January 2024 – A Brief History of the Bass Guitar

Prelude

WELCOME FAIR MUSIC‑MINDED PATRONS to the first CRAVE Guitars’ monthly article of the New Year. While we may be less than a full month into the year Two Thousand and Twenty Four of the Common Era, one hopes it is off to a good start despite global uncertainty (and insanity). Let us hope that those intent on geopolitical conflict come to their senses, unlikely as it may seem, rather than escalate tensions further. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be part of the doomsday generation. Scary.

Bellum omnium contra omnes (the war of all against all)” – Thomas Hobbes (1588‑1679)

Getting back to the musical point, ask pretty much anyone with a slight interest in modern music culture, the question, “Who invented the first bass guitar?” and I’m sure a lot of people would say, “Leo Fender, of course”. Well yes… and no. In the world of vintage guitars, things are rarely quite as straightforward as one may at first think.

With the recent addition of CRAVE Basses to the CRAVE Guitars, Amps and Effects family, this month seems perfectly apt to take a quick look at how the electric bass guitar as we know it came into being and how it has become such an integral component of contemporary music.

Primarily as a guitarist, my dalliances with bass guitars up to now have, I admit, been spawned out of curiosity and exploration, rather than a serious preoccupation. Those dalliances, though, span well over four decades, so the bass encounter isn’t a single, short or recent ‘event’.

We do not start the story, as many might imagine in the 1950s. We’ll come back to that in a little while. Before we get there, though, we should go back quite a few years. Many, many years in fact, starting with the classical orchestral double bass, originating from the 15th Century or thereabouts. Then we’ll explore the modern‑day innovations starting in the 1920s and 1930s before the ‘big bang’ that really exploded in the 1950s and 1960s. Finally we’ll come up‑to‑date, with a look at the instruments, equipment, artists and sounds that have helped to shape the modern musical landscape. Finally, we’ll take a wee peak into the near future of bass instruments.


The fretless acoustic double bass

Before the solid body fretted electric bass guitar, popular music relied almost totally on the acoustic upright double bass for low frequency impact. The instrument’s origins date approximately to the 15th‑16th Century in Venice, Italy. Venetian musician, Silvestro Ganassi developed a ‘bass viola da gamba’ in 1542, widely regarded as the forerunner of today’s double bass. It wasn’t until around 1700, though, that the double bass became part of the opera orchestra. The double bass as we now know it is the largest and lowest‑pitched chordophone in the classical music orchestra.

As a quick recap, defined by the Hornbostel‑Sachs system of musical instrument classification, a chordophone is a musical instrument that makes sound from vibrating one or more taught strings by bowing, plucking or striking the strings. Examples of chordophone types include violins, guitars, and pianos respectively. The word chordophone stems from the Greek words for string (chordē) and sound (phonē).

For more on the historical origins of musical instrument classification (to provide a context for the development of the guitar), see CRAVE Guitars’ March 2018 article.

A Potted History of the Guitar Part I (The ancient world up to the early Renaissance):
March 2018 – A Potted History of the Guitar Part I (craveguitars.co.uk)

The traditional 4‑string double bass is usually played in one of two ways, either by rubbing the strings with a bow (arco) or by plucking the strings with fingers (pizzicato). Some modern double bass players, for instance in rock & roll and rockabilly, also use a distinctive ‘slap’ technique. This percussive sound derived from the ‘Bartók pizzicato’ (‘snap’ pizzicato) named after the Hungarian composer and pianist Béla Bartók.

Double Bass (courtesy of Roxanne Minnish)

Depending on the style of music, the double bass is also known by a number of other names, all of which refer to the same instrument. Some of these alternative monikers include bass, upright bass, string bass, acoustic bass, acoustic string bass, contrabass, contrabass viol, bass viol, bass violin, stand‑up bass, bull fiddle, doghouse bass and bass fiddle.

The traditional double bass is a large acoustic fretless instrument of the violin family that is played upright. The deep, resonant, woody tone of the double bass endows it with a very different sound when compared to the modern solid body fretted electric bass guitar. The tuning of the double bass is different from other members of the orchestral sting instruments, in that it is tuned in fourths (E‑A‑D‑G) rather than a violin’s fifths (G‑D‑A‑E). The double bass, then, is tuned the same as a modern bass guitar, an octave below the bottom four strings of a 6‑string guitar in standard tuning. This particular characteristic aided the bass’s transition from classical to modern day musical styles.

Originally, double basses were more likely to have three strings until four strings became commonplace by the 19th Century, by which time the standard format and construction of the double bass had become established. There are, however, 5 and 6 (or more) string variants and there are also various alternative tunings.

The double bass has been the mainstay of orchestral string sections and chamber music for several centuries in one form or another. It was predictable that, with the emergence and evolution of the major modern popular music genres, such as jazz, blues and country & western that the double bass would become the go‑to bass instrument, at least up until the 1960s when the solid body fretted electric bass guitar became predominant. However, the double bass hasn’t disappeared from contemporary music completely. Plenty of present‑day artists still use or revert back to the double bass for authenticity and/or effect.

The main drawback experienced by many players is that the double bass is a substantial piece of equipment. The full‑size double bass is almost 75 inches (190cm) tall, weighing in at c.20‑25lbs (9‑11½kg), without its hefty case. The scale length is set at around 42” (107cm), much longer than most modern bass guitars. Given these dimensions, the double bass is sizeable, cumbersome, unwieldy and plain heavy, making it far from the easiest of instruments to move around or play. There are smaller double basses including ¾, ½ and ¼ size, mainly aimed at younger players. Even so, the double bass not for the faint hearted, as the smallest ¼ size instrument is still over 61” (156cm) tall.

Another drawback is the double bass’s acoustic construction. Like the acoustic guitar, in the first half of the 20th Century, the acoustic double bass’s lack of volume made it hard to be heard in a jazz‑era big band mix unless there was some form of electrification through either a magnetic pickup or a microphone connected to an amplifier and, even then, acoustic instruments can be prone to feedback in high sound pressure level environments.

Traditional double basses are not only large but, because of their construction, they are also quite expensive, making them a major investment and therefore difficult for novices or younger players to access and learn.

Even so, despite its limitations, during the 20th Century the double bass became widely used in a diverse range of modern music genres, including jazz, blues, swing, rock & roll, rockabilly, country & western, bluegrass, folk, funk, reggae, metal, rock, pop, tango and visual media soundtracks.

Trivia: Believe it or not, there is an even larger bass, first built c.1850 by the French luthier Jean‑Baptiste Vuillaume (1798‑1875) in Paris. The octobass, as it is called, has three strings and is basically a larger version of the double bass tuned a further octave down. The octobass is a truly gargantuan beast, approximately 137” high (348cm).


The electric upright bass

To enable modern players to experience the spirit of the acoustic double bass in a more convenient and amplified form, there is the modern Electric Upright Bass (EUB), which is also played, as its name suggests, upright, like a traditional double bass.

EUBs allow for greater portability while retaining the playing style and general sound of its forebear. As the EUB doesn’t require the substantial acoustic resonating chamber of a double bass, they often feature a ‘skeleton’ body, making it much smaller, lighter and cheaper to produce. The minimal structure may have either a solid body or a small acoustic body.

A magnetic, piezo or condenser bass pickup provides the means to route the signal via a bass amplifier to loudspeakers. Like a double bass, the EUB’s strings can be bowed or plucked, although that is dependent on fingerboard and bridge radius. While evoking its acoustic origins, the structural and electric characteristics of the EUB endow it with a unique sound all of its own.

As the EUB’s construction isn’t bound by convention like its orchestral sibling, the flexible format allows for a range of scale lengths to be employed from around 30” (76cm), through 34” (86cm) like a long scale bass guitar to the full 42” (107cm) of a double bass, making it much more accessible to a range of players. Almost all EUB necks allow for a full two‑octave range and most but not all are fretless. Compared to the double bass or the electric bass guitar, the electric upright bass tends to be a modern, notable but relatively niche instrument. There are EUB models at all price points, making it easier for novices and experienced players alike.

The first production electric upright basses were developed independently in the mid‑1930s by Regal (Electrified Double Bass), Vega (Electric Bass Viol), Rickenbacker (Electro Bass‑Viol) and Audiovox (bull fiddle – see below). Gibson introduced their special order Electric Bass Guitar in 1938, which was still an upright fretless instrument with a hollow body and a magnetic pickup.

Manufacturers of electric upright basses include Framus, Ampeg, Warwick, Ibanez, Yamaha, Palatino, NS Design (Ned Steinberger), and Harley Benton.

Electric Upright Bass

The first solid‑body fretted electric bass guitar

As hinted at above, while Leo Fender was the major innovator associated with the solid‑body fretted electric bass guitar, he wasn’t the first. He was beaten to the starting post by at least some 15 years. Hardly a photo finish!

The first indication of the possible future of a bass guitar was in 1924 when the legendary Gibson designer, Lloyd Loar came up with a prototype electric bass. The Loar concept focused on the body, pickup and strings but with little additional detail. Loar’s radical design was rejected by Gibson management at the time. Loar left Gibson shortly thereafter in 1924, so his visionary ideas for an electric bass guitar went no further.

Nearly a decade later, around 1933, American musician and inventor Paul H. ‘Bud’ Tutmarc (1896‑1972), based in Seattle, Washington, began experimenting with reducing the size of the double bass to a more manageable instrument. Tutmarc originally devised an electrified fretless double bass‑style instrument described as an electric 4‑string upright ‘bull fiddle’, slightly smaller than a cello.

It’s worth a quick diversion to go back in time to take in an original report from the ‘Seattle Post‑Intelligencer’ newspaper, which published the story on 17 February 1935. The headline read, “Pity Him No More – New Type Bull Fiddle Devised.”

The article went on to state that, “People have always pitied the poor bass-fiddler… who has to lug his big bull-fiddle home through the dark streets after the theatre closes. But he doesn’t have to do it anymore. Because Paul Tutmarc, Seattle music teacher and KOMO radio artist, has invented an electric bull-fiddle. One you can carry under your arm. And it doesn’t even need a bow, either. You pluck a string – and out of the electric amplifier comes a rich, deep tone, sustained as if five or six bass violinists were bowing five or six bass‑violins with masterly artistry. The tone is sustained as long as you want it, too, without a bow.” The instrument described in the article was a cello‑like upright fretless instrument with an electromagnetic pickup.

Tutmarc was, however, about to do something far more radical. By 1935-1936, Tutmarc, had changed direction and developed the first solid body fretted electric bass guitar, pretty much recognisable in its modern form. It was this version of Tutmarc’s bass that was intended to be played horizontally, rather than upright, in a similar way to the modern bass guitar. The 1935 sales catalogue for Tutmarc’s company Audiovox featured his ‘Model 736 Bass Fiddle’, a solid‑bodied electric bass guitar with four strings, a fretted neck, with a 30½” (775mm) scale length, an ebony (or purpleheart) fingerboard with 16 frets, a black walnut body, a hidden single Tutmarc‑Stimpson horseshoe pickup below a mirror-steel faceplate, and a single volume control.

Tutmarc AudioVox Model 736

In addition, as an electric bass guitar would be pretty much useless without the means to amplify the sound, Audiovox also sold an accompanying ‘Model 936’ bass amplifier with 18 watts of power and a 12” Jensen Concert speaker.

Around 100 of the Model 736 Audiovox bass guitars were made in the mid‑1930s. However, there are only thought to be three Model 736 Tutmarc bass guitars still in existence today, making them remarkably rare. One belongs to the Experience Music Project (EMP), now known as The Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), a non‑profit enterprise founded by Microsoft co‑founder Paul Allen in 2000 and based in Seattle, Washington state, USA. In 2018, a 1936 Audiovox Model 736 bass guitar was reportedly sold by Tutmarc’s grandson on eBay for $23,850.

Sadly, for Tutmarc, the Audiovox 736 was not a commercial success. The price tag was high for the mid‑1930s, in a country still severely affected by The Great Depression (1929‑1939). The 736 bass fiddle originally cost $65 and the matching 936 bass amplifier cost $75, placing it well out of reach for many musicians. The high price and the radical concept didn’t attract enough musicians at the time and it wasn’t long before it was discontinued and was subsequently forlornly forgotten to history. Tutmarc’s company, Audiovox folded in 1950.

It can well be argued that Tutmarc was ahead of his time. Perhaps it is a case of supply looking for a demand that consumers didn’t know they needed. Maybe it was bad timing and/or bad luck. The Model 736 also arrived shortly before the outbreak of World War II when the guitar manufacturing industry was deemed ‘non‑essential’ and resources were diverted to the American war effort. Furthermore, a bass guitar didn’t seem to fit seamlessly into any of the prevailing musical styles at that time.

It is surprising, though, that such a significant innovation in guitar history isn’t more widely known about. Perhaps it is time, nay overdue, for Tutmarc’s milestone achievements to be deservedly recognised.

One company, Luthiery Laboratories, makes modern‑day replicas of the Audiovox 736, keeping the spirit of the original instrument alive.

Audiovox 736 Bass (1/4) ~ Luthiery Laboratories (luthierylabs.com)


The first commercially successful mass produced solid body fretted electric bass guitar

And so it was that the scene was set for someone else to step in and make the bass guitar ‘a thing’. That someone else was Clarence Leonidas Fender (1909‑1991). Unlike poor old Paul H. Tutmarc, you may just have heard of him.

“I wonder if I could make an electric bass” – Leo Fender (1909‑1991)

For more on the history and development of Fender guitars and musical equipment, see CRAVE Guitars’ August 2018 article for the context behind Fender solid body electric guitars.

