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10 Tips to Take You from the Garage to Guitar Hero

So, you’ve finally purchased, borrowed or pilfered your first axe and you’re ready to take your first step to Guitar Hero status. Good for you! Here are 10 tips to help get you there in once piece. Break a leg!

Practice, Practice, Practice!
There is not a single thing you can do that is more important than honing your craft. Before you can express yourself through a guitar (or a piano or whatever), you have to learn and master the language of the instrument. And the only way to do that is through hard — but hopefully enjoyable — work.

Don’t work yourself into a box.
Roadhouse bars are littered with good guitarists who will never be great, because they never learned that there’s more to life than the Minor Pentatonic blues scale. Mix it up. Learn other scales and modes and make them a comfortable part of your repertoire.

Don’t neglect your picking hand.
Force yourself to fingerpick. It’s so easy to fall in love with a pick — and picks are great. But there is an entire world of expression in the subtleties of the picking hand. You’ll regret it later on if you neglect this now.

Don’t neglect your pinky.
As for your fretting hand, don’t forget to use that little guy on the end. As you learn your scales, don’t take shortcuts around your friend, the pinky. Taking him out of the equation removes 25% of your arsenal.

Pros over Bros.
Work with people who have the same goals and drive as you. It might be fun in the beginning, banging out chords with your buds, but eventually there will come a time when your band will only succeed if everyone is willing to put everything else aside in favor of the group.

…But Be Bros with your Pros.
Don’t work with people you truly don’t get along with. Long-term success is nearly impossible if you are destined to bang heads with each other. The last thing you want to do is be in one of those bands that break up on the verge of making it. Watch That Thing You Do! if this requires motivation.

Be a self-promoter.
The days of record companies and managers doing all the legwork for you are over. You must be the master of your own PR, and the key to that in the 21st Century is...

Be wired.
It’s all about those intranets, kiddies. Be a master of social media. You are now a single click away from everyone in the world who owns a computer. Seriously. Intimidated? Don’t be. Facebook, MySpace (yes, bands still use it), Twitter and Google+ are all incredibly easy, even for the cavemen among you.

Be yourself.
Don’t make music that you don’t believe in. First off, you probably won’t be as good at it as you would something you can totally put your heart into. And honestly, why do something you don’t enjoy, because the main point of it all is to…

Have fun!
You’re making music, dude. If you’re not enjoying it, you’re doing something wrong. As Paul McCartney said, “That’s why it’s called ‘playing music,’ and not ‘working music.’”

Michael Wright
Editorial Director/Pro Bro


Posted: 7/22/2011 4:49:19 PM with Comments | Add Comment | Email Link | Permalink

Saturday Night Special

Hey there, dear readers! I’m Paul Burch, the new editor for Epiphone.com. Our team of scribes was asked to write a few sentences about our favorite Saturday night album for the blog. Great idea. But three sentences? That’s tough. One could argue that what separates the good from the great is not how they begin, but how they end. Is this the record you spin while playing a game of cards or perhaps driving around looking for trouble? Or, is this the record you spin when you, you know, get home. 
 
Let’s go with cards or driving around. Might I suggest The Clash’s London Calling, since it’s upbeat, has great lines (“Was that Montgomery Cliff, honey?”) and you can never remember what’s coming next. The Replacements’ Let It Be could be there or The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Freaky Styley, perhaps. A close contender might be Nick Lowe’s Pure Pop for Now People, which begins with a tribute to rock execs and Hollywood diva-eating Dachshunds and ends with a tribute to the Bay City Rollers.
 
As for me, I’m going to betray my age and throw in a curious choice: The Rolling Stones’ Tattoo You. The A-side is hot. The B-side is cool. You start with “Start Me Up” and you end with “Waiting on a Friend” with Sonny Rollins on sax. Yeah, it’s spruced up leftovers from Exile and Some Girls, but it may be the funniest, off-handed and loveable Stones record in thirty years. “Neighbours,” “Limousines,” “Little T & A,” “Slave,” “Worried About You.” Another round, everybody?

Paul Burch

Epiphone Editor/Weekend Warrior


Posted: 4/8/2011 4:42:31 PM with Comments | Add Comment | Email Link | Permalink

What’s Playing on the Editorial iPods?

Michael Wright, Editorial Director

Jeff Beck and The Imelda May Band, “Apache”
Taken from Beck’s new Rock ‘n’ Roll Party Honoring Les Paul album, this rip through The Shadows’ classic instrumental is both faithful to the great Hank Marvin and alight with pure Beck flourishes.

The Dave Clark Five, “Because”
One of the most underrated bands of the ’60s, The DC5 were stellar at both hard beat songs like “Glad All Over” and lush ballads, like this 1964 hit.

