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Classic Riffs – Bridge of Sighs

Released in 1974, the ‘Bridge Of Sighs’ album put ex-Procol Harum guitarist Robin Trower well and truely on the map as a solo artist – and the majestic title track was undoubtedly the piece de resistance. Not that there was ever any chance of it failing. “We performed it live before I’d finished the lyric. The first time, at Winterland in San Francisco, it got a standing ovation. So we knew we had something.” The forbodding guitar riff which backs the verse had been kicking around for six months before Trower got the chorus ‘turnaround’ He then looked for a “title of doom” to fit the music, finding it in the sports pages of a newspaper. ‘Bridge Of Sighs To Win’ read the headline, and he was off and running!

The basic three-piece formatTrower favoured, reminiscent of chief inspiration Jimi Hendrix, was no hinderance in the studio, where he applied considerable trickery to get a suitably spooky atmosphere built around the song. “The wind was a library sound-effect, but the chiming sound was created with wind chimes, speeding the tape up (while recording) so it slowed down when plated at normal speed, little things like that.”

After considerable guitar overdubbing, the final touch was some backwards reading from Trower – not Satanic messages (or racing results), but “something out of a science magazine about lunar missions if I remember it rightly.”

To round things off, the track it seques into (In This Place) is “an orchestrated guitar thing which is a bit of a nick from ’1983 (A Merman I should Turn To Be), one of my favorite Hendrix tracks.”

Trower is still very much in business as his new album Go My Way shows, though exclusively stateside these days. Sadly his current rendition of “Bridge Of Sighs” lacks the smokey vocal of Jimmy Dewar, the singer/bassist who appeared on the original version. “He had a stroke several years ago and has been incapacitated ever since. It’s very, very sad indeed, and a great loss to music.”

Knowing this some how makes the doom laden lyric all the more poignant…

Originally published in Classic Rock Magazine June 2001