Every generation has a soft spot for the decade in which it came of age. For rock and roll fans, however, it’s hard to argue that any decade surpassed the ‘70s, on a number of fronts. Post-Beatles and pre-MTV, the ‘70s occupied a sweet spot where rock and roll was played out on wide-open terrain, and on a field where “genre” had yet to become a catch-word. Below are 10 other factors that made that decade rock and roll’s best.
Riffs, Riffs, and more Riffs
“Walk this Way,” “Black Dog,” “Iron Man,” “Smoke on the Water” … the list goes on and on. So ubiquitous were great guitar riffs in the ‘70s, it sometimes seemed bands were drawing from a bottomless bucket of memorable six-string figures. It’s hardly surprising that, to this day, aspiring guitar players often look first to the ‘70s for riff-oriented material that’s relatively easy to cover.
Tune to any rock station in the ‘70s, and in the span of a half-hour you might hear artists as diverse as The Raspberries, Al Green, and Conway Twitty. Contrast that with today, when radio is rigidly segmented and disc jockeys have about as much discretion as someone who’s incarcerated. Moreover, the era of the glorious one-hit wonder – Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky,” Blues Image’s “Ride Captain Ride,” Shocking Blue’s “Venus – is long past.
Sure, rock and roll originated in the South, but in the ‘70s legions of groups emerged who gave “southern rock” its own distinctive flavor. With The Allman Brothers Band leading the charge, groups such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Marshall Tucker Band, and Wet Willie offered up a feast of deep-fried guitar-rock steeped in country and blues. So powerful was southern rock as a communal force, it helped elected a president, thanks to rallies staged by The Allman Brothers for then-candidate Jimmy Carter.
Great Album Cover Art
From Roger Dean’s fabulous Yes covers to H.R. Giger’s ambitious packaging of ELP’s Brain SaladSurgery to Storm Thorgerson’s elegant work for Pink Floyd, album-cover art and packaging reached a zenith in the ‘70s. Today’s rockers often speak of the lost thrill of tearing the shrink-wrap from an LP, and then musing over the elaborate packaging while listening to a treasured new disc. Notwithstanding the resurrection of vinyl, online access to music has, for the most part, deprived today’s listeners of that experience.
By 1976, rock and roll was showing signs of becoming stodgy, “disco-fied,” and (thanks to prog bands) somewhat elitist. Punk rock changed all that. Taking their cues from The Stooges and The Ramones, bands such as The Sex Pistols and The Clash reminded us that rock’s visceral energy had less to do with virtuosity than with amped-up barre chords and a snarling spirit. From the sidelines, even old-school rockers like Neil Young cheered the punks on.
Artist-Friendly Record Labels
It was common practice, in the ‘70s, for record companies to simply allot a budget to a band, and then turn them loose in the studio to make whatever type of album they wanted to make. Furthermore, artists such as Alice Cooper, Sly and The Family Stone, and Peter Frampton were nurtured along until commercial success came their way. Such freedom and nurturing would be unthinkable today.
John Lennon famously described glam rock as simply “rock and roll with lipstick on.” Mascara and rouge notwithstanding, the genre yielded music that shines with a glittery resonance to this day. Powered by the likes of Mick Ronson, Phil Manzanera, and, in the case of T.Rex, Marc Bolan himself, the best of glam rock packed an incendiary wallop. Even The Rolling Stones, for a time, couldn’t resist jumping on board.
MTV Didn’t Exist
Video may not have killed the radio star, but it certainly sapped the mystique from rock and roll. Prior to the advent of MTV, rock fans looked to music publications and weekly installments of The Midnight Special or Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert to keep tabs on (and see) their favorite artists. Today’s media saturation brings artists and fans together as never before, but at the expense of the sublime kick that rarer access provided.
Who would have imagined, when they unleashed their debut album in early 1969, that Led Zeppelin would become the preeminent band of the ‘70s? Over the course of ten studio albums, Page, Plant, Jones, and Bonham crafted a body of work that rivals that of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones in terms of far-reaching impact. Reflecting a purity of spirit that was in some ways unique to their decade, Led Zeppelin rightly called it quits when their beloved Bonzo died in 1980.
Exile on Main Street
Everyone makes a big deal out of The Beatles’s Sgt. Pepper’s, and rightly so. But no album matches The Rolling Stones’s two-disc masterpiece in terms of assimilating rock and roll’s primal ingredients. From fiery country-blues to sizzling barnhouse stomps to searing gospel and beyond, Exile has it all. If rock and roll can be said to have a bible, it’s this album.
Springsteen sings about Sandy in his 1974 song "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)," but it's a different Sandy that has forced the New Jersey rocker to postpone his concert in Rochester, NY tonight. As everyone knows Hurricane Sandy has been bearing down on New York and New Jersey for the past day.
Springsteen posted the following message on his website: "Due to the current weather complications in the tri-state area, the Tuesday, October 30 show at Rochester, NY’s Blue Cross Arena is being postponed to Wednesday, October 31. Stay safe, and see you on Wednesday!" It's a lucky break for fans that Springsteen is able to move the concert just one day. In many cases it takes months to reschedule a postponed show due to scheduling conflicts with the arena in question.
Other acts that have been forced to postpone shows in the New York area include Deftones and The XX.
In a recent interview with CNBC, the Red Rocker Sammy Hagar discusses the current status of the music industry and his role in it. Hagar says that he is well aware that a band starting out today is faced with a different reality than he was when he started out in the music industry in the late sixties.
Hagar acknowledges that these days he basically plays music for free, while living off his other business ventures, like Cabo Wabo Tequila, and his latest product, Sammy's Beach Bar Rum: "I like playing music for free. I no longer play music for a living. I pay my band, my crew, everybody else, but I don’t look for it in my income. I don’t have to do it. We should take the business out of it. I’m fortunate that I have other ways to make a living."
Hagar, who has been busy touring behind the latest Chickenfoot album earlier in the year, notices the difference in what's popular today versus when he started out, saying: "There’s all kinds of bigger stars than me. On the Internet they get a hundred million hits. I put my stuff up there, I get thirty or forty thousand. What’s up with that?"
They share a surname, they are all blues royalty, but there are many differences between B.B, Freddie and Albert King. Here is a key guide, with a basic recommendation – listen to all three.
The 3 Kings, as they unsurprisingly become known, are among the most influential of all electric blues players. B.B. remains the King as the only surviving member, but Albert King and Freddie King were also hugely influential. In the ‘50s and ‘60s (and beyond), all 3 Kings did much to popularize electric blues, inspiring some of the most lauded players of modern times along the way
Freddie King was flash. Known as “the Texas Cannonball”, his style was usually high-tempo and served up a flurry of notes. He was nine years B.B’s junior and 11 years younger than Albert King, but no mere upstart. He was born Frederick Christian (his mother’s maiden name was King) and from Gilmer, Texas. As a teen, his family moved to Chicago: “I worked in the mill long enough to buy me a guitar and an amplifier,” he recalled.
By night, Freddie mixed with Chicago’s finest bluesmen: Howlin’ Wolf told him, “Son, the Lord sure put you here to play the blues.”
Ironically, Chess records originally turned down Freddie King – they said he sounded too much like B.B King. But with the Federal label, he flourished. British blues players were listening too. John Mayall loved Freddie’s “Have You Ever Loved A Woman.“
“It’s the whole package. Freddie had great infectious speedy licks, his chops were terrific.”
Freddie is notable for his use of a plastic thumbpick with a metal pick on his first finger - he said he got the fingerpicking style from listening to his early guitar hero Lightning Hopkins, and the metal fingerpick idea from Muddy Waters cohort Eddie Taylor. This combination aided attack and allowed his famous fast passages to be played easily and economically.
As slide player supreme Derek Trucks points out: “Steel on steel is an unforgettable sound, but it’s got to be in the right hands. The way [Freddie] used it - man, you were going to hear that guitar.” More slide guitar tips.
And Eric Clapton, who by the late '60s had achieved deity status in John Mayall’s Blues Breakers and superstardom in Cream, cited Freddie King as a prime source for his own licks. “l was interested in white rock ‘n’ rollers until l heard Freddie King,” stated Clapton. “Then l was over the moon.”
Clapton bought his first Gibson Les Paul after seeing Freddie on his Let's Hide Away and Dance Away album cover with a Gibson Les Paul Gold Top.
Albert King was known as "The Velvet Bulldozer." His style was sparse compared to Freddie King: Michael Bloomfield heralded Albert as a master “who could say more with fewer notes than anyone I’ve ever known.”
Bloomfield added, “(Albert) approached lead playing more vocally than any guitar player I ever heard. His playing has more of a vocal range than his voice does - which is unusual, because if you look at BB or Freddie King their singing is almost equal to their guitar playing. They sing real high notes then drop down.
“Albert just sings in one very mellifluous register, with a crooner’s vibrato, almost like a lounge singer, but his guitar playing is as vocal as possible - he makes the guitar talk.”
Albert also played without a pick. “I never could hold one in my hand,” King admitted. “I started out playing with one, but I’d be really gettin’ into it and after a while the pick would sail across the house. I said to hell with this, so I just play with the meat of the thumb.”
Albert's soul and jazzy influences were evident on his biggest album, Born Under a Bad Sign. He employed big and powerful string bends - arguably because he played his GIbson Flying Vs left-handed in "upside-down" stringing, but could also play with an aggressive, spiteful tone. For Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert King was the biggest of all influences.
"lt was Born Under a Bad Sign for me,” remembered SRV, “and King of the Blues Guitar. l remember seeing Albert on TV doing Born Under a Bad Sign and l was like… yes!”
SRV once even walked out of his own gig to go and see King live. He announced to the audience, “Ladies and gentleman, l don’t know about you, but l’m going to see Albert King. And if you have any brains you will too!”
Albert King was always in demand by other blues disciples: notable collaborations include In Session with Stevie Ray Vaughan; Still Got the Blues, with Gary Moore; and Jammed Together with Steve Cropper and Pops Staples. Albert also recorded King of Kings with his namesake Freddie, and I’ll Play the Blues for You with fellow guitar legend John Lee Hooker.
Of the three Kings, it is B.B. who remains the most celebrated. Freddie died in 1976, Albert in 1992, but B.B. is still going strong aged 87 – a biopic, The Life of Riley, is in theaters now and soon out on DVD.
Of all three Kings, B.B. has the sweetest tone and his call-and-response style of vocals and guitar is one of the most-recognizable in all blues. "When I sing, I play in my mind. The minute I stop singing orally, I start to sing by playing Lucille," he says of his celebrated Gibson semi-acoustics.
B.B’s fat tone uses very little treble, and his trilling vibrato is also a signature sound alongside a swinging jazz-like sense of phrasing. Gibson’s Varitone switch is also a big part of the B.B. “honk.”
I once spoke with U2’s The Edge about the Irish band working with B.B. in the late 1980s. “I said, you should know, Mr King, that I don’t really play the blues,” Edge smiled. “B.B just laughed and replied, that’s ok young man, as I don’t really play chords! Together, we’ll be just fine.”
“I don’t think anyone steals, but we all borrow,” states B.B. with the wisdom of a man who’s been there and done it all. “People have told me that in his early days my guitar playing influenced Peter Green a lot. Now that’s something l take as a great compliment, but l don’t get it myself - when l hear Peter Green, l hear Peter Green.”
The King of Kings?
The three Kings influence of blues and rock guitarists since the 1960s remains incalculable – Michael Bloomfield, Jimi Hendrix, Peter Green, Gary Moore, Johnny Winter, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan and many others all owe at least one of them a huge debt. John Lennon famously declared, “I wish I could just do like B.B. King.”
Ultimately, there is no single King of the blues. There are three – all different, all unique, and without whom the electric guitar would sound very different.
Guitar great Eric Clapton is preparing for his 50th anniversary tour next year and in a recent post on his official website, Clapton broke the news that, indeed, he has been recording a new studio album that will reach fans’ ears in early 2013. It’s a good time then to look a bit closer at the man they called ‘God”
He’s the only artist who’s been inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three times.
In 1992, Clapton received his first induction into the Rock and Hall of Fame, for his membership in the The Yardbirds. A year later, he was again inducted for his role in the legendary power trio, Cream. Finally, in 2000, he was inducted as a solo artist in the very first year in which he was eligible.
He would have gotten a fourth Rock Hall induction, had he been successful in his quest in join another “Band.”
“I first met Eric in Los Angeles around the time Music from Big Pink came out,” The Band’s Robbie Robertson told Spinner, earlier this year. “[Later] he came to our house in Woodstock to visit with us. I thought he was just curious but then he said years later that the real reason was that he had come to join The Band. I made a joke out of it, saying, 'Were you implying that we need a new guitar player?’” Ironically, Clapton presented The Band with their Rock Hall induction in 1994.
The one instance in which he believed he might retire from music was … when he left The Yardbirds.
“The Yardbirds were determined to have a hit and I was determined not to be involved with that,” Clapton told Larry King, in 1998. “I actually thought I was going to retire. I was 18 years old, and I thought, it's over. Every band I looked at had the same agenda: Let's get a hit record and recording contract. And I kind of went, and then what? For me, the road was about a different thing altogether.”
His first “really serious” guitar was a Gibson ES-335.
At the turn of 1965, while he was in The Yardbirds, Clapton bought a cherry red ES-335, which he called “the instrument of [his] dreams.” He elaborated, in his 2007 autobiography: “It was the first of a new era of guitars, which were thin and semi-acoustic,” he wrote. “[The ES-335] was both a ‘rock guitar’ and a ‘blues guitar,’ which you could play, if necessary, without amplification and still hear it.”
It was Marc Bolan’s future wife who hooked him up with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers.
A great friend of Clapton’s at the time, June Child gave Mayall the phone number of a former bandmate of Clapton’s in his first band, The Roosters. Mayall in turn phoned Clapton and asked him to join The Bluesbreakers. Child went on to become an assistant to Pink Floyd’s troubled founder, Syd Barrett, before marrying T.Rex’s Marc Bolan in 1969.
Derek and The Dominos might have carried on had it not been for drummer Jim Gordon’s troubles.
“I was scared of [Gordon] at the end of Derek and the Dominos,” Clapton told Rolling Stone, in 1991. “One of those reasons we broke up was the rapport between me and Jim, which had always been so good, had broken down. In the middle of a session when we were trying to do a second studio album, I said something about the rhythm being wrong for the song, and Jim said something like ‘Well, the Dixie Flyers are in town, You can get their drummer.’ I put my guitar down and walked out of the studio. I didn’t speak to him again.”
He collects Ferraris.
“I’ve loved motor races since I was a child …” Clapton said, in comments posted earlier this year by Showbizspy.com. “I love the sound of Ferraris and I, as a musician, can confirm that these engines deliver proper music. I have to say that my weak point is the 12-cylinder’s music. The sound of the 12-cylinder is the most magical thing in the world.” You can watch an interview conducted by Ferrari with Clapton here.