John Legend and The Roots, “Hard Times”
This opener from the fantastic Wake Up! album combines Legend’s gritty, soulful voice with hard and heavy psychedelic funk from ?uestlove and company. Dare I say, even better than the original version by Baby Huey and the Babysitters.

Bryan Wawzenek, International Editor

R.E.M., “Mine Smell Like Honey”
On R.E.M.’s new album, Collapse Into Now, the alt-rock legends pretty much pick up where 2008’s Accelerate left off. This power pop beauty smells pretty sweet.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra, “Rhapsody in Blue”
I never get tired of George Gershwin’s masterpiece, whether I hear it in Woody Allen’s Manhattan or on United Airlines commercials. But my favorite version is this one, in which James Levine and the CSO employ Ferde Grofe’s jazz band arrangement—sassy, brassy and perfect.

The Drive-By Truckers, “Used to Be a Cop”
Are there better rock storytellers than the Truckers’ Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley? The intro to this song (off their new album, Go-Go Boots) reminds me of Wishbone Ash, before Hood takes us deep down into the world of a man who has lost everything that meant anything.

Andrew Vaughan, Editor

The Jesus and Mary Chain, “Head On”
Creation Records' best band, before Oasis—and this is Scots guitar rock at its power-pop, jangly best.

The Good Listeners , “Time Lapse”  
Great tune from a literate writer, with an American twist on mid-’60s Ray Davies.

Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip, “Thou Shalt Always Kill”
New wave of Brit poetry. It's smart, contemporary and NOW!

Sean Dooley, Social Media Editor

Rush, “Red Barchetta”
 I can’t quite put my finger on why this song has been on my shortlist of late, because all of the songs on Moving Pictures are wonderful. I keep coming back to the way Alex Lifeson’s guitar harmonics meld with Geddy Lee’s wonderfully crisp bass. And Neil’s lyrics are so vivid and descriptive.
 
Evanescence, “Hello”
 Far and away my favorite Amy Lee song. She’s devastating here.
 
The Beatles, “The Long and Winding Road”
 I never tire of this Paul McCartney masterpiece. It’s got just the right amount of “bum-you-out” melancholy to do the trick, but there’s still something very redeeming about it.

Paul Burch, Epiphone Epiphone

Radiohead, “Give Up the Ghost”
Though Beady Eye’s Liam Gallagher may not be impressed that Radiohead “made an album about a @$$@#% tree,” I enjoy trying to figure out when the jumble of rhythms at the start of each song will reveal a groove. Most of their music sounds like the noise in my head on an everyday basis, so I kind of find this comforting.

Jimmie Rodgers and Clifford Gibson, “Let Me Be Your Sidetrack”
This is an unreleased recording of Jimmie with St. Louis bluesman Clifford Gibson, whose open-tuned guitar phrases have the same call-and-response style of Robert Johnson. Robert is said to have been a big Jimmie Rodgers fan. I’m working on a Jimmie Rodgers record (who tried some Gibson guitars near the end of his life), so I’m finding this inspiring.

Marc Ribot, “Sous le Ciel de Paris”
Marc is one of my favorite guitar players. This is from his new album, Silent Movies, based on his recent experiences providing musical accompaniment for silent films. Look on the Internet for his live solo guitar performance of The Beatles’ “Happiness is a Warm Gun.” He’s a great singer, too.

Cesar Acevedo, Spanish Editor

Reeve Carney, “Love Me Chase Me”
Maybe the Spider-Man musical is a real failure. Maybe by the time you finish reading this entry, another stuntman or actor has been injured. But one good thing about this project is the band and the guy behind the mask. Reeve Carney and his band (younger brother and guitar virtuoso Zen, with Aiden Moore on bass and Jon Epcar on drums) is a really good group. I suggest his first single, “Love Me Chase Me.”

Babasónicos, “Deshoras”
Adrián "Dárgelos" Rodríguez is about 5’4” but sings and moves like Mick Jagger. Mariano "Roger" Domínguez is his sidekick and plays the guitar just like Keith Richards. Babasónicos is a rock band from Argentina with over ten studio albums, many awards and a unique style. One of the most respected Latin rock bands today, Babasónicos are about to release a new album and recently released the new song, “Deshoras.”
 
Zoé, “Soñé”
For Mexican alternative band Zoé, MTV Unplugged was the perfect excuse to show to the commercial world the band’s original and distinctive sound. This week, the band released their much-anticipated album, MTV Unplugged/Música de Fondo. “Soñé” is the first single off the album and deserves the attention it’s bound to receive.

