Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Worst Guitar Solos Ever Recorded

   As far as guitar players go, it's pretty easy to find ones that suck. Walk into any Guitar Center or shitty bar that's elected to punish it's customers with live music, and you can find plenty of guys hacking away at the same old tired riffs, boogering up cliche blues licks, or just plain lacking any real skill or ability whatsoever. Which is fine. In these situations, you expect your ears to be assaulted by bad guitar playing. In fact, you're surprised when they aren't. But when I get in my car and turn on the radio, I find my feelings hurt and my musical sensibilities offended on a daily basis...Not only are these some truly crap-awful songs (and most of them have been on the radio for DECADES) but each one features a steaming turd of a guitar solo that rears it's ugly head about halfway through. But these aren't the usual Cro-Magnons taking up valuable space in a guitar store murdering "Sweet Home Alabama", these are people who made a career out of playing music, who have had their adolescent dreams of rock stardom realized, and have spent two-thirds of their lives waist deep in a sea of expensive booze, high-powered drugs and teenage groupies...Any musician who's had even a passing notion of possibly achieving a little fame and recognition for their craft would be jealous of any one of these jackholes....They have no business sucking, and yet they suck, SUCK, SUUUUCK!
   Some of you are probably saying.."Well, you're just a snobby, eliteist hipster. These bands have sold millions and millions of records. Somebody must like it." Yeah well that might be true, but the last time I checked, nobody went broke underestimating the intelligence of the general public. Overall, people don't care to know better, and generally don't consider music any further than audio wallpaper or a soundtrack for getting wasted or laid. Trust me, if you're a musician, or enjoy music on any kind of deeper level than that you'll agree that these are some of  THE WORST GUITAR SOLOS EVER RECORDED!

(Click on the yellow links to hear each one of these travesties in all it's glory.)










James Gurley - Big Brother and the Holding Company/Janis Joplin "Piece of My Heart"

   This has to be some of the most obnoxious, hippy-dippy bullshit guitar playing ever committed to tape. Back in the 60's, before the days of digital anything, a lot of the time it was either the producer or ONE GUY in the band that actually knew how to tune a stringed instrument. That guy must've either not shown up that day or was too high to give a fuck when this turd was recorded. I'm as much of a fan of experimental, in-the-moment, "out" playing as the next guy..But this is just noise. The perfect accompaniment to the overrated Janis Joplin's drunk-alley-cat-in-heat screeching. (Seriously, every middle-aged biker chick who's halfway through a bottle of Southern Comfort and gets a hold of a karaoke mic sounds exactly like this.) Gurley's solo is so teeth-gnashingly awful, it sounds as if somebody's trying to rip his guitar out of his hands while he's playing....If only.









Mick Jones - Foreginer "Hot Blooded"

   Before jumping on the schmaltzy ballad bandwagon like most big American rock acts did in the 80s, Foreginer were a kick ass rock and roll party band, known and loved by the non-ironic moustache wearing, beer coozie holding, jet-ski riding good time crew from here to Fontana. Their more rockin' tunes would go on to be performed by every piece of shit cover band at every dive bar and state fair in the country. I doubt, however that even a hack in one of those bands would bother to try and cop the "solo" in this song note-for-note. It's a fumbling wreck of pinched-off bends, sloppy pull-offs and wankery. Honestly Mick, you couldn't have put down the coke mirror for a second to make a few more passes at this thing? Not only do I blame him, but what about the producer on this session (most likely also face down in a pile of blow) who said.."Yeah, nice one...I think we got it."









