Allan Holdsworth (August 6, 1946-April 15, 2017) . I could just type his name and nothing else, and it would communicate as much as I could in an entire book. By that I mean, it wouldn’t explain adequately, or enough about this artist.
Mainstream success eluded the man, but his mastery and unique style was still spoken of with reverence by virtuosos around the world. It is ironic that in a music culture that has elevated guitar players above most other instruments, his name was not a household one. I say ironic because it was a time when The Yardbirds had recently had in its ranks three of the most lauded players in history. Cream with Clapton was finishing, and Led Zeppelin just starting , an unknown band called Igginbottom released its sole album, “Igginbottom’s Wrench” in 1969.
This featured Holdsworth’s fluid fast playing, and it was the kind of speed only those familiar with McLaughlin or perhaps DJango Reinhardt would be familiar. Listeners of pop and rock and roll would certainly never had heard this kind of fluid playing on any top 40 AM radio. Allan went on to contribute to several artists projects, expanding his other worldly (and getting more outside by the year) playing to Tony Williams, Jean-Luc Ponty and many others. Icons such as Edward Van Halen praised Holdsworth’s technique and style. If you want a prime example of Van Halen paying homage to his playing, check out the outro solo on “Drop Dead Legs” (1984).
But this is just touching the surface. For those of you casually familiar with Allan’s playing I suggest you dive into some of his more obscure tracks. “Last May” is a sublime and rare acoustic piece that while having no lead playing shows a beautiful and serpentine melody. For those of you, especially musicians, who are unfamiliar just dive in to his catalogue. It’s a wormhole.
Rest In Peace Mr. Holdsworth, and thanks for stretching the boundaries for the rest of us.