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Bathed In Lightning

Bathed In Lightning: John McLaughlin, the 60s and the Emerald Beyond (Jawbone Press, 2014)

On February 16 1969, John McLaughlin flew into New York, from London, in a snowstorm.

The following day, Miles Davis, his hero, invited him to play on a record. Two years later, on the path of Bengali mystic Sri Chinmoy, John launched The Mahavishnu Orchestra – an evocation in music of spiritual aspiration and extraordinary power, volume and complexity, far beyond anything else in jazz or rock.

Curiously, it was also a huge success. John McLaughlin brought rock music to its pinnacle, the end point in an evolution from Mississippi blues through Coltrane, Hendrix and The Beatles. And then, in November 1975, he hung up his electric guitar and walked away from the stadiums of the rock world for an ongoing, restless career in music of other forms.

To most of the world, John McLaughlin looked like an overnight success, with a backstory going back only as far as that February in 1969. Yet he had been a professional musician since 1958, experiencing all the great movements in British music – trad jazz, rock’n’roll, R&B, soul, modern jazz, free jazz, psychedelic rock – a guitar for hire at the centre of ‘Swinging London’, a bandmate with future members of Cream, Pentangle and Led Zeppelin, but always just under the radar.

Drawing on dozens of exclusive interviews and many months of meticulous research, author and music historian Colin Harper brings that unrepeatable era vividly to life. This landmark new work retrieves for the first time the incredible career of John McLaughlin before he conquered the world – and then chronicles how he did so.

For more information, including extracts, an exclusive essay, rare audio, video and discographies, see:

Selected press quotes:

‘A vivid portrait… Harper’s book not only does the subject justice, but is also an indispensable guide – the best yet written – to the Brit jazz scene in the 1960s…’

Stuart Nicolson, Jazzwise

‘A celebration of a dues-paying twilight world that is now on the verge of passing out of living memory. Harper’s treatment leaps from the page… perceptive and authoritative… forensic detail… Essential reading…’

Sid Smith, Prog

‘This is a labyrinthine work… How Colin Harper had the mental tenacity to string together the disparate threads of music from the decades he covers is difficult to comprehend – but he pulls it off without ever being dull… An epic work by anyone’s standards.’

Joel McIver, Record Collector

‘Exhaustive and insightful… meticulous… leaves no stone unturned… a remarkably detailed account [and] an absolute must-read…’

Bill Milkowski, Down Beat

‘A revelatory work of scholarship, written with a professional historian’s rigour…’

Trevor Hodgett, Rock’n’Reel

‘Plaudits to Colin Harper for fantastically detailed research… [He] writes with great immediacy and a tone somewhere between the old Melody Maker and the work of Ian MacDonald… A book for anyone interested in British music of the period.’

Brian Morton, Jazz Journal

‘Only about a quarter into it and it’s already amazing. Author Colin Harper really captures the sights, the sounds of London in the ‘60s, and McLaughlin before he became the name he now is… Colin is more than just a well-researched author, he has a real ability to evoke atmosphere and ambiance. It’ll take time to finish, but it’ll be well worth the time invested.’

John Kelman,

‘Harper has [previously] published a well-received biography of guitarist Bert Jansch containing much interesting detail of the folk and blues club scene in London in the early 1960s which provides the background to show how Jansch developed… Harper adopts a similar and even more detailed approach in this book… [His] level of research is highly impressive… where his research and interviews with musicians really come into their own is in the fascinating descriptions of the other musical activities and collaborations that were going on. In the 1960s the London music scene was the place to be for musicians of all styles and influences… Everyone played with everyone else… Groups formed and evolved and dissolved in the space of a few weeks. People shared houses and flats and everyone jammed with everyone else. According to Harper, McLaughlin was both a part of this scene and a bit outside it. Other musicians saw him as different but also recognised that he was something special… This book is a fascinating read as well as a great reference book of a special musical time and place…’


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