Some Dutch Guy - Golden Earring "Radar Love"

   All guitarists at one time or another "noodle". Noodling means you're absently playing without really paying attention to what you're doing...Most of the time you do it at home, in front of the TV, or between songs to pass the time. There's nothing wrong with it, unless you record 8 1/2 minutes of it, stick it in the middle of a song, release it as a single, and try to pass it off as a guitar solo. This has like three tracks worth of this dude blundering around the fretboard like he can't figure out what to play...all recorded at irritating, just-shy-of-bothering-the-neighbors volume levels. Then, just when you think it couldn't get any more annoying, after the breakdown he decides he's going to get all "down home and bloozy", lays down three more tracks of junky slide playing and really starts stinking things up. Every time I'm forced to sit through this song, I can't help but picture this dunderhead in my mind, eyes closed, making the "Oooo" face, and acting like he's really, really "feeling it". Gahhh!









Jimi Hendrix - The Jimi Hendrix Experience "Little Miss Strange"

   Yes, that's right, Jimi Hendrix...But not for the same reason as all the other entries on this list. This little known tune is a two minute throwaway off of Electric Ladyland, written and sung by frustrated-guitarist-stuck-playing-bass-alongside-a-motherfucking-virtuoso Noel Redding. What puts it on this list is Jimi, knowing how god awfully lame the song is, sounds like he's making fun of it the whole time, ripping it to pieces with silly little fuzz licks, cartoon chicken pickin' and goofy-ass wha-wha. I'm sure Noel went to his grave being pissed off at Jimi for taking a dump all over his tune...once he figured out he was being screwed with, that is.









Kirk Hammett - Metallica "One / Unforgiven / Enter Sandman" any one of their songs, really.

   If you're 15 years old and have just discovered Metallica, or you're 45 years old and still listen to Metallica, you're probably going to launch into a profanity-laden diatribe about how I don't know what the fuck I'm talking about, but here it is: Kirk Hammett sucks shit... He's like the James Gurley of heavy metal...Crappy phrasing, flat bends, and shitty vibrato (In case you're wondering what vibrato is, Mozart...it's when you vary a fretted note's pitch, trying to make it "sing"). This clown took lessons from Joe freakin' Satriani for God's sake (and if you don't know who that is, let's just say he's a guy who's WAY FUCKING BETTER)..... Listen to one of his guitar tracks isolated from everything else....Let's say that if instead of being in Metallica, he was your next door neighbor chopping away like that in his garage. Tell me you wouldn't throw open your back door after about ten minutes and yell "YOU SUCK!!! SHUT UP!!"









Steve Miller - Steve Miller Band "Abracadabra"

   Steve Miller's music has been pool hall jukebox fodder for generations, and the majority of his tunes are generic, mid-tempo, safe-for-white-people, blues based rock music. But this one is an especially cloying pile of garbage. Not only are we treated to lyrics straight out of a 6th grader's creative writing journal ("Abra, abracadabra...I wanna reach out and grab ya."....Genius.) in an attempt to stay relevant in the mid 80s, Steve added some cheesy synths and bought a brand new delay/echo pedal which he's apparently trying to figure out how to operate while the tape is rolling.









Pete Townshend  - The Who "Baba O'Riley" (...not "Teenage Wasteland") 

  Ol' Pete was never really known for being a strong lead player, but is not like he never tried. One listen to the bludgeoning "Young Man Blues" off of 1970's Live at Leeds will give you an idea of what he's capable of....but that was back when he was a young, pill popping hooligan. By the time this song was released, The Who had degenerated into bloated arena rock silliness. "Baba O'Riley" is arena rock at it's finest, though. After the trippy keyboard intro, a lone piano majestically introduces the main riff and then the song explodes in your face while 20,000 watts flap Pete's bellbottoms. The song bashes and chugs along pretty well when suddenly it gets punched in the balls by a candy-ass little melody that sounds like it's being played by a midget cowboy who's missing two fingers on his left hand. After that the song gets dumber and dumber and more and more overblown until it finally climaxes with, of all things, an ELECTRIC VIOLIN solo....Good Lord.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Which Guitarist Are You?