 


Posted: 3/25/2011 4:26:37 PM with Comments | Add Comment | Email Link | Permalink

Carving the New Mount Rushmore

A great CD came across my desk this week: Joe Bonamassa’s magnificent, soon-to-be-released Dust Bowl. As a collection of songs, it’s got everything: bone-rattling blues, hard and heavy rock, even boot-stompin’ country (with Vince Gill and John Hiatt, no less!). And it’s got guitar. Like, serious guitar — the kind of ungodly blazing kissed with soul and nuance that one generally only associates with those Mount Rushmore of Rock guys — Clapton, Beck and the like…which got me to thinking. Who will occupy the Mount Rushmore of the 21st Century?

It’s pretty difficult to hit that iconic status of Hendrix and Page these days. The guys in the ’60s and ’70s had the luxury of being the first ones there, or at least the first widely recognized ones there. There were certainly creative speed demons like Django and Les before them. But the ’60s rock stars were part of the dawn of an unprecedented youth culture movement and had an audience exponentially greater than their predecessors. And they were pretty freakin’ great to boot. And since their time, we’ve pretty much seen everything accomplished on the technical end, thanks largely to ’80s metal. So, therein lies the quandary: how can anyone attain guitar god status when everything’s pretty much been done already?

Well, let me offer a few nominees for apotheosis (look it up)…with a brief explanation of what gets them there:

Slash
The Chapeaued Shredder is hardly a young gun. In fact, next year marks — can you believe it? — 25 years since the release of Appetite for Destruction. But the past decade has found Slash truly transcend to rock god status, due to a combination of a second trip to the top of the rock charts with Velvet Revolver (and a third with his ace solo CD) and the cementing of his top-hatted icon status on Guitar Hero. Say what you will about the game, players, but it put Mr. Saul Hudson in every living room in America.

Jack White
It’s hard to stand out as a blues player 100 years after the birth of Robert Johnson, but White has managed to forge a unique place in popular music. He somehow vaulted to the top of the rock scene with the previously unthinkable prospect of a two-piece, bassless band. Eventually, the sheer volume of top-shelf riffs (“Seven Nation Army,” anyone?) and wicked licks, combined with a unique and captivating visual style has elevated him to a place somehow completely at home in a conversation with Jimmy Page and The Edge.

Tom Morello
It is incredibly difficult to find sounds in a guitar that no one has previously discovered, and yet Tom Morello has made it commonplace. Both his aggressive work with Rage Against the Machine and his more mainstream fare with Audioslave have set him apart from the scale-handcuffed crowd. Listen to “Like a Stone” and tell me anyone else would have come up with that solo…and how much greater the song is because Morello did.

Joe Bonamassa
The aforementioned Bonamassa has yet to find the widespread popularity of the other candidates on this list, but it’s just a matter of time. The more he evolves as a songwriter on his own increasingly interesting solo albums and as a player, both in his solo work and in the supergroup, Black Country Communion, the more people will come to know this jaw-dropping monster of a player. The thing about Bonamassa is that, yeah, he’s taking the same path that Page, Bolin and others have taken, but he’s just doing it so freakin’ well! There’s just something to be said about the dying breed that is the great blues rock player. That magical thing that Gary Moore and Rory Gallagher had – Bonamassa’s got it in spades!

Perhaps the age of the guitar god isn’t over just yet. I’ll keep my rock carving tools handy.

 

Michael Wright
Editorial Director/Chiseler
 


Posted: 3/2/2011 10:30:05 PM with Comments | Add Comment | Email Link | Permalink

What’s Playing This Week on the Editorial iPods

Michael Wright, Editorial Director
 
Primal Scream, “Higher than the Sun (Higher than the Orb Mix)”
Man, do I wish Creation Records was still floating around firing salvos into the broadside of the music establishment. I love that Alan McGee just let his bands record whatever the hell they wanted. Case in point: this trippy, trancy tune by Bobby Gillespie and company.
 
Super Furry Animals, “The Man Don’t Give a (expletive)”
Perhaps even better proof of the above.
 
The Mockingbirds, “You Stole My Love”
If you don’t own the first two Nuggets collections, your record collection…or CD collection…or mp3 collection…is woefully inadequate. This cool splash of minor chord rave-up by Sixties London never-were’s The Mockingbirds is a perfect example of the kind of lost gems just aching to live in your iPod.
 
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, “Born in Chicago”
I generally get bored very quickly by 12-bar white boy blues, but Mike Bloomfield is so blazing on the first Butterfield album that I can’t help but get swept up in it.
 
Oasis, “Lord Don’t Slow Me Down”
Just a non-gentle reminder that when they wanted to, Oasis could still be the greatest rock and roll band in the world on any given single.
 

Bryan Wawzenek, International Editor
 
“No Thugs in Our House,” XTC
Captain Quirk, Andy Partridge, nails the double standards of the privileged over an insistent beat.
 
“Never in My Life,” Mountain
My dad would call this a “jam-and-a-half.” Scorching guitar from Leslie West – the man, the myth, the mountain.
 
“Sister Jack,” Spoon
This jangly, “Taxman”-inspired confection (with a drop-D tuning reference!) is Spoon at their poppiest.
 