“It showed how sheep-like people were, and how ready they were ready to elevate players to the status of gods,” he wrote, in his autobiography. “Most of the artists I admired had died unheard of, sometimes penniless and alone.” Of course, in due time, Clapton himself would be dubbed a “god.”
He once hit actress Shirley MacLaine in the face with a pie.
In 1975 Clapton was invited to participate in a “celebrity circus” alongside James Bond legend Sean Connery, director John Huston, actor Burgess Meredith (of future Rocky fame), and Shirley MacLaine. One skit called for Clapton and Meredith to hit one another in the face with pies. For the first two shows they performed as scripted, but for the third show, they (drunkenly) surprised MacLaine with a face-full from both sides. The actress remained furious with Clapton for months.
Of all the bands he’s been in, the one he wishes had lasted longer was … Blind Faith.
“I think Blind Faith was over too soon,” he told MSNBC, in 2007. “We could have gone on maybe a couple more years. But I'm not really a band member. I think all [the other] bands probably lasted about the right amount of time for what they were meant to do.”
U2’s Achtung Baby is now acclaimed as U2’s finest achievement, but the 1991 album nearly didn’t get made. In fact, its beginnings nearly split the Irish band apart.
By the turn of the ‘90s, U2 were at a crossroads. They were a major stadium act, but creatively they were faltering. The band had been stung by media criticism of their half studio / half live double album Rattle and Hum. That ‘toying’ with Americana certainly delivered some hits (“Angel Of Harlem,” the Bo Diddley-esque “Desire,” the B.B. King duet “When Love Comes To Town”) but many found the album too much of a pastiche. U2 suddenly became the most loved/hated rock band on the planet. What to do? As Bono told a Dublin crowd in the late ‘80s: “We have to go away and dream it all up again.”
As guitarist Edge later reflected, the ‘traditionalism’ of Rattle And Hum was the exception in the U2 canon. “My view,” he told this author in 1996 “is that Rattle And Hum, for all its traditionalism, is actually our ‘experimental’ record. Achtung Baby got us back to our normality — making dark, very European music with experimental sounds.” Famously, U2 decided to impose new rules for Achtung Baby, the band’s rebirth.
Bono: “Buzzwords on this record were trashy, throwaway, dark, sexy and industrial (all good) and earnest, polite, sweet, righteous, rockist and linear (all bad).”
But the sessions, in Berlin’s Hansa Studios nearly collapsed completely. U2 had booked Hansa hoping to capture the “greatness” of two of their favorite albums: David Bowie’s Low and Heroes that were recorded there. But when they turned up, they couldn’t even write a song. “The greatness,” Bono laughs on the new U2 documentary From The Sky Down, “had left the building.”
Bassist Adam Clayton admitted in Bill Flanagan’s biog U2At the End of the World, constant touring in each other’s pockets had taken its toll: “We had to decide how much we liked each other… I’m not saying that was easily resolved.”
But “One” rescued them. U2 were struggling to come up with anything all four felt was good enough. Bored of hammering at a demo called “Sick Puppy” (that later morphed into “Mysterious Ways”), Edge hit on an off-the-cuff chord progression that would become “One.”
"At the instant we were recording it, I got a very strong sense of its power,” Edge told Irish journalist Neil McCormick. “We were all playing together in the big recording room, a huge, eerie ballroom full of ghosts of the war, and everything fell into place. It was a reassuring moment, when everyone finally went: ‘Oh great, this album has started.’ It's the reason you’re in a band - when the spirit descends upon you and you create something truly affecting. “One” is an incredibly moving piece. It hits straight into the heart.”
“One” is atypical of Achtung Baby in sound, but it did kickstart U2’s creativity. Some think the lyric is schmaltz: but the "one life, with each other, sisters, brothers…" line was later voted the greatest ever song line by VH1 viewers in 2006. “Earnest, polite, sweet, righteous, and linear?” “One” is all those, but if U2 hadn’t dreamed that song up Achtung Baby may have collapsed into nothing.
But after “One,” other songs soon formed. Maybe as a reaction to “One”, U2 felt free to get more aggressive. Lyrically, Achtung Baby was a volte-face for U2. Bono, for all his ‘80s piety and flag waving, came to realize: “Rock ‘n’ roll is ridiculous,” he told Rolling Stone on Achtung Baby’s release.” In the past we were trying to duck that. Now we’re wrapping our arms around it and giving it a big kiss.”
Achtung Baby was hardly pop frivolity, though. Many of the lyrics centered on love, sex and betrayal. It was certainly not wished for, but Edge’s divorce of the time proved a catalyst for many lyrics. Bono’s invention of alter ego The Fly allowed him also to be less chest-beating and subtler. Despite that, Achtung Baby is one of U2’s most baldly religious records. On “Until The End Of The World,” frontman Bono takes the role of Judas Iscariot betraying Jesus Christ. Not long before, the religious band would never have dared such a “heretic” curveball.
Daniel Lanois was the main “sonics” producer (though Brian Eno was co-credited) on Achtung Baby, and the Canadian told Sound On Sound magazine: “When I started work on Achtung Baby, U2 were interested in creating a more hard-hitting, live-sounding record. I myself had also grown rather tired of polishing details on records and pursuing the kind of perfection that has become commonplace in much rock music today. So what I did was push the performance aspect very hard, often to the point of recklessness. I think that musical recklessness goes a long way on records. You don’t hear enough of it.”
Even so, U2 still gave themselves maximum options - throughout the sessions, they’d play relentlessly and kept tape running constantly to capture spirited moments. Yet despite the connotations of the title, U2’s Hansa studio sessions barely lasted two months: most of Achtung Baby was eventually recorded in Ireland, in a rented house by the sea, then Dublin’s famed Windmill Studios.
The demos on the new Deluxe Edition of Achtung Baby show how much U2 actually change songs in the studio. Lanois recalled: “They continuously experiment and try different ways of playing and arranging the songs, until the very last moment. The guitar overdub on “Mysterious Ways”, for example, went down after the mix was finished.”
The guitar on Achtung Baby was key. Edge’s search for darker, more sinister sounds saw him increasingly move away from his Gibson Explorer and repeat-delay Fenders in favor of Gibson Les Pauls. The change of tools gave his guitar tracks new weight, be it on “The Fly,” “Until The End Of The World,” or “Love Is Blindness” where he pushed a Les Paul through eight chain-linked Vox AC30 amps.
Many other makes and models are part of Achtung Baby’s sonics, of course. And perhaps the key, as always, were Edge’s FX. He bought two Korg A3 multiFXs to record Achtung Baby, and it is at the heart of many guitar sounds on Achtung Baby: “Mysterious Ways” showcases the Korg A3 to the maximum, and Edge admits he could not have written the song without it.
“Rockist=bad” may have been a U2 mantra of the time yet, ironically, Edge’s guitar on Achtung Baby packs the most aggressive rock guitar of U2’s 35-year career. “Ultra Violet (Light My Way)” is played like “old” U2, but is much heavier. And from “Zoo Station” to “Until The End Of The World,” to “Acrobat” and beyond, Achtung Baby arguably boasts Edge’s darkest yet greatest guitar work.
Of all U2’s releases, Achtung Baby is “the Edge album.” The guitarist put aside his personal strife and threw himself into work. Adam Clayton remembered: “When Edge gets on a roll, he gets on a roll. He’s always been happy to keep going. I think his process of keeping going, although damaging on a personal level, has allowed him to make great strides, has been the right thing for his career. He’s made tremendous progress, he’s a great guitar player.”
Is Achtung Baby the most coherent and consistent of any U2 album? Is it U2’s best? It probably is.
Edge still sounds like Edge, but he coaxed new, darker tones that released U2 from the chiming echo of The Joshua Tree and before. Achtung Baby’s harder sound and lyrical playfulness not only saved the band. It laid the path to U2’s future.
Edge was no stranger to Gibson Les Pauls. He bought his famed white 1975 Les Paul (later auctioned for Music Rising) in 1982 inspired by Steve Jones of The Sex Pistols. A 1983 Gibson 30th Anniversary Les Paul Standard Gold Top stars on “Until The End Of The World.” Other Gibsons added to Achtung Baby’s darker mix — an ES-330 for the “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses” and “One”, and Adam Clayton played a Gibson RD Artist bass on for “Trying To Throw Your Arms Around The World.”
How did high school dances end before November 8, 1971? That’s the date that Led Zeppelin released a promotional disc to FM rock stations that would become the world’s most-played radio hit and cross over to teen-packed auditoriums everywhere, “Stairway To Heaven.” It was an unlikely on-air success at eight-minutes long, but in the early ’70s FM DJs could still play the full-length version of “Inna Gadda Da Vida,” Iron Butterfly’s 17-minute bathroom break anthem. And the length of “Stairway,” plus the song’s long quiet build-up, made it perfect for slow dancing until the explosive finale, which provided an outlet for the hormonal energy that the slow dancing generated.
The song that Gibson Les Paullegend Jimmy Page described as “crystallizing the band” started taking form in 1970 during Page and Robert Plant’s famous songwriting vacation in rural Wales at a cottage called Bron-Yr-Aur. Page developed the acoustic opening section there, and Plant wrote the initial verse. By the time the entire band regrouped at the Headley Grange rehearsal and recording building in East Hampshire, England, Page had several distinct pieces of electric and acoustic music that he felt were related to that initial theme. While Page tried to weave the sections together with drummer John Bonham and bassist and keyboardist John Paul Jones, Plant sat in a corner, writing. When he stood up and started singing, about 80-percent of the lyrics for “Stairway To Heaven” were complete.
Led Zeppelin cut the basic rhythm tracks for “Stairway To Heaven” in December 1970 at Basing Street Studios in London. Plant cut his vocals in early 1971 at Headley Grange. Then Page retuned to Basing Street to cut his solos. Initially it went poorly. Page couldn’t quite hit the mark after a number of passes. According to Jones, he could see concern in Page’s eyes, so Jones broke the tension by turning toward the guitar wizard and declaring, “You’re making me paranoid!” Page shot back, “You’re making me paranoid!” And with the air cleared by laughter he nailed the solo’s elaborate architecture in a few more passes.
Page saw “Stairway” as a successor to “Dazed and Confused,” an epic musical adventure in several movements. As for Plant, he’d drawn on Scottish folklorist Lewis Spence for his lyrics.
The song got its first live airing on March 5, 1971, well before the album Zoso, a/k/a Led Zeppelin IV, was released in November. It reportedly took a few weeks for the tune to win fans over, but by the time the group appeared at London’s Paris Cinema on April Fools’ Day 1971 for a concert recording by the BBC it was in full bloom and drove the audience mad.
One of the song’s visual signatures is Page standing in the spotlight with a Gibson EDS-1275
double-neck guitar strapped over his shoulders. More important than the guitar’s striking looks was its functionality. The EDS-1275 saved him the trouble of switching between six- and 12-string necks. In 2007 the Gibson Custom Shop built 250 Vintage Original Spec Jimmy Page Signature EDS-1275s, modeled after his red 1971 original.
Atlantic Records pressured the band to edit “Stairway To Heaven” down to a more traditionally radio-friendly length for the November 1971 release of Zoso/IV, so it could be pitched to programmers as a conventional single. But Led Zeppelin were staunch in their refusal. “Stairway To Heaven” was a fully realized work of art, they contended, so Atlantic had to be content with servicing radio with an EP — an amazing EP. Side A was “Stairway”; side B was “Black Dog” paired with “Rock ‘n’ Roll.”
As of the year 2000, “Stairway To Heaven” had scored more than three million radio plays and remains the most popular piece of sheet music in rock, selling 15,000 copies annually. (Take that, “Free Bird!”) Nonetheless, it scored a mere 31 on Rolling Stone’s 2004 list of “The 500 Greatest Rock Songs of All Time,” although Guitar World ranked Page’s stunning solo number one in its list of the “100 Greatest Guitar Solos in Rock and Roll History.”
“Stairway” wasn’t the only epic number on Led Zeppelin IV. Their definitive cover of Memphis Minnie’s blues chestnut “When the Levee Breaks” also clocked in at more than seven minutes and featured blistering sequences of guitar and harmonica. Another song, “The Battle of Evermore,” also captured the idyllic influence of Bron-Yr-Aur. And “Misty Mountain Hop” and “Four Sticks” added to the album’s visceral side, while “Going To California” displayed their mastery of blues dynamics. Zoso/IV reached number two on Billboard’s top albums list, but “Stairway” dominated the radio charts for a triumphant 44 weeks.
Page still considers the song a milestone. “Every musician wants to do something of lasting quality, something which will hold up for a long time,” he told filmmaker and music journalist Cameron Crowe in 1975. “I guess we did it with ‘Stairway.’ “
Robert Plant will headline Australia's prestigious multi-day Bluesfest event in March/April 2013, joining a bill that includes Carlos Santana, Ben Harper, Steve Miller Band, Iggy & The Stooges, Madness, Chris Isaak, Bonnie Raitt, Wilco, Robert Cray, Status Quo, Yes's Jon Anderson, Roger Hodgson and many, many more.
Bluesfest has long since evolved beyond being a blues-only event - as you can tell by the inclusion of Iggy on the line-up, if nothing else. There had been rumors for several years that Plant would be playing at the event, and finally – finally! – it comes to pass.
Bluesfest organiser Peter Noble said: "Bringing Robert Plant to Bluesfest is a dream come true, not just for me, but for the thousands of fans who have been standing by patiently all these years! We have waited together for so long and now it’s gonna happen – I am so delighted and hugely honored."
Bluesfest runs from Thursday March 28 to Monday April 1. Plant will headline Saturday March 30, with his band Sensational Shape Shifters.
Shred god Joe Satriani is hitting the studio to record solo studio album #12 soon, for release worldwide by Sony in May 2013.
Satch is also planning a career retrospective box set for release in 2013. There's no word yet on what it might include, but please please, please Joe, include some tracks from your old (and quite brilliant) power pop band The Squares! And live cuts from your stints in Mick Jagger's band and Deep Purple! And a disc of your guest appearances with folks like Steve Miller, Spinal Tap, Alice Cooper, Planet Us, The Yardbirds, Tarja Turunen… and maybe some tapes (if they exist) of lessons you gave in your guitar teaching days! Oh man… as a Satch fan there are just so many cool possibilities to consider.
In 1993 Satriani released Time Machine, bringing together rare, unreleased and new studio tracks, cuts from his self-released 1985 self-titled EP, an epic direct-to-tape jam with bass legend Doug Wimbish, and a second disc featuring an entire concert from the Extremist era. That album went gold.
Bon Jovi have big ambitions for 2013 - they have vowed to reclaim the title of "the essential live rock band" with their “Because We Can” world tour and a new album, What About Now.