   We guitar players are a judgemental lot. When we're at a gig and you or your roadie comes out and starts tuning up and futzing with your gear, we immediately make all kinds of assumptions about what we can expect out of you. Which one of these slingers are you? Well, read on...





Gibson Les Paul

Sure, plenty of young ladies in rock bands have shouldered one of these beasts, but make no mistake...This is a man's guitar. Big, heavy, and flashy as hell. When you're flailing away at one of these things and you've got a couple of hundred watts behind you flattening people, testosterone levels skyrocket. If you could lay the blame on any one solid body electric guitar as being responsible for the most unwanted pregnancies, this would be it. Rock and Roll!!





Paul Reed Smith

Outrageously well made with a price tag to match, this is the guitar equivalent of a Range Rover. Are you a plastic surgeon who likes to hit up open blues jams on the weekends? Are you an aging rock star who's just lost his endorsement deal with Gibson? Is your record label throwing wads of cash your way? Time for a PRS! The really nice ones are usually locked up in glass cases or hanging high on the wall at Guitar Center so unless money is no object, it's unlikely you'll ever get to touch one.





Full Custom

Nothing says "I'm a pretentious nerdbag" better than when you pull one of these very expensive, made-by-nobody-you've-ever-heard-of monstrosities out of it's case. These are always made from about a dozen species of wood with names you can't pronounce, usually sport tons of medieval hippie Rennisannce Faire inlay, and are wired up with complex tone circuts you need to be 3 bong rips deep to navigate successfully. So, if an ordinary off the shelf guitar is a less than adequate vehicle for your advanced abilities, or your jam band just landed an opening spot on Phish's reunion tour, you'll probably need to commission a guy from Canada or northern California to hand build you one of these superior music-making tools. Tool being the operative word.






Import

While it's true that luthiers throughout the Pacific Rim have stepped up their game of late, the guitar market is still bloated with these slapped together, perpetually out-of-tune, 6-string travesties. Available at fine retail establishments like Wal-Mart and Toys "R" Us, the ultimate fate of most of these planks is to be encrusted with stickers, tenatively bashed on for a year or two, and tossed into the corner of some kid's bedroom to be forgotten in favor of sports, chicks or video games where you pretend you're playing the guitar. Look for them on Craig's List, eBay, yard sales, pawn shops, or hanging on the wall of your local sports bar, shrouded in neon and further humiliated with Budwieser logos.....Sad.





(Not vintage)

Beater

 It used to take passion, dedication, and time for an electric guitar to acquire the distinctive patina of heavy use. Every so often you'll run across a guy who's digging into some crusty old junker he picked up in a pawn shop for 200 bucks back when nobody cared about old guitars and has been playing the living hell out of it for 40 years, but in this fast-paced age of instant gratification, who's got the time for passion and dedication? These days assembly line workers in Mexico and "custom shop" hacks the world over can crank out artificially aged versions of all your favorites! Pair it up with brand new Levis shot full of holes and a fresh off the rack t-shirt made to look like you've worn it since college, and you're good to go, buddy! Now you can look like you've "seen it all" and "been there" even if you haven't been anywhere or seen shit. Thanks a lot, Stevie Ray!






Shred Machine

Back in the 80's, every coked-up hair farmer from here to South Pasedena could be found on stage dry humping one of these honeys. Usually coated with day-glo paint, skulls, bull's eyes, snakes, checker boards, samurai swords, stripes, naked chicks or all of the above. Double locking trems and frets the size of railroad ties insure that even the most sausage-fingered can "wheedly-wheedly-wheedly" away all night long and sound like they've just graduated from GIT. Remnants of a bygone era. Can now be found mostly in the hands of Norwegian death metallers (in black, of course), indie rockers trying to be "ironic", and your guitar teacher.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Greatest Guitar Solos Ever Recorded

NOW WITH LINKS!
Just click on the artist and song title to hear it.