A Potted History of the Guitar Part VI (1950s and 1960s):
August 2018 – A Potted History of the Guitar Part VI (craveguitars.co.uk)

Once the proverbial ball started rolling, the bass guitar had a phenomenal, transformative and relatively rapid impact on modern music that cannot be underestimated or understated. It is also very easy to take the electric bass guitar’s presence on stages, in studios and bedrooms all around the world for granted. Back in 1950, though, no‑one other than a select few in Fullerton, California had any idea of what was to come.

So… what are we actually talking about? The answer, after the lengthy preamble (apologies for keeping you on tenterhooks for so long), is the mighty Fender Precision Bass. Three little words. Game changing, era defining and well‑deserving of all the hyperbole attached to it over the past seven‑plus decades. So much has been written about the Precision that there is little need to dredge up the detail again, so what follows is a brief overview.

Leo Fender was working on a prototype back in 1950, bringing the world’s first commercially successful mass‑produced electric bass guitar to market in 1951. Fender designed the Precision Bass (often shortened these days to P‑Bass) to overcome the many drawbacks of the acoustic double bass alluded to earlier in this article. Even the name, Precision, referred to the fretted neck to enable musicians to play in tune far more precisely than on the double bass’s fretless neck. Conservative double bass players may well have looked at the Precision Bass in the same way that conservative guitarists looked at the Fender Telecaster, which had been introduced a year earlier in 1950. Consternation and indignation were probably natural initial reactions from the ‘old‑school’.

At its most basic, the Fender Precision Bass is a solid body, 4‑string bass guitar equipped with a single pickup and a one‑piece 20‑fret maple neck with rosewood or maple fingerboard. It all sounds so very straightforward and unremarkable nowadays doesn’t it?

The Precision Bass didn’t, however, appear fully formed. The original design of the Precision borrowed several design features from the Telecaster guitar, other than the double cutaway body. Initial models carried one single coil pickup, a slab body, large scratchplate and a Tele‑like headstock.

After Fender introduced the Stratocaster guitar in 1954, some of its design features were brought over to the Precision including a contoured body and a Strat‑like headstock. The original pickup was replaced with a single split coil hum cancelling staggered design and a sleeker redesigned scratchplate. It is this version of the Precision from 1957 that has stayed in production largely unchanged to the current day. There have been many, many variants with numerous changes in specification over the years, including a fretless version (ironically, given the origin and intention of the Precision’s name). 5‑string versions, 22‑fret necks, active electronics, multiple pickups, etc. followed.

The original pre‑1957 Precision design has been re-issued by Fender at times over the years, often called the Telecaster Bass to differentiate it from the post‑1957 Precision specification.

The popularity of the Fender Precision Bass grew significantly throughout the 1950s especially with rock & roll and country fraternities, as well as with session musicians. During the 1960s the solid body fretted electric bass guitar became dominant in most modern musical genres. During the early days, there wasn’t a great deal of choice in terms of alternatives to the Precision but that was to change later on.

1977 Fender Precision Fretless Bass

Fender capitalised on their supremacy by introducing the solid body fretted electric Fender Jazz Bass in 1960 (originally called the ‘Deluxe Model’). The svelte Fender Jazz Bass (often now shortened to J‑Bass) was designed to appeal to a different customer base. Like the offset bodied Fender Jazzmaster guitar, it was aimed squarely at the dyed‑in‑the‑wool jazz community. However, like the Jazzmaster, the Jazz Bass’s appeal spread far wider than jazz musicians. Like the Precision, the Jazz Bass has rightly become an iconic industry standard solid body electric bass guitar.

Throughout the years, both the Precision and Jazz Bass have featured sizeable chrome covers over the pickup and the bridge, despite these items limiting playing techniques such as palm muting the strings. As the covers are purely aesthetic, rather than functional components, it is fair to say that the vast majority of musicians removed these covers permanently.

Without doubt, the Fender Precision Bass and its younger sibling the Jazz Bass are icons of contemporary music and remain hugely popular today. Consumers can purchase genuine P‑Bass and J‑Bass models from the budget Fender‑owned offshore‑produced Squier brand, through Mexican and American‑made Fender models, to the high‑end Fender Custom Shop versions. Throughout the decades, the Precision and Jazz Bass models have oft been imitated and/or blatantly copied by other manufacturers, eager to cash in on Fender’s industry‑dominant status.

Understandably, over the years, the Precision and Jazz Bass have become highly collectable, especially the earliest models. The highest vintage market prices undoubtedly belong to the models from 1951 (Precision) and 1960 (Jazz Bass) to 1965, when Leo Fender sold his company to industry giant CBS. Fender equipment from this period is known as ‘pre‑CBS’.

For more information on the Fender Precision and Jazz Bass, just complete any Internet browser search and, alongside a great deal of drivel, there is a massive volume of fact and opinion available, often described in forensic detail.

1989 Fender Jazz Bass American Standard Longhorn

Evolution of the electric bass guitar

It is probably fair to say that, since 1951 and the introduction of the Fender Precision Bass, other brands were in the position of having to play catch up. In particular, Fender’s biggest competitor, Gibson, was wrong‑footed and they have never been able to compete on a level playing field. In 1953, Gibson released the EB‑1, which was a violin‑shaped solid mahogany body bass with a set neck. The EB‑1 didn’t catch on and was replaced by the semi‑acoustic ES‑335‑shaped EB‑2 in 1958, the SG‑shaped Gibson EB‑0 in 1959 and the EB‑3 (made famous by Jack Bruce of Cream) in 1961. While the semi‑acoustic EB‑2 proved popular, its Epiphone‑branded counterpart, the Epiphone Rivoli proved more successful. All these early Gibson basses used a shorter 30½” scale. In 1959, Gibson also released a hollow body EB‑6 6‑string bass.

Possibly Gibson’s best contender for an iconic bass guitar is the Gibson Thunderbird, originally introduced in 1963. The Thunderbird was based on Gibson’s Firebird guitar, designed by legendary American car designer Raymond Dietrich (1894‑1980). The Thunderbird was the first Gibson solid body bass to use the 34” scale made popular by Fender. Like the Firebird, the Thunderbird was redesigned in a simpler ‘non‑reverse’ form for 1966 and the original ‘reverse’ shape wasn’t reissued until the mid‑1970s. During the 1970s, Gibson also released the Ripper and Grabber basses but neither really captured bass players’ imaginations (or their precious dollars!). Later additions like the Gibson Triumph, Victory and RD basses didn’t fare much better as viable competition for Fender’s stalwarts. Epiphone have Thunderbird and EB basses in their line‑up alongside Epiphone‑specific basses such as the Newport and the Embassy.

Over at Danelectro in Neptune, New Jersey, Nathan Daniel launched the world’s first 6‑string bass, the UB‑2 in 1956 comprising a single cutaway semi‑hollow bass with a 30” scale, 24 frets and dual single coil pickups, earning its nickname the ‘Tic Tac bass’. In 1958, Danelectro replaced the UB‑2 with two new 6‑string bass models. The first was the Long Horn 4623 bass with a radical new lyre‑like design 24 frets, and a short 25” scale. The other was the Short Horn 3612 with stubby double cutaways, 29½”scale and only 15 frets. All Danelectro models substantially undercut the retail prices of both Fender and Gibson’s basses. The 6‑string models seemed to attract guitarists rather than bass players to their designs, providing a novel bridge between guitar and bass camps.

It should be noted at this point that older 6‑string basses are generally tuned an octave below a guitar in standard tuning, to E-E, while the baritone guitars that were appearing at the time were tuned either to B‑B or A‑A. On the other hand, modern 5‑string basses simply add a lower B string while modern 6‑string basses tend to add lower B and higher C strings compared to an equivalent 4‑string bass. Confused?

Meanwhile, back in the 1960s, Fender weren’t resting on their laurels. Following the popularity of the ‘student’ Mustang guitar, Fender introduced the short scale Mustang Bass in 1966. The Mustang Bass spawned two later variants, the Bronco Bass (introduced in 1967) and the Musicmaster Bass (introduced in 1971). Fender also released two esoteric ‘bass’ guitars, the Fender Bass V (introduced in 1965), which was the world’s first 5‑string bass guitar and the 6‑string Bass VI (introduced in 1961). The latter was strongly influenced by the Fender Jaguar guitar design. The Bass VI was Fender’s upmarket response to the Danelectro 6‑string bass introduced 5 years earlier. The Bass VI is unique in having 3 pickups, 6 lighter gauge strings, a short 30” scale, a floating bridge and a mechanical vibrato as used on the Jazzmaster/Jaguar guitars, as well as a removable string mute. To compete with the Gibson EB‑2 and Epiphone Rivoli thinline semi‑acoustic basses, Fender introduced the hollow Coronado Bass in 1966.

In addition, the ‘other’ Californian company, Rickenbacker, run by F.C. Hall at the time, also wasn’t going to be left on the side‑lines in the bass department. Rickenbacker had hired Roger Rossmeisl (1927‑1979) who designed the brand’s key guitars and the 4000 series basses. The Rickenbacker 4000 bass with its distinctive cresting wave body outline and thru‑neck construction was launched in 1957. Subsequent models were named 4001, 4002, 4003, 4004, all being variants of the same basic instrument. There isn’t enough space to go into the specification differences here.

Rickenbacker 4001

A decade after Leo Fender left the company that still carries his name today, Music Man was formed in California and released Leo Fender’s vision for the next evolution of his era defining bass guitars. The Music Man Stingray Bass was released in 1976 with a single large bridge humbucker, distinctive 3+1 headstock, innovative on‑board active electronics and an integral string mute. While Music Man’s guitars never caught on at the time, the Stingray Bass has joined Fender and Rickenbacker as an iconic design for many bass musicians. The Stingray Bass was especially popular for funk slap‑style bass technique for the likes of Louis Johnson of the Brothers Johnson.

1978 Music Man Stingray Bass

There are a few other notable basses, such as the German Höfner ‘violin bass’, the 500/1, made famous by Paul McCartney of The Beatles. This model, introduced in 1955, with its carved solid spruce top and humbucking pickups, is often nicknamed the ‘Beatle Bass’. Beyond the Beatles connection, though, the 500/1 remains a relatively minor entry in the bass stakes, while the company’s only other notable entry being the Höfner Club and Verythin basses.

Another oddity to mention at this point is the Swedish Hagström H8, unique for being the world’s first mass‑produced 8‑string bass, with four pairs of strings on a short 30” scale. The H8 was only produced briefly from 1967‑1969.

Throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s a plethora of other companies jumped on the bandwagon, eager to make the most of the massive increase in demand as rock, pop and other genres proliferated. Many of the basses produced during this time were flagrant facsimiles of the best‑selling American brand models, often by Japanese companies (now termed ‘lawsuit‑era’ copies). Other companies like Warwick in Germany were making their own headway with their successful original‑design Thumb and Streamer basses.

Today (2024), Fender arguably still rules the roost with basses covering all bases (sic!) from budget to elite models. All other brands stand firmly in Fender’s enviable shadow. While Fender may dominate, there are now plenty of alternative options. There are some incredible bass guitars out there, some of which are listed later in this article for those that want to diverge from the predictable industry standard ‘Fender sound’. There are numerous ways to deviate from the common path, with different brands, string/pickup configurations, electronics, scale lengths, body construction, etc. The quality of budget instruments is vastly superior to anything available in the past and provides a strong basis (again, sic!) for players seeking to learn and develop their skills.


The acoustic bass guitar

While the solid body electric bass guitar finally took the world by storm from the 1950s and 1960s, the acoustic bass guitar has proved to be another modern, notable and niche instrument. The first (largely unsuccessful) attempts at acoustic bass guitars began to appear in the 1950s as a logical extension to its electric counterpart.

Historically, one of the earliest acoustic bass‑like instruments was the Mexican guitarrón, which has its roots in the 16th Century and is widely used in Mexican Mariachi bands. While looking similar to a guitar, these huge instruments were either 6‑string or 12‑string acoustic instruments, tuned in A‑D‑G‑C‑E‑A.

In 1972, Ernie Ball introduced the Earthwood acoustic bass guitar, stating that “…if there were electric bass guitars to go with electric guitars then you ought to have acoustic basses to go with acoustic guitars.” A simple yet ‘blindingly obvious’ observation, given the benefit of hindsight. Ernie Ball took a guitarrón, being the nearest thing to an existing acoustic bass guitar, and created a more practical instrument for guitar‑centric American consumers. The Earthwood was relatively short‑lived but the foundation of the acoustic bass guitar was established. American company Washburn took the concept and created more successful instruments that coincided neatly with MTV’s Unplugged concert series (1989‑1999). Interestingly, despite starting it all, Ernie Ball does not have an acoustic bass guitar available to buy at the time of writing.

Acoustic bass guitar construction is essentially similar to the steel‑strung flat top acoustic folk guitar, with a larger hollow wooden body and a longer scale neck. Most acoustic basses have four strings, tuned in the same way as an electric bass, E‑A‑D‑G, an octave below a standard guitar. The majority of acoustic basses have fretted fingerboards, although some are fretless.

Acoustic Bass Guitar

Like many modern day acoustic guitars, many acoustic bass models have pickups to enable them to be amplified for stage use or DI’d for recording purposes. Some instruments are thinline electric semi‑acoustic basses while others are full‑depth electro‑acoustic basses. These are designed primarily as acoustic basses with an on‑board pickup for additional amplification when needed.