"The group’s return to the road in 2013 will cap an incredible run which has secured Bon Jovi’s status as the essential live rock band, having performed more than 2700 concerts in over 50 countries for more than 35 million fans, and earning the number-one grossing worldwide tour twice in just three years" read a statement.
What About Now will be the group's 12th studio album, and is set for release in Spring 2013. Their tour starts on February 13, 2013 at the Bell Center in Montreal, Canada. U.S dates are to be announced shortly. Their "Circle" world tour finished in the summer of 2011 with a $365 million total gross, according to Boxscore.
Rod Stewart has recorded his first new rock album of original material in 11 years.
Speaking to Billboard.com, the veteran singer said the new disc — tentatively titled Love the Life You Live — will be released in the spring of 2013. "It's all done mate," revealed Stewart, who also has a Christmas album, Merry Christmas, Baby, coming out Oct. 30. "I produced it myself. It's all finished, mixed, everything.... Just a good, old-fashioned Rod Stewart album [with] a lot of mandolin and acoustic [guitar] and fiddles and good storytelling, I believe, too." Stewart said he was surprised at how easily songs have been coming to him. “It's been just flowing like a river,” he said. “An issue which I thought had long past, and which I'd given up, songwriting, has come back, and I'm thoroughly enjoying it."
Stewart was also asked, once again, about the prospects for a Faces reunion. He pointed out that bandmate Ron Wood “goes quiet” when he’s working with the Stones, but that he’s confident it will happen “one day.” “We might all be using Zimmer frames and wheelchairs,” he said, “but we'll do it."
Neil Young spent an hour on Twitter yesterday fielding questions from fans on a wide range of topics. Young’s very first response was to fellow Canadian musician Ryan Dahle, of Limblifter, who asked the veteran rocker if he used “an old Firebird pickup in [his] Les Paul.” “Yes,” replied Young.
Young went on to reveal that it’s likely he and Dave Grohl will collaborate in the future, that he likes Jack White and Radiohead, and that the last album he bought was Jimmy Reed’s Rockin’ with Jimmy Reed.
After Young tweeted that one of his favorite new bands was Foster the People, a fan noted that, “Bono said he likes them, too.” “Who is Bono?” joked Young. Other noteworthy revelations included that fact that Time Fades Away, Young’s long out-of-print 1973 album, will be reissued, and that his 1991 live album, Weld, will one day come out on DVD. Young is currently in the midst of a North American tour with Crazy Horse.
Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose made a rare TV interview appearance last night, as he sat for a chat on the late night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live! Though less than hard-hitting, the interview had its share of memorable moments. Rose’s penchant for tardiness was a recurring theme, with Kimmel noting at one point that Rose had a quote from Oscar Wilde – “Punctuality is the thief of time” – framed in his house. There was also some discussion of Halloween, with Rose revealing that he has a Halloween tree (similar to a Christmas tree, but with a Halloween motif) in his home. Rose also said he once dressed up as an ear of corn to mark the holiday. “We have a saying in Guns N’ Roses,” Rose said. “When somebody’s gonna get yelled at, they’re gonna get the corn. So one year I was the corn.” Guns N’ Roses are set to kick off a 12-night residency at the Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas on Oct. 31.
The Rolling Stones are set to perform a brief warm-up show tonight at in Paris. The Paris newspaper, Le Parisien, reports that the gig will take place at Le Trabendo, a 700-seat theater in the Parc de la Villette area of the city.
Early this morning fans began lining up at the Virgin Megastore on the Champ Elysses, after the band announced that 350 tickets would be available at that location, starting at noon, at a price of 15 euros ($19.45). The Rolling Stones announced the show on Twitter, stipulating that, “Names will be printed on the tickets. On presentation of photo ID at the venue, ticket holders will receive a wristband. Doors open at 8 pm... Mobile phones, cameras, video equipment and recording devices are strictly prohibited."
Stones guitarist Ron Wood told NME.com earlier this week that the band will play a few low-key shows. “There’s going to be little club gigs that we’re gonna surprise ourselves to do as well,” he said. “We’ll bung a few in next week or the week after … tiny, 200, 300 people kind of places.”
Yesterday, news broke that Metallicawill release their first non-major label release, a DVD/blu-ray called Quebec Magnetic, via their own label on Dec. 10. Now, the mighty metallers are putting their sights towards the next big step in Metallica’s trajectory: a new full-length album.
According to guitarist Kirk Hammett, Metallica are planning to head into the studio “in the next couple of months” to start work on their next studio release.
“We just filmed a 3D movie up in Vancouver. That’s been at the forefront of our attention right now,” Hammett told Loudwire. “…Once that particular project kind of dies down and we complete what we need to do with that, then we’re going to start writing songs. We’re going to meet up and start throwing ideas together. That should be really, really interesting. I'm really looking forward to that.”
Hammett added that the guys have tons of ideas for the new album rattling around in their heads. “What's not going to be so fun is going through all the musical ideas that we have,” he said. “I’m not really good at editing myself because I think it’s all good. To be more thorough on that, though, I foresee us starting to get together fairly soon, like in the next couple of months. We’ll start hammering away on it.”
Metallica have announced their first non-major label release. The live DVD/blu-ray Quebec Magnetic will be released on the band's own label. The DVD was filmed over two nights in 2009 during the Death Magnetic tour, and is scheduled to be released on December 10.
In a statement, Metallica says: "The DVD and blu-ray will be out on our very own label in North America. There are still some Is being dotted and Ts crossed, so we can’t give you a name or fancy logo just yet. Since we now get to call all the shots, the double-DVD and single-disc blu-ray will be available for a price we thought was very fan-friendly. Suggested retail will be $15.98 for either format."
More and more bands decide to leave the major labels and release their music independently. Steven Tyler of Aerosmith recently talked about going the independent route during a recent conference call with reporters, according to Billboard: "If the band stays together, yeah, we'll definitely go that route, something somewhere over there. We've been keeping record companies stocked with millions of shekels for years, been making a lot of people rich -- not that we haven't, but every now and then you get into arguments with labels (and) you think, 'Where is all this money going?' We've definitely thought of putting stuff out."
Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith has contributed musically to the band's songs throughout their career, with memorable bass lines such as those in "Sweet Emotion," and "Janie's Got a Gun." But on the band's new release Music From Another Dimension, Hamilton tries his hand at writing lyrics for the first time, with the song "Tell Me". Says Hamilton to Rolling Stone: "I had these chord changes, and I thought maybe I could try writing lyrics...It was a whole new experience for me. The song is about lost love, but I've been married since I was 25 years old. My wife goes, 'What the hell do you know about that?' I was just evoking a feeling I had when I was a kid listening to the Beatles and the Stones – I always loved their lonely sounding songs."
Steven Tyler has nothing but praise for Hamilton's song writing abilities: "He may be a bass player but his melodic sensibility on a 12-string and the things he picks are just brilliant...He's got a great ear. He hasn't strutted that for a while because we just haven't got around to it. We did this time and I was blown off my fuckin' perch."
Music From Another Dimension is released on November 6.
The Rolling Stones, currently rehearsing for their London O2 Arena shows on November 25 and 29 and Newark, New Jersey gigs on December 13 and 15, may well play some small warm-up dates.
Ronnie Wood told NME: “There’s going to be little club gigs that we’re gonna surprise ourselves to do as well, we’ll bung a few in next week or the week after, so look out for any Cockroaches gigs or whatever! I don’t know who we’ll be billed as but we’ll turn up somewhere and put a few to the test. Tiny, 200, 300 people kind of places.”
It’s reassuring to know that even Jimi Hendrix considered giving up guitar. And that the great Chet Atkins believes that your best bet for success is to simply pay your dues. It’s just that, for an inanimate object, the guitar can sometimes be completely overwhelming, and it’s nice to know that even our guitar heroes have been there, done that. If you’ve only just begun to play guitar, you’re probably in the process of realizing that there’s a whole lot left for you to learn, and if you’ve been playing all your life that’s something you probably had to reconcile a long ago. Here are 10 quotes from some of our favorite guitarists that remind us to always find the joy in playing.
1. Jimi Hendrix (told to Guitar Player in 1968): “You have to stick with it. Sometimes, you are going to be so frustrated you want to give up the guitar — you’ll hate the guitar. But all of this is just a part of learning, because if you stick with it, you’re going to be rewarded.”
2. Jimmy Page (told to music journalist Steven Rosen in 1986): “There’s so much that can be done on the guitar. I’ve only done a few bits and pieces, really, considering what can be done … And that’s what is so good about the guitar — everyone can really enjoy themselves on it and have a good time, which is what it’s all about. Right?”
3. Keith Richards (told to Esquire in 2005): “Electric is another instrument. Yeah, it looks the same and you’ve got to make the same moves [as with an acoustic], but you have to learn how to tame the beast. Because it is a monster.”
4. Eric Clapton (told to Rolling Stone in 1991): “It’s been very important throughout my career that I’ve met all the guys I’ve copied, because at each stage they’ve said, ‘Don’t play like me, play like you.’”
5. Chuck Berry (stated on ChuckBerry.com): “It’s amazing how much you can learn if your intentions are truly earnest.”
6. Arlen Roth (written on his Gibson.com blog): “I know it may at first sound like a strange question on my part, but I think it’s very important, when evaluating your own development, to think of whether you are ‘practicing’ or ‘playing’ … [When I was developing] I had started a ritual for myself that holds true even today, in which every time I pick up the guitar, I am sure to try something new, and to teach myself a new lick, position, or even a song, or simply start writing. Whatever it is, it has to be fresh to me, and therefore, it is unquestionably ‘playing’ that I do, as opposed to ‘practicing.’” For more Arlen wisdom, read his blog here.
7. B.B. King (told to Guitar Player): “Playing guitar is like telling the truth. You never have to worry about repeating the same lie if you told the truth. You don’t have to pretend or cover up. If someone asks you again you don’t have to think about it or worry about it. It’s you.”
8. Pete Townshend (told to Guitar World in 1997): “I played guitar for ten years before I realized it wasn’t a weapon.”
9. Chet Atkins (told to Billboard in 1967): “A long apprenticeship is the most logical way to success. The only alternative is overnight stardom, but I can’t give you a formula for that.”
10. Carlos Santana (told to Guitar Player in 1997): “A good way to carve your individuality is to get a tape recorder and get into a room that’s kind of dark — where you don’t have interruptions — and then just play with a rhythm machine. After a while, it’s like a deck of cards on the table, and you can begin to see the riffs that came from this guy, the riffs that came from that guy, and then the two or three riffs that are yours. Then you start concentrating on your riffs until you develop an individual sound.”
Here we take a look at ten of the best rock biographies.
10. Marilyn Manson - The Long Hard Road Out of Hell
The book came out when Marilyn Manson was at the height of his career in 1999. It is a bit unusual for an artist to write an autobiography this early on; Manson was just 29 years old at the time of publication. However, the book does not lack its share of wild stories just because of its author's young age. The Long Hard Road Out of Hell tells the story of young Brian's (Manson's birth name is Brian Warner) Christian upbringing, and various events throughout his childhood and adolescence that shaped him in to the androgynous creature he displays to the world.
9. Led Zeppelin – Hammer of the Gods
Although not an autobiography, author Stephen Davis' Hammer of the Gods is a must on this list, since it is one of the most comprehensive written accounts of Led Zeppelin. Those of us born in the seventies or later had no way of experiencing Led Zeppelin first hand, so a book like Hammer of the Gods is a great way to familiarize oneself with the original hard rock band, that has influenced countless bands ever since. This book has it all – the ups and downs of the legendary Zeppelin; it deals with Robert Plant's car accident, the loss of his son, and also the tragic death of drummer John Bonham.
8. U2 By U2
The official autobiography of one of the world's most successful bands. In the same style as Aerosmith's autobiography, the members of U2 tell their story in an interview style format. The book is very compelling because it is the first time that the band members themselves have told the full story of the formation of U2, and what transpired between their first two albums when the band almost broke up. What stands out in the book is the band members' genuine love for each other, and perhaps that is the reason why they have managed to stay intact since their formation in the late seventies.
7. Paul McCartney – Many Years From Now
Macca's biography Many Years From Now by Barry Miles, tells the tale of McCartney and how he came to ascend from a Liverpool working class background to pop music royalty in the sixties. It's a great read since it tells the Beatles' saga from their start in seedy clubs in Hamburg's Reeperbahn district, all the way through to the breakup of the band. But there is so much more in the book as well, concerning McCartney's post-Beatles career with Wings. However the book has an aura of sadness over it since it ends with an epilogue from Paul dealing with the passing of his wife Linda McCartney, which is so honest and heartfelt that it is almost overwhelming to read.
6. Slash - Slash
Slash's self-titled autobiography is the closest we have to an official Guns n' Roses autobiography. Slash and co-author Anthony Bozza candidly re-tell the life story of one of rock music's greatest guitar players. The book takes the reader on a journey from Slash's birth in England, all the way to his post GNR days in Slash's Snakepit and ultimately Velvet Revolver. Slash talks about his mother, and the celebrities she used to hang out with when he was a kid, and he recounts stories of hanging out with Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers when he was a teenager. But what makes the book special is that it gives the reader Slash's story on Guns N' Roses, from their formation in the mid eighties up until he left the band after the Use Your Illusion tour(s). We get to hear the inside scoop on what went on between Slash and Axl Rose, and how what was initially a genuine friendship turned sour and in the end ended the classic line-up of Guns N' Roses.
5. Aerosmith – Walk This Way
Aerosmith's tell-all memoir from 1997 was a project long in the works that came out shortly after the band had fired long time manager Tim Collins after supposedly having caused a rift between singer Steven Tyler and the rest of the band on purpose by suggesting Tyler was back on drugs. The band tell their story in an interview format, with comments from each band member nicely woven in to a coherent story that start all the way back at Tyler's parents Trow-Rico ranch in New Hampshire in the fifties. It tells the tale of the band at its lowest in the early eighties with Tyler deep in addiction with Joe Perry, and Brad Whitford gone from the band. You also get the full scoop on how they were all eventually able to put their differences aside and kick their various addictions to return with massive success towards the end of the decade with the Permanent Vacation and Pump albums.
4. Johnny Cash – Cash, The Autobiography
If you were to describe this book with one word it would be bittersweet. The book focus mainly on the latter part of Cash's career, starting off with the story of a home invasion that took place in the singer and guitarists home in Jamaica in 1982. In the book Cash talks about the success of the American Recordings album series, and touring behind them. We also get to hear about his friendship with Roy Orbison. Throughout the book the love that Johnny has for his wife June Carter Cash is obvious, they truly were life companions. What makes the book sad is knowing that a mere six years after its publication, both Johnny and June would be dead.
3. Anthony Kiedis – Scar Tissue
Anthony holds nothing back as he talks about the ups and downs of his life; growing up and spending time with Flea as a teenager, to the success with Red Hot Chili Peppers, and his battle with various addictions throughout it all.
