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Carlos Santana, Manchester – win tickets

Simon Binns talks to the guitar legend in an Ancoats pub. Sort of.

Written by . Published on September 21st 2010.

Carlos Santana, Manchester – win tickets

There are a few odd moments in a man’s life. One of them is answering a call on your mobile, sat in a pub in Ancoats, knowing the man at the other end is guitar legend Carlos Santana.

How many albums has he sold? “Erm...no idea.” (It’s 50 million). How many people has he played live to? “Not sure, man.” (30 million). I put the numbers in front of him. “Wow...that’s a lot. That’s crazy.”

Santana is just about to kick off a 21-date European tour that takes in the MEN Arena on 2 October. His new album, Guitar Heaven, is out today (Sept 21) and features re-workings of some of his personal favourites – Whole Lotta Love, While My Guitar Gently Weeps and Smoke on the Water are all on there.

But don’t ask him how many albums the new one takes him up to – he doesn’t really keep up with things like that.

“I don’t really think in numbers,” he tells me from a hotel room somewhere in San Francisco. “I think in music.”

A typically mystical answer from a man who has played everywhere, including Woodstock with Hendrix in 1969.

“I just like playing music – in the studio or out on tour. The other stuff doesn’t really mean too much to me. I’m looking forward to the tour though. The fans in Europe are always pretty crazy.

“I’ve been lucky. People want to hear my music and I want to keep making it. I’m very grateful.”

So we rattle through a quick Q&A.

How many albums has he sold? “Erm...no idea.” (It’s 50 million). How many people has he played live to? “Not sure, man.” (30 million).

I put the numbers in front of him. “Wow...that’s a lot. That’s crazy.”

The master of the understatement, Santana is equally modest when talking about his charity work. The man has contributed to and worked with Blues For Salvador, San Francisco Earthquake Relief, Tijuana Orphans, Rights Of Indigenous Peoples, and the Hispanic Education & Media Group, to name but a few.

The profits from his commercial line, which includes aftershave and footwear, all go to charities. “I just want to help all the kids out there,” he said. “I’ve been lucky and I’ve been given a chance to do something that can make a difference.”

There aren’t many people that can justify the tag of icon in the days of 15-minute fame. I ask if he watches America’s Got Talent and X Factor. He doesn’t, although he’s aware of the shows. Are they killing the idea of lasting talent in exchange for a quick fix of celebrity?

“I don’t know...it’s hard to be down on people who’ve got talent, and there are plenty of people out there making great music.

“But a lot of them are still there – McCartney, Jagger, Led Zeppelin...they’ve stayed around. That’s why I wanted to put some of their songs on the new album. That’s real talent and they’re still making music.”

We say our goodbyes. I thank him, he thanks me. Then I go back into the bar.

“Who was that?” asks a friend. “Carlos Santana,” I reply.

“Of course it was, you bullshitter,” crows an ear-wigging local sat at the bar. His friends laugh. The barman laughs.

I quietly, diffidently, get on with my pint. Just the way Carlos would have done it.

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