Today, there are any number of acoustic bass guitars on the market for every level of player and every price point from many key manufacturers including, amongst others; Martin, Taylor, Guild, Fender, Takamine, Ovation, Tanglewood, Epiphone, Warwick, Epiphone, Washburn, Godin, ESP, Breedlove, Larivée, Framus, Hohner, Ozark, Dean, D’Angelico, Ibanez, Sigma, Alvarez and Cort.


Bass guitar amplification

In the early days of bass guitars, brands released bass amplifiers to accompany their instruments, often sold as a package (see Tutmarc’s Audiovox above, for example). Other brands like Rickenbacker did the same in the early days. The main difference between guitar amps and bass amps is that the latter are tuned specifically to reproduce bass frequencies accurately. A standard 4‑string bass guitar produces low frequencies in the range 41Hz to 100Hz with overtones extending up to 4‑5kHz (not dissimilar to an acoustic double bass in fact).

In terms of sound pressure levels, bass frequencies need more power to be heard by the human ear/brain at the same volume as higher frequencies, so bass amps tend to have higher power ratings than guitar amps. In the past, speakers for bass also tended to be larger with 12”, 15” or even 18” to shift the amount of air needed at lower frequencies. In contrast, guitar speakers tended to be 10”or 12”. Bass speaker cabinets, especially those with multiple speakers, normally had sealed or ported enclosures to increase volume. For all these reasons bass amplifiers and speaker cabinets tend to be different to their guitar equivalents.

Probably the most famous brand associated specifically for its bass amplification is the American company Ampeg, founded in 1946 and now under the ownership of Japanese giant, Yamaha. Ampeg started out attempting to amplify the acoustic double bass in 1949 by using a microphone/pickup in the instrument’s stand. The ‘Amplified Peg’ as it was called was then shortened to ‘Ampeg’ and the rest, as they say, is history. Their most famous range of amps was the 300W Ampeg SVT from 1969 and their bass combo amps, the B‑15 from 1960, as used by the likes of Motown session bass player James Jamerson.

It was no surprise that Fender, the leader in the world of bass guitars from the 1950s should also produce bass amps/cabs. Perhaps the most famous Fender bass amp was the Bassman from 1952 onwards, first introduced as a combo valve amp with a 15” speaker. The most desirable though, was the Dual Rectifier Bassman valve combo with 4×10” speakers. From 1960. Fender also released a ‘piggy back’ amp head and speaker cabinet design to cope with higher power levels and to provide flexibility. From 2000, Fender released a solid state version of the legendary Bassman amp. The original valve Bassman also became beloved by many guitar players for its tone, for instance by the late blues rock guitarist, Stevie Ray Vaughan (SRV).

Student bass players also needed a bass amp. So Fender introduced the Musicmaster Bass amplifier in 1970, as a companion to the Fender Musicmaster Bass guitar. The Musicmaster Bass combo amp was a very simple affair with one channel, 12W of power, volume and tone controls and a single 12″ Fender speaker. Like the Bassman, it has latterly been enjoying a bit of a revival as a budget vintage amp for guitarists. The Musicmaster Bass amp was discontinued in 1982 after the introduction of the Fender Studio Bass combo and Japanese Fender Sidekick Bass 30. Nowadays, the extensive Fender Rumble series has proved very popular with bass players.

Legendary British amplifier company Marshall was not going to be left behind. Marshall’s first 100‑watt bass head was the JTM 45/100 / JTM 45 Super 100 model. Another, also dating from the second half of the 1960s, is the JMP #1992 Super Bass 100 (100W) and JMP #1986 Bass (50W). Like the Fender Bassman, the Marshall Super Bass 100W also proved popular with guitarists. Bass players were also known to use the Marshall #1963 Super PA (50W) and Marshall #1968 Super PA (100W) amps.

Another legendary British amplifier company, VOX produced bass versions of its AC‑15 and AC‑30 combo amps. These were followed in 1963 by the VOX T‑60 and Foundation amps, the latter promoted by Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones.

German acoustic amp company AER also produce a range of bass amps, particularly well‑suited to amplifying acoustic and electro‑acoustic bass guitars.

Bass guitarists turn out to be a little less conservative than their guitarist counterparts, especially when it comes to amplification and speaker cabinets. For instance there are plenty of modern‑day bass amps that use efficient solid state D‑class amplification (a type of amplifier that uses digital switching technology to amplify audio signals efficiently), with very high power ratings – 500W and 600W or more being not uncommon. Bass amps often also make wide use of sophisticated on‑board EQ. Speaker cabinet configurations also tend to be more versatile with reflex ports, horns, tweeters and combining multiple speaker types being common.

There are many other valve, solid state or hybrid bass amplifier manufacturers not mentioned above, including Trace Elliot, Ashdown Engineering, Mesa/Boogie, Peavey, Music Man, Hiwatt, Laney, Sound City, H/H, WEM, Hartke and Orange.


Bass guitar effects

Things have changed a great deal over the decades since 1951. In the early days of the solid body electric bass guitar, most players plugged straight into their amps without much in the way of tone augmentation.

By the 1970s and 1980s bass players had a paucity of effects specially designed for their instruments, so they generally adopted guitar effects with just a few bass‑specific pedals to choose from. Since the industry started to migrate to digital technology from the 1980s onwards, the major effect companies began to produce pedals designed primarily for use with bass guitars. Now, in the 2020s, there is plenty of choice with most of the big players in the effect industry now making bass‑specific effect pedals, including Electro‑Harmonix, MXR, BOSS, Ibanez, Fender, Laney and Ampeg.

In addition, from around the start of the new millennium, a number of manufacturers turned their ideas for integrated multi‑effect units into practical musicians’ tools that became popular for both guitar and bass, including BOSS, VOX, Zoom, Tech 21, Behringer and Valeton.

In 1998, Line 6 introduced a ground‑breaking innovation called the POD, which put many guitar effects, amps and cabinet emulations into a single portable unit. While the little red kidney shaped POD was initially directed at guitarists, the rack mounted Line 6 POD Pro models came in both guitar and bass versions. Since then, Line 6 and other manufacturers now combine guitar and bass amp/effect/cabinet emulations into a single unit. These units are constantly improving and are gradually replacing stage backlines with direct input (DI) into PAs/monitors, as well as into studio desks/DAWs. Along with the POD, Line 6, also now part of Yamaha, is still in the same business with their extensive Helix range.

Alternatives to the Line 6 POD and Helix units include the Axe-Fx III from Fractal Audio, which is a pro‑level amplification/effects processor suitable for both guitar and bass. Meanwhile, Kemper Amps took a slightly different route with their Profiler, which has all‑in‑one effects, amplifier and speaker cabinet profiles designed for both guitar and bass.

Just to finish off, there are numerous boutique effect pedal manufacturers that produce stomp boxes, often to very high degrees of quality, including brands such as Way Huge, TC Electronic, EarthQuaker Devices, Darkglass, Aguilar, Origin Effects, Free The Tone, Providence, Source Audio, Walrus Audio, ZVEX, Mooer Audio, Sansamp, Digitech, Eventide, Strymon, JHS, Keeley and Empress Effects.


Iconic (and other) bass guitars

The next sentence is likely to be highly provocative and intentionally so. While there are innumerable bass guitar models out there from 1951 to the current day, there are probably only four bass guitar models that can truly be called iconic (i.e. something that is widely considered to epitomize an era, culture, community or place). The four key instruments – none of which are based on guitar equivalents – that stand head and shoulders above the rest are:

Truly iconic bass guitars:
Fender Precision Bass (1951‑date)
Fender Jazz Bass (1960‑date)
Rickenbacker 4000 series (1957‑date)
Music Man Stingray Bass (1976‑date)

In addition, below are listed just a very few of the other great electric bass guitars manufactured from 1951 onwards. This is far from a comprehensive list and is intended only to be broadly indicative of the type.

Fender bass guitars:
Fender Bass V
Fender Bass VI
Fender Coronado Bass
Fender Mustang Bass
Fender Musicmaster Bass
Fender Performer
Fender Telecaster Bass
Squier Bronco Bass

Gibson bass guitars:
Gibson EB series
Gibson Thunderbird
Gibson Explorer Bass
Gibson Melody Maker Bass
Gibson Grabber/Ripper/G3
Gibson RD series
Gibson Triumph
Gibson Victory
Gibson 20/20 Bass

Epiphone bass guitars (not including Epiphone versions of Gibson basses):
Epiphone Embassy
Epiphone Newport
Epiphone Rivoli
Epiphone Viola

Other American brand bass guitars:
Alembic Series 1/2
Ampeg Dan Armstrong Lucite
Ampeg AEB-1
BC Rich Eagle
BC Rich Mockingbird
BC Rich Warlock
Danelectro Longhorn 4623
Danelectro Shorthorn 3612
G&L JB2
G&L L1000/L2000
Gretsch 6071/6072
Gretsch G2220 Junior Jet
Gretsch 5440 Electromatic
Guild B-301/B-302
Guild Starfire
Harmony H22
Harmony H27
Jackson JS
Kramer 450-B/650-B
Kramer DMZ
Lakland Skyline
Music Man Sabre
Music Man Sterling
National Val Pro Model 85
Ovation Magnum
Peavey T-40
Peavey Millennium/Milestone
PRS SE Kestrel/Kingfisher
Schecter Omen
Schecter Stilletto
Silvertone 1440 series
Steinberger Spirit XT
Steinberger Synapse
Supro Pocket
Travis Bean TB2000
Washburn Taurus

European bass guitars:
Burns Sonic
Hagström H8
Höfner Club
Höfner HCT-500/1
Höfner President
Hohner B2
Hohner The Jack
VOX Clubman
VOX Cougar
VOX Phantom 4
VOX Sidewinder
VOX VBW Teardrop Bass
Wal Mk1/Mk2
Warwick Thumb/Streamer/Infinity/Corvette
Warwick Rockbass

Japanese bass guitars:
Other than perhaps the Yamaha BB and TRBX series, and the Ibanez SR and TMB series, Japanese bass guitars do not have the same level of brand/model heritage when compared to those produced by American and European companies. There are, however, many Japanese basses produced by companies such as Ibanez, Tokai, Greco, Jedson, Westone, Teisco, ESP/LTD, Fernandes and Aria.

“Without the Fender bass, there’d be no rock n’ roll or no Motown. The electric guitar had been waiting ’round since 1939 for a nice partner to come along. It became an electric rhythm section, and that changed everything.” – Quincy Jones (1933‑)


Famous bass players

Below are listed seventy of the world’s most famous and influential bass players – alive and departed – including upright double bass and electric solid body bass guitar players. There are, of course, many, many more but this is an indicative list for those interested in exploring some of the music created by these diverse musicians (in alphabetical order):

Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett (Bob Marley & The Wailers)
Walter Becker (Steely Dan)
Andy Bell (Oasis)
Bill Black (Elvis Presley)
Jack Bruce (Cream)
Cliff Burton (Metallica)
Geezer Butler (Black Sabbath)
John Cale (Velvet Underground)
Stanley Clarke (Return To Forever, solo)
Adam Clayton (U2)
Bootsy Collins (James Brown, Parliament/Funkadelic)
Tim Commerford (Rage Against The Machine/Audioslave)
Billy Cox (Jimi Hendrix)
John Deacon (Queen)
Kim Deal (Pixies, Breeders)
Willie Dixon
Gail Ann Dorsey (David Bowie)
Bernard Edwards (Chic)
John Entwistle (The Who)
Flea (a.k.a. Michael Peter Balzary – Red Hot Chili Peppers)
Bruce Foxton (The Jam)
Simon Gallup (The Cure)
Roger Glover (Deep Purple)
Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth)
Larry Graham (Sly & The Family Stone)
Marshall Grant (Johnny Cash)
Steve Harris (Iron Maiden)
Dusty Hill (ZZ Top)
Peter Hook (Joy Division, New Order, The Light)
Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple)
Jah Wobble (a.k.a. John Joseph Wardle)
James Jamerson (session musician)
Louis Johnson (The Brothers Johnson)
John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin)
Carol Kaye (session musician)
Lemmy Kilmister (Hawkwind, Motörhead)
Mark King (Level 42)
Alan Lancaster (Status Quo)
Geddy Lee (Rush)
Phil Lesh (Grateful Dead)
Tony Levin (Peter Gabriel)
Jenny Lee Lindberg (Warpaint)
Phil Lynott (Thin Lizzy)
Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols)
Paul McCartney (The Beatles, Wings, solo)
Duff McKagan (Guns N’ Roses)
John McVie (Fleetwood Mac)
Marcus Miller (Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, George Benson)
Charles Mingus
Krist Novoselic (Nirvana)
Pino Palladino (session musician)
Jaco Pastorius (Weather Report)
Guy Pratt (Madonna, David Gilmour)
Suzi Quatro
Dee Dee Ramone (Ramones)
Noel Redding (Jimi Hendrix)
Mike Rutherford (Genesis)
Robbie Shakespeare (Sly & Robbie)
Billy Sheehan (Steve Vai, David Lee Roth)
Gene Simmons (KISS)
Nikki Sixx (a.k.a. Frank Carlton Serafino Feranna Jr. – Mötley Crüe)
Chris Squire (Yes)
Sting (a.k.a. Gordon Sumner – The Police)
Danny Thompson (John Martyn)
Thundercat (a.k.a. Stephen Lee Bruner)
Robert Trujillo (Metallica)
Sid Vicious (a.k.a. Simon John Ritchie – Sex Pistols)
Roger Waters (Pink Floyd)
Tina Weymouth (Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club)
Tal Wilkenfeld (Jeff Beck, Prince)
Bill Wyman (Rolling Stones, Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings)

“The gunk takes the funk” – James Jamerson (1936‑1983)


Bass in the (near) future

It is difficult for, and unfair of, me as a guitarist, to predict any sort of unified future for the bass guitar but I’ll give it a shot.