  When you're a guitar player in a rock band, especially if you're just starting out, there's no finer moment in the song than when it's time for your solo. It's that special time when the singer finally shuts up and it's your chance to grab some of the spotlight and show the boys and girls what you're made of. It's your moment in the sun. Your time to shine. The moment when all of that study, noodling and practice finally pays off. If you're good enough, other guitarists will take notice, regular people will stop what they're doing and listen in, and members of the opposite sex will decide that they do in fact want to sleep with you.
     This list of guitar solos is by no means comprehensive. Your favorite dusty old blues guy or jazz fusion dude that nobody's ever heard of isn't here. It isn't a list of the all-time greatest guitarists either, which is why guys like Jimi Hendrix, Steve Vai, Jeff Beck, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eddie Van Halen, Joe Satriani, Eric Clapton, and many other well-known monster players are conspicuously absent. I'm not denying that any one of them is immensely talented, but their entire careers are, for the most part, one long guitar solo. Players like them have become legends more for their sheer ability than for inventing a perfect little instrumental break to fit within a song. But one need not be a virtuoso to lay down a heroic guitar solo. All you really need is a little bit of taste, some creativity, and a whole lotta confidence. Greatness is purely subjective anyway. I could've compiled a list entitled The Greatest Vegetables Ever Grown and someone would invariably say "How could you not put artichokes on this list??? Artichokes are some of the tastiest, most wonderful vegetables that the good Lord ever had the divine wisdom to place upon this earth and you're a idiot for not including them!!" Still other may whine that "I'm appalled that you didn't include Joe Blow's solo in "Blow Me" by Joe Blow and the Blowhards! Joe can play circles around any one of these so-called "greats" that you've mentioned and the only reason that nobody's ever heard of him is because people are fucking stupid and blah, blah, blah!!"
   First of all, I'm not saying that to some folks artichokes are delicious. I just don't care for them. Second of all, there wasn't enough room to name the post Guys Who Play In Bands Whose Music Is Readily Accessible to the General Public That In My Personal Opinion Are Especially Talented At Composing An Artistically and Emotionally Satisfying Guitar Solo, so I just went with the above. So....without further ado and in no particular order:

 




Andy Summers - The Police "Driven To Tears"
   This song is pretty much standard Sting & Co. fare: Tighter than a squirrel's ass snare drum? Check. Dub Reggae vs. White Funk vs. Spiky-Haired New Wave? Check. Wry social commentary? Check. That is until the lead break when the normally stoic Summers clicks off his delay pedal, kicks in the overdrive and unleashes a visceral, howling, atonal freakout. What makes it even better is that immediately following Andy's schizophrenic episode, the song picks right up where it left off like it never happened. Genius!







Brian May - Queen "We Will Rock You"
   Handclaps, foot stomping and stupid lyrics until the solo comes in and we're treated to Professor May's impeccable tone, touch and taste. No one plays with more controlled authority than this man. Armed with a homemade solid body and a cranked AC-30, he manages to kick this song down the hallway and out the door quite nicely. Too bad you almost always have to sit through "We Are The Champions" immediately after. Science!








Dave Mustaine - Megadeth "Holy Wars: The Punishment Due"
   Sure, Marty Friedman, Mustaine's hired gun for this particular iteration of Megadeth, plays really fast and can do all that string-skipping, sweep-picking, shred-weenie shit, but Dave's dirty, snarling, feedback laden solo near the end is true, unbridled metal rage. It's a shame that he's more well known as the guy who got kicked out of Metallica for being a druggie fuckup (and since he "found Jesus" a few years ago, spewing neo-conservative diarrhea out of his mouth) instead of the seriously badass guitarist that he actually is. Underrated!









Keith Richards - The Rolling Stones "Sympathy For The Devil"
  It sounds as if Keef is truly attempting to summon The Dark One with this piercing, treble shriek. It's probably no coincidence that this is the song they were playing when a Hell's Angel stabbed that guy at Altamont. I don't know what kind of guitar/amp setup he's got here, but once he slithers from his coffin and starts to chop, slice and stab his way through the solo section of this song, it sounds like he's grown claws and is using a hypodermic needle for a pick. Evil!