2. Keith Richards – Life
When Keith Richards announced that he was writing his autobiography the project was stopped at one point because Richards claimed he couldn't really remember much from the Rolling Stones' glorious past in the sixties and seventies. He was eventually able to coerce enough memories to fill a hefty 500 plus pages of what is probably the best autobiography by a single rock personality. Of course many of Richards' friends who were around back in the day help move the story along and fill in the blanks. It is such a fascinating read because it tells the story of a man who has taken the rock n' roll lifestyle with all the excesses associated with it, and just gone all the way in to his late sixties with no signs of slowing down.
1. Motley Crüe – The Dirt
Let's face it, you all knew this would be number one didn't you? Motley Crüe's 2001 autobiography The Dirt has it all. It's a no-holds-barred account of the ups and downs of a band on the road, and the stories that took the various members from being innocent children to becoming the rock gods they are today. In many ways The Dirt helped save Motley Crüe as a band. The initial massive success of the eighties had been replaced by a decade of in-fighting, and a failed attempt at bringing in a new lead singer (John Corabi), and by the time the new millennium was fast approaching The Crüe were, although still popular, in considerably less of a demand than ten years prior. But through the openness by which the band approached writing The Dirt, and the excellent guidance and penmanship of co-author Neil Strauss the legend of Motley Crüe grew to new levels, and increased their popularity making them once again a much sought after live act.
Do you agree or disagree with our choices? Are there perhaps any obvious ones we have overlooked? Please share your opinions in the comments section below.
If there is one singer/guitarist who encapsulates the hoodoo of the blues, it is Robert Johnson. His basic recordings bore many followers. And his early demise – at just 27 years of age – means there is always the question: what if? 101 years after he was born, the legend of Robert Johnson won’t go away…
Robert Johnson: the music
If you are new to Robert Johnson, you don’t have much to listen to. He recorded just 29 songs - some with alternate takes - and never enjoyed widespread fame in his brief lifetime. But his music eventually hit nerves. “Cross Road Blues” (reworked by Cream as “Crossroads”) has become a blues staple. Did Johnson even write it? Maybe not. “Sweet Home Chicago,” “Rambling on My Mind,” “Love in Vain,” "Me and the Devil Blues" and others all became lauded and much-covered… but blues musicians of the 1930s swapped songs as much as they did women. But clearly, Johnson’s blues hit home.
Robert Johnson: the myth
Johnson’s whole life and death remain shrouded in mystery. His birth date remains questioned. His “real” grave has been the subject of debate. The strongest myth is of his guitar skills and untimely death. Johnson is the lifeblood of the story of a “Faustian pact” with the devil.
He was a poor guitarist at first, said his peers. Son House recalled in Living Blues how he played with Johnson. House wrote: "And such a racket you never heard! It'd make the people mad, you know. They'd come out and say, 'Why don't y'all go in and get that guitar away from that boy! He's running people crazy with it!” But after only a few months away, Johnson returned to Delta jukes playing like no other. Even Muddy Waters admitted he was astounded when he saw Johnson playing a street corner.
Did Johnson meet the devil at the crossroads? Did the devil “tune” his guitar in return for his soul? Myth says, yes.
I interviewed the late David “Honeyboy” Edwards, himself a delta blues great, in the mid-‘90s. Honeyboy was a friend of Johnson and the last to play a juke joint with him, a few days before Johnson died.
Of Johnson’s “pact with the devil”, Honeyboy said, “Aww, I don't know about that. He told me a story but… I don’t know.” Honeyboy paused for a while at this point, and declined to elaborate, but possibly because he’d been asked the “devil” question too many times before.
“Robert was a good guitar player, that’s sure,” Honeyboy added. “He liked a drink, too. I used to go down and play the crossroads, in the country. Robert did too. We were all learning chords – eventually I got a chord book – but we all learned from other blues players: ‘how you do that? Where do I put my fingers? But, yeah, Robert was good at guitar.”
Myth also says Johnson died after being poisoned by a jealous husband, whose wife Johnson had been wooing… or more. “Robert liked women. I like women, too,” Honeyboy laughed. “I dunno. He was just gone one day… but he’d just turn up somedays, so it wasn’t no mystery to me.”
The notion of Johnson’s pact with evil is embellished by one of his most haunting songs. “Me and the Devil Blues” has lyrics of “Me and the devil walking side by side” and “hello Satan, I believe it’s time to go.” Add “Cross Road Blues”, “Hellhound on My Trail” and others, and it’s plain to see why some still believe the myth of Robert Johnson’s pact with the devil.
Bluesman Tommy Johnson - a forerunner of Johnson, but no relation – once said: "If you want to learn how to make songs yourself, you take your guitar and you go to where the road crosses that way, where a crossroads is. Get there be sure to get there just a little ' fore 12 that night so you know you'll be there. You have your guitar and be playing a piece there by yourself… A big black man will walk up there and take your guitar and he'll tune it. And then he'll play a piece and hand it back to you. That's the way I learned to play anything I want."
Robert Johnson: the guitarist
Johnson was certainly adept. He played a Gibson L-1 – the flat top version introduced in 1926. Legend has it that Johnson recorded all his music facing the corner of the hotel rooms where his songs were cut. Ry Cooder has speculated he was enhancing the sound of his Gibson, a technique Cooder calls "corner loading." Others speculate Johnson was simply hiding to everyone what his hands were actually doing.
Johnson clearly used a variety of alt tunings, but his fingers sometimes sound incredibly nimble for a 1930s delta blues player. But again, maybe it’s not accurate?
In The Guardian from May 2010, music writer Jon Wilde states that “the common consensus among musicologists is that we've been listening to [Robert] Johnson at least 20% too fast, that the recordings were accidentally speeded up when first committed to 78 [rpm records], or else were deliberately speeded up to make them sound more exciting."
Former Sony music executive Lawrence Cohn, who won a Grammy for the label's 1991 reissue of Johnson's works, acknowledged: “there's a possibility Johnson's 1936-37 recordings were sped up,” since the OKeh/Vocalion family of labels, which originally issued the material, was “notorious” for altering the speed of its releases. “Sometimes it was 78rpms, sometimes it was 81rpms,” Cohn said.
Original Robert Johnson masters are long gone, so who will now ever know?
Robert Johnson: his death
Johnson had exceptionally long fingers, as seen in the only two (or three) photos of him. Some doctors speculate Johnson appeared to suffer from Marfans Syndrome. People with the rare genetic disorder tend to be unusually tall, with long limbs and long, thin fingers. It also affects the eyes – Johnson had “eerie” eyes, no question – and Marfans affects the heart. It can result in early death. Johnson ticked all the boxes of a Marfans sufferer, particularly his hands and eyes. So maybe poorly Robert simply died a natural death after a skinful of whiskey?
The Johnson legend of poisoning, via whiskey laced with strychnine, makes little sense. Johnson myth has it that he died on his hand and knees howling “like a dog”. Death by strychnine poisoning is irrefutably violent and painful, but strychnine kills within hours – Johnson was reportedly ill for two or three days before his demise.
Musicologist Robert "Mack" McCormick spent years research Johnson’s life. McCormick once claimed to have tracked down the man who murdered Johnson, and to have obtained a confession from him in a personal interview. Yet McCormick has declined to reveal the man's name, and has never published his proposed book Biography of a Phantom. The debate continues, such as here.
Robert Johnson: his influence
Eric Clapton (Me and Mr Johnson), Peter Green (The Robert Johnson Songbook) and Rory Block (The Lady and Mr Johnson) have recorded whole albums of Johnson songs. Clapton says Johnson was “the most important blues musician who ever lived.” Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant simply mused: “Robert Johnson… to whom we all owed our existence, in some way.”
When Keith Richards first heard Johnson he was confused: Richards thought it must to two guitar players playing. In his biography Life, Richards writes, “[Johnson] took guitar playing, songwriting, delivery to a whole different height.”
The music remains. Johnson voice remains a haunting quiver, his guitar playing unrivalled of its time. His lyrics are doom-laden, even for blues.
But Robert Johnson, the person? Robert Johnson is the most famous bluesman you’ll never really know.
Strange to think that KISS went a full decade – 11 years, in fact – without releasing an album of new material. Even more remarkable is the fact that when KISS did hit the studio again – to make 2009’s Sonic Boom – their return to form was spectacular. Monster, the band’s just-released follow-up, provides conclusion proof that KISS’s comeback was no fluke. Packed with full-throttle rock and roll, the album distills the spirit of KISS to its no-frills essence.
“There are no symphony orchestras, no boys choirs, no keyboards, no outside producers and no outside songwriters,” says Gene Simmons, who, along with KISS co-founder Paul Stanley, credits lead guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer with reinvigorating the band. “The best thing we did was to turn inwards to ourselves.” In the following interview, Simmons and Stanley talk about making Monster, creating distinctive guitar riffs and holding onto their inner child.
How did making Monster differ from making Sonic Boom?
STANLEY: Sonic Boom was us discovering who we are today, as a recording band. We had proven ourselves as a live entity, and we had our history down pat, but the question to answer was: who are we in the studio, today? Monster, on the other hand, is a band that’s totally sure of what we can do. We were all confident about how great this album could be. My role as producer, as I saw it, was to be a director and a coach, to make sure we kept our eye on the goal.
What was the writing and recording process like?
STANLEY: We wrote the songs primarily at my house. After that we went into rehearsal. We didn’t spend a lot of time on that, but that’s why it’s called “rehearsal.” You don’t want to go into the studio and do anything except record. If you’re spending time in the studio learning to tie your shoelaces, you’re just wasting money. We were prepared, and we went in and did things just like we did in rehearsal. We recorded facing one another – just an arm’s length apart.
Did keeping things simple – just two guitars, bass and drums – steer you down a certain creative path?
SIMMONS: The first few albums we put out were band-made, band-played and band-designed. And then we veered off and started doing lots of other stuff -- concept records, symphony orchestra albums, all sorts of things, all over the map. Those things are like going to a fancy French restaurant, where things taste good but afterwards you have an upset stomach. There’s too much butter, it’s too creamy, there’s too much of this and that. Ultimately, the best food is Mom’s home cooking. Pride comes into play as well. It all starts in your heart and soul. You know in your heart what’s good, before anyone else hears it. You sort of go, “Gee, that’s damn good. Let’s play that again.” The best measure of that is that we’re actually playing the new album in the dressing room, when we’re getting ready to do a show. Invariably, someone walks in and says, “Who is that? Turn that up!”
How old were you when you first picked up a guitar?
SIMMONS: I was 14. My mother bought me a Gibson SG Standard, a beautiful guitar. I held it for a long time before I knew anything about how to play it. The first chord I learned was a “C” chord. I played it the way folk players play it [begins singing “Michael Row the Boat Ashore”]. I wrote my first song with that chord. It was called “I Wanna Be a Sailor.” Melodies started coming into my head as I learned new chords. I wrote “Deuce” when I was 19.
Why did you switch to bass?
SIMMONS: I’ve always been a pragmatist. Everybody else was playing guitar. I could see clearly that if I wanted to be in a band, maybe I should play bass, since there were fewer bass players. Of course, some of the bass players for the biggest bands in the world started out as guitar players. Being able to play guitar gives you a different perspective as a bass player.
Who were your main influences?
SIMMONS: Paul McCartney, above everybody else. His approach wasn’t based on how Motown bassists played. The Motown guys were stupendous, but when you listened to those records – everything from The Temptations to The Supremes to Stevie Wonder – the bass line was never something you hummed. It wasn’t a hook. When you heard Beatles songs, sometimes you actually hummed the melody of the bass. “Taxman” is a good example. A lot of those Beatles songs served as the basis for metal – or certainly hard rock. Think of those bass riffs [hums the riff for “Day Tripper”]. Whatever the bass is playing, the guitar is playing. That’s true of “Lady Madonna” and on and on.
Most KISS riffs have a signature, something that tells you right away it’s KISS. Are great riffs a dying art?
STANLEY: I agree, there is something distinctive about KISS riffs. But I also think most great riffs have already been written, and Jimmy Page probably wrote most of them. “Black Dog,” “Whole Lotta Love,” “Heartbreaker,” “Dazed and Confused,” on and on. Granted, much of what Led Zeppelin did was based on Blind Boy Fuller, Robert Johnson, Hubert Sumlin, you name it -- but they took those things and skewed them in a way that created a signature. Most of what’s come afterward has been based on that. Has anyone else come up with riffs that great? There have been other good riffs by other players, but most of them tip their hats to those same sources. I doubt they’ll stand the test of time as well as the originals.
Do you see irony in the fact that KISS’s style, today, is closer than ever to what it was in the‘70s?
SIMMONS: That’s a compliment of the highest order. Painters often talk about the innocence of children. Children put their hands in buckets of paints – all colors – and start to smear on a canvas. It’s all impressionistic. As a musician, it’s extremely hard to recapture that innocence you had when you were a kid, when you were in a garage, by yourself, plugging into an amp for the first time. If someone tells us we’ve recaptured something we had on those first few records, that’s the highest compliment. That’s the hardest thing to do – to get back to the purity and essence of who you actually are. Free unencumbered emotional expression exists in innocence. We’re fighting against knowing too much.
Somewhere deep in the primordial ooze of rock and roll there exists a phenomenon known as the “riff,” with the power to make a decent song great, and a great song an all-time classic. There were a handful of great riffs in the ’50s (“Susie Q” comes to mind), but the form really began to flourish in the ’60s, at the hands of Dave Davies, Pete Townshend, Keith Richards and other, predominantly British, guitar heroes. In the ’70s, it was part and parcel with “classic” rock. You couldn’t throw a pet rock without hitting some axeman coming up with his own “Iron Man” or “Sweet Home Alabama.” The ’80s kept the tradition running, with guitarists from decades past, like Keith Richards and Tony Iommi, still flexing their muscles, along with a new breed of riffmasters like Slash and Vivian Campbell.
It’s tough narrowing down the decade of Reagan and Rubik’s Cubes – and when all-stars like Eddie Van Halen, Tony Iommi and the boys from Iron Maiden don’t make the cut, you know you’ve got a tough list – but here are the 10 we deem the most totally awesome of the 1980s.
10. Rush, “Limelight”
You’ve got to love Alex Lifeson. Blessed (or cursed) with sharing trio space with one of the best bass players on the planet and probably the best drummer on Earth, Lifeson still manages to stand out with imaginative solos and, in the case of this Moving Pictures tour de force, major league riffage – his best since “Passage to Bangkok.”
9. Guns N’ Roses, “Sweet Child o’ Mine”
Appetite for Destruction ushered in a new age of stripped down, rip-out-your-throat rock and roll. And while the album was stacked with heavy hitters like “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Mr. Brownstone,” it was the ballad of the set that had the most unique and memorable riff. Kudos to Slash, Izzy and company for finding a way to wrap a love song around this torturous hand exercise.