The traditional conservative brigade will still stick to tried and tested instruments and equipment. Musicians looking for something a bit different will probably want to experiment with the format, for instance number of strings, scale lengths, pickups and electronics. If anything there will be more radical and custom bass guitar designs from up‑market and boutique luthiers that diverge from the traditional archetype set by Fender over 70 years ago. Many additions to the form extend the flexibility of the core instrument, so it may be a case of further evolution, rather than revolution.

Bass amplification will continue to diverge from its simple valve origins and continue to embrace the digital realm, probably dispensing with backline amps/cabs altogether with signals being DI’d into desks/PA/monitors.

While bass players haven’t been particularly well served in the past for bass‑specific effect pedals, I anticipate that bass effects will achieve greater representation, including some out‑there effects not currently available to guitar players.

Bass guitar players have struggled to compete, with synthesisers dominating the world of modern electronica, dance and popular music. At least, for now (thankfully), the bass guitar remains essential to most guitar‑based music in a sort of symbiotic, co‑dependent relationship. As long as guitars keep going, so will bass, and vice versa. Bass players, being ever inventive individuals, will adapt and cultivate new ways to keep the instrument relevant, current and in the limelight for decades to come.

Technique‑wise, there will continue to be the traditional approaches towards walking bass lines, typically using the fundamental root/fifth styles that has been the general mainstay of modern music for decades. In contrast, there will be many more amazing virtuoso bass players who see the versatility and potential of the instrument in its own right.

So, other than tangible incremental progress around the margins, there is probably not a whole lot that will change profoundly in the near future. I may be wrong with that last sentence. In many ways, I hope so!

Interestingly, while the upright double bass continues to appear in modern music from time to time, the solid body fretted electric bass hasn’t really made any headway into the clique of conservative classical orchestral music, which still relies heavily on the traditional, some may say archaic, acoustic upright double bass.


Resources

Periodicals dedicated to bass guitar may be the best place to keep up‑to‑date with the technology and equipment associated with the instrument. Publications include Bass Musician Magazine, Bass Player Guitar Magazine, Bass Guitar Magazine, Bass Magazine, Bass Musician and Bass Gear Magazine.

Online resources include Music Radar, TalkBass.com, Basschat and No Treble. There are also many books on bass guitars and bass playing techniques, including the inevitable, ‘Bass Guitar For Dummies’.

As far as purchasing bass guitars, there are the large Internet sites, brick & mortar retailers and the usual online sites, Reverb.com and eBay. For vintage and rare bass guitars, there are outlets purely for basses including (in the UK) Andy Baxter Bass, The Bass Gallery, The Bass Centre, Vintage Bass Room and ClassicandcoolGuitars.


Some final thoughts

I certainly learnt a lot from researching and writing this article. At first sight, there may seem to be quite a bit of relevant information on the Internet. It is only when one starts to dig deeper and attempt to put something together that makes some form of sense that things rapidly become unclear. All of a sudden, much of the available information seems incomplete, contradictory, vague and/or outright erroneous. In the end, it comes down to evidence and corroboration but sorting the wheat from the chaff isn’t always easy. It seems that online information about vintage guitars is far more reliable than that about vintage basses. There are far too many poorly informed people who invent facts and present opinion as truth.

Despite my best attempts to piece things together, I may have fallen foul of the same issues raised above. However, I have tried very hard not to fill in gaps with assumptions and/or fiction. While I endeavour to be thorough and rigorous, my approach isn’t academic and I don’t have the time, funds or energy to provide the last word in scholarly fact. The contents herein should therefore probably not be relied upon too heavily. This article should, for that reason alone, be regarded as my best intention to balance fact with entertainment.

“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.” – Buddha (Siddhārtha Gautama – c.480‑400BCE)

This is just the sort of article that would benefit greatly from images to illustrate and break up the narrative. Sadly as a (broke) not‑for‑profit entity, I cannot afford the costly copyright/royalties charged for the use of relevant images, so I have had to rely on very limited free/public domain resources or my own photographs. I apologise for the thousands of words used to describe what images could do in none. Once again, no AI was used in the research and writing of this tome – only my own hard work.

NB. Apologies to anyone disappointed by the wait for a cheap, clichéd joke at the expense of ‘the bass player’! T’ain’t gonna happen here. Love ‘the bass player’.


CRAVE Guitars’ ‘Album of the Month’

Given that this month’s article focuses on the fascinating history of the bass guitar, it seems only fitting to select an album that demonstrates the virtuoso bass playing of one of the greatest bass guitarists of all time, Jaco Pastorius (1951‑1987) and his famous modified fretless Fender Jazz Bass.

Weather Report – Heavy Weather (1977) – The seventh and most commercially successful studio album by the American jazz fusion band. ‘Heavy Weather’ was the first album with Pastorius on full‑time bass duties. The smooth jazz funk production of the album, which was released at the peak of the punk rock movement in the US and UK, stood in stark contrast to the otherwise brutal sounds of the late 1970s. Given that it sold in huge numbers (and still does) is testament to the composition and musicianship on display. Initial sales were about 500,000 and total sales to‑date are over 1.06 million. Other Weather Report albums may be ‘better’ according to purists but this is the one I heard first and it has stuck with me over the years.

Weather Report – Heavy Weather (1977)

To me, this album hit me right between the eyes about what virtuoso bass playing can be like. There are many, many other artists and albums that could arguably take the acclaim, for instance Stanley Clarke’s successful solo album, ‘School Days’ (1976), but on this occasion, the late, great Jaco (& co.) takes the accolade, such as it is.

“I’m the greatest bass player in the world” – Jaco Pastorius (1951‑1987)


Tailpiece

Well, there you go. I think that most of us love a bit of decent low bass in our music. I hope y’all got something out of this fleeting exploration into the defining instruments, artists and music of the lower registers. I think the narrative works well as a complement to the launch of CRAVE Basses at the end of 2023, but that’s just my (obviously biased) opinion.

I hope you feel inclined to come back next month to see what’s currently fermenting in the CRAVE guitars’ secret brewery.

Truth, peace, love, and guitar music be with you always. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars’ ‘Quote of the Month’: “Mundanity is the devourer of lost dreams”

© 2024 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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December 2023 – CRAVE Guitars: Three Years in Review

Prelude

GOOD DAY’S SALUTATIONS and seasonal best wishes to all you good folks out there in music land. Welcome to vintage gear aficionados and greetings to the conclusion of the year, two thousand and twenty three. There is no point in, and no good will come from, re‑hashing the journey over CRAVE Guitars’ 3‑year hiatus once again, so it is now officially behind us and a thing of the past. Gone. However, there may be merit in looking briefly at what CRAVE Guitars actually got up to behind the scenes during that time. It is the end of the year, so it’s kinda traditional for review anyway, as has been the practice in years past. This review, though, isn’t a single year but three years in retrospect. As it transpires, less has happened in those three years than would normally have occurred in one year prior to 2020’s global meltdown. Perhaps that is just as well. If the previous trend had continued unabated, CRAVE Guitars would have run out of space and funds a long time ago. I guess that there are silver linings at the end of the tunnel after all (I really must stop playing with mixed metaphors! Bad CRAVE!).

Well, there is no point in perpetuating petty procrastination, so let’s proceed with some prosaic pontification (nothing like a bit of CRAVE’s addictive affinity for asinine alliteration, again!). All text and images copyright of CRAVE Guitars. No AI used here.


‘New’ old gear over the past 3 years

The volume of acquisitions may not be great but the choices, I believe aren’t too shabby. I aim for variety and novelty in my quest for something a wee bit different to the norm, at least as far as the guitars are concerned. Here, there are two are from the 1960s, two from the 1970s and one from the 1980s. The effects are slightly more numerous and there is a little bit of gap‑filling going on here but variety is again a factor. Only 3 out of the 11 stomp boxes are ‘Made in USA’. Interesting. Right, here is the short shortlist…

Guitars and basses (5):

1963 Danelectro Pro 1
1989 Fender Jazz Bass American Standard Longhorn
1978 Fender Musicmaster Bass
1979 Gibson Explorer E2
1964 National Glenwood 95

Effect pedals (11):

1985 BOSS HM-2 Heavy Metal (distortion)
1984 BOSS SD-1 Super Over Drive
1979 BOSS SG-1 Slow Gear (auto swell)
1974 Colorsound Supa Tone Bender (fuzz)
1970s Colorsound Supa Wah-Swell
1970s DOD Analog Delay 680 (echo)
1980s Dunlop Original Cry Baby GCB-95 Wah
1970s Electro-Harmonix Switch Blade Channel Selector (A‑B switch)
1981 Ibanez CP-835 Compressor II
1984 Ibanez SM9 Super Metal (distortion)
1989 Marshall The Guv’nor (overdrive/distortion)

Over the last three years, there haven’t been any ‘new’ vintage valve amps. This is mainly due to space restrictions and the responsibility for maintaining these delicate electrical artefacts. They weren’t delicate when originally manufactured, they were built to go on the road and put up with punishment. However, after 60 or 70 years, they tend to get a bit temperamental. A bit like humans in fact. The last amp that joined the family was the fantastic little 1973 Fender Princeton Reverb ‘silverface’. Possibly my favourite amp.

There has been one notable departure from the CRAVE Guitars family. I was looking around for a Gibson Explorer E2 to partner the Gibson Flying V2. However, I couldn’t really justify yet another Explorer. Then, someone contacted me out of the blue enquiring about the black 1984 Gibson Explorer. If there was one guitar that I would let go to trade up, that was the one. It can be really strange how opportunity can present itself as coincidence. Eventually, deals were agreed and one came in while one went out. Serendipity and status quo. Result! I hope the 1984 Explorer is in a happy place.

Let’s take a closer look at the ‘new’ guitars – all of them exhibiting unusual construction and specification, making them exceptionally cool and rare (in my opinion). Right, here is the long shortlist…

1963 Danelectro Pro 1 – I first saw one of these a few years ago and was struck by its utter simplicity and quirky charm. Nothing fancy going on here. It is diminutive, dinky and hyper cute. It is, however not very practical. It has a short scale and upper fret access is awkward and only one pickup will limit it for some. However, it has all the usual Danelectro traits, including the unique construction and that classic lipstick pickup. It is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea but, for me, that’s a good reason to dig it. It is a genuinely unique instrument and SO cool that it hurts. It’s great fun to play too.

Feature: 1963 Danelectro Pro 1

1963 Danelectro Pro 1

1989 Fender Jazz Bass American Standard Longhorn – I have long wanted a Fender Jazz Bass. The new CRAVE Basses has allowed me to indulge that luxury. However, this isn’t a Jazz Bass as you know it and definitely not in the long tradition of the J‑Bass. This lovely beast is a Longhorn, only made for five years, this one from the first year of production. The deep cutaways and 22 fret neck make it look, feel, play and sound different from a ‘normal’ Jazz Bass. The Longhorn nickname gained it an altogether humorously crude moniker of the ‘boner’ bass. Now this one lives with me, I actually now prefer the look of this unusual instrument over the one that defined the icon.

Feature: 1989 Fender Jazz Bass American Standard Longhorn

1989 Fender Jazz Bass American Standard Longhorn

1978 Fender Musicmaster Bass – Another oddity and one of the ‘lost Fenders’. After the success of the Mustang Bass, Fender went on to release an even simpler budget model. The Musicmaster has the Mustang’s short scale but the pickup is actually a 6‑pole Mustang guitar pickup. The overall design and specification certainly alienated a whole bunch of players but that kind of misses the point. Snobs. Take the bass purely on face value and it’s actually a decent ‘student’ bass with great build quality and that offset body look that is currently very popular. Not one for the traditionalist. Note: Since the feature and photos were published, the original 2‑saddle bridge has been reinstated.

Feature: 1978 Fender Musicmaster Bass

1978 Fender Musicmaster Bass

1979 Gibson Explorer E2 – Some people hate the Gibson Flying V2 and Explorer E2. I love them because of their unusual multi‑layered construction. As mentioned above, finding an E2 was a mission. Moreover, this one belonged to the lead singer of the band Go West, Peter Cox. Kudos and thanks Peter. I don’t usually go for provenance but in this case, it adds something significant to the guitar’s backstory. It’s the walnut‑faced model (some are maple‑faced) and in wonderful near‑original condition. While it’s not quite as whacky as the admittedly peculiar V2, it has plenty of character and charisma. The Gibson Explorer, I think, remains my overall favourite guitar model.

Feature: 1979 Gibson Explorer E2

1979 Gibson Explorer E2

1964 National Glenwood 95 – Here’s a glorious instrument with another unusual type of construction. The body is moulded fibreglass, what the makers, Valco, called Res‑O‑Glas. I was expecting the material to be thin and plasticky. Instead, it is quite thick and solid. The two halves are screwed together leaving the interior hollow. It is very unique and an awesome entry in vintage guitar history. Not only is it well built, it is visually striking in just about every way. Whatever part you look at or whatever angle it is viewed from, it is a startlingly beautiful creation. Neither is it a case of style over substance, it plays very well and with an inimitable sound. I could go on and on but I’ll let it speak for itself.

Feature: 1964 National Glenwood 95

1962 National Glenwood 95

… and, now moving on to the ‘new’ vintage effect pedals:

1985 BOSS HM-2 Heavy Metal – A pedal renowned for creating a whole heavy metal sub‑genre thanks to Swedish death metal band Entombed and their debut studio album, ‘Left Hand Path’ (1990). Not many stomp boxes can claim that distinction. It is a monster. This one also comes with its original box and documentation. Very cool.

