Revenant Records

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Revenant: The Weirdest, Coolest Reissue Label in the World.” - Rolling Stone, 1998

“John Fahey’s Revenant Label Bestows the Breath of Life.” - Spin, 1998

“Best Record Label in America.” - GQ Magazine, 2002

3-Time Grammy Winner, 5-Time Nominee

 

Out of Their Anonymous Dark

Scott Blackwood

I

The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious…whoever does not know it can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed.
-Einstein, Ideas and Opinions

In 1996, I was in Chicago with my brother Dean to hear John Fahey play at the Empty Bottle with Tony Conrad and Jim O’ Rourke. At the time, Dean was both Fahey’s business partner and manager, but he was tied up that afternoon. Since Fahey often had trouble getting around in cities, my brother had asked me to pick him up at his hotel, the lobby of which looked like a nine-year-old’s version of elegance, with its garish red carpet and life-size faux Roman statues.1 John had insisted on this place, saying that Blind Lemon Jefferson was found frozen to death just outside its doors after a snowstorm in 1929.2 His pockets emptied.

Dean had told me that Fahey was hardly ever comfortable on the road—there was always a too-loud hotel guest, a noisy elevator, or a fight with a manager over his painting canvasses on the bed—so Dean had reserved, at extra expense, the same agreeable room in this hotel where Fahey said he’d stayed years before, one floor above the street where Blind Lemon had curled up in a snow drift and gone to sleep forever.

When I climbed the stairs and found Fahey’s room, his door was ajar. Inside, I could hear a roaring, like rushing water. I knocked and the door eased open on its own. Inside, lying on his stomach in the bed, was a large, naked man. Pale and shapeless, like an animal out of its shell. “Oh, hi there,” John said, in a breathless voice, or maybe “stay there,” I couldn’t tell which. On the dresser, a boom box roared white noise, which, I found out later, John needed to sleep. John rose off the bed and struggled to get his pants on. I stared helplessly from the hall. Along his belly and thighs were dozens of shiny round tattoos. And then, as he wriggled into his pants, the tattoos began to fall from him and clatter on the floor. They rolled under the bed and dresser, around John’s feet. I realized they were coins, loose change that had pressed into his flesh while he slept. But John, bleary-eyed and still only half in the world, gazed at the floor in amazement.