8. The Clash, “Should I Stay or Should I Go”
Sometimes you only need two chords to kick an audience in the teeth, and certainly Mick Jones and Joe Strummer did just that with this Combat Rock fave. Beginners, if you need a showpiece for that school talent show but only know a handful of chords (no pun intended), you could do a lot worse.
7. Michael Jackson (featuring Steve Lukather), “Beat It”
Even metal dudes had to cop to the fact that this Michael Jackson track freakin’ rocked. Yes, it had that insane guitar solo by Eddie Van Halen, but the engine driving the song was a weighty bounce by session whiz Steve Lukather.
6. Judas Priest, “Breaking the Law”
Priest fans might argue that “Livin’ after Midnight” or “Heading Out to the Highway” are more deserving – fair play, I actually prefer “Highway” – but it’s hard to deny the brutal simplicity of this British Steel classic. Kinda makes you want to rob a bank with your guitar, doesn’t it?
5. Def Leppard, “Photograph”
There’s a bit of alchemy on this one, not unlike the opening chord of The Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night.” There are actually two guitar parts interwoven on this seemingly simple blast from Pyromania. It proved to be a memorable entrance for Phil Collen into the band, just as their career was about to kick into overdrive.
4. Scorpions, “Rock You Like a Hurricane”
Maybe the heaviest combination of simple power chords ever, Rudolf Schenker’s five-chord opening on this Love at First Sting track is instantly memorable – the key to any great riff. Case in point: I defy you to attend an air show and not hear this song 10 times!
3. Ozzy Osbourne (featuring Randy Rhoads), “Crazy Train”
In the 1980s, you couldn’t throw a dead cat in a music store without hitting some kid playing this Randy Rhoads warhorse. The churning, sinister opening section hurls the song forward and creates a momentum that never lets up, even as Ozzy takes it off the rails.
2. The Rolling Stones, “Start Me Up”
Twelve years after “Honky Tonk Women,” Keith Richards could still conjure an open-tuned gem like no one else. This 1981 classic is so stirring that nearly 30 years later you’re still unlikely see a football stadium not use it to psych their fans up for a kickoff.
1. AC/DC, “Back in Black”
Perhaps the greatest riff-oriented album of all time is the band’s 1980 farewell to dearly departed singer Bon Scott. Brothers Angus and Malcolm Young cooked up some of the greatest riffs of their career on this magnum opus (including “You Shook Me All Night Long,” “Hell’s Bells” and “Have a Drink on Me”), but none is more memorable than the hard and heavy title track.
Legendary rock writer Lonn Friend has reflected on Guns N' Roses' last club gig before going on to become, in his words, "The greatest band in rock history."
In an interview with Metal Sludge, Friend recalled when GN'R played at a party for his RIP magazine at the Park Plaza Hotel. With the venue way over capacity, the fire department cleared a thousand guests from the building's downstairs area - including Alice Cooper and Steve Vai. Friend recalled the moment Axl Rose saved the day in a scene so perfectly cinematic that it could slot quite easily into any number of great rock movies. "I’ll never forget sitting down on the stairs leading to the stage, cowering like a monk with my head in hands, a dozen men in yellow jackets and yellow hats hovering about me," Friend said, "when all of a sudden, a finger taps me on shoulder. I look up, and it’s Axl. “Relax, man,” he says. “ We’re going on.” It was like he magically appeared from the rafters like the phantom of the opera. Moments later, GN’R tore the place apart."
The set ended after 3am, and a few days later Guns N' Roses were opening for The Rolling Stones at the Coliseum. "Think about this, the greatest band in rock history, the Rolling Stones, being upstaged by an opening act," Friend said of the Coliseum run. "But that’s how unreal it was. GN'R was handed the rulebook and they, forgive the expression, ripped it to shreds."
By the way, for a great chronicle of GN'R setlists and flyers from throughout their career, check out http://gnrontour.com
Each concert will feature never-before performed live tracks in four venues which chart Bonamassa'srise through the ranks to his current level of — let's face it — guitar megastardom.
The four shows will individually showcase a unique band configuration designed to highlight diverse elements of Joe’s style, and each performance will be distinctive with different set lists, with around 80 old and new songs to be performed over the four nights. And if Bonamassa's set here in Melbourne, Australia last week is anything to go by, this is one guitar event worth stamping the passport for!
The run starts at the intimate 200-capacity London Borderline on Tuesday March 26, moving to the 02 Shepherds Bush Empire and HMV Hammersmith Apollo on Wednesday March 27 and Thursday March 28 respectively, before finishing the week at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday March 30.
"London is like my second home," Bonamassa says. "I want to give the fans attending the London concerts a real treat — a thank you for their unwavering support. Over the years I’ve received requests for tracks we’ve never performed live. Now, it feels right that we delve into the back catalogue and dedicate London fans with unique versions of tracks they’ve never experienced live."
Aerosmith and Lenny Kravitz are the latest rock stars to join the Pepsi NFL Anthems program, a national campaign that features musicians recording their own anthems for their home teams, which are available for download via PepsiAnthems.com.
Aerosmith, huge fans of the New England Patriots have recorded “Legendary Child – Patriot’s Anthem.”
Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler said in a statement: “This is a program the band and I were excited to get behind as it is a true representation of our allegiance to the New England Patriots and the city of Boston. Hearing our song being played as the soundtrack at all the tailgate parties to every touchdown is a testament to all the diehard Aerosmith fans in New England... GO PATS!”
The band’s guitarist Joe Perry added: "There's something about the word legendary and the words New England Patriots that have an amazing ring to them. We're excited and proud to be part of that."
Lenny Kravitz’s track, "Like a Jet," is for his beloved New York Jets. Kravitz said: "Writing a custom song for my New York Jets is something I could only dream of growing up steps from Joe Namath in New York. Rooting for him and the Jets fueled my passion for sports and song writing so this is a true honor for me.”
The Rolling Stones have rehearsed around 70 songs for their upcoming 50th anniversary shows, set to take place in London and just outside New York later this year. Meanwhile, the legendary group continues to drop hints that more dates might be added. "Rehearsals are going very well,” Mick Jagger told reporters yesterday (Oct. 18), according to the Associated Press. “We’ve done about 70 different songs. I said, 'Look, we only need to do 30, we don't need to do 70.’ But now we are doing 70. I don't know if we will do them all."
Alongside bandmates Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood, Jagger directed his comments to the media prior to the world premiere of Crossfire Hurricane, a new documentary about the band. Keith Richards added, “You know, we are looking forward to a great time. See, it's a two-way thing. It's to do with all these people and it's to do with us. We will deliver alright - one love." Wood spoke as well, dropping the tantalizing hint that the Stones might stage additional concerts. “Once this wheel is turning, I don't think it will be able to stop,” he said. “We won't be able to stop."
Our well wishes are going out to Richie Sambora, whose upcoming U.S. tour in support of his new solo album, Aftermath of the Lowdown, has been canceled due to the Bon Jovi guitarist losing his voice.
According to Pollstar, following a two-month promotional tour throughout Europe, Sambora has caught the laryngitis bug and doctors are demanding he fully rest his voice. Hence, he’s canceling his upcoming shows in Philadelphia (Oct. 18), Toronto (Oct. 20) and New York City (Oct. 23). Pollstar states that the Toronto gig will get a new date in early 2013, but there are no details on whether the other shows will be rescheduled.
Meanwhile, the guys of Bon Jovi are gearing up to release a new album in March.
What do you think of Sambora’s solo album? Do you dig it, or are you just ready for the return of Bon Jovi? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!
Page said: "I'm just looking forward to making some music and surprising people with it. It won't be just teaming up with lots of people who are [big] names. I've got an idea of something which I've had for a long time and now's the time to do it."
Jimmy Page also hinted that his musical direction could surprise people. "I have got other ideas that have been nagging at me for a long long time, I think the way to present music is same picture different frame, and sometimes this frame is quite radical," he said.
The new music, Page said, should be available by the end of the year.
There’s no question that Slash is one of the best players of his generation. But as it turns out, Slash didn’t get into the guitar because he thought he’d be awesome at it: He got into guitar because he loves it.
“I took up the guitar because I liked the guitar,” the Les Paul player told the Journal. “Plain and simple. It was all about the instrument rather than any consideration of the professional aspect.
“For me, because of who I am, the guitar would still be as inspirational now as it was back then. But I was inspired by the sound of the 60s and 70s guitar music that I’d heard. That exciting break in a rock song when the guitar takes over, just hit me.”
Slash added that never in his wildest dreams did he think he would be so successful in the music business. “I was brought up in an era where the Yardbirds and the Stones and Hendrix had dominated, and the guitar was king,” he said. “But I had no aspiration to become a guitar player proper until I picked it up as a 15-year-old. I was enjoying playing the guitar without realizing or imagining that’s what I was going to do.”
Ever pondered AC/DC’s impact on wider popular culture? Kurt Squiers and Gregg Ferguson have, and they’ve made Beyond the Thunder about it.
In the movie they dissect the impact of AC/DC – even how advertising agencies utilize AC/DC's iconic riffing to give brands their primetime 30 second spot even bigger balls. The promo trailer for Beyond The Thunder has even already won awards for its promotional trailer at the 30th Annual Telly Awards, and has been featured in Adweek, SPIN, Kerrang!,Talking Metal, Shockwaves Radio and Classic Rock magazine.
The movie also goes to the heart of AC/DC fans, and features many talking heads, from Mastodon to Anthrax to Twisted Sister, all shouting the praises of AC/DC.
AC/DC’s management are so far unmoved, but the movie-making duo are seeking a partnership and permission for a world-wide commercial release. The pair have been working on the movie for over two years.
The Rolling Stones have hinted at the possible running order of their late 2012 dates with a hand-written setlist posted on Twitter.
The image, appearing to show a full set list of Stones tracks, was posted online shortly before the band announced their dates in London and New York in November and December.
Many hits are included, of course, but new songs “Doom and Gloom” and “One More Shot” from forthcoming compilation GRRR! are nowhere to be seen. And nor is “Satisfaction.”
The sheet of hand-written paper features the following songs (spelling as shown) in this order:
“She’s So Cold”
“You Got Me Rocking”
“All Down the Line”
“Honky Tonk Woman”
“Beast of Burden”
“Can’t Always Get”
“Its All Over Now”
“Little Red Rooster”
“Not Fade Away”
“She’s So Cold”
“Worried About You”
“Paint it Black”
“The Last Time”
Neil Young’s memoir Waging Heavy Peace is already acclaimed. An audiobook version is out also, read by actor Keith Carradine, brother of David and part of the Carradine acting dynasty. Carradine may seem an odd choice to some, but he’s long been a musician himself. In 1975, he performed his own song “I'm Easy” in the movie Nashville – it won a Golden Globe and an Oscar.
Rolling Stone says, “Waging Heavy Peace isn't a traditional rock memoir. Written throughout 2011, it addresses everything from the recent Crazy Horse reunion back to the formation of Buffalo Springfield – but it's presented in a completely non-linear way. Young also stops the narrative from time to time to complain about the audio quality of MP3s and go into detail about his on-going electric car project. The end result is a glimpse right into Young's brain.”
Listen to Keith Carradine reading Neil Young below.
November 6 sees the release of Aerosmith’s 15th album, Music From Another Dimension. Guitarist Brad Whitford says, “the band has been playing better than ever.”
Speaking to Guitar International, Whitford explains, “We had an initial writing session for this CD about a year and half ago, where we worked up seven or eight songs with [songwriter] Marti Frederiksen in L.A. We had a good vibe right from that start and were having a lot of fun doing it.
“From there we went into the studio with Jack Douglas [producer] a few months later. We had a tremendous amount of ideas to work with I think even the band was surprised at the result.”
Brad Whitford says it was a team effort: “Everybody came to the session with lots of ideas. Everybody contributed to the record.” He admits there are many older riffs on the album, but only now have Aerosmith managed to turn them into proper tracks.
“Street Jesus” and “Out Go the Lights”… some of those riffs we have been jamming with for a long time but never quite figured out where they were going to go. With the help of Jack Douglas, we were able to finally turn them into songs instead of just riffs.”
He added: “I think it might be one of the better CDs that we have ever done. Lots of times you make a CD and end up with one or two tracks that you’re not totally happy with. And that typically that has to do with how much materials you have to work with. We had an enormous amount of material.”
Fleetwood Mac singer Stevie Nicks spoke to ABC News Radio about what's in store for the band in the near future, and if it all pans out it is some pretty exciting news. Said Nicks, "We go into rehearsals somewhere around the end of February. So ... if everything goes to plan, we should probably be out [on the road] by end of April [or] May, I would think."
There is also talk of the band recording some new music according to Nicks: "Well, actually, maybe like two songs, maybe four, who knows? We don't really know yet 'cause we're not in the world of Fleetwood Mac yet."
If the band does decide to record a couple of new songs, it may seem that they're going the same route as The Rolling Stones who tacked on a couple of new songs to their new greatest hits album.
Legendary Aerosmith axeman Joe Perry has dropped a few hints as to what we can expect when he publishes his autobiography, probably some time in 2013, and revealed that he's been hitting the books pretty hard to make sure he knows what he's doing.
Perry is writing the book with David Ritz, who has collaborated on books with B.B. King, Jerry Wexler and Bettye LaVette.
Perry told reporters, "It's going to be my story, but it's also entwined with Aerosmith and relationships there and the how and the why of that kind of stuff. People have been asking me about it for the last probably five or 10 years… I'll definitely take a different path than the other guys, the way they put their books together."
Perry says he's been reading other rock biographies and autobiographies ("probably 40"), to get a feel for what works and what doesn't. "I hope this one works," he said. "There's a lot to fit into 600 pages or whatever it's gonna be. I'm pretty excited."
The new Aerosmith album, Music From Another Dimension, will be released on November 6 by Columbia Records. I've been lucky enough to hear it when I interviewed bass player Tom Hamilton recently, and without wanting to give too much away, let's just say that there's something on there for anyone who ever loved anything about Aerosmith. If you're into the ‘70s stuff, there's something for you. If you like the big radio ballads, you're covered. And if you like the Pump/Get A Grip era, you're all set!
Z.Z. Top’s new album La Futura is a study in retro-cool. It’s a return to the down-and-dirty songwriting and arranging that was the foundation of the band’s career during their first decade of recording, the ’70s, and a throwback study in guitar tones that extends two decades beyond that, when giants like Lightnin’ Hopkins, John Lee Hooker, Frankie Lee Sims, Fred McDowell and other vintage electric bluesmen perfected the art of story telling with three chords — sometimes just one — and six-string sounds that spoke volumes.