Kurt Cobain - Nirvana "Verse Chorus Verse" (a.k.a. "Sappy")
   Anti-hero. Anti-guitarist. Slacker. Whatever. Good playing is good playing, and by all accounts Kurt grew up listening to enough standard-issue rock music to know what constitutes a proper guitar solo: a solid melodic statement that fits within the song's context and has a definite beginning, middle and end. This is one of those rare moments where the archetypal bright-boy-who-doesn't-apply-himself sounded as if he actually gave a shit, and comes off like a kid playing a high school talent show with his band, trying to impress a girl. Inspiring!






Neil Young - Crazy Horse "Cinnamon Girl"
   It's one note, people. ONE NOTE! But it's played with such fierce conviction that it's hard to imagine anything else fitting as well here. Once again, it serves the song like a good guitar solo should. It's also worth noting that Brother Neil was serving up raw, dropped-D sludge like this when all those early 90s grunge brats were still pooping in their diapers. Classic!








Jimmy Page - Led Zeppelin "Fool In The Rain"
    There's no question that Jimmy Page is one of the greatest guitarists to ever drag a Les Paul on the floor, and there are better examples of his skill, but this particular solo is so reckless, so fearless and so brazenly sloppy that it deserved to be included here. Jimmy starts off strong but then he mumbles, he meanders, and seems to run out of ideas about halfway through. Suddenly, he starts playing so blindingly fast and pulls off such outrageous phrases, it's like he's some drunken, stumbling savant who's just discovered he can do trigonometry. Finally, at a point when most guys would've said "Fuck it, can we start over?" Jimmy soldiers on to the bitter end and more or less lands on his feet by the time the vocal comes back in. Whew! Nobody else could get away with such beautifully ham-fisted playing, and if they tried you'd probably say "Who is this guy? He sucks!" Cheeky!









Prince - Prince and the Revolution "When Doves Cry"
   This greasy little sex dwarf has been quietly ripping up the fretboard for ages, and has only recently been getting props for it. Of course "Let's Go Crazy" has him channeling Hendrix (or is it "ripping off "?....either way) with feedback and fuzz-wah flash, but at the very beginning of this track we get 15 seconds of His Royal Purple Badness simply manhandling his guitar like he's just caught Appolonia and Shelia E. in bed with Morris Day. Hot!








George Harrison - The Beatles "Strawberry Fields Forever"
   When a Beatles song needed a guitar solo, George more often than not drew from his roots (The Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran, I (heart) Rock 'n Roll school of revved-up country licks) or just had Paul or his good friend and wife-coveter Eric Clapton do it. A few trips to India and an indeterminate amount of mind-altering substances later, and the quiet, introspective Beatle had the wherewithal to dose us with this little gem. The guitar is buried deep in the George Martin haze for most of the song, until after the last "chorus" when this raga-induced, sounds-backwards-but-isn't hit of blotter kicks in. You can almost see George perched atop a giant mushroom, his turban-covered head veiled in a cloud of hash smoke, while his guitar twists and melts in his hands....Woah...Wait, where was I? Anyway.....After that the track gets really weird. Transcendental!
Honorable Mention: The infectiously goofball slide part in "My Sweet Lord" is pure joy. It's more of a hook than a proper solo, however.







Dave Davies - The Kinks "All Day and All Of The Night"
    Over a decade before rock and roll would give birth to the inbred bastard child known as punk rock, there was still plenty of adolescent rage and frustration to go around. Songs about political inequality and what clueless assholes your parents are would come later. Back then the themes were more along the lines of "Oh my God, I'm so fucking horny, I can't even think straight!" On this track Dave (the mean Davies brother) is the perfect sonic embodiment of raging, snotty teen angst. He's got a cheap guitar and an amp with a busted speaker and he's not afraid to use it. When the lead break comes he just turns up and goes for it. Timeless!









