the high school band. I saw him at the OKC Civic Center with Leo Kottke when they went on tour together (I think they traded opening on different nights and played a couple of songs together at the end). He came back to Norman a couple more times, to the Sooner Theatre and to Holmberg Hall on the OU campus. In the last shows I saw he walked around in a squatting position and recited the Jaberwocky while playing his flute. (walking in a squat is a part of "monkey kung fu", which he was taught by his yoga teacher, Paulie Zink). In addition to his instrumental pieces and his own songs, he always had choice covers. In the early years he closed his shows with Come Together and always sang All Along the Watchtower (Dylan by way of Hendrix, he would say). I saw him do Buffalo Stance (Nenah Cherry), She Drives Me Crazy (Fine Young Cannibals), Gimme Shelter (Rolling Stones), Tomorrow Never Knows (Beatles), Eminence Front (The Who), and Let's Get It Up (AC/DC). He was always very inspirational to see. And it was as much a visual experience as a musical one - you couldn't imagine anyone playing guitar like that - and he didn't usually stand still - he would sometimes even twirl in a circle while singing and playing. And you should have seen the harp-guitar. He was like a pied piper, like a hurdy gurdy man, singing songs of love. His records never totally captured his sound, although most of his records are quite good. A lot of them sound kind of new-agey, especially when he plays the flute. His singing was not his strong point, but he was a good singer and he wrote lots of good songs. You really had to see him. Of his records, the first two are classic masterpieces, the live one is pretty good, and his last one, Oracle, is one of the best. He died in December of 1997 (at age 43) when his car skidded off a wet curve and down a cliff in Mendocino County, California.
I can tell you for sure, no one ever played guitar like Michael Hedges.
Michael Hedges Links:
Nomad Land - www.nomadland.com
The Guitar Wizard - www.geocities.ws/Area51/Chamber/5223/hedges.html
Michael Hedges Rhythm, Sonority, Silence - John Stropes
1995 Stropes Editions 136 pages (spiral bound $40.00) ISBN:0960851216 ISBN13:9780960851218
www.stropes.com/index.php?glbm=1&fa=7 This book includes transcriptions of 6 of his songs, and some additional info, including an interview. Stropes.com also has a few additional transcriptions available individually.
Interview with Anil Prasad 1990 - www.innerviews.org/inner/hedges.html
Article in Oklahoma Today JUL/AUG 2007 (pages41-47) "Heavy Mental" by Scott Fitzgerald:
Michael Hedges Recordings:
(these were all originally issued on Windham Hill Records, which is no longer in business. Probably most were issued on vinyl. I have all of these on CD. I have not yet tracked down data on current releases - the Amazon links below are good, but there are additional listings there for later editions - 04/28/16)
Breakfast in the Field - 1981 - all intrumentals
Aerial Boundaries - 1984 - all instrumentals
Watching My Life Go By - 1985 - all vocal compositions
Live on the Double Planet - 1987 - live performances
Taproot - 1990 - mainly instrumentals
The Road to Return - 1994 - mainly vocals
Oracle - 1996 - all instrumental except Tomorrow Never Knows
Torched - 1999 - posthumous release - mainly vocals
Beyond Boundaries: Guitar Solos - 2010 - compilation of instrumentals
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