Z.Z. Top’s guitar maven Billy Gibbons absorbed all of those sounds and has the uncanny ability to apply them to music that’s both deeply rooted and appealingly popular. He’s learned something about the rewards and beauty of keeping the past alive and connected to the present, and on a recent visit to Nashville he shared some of his insights. Here’s what Pearly Gates’ poppa has to say about:
• The Virtues Of Vinyl Albums: “The rawness and the richness of music on vinyl almost went away… but it still seems to be on a lot of people’s radar and for good reason. It does something different than more accessible means of music playing, like MP3 players and downloads and whatnot. You get in front of these archaic contraptions that go ’round and ’round… It’s mesmerizing, not only to look at, but to sit back and experience.
“[Part of my vinyl collection] had to be rescued. We were in England and I was notified to call my assistant Denise. She said, ‘Well there’s been a horrific rainstorm and that flat roof of your condo sprung a leak. I was retrieving the mail and I saw something that looked like a garden hose spraying straight into the room.’ She called the handyman and they were able to put the valuables aside, but part of the rain went right into a column of vinyl.
“Water doesn’t hurt a vinyl record. Put it into a dishwasher and you’re fine. But the paper began to mold and my secretary, being rather protective, decided it was unsafe and threw them all away. I was able to rescue several garbage bags. It was just one column, but it happened to be a column of favorites. I ordered up a bunch of plain white sleeves to put them in and they were fine.
“I’ll turn one track into a two-hour listening session. It’s that obsessive thing — the passion and obsessiveness that can enter one’s pathology when it comes to vinyl and tubes and all this crusty stuff.”
• Memphis As Music Mecca: “How did Memphis become this musical melting pot? As the African-American exodus to leave Mississippi started building up steam to head up to Chicago — where it was a little more open and job opportunities were better — very few people had enough money to have an automobile or even to get a bus ticket, so walking out of Mississippi was the way to get on your way. From the Delta, Memphis was about as far as you could make it on one set of soles. That was a great stopping spot, with Beale Street and the nightlife. The attraction must have been beyond imagination.
“I heard a story… Freddie King and Little Walter walked… you know the [Howlin’ Wolf] song ‘I Walked from Dallas.’ I think Freddie did a version. Word has it that Freddie King and Little Walter walked from Texas to Chicago. Maybe not all the way, but significantly…”
• The Gift Of Performing: “There is something remarkably mesmerizing about getting to do what we get to do. It’s beyond design. We’re just drawn to it. And there are those moments when, I don’t know how to describe it, but you’re just enjoyably drawn to get it out. It’s beyond yourself.”
• British Blues: “The British have a tendency to take whatever subject they plow into down to the genetics, and blues was no exception. But they were getting blues records much, much later, when the art form itself here in the United States ran the risk of being abandoned. Then the Rolling Stones, the Pretty Things, a lot of these groups — especially John Mayall, who was the leading exponent of hard-core electric blues experimentation — made it so appealing and re-popularized the art form. I call it the ‘Great Salvation.’ They are to be credited for the salvation of this art form that was nearly extinct.”
• The Dirty Joy Of Vintage Blues Tones: “If we had to cite a window of calendar dates… let’s pick 1950 to 1960. In 1950 the biggest amp you could get was no bigger than a tabletop radio. Imagine trying to be heard in a joint with people screamin’ and shufflin’ their feet and bottles breakin’. You had to take that amp and turn it up all the way. When you’d get up past that ‘acceptable’ point you’d get into the land of distortion, which is where it really gets groovy. And I don’t think it was intentional. I think they just wanted to be heard.”
• Being Yourself: “There are two premises to aspire to. Number one: learn to play what you want to hear. And two: know what you want to hear and then go after it.
If you were to use one word to describe southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd, “resilience” is what first comes to mind for me. A plane crash in 1977 which took the lives of singer Ronnie Van Zant and guitarist Steve Gaines put an abrupt end to the band's initial line-up. But somehow they managed to pick up the pieces and reunited ten years later with Ronnie's brother Johnny Van Zant on vocals and have been touring and putting out new music ever since. The band recently released Last of a Dyin' Breed, their thirteenth studio album. Here we're listing ten Skynyrd facts you may not have heard of before.
1. Ronnie the Baseball Player
When original Lynyrd Skynyrd singer Ronnie Van Zant was growing up he wasn't initially looking to become a musician. The Lynyrd Skynyrd History Official Website report that Ronnie wanted to be a baseball player growing up. Said Ronnie in 1975: “I went as far as playing American Legion ball. The next stop would have been AA (minor league baseball). I played centerfield. I had the highest batting average in the league one year and a good arm - you've got to have a good arm to play outfield. Gary was good too, but he gave it all up when he got to like the Rolling Stones.”
2. Gary Rossington – a Les Paul Man
Gary Rossington, who is the sole surviving original member of Lynyrd Skynyrd these days, is a Les Paul man through-and-through. Rossington is best known for his slide guitar work with the band. Earlier in the year, he spoke to Gibson.com and had some interesting things to say about his slide tunings: “Most of the time I use standard tuning for slide. Early on, we didn’t have the time to change tunings on stage, plus I only had one guitar back then, so I learned to play slide in standard. But I like to play in open E a lot.”
3. Sweet Home Alabama
“Sweet Home Alabama” - probably the most well known Skynyrd song, was written as a response to the two Neil Young songs “Southern Man” and “Alabama.” In “Southern Man” Young sings about racism in the American South, with the line “Southern Man, when will you pay them back?” In “Sweet Home Alabama” right after Ronnie sings, “Well, I heard Mr. Young sing about her” you can faintly hear the words “Southern Man” being sung in the background. This was producer Al Kooper imitating Young. Despite what one might believe, there was no animosity between Young and Skynyrd. In fact, Ronnie would wear Neil Young t-shirts on stage, and Young said of “Sweet Home Alabama” in Lee Ballinger's Lynyrd Skynyrd: An Oral History “I'm proud to have my name in a song like theirs.”
4. Coach Skinner
The origin of the name Lynyrd Skynyrd is fairly common knowledge, but it has such an amusing back story that it's worth repeating. The band tried a number of different names when they started out, such as My Backyard, The Noble Five, and One Percent. The guys eventually settled on naming their band after the gym coach responsible for Gary Rossington quitting high school after being suspended for wearing his hair too long, Leonard Skinner. The spelling of the name was eventually changed to Lynard Skynard, before it became Lynyrd Skynyrd.
5. Another Neil Young Connection
In Lee Balinger's book Lynyrd Skynyrd: An Oral History, movie director and former Rolling Stone rock writer Cameron Crowe talks about how Neil Young once offered up three songs for Lynyrd Skynyrd to record: “Neil Young gave a tape to Joel Bernstein to give to me which I gave to Ronnie, that had three songs on it – 'Captain Kennedy,' 'Sedan Delivery,' and 'Powderfinger' – before they’d come out. And he wanted to give them to Lynyrd Skynyrd if they wanted to do one of his songs. They didn’t fit on Street Survivors.” The songs eventually ended up on the Neil Young albums Rust Never Sleeps and Hawks & Doves.
6. Free Bird
Lynyrd Skynyrd's second Top 40 hit “Free Bird” was written around the opening piano riff that Ronnie Van Zant had heard future Skynyrd keyboardist Billy Powell play at a high school prom. The lyrics were written around something that guitarist Allen Collins' then-girlfriend, and future wife Kathy had said, which made an impact on the musician “If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?” Although the song was written before his death, Ronnie came to dedicate “Free Bird” to his hero Duane Allman after he passed away in 1971.
7. Plane Crash The end of the original line-up of Lynyrd Skynyrd came as a result of that tragic plane crash on October 20 1977. The crash, which was a result of the plane running out of fuel, claimed the lives of band members Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, and Steve's older sister Cassie who was working as the band's backing singer, with the rest of the band being severely injured.
8. A Black Crowe in the Band
The newest member of Lynyrd Skynyrd is bassist Johnny Colt. Fans of southern rock will recognize him, since he was the original bass player for The Black Crowes. Colt played bass on the band's first four albums. Here's what Gary Rossington had to say about Colt in an interview with Gibson.com: “He’s a great bass player. He plays all the songs the way we used to do ’em, just like Leon [Wilkerson, Skynyrd’s original bassist], who was a big influence on Johnny when he was coming up. He is a real high energy guy and smart and interesting.”
9. Gimme Back My Bullets
The title track from Gimme Back My Bullets was a reference to the system by which music publications review albums. For example, reviewers might rate an album on a scale of 1 to 5 bullets, or stars. However, the Skynyrd crowd took the phrase literally and would throw actual bullets on stage when Ronnie would announce the song. This would ultimately force the band to stop including the song in their set.
10. Gary Rossington on Songwriting
Here's what Gary had to say about composing all those classic Skynyrd songs in an interview with Guitar World: “We used a lot of D-C-G progressions...There’s only seven chords, so you got to use the same ones over and over. It’s all in what you do with them. I could write a dozen different songs with the same three or four chords but they’d all be entirely different.” Sounds simple enough doesn't it?
The mostly-reunited Black Sabbath (Bill Ward is still holding out over contract disputes) are now back at work on the album they began last year.
Over the weekend, Sharon Osbourne appeared on Merrick & The Highway Patrol, a show on Australian rock station Triple M. When asked about the status of Sabbath, Sharon said the band was in the studio right now with producer Rick Rubin (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica, Slayer).
Earlier in the year, Ozzy Osbourne told NME.com the band had written about 15 songs, and added that "next year, 2013, is a good clue to what we're going to call the album."
Sharon also mentioned that the band will "definitely" tour Australia in the spring of 2013, although she didn't say whether she mean in the northern hemisphere spring or local spring. The latter would put such a tour around twelve months from now. It would be Black Sabbath's first Australian tour since the 1970s, although Iommi/Butler/Dio/Appice offshoot Heaven And Hell toured in 2007.
Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones have been talking about Celebration Day, the forthcoming DVD and album of their 2007 live reunion.
In new interviews with The Guardian newspaper, Page says: "This was going to be a critical show. We only had one shot at it, so we needed to go out there and do it really well. There was a lot of listening to be done, there was a lot of communication – nods and winks, and you can see this generate through the course of the evening to the point where we're really communicating through the music."
Jones adds: “You need to be that close. There's a lot going on, a lot to concentrate on and focus on. Plus, I like to feel the wind from the bass drum.”
Robert Plant seems less celebratory. He says his time in Zeppelin was “just kind of narrating some bits and pieces which hold together some great instrumentation." He later says, "There was nothing cerebral about what I was doing at all."
But Jones appreciates the Zep allure. "There was a Zeppelin swagger, definitely," he says. “We knew we were good. At our best, we thought we could be a match for any band on the planet. And at our worst, we were better than most of them."
Led Zeppelin Celebration Day is out in November. Led Zeppelin have no plans for further shows.
Deep Purple are up for possible induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but former guitarist Ritchie Blackmore says he “couldn't care less.”
Blackmore was a key member of Deep Purple from their inception in 1968 until 1975 and again from 1984 to 1993. He now fronts the folk-based Blackmore's Night with his wife, Candice. A deluxe and expanded edition of classic Deep Purple album Machine Head has just been issued.
But Blackmore told Billboard, “Personally, I couldn't care less. I would never go. I'm not really a fan of that stuff. Considering some of the people that are in the Hall of Fame, I'm not sure if it's a good idea, so I don't care one way or the other, actually.
“I think our fans seem to care more than I do. They're always saying, 'You should be in the Hall of Fame. You should be in this, you should be in that.' If I can pay the bills, that's all I care about.”
So, this is pretty exciting, although it won't take place in Northern California. The Stones have announced four dates. Two in London, and two in New Jersey. The last date, December 15th will be on Pay Per View.
Former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash is currently on the road with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, but he’s also keeping busy working on the score for Nothing to Fear, the debut project being produced for his movie production company, Slasher Films.
Via some messages posted on Slasher Films’ Facebook page, the Les Paul loyalist revealed that in the past week, he’s been working hard on music for the flick with director Anthony Leonardi III and composer Nick O'Toole.
Last week, Slash posted that O’Toole, Leonardi and he “had a creative revelation w/the score last night; it's going to be fantastic.” He added that he had “recorded some guitar parts for [Nothing to Fear],” and that the parts were “sounding so cool.” He also posted a photo of O’Toole, Leonardi and himself in the studio. Sounds like a fitting project for the month of Halloween!
Nothing to Fear depicts the tale of a family involved with supernatural forces in a Kansas town. As reported in the Internet Movie Database, the film is slated to arrive in 2013.
What’s your favorite Slash solo, whether it’s from his GN’R days or with his solo project? Give us your picks in the comments section below!
John Lennon was one of the greatest songwriters of the rock and roll era, with or without Paul McCartney and with or without The Beatles.
His legacy of Fab Four albums and solo recordings is staggeringly lyrical, emotionally complex and as often raw as it is achingly beautiful. It’s hard to believe the same guy who tugged six-minute symphonies of feedback from his Epiphone Casinowith the Plastic Ono Band also was the architect of the acoustic Gibson J-160E-based “Norwegian Wood” and the textural, piano-driven “Imagine.”
Lennon’s creative juggernaut was getting back under full steam when a hail of bullets from a madman’s gun destroyed his life on December 8, 1980. If Lennon had lived, he’d be 70 today, October 9, and would likely have at least doubled his catalog.
Although George Harrison’s skill as The Beatles’ lead guitarist was monumental, Lennon was no six-string slouch. And there’s a pile of killer, guitar-driven songs – some strident, others as comforting as lullabies – that hang on the bespectacled composer’s own superbly honed playing. In celebration of Lennon’s birthday, here are 10 songs that display Lennon’s guitar gifts:
The B-side of “Hey Jude” is a defining moment in rock and roll thanks to its blend of distortion and politics – two things Lennon was a genius at expressing. This tune features one of the nastiest tones to ever emerge from an Epiphone Casino, from the staccato introduction to the raging string bends at the song’s climax. Footnote: the band’s live promotional clip for “Revolution” also including Harrison laying into the 1957 Les Paul Standard, refinished in crimson, he got as a gift from Eric Clapton.
“Come Together” (1969)
The opening track on Abbey Road name checks another master of monster riffage – bluesman Muddy Waters. But it’s Lennon’s own raw rhythm guitar that chopped this tune into history. “Come Together” also became an on-stage tour-de-force for Lennon post-Beatles, captured in all its nasty glory on the Live in New York City concert film and soundtrack.
Simplicity can be a beautiful thing, as this single and album title track proves. Lennon’s edgy, lightly distorted rhythm drives the tune. Add Harrison’s descending licks and the one-two punch is unbeatable. Lennon called this song and “Strawberry Fields Forever” his most genuine Beatles songs – music written from the heart that was perfect for the group.
“Day Tripper” (1965)
Lennon wrote this song on demand, when it was deemed that The Beatles needed a new entry for the Christmas singles market. His circular riff is its backbone and his tongue is firmly in cheek. The lyrics play on both the holiday traveler and the dabbler in drugs, but it’s nearly three minutes of bliss either way.