Feature: 1985 BOSS HM-2 Heavy Metal

1985 BOSS HM-2 Heavy Metal

1984 BOSS SD-1 Super Over Drive – Considered by many as a classic in the BOSS overdrive tradition. The SD‑1 adds a Tone control to the existing BOSS OD‑1 Over Drive to give it more flexibility and to help BOSS compete with other brands’ overdrive pedals. The SD‑1 has been seen on pedalboards all over the world for decades, earning it its enviable reputation.

Feature: 1984 BOSS SD-1 Super Over Drive

1985 BOSS SD-1 Super Over Drive

1979 BOSS SG-1 Slow Gear – This is one of the rarest, most collectable and misunderstood BOSS stomp boxes. The name gives nothing away. It acts a bit like a noise gate in reverse, the filter creating an auto swell effect. It is quite unique. After much experimentation, there is really only one sweet spot so, to be honest, sadly, it is a bit of a one‑trick pony, albeit an exclusive one.

Feature: 1979 BOSS SG-1 Slow Gear

1979 BOSS SG-1 Slow Gear

1974 Colorsound Supa Tone Bender – The Supa Tone Bender is basically just a big box version of the original Colorsound fuzz. There is no room in this article to dive into the nerd zone and cover its origins or its similarities/differences to other models. The numerous gear obsessives out there will tell you at great length about all the geeky differences. Basically, it’s a great 1970s fuzz pedal. What more do you need to know?

Feature: 1974 Colorsound Supa Tone Bender

1975 Colorsound Supa Tone Bender

1970s Colorsound Supa Wah-Swell – Another over‑sized ‘Supa’ version of a standard combination wah‑wah and swell pedal with a footswitch to go from one mode to the other. There’s very little on the inside other than empty space, indicating that the old marketing ploys of ‘more is more’ and ‘bigger is better’ played a part here. 1970s pedalboards weren’t as crowded as they are today, so pedals like this gained bragging rights. I can’t date this one accurately.

Feature: 1970s Colorsound Supa Wah-Swell

1977 Colorsound Supa Wah-Swell

1970s DOD Analog Delay 680 – Here is a truly wonderful 1970s American echo pedal. It’s not quite up with the benchmark Electro‑Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man but it is still authentic and very musical. I love these old analogue delays. It’s great fun to use and sounds great. It may not be in great cosmetic condition on the outside but few are because they were well used, an indication of what really matters to working musicians.

Feature: 1970s DOD Analog Delay 680

1980 DOD Analog Delay 680

1980s Dunlop Original Cry Baby GCB-95 Wah – Probably one of the most iconic wah‑wah pedals of all time. This one is a straightforward model from the 1980s. As classic as they come, you know exactly what you are going to get. The model has probably been used by most of the great guitarists at some point during their careers. The pot is a bit scratchy but I can’t bear to replace it, so it’s still original.

Feature: 1980s Dunlop Original Cry Baby GCB-95 Wah

1980s Dunlop Original Cry Baby GCB-95

1970s Electro-Harmonix Switch Blade Channel Selector – Strictly this is not an effect, just an A‑B switch. Another ‘no bones’ pedal with nothing much inside the box. It has one input and two outputs (or vice versa if you wish). Not massively useful or flexible but it does what it needs to do in a simple set up. Typical 1970s EHX styling to boot.

Feature: 1970s Electro-Harmonix Switch Blade Channel Selector

1970s Electro-Harmonix Switch Blade Channel Selector

1981 Ibanez CP-835 Compressor II – A pedal in the classic ‘square switch’ ‘0’‑series Ibanez effect pedal series (as is the most desirable TS‑808 Tube Screamer). The CD‑835 (catchy name, that. Not) is a perfectly capable pedalboard compressor. I still prefer the basic MXR Dyna Comp but this one will appeal to others. This one comes with its original box and documentation.

Feature: 1981 Ibanez CP-835 Compressor II

1981 Ibanez CP-835 Compressor II

1984 Ibanez SM9 Super Metal – Part of Ibanez’s ‘9’‑series, the SM9 is a massively beefed up Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer but without the reputation of the latter, so it is a bit of a dark horse. Much more flexible and with a greater range of sounds available. It is a bit fiddly to recreate just the right tone but it is worth the effort involved in getting it tuned in. How far do you want to go? Pretty colour too.

Feature: 1984 Ibanez SM9 Super Metal

1984 Ibanez SM9 Super Metal

1989 Marshall The Guv’nor – Way, way before the current fad of putting a guitar pre‑amp on a pedal board, Marshall basically came up with the idea back in the 1980s. For those wanting classic Marshall tones without a 100W head and two 4×12 cabs stacked as they should be, there is The Guv’nor. For a large box full of transistors, rather than baking hot valves, it does an impressive job. Not necessarily accurate but great distortion on tap nevertheless. This is the original ‘Made in England’ version, complete with its box.

Feature: 1989 Marshall The Guv’nor

1989 Marshall The Guv’nor

There you have it, a brief rundown of 3 years’ collecting cool and rare vintage guitar gear in the background. Not a great deal to show for 36 months in terms of quantity but a nice range of quality. I am completely out of both storage space and funds, so any progress will be slow and steady for a while.


CRAVE Guitars’ website

The superficial sheen of the website hasn’t really changed much at all. However, there are technical changes beneath the surface that will hopefully keep it up‑to‑date and relevant. I’m no techno whizz, so CRAVE Guitars doesn’t appear on the prized ‘first page of Google’. Still, seeing as it is not a commercial enterprise, I’m not overly bothered. Overall viewing figures though have continued to increase year‑on‑year over the last seven years, even through the hiatus, which is a promising sign.

The web site’s beneath‑the‑radar positioning hasn’t stopped all the typical spammers inundating CRAVE’s e‑mail box with the usual promotional BS. It is absolutely clear that they don’t do their research, so every single one them gets summarily blocked and deleted without exception. I do, however, welcome genuine communications via the website, so long as they are sincere.

The biggest ‘news’ on the website is the addition of the all‑new CRAVE Basses pages. The web site originally started out just as CRAVE Guitars almost a decade ago now. Then it expanded to include CRAVE Effects and CRAVE Amps a few years ago, so CRAVE Basses is a logical extension. Even though I’m primarily a guitarist, I like the occasional dabble with the lower frequencies. The new sections of the website include features on CRAVE’s four vintage basses, as well as additions to the galleries.

The two ‘new’ CRAVE Basses covered above join a pair of existing vintage basses that I’ve owned since the 1970s…

1977 Fender Precision Fretless

Feature: 1977 Fender Precision Fretless

1977 Fender Precision Fretless

1978 Music Man Stingray Bass

Feature: 1978 Music Man Stingray Bass

1978 Music Man Stingray Bass

Before Covid, the number of visitors to the site was steadily increasing and reaching peaks that I could only have dreamt about when I started. During Covid, things slowed dramatically, indicating that people, rightfully, had other things on their minds. This slow‑down was mirrored by consumer’s overall demand in the music equipment industry. Even after Covid, things have been slow. The so‑called cost‑of‑living‑crisis (thanks Putin et al), especially in the UK has hit most people (including me) hard and visits dropped right down to pre‑2020 levels. Other priorities rightly prevailed once again. Despite being generally subdued, visits seem to be gradually increasing again but it is way too early to call it a trend.

I actually have quite a bit more content already written for the site that I will get around to publishing at some point. It’s not super critical but it seems a shame not to use it.


CRAVE Guitars’ (un)social media

I really don’t have the resilience to return to social media to the same level as in the past. However, CRAVE Guitars is posting things irregularly on Musky old X (ex‑Twatter), Facebook and LinkedIn. I can’t respond to messages but I do review them every so often. That will have to do for now. My engagement with social media is not negotiable for now.


CRAVE Guitars’ database

There is not really a great deal to say about this other than I use it to catalogue all of CRAVE’s vintage guitars in some detail. In the case of catastrophe such as fire, flood, theft, cat, etc., at least the information should be safe and sound. A copy is saved in the cloud just in case the laptop goes the same way.

CRAVE Guitars Database

Brand augmentation

No, I’m not getting bigger brands for all you fetishists out there. CRAVE Guitars has been around since 2007. The short name is OK but it isn’t specific enough to identify that vintage guitars are the focus of the ‘brand’. The full name of CRAVE (Cool & Rare American Vintage Electric) Guitars is certainly specific enough although it is a bit of a mouthful when it comes to everyday use. Internet SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) also has some difficulty placing the CRAVE Guitars brand in the vintage guitar category. Type ‘CRAVE guitars’ into a search engine and the site appears straight away. Type in ‘vintage guitars’ and the site may eventually appear plenty of pages down.

So… In addition to the established short and full names used above, I will also be using the name CRAVE Vintage Guitars to help searchers and visitors to get a better understanding of what this strange entity is all about. It is a small but important change. It will take search engines a while to pick up on it but it might help people find the site. Future CRAVE Guitars merchandise is also likely to carry the updated branding as and when needed. As ‘they’ say, it does what it says on the tin (apart from the amps, effects and basses of course. Doh!).


Musical history update

It’s a while since the 14‑part CRAVE Guitars’ series of articles, ‘The Story of Modern Music in 1,500+ Facts’, culminated in May 2020. Sadly, we have lost far too many great music people since I published the last of the ‘Facts’ just 2½ years ago.

The inevitability of life is that it ends. RIP great men and women. This list picks up from where that last article on the subject left off. Here are just a few of them.

