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Friday, May 1, 2020



After a gig of classical guitar, I usually order some food and talk to the bartender on duty. Of course, I’m always grateful when someone wants to talk about the music selections from the evening. Every now and then I hear “I love your version of ‘Spanish Caravan!’”

Although “Spanish Caravan” is a great classic rocker from The Doors, I do not play this song in my set.

Many die-hard fans of The Doors know the riff of “Spanish Caravan” was inspired by the guitar arrangement of “Leyenda” by the composer Issac Albeniz. Many do not realize the piece was originally written on piano. 

"Leyenda" was originally conceived as a prelude, one of three pieces called “Suite Española.” The work was later extended to five pieces. Each part represents different areas of Spain. The full name of this piece is “Asturias (Leyenda).” Asturias is the region of Spain, Leyenda means “legend.”  

Here's the original piano version. 

Francisco Tarrega was not the first to transcribe “Asturias (Leyenda)” for guitar, but Tarrega's version became very popular. The most famous transcription arguably belongs to Andrés Segovia. The video below is from 1996, Segovia is 83 at the time.

When Segovia plays the piece, notice the slight pause between the large strums on the guitar. Modern guitar players eliminate this pause, like John Williams (arguably Segovia's most famous student). The clip below is from 1975. 

Robbie Krieger, future guitarist for The Doors, grew up around classical music and studied flamenco guitar in his youth.  The melody for “Leyenda” works its way onto “Spanish Caravan” on the 1968 album Waiting for the Sun. Instead sharing the studio version, this live shot shows Krieger playing with his fingers on his Gibson SG guitar.

College guitar students hoping to complete their music degree practice Leyenda for hours on end. This either adds to the pieces popularity among non-musicians, and/or the annoyance of roommates around the world.

I refer to this piece as the “All Along The Watchtower” for classical music. Millions know the Jimi Hendrix song, many know it was written by Bob Dylan, even fewer have actually heard Dylan’s original. We do not know what Albeniz thought about guitar transcriptions of his work. (There were some transcriptions performed with the composer’s blessing, but the more famous transcriptions were performed after his death.) We do know that many pianists do not perform works by Albeniz nearly as much as guitarists. Either way, many have enjoyed this piece and it's influence on technique and rock music.

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