“The Ballad of John and Yoko” (1969)
Here’s a pure dose of Lennon’s guitar. Harrison was on vacation when the tune was recorded, and Ringo was also out, leaving the drums to McCartney. Lennon plays two lead lines on his Epiphone Casino, including the ascending and descending solo lines, and there’s also a bed of acoustic guitar played on his Gibson J-160E.
“Instant Karma” (1970)
Lennon wrote and recorded this song in one day with his J-160E in Abbey Road Studios – and with a little help from his friends: Phil Spector on the soundboard, Harrison on lead guitar, Billy Preston on piano, Klaus Voorman on bass, Alan White on drums and, of course, Yoko on backing vocals.
“Working Class Hero” (1970)
An acoustic masterpiece from Lennon’s first post-Beatles album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. This cultural protest anthem has lyrics that cut deeply into the fabric of conventional wisdom, and the sword Lennon used was three simple chords: A-minor, G and D.
“Cold Turkey” (1969)
Lennon’s second solo single is a harrowing first-person account of kicking drug addiction. Before the studio version was released in October, the song also was captured for the Plastic Ono Band’s Live Peace in Toronto album. The bone-chilling riff strikes like a rattlesnake, and the whole song revolves around the serpentine twine of Lennon’s and Eric Clapton’s guitars. An odd range of artists have covered “Cold Turkey,” including jazz saxist Freddie Hubbard, Cheap Trick and The Godfathers.
“I’m Losing You” (1980)
With its crunching wall of rhythm guitars, arpeggio riff and braying lead guitar hooks, this was Lennon’s final six-string masterpiece from his last album, the Yoko collaboration Double Fantasy. The album also features session ace Hugh McCracken.
Pete Townshend appeared last night (Oct. 9) at Barnes & Noble in New York’s Union Square to talk about his new autobiography, Who I Am: A Memoir. At one point, Townshend spoke about the difficulties The Who have faced without Keith Moon and John Entwistle. “We feel the ghosts of Keith and John," he said. "The second phase of The Who in a sense was really when we started to tour again around the year 2000, 2001. We were still able to evoke the sound, particularly with [drummer] Zak Starkey. Now it's much more difficult even though Zak's there. John's sound was very big and rich and organic. When John died, there was a hole in the sound onstage and I was able to grow into that and find space. And I have to say as a guitar player, I prefer working without John. But as a member of The Who creating the incredible, powerful, driving, visceral sound, he's gone. I can't really do that again."
Townshend also said he’s put production duties for the upcoming Quadrophenia tour into the hands of Roger Daltrey. “He’s working on a new dramatic scenario for it,” Townshend said, “working on a new video, trying to find a way to be comfortable being the narrator.”
Speculation about The Rolling Stones staging a series of 50th anniversary shows continues to move toward reality. In a new interview with Q Magazine, Keith Richards says, “We've got some shows in London, I believe, and in New York, but I really can't talk about any of that at the moment. They've put the gag on me on this. You can hint!" Even more enticing are comments made by longtime Stones sax player Bobby Keys. In a just-published interview with Billboard, Keys said the band was "gonna do some more concerts, starting in November with two in England and then a couple here in the States, then there's a few added concerts after that. Keith told me a couple months ago there was something in the wind and just be ready to go. I'm waiting for them to send me the plane ticket and the information, and then I'll go."
A new Stones compilation set, GRRR!, is set for release November 12. “Doom and Gloom,” the first new song released by the band in seven years, comes out as a digital download tomorrow (Thursday, Oct. 11).
Jimi Hendrix's sister Janie has shared some new stories about her late famous brother. She spoke candidly to Music Radar about how Jimi's father reacted to the news of his son taking up singing: “Jimi never thought he was much of a singer. My dad was a decent singer and he could be brutally honest. He would say, ‘You can’t sing, so it’s good you can play guitar.’ He was very supportive of him in the guitar arena, but he was just being honest.
“When Jimi was going to England he was all excited, telling my dad: ‘They’re putting a group behind me – I’m off to the big time. I’m going to change the spelling of my name, and guess what? They want me to sing!’
“My dad was like, ‘Oh, goodness!’ But Jimi said, ‘They’re all just hollering out there, so I’m gonna holler like the rest of them.’”
Well, it's a good thing Jimi defied his father and went out there hollering anyway; since it turned out he had quite a knack for it!
When news broke that Led Zeppelin would be releasing Celebration Day, a DVD of their 2007 reunion concert, speculation among the band's fans as well as the media immediately started whether the release would be followed by a new tour. Now Jimmy Page has put those rumors to rest once and for all.
Page told Rolling Stone in an interview: “I think if there had been any more concerts to be done, we'd already be talking about them. So I don't see it... [Celebration Day] is a testament to what we did in 2007. There it is.”
Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones mused on Celebration Day, saying that it is “almost like being onstage with us.” Jones expanded further on Led Zeppelin in the Seventies: “We always had that interaction, but nobody could see it, because the lighting wasn't there.”
Deep Purple’s new boxset of classic album Machine Head is released October 8. It is a comprehensive 5-disc set of the lauded album - it includes multiple versions of the classic 1972 recording and a live album recorded in Paris 40 years ago.
Here’s what you get:
CD1:Machine Head original album 2012 remaster CD2: 1997 remix by Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover CD3: Original album in Quad SQ stereo (2012 remaster) CD4:In Concert '72 - 2012 Mix (recorded live at Paris Theatre, London on March 9, 1972) DVD: 2012 high-resolution remaster and surround mix
The companion 60-page hardback book contains detailed essays from original bassist Roger Glover and Phil Alexander of Mojo magazine, along with a series of quotes, and an interview with photographer Didi Zill whose pictures embellish the book.
Released in March of 1972, Machine Head was famously recorded through December 1971 in Montreux, Switzerland. The location became the central storyline of “Smoke on the Water,” which outlined the tale of Deep Purple watching the Montreux Casino burn down during a performance by Frank Zappa.
Pete Townshend’s frank autobiography, Who I Am, is out 11 October. And speaking to The Sun newspaper he says his father told him he’d never make it. Why? Because he couldn’t read music.
'”Around the time of my [school exam] ’11-Plus’ my father didn't think I would ever be a musician because I couldn't read music,” says Townshend. “Although I was strumming around on my guitar, he felt I was hopeless and was encouraging me to write instead.”
Townshend’s father, also a musician, wanted Pete to become a journalist instead. After 100 million albums sold, Townshend thinks it is now much harder for aspiring musicians.
''Today, we see kids who can't afford to leave home. When my flatmate, Barney, and I got thrown out of our flat, we didn't know how to wash up or pay the rent, but it wasn't that we didn't have the money. We were never there when the landlord came so we just didn't bother to pay. One day the locks were changed. Now, many young people can't even get on the [property] ladder.”
Who I Am is very frank. The Who mastermind talks about music, his relationships with Who bandmates, “fancying” Mick Jagger, his Monterey “face-off” with Jimi Hendrix and his own spiritual quests.
Townshend writes, "My spiritual longings were constantly under siege by all-too-worldly ambitions, undermined by scepticism and ambivalence, and challenged by my sexual yearnings… I could also behave, frankly, like a complete axxxhole."
Around 10-15% of the world’s people are left-handed. Why so few? No-one knows. Yet studies show that mathematicians, musicians, architects, and artists are more commonly left-handers than would be expected. When it comes to guitarists, that certainly seems to be true. Let’s look at guitar’s left-handers… some obvious, but others you’d never even know.
The obvious biggies first – Jimi Hendrix, Tony Iommi, Kurt Cobain, Paul McCartney and many more play left-handed. But it wasn’t always easy for some of them...
Jimi Hendrix was naturally left-handed but his father, Al, initially tried to force the young James to play right-handed. Al Hendrix reportedly believed playing left-handed was a sign of the devil. Why so? It has its roots in language. “Sinister”, in ancient Latin, means “left” and also “unlucky” – in modern times someone “sinister” is un-trusted or even evil. These linguistic oddities persist. “Right” means “correct” in English, obviously. In French, “gauche” means both “left” and “awkward.” So, even in language, left-handers get a bum deal.
Jimi Hendrix tended to write right-handed – there are photos of Jimi signing autographs and writing lyrics right-handed. And Jimi did learn to play guitar right-handed, as demanded by his father Al. Jimi modified his first (right-handed) guitars for his natural leftism – restringing and changing the nut. But when Al was around, he felt he had to play a right-handed guitar simply flipped over (treble E at the top). So Jimi taught himself to be “both-handed.”
Free’s Paul Kossoff, when he was a young guitar salesman in London, once recalled Jimi circa 1967 trying a guitar in the shop where Koss worked, and simply flipping it over so the treble E was closest to his face. And Hendrix still played brilliantly. Maybe all this explains why Jimi could play just about anything on the guitar?
Paul McCartney’s “handedness” has become something of a legend. Philip Norman, author of Shout!, the 1981 biography of The Beatles borrows heavily from Hunter Davies (their authorized biographer) and muddies the myths about McCartney.
In Davies’s (1968) book he says: "His [Paul's] guitar cost £15 and Paul couldn't get anything out of it at first. There seemed to be something wrong with it. Then he realized it was because he was left- handed. He took it back and got it altered. "
And here's Norman (1981): "Paul, strangely, made little progress [at the guitar]. His left-hand fingers found it irksome to shape the patterns of black dots shown in the tuition book, and his right hand, somehow, lacked the bounce necessary for strumming. Then he made the discovery that, although right-handed for every other purpose, he was left-handed as a guitar player."
But the myths never went away. In #7 of The Beatles’ Anthology movies, Paul is seen playing right-handed. Which led some to believe the myth that Paul is Dead, and that the man playing is a lookalike stand-in. Now that’s just weird…
Yet Paul McCartney in 1963 said: "The only thing I couldn't cure myself of was being left-handed. I do everything with my left hand, and no matter how I try I can't change the habit. I just seem to do everything back to front. I used to even write backwards.”
McCartney eventually answered questions about it all. In 1986, he simply stated, “I'm quite definitely left-handed.” Then again, McCartney is able to sign autographs with his right hand. Some even suggest the way Paul folds his arms implies a natural right-hander. Like Jimi Hendrix, maybe McCartney doesn’t care too much and he has more talented hands than most of us?
Gibson Les Paul trivia? Paul McCartney’s left-handed 1960 sunburst Gibson Les Paul is one of only a few made in that year. Gibson didn’t even reverse the “Les Paul Model” logo on the lefty headstocks back then (so the logo is upside down).
So, a 1960 sunburst Les Paul = very rare. Left-handed = super rare. Owned and played by Paul McCartney = mega fab rare. If McCartney’s 1960 Gibson Les Paul ever came up for auction, you’d pay your right arm for it. Or would that be your left arm?
Blues legend Albert King was not only left-handed, he was an upside-down player. King played right-handed guitars (usually Gibson Flying Vs) simply flipped over, so the low E string was nearest his feet. He also used unorthodox tunings, as low as C to allow him to make sweeping string bends.
And techniques differ. Since King played his guitar upside down and not restrung, he would pull the high-E down to bend a note. Many medical studies suggest this makes more sense anyway, as human fingers are “better” at gripping than pushing away.
In most ways, King did everything in reverse – guitars, stringing, bending techniques and chord voicings. That he managed all that and still cemented his place in blues legend is impressive indeed. “I knew I was going to have to create my own style because I couldn’t make the changes and the chords the same as a right-handed man could,” King recalled.
Otis Rush was the same – but he often played left-hand made Gibson ES-355s but modified them for “upside down” stringing. So Rush got the controls on the ES-335’s lower bout, even if his strings were reversed.
Surf legend Dick Dale and Doyle Bramhall II (Eric Clapton’s band, Arc Angels and solo artist) also play “upside down” stringing.
Lefties take a swerve
You’ll see Duane Allman, Mark Knopfler, Danny Gatton, Billy Corgan, Michael Bloomfield, Gary Moore and Noel Gallagher play guitar right-handed. So which is naturally left-handed? Answer = all of them.
Guitar can be a strange instrument in many ways. If you are right-handed, your more-dextrous right hand often does less work (unless you are a devoted fingerpicker or classical player.) Why is it “normal” for guitar players to fret notes/melodies/chords with their “weakest” hand?
For Mark Knopfler it was the way he was taught – he started as a young musician playing violin right-handed violin, and when he took up the guitar it seemed easiest to continue. Michael Bloomfield remembered, “I was left-handed and I couldn’t play well. I took lessons for about a year, a year or so. I learned rhythm.” When he played right-handed, he got better. Billy Corgan can sign autographs with his left-hand.
Does leftism matter?
Possibly not. But left-handedness can get you places. Of the last five U.S. Presidents, three (Obama, Clinton, Bush Snr.) are lefties. The downside? Lefties are apparently three-times more likely to suffer from alcoholism.
Any right-handers out there who play guitar left-handed? Or vice-versa? Or both? Scientists believe preferred “handedness” is established at six months of age in an infant. So we guess that if you want to find out you favored way of playing guitar, you better pick up that axe very early…
Goofball fact of it all? Avenged Sevenfold’s guitarist “Synyster Gates” is not even left-handed, despite his stage name. But Avenged Sevenfold’s co-guitarist “Zacky Vengeance” is.
The longstanding rockers are competing for induction into the Rock Hall alongside Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Randy Newman, Procol Harum, Donna Summer, Kraftwerk, the Meters, Chic, Albert King, the Marvelettes and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Rap groups Public Enemy and N.W.A. are also in the mix.
The 2013 inductees will be unveiled in mid-December with the induction ceremony to take place April 18 in Los Angeles.
Who do you want to see make it into the Rock Hall next year? Let us know your picks in the comments section below!
Sir Paul McCartney made a stop at a showing of the newly restored adaptation of the Beatles’ 1967 film Magical Mystery Tour that happened Tuesday night (Oct. 2) at the British Film Institute in London.
As NME.com reports, the famed Beatle sat next to Giles Martin, the son of Fab Four producer George Martin, at the showing.
A few other stars joined McCartney in attendance, including former Jam singer Paul Weller, former Oasis singer Liam Gallagher and Monty Python member Terry Jones. An interesting mix, don’t you think?
According to a message Tweeted out by Giles, the film “sounded fantastic.”
The refurbished Magical Mystery Tour is set to arrive on DVD and Blu-ray this Tuesday (Oct. 9). As for what to expect, the DVD will feature a plethora of bonus material, such as new interviews with McCartney and Ringo Starr, special remarks by Sir Paul, previously deleted scenes, a making-of documentary and more.
Fans can get a taste of the newly reworked Magical Mystery Tour via a segment up at TheSpace.org.
On the subject of McCartney, check out his 1964 Texan guitar from Epiphone here!
Dave Grohl has emphatically refuted speculation that the Foo Fighters are splitting up, saying instead the band is merely taking a break. “I can’t give up this band,” Grohl wrote yesterday, in a letter that’s since been posted on the Foo Fighters Facebook page. “And I never will. Because it’s not just a band to me. It's my life. It's my family. It's my world.”