DayMonthYearMusic Fact
4June2020English bass guitarist, singer and founding member of glam pop/rock band The Sweet, Steve Priest died at the age of 72.
18June2020English singer, songwriter and entertainer, nicknamed ‘The Forces’ Sweetheart’ during WWII, Dame Vera Lynn died at the age of 103.
6July2020Italian composer, conductor and musician, who wrote hundreds of cinema and television scores, Ennio Morricone died of complications after breaking a leg in Rome at the age of 91.
13January2021American guitarist with rock band New York Dolls, Sylvain Sylvain, died after a two-and-a-half year battle with cancer in Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 69.
17February2021Jamaican vocalist and pioneer of reggae ‘toasting’ U‑Roy (Ewart Beckford) died from complications following surgery in Kingston, Jamaica at the age of 78.
2March2021Jamaican singer, songwriter, percussionist and original member of The Wailers alongside Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer died from complications following a stroke in Kingston, Jamaica at the age of 73.
28July2021American bass guitarist and long-term member of southern blues/rock band ZZ Top, Dusty Hill died at his home in Houston, Texas, at the age of 72.
13August2021Celebrated American folk singer, guitarist, and songwriter Nanci Griffith died in Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 68.
24August2021English drummer with rock band the Rolling Stones for over five decades, Charlie Watts died in hospital in London at the age of 80.
29August2021Legendary Jamaican reggae and dub producer and recording artist, Lee “Scratch” Perry died of an undisclosed illness in hospital in Lucea, Jamaica at the age of 85.
26September2021English bass guitarist and founding member of pop/rock band Status Quo from 1967-1985, Alan Lancaster died from complications of multiple sclerosis in Sydney, Australia at the age of 72.
8December2021Jamaican bass guitarist and record producer, Robbie Shakespeare, best known as half of the reggae duo Sly & Robbie, died following kidney surgery in Miami, Florida at the age of 68.
10December2021American singer, guitarist and songwriter with TV pop band, the Monkees, Michael Nesmith died from heart failure at his home in Carmel Valley, California at the age of 78.
7January2022Canadian musician, singer, songwriter, and producer for Motown Records, R. Dean Taylor died at his home having contracted COVID‑19 (coronavirus) at the age of 82.
9January2022American jazz and R&B musician, songwriter, producer, and radio personality James Mtume died in South Orange, New Jersey at the age of 76.
12January2022American singer, co-founder and member the Ronettes, nicknamed the ‘bad girl of rock and roll’, Ronnie Spector died from cancer in Danbury, Connecticut at the age of 78.
20January2022American singer and actor Michael Lee Aday, better known as Meat Loaf, died from Wolff–Parkinson–White syndrome in Nashville at the age of 74.
19February2022English singer/songwriter, keyboard player and founder of the rock band Procol Harum, Gary Brooker MBE died from cancer at his home in Surrey at the age of 76.
22February2022American singer/songwriter who worked with Isobel Campbell and Queens Of The Stone Age, in addition to a lengthy solo career, Mark Lanegan died at his home in Killarney, Kerry, Ireland at the age of 57.
25March2022American rock drummer of the Foo Fighters, Taylor Hawkins died of heart failure probably caused by a drug overdose in a hotel in Bogota, Colombia at the age of 50.
4April2022American guitarist and member of Motown Records’ in‑house studio band, the Funk Brothers, Joe Messina died from kidney disease in Northville, Michigan at the age of 93.
26April2022German electronic music innovator, producer, composer and former member of krautrock band Tangerine Dream, as well as solo artist, Klaus Schulze died following a long illness at the age of 74.
17May2022Academy Award-winning Greek musician, composer and producer Evángelos Odysséas Papathanassíou, better known as Vangelis died of heart failure in Paris at the age of 79.
26May2022English keyboard player, DJ and founding member of electronica band Depeche Mode, Andrew Fletcher died of an aortic dissection at his home at the age of 60.
9June2022American singer known for her collaborations with film director David Lynch, Julee Cruise committed suicide in Pittsfield, Massachusetts at the age of 65.
8August2022British Australian singer and actress Olivia Newton-John died from breast cancer in Santa Ynez Valley, California at the age of 73.
28September2022American rapper Artis Leon Ivey Jr., a.k.a. Coolio died from a heart attack caused by a drug overdose in Los Angeles, California at the age of 59.
4October2022Highly acclaimed American country music singer and songwriter Loretta Lynn died from natural causes in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee at the age of 90.
28October2022American rock ‘n’ roll pianist singer and songwriter, Jerry Lee Lewis died from natural causes in DeSoto County, Mississippi at the age of 87.
10November2022English musician and key member of space rock band Hawkwind, Nik Turner died from unknown causes at the age of 82.
21November2022English guitarist, singer, songwriter and one‑time member of pub rock band Dr. Feelgood, Wilko Johnson died from pancreatic cancer in Southend‑on‑Sea, England at the age of 75.
30November2022English musician, singer and member of Fleetwood Mac, Christine McVie died of Ischemic stroke and metastatic cancer in London, England at the age of 79.
4December2022German musician, composer, member of Ash Ra Tempel and solo artist, Manuel Göttsching died from natural causes in Berlin at the age of 70.
11December2022Acclaimed American composer of film and TV scores, Angelo Badalamenti died from natural causes in Lincoln Park, New Jersey at the age of 85.
18December2022English musician, singer and member of The Specials and Fun Boy Three, Terry Hall died from pancreatic cancer at the age of 63.
23December2022British musician, rapper, singer, songwriter and DJ, front man of electronic band Faithless, Maxi Jazz (Maxwell Fraser) died from undisclosed causes in London England at the age of 65.
10January2023English virtuoso guitarist and former member of the Yardbirds, Jeff Beck died from bacterial meningitis in East Sussex, England at the age of 78.
18January2023Legendary American guitarist and singer, member of The Byrds and CSNY, David Crosby died from COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Santa Ynez, California at the age of 81.
28January2023American singer, songwriter and guitarist with alternative rock band Television, Tom Verlaine died from prostate cancer in Manhattan, NYC at the age of 73.
8March2023Legendary American composer, songwriter, producer and pianist, Burt Bacharach died from natural causes in Los Angeles, California at the age of 94,
5March2023American guitarist and founding member of southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, Gary Rossington died from undisclosed causes in Milton, Georgia, USA, at the age of 71.
12April2023Influential Jamaican dub reggae sound system and record label owner, renowned for his work in London, Jah Shaka died at the age of 75.
1May2023Canadian singer, songwriter and guitarist Gordon Lightfoot died from natural causes in Toronto at the age of 84.
24May2023English bass player and member of post‑punk alternative rock band The Smiths, Andy Rourke died from pancreatic cancer in New York City at the age of 59.
25May2023The Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll, American singer, songwriter and actress Tina Turner died after a long illness in Küsnacht, Switzerland at the age of 83.
6June2023English guitarist, singer and founder of blues/rock band Groundhogs, Tony McPhee died from complications after a fall and a stroke at the age of 79.
20June2023English guitarist with rock group The Pop Group, John Waddington died from undisclosed causes at the age of 63.
21July2023Legendary American jazz and popular music crooner Tony Bennett died from Alzheimer’s disease in New York City at the age of 96.
26July2023American musician, singer, songwriter, and founding member of the Eagles, Randy Meisner died from COPD in Los Angeles, California at the age of 77.
26July2023Irish singer, songwriter and activist Sinéad O’Connor died from unknown causes in London, England at the age of 56.
9August2023Canadian musician and guitarist for Bob Dylan and The Band, Robbie Robertson died from prostate cancer in Los Angeles, California at the age of 80.
24August2023Renowned English rock guitarist with Whitesnake and UFO, Bernie Marsden died from bacterial meningitis at the age of 72.
27August2023American musician best known for being one half of electronica duo Stars Of The Lid, Brian McBride died from undisclosed causes at the age of 53.
13September2023British singer, songwriter and musician Roger Whittaker died from a stroke in France at the age of 87.
30November2023British‑born Irish singer, songwriter, musician and frontman with Celtic punk rock band the Pogues, Shane MacGowan died from pneumonia and encephalitis in Dublin, Ireland at the age of 65.
5December2023English guitarist and founding member of The Moody Blues and Wings, Denny Laine died from lung disease at the age of 79.

Music industry opinion

A lot has (or rather hasn’t) happened in the music industry over the 3 years since CRAVE Guitars suspended its main activities. First, there was the hangover from global economic recession/depression, then the coronageddon, then the cataclysmic geopolitical conflicts adversely affecting far too many innocent peoples around the globe. At best, the music industry at all levels could only hope to hold its own.

In reality, it has been a tumultuous few years, to say the least. Everyone from equipment manufacturers (including their supply chains), venues, artists, music recording and distribution, publicity and management have been hit hard. Every conceivable facet of the market has been decimated. While I haven’t been able to keep up with events in the industry as I normally would have done, it is clear that things are only now just beginning to get back to 2019 levels.

Who would have predicted three years ago, for instance, that British amp stalwart Marshall would have been acquired by the Swedish digital music company, Zound Industries. A sign of the times, I guess.

Strategically, it has been a nightmare where even the best scenario planning has failed to predict wildly off kilter outcomes. Vintage guitar prices seem to have kept up as the super‑rich collectors are basically unaffected by economic blips that are savage to the rest of us. I know that I am paying more now than I would have done in 2019 for the same thing. While I am not economically motivated and CRAVE Vintage Guitars is a non‑profit enterprise, it is a relief that the 3‑year hiatus hasn’t totally wiped out the value of CRAVE Guitars’ precious artefacts.

It will take a long time for things to settle down and start to grow again. It will be a challenge for everyone involved for some time to come. The last three years haven’t signalled the death throes of the guitar music community. Yet. It has, however been badly wounded, let us hope not mortally so.


The guitar book

A while back, I was contacted out of the blue by a book publisher wanting to use one of CRAVE Guitars’ vintage guitars in their author’s new book on the subject. After a bit of formal toing‑and‑froing, it all went ahead and the book was published earlier this year. I was happy to do this for no commercial gain and the only reward was a shiny copy of the final print version and a credit in the acknowledgement section. While it won’t make CRAVE Guitars famous, I am quite proud of this minor morsel of exposure and recognition.

The book in question is, ‘Guitar: The Shape Of Sound – 100 Iconic Designs’ by author Ultan Guilfoyle, published by Phaidon Press (ISBN: 978 183866 558 6) (2023).

Link: ‘Guitar: The Shape Of Sound – 100 Iconic Designs’

Phaidon – Guitar The Shape Of Sound (2023)

The vintage guitar that was featured in the book is my lovely 1974 Ovation Breadwinner 1251 (see page 204‑205).

CRAVE Guitars Ovation Breadwinner

The pulp novel

As you may know, I have been writing on and off for some time, going back to the dim dark origins of CRAVE Guitars back in 2007. The main examples of this are the web site features and monthly articles on the CRAVE Guitars website over the last 9‑10 years or so, as well as the usual social media activity.

Very recently, I felt an irresistible urge to write a fiction novel. Its status is currently work‑in‑progress. It will be called, ‘The Distortion Diaries’ (remember, you read it here first). It started out as an amateur musician’s journal but the early content was clichéd, derivative and, frankly, very dull. It also wouldn’t fill a novel. So, I expanded the story to include a broader variety of situations and characters. The result will be, believe this or not, an eroti‑rom‑com with PARENTAL ADVISORY for Explicit Content. Even then, it isn’t at all what you might think or expect. Heck, how it turned out surprised me too! I don’t know if anyone will ever get to read it. It doesn’t matter. It is something creative that I had to do for myself. It isn’t good enough for a publisher to pick up and I have absolutely nil experience of self‑publishing, so it might never see the light of day. I have considered serialising it through the CRAVE Musings (i.e. the monthly blog articles) but I’m not sure the public is ready for some lovey‑dovey smut‑ridden muso pulp on a vintage guitar website though. The novel may end up just an aborted, ill‑advised, folly of an average superego’s gratuitous self‑indulgence. Thoughts on a postcard please.

Parental Advisory Label

Whether anything comes of this probably pointless fictional venture, I have no idea but it’s been addictive and fun to come up with something non‑factual for a change. And, no, it isn’t autobiographical, just in case you were wondering. Nor is it aspirational. Sadly, seeing as the protagonist has a ‘good time’ on the whole. Lucky git.

In truth, I would actually like to try and self‑publish the novel but I have no idea whatsoever about how to go about such an endeavour, so it will probably languish in long‑lasting literary limbo (stop it with the alliteration, already!).


New 2023 albums

As it’s the time of year for lists, here is a breakdown of 2023 album releases acquired during the year. As usual, these aren’t the only albums bought and neither will they be the only 2023 albums over time. Here are this year’s 33 purchases:

100 gecs – 10,000 gecs
Alborosie – Shengen Dub/Embryonic Dub
Caroline Polachek – Desire, I Want To Turn Into You
The Chemical Brothers – For That Beautiful Feeling
Creation Rebel – Hostile Environment
The Cure – Black Sessions: Maison De La Radio Paris 2004 (live broadcast)
Depeche Mode – Memento Mori
Don Letts – Outta Sync
Dub Pistols – Frontline
Everything But The Girl – Fuse
Fred Again.. & Brian Eno – Secret Life
Gentleman’s Dub Club – On A Mission…
Hollie Cook – Happy Hour In Dub
James Holden – Imagine This Is A High Dimensional Space Of All Possibilities
King Krule – Space Heavy
King Tubby & The Observer All Stars – Dubbing With The Observer
Kurt Vile – Back To Moon Beach
Lana Del Rey – Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd
Laurel Halo – Atlas
Mitski – The Land Is Inhospitable And So Are We
The Murder Capital – Gigi’s Recovery
The Orb – Metallic Spheres In Colour (Feat. David Gilmour)
The Orb – Prism
Orbital – Optical Delusion
Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs – Land Of Sleeper
Queens Of The Stone Age – In Times New Roman…
Rolling Stones – Hackney Diamonds
Skindred – Smile
Sleaford Mods – UK GRIM
Slowdive – Everything Is Alive
Steve Hillage – LA Forum 31.1.77 (live)
X‑Press 2 – Thee
Yeule – Softscars

Is there a favourite 2023 album out of that lot? Well, I keep coming back to British alternative/indie shoegaze/dream pop band, Slowdive and ‘Everything Is Alive’ more than once, so that’s a fair choice at the time of writing. The big disappointment was Don Letts’ ‘Outta Sync’. Sadly. It comprises many well-crafted pop songs but very little of what I, and I think many others, hoped for in the way of heavy dub reggae tracks.

An even bigger disappointment for me was what didn’t appear. The Cure had hinted that their first studio album since 2008’s ‘4:13 Dream’, heralded as, ‘Songs Of A Lost World’ would be released in 2022. It was notable by its absence and many enthusiasts were hoping that it would finally see the light of day in 2023. The band tempted fans by playing several of the new tracks during their live concerts during the year. However, still nothing tangible has appeared on record store shelves. Let’s hope Robert Smith & co. get around to letting us hear it in 2024. Sixteen years is a long time to wait for new material. C’mon Bob, don’t keep us waiting any longer.

Note: I haven’t gone back to cover 2020, 2021 and 2022 lists of those year’s album releases, as this article would become just a loooooong list.


Whazzup for CRAVE Guitars in 2024?

Before Covid, I used to include at the end of the ‘review of the year’, a shortlist of vintage guitar gear that I might try to acquire in the subsequent 12‑month period. Rarely were the predictions spot on, or even close. Given CRAVE Guitars’ limited activity, space and funds, there is little point in speculating other than in very broad terms.

While there is always a long list of ‘most wanted’ guitars, it’s unlikely to expand significantly in 2024. I am actually generally relatively content with my lot. For now. I am sure that GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) will strike again at some point.

Having launched CRAVE Basses in 2023, there are only four vintage bass guitars in the ‘collection’ thus far. There are a few I might be interested in looking for and which may improve diversity in this area.

There are no intentions for ‘new’ CRAVE Amps at the moment. But that can change, depending on opportunity.

I am also keeping an eye open for some interesting vintage stomp boxes for CRAVE Effects but it really depends on whether anything crops up at a reasonable market price.

The overall result is that there are no specific ambitions for 2024. Next year’s annual review will probably be very short and very dull! I have learned from past experience that predictions aren’t a good idea. Not only are they over‑ambitious but also they end up way wide of the mark. So, I will take things as they come and await any surprises with great anticipation. That sounds like it might be a bit more fun than reporting on yet another failed plan.


CRAVE Guitars ‘Record(s) of the Month’

It seems that this might become a regular feature. I listen to a lot of music (see last month’s article, ‘Music Machinations’ – November 2023). There are some albums that tend to stand out from the rest. There is no rhyme or reason why they do, they just do. Over the last month, I just can’t split two albums, which I’ve been enjoying amongst all the other great material out there. They both come under the general genre category of instrumental ‘stoner rock’ but that downplays their appeal. So, on account of there being SO much great music to discover, I’m going for the plural of ‘Record’ for December 2023. Let’s just call that extra little ‘(s)’ a Christmas/New Year treat for y’all. Enjoy

Eternal Tapestry – Beyond The 4th Door (2011) – First up is this strange thing of beauty. Eternal Tapestry is an American psych rock band based in Portland, Oregon. It may not be regarded by some as their best but it was their first ‘proper’ record label release, after several previous albums. It isn’t heavy. It sounds like a group of friends getting together for a jam session. To get that right is a LOT harder than people think. It is atmospheric, dreamy and so far out of this world that it leaves the sordid real world truly out of sight. Good. laid back, hypnotic, immersive, psychedelic and otherworldly experience.

