On the topic of guitar solos, I missed out on all that guitar-hero nonsense of the 60s and 70s. I’ve never been too impressed with masturbatory fret-fiddling of the kind practiced by a lot of guitarists. I do like Bluesbreaker-era Clapton, and Experience-era Hendrix, but beyond that, I think, well that was sixty years ago, can we have something different now?
I don’t think we can – Rock Guitar has become a heritage industry. If I do have guitar heroes, it’s Neil Young for this, and Robert Fripp for this. But both these tracks are 30-40 years old.
To be fair, I do like a bit of Johnny Greenwood, though he’s not so much a guitar-hero as a composer, but even this track is from 15 years ago.
I’ve talked about my love for Neil Young before, and how the opening minute of Oh Susannah, for me, is the epitome of creativity emerging from chaos.
When he’s recording an album, he doesn’t edit, he doesn’t hide the mistakes, he sets up his gear, he starts playing and his band Crazy Horse follow him.
He plays, and he records.
His album A Letter Home was recorded in one of those 1940s recording booths – the kind of thing people used to send talking messages to each other when they didn’t have access to telephones. He used one microphone and the songs were recorded direct to vinyl.
It’s not that I’m obsessed with retro/lo-fi analogue recording, but I love his commitment to his vision. He is single-minded, and I’m coming to realise that’s probably the most important quality a creative person can possess.
Johnny sent me a YT clip featuring Denny Dias playing a guitar solo across an early version of a Steely Dan recording. It was great, listening to him roll across the chord changes, just barely keeping up. And it was the ‘just barely’ that made the whole thing so enjoyable.
I’m not a jazz player, and though I love jazz music, it’s not for me, playing-wise. It’s all a bit ‘chamber music’ and self-referential.
Give me Neil Young’s shambolic opening to Oh Susannah any day of the week – it takes the drummer twenty seconds to find the right groove, and the rest of the band don’t make it to the party until almost a minute in. And it’s magic.
The only time I’ve ever ‘played across changes’ in a jazz style was when I did a wedding gig with Ralph and he had the band playing standards. When it came to my solos he’d sit next to me whispering ‘Ab, Bm, D#’ or whatever and I just clicked into whichever scale he told me.
Got to admit, it was great fun.
It’s not all tasteful jazz.
I love this.
And this. (When I used to do my jazz radio show I recorded an entire 2 hour show using only found Japanese voices instead of me talking between tracks, purely as an homage to this tracks – so I guess there’s a link).