Comments made by Grohl on Saturday at the Global Citizen Festival in New York had fueled talk of a break-up. In his letter, Grohl says the decision to go on hiatus was a healthy one. “It's a good thing for all of us to go away for a while,” he says. “It's one of the reasons we're still here.” Grohl went on to say he will be focusing on his Sound City documentary film and album project.
BB King: The Life of Riley will be released in movie theaters across the U.K. on October 15. The movie is directed and produced by Jon Brewer, and tells the story of how young B.B. went from being a Mississippi cotton farmer to becoming King of the Blues.
Morgan Freeman serves as the movies narrator and it includes contributions by the likes of Eric Clapton, Slash, and Bill Wyman. Brewer also had full access to B.B.'s friends and family while making the movie.
B.B. King's guitar of choice for most of his career has been the Gibson ES-355. King has named every guitar that he's played Lucille, which refers to an event from his early career where two men who were fighting over a woman by that name inadvertently knocked over a barrel of kerosene and ended up burning down the dance hall where King was playing.
Gibson launched the B.B. King Lucille model in 1980. Perhaps the most noticeable aspect of the Gibson B.B. King Lucille is the lack of F-holes - a feature that B.B. requested in order to minimize feedback.
Dick Taylor of The Pretty Things was also one of the original members of the Rolling Stones, or as they were then the Rollin Stones (no “g”).
Music-News.com reports that Taylor explained the spelling to Noise.com: “Yeah because ‘Rollin' Stone Blues’ was how it was spelt on the Muddy Waters record. I noticed in the very first gig we ever did it was billed as Mick Jagger and the Rollin' Stones.
Taylor also remembers the shy Keith Richards joining up. “I was involved with Mick from a very early age. Then when I went to Art School I met Keith Richards. There I was at art school at the age of 16 and still rehearsing with Mick. Keith was playing guitar. He was fascinated by Scotty Moore. He was too shy to suggest he come around to rehearse with us until one day he and Mick caught up with each other. They had known each other when they were really young. At that point we decided to get him round. Then we had Mick, myself and Keith playing together for quite a while. Then we met Brian Jones and the Rolling Stones came together'.
Author Philip Norman claims that the infamous raid at Redlands where both Mick Jagger and Keith Richards where arrested for drug possession in February 1967 was in fact a carefully orchestrated plot by the British secret service and the FBI, according to a report by Classic Rock.
Norman spoke about the plot to the Daily Mail, telling them how a man named David Snyderman, who was known to the Stones as 'Acid King David' was arrested at Heathrow Airport for drug possession.
The MI5 supposedly gave Snyderman a deal which meant he would get off free if he helped them in orchestrating the arrests of Jagger and Richards by acting as their drug dealer. The ultimate goal for the FBI was supposedly to make sure the Rolling Stones would not be permitted to enter the U.S. on account of being convicted of drug possession.
Both of the 'Glimmer Twins' did do time as a result of the arrests, but thankfully it did nothing to stop the Rolling Stones on either side of the Atlantic. Just imagine if the world had been deprived of such masterpieces as Exile on Main St. and Sticky Fingers. Would the music scene be different today if those albums that inspired so many musicians had never been released?
Guns N' Roses singer Axl Rose has agreed to do an interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live on October 24. Axl is appearing in order to promote then band’s upcoming residency at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, where GNR will be doing 12 shows between October 31 and November 24.
Rose's appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live will be his first live TV interview in over 20 years.
The tag “guitar legend” is sometimes thrown around. But it is truly deserved for Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi. A quiet-spoken riff machine, Iommi is a guitar great. His agile but doomy riffs have influenced Metallica, Nirvana, Eddie Van Halen, Zakk Wylde, Queens of the Stone Age and just about every metal band you can think of. But what of the man himself? And what of new Black Sabbath songs?
Tony Iommi recently published his must-read memoirs, Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven And Hell with Black Sabbath. It contains some near-unbelievable stories: drugs, the Mafia, knife fights, Iommi setting fire to Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward, killing Virgin mogul Richard Branson’s prize carp fish with Sabbath pyrotechnics, that Spinal Tap-inspiring Stonehenge stage set, even auditioning Michael Bolton as Black Sabbath singer (true!) … and, of course, all the guaranteed craziness you’d expect from a band involving Ozzy Osbourne.
Iommi is calmer these days. Gibson.com talked with Iommi during his recent Iron Man book-signing tour of the U.S. And at a bookstore in New Jersey, Iommi confesses that the promotional work is tougher than he thought: “Compared to playing music, this is hard work!” he chuckles. “You’re meeting different people all day, there’s lots of interviews… I’m pretty tired of it already. But I’ll keep going. But I’m definitely ready for bed after a day of constant promotion.”
Iommi remained guarded about a Black Sabbath reunion – this interview took place just prior to the official announcement that Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward will hold a press conference at L.A.’s Whiskey A Go Go on 11/11 (at 11:11 a.m.!). Let’s just say the original Black Sabbath foursome are not holding a press conference to say: “We’re never getting back together.” Iommi admits that the four have recently played together.
Read the whole interview, read between the lines. It looks like new Black Sabbath – and not just past hits – is on the way…
Why write your book now?
I just had the time. I wanted to do a book 20 years ago, but I knocked it on the head because I got too busy playing music. But I had the time recently, and I started it about two years ago.
Were you surprised about how much you remembered about life in Black Sabbath?
I actually remember a lot about the past. Ozzy’s the same. It’s yesterday I can’t remember. It was hard going back to when I was a kid, it was hard to open up. I’ve never really spoken about my personal life. When I read back what I’d written and talked about, it was like reading someone else’s story.
Your book jacket’s testimonies are impressive – Eddie Van Halen calls you “the creator of heavy,” James Hetfield salutes you as “the Riffmeister,” Brian May calls you “the father of heavy metal…” That said, are you ever frustrated at being portrayed as somewhat one-dimensional as a guitarist?
Yes, I am sometimes. But I’ve lived it with it so long now… and it’s nice to get credit for something, isn’t it? I listen to and can play jazz and blues, but it’s the riffs that I get recognized by. I haven’t done so much jazz and blues on records – one day, I’d like to do that.
But to me, Black Sabbath were always open to new sounds. On every Sabbath album there’s always something out the box. We had instrumentals on a hard rock album when everyone was telling us, “You can’t do that!” I love “Laguna Sunrise” [acoustic instrumental on Vol. 4], for example. I enjoyed working with a choir, I liked getting string sections involved on [Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’s] “Spiral Architect.” Sabbath always did something different on each album. But I guess many people don’t remember those tracks so well.
It’s interesting that you cite the song “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” as one of your favorites – it has your trademark doomy riffing but it also has Wes Montgomery-style octaves and some jazziness about it.
Well, I do like jazz. Django Reinhardt sparked me off – because of what happened to my fingers, he was inspirational. It was later on that I got really interested in jazz guitar. Joe Pass, I love.
My original guitar influence was always The Shadows. But when I got into blues stuff… it didn’t even matter who the artist was. I just used to buy blues LPs, just to listen and learn. But I really liked John Mayall with Eric Clapton, the “Beano” album.
There was a lot of band-hopping in the 1970s and ’80s, and the same people seemed to end up joining numerous bands. Were you ever asked to join another band?
Good question, and I know what you mean. But no. Sabbath was my baby, if you like. When everyone else has gone, what do you do? I just steamed through. Did I ever think about bailing out? Not at the time, even when I was the last man standing. But if I think about it now, I maybe would have done!
In Iron Man, you are quite blunt about the pressure you felt during the making of the albums Vol. 4 and Sabotage. Everyone else in Black Sabbath seemed to have lost the plot…
Oh, yeah. I was left a lot of the time on my own in the studio, and it was pretty difficult. I was left to do mixes on my own which was hard – the rest of the band might not like it, but they’d gone home by then. It was hard but you’ve got to believe – carry on, do it. There was a lot of drugs around. Every band I knew was the same – cocaine, booze, acid, or something else.
When you’re part of the machine and the industry, you do really become part of it. You do the same. I didn’t even realize it at the time, it’s only now, when looking back, I think: oh yeah, I did do that. I’ve stopped now. Do I feel lucky to get out alive? I do.
Do you feel, over the years, as if you are “the leader” of Black Sabbath?
Yeah, that’s probably fair to say. But in the early days it was all rehearsals together, jamming, and songs would come out of that. Now, I prefer working at home. When I get a good riff, I’ll record it, jam it with other people, whoever.
Iron Man is full of fascinating anecdotes, but I certainly didn’t know about Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham jamming with Black Sabbath.
No, very few people knew that. As I say, this is my private life that I’ve never laid bare before. Are there tapes of that jam? I really don’t know. They might exist on the end of some master-tapes we had, but I certainly don’t have them. John was a good friend, best man at my first wedding, and he liked us. We jammed through “Supernaut” [from 1972 Sabbath album Vol. 4]. John loved that track.
Though we ended up just jamming 12-bar blues at the end. “Supernaut” got too complicated for John! He was going all over the place.
You explain in Iron Man how you only started relying on your Gibson SG because your Fender guitar broke, but the Gibson SG is a guitar that is now synonymous with you…
Absolutely. You could get to the top frets easily on an SG, and it was light. The SG was just ideal for me. Once I’d recorded the Black Sabbath debut album, I never went back. It was a bit touch-and-go at the time. I was using very light strings, the SG’s neck was not all that stable – you could bend the neck and it went “oooo-wee-ooo.” But that original was a great guitar, I used it for many years.
My original SG is now on display at the Hard Rock Café in New York. I modified it a lot. I put polyurethane on the frets so I could slide chords and solos easier. I play with thimbles on my fingers, so I had to make every guitar work for me. I remember Brian May [of Queen] picking up my guitars once and he just said: “that’s so different to any guitar, how do you even play that?”
It’s a cliché, but many guitarists say their sound really is in their fingers. Do you still sound like Tony Iommi on, say, a Gibson Les Paul?
A Les Paul? I could get my sound from a Les Paul, I’m sure. Again, I did a track with Brian May years ago, and I gave him one of my Gibson SGs and a Vox AC30… and he sounded just like Brian May always did.
When you are at home, what do play?
I just write. I don’t make a habit of sitting at home and playing for hours. I used to. But now, I go into my studio and I write. You do what what works for you. These days, I like to play for half an hour, get a riff, and that’s it. But I’ve still got a guitar in my bedroom, and if I think of something I record that and get to my studio and put it down.
I still have tons of stuff, loads of riffs. I’m bursting at the seams with ideas right now, all the time. It’s just finding the time. I’m lucky in that regard. Sometimes, I’ll hear something in my head and grab a guitar and record it. Other times, I’ll purposely go into my studio, start playing and something evolves.”
Are you still discovering new sounds for your playing?
To be honest, I just “maintain” my sound now. I do always learn more, though. I’ve been working with Laney on a new amp, it’s out in 2012, and it’s a refinement. After touring with Heaven and Hell [with the late Ronnie James Dio on vocals] I just learned more about sounds and tweaks, and we’re putting the modifications into this new amp. Modelling and software amps, I have tried. Last time I was recording in L.A. I tried a few. They’re quite good but after all this time, I do prefer just a big amp!
In Iron Man you say you still have six demos with Ozzy Osbourne singing?
Yeah. They are still kicking around. I’ll decide what I do. There are all these rumors flying around about a Black Sabbath reunion, but we’ll have to see. If it was the original lineup, great, I would love that. But we will have to see.
New songs? I’ve still got loads of ideas. Some, I wouldn’t use on a new Black Sabbath album, I’d have to change them. But let’s just say I have lots of ideas.
Impossible question: What are your own three favorite Black Sabbath songs?
Oh, haha, that’s difficult. They’ve all meant something to me. Even favorite albums, it’s the same! I do like Heaven and Hell as an album a lot, because I got to play something different. But everything I’ve done, I like. I wouldn’t have released it if I didn’t like it. “Iron Man,” “Into the Void,” “War Pigs”… those are some favorites. But I dunno, there’s a lot of Sabbath songs! The track “Black Sabbath” is still great.
It was then I knew I had come up with something different on the guitar. But I still get a thrill from playing all Sabbath songs.
Rockin’ sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart now have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The honor for Heart is one of a string of achievements the band have accomplished in 2012.
In mid September, the sisters published their memoir, Kicking And Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul and Rock and Roll. The book, helped by Kurt Cobain/Jimi Hendrix biographer Charles R Cross, is already acclaimed for its honesty and wit.
A new Heart album, Fanatic, is out October 2. The album was recorded in hotel rooms and studios up and down the USA’s west coast.
On receiving the Hollywood Walk of Fame Star, Nancy Wilson said, “I'm so delighted to be here today taking some credit, credit for all the long, hard work we do to bring a few good songs into the world. Songs are truly the messengers of love, and it's really amazing – f***in' cool – when the message gets through.”
Original drummer for KISS, Peter Criss, will publish his autobiography titled Makeup to Breakup on October 23.
Given it involves KISS, the book has been billed as being "from sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll to multiple brushes with death.” Criss – born Peter John Criscuola - is keeping things more low-key. A statement from the drummer/songwriter/author says he is speaking more about “the whole man” and not just his rock’n’roll life.
"I am so blessed that I am finally going to write my autobiography, and I hope you enjoy the ride," says Criss. "The best of all is I get to share my true feelings of my love for God, family, friends and fame. It's been a wonderful life.”
Even so, you can expect a rollercoaster read. Criss promised his mom he’d one-day play Madison Square Garden. And he did it. Criss wrote and sang “Beth,” one of KISS’s best-loved hits. He went through drug abuse, subsequent treatment in 1982, near-suicides, two broken marriages, and a hard-won battle with breast cancer. It’s not going to be dull.
Neil Young has appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman to promote a new audio player and digital format. It’s called Pono. The device player is a bright yellow prism with a screen and simple controls. It kinda looks like an old iPod… but it isn’t.
According to Young, Pono will play back master files with "the best sound anyone can get". Rolling Stone says that Pono will launch in 2013 as a line of portable music players, backed by an iTunes-style music-download service. There will also be digital-to-analog conversion technology that will "present songs as they first sound during studio recording sessions".
In his new book Waging Heavy Peace, Young claims that Pono will bring together record companies and cloud storage “to save the sound of music.”
Young has been a critic of digital sound for many years. He’s demo’d Pono to Red Hot Chili Peppers and Rick Rubin, and they like it. Speaking to Rolling Stone, the Chili Peppers’ Flea said of the Pono sound quality: "It's not like some vague thing that you need dogs' ears to hear. It's a drastic difference."
The big three record labels - Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group and Sony Music – are on board with his idea and that WMG has already converted its library of 8,000 album titles to high-resolution, 192kHz/24-bit sound.