My Sleeping Karma – Soma (2012) – Not the same as Eternal Tapestry but not too far off either. My Sleeping Karma is a German psych rock band from Aschaffenburg, Bayern and ‘Soma’ is their 4th studio album. The tracks are long, intentionally repetitive and with a gentle groove. It’s not quite an impromptu jam session but it has a distinctive psychedelic undercurrent that can be great for zoning out. I prefer this to other MSK studio albums, as it has a bit more variety within the confines of its moody origins. Emotional krautrock. Who’da thought?

Albums Of The Month – December 2023

Tailpiece

Good riddance to 2023. Funny (not) how I seem destined to repeat that same dreary sentiment every year. Ever hopeful and optimistically deluded, I have to remain confident that 2024 will be a bit better. Any improvement will be eagerly grasped. A new year, new opportunities.

My naïve wish and hope for 2024? Listen up all humans! Stop destroying our planet and stop killing each other. Then put all that wasted money to good use making a peaceful, sustainable civilisation, fare and just for all. A pipe dream, maybe, but one has to dream.

As far as articles for 2024 are concerned, I have a couple of ideas gestating, although nothing firmed up at this stage, Watch this space folks. Tune in, same time, same channel, next month. In the meantime, I wish you all a Happy New Year. Be good.

Truth, peace, love, and guitar music be with you always. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars’ ‘Quote of the Month’: “The best thing in life is freedom”

© 2023 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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November 2023 – Musical Machinations

Prelude

WELCOME ONCE MORE to CRAVE Guitars’ unhurried cruise through the planet’s turbulent waters this November 2023. While there has been much to protest about in the rapid disintegration of the prevailing ‘world order’ during the 2020s thus far, one has to grasp onto any positive prospects that may present themselves. Arising from the debris and carnage of grinding attrition, the poppies of opportunity are optimistic symbols for hope and prosperity, albeit fleeting. That’s basically all flowery language for carpe diem (from Roman lyric poet, Horace’s work, ‘Odes’ in 23 BCE – literal meaning ‘pluck the day’, commonly interpreted as ‘seize the day’).

“While we speak, envious time will have fled: seize the day, to the least extent possible trusting in the next one.” Quintus Horatius Flaccus (Horace, 65-8 BCE)

I recognise that there has been little in the way of exciting news on CRAVE Guitars core ‘business’ for many reasons outlined in the previous article (October 2023). It has been slow but it hasn’t been a total wipe‑out though and I’ll come back to that on another occasion. Here, I’m focussing purely on recorded music and principally a persistent quest to unearth something a little bit different.

Once again, no AI was used to research or write this article, only the author’s meagre cranial capacity and a bit of old school pre‑AI technology.


Context

The one upside of recent times has been an opportunity to embark on an intentional journey to explore off‑the‑beaten‑track modern music. As in physics, the musical micro‑universe is continuously expanding. The challenge is that the musical catalogue since the 1950s is absolutely massive and, with each passing day, becomes even bigger – far too much to begin with, let alone keep up with. While, on the basis that one’s knowledge is inherently extremely limited, it means that any adventure has plenty of scope for discovery, even if it is only vainly scratching the surface of the iceberg’s tip (there I go mixing metaphors again!).

“I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance.” Greek philosopher Socrates (c.470-399 BCE)

On this particular excursion into the unknown, music discovery means expanding the author’s knowledge and appreciation across many aspects of contemporary music. The exercise is about not only consolidating existing music but also about travelling lands un‑trod for new music, which may mean older music that is new to me as well as recently released music that is new to everyone.

Fortunately, 21st Century explorations are sedate experiences. No longer do we have to fear ‘hic sunt dracones’ in ‘Terra incognita’ (here be dragons in unknown land). Note: The former derives from the Hunt‑Lenox Globe (1504), the latter from Ptolemy’s Geography (c.150).

Over far too many years than I would care to contemplate, I have been buying and listening to music. Nothing unusual about that. For many reasons (space, funds, etc.), music was largely revolved around established genre preferences. Fair enough; isn’t that what it’s all about, buy what you like and don’t bother with everything else? However, such an exercise becomes largely self‑perpetuating and insular. This I was aware of and felt that there was much more to be revealed. Where to start?

During CRAVE Guitars’ 3‑year hiatus (see last month’s article, ‘Return to and from Obscurity’), I became fascinated by exposure to ‘new’ music, rather than the habitual repetitive listening to a small repertoire of familiar choons. This is no new epiphany. When much younger, I made a point of listening to BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel (1939‑2004) and valued his nonconformist approach towards exciting new bands and their music, especially but not solely during the punk rock era. The late John Peel may not be familiar to readers outside the UK. It was because of John Peel that I bought my very first LP album – ‘Meddle’ by Pink Floyd (1971), after he debuted it in its entirety on his late night radio show.

While so many other things were getting in my way, I consciously elected to spread my musical wings again, mainly because it is something I had wanted to do and it was actually eminently do‑able, especially economically (at first!). I engaged in the hobby of ‘crate digging’ or simply ‘digging’ in the Internet age, i.e. searching anywhere for content, online suppliers and auction sites, charity shops, second hand record shops, brick‑and‑mortar retailers, etc. Buying used albums makes the exercise much more economic, fun and sustainable.

Record Store (credit: Cottonbro Studio)

“Music is an important part of our culture and record stores play a vital part in keeping the power of music alive.” Chuck Berry (1926-2017)

Alternative sources include ‘recommendations’ from other music aficionados and using the Shazam app on a smart phone to identify something unfamiliar and interesting that pops up wherever one might be at the time.

One of the first steps was to identify what I had and where there were obvious gaps. I had already created a Microsoft Access database so that I could scrupulously catalogue the albums, EPs and singles in my possession. That soon ran into the application’s upper limit of 2 GB per database, so had to be split into multiple databases. Now that I readily know what I have (little), what I haven’t (massive). It also enabled me to log what I might want (a continuously growing ‘most wanted’ list). The systematic categorisation was reinforced by importing everything I had from source onto Apple iTunes. Between these two key resources, it became relatively straightforward to keep track of things. Then, it was on to, thankfully dragon‑free, pastures new.

My investigations are basically limited to modern contemporary music from the early‑mid 1950s – basically from the emergence of rock ‘n’ roll – to the current day. It also includes going back further into the history of some long‑standing top‑tier genres such as blues, country and jazz that were direct predecessors to, and influences on, everything from rock ‘n’ roll onwards, as well as continuing to evolve in their own right.

There have to be boundaries or I would go insane just collecting for collecting’s sake, which is not only unrealistic but also pointless. American rapper and entrepreneur Dr. Dre once stated that he accumulated 80,000 albums and kept them in storage, before realising just that basic error. I’m sure that somewhere out there is a comprehensive British Library‑esque collection of music releases over the last 100 or so years, catalogued for historical posterity. That would be one heck of a monumental task. My endeavours are, unsurprisingly, much, much more modest.

One has to enjoy, as well as feel that an avocation is worthwhile, or there is no worth in doing it. It is for this reason that I have to exclude classical music. For some reason, classical music leaves me stone cold dead. Always has done. I’ve tried repeatedly to get into it but to no avail. However, in contemporary music, there are styles of modern classical and minimalist music that blend, fuse or crossover into contemporary electronic sensibilities with classical instrumentation that I can grasp but I’m afraid that’s it. The likes of Max Richter, Tim Hecker, Philip Glass, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Walter/Wendy Carlos and Isao Tomita I can engage with, otherwise, meh. I genuinely apologise to classical music fans. I’m sure it’s fabulous n’all but it just doesn’t do anything for me and going down that particular rabbit hole is an experience I don’t want to pursue… so I won’t. My choice.

Here are just a few figures relevant to the 3‑year hiatus to bandy about. During that period, I’ve purchased circa 3,000 albums along with a (large) handful of EPs and the odd single. That equates to around 90 per month (averaging c.3‑ish per day). I dread to think of the gross expense but at least it is little and often, unlike buying vintage guitars. It’s also relatively quick and easy to do, filling those occasional idle moments. The last 3 years has basically doubled the hoard. The ‘most wanted’ (for want of a better term) list hovers around 1,500‑2,000 depending on timing and motivation. The ‘find out more’ about list of artists is, by comparison, relatively short at around 200‑250. The conclusion is that there is plenty of scope for improvement. Additions to the hoard cover about 100 genres with the largest proportions being mainstream ones.

I haven’t ventured into the realms of rare music collection – most albums I have been looking for are relatively available with patience and digging. Indeed, many have been from bargain bins. I can’t justify or afford two expensive artefact hobbies! Neither has this mission been to create any sort of ‘standout albums of the last 75 years’ or so. I don’t think anyone could possibly agree on what that might comprise.

Right, let’s get down to the business at hand; colouring in the sketch of the musical landscape, so to speak.

“Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.”  From ‘Hamlet’ (c.1600) by English playwright William Shakespeare (1564‑1616)


Genre gap‑filling

Like most people, one has favourite genres, so‑so ones, and disliked ones. However, to rule music out just because it belongs to a hitherto underappreciated genre tends to limit one’s exposure to some highly regarded music. As an example, I was never very keen on country music. Then I watched an 8‑part documentary called, unsurprisingly, ‘Country Music’ which first aired on American TV channel PBS in 2019. I was struck by a whole bunch of music that I was completely unaware of and had summarily discounted out‑of‑hand because of what it was labelled. I was fascinated by the documentary and what it portrayed. PBS also produced another documentary series called ‘Jazz’ from 2001 that opened my eyes to what that genre also had to offer. Both PBS series were directed by Ken Burns. Actually, finding out more about the cultural history that surrounded the genres provided a context that enhanced the experience of the music greatly. This observation reinforces the (perhaps) blindingly obvious fact that societal change and musical development are both interdependent and co‑dependent. Having fired my imagination, I extrapolated the concept to other genres as well. Sometimes, ‘various artists’ genre compilations can provide a suitable entrée to a musical world less wandered.

Are there any contemporary genres that are considered out of bounds? On the whole, other than aforementioned classical, generally no. I am up for pretty much anything, while still retaining my core preferences, which include reggae/dub, IDM/EDM, ambient electronica, downtempo/chillout, dreampunk/vaporwave, indie, alternative, heavy metal, gothic, dream pop, drone, rap/hip‑hop, shoegaze, grunge, punk, garage, funk/disco, deep house, blues, rock and neo‑psychedelia. That’s a pretty broad spectrum.

My two recent articles on ‘Dub Reggae Revelation’ and ‘Adventures in Ambient’ (August and September 2023 respectively) I think adequately demonstrate the potential of genre gap‑filling. That was just breaking down two genres.

One ‘genre’ that sits outside the normal categories is the Original Soundtrack (OST). Film and TV soundtracks tend to fall into two types, one camp compiles existing music brought together to accompany what happens on screen, while the other camp employs music composed (scored) specifically for the medium. Both camps can be helpful when discovering new music.

“I’m a big collector of vinyl – I have a record room in my house – and I’ve always had a huge soundtrack album collection.” Quentin Tarantino (1963‑)

There are only so many genres (my database lists over 140 of them!) but when you consider the bewildering multiplicity of sub‑genres and micro‑genres within the umbrella of, say, heavy metal, dance or electronica, there seems no end to what can be achieved. One great thing about music is that there is always something out there somewhere to match one’s prevailing mood. Genre gap‑filling actively opens doorways into finding a whole raft of ‘new’ artists, and the next task of filling in some of the blanks was added to the ‘to‑do’ list. One simple example was a brief dalliance with Cajun and zydeco music. These originated from the 20th Century intermixing of French Canadian Acadian immigrants, native American peoples, African slaves, and freemen in Louisiana in the deep south of the USA. Fascinating. And, thus, the search goes on.


Artist gap‑filling

There were, as you might expect, quite a few artists already covered, while there were many more that I knew about or was curious enough about to complement existing artists with ones that I hadn’t previously coveted. Some of these artists work could best be exposed by buying ‘best of’ or compilation albums, especially when I wasn’t prepared to go all out and get multiple original albums. This worked well for some artists that I wasn’t overly keen on. The relative randomness of the ‘digging’ process led to many new artist discoveries, simply through browsing and taking a gamble on something that looked intriguing. ‘Digging’ is easier in brick‑and‑mortar shops than online. Although the latter works, it is definitely much less enjoyable. We need to support our mainstream and independent record shops or they will be lost forever (as in the case of Virgin Megastores, Tower Records and many others). We almost lost the HMV chain in the UK, which would have been disastrous for high street music retail. Artist gap‑filling is a never ending expedition with untold treasures to be uncovered beyond the famous big names. Along with the household headliners, there is a multitude of lesser and unknown artists producing some fantastic music. An open mind unlocks entire vistas begging to be perused.

I soon realised that my personal favourite artists are actually few and far between, many of which have had long, consistent careers. During any artist’s long‑term output, there would inevitably be good, average and poor albums. Picking out the wheat from the chaff became an integral part of my newfound preoccupation.

Surprisingly, there are some very famous artists that simply do not resonate with me, including (believe it or not) respected giants like The Beatles and The Who. Yup. Heretical I know. I have tried over and over to get into them but without success.

There are many lesser known artists that I really like at the moment and only time will tell whether they create any sort of lasting legacy. I came across many great artists that I hadn’t even heard of, many with surprisingly extensive back catalogues. They are all out there, just waiting to be found. I realised that artist gap‑filling was the simplest way to stretch one’s listening goal posts. And, thus, the search goes on.