“Bodhisattva,” Steely Dan
“[Denny] Dias the Bebopper meets [Jeff] Baxter the Skunk beneath the Bo Tree in this altered blues,” Walter Becker and Donald Fagen wrote in the liner notes for Countdown to Ecstasy.
 
“Vanity Fair,” World Party
Released in 1997, when heard out of context it sounds like something that could have been a smash hit for The Zombies in 1966.
 

Andrew Vaughan, Editor
 
Céu, “Grains de beauté”
Jazz, Afro beat, samba — all in a new and beautifully performed style by Brazilian singer songwriter.
 
Florence and the Machine, “Kiss with a Fist”
Charismatic female singer-songwriter from the U.K. with a fiery blend of folk blues and a confrontational attitude best witnessed in this belter of a song.
 
Neil Young, “Like a Hurricane”
Canadians can rock! Neil Young delivers one of the finest rock and roll love songs of all time, and the best version is the corker from Live Rust. IMHO.
 
Paul McCartney, “Mull of Kintyre”
I know, I know, but the pipers are brilliant and Macca’s in Gibson country, Nashville, this week.
 
The Jam, “Eton Rifles”
Weller never sounded more convincingly pissed off and righteous than on this bitter slagging of Britain’s outmoded class system.
 

Sean Patrick Dooley, Social Media Editor
 
Def Leppard, “Let It Go”
From Leppard’s stellar High ‘n’ Dry album, “Let It Go” is simply the greatest, hardest-driving “AC/DC meets Thin Lizzy in a back-alley rumble refereed by Queen” song of them all. If you like a blistering twin-guitar assault with outstanding screaming vocals, this song is your huckleberry.
 
Rush, “The Spirit of Radio”
Quite possibly the most popular of Rush songs, “The Spirit of Radio” represents Rush at their prog-rock finest. The intro lick is iconic, the blistering instrumental breakdown bridging the opening lick to first verse is just sick, and the lyrics are bizarre. Friggin’ Rush rules!
 
Paramore, “The Only Exception”
Born right here in middle Tennessee, Paramore have been selling out bigger and bigger venues for the last couple of years with their own brand of hard-emo-pop-rock. Music and concert sales have been brisk, but chart success for their singles has been elusive. Not anymore, thanks to this earnest and beautiful ballad.
 
Foo Fighters, “The Pretender”
For some reason (ahem, Kurt Cobain), Dave Grohl – the songwriter – continues to live, on some level, in the shadow of his former band mate. Hogwash! Grohl has proven to not only be a prodigious songwriter, but his immense catalog is wide and impressively varied. Hard-driving, explosive and oh-so kick-ass, “The Pretender” is Grohl and company at their best.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Posted: 7/28/2010 4:18:14 PM with Comments | Add Comment | Email Link | Permalink

101 Albums Every Guitarist Must Hear Before They Die

In anticipation of our Top 50 Guitar Albums of All Time readers poll, I thought it might be nice to lay out a little list for those of the fretted persuasion. Much of it, I’m sure, will lie outside your normal purview — as personal tastes vary wildly. But sometimes it’s good to open your ears to new things. With that in mind, I encourage you to explore and enjoy. And if there’s an album you’d like to recommend, please share it in the comments section!

