Over the years, I have often wondered what prompted our Peruvian bassist, Juan Tusrifor, to throw in his lot with a rag tag bunch of musicians playing for their lives on that ill-fated night on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Fans of the band and those planning to use us as their specialist subject on Mastermind will recall that he stepped into the breach when our guitarist Dee Sharpe found himself unable to continue due to the septic llama bite on his right hand which had caused it to swell up alarmingly. The crowd was growing impatient and, despite my imperfect command of Quechua, I was pretty sure that the chants coming from the back of the room were Inca incantations of the kind that normally preceded human sacrifice to the great sun god Inti. If it were not for Juan jumping on stage and helping us play the greatest gig the Andes had ever seen, the Mysterious Beings would now be remembered chiefly for their mysterious disappearance.
It was only recently that Juan told me the story of why, having saved our gringo skins, he followed us down from the Altiplano and became an indispensable part of the band. He was strumming away on his bass and softly intoning a plaintive air in the back room of an Alpine Gasthaus just outside Salzburg, where we were due to play in the annual Mozart Festival.
‘Why so blue, Juan?” I asked him.
He proceeded to tell me his story of his love for an Andean maiden, who had jilted him for a man who had built his fortune letting tourists take photographs with his alpaca against the dramatic backdrop of the ruins of Machu Pichu.
“How can a poor musician compete with that?” he asked.
The majestic surroundings of the Austrian alps had transported him back to his homeland and the sadness that hung over his native mountains. I nodded sympathetically, picked up my guitar and a couple of hours later we had this song, capturing in its lush arrangement the swirling passions of Juan’s tortured soul.
Of course, now that he is a towering figure on the world stage, life with the alpacas high above the Urubamba no longer looks so good to his fickle lover, but as far as Juan is concerned, it’s too late and he burns the letters she sends him unopened in whatever fire comes to hand, in this case that little flame under a cheese fondue pot in the deserted restaurant of the Gasthaus Zur Alten Ziege. It takes quite a while to burn a letter this way, which gave him plenty of time to think about his homeland and his lost love.
I think all of this pretty much comes over in the song.