土曜日, 9月 25, 2004

Blackie, brownie and the fire at Monterey

An old ad for the stratas i was driving to work this morning, i opted to listen to radio 4 (it's been a while) rather than listening to the mindless pap they put on the breakfast show. i am old.

the today programme had a little segment on the 50th anniversary of the fender stratocaster. the strat was designed by leo fender after several comments made by players on the limitations on the then current telecaster and esquire models. three pickups, a tremolo and a double cutaway body later, the strat was born in 1954. a 50th birthday concert was held last night at wembley arena, with the likes of brian may (he was influenced by strat players, as opposed to being a strat player himself), joe walsh and jamie cullum (what? what? what?) performing.

Jimi at Woodstock, 1969

that aside, the main issue that was discussed in the programme was actually about the relevance of the guitar solo in music. it was great listening to comments made by david gilmour on the significance of a signature sound in a guitar solo (gilmour is pretty much underrated, yet if you listen to his blues-based licks on the likes of dark side of the moon, you'd be pretty much impressed). hendrix don't sound like townsend. page don't sound like clapton. listen to apache, and you know it's hank marvin. you can learn all the b.b. king licks there are, but it doesn't mean anything if one merely imitates a style without any sense of originality.

Gilmour, Page, Clapton and King

Eruption!a comment was made regarding whether technical prowess on the fretboards means loss of the soul in playing. in my opinion, there is nothing wrong in being an ace in the art of sweep picking and other fretboard acrobatics. virtuosity is a much envied, and strived for, skill for all (or most) guitarists. the problem of soulless playing occurs when you get players who are pretty much one-trick ponies. when eddie van halen started off his style of playing, hundreds of players followed suit (which is a trend that happens to this day with any musical fad). after the nth hairmetal band, the virtuosity is neither here nor there. i have also heard some really good technical players who can't really pull off a classic and bluesy blues scale. my point is, it won't sound bluesy if you do a blues lick in the style of 80's hair metal. yet, there are players who are inspirational to listen to. take b.b. king for example. there is so much soul squeezed out from one vibrato-ed note when b.b. plays his lucille. the best analogy i can make is i'd best learn how to ride a bicycle well, as opposed to being able to ride a unicycle on the tightrope: a trick that will only impress the circus audience for so long.

it has to be said that with any art form, there is no right or wrong. as it is, the guitar solo arrived with a bang in the 50's, evolved wonderfully over the decades and disappeared with a whimper when a flannel-clad seattle-ite southpaw played his fender jaguar in a brownly-lit basketball court with his two mates in the early 90's. you get bands evolving with the times. cynics may call this selling out. the upcoming rockumentary some kind of monster, shows, among others, the decision made by metallica on eschewing solos in their last dismal effort otherwise known as st. anger. in the mid-90's rock music evolved in such a way, you get the likes of korn and limp bizkit, where the solo has been replaced by alternate guitar tunings and processed/effects-driven guitar tones. bands like rage against the machine would still have solos, albeit unorthodox-sounding.

Head, Dave 'Brownsound' Baksh, Jack White

yet, the guitar solo is returning. the darkness' cock rock (guitar!) is a superb example, reminiscent of the guitar sounds the likes of angus young, brian robertson and scott gorham. then you get younger bands like sum 41 who grew up on a staple diet of metal like iron maiden: just listen to their double leads. hey, even slipknot are doing solos nowadays.

is the guitar solo still relevant? it is when the song needs it, i think. even if you are able to, it doesn't mean you have to.

Stone Gossard. THE man!

as for me, i'll stick to my aspiration to be like stone. without the chequered pantaloons, though. i'll be happy on the right side of the stage.