1. AC/DC, Back in Black
2. AC/DC, Highway to Hell
3. AC/DC, Let There Be Rock
4. The Allman Brothers Band, At Fillmore East
5. The Allman Brothers Band, Peakin’ at the Beacon
6. Chet Atkins, Chet Atkins’ Workshop
7. Chet Atkins, Guitar Country
8. The Band, The Last Waltz
9. The Beatles, The Beatles
10. The Beatles, Revolver
11. Jeff Beck, Beck-Ola
12. Jeff Beck, Blow by Blow
13. Jeff Beck, Truth
14. Chuck Berry, One Dozen Berrys
15. Black Sabbath, Heaven and Hell
16. Black Sabbath, Paranoid
17. Booker T. & the M.G.’s, Green Onions
18. David Bowie, Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture
19. Roy Buchanan, Roy Buchanan
20. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band
21. The Byrds, Live at the Fillmore – February 1969
22. The Byrds, Mr. Tambourine Man
23. Charlie Christian, Solo Flight: The Genius of Charlie Christian
24. Cheap Trick, At Budokan
25. Roy Clark, The Lightning Fingers of Roy Clark
26. Ry Cooder, Ry Cooder
27. Cream, Disraeli Gears
28. Cream, Wheels of Fire
29. Deep Purple, Machine Head
30. Deep Purple, Made in Japan
31. Derek and the Dominos, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs
32. The Dixie Dregs, Night of the Living Dregs
33. Dokken, Back for the Attack
34. Elvis Presley, Elvis Presley
35. Elvis Presley, On Stage: February 1970
36. Tal Farlow, The Tal Farlow Quartet
37. Rory Gallagher, Calling Card
38. Danny Gatton, Blazing Telecasters
39. Gov’t Mule, Live at Roseland Ballroom
40. The Grateful Dead, Live/Dead
41. Guns ‘N’ Roses, Appetite for Destruction
42. Buddy Guy, This Is Buddy Guy (Live)
43. The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Are You Experienced?
44. The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Axis: Bold as Love
45. The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Electric Ladyland
46. The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Live at Monterey
47. Jimi Hendrix/Band of Gypsys, Band of Gypsies
48. John Lee Hooker, Burnin’
49. Robert Johnson, The Complete Recordings
50. John Mayall, Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton
51. B.B. King, Live at the Regal
52. Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin
53. Led Zeppelin, II
54. Led Zeppelin, IV
55. Led Zeppelin, How the West Was Won
56. Led Zeppelin, Physical Graffiti
57. Yngwie Malmsteen, Rising Force
58. Johnny Marr and The Healers, Boomslang
59. John McLaughlin, Devotion
60. Wes Montgomery, Fingerpickin’
61. Gary Moore, We Want Moore!
62. Oasis, Definitely Maybe
63. Ozzy Osbourne, Blizzard of Ozz
64. Ozzy Osbourne, Diary of a Madman
65. Les Paul and Mary Ford, Les and Mary
66. Les Paul and Chet Atkins, Chester and Lester
67. Pink Floyd, The Wall
68. Prince, Sign o’ the Times
69. Queen, A Night at the Opera
70. Queen, Queen on Fire: Live at the Bowl
71. Rainbow, Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll
72. Rainbow, Rising
73. Ratt, Out of the Cellar
74. Django Reinhardt, At Club St. Germain
75. The Rolling Stones, Exile on Main St.
76. The Rolling Stones, Get Your Ya-Yas Out
77. The Rolling Stones, Let It Bleed
78. The Rolling Stones, Sticky Fingers
79. Santana, Santana
80. Santana, Abraxas
81. The Brian Setzer Orchestra, The Ultimate Collection (Live)
82. Thin Lizzy, Live and Dangerous
83. The Derek Trucks Band, Already Free
84. U2, Joshua Tree
85. Van Halen, Van Halen
86. Van Halen, Van Halen II
87. Van Halen, Fair Warning
88. Various Artists, Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack and More
89. Stevie Ray Vaughan, Couldn’t Stand the Weather
90. Stevie Ray Vaughan, In Step
91. Stevie Ray Vaughan, Texas Flood
92. Muddy Waters, The Real Folk Blues
93. The White Stripes, White Blood Cells
94. The Who, Live at Leeds
95. Wings, Wings Over America
96. The Yardbirds, Five Live Yardbirds
97. The Yardbirds, Roger the Engineer
98. Yes, Fragile
99. Neil Young, Live Rust
100. Frank Zappa, Shut Up ’n Play Yer Guitar


Posted: 7/8/2010 1:12:12 PM with Comments | Add Comment | Email Link | Permalink

Blood in the Editorial Pool!

It’s inevitable, I’m afraid. Anytime we do one of these polls, the bickering starts. You think you’ve seen the gnashing of teeth in the comments sections or forums? You should spend a few minutes in the editorial pit (I’d call it a “work area,” but the eating habits imply something more…ursine).

Anyway, the latest poll is up: The Top 50 Guitar Albums of All Time. Naturally, everyone has his/her opinion…and we’re no different. And yeah, everyone around here seems to have a chip on his shoulder about some gem that only he knows about and that the co-editors, writers, artists and staff will surely miss. As I say, it’s getting a bit ugly…so in the spirit of making this a workable environment for the next month, everyone on the editorial staff is going to blow off a little steam about one of their personal faves. Mine first…because it’s the only correct one:

Rainbow, Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll

blog-and-roll_3rainbow.jpgI’d hardly call Ritchie Blackmore underrated, but I do think his work with Rainbow is often overshadowed by the popular FM staples of his previous outfit, Deep Purple. Fair play. Purple was a great band, but I would argue that Blackmore’s finest work was with his quasi-solo outfit, Rainbow. That band peaked between 1976 and 1978, with the release of Rising and Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll. Both of those albums are astounding from a guitar standpoint (and with Dio’s vocals and Cozy Powell’s drums, as well). But though I think Rising is the stronger album, I’d have a hard time arguing that the Man in Black ever played the guitar as well as he did on LLRnR. In fact, Blackmore himself once told Guitar Player magazine that “Gates of Babylon” was his greatest solo, and anyone ever enchanted by his trademark snake charmer scale would have to agree. Speed freaks will also marvel at his fretwork on live favorite “Kill the King” and the echo-drenched opening of “The Shed (Subtle).” And lest we consider Lord Blackmore a mere brute, we have the tender, emotive “Rainbow Eyes” to consider. Throw in some killer slidework on songs like “Lady of the Lake” and this album truly marks the finest guitar moment of one of rock’s most innovative guitarists. —Michael Wright


