Robbie McIntosh - Unsung
Created | Updated Jan 28, 2002
Robbie McIntosh is one of the world's best guitar players, and also one of its most incompetent human beings, as anyone who has watched him trying to buy a shirt will tell you.
We first met years ago when he walked up to me in a bar and said that one of his best friends knew my grandmother very well. Good opening. It was Wix he was talking about, or Paul Wickens as I knew him when we had the same piano teacher at school. Robbie and Wix were both in Paul McCartney's band at this time (no, not that one).
Before that, Robbie had been lead guitarist in The Pretenders, and has also played for Talk Talk, Tears for Fears, Paul Young and even Cher. When he's not jetting round the world playing vast stadiums he tends to sit at home in Dorset looking after his goats and chickens, and tinkering. Actually, let me correct that last sentence. When he's not jetting round the world playing vast stadiums he tends to sit at home in Dorset being looked after by his goats and chickens, and tinkering.
I asked him what he'd been tinkering at, and he showed me. I should mention at this point that I am myself a passionate, though not very good, acoustic guitarist, so Robbie decided to play me some of the acoustic guitar pieces he'd been tinkering with down in Dorset.
I was transfixed. It was some of the most mesmerising music I'd heard in years. Most of the pieces were original, but some of them were arrangements of old folk tunes, Elvis Presley, Chopin, blues... What they all shared was an apparently simple melodic surface with a wonderfully rich internal life of harmony and counterpoint, which meant that each piece grew and grew in your mind with every listening. It's technically complex, but there's no showing off. All the technique is there just to serve the music. It's not folk, it's not jazz, it's not pop, it's not classical, it's just pure, pure music. The real stuff. Complex. Simple. Breathtaking.
I played the tapes Robbie gave me incessantly, and it quickly became one of my favourite-ever albums. People would sit in my car and say 'What is this?' Over a period of years I gradually coaxed and nudged Robbie into making an actual CD of it and letting my company, The Digital Village, release it. It took an astonishingly long time, but it is astonishingly good. The reasons for both of these things are contained in my opening paragraph.
There's one more thing I should add. Robbie McIntosh is one of the nicest people in the world.