This is a lot of fun, and I have to take my hat off to Alex Chadwick for such a marvelously obsessive study. There’s no way this history can be complete – especially as it advances past the early years – but it nonetheless does an admirable job of describing the overall evolution of rock guitar playing. And it’s a superb performance, very cleverly conceived and masterfully executed. So here you go, today’s guitar lesson post – 100 Riffs (A Brief History of Rock N’ Roll) by Alex Chadwick. Check it out:
At his site – 100riffs.com – you can check out his setup, including the pedal board he used to pull this off in one pass. He’s also got lesson videos for some of those 100 tunes, like this one of “Purple Haze” – in which he breaks down both the guitar technique and demonstrates what particular effects pedals he used to complete the sound. Pretty badass.
Making this record was a wild experience. There was no producer, or more accurately, there were at least 11! Each of nine band-mates, plus the recording engineer, plus our manager. That’s a lot of cooks in the kitchen, and we were all very opinionated and strong-willed. We booked “lock-out” time at a recording studio – an archaic practice from when mixing boards were not computers, and you had to leave the faders and everything right where they were between sessions in order to save your work. Being 17 to 19-year-olds at the time, we just wouldn’t go home. I have no idea how many hours we spent in there, but it was lunacy. The cover art, same deal. We all had a say in it. Hence the strange, obscured image collage, which ends up reflecting the recording well. To my eternal bafflement and delight, the thing became a college radio hit in 1985. Long out of print, K.U.S.A. was on 415 Records, and you may be able to find one on eBay or something if you’re curious. If it ever gets released digitally, I’ll plop a link to it here. It’s a very uneven work, full of amazing moments, and some moments too where I just scratch my head and go “what were we thinking?!” My takeaway as a musician, songwriter, etc. was this: I MUCH prefer to work with a producer, but this kind of chaos can produce some unique and beautiful things as well. This post is too long and I’m totally oversharing. Oh well. Hope you enjoy it if you do have it. I played a massive guitar solo on Outside The Inn! I like that part. We also re-recorded Out To Sea for this, and it’s dreadful. Listen to the version on East Bay Orbits instead, that’s the original. Can you tell I’m a little neurotic about this record? I’ma shut up now.
People were playing rock n’ roll long before rock n’ roll was called “rock n’ roll.” Here’s more irrefutable proof, in a ragtime blues from Charlie Spand and Blind Blake from 1929 called “Hastings Street.” It freaking rocks. And rolls. Today’s guitar lesson? Just listen to this all the way through a coupla times. Soak it up. Then cop the riffs and play along. Then play it on your own. Then call yer buddy up and have them come over and do the piano part. You will become happy.
You don’t need reverb, echo, doubling, or any of that. Whatever room you are in, it has it’s own reverb, it’s own sound. Whether you play electric or acoustic, what does your guitar sound like? All the tone you need, it comes out of your fingers. If you practice with reverb or other effects, you wont hear that. Practice dry, add effects only when they are required for the music you’re performing. I make this note only because I see a lot of players who just leave effects on by default. It’s a mistake – you miss out on the real sound of the guitar when you do that. The guitar, by itself, is a beautiful instrument. You can do anything with it. What you can pull out of a guitar is only limited by your imagination. Reach for it. Play a note, and listen to it, in the room you’re in. Amazing things will happen.
That’s all. Starting a new blog Category with this post – “Guitar Lessons!”
Most people don’t know what IODAPromonet is, or was. And I don’t see any news articles about it closing, so I’m making a little post to say goodbye to what was a remarkable resource. IODA (now merged with Orchard) is an online distributor of recordings: they take the music made by independent labels like the one I record for, and feed it out to iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and other online music retailers and subscription services. Promonet was a site that IODA created, which gave bloggers some tools to easily post and promote music in the IODA catalog. The idea was to encouraged people to discover and promote music in the “Long Tail” – the vast, undiscovered or under-discovered bulk of contemporary recorded music. I used it extensively, posting links to hundreds of records and promotional free mp3s that I found there over the years. Word is that as of today, the site is going dark along with all the content in it. I’ll miss it. But it isn’t a huge surprise. In the evolution of music and commerce in the digital age, there are hundreds of former sites. I’ve been following this stuff since IUMA. What a long strange tail it’s been.
I have had the pleasure of collaborating with some fine songwriters over the years, including the unique and completely original Paul Jackson. As a keyboardist, singer and composer in The Uptones, Paul has always pushed the envelope, lyrically and musically. “Bested By Pelicans” is right out of Paul’s head; I just helped bring it to life. I watched the idea grow from the initial moment of inspiration at the beach (all of it really happened, including the cheese-food-stuff!) to the rehearsal where he passed out the parts. After we recorded this, our friend, cartoonist Shannon Wheeler made some images for a lyric sheet, which Paul later animated in this clip. It’s on the Uptones’ Skankin’ Foolz Unite! album which you can buy directly from the band as a CD, or from iTunes if you’d rather get the download.
Thanks Aidin Vaziri for spreading the word about Public Domain 4U. Check out today’s post – a free mp3 of Charley Patton’s “Poor Me” recorded in 1934. One mic, one man, his guitar and voice. Oh and a tape recorder! A vast contrast to today’s overwrought and sanitized faux-recordings. Posting at PublicDomain4U.com continues to be a labor of love. There’s a lot of great music in the public domain now, and our humble site’s mission is to help you find and enjoy some of the best of it.
Now that DNA evidence might prove the existence of “Bigfoot” I would like to point out that we have known this all along, have spoken with Sasquatch, and apart from sharing some fish recipes, I assure you he just wants to be left alone. The Rev. Paul Jackson cooked up some Halibut with the Yeti himself, before writing the lyrics to this song. I played guitar and we recorded it with Stiff Richards for our “Email EP” in 1996. The EP is available at . Sasquatch’s last words to us as he slipped into the forest were, “don’t call me Bigfoot.” Here is a documentary account of events, as they really happened.
A few years ago I asked Jesse Michaels to draw an interpretation of The Uptones’ hat-and-shades logo for our album, “Skankin’ Foolz Unite!” and Jesse sent us this wonderful ska doggie. We had a contest to name the pup, and numerous fans sent in the name of “Buster.” Buster also happens to be my cat’s name so it seemed natural that I’d have a Buster Doggie as well. Now Buster is all grow’d up and he turns up in the strangest places. A ska fan in Oregon had a skalloween jack-o-lantern contest, and one of the winners was this brilliant likeness of Buster. So naturally we’re inviting our fans to draw, carve or photoshop their own Buster interpretations, and send them in for a photo album. Deets in my post at Uptones.com: The Many Faces Of Buster the Ska Doggie.
I recently started a new band with young singer-guitarist Emily Jayne. Emily had joined The Uptones for the 2010 Warped Tour, and we started writing some songs. Producer Matthew King Kaufman liked the stuff and encouraged us to start a band. I recruited Eric Knight and Pete D’Amato to play bass and drums. Michael Rosen recorded an early show, and the result is “Check Out The Fashion Slaves” – our first CD. You can buy a copy direct from the band at www.thefashionslaves.com. It’s also available at iTunes. Here’s the opening number – our cover of “Psychotic Reaction” – along with some visuals by Emily herself. Hope you enjoy listening as much as we enjoyed playing it.