Def Leppard “High ‘n’ Dry”

Many believe Def Leppard’s second studio album, High ‘n’ Dry, to be the best of their career. The twin-guitar attack of original members Steve Clark and Pete Willis unabashedly borrowed from some of their musical heroes, predominately Thin Lizzy with a healthy dash of AC/DC thrown in for good measure. High ‘n’ Dry also paired the Leps, for the first time, with producer extraordinaire (and future unofficial sixth member of the band), Mutt Lange. A notoriously iron-fisted perfectionist, Lange successfully captured the raw energy of the teenaged band’s first sloppy album and helped mold High ‘n’ Dry into a heavy metal pop masterpiece. Key tracks include “Bringing on the Heartbreak,” “Another Hit and Run”…oh, hell – the entire side one of High ‘n’ Dry kicks ass from top to bottom. —Sean Dooley


Wishbone Ash, Argus

Wishbone Ash might not have the name recognition to make the Top 50, but they sure have the firepower. The British prog-rock band’s masterpiece, 1972’s Argus, featured guitar duo Andy Powell and Ted Turner at their axe-intertwining best. Songs including “The King Will Come,” “Blowin’ Free” and “The Warrior” melded folk influences and a knack for melody with heavy metal riffage and epic songwriting. Listening to the searing leads and ringing guitar harmonization, bands like Thin Lizzy and Iron Maiden were sonically inspired by the teamwork of Powell and Turner. They’re the Starsky & Hutch of progressive rock. —Bryan Wawzenek


The Byrds, Mr. Tambourine Man

Inspired by The Beatles, The Byrds would affect folk rock and country rock over a five-year period in L.A., but it was McGuinn’s guitar playing that makes their debut a milestone guitar album. Playing 12-string guitar through a compressor for greater sustain and wearing finger picks to add banjo rolls to single-note runs, McGuinn perfected the jingle-jangle, chiming, 12-string sound that would influence everyone in the mid-’60s — The Turtles, The Searchers, Simon and Garfunkel, The Mamas and The Papas, The Lovin’ Spoonful — even original inspirations, The Beatles, as well as generations of bands ever since, including The Smiths, The Bangles, The Stone Roses, Big Star, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, R.E.M., The Church, The Long Ryders, The Pretenders and Teenage Fanclub.  —Andrew Vaughan


Posted: 6/28/2010 4:59:13 PM with Comments | Add Comment | Email Link | Permalink

What’s on the Editors’ iPods this Week?

Michael Wright (Editorial Director)

“Spectral Mornings,” Cornershop—
14-plus minutes of absolute, pilled-up groove, this rocking electronic raga fits equally well whether you’re trying to chill out or wind up.

“Junior’s Farm,” Wings—
The 1-2-3 punch of interviewing Denny Laine, researching a McCartney Album Guide, and scoring tix to Macca’s Nashville show have put me in a very Wingsian mood of late. This is one of the many I know Paul won’t play at that show, but man-oh-man, I wish he would.

“Common People,” William Shatner (with Joe Jackson)—
The Shat’s utterly genius cover of a Pulp classic is side-splittingly hilarious…yet somehow still manages to rock the (expletive) out!

“Rock around the Clock, ”Jeff Beck and the Imelda May Band—
Okay, not technically on my iPod, but every time I run out of steam these days, I jump over to YouTube to watch this clip of Beck just smoking that classic Danny Cedrone solo.

“Lucifer Sam,” The Black Crowes and Oasis—
From a bootleg of a show I caught many moons ago in NYC, this evening closer just tore the roof off Radio City. Best witchcraft song since…err, “Witchcraft.”


Bryan Wawzenek (International Editor)

“All the Way From Memphis,” Mott the Hoople—
Yes, the glory of rock and roll is even worth a trip to Oriole, Kentucky, where your “six-string razor” was mistakenly sent.

“Prophet 15,” Supergrass—
I wish my dreams were as star-studded – Peter Cook, Che Guevara, Davy Crockett and Marvin Gaye – as Gaz Coombes’ nightmares.

“Sex Beat,” Alejandro Escovedo—
The roots rocker’s ominous string quartet cover outshines the original, punky Gun Club version.

“You Want Her Too,” Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello—
I find Sir Paul and Mr. MacManus fighting over a woman so much more plausible than McCartney and Michael Jackson deciding whom the girl belongs to.

“Come Pick Me Up,” Ryan Adams—
Sometimes bad love is better than no love at all. It hurts a little less with a great-sounding harmonica…and a little profanity.