  Yeah, the song's a piece of pretentious, over-produced garbage, recorded by the same guys (mostly) who in the 70s were famous 36 minute songs with titles like "Siberian Khatru" and "The Revealing Science of God". But hey, everyone was doin' it, man. By the time the 80s rolled around, every aging rocker was desperately trying to stay relevant by "updating" their sound, cutting their hair, and augmenting their wardrobes with neon muscle shirts and shoulder pads. Virtuoso guitarist Steve Howe would have none of it however, and bailed out to form a group called Asia with some of his prog rock buddies who promptly recorded an album's worth of......pretentious, over-produced garbage. To fill the void, in stumbles South African guitarist Trevor Rabin who almost saves the song with some gritty rhythm tracks and a mean, vertigo-inducing solo which has to hold the title for the most heavily processed guitar tone ever committed to tape. Highbrow!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Introduction

   My father was, among other things, a musician, an artist and an intellectual. I grew up with him and my mom in a relatively well-adjusted home with lots of plants, books, shag carpeting, macrame, wicker furniture and a guitar in the corner of most every room. My dad's band used to rehearse in our basement, and we had a big stereo with tons of records. Parties and get-togethers would almost always end with late night jam sessions in the room full of guitars, amps and other gear we used to refer to as "the den". So it's safe to say that music was woven into the fiber of my existence since birth, enjoyed by all of us in our house on a daily basis. As I grew up, the idea of me becoming a musician didn't even seem like a conscious decision....It was an inevitability.
   By age 15 I had morphed into a shaggy-haired stoner kid who played a lot of Dungeons & Dragons, read pretty much any book I could get my hands on, and took up the bass guitar simply because I lacked the patience and dexterity for a six-string. I learned to play it by listening to all the readily available rock records by all the usual suspects of the era: Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, etc. I found that the instrument suited my personality perfectly. I was a shy kid who preferred to not draw too much attention to himself, so with my bass I could blend into the background, play my part anonymously and be content.
   One day, a good friend who was a bit older than me introduced me to something known as Progressive Rock. Here, the bass guitar played a more prominant role. This was music that was heady, yet aggressive, challenging to play, and demanding to listen to. It was miles ahead, I thought, of the blues based stomp-and-shuffle I had cut my teeth on and wasn't brainlessly macho like the heavy metal that many of my other friends were into. I was hooked, and dove in head first.
   Fast forward a few years and my father and I are on the hour and a half long drive to southern Massachusetts to visit my grandmother. I talked him into letting me put one of my cassettes in the deck.  After a song or two I asked him for his opinion of this strange, beautiful music I had been immersing myself in with it's odd time signatures, complex riffery, and shameless psychedelisisms.

"Bombastic pomposity." he said.

I was floored! How could he, as a fellow musician, simply scoff at this music's devine complexities? It was creative, required skill to perform, and was technically advanced. These were all qualities he urged me towards as a player. Besides, wasn't his beloved Cream nothing if not bombastic? Wasn't Mahavishnu Orchestra more than a little bit pompous? I was confused, bewildered, and quite frankly, somewhat offended.
   It would be years before I would become artistically evolved enough to grasp the dry wit of my father's comment, and I would go on to embrace many diverse styles of music as I grew older (I still don't listen to much of the jazz he attempted to force feed me, but I'm sure he'd be pleased to learn that I just recently downloaded Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew". He was right...Miles is amazing.). Thus began a long conversation in my mind about music's failings and merits that continues to this day. So in an attempt to entertain and achieve a catharsis of sorts, I begin this blog and dedicate it to my dearly departed father, who always encouraged me to be critical, analytical, knowledgeable, and have a good time doing it.

Be forewarned....Like him, I occasionally use 4-letter words when deemed appropriate.