Andrew Vaughan (Editor)

“Move It,” Cliff Richard and The Shadows—
The song that inspired British rock and roll and, in turn, gave us Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Keef and Mick, and those scruffy Scousers from Liverpool. Hank Marvin, the Shadows’ guitarist, inspired every young guitar player in the land. Thanks, Hank.

“Joanne,” Michael Nesmith and the First National Band—
Stirring country rock excellence from a young Nesmith, freshly freed from Monkees shackles and developing into one of country rock’s most adventurous and intuitive practitioners.

“Birthday,” The Beatles—
Spunky rock and roll from McCartney, always worth a listen, especially on Sir Paul’s birthday. Hip Hip…

“Ever Fallen in Love,” The Buzzcocks—
Pete Shelley, the band’s enigmatic songwriter was, for a brief period at least, the finest teen angst songwriter of his, or maybe any, generation.

“Three Lions,” The Squad—
Remake of the Lightning Seeds’ 1996 stirring Euros anthem. This time it’s Robbie Williams and Russell Brand wishing and begging for England to win this year’s World Cup. 1966 indeed.


Sean Dooley (Social Media Editor)

 “Everlong” (acoustic version), Foo Fighters—
I love the Foo’s original electric version, but I’ve been diggin’ the more emotive acoustic version of late. Dave Grohl’s crowning achievement.
 
“The Only Exception,” Paramore—
Singer Haley Williams is settling nicely into her role as Gwen Stefani’s heir-apparent. The best track on Paramore’s new album, Brand New Eyes.

“Sick of Myself,” Matthew Sweet—
For an all-too brief moment back in the mid-90s, Sweet rubbed elbows with garage-power-pop’s ruling class. “Sick of Myself” will tell you why.
 
“Lay It on the Line,” Triumph—
Three days ago, I spent 45 minutes interviewing my musical hero when I was in high school, Triumph’s Rik Emmett. I’m still pinching myself.
 
“It’s a Wonderful Lie,” Paul Westerberg—
One listen to “It’s a Wonderful Lie” and you just might find yourself squarely in the camp that believes Paul Westerberg is Generation X’s Bob Dylan.


Posted: 6/18/2010 8:04:25 PM with Comments | Add Comment | Email Link | Permalink

Country Music is Fan-tastic

Nashville has two major music events each year, the rock festival Bonnaroo (about an hour out of town) and the CMA Music Festival (now held in downtown Nashville, after years at the local Fairgrounds when it was called Fan Fair). Now, Bonnaroo is a great festival, and a wonderful experience (check out Gibson.com’s preview here, but the CMA Music Festival, which runs concurrently this year, is something different. It’s a throwback to a more innocent, pre-corporate and pre-radio consolidation era in the music world where, essentially, for four hot days in June fans get to meet, greet and mingle with the stars of the day. Country music artists and fans alike have long been tarred with the hokey brush, but the relationship between fan and artist that the CMA Music Festival engenders, creates a bond that no marketing or advertising guru could ever re-create.

It all started back in 1972 at the Nashville fairgrounds, a much more hillbilly affair than the slick sophisticated machine that is CMA Fest 2010, but the mold was set. Country music needs its fans, and the artists appreciate that better than in any other genre. Given that some 200,000 people attend from around the globe, it also makes pretty good marketing sense for country artists to spend a day or two chatting with the very people who paid for those tour buses, designer outfits, fast cars and sprawling ranches. Consequently over 400 artists, from superstars to young hopefuls, set up shop in downtown Nashville for a long weekend, to spend a few minutes with excited fans from Berlin, Delhi, London, Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Tokyo and all corners of the global village.

Aside from four nights of high-powered country music concerts at the Tennessee Titans’ stadium, LP Fields, it’s the fan booths in the Convention Center that make this jamboree unique and worth hanging on to. At a time when pop and rock artists and fans have never been further removed, the down-home appeal of country still sees superstars like Alan Jackson meeting fans, signing a few autographs and posing for countless photos.

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And when they’re not at their daytime booths, fan clubs and record companies put on numerous fan club shows, concerts and get-togethers in clubs all around Nashville. If you really want to meet Brad Paisley, or Rascal Flatts, or Carrie Underwood, then the CMA Music Fest gives you the means to actually do that. Back in 1996, before the festival moved downtown, Garth Brooks made an unannounced appearance at the festival and stood at a table for 23 hours signing autographs. As Garth told me shortly afterwards, “Country music is about the fans, period.”

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Rock and pop fans are too often fleeced on merchandising and CDs and gouged with the now en vogue VIP packages and exorbitant ticket prices. Country music has a pretty good record in understanding and appreciating its audience, and when one of rock and roll’s most successful contemporary artists, Thom Yorke of Radiohead, predicts the imminent demise of the mainstream record industry, some Southern-fried relationship building and fan hospitality doesn’t sound quite so hokey after all.

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Andrew Vaughan

Editor/Hokey Brush Man


Posted: 6/9/2010 5:38:20 PM with Comments | Add Comment | Email Link | Permalink

Not Quite Fab Enough…

Once more into the breech, Gibson.com is creating a new poll. Last week, we announced our Top 50 Guitarists of All Time, as voted on by fans, Gibson.com editors and writers, and an all-star panel of musicians. This time around we’re doing the Top 50 Beatles Songs (vote now!). So far, we’ve signed up members of The Hold Steady, Berlin and Swag for our all-star panel (with others to come!). But boy-oh-boy, is this one tough. The sheer volume of amazing material is overwhelming. And to cull it down to 50 songs — and rank them! — is pretty brutal. Around the editorial offices, there’s been a lot of moaning as each of us has felt compelled to kill some of our own personal favorites in order to make room for songs that were more popular, had a greater influence on modern music or pushed the envelope a bit further. Here are a few of the more painful cuts. But who knows, maybe some of these will creep into the final list once your votes and everyone else’s have been tabulated. Let their cases be heard …

 

“Hey Bulldog”

Propelled by a thundering riff and an irresistible refrain (“You can talk to me!”), it’s hard to believe “Hey Bulldog” sat in the can for nearly a year before it was released on the Yellow Submarine soundtrack. Written by Lennon, with a few finishing touches from Macca (most notably, impromptu dog barking that inspired a lyric and title change from “Hey Bullfrog”), “Bulldog” in many ways represents the last of the “middle period” Beatles. Three months after the song was recorded, the band reconvened to record the White Album, which marked a new direction for the band, with a lesser emphasis on highly polished and innovatively produced pop songs. “Hey Bulldog” is one last look at The Beatles as a unified (if only outwardly) rock and roll band. —Michael Wright

 

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“My Bonnie”

It was the record that started it all. While in Hamburg, the band had met Tony Sheridan, a recording artist of some note at the time, and he’d brought them in as his backing band for some recording sessions. Sheridan provides vocals on “My Bonnie” but the backing is pure Beatles — although billed as the Beat Brothers at the time. According to Beatles mythology, a young Liverpool lad walked into Brian Epstein’s record store and asked for “My Bonnie” by The Beatles. He found no such single listed but did order several copies of the Tony Sheridan single. With the band picking up a sizable local following, the singles sold quickly and Epstein’s curiosity took him to the sweaty Cavern Club one lunchtime to see the boys in action. Epstein, recognizing a goldmine when he saw one, volunteered to manage the band. The rest, as they say, is history. —Andrew Vaughan

 

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“You Won’t See Me”

When thinking about Beatles songs I felt might not crack the Top 50 but considered great nonetheless, I didn’t hesitate to go straight to “You Won’t See Me” from Rubber Soul. This song is a perfect example of how the power of music alone — even without lyrics — can tug at your heartstrings. The lyrics to “You Won’t See Me” are your basic lovelorn fare, and they work just fine here. But it’s the actual music of the song — the melody, the wonderful harmonies and the perfectly structured chord progressions — that really pull you in. You could almost sing any words to “You Won’t See Me,” and it wouldn’t matter because the music — dare I say, formula — was so skilled and well-executed. With John and George’s sweet “ooh-la-la-la-la’s” nestled snuggly under Paul’s soaring lead vocals, “You Won’t See Me” is an irresistible pop confection. —Sean Dooley

 

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“I’ll Cry Instead”

Although I know it’s not quite as good as its “A Hard Day’s Night” counterparts such as “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “If I Fell” or the title song, I’ve always had a soft spot for this jangly country shuffle. Maybe it’s because the 1:49 ditty accompanied a spiffy Beatles ’64 montage that preceded the feature film on the VHS copy that I grew up watching. As a kid, I enjoyed that movie so much. I wanted to be one of them, running around in open fields, goofing off on trains, playing rock and roll. I savored every minute of that movie and I was more than a little bit heartbroken when I bought the DVD version years later, and the “I’ll Cry Instead” montage had vanished. Now there are two minutes less that I get to spend with the boys. Thinking like an adult for a second, I like the juxtaposition of the bouncy beat with John Lennon’s obvious misgivings about fame – sort of like a proto-“Help!” Later, Lennon drew attention to the “I got a chip on my shoulder that’s bigger than my feet” line, saying that it was an accurate description of how he felt about his new superstardom. The song is packed with misgivings: He can’t talk to people that he meets; he’d have himself locked up. He wanted to get away from the crowds, but he couldn’t, so he wrote a song instead. —Bryan Wawzenek

 

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Posted: 6/4/2010 3:49:53 PM with Comments | Add Comment | Email Link | Permalink
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