“For me, to turn people on to new music, on to things that are going on in the world, is important.” Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe (1958‑)


Release gap-filling

One logical method was to fill obvious gaps in some of the existing artists’ back catalogues or the solo careers by members of established bands. I would have some releases but not others, generally through an essentially arbitrary process, rather than any sort of systematic approach. Some additions were credible releases, while with others, there turned out to be an obvious reason why they weren’t there in the first place. Oops. Other avenues to explore in addition to studio albums include live albums, EPs, singles, compilations, dubs, remixes and various artist DJ mixes. This process wasn’t intended to be comprehensive – some releases simply weren’t/aren’t available, some have been long discontinued while others were obviously a waste of space anyway. Some albums were originally on limited release and have subsequently become rare and valuable. I know that there are plenty of collectors out there prepared to pay vast sums for some of these one‑offs. I’m not in that game and can’t afford to be. There are still plenty of missing pieces but broadly speaking the main bases have (possibly) been covered.

It would be all too easy to fall into the trap of ‘completism’, i.e. getting absolutely everything released by an artist. Given how prolific some artists are, completism would be a venture all unto itself. Frank Zappa has released over 50 studio albums, Brian Eno over 65, Johnny Cash over 75, Lee Perry over 80, Tangerine Dream over 100, and Willie Nelson over 130, not including live albums, EPs, singles, compilations, videos and bootlegs. From now on, release gap‑filling will be a case of diminishing returns, as the gaps decrease along with the overall quality of content.

One notable trend during the coronavirus pandemic was a proliferation of live music releases. Artists couldn’t get out on tour and many couldn’t access recording studios, so record labels scoured existing unreleased resources as a pragmatic stop gap during the lockdowns. Some of these live concert recordings are OK and many would normally be regarded as superfluous under ordinary circumstances. However, when needs must. One silver lining to arise out of the so‑called ‘Chinese Virus’ plague has been the rate and quality of subsequent studio releases once the ‘new normal’ was established. And, thus, the search goes on.

“I look forward to the future – and going into the studio to make new music.” Diana Ross (1944‑)


Record label gap‑filling

Some collectors also go for label gap‑filling but that’s a step too far for me, although there are some great independent labels worth giving a shout out to, such as Ninja Tune, Italians Do It Better, PIAS, Sub‑Pop, XL‑Recording, Jamaican Recordings, 4AD, Bella Union, Pressure Sounds, On‑U Sound, Ariwa Sounds and Hyperdub Records. Beyond the major corporations, there are thousands of record labels out there, so chasing artists and releases starting with a record label is neither quick nor easy. If it wasn’t for the small independent labels, though, we would be subject to commercially driven mainstream mediocrity. However, the method of looking at artists belonging to a certain label can prove promising for finding ‘new’ artists, which can then lead directly onto gap‑filling of their previous works.

“John Peel made his reputation with his radio show and his record label, Dandelion, by championing the underdog.” Jimmy Page (1944‑)


Musical discovery

There is much to be said for and against ‘taking a punt’ on something with which one is unfamiliar. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but there is always some sense of eager anticipation involved in lucky dips. This intentionally random exercise can lead onto other artists, and so on, basically ad infinitum. Due to the finite number of listening hours in any given day, week, month, year, this means that some music can only be listened to once or twice, while others warrant repeated auditions. Buying one‑off listens is not really very productive but it happens. One day, they can be re‑used by going to someone who might appreciate them more than I do. Often, genuine appreciation or enjoyment can only be gained by listening multiple times, especially with more experimental, leftfield or avant‑garde music.

“What motivates us is always new music.” Nuno Bettencourt (1966‑)

While physical media has been a main source of content for at least the last 40 years, this is rapidly changing. According to Spotify in 2021, over 60,000 tracks are uploaded to their platform every day. One, perhaps, might wonder about the depth of quality behind such figures. I know I do but then again, I’m a sceptic. There is no shortage of music to discover and no hope of listening to even a tiny fraction of it all. Spotify is also the platform that boasts the most effective method of curated music discovery. Even so, there is still a lot of inherent chance to finding something that will stay with you over the years. One might think that genuinely new discoveries would be infrequent, especially as time goes on. Far from it in practice.

Just one example, I recently came across late Canadian composer, Mort Garson (1924‑2008), renowned for his album, ‘Mother Earth’s Plantasia’ (1976), tag lined, ‘warm earth music for plants… and the people who love them’. When looking more into him and his music, I felt that, somehow, I should have been more aware of him before now. There is plenty of info on him on the hinterwebby thingummy but our meandering paths had not crossed before now. This sort of experience, which many readers who are familiar with Garson will probably snicker at my evident naivety. Such experiences are annoyingly common.

“I actually spend as much time listening to new music as to old. Probably more. I just try to get something out of it all.” Mark Knopfler (1949‑)

So, after all that preparatory exposition, you might well be wondering, just who the heck has been ‘discovered’? Here are just a few artists that I came across during the last 3 years. Some of which readers may know, some not. I might, though, challenge anyone to tick them all off so as to expose, pour scorn and ridicule my raw ignorance for what it is, sheer witlessness. Time to position the currency where my oral cavity is (lol!). The following list covers any genre and is in alphabetical‑ish order (Note: These are indicative only and should not be regarded as recommendations)…

*Shels, 100 Gecs, 2814, 9 Lazy 9, A.M.P. Studio, A Winged Victory for the Sullen, Agnes Obel, AK/DK, Aggrolites, The Airborne Toxic Event, The Album Leaf, Arms And Sleepers, Atoms For Peace, Autechre, Be, Benis Cletin, Bent, Big Thief, Blue In Tokio, The Burning Of Rome, Burnt Friedman, Cave In, Chezidek, Clark, Cloud Control, Craven Faults, Creation Rebel, Deadbeat, Deptford Goth, Desire, Devics, Dirty Loops, Divination, Dubkasm, Dynamic Syncopation, Ekoplekz, Ethel Cain, Fink, Flanger, Fragile State, Gallows, George Faith, Girls In Synthesis, Glass Candy, Goblin Cock, Helium, Hint, How To Dress Well, Hybrid, I. Benjahman, The Irresistible Force, Ital Tek, King Creosote, Konx‑Om‑Pax, Labradford, Laurel Halo, Lemonade, Lindsheaven Virtual Plaza, Loop Guru, LoveTrio, Machinedrum, Male Bonding, Man With No Name, Martyn, Midnight Juggernauts, My Sleeping Karma, ott, Plastikman, PreCog, Pretty Girls Make Graves, Psychonauts, Pure Bathing Culture, Purity Ring, The Qemists, Rakoon, Red House Painters, Rhombus, RJD2, Romare, Scrapper Blackwell, SkyTwoHigh, Sleep Token, The Slew, Sentre, Some Girls, Sparklehorse, StarOfAsh, Steve Roach, Suckle, Sunda Arc, Sundara Karma, Sunmonx, Swayzak, Symmetry, The Syncope Threshold, T e l e p a t h, Temu, Trembling Blue Stars, The Vacant Lots, Vessels, Wooden Shjips, Yellowcard and Yppah.

… plus many, many, many more. Phew! Some amazing, some good, some interesting, a few less so, etc. One may wonder how many of these artists – regardless of how ‘good’ they are – may attain the superstar status of, say, another Rolling Stones or The Beatles from the ‘good old days’. Not many, I’ll wager. And, thus, the search goes on.

“The times, they are a‑changin’” Bob Dylan (1941‑).

Live Music

Physical media

From the beginning of recording and playback in 1877 (although there were earlier experiments dating back to 1857), with Thomas Edison’s phonogram, first through wax cylinders and then shellac discs, followed by vinyl discs with the advent of the gramophone, people have been collecting music. For decades, vinyl was really the only practical medium for collectors. Collecting became more popular by the late 1970s with magazines dedicated to the hobby and suggesting values for some rarer releases. Magnetic recording technology added to, rather than replaced, vinyl and became popular with reel‑to‑reel, eight track (remember that?) and audio cassettes.

Portable music was made possible for the masses by the Sony Walkman (TPS‑L2), introduced in 1979, using the then‑ubiquitous analogue compact cassette. Perhaps the most significant portent for the demise of physical media was the introduction of the Apple iPod way back in 2001, sadly now no longer made, which led into the convenient access to music on the go, now with today’s smart phones.

Digital music, mainly through the introduction of digital music Compact Discs (CDs) in 1982 led to a revolution in collecting. CD sales peaked in 2000 at over 2.5 billion worldwide accounting for 91% of the market. By 2020 sales had fallen 95% and accounted for only 5% of global sales. However, CD sales increased again in 2021, although it is too early to predict a revival. The introduction of downloads and streaming has significantly impacted CD sales, precipitating a dramatic decline in physical album sales, as more and more consumers switched to digital streaming services.

Some alternative digital formats arrived in the wake of CD but didn’t survive for long, including Sony’s Mini Disc and DAT (Digital Audio Tape), as well as Philips’ DCC (Digital Compact Cassette). HDCD (High Definition Compatible Digital) and SACD (Super Audio CD) were promising but ultimately failed to supersede CD.

By the 1990s, I had disposed of my collection of then‑seemingly redundant vinyl LPs and singles (and my turntable) and embarked on collecting CDs, starting off with replacing what I had on vinyl and then adding new content over time. Ditching vinyl was something I might have regretted, but don’t. Vinyl represents nostalgia to me and I’m not going back. It is neither practical, desirable nor possible to embark on such a regressive approach now. At the time of writing, my music hoard of CDs comprises well over 6,000 releases by over 2,500 artists. This conglomeration has recently been organised into over 50 crates packed to the gills with the little silver discs. That equates to around 85,000 tracks on iTunes and counting. I don’t know whether this is a lot or not, with all things being relative. Currently, CD remains my main medium of choice. I predict that CDs will not become totally extinct and will experience a resurgance at some point.

The advent of CD was a catalyst to the long‑running analogue versus digital debate. For what it’s worth, my view is the debate is not about encoding, it’s about something far more subjective. Vinyl reproduction flatters music in a way that digital doesn’t and that appeals to us. Digital is technically superior but not as warm and cuddly as vinyl. Simples. Fans of analogue still swear that digital is a poor representation of real music. Fans of digital swear that analogue (and even digital CD) is outmoded and obsolete. That’s a lot of swearing. Streaming has added further fuel for opposing viewpoints with the compressed versus lossless argument. The truth is, does it really matter? As long as we enjoy the music, that’s what counts, isn’t it? Focus on the content, not the carrier. If we have a preference, make the most of it. I do think that the audiophile press is somewhat hypocritical in only going along with the latest tech after having criticised it before it became commercially established. That way, we all keep buying new kit. That is a personal opinion. Ain’t hindsight great?

“The digital world is so convenient and nice, but just playing back a vinyl record is a much warmer, hotter, more present feeling.” Steve Miller (1943‑)

Physical Media (credit: Andre-Moura)

Music streaming

A brief recap of developments may be in order, so a short diversion first. Let us rush past the short‑lived phenomenon of downloads, which have largely been superseded by streaming (which includes off‑line listening). The storage problem associated with physical media has led to the next revolution in listening, which is to dispense with physical media altogether and access music on remote servers held in huge data centres somewhere. This marks a watershed where the listener no longer owns a tangible product but only purchases the right to listen to it. You cannot easily donate tracks to charity or sell purchased music on to other people. Mixtapes? A thing of the past. How unromantic. All this is, to me, a major drawback. I like having something tangible that I can pick up, look at, read the liner notes, view the artwork and so on. Somehow, the old‑school ownership of a physical item is something I value. Streaming just seems like an ephemeral audition of someone else’s music, rather than something personal, bestowed by genuine ownership. Is this simply a transitional symptom? Probably, maybe.

Although streaming was introduced in the early 1990s, it wasn’t until the launch of Napster in 1999, using the new compressed MP3 digital format and exploiting new Internet‑based Broadband services, that downloads and streaming became widely popular. The licensed subscription music service Spotify was launched in 2008, rising from the ashes of the flirtatious fleeting dalliance with illegal downloads. Once again, the industry ‘big boys’ have found a way to re‑assert their dominance over us. Digital streaming now accounts for more than 80% of global music industry revenues.

The Internet and the major music streaming platforms (Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Deezer, Qobuz, Amazon Music, YouTube Music, etc.) have facilitated exploratory listening greatly while, at the same time, enabling artists to gain exposure in a way that they couldn’t previously through the traditional studio/record label system. Streaming generally can be on demand, through curated playlists or via Internet radio stations. All are valuable resources for the curious listener. The streaming platforms often state that they have 100,000,000 (100m) or more tracks available to customers. In practice, this is both a mind‑boggling and meaningless figure. There is such a thing as too much choice. It also gives some sense of scale, although it may call into question the balance between volume and quality. Suddenly, my meagre 85,000 tracks seems somewhat miniscule in comparison. I do, however, find it a sign of progress when more than 50 crates of CDs can be stored on an SSD (Solid State Disc) that’s less than half the size of a cigarette packet (remember those too?).

“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.” John Cage (1912‑1992)

Another problem exposed by streaming is that there is now plenty of material that is not distributed or sold on physical media at all and is only available via the Internet. Streaming‑only releases are essentially simpler and cheaper than managing traditional physical distribution channels. It also pushes new customers towards expensive streaming subscriptions whereby they earn money whether they are used or not. Talk about milking a cash cow! This online‑only approach affects some genres more than others but it means that, in order to continue with this ambitious side project of mine, streaming has become a necessary additional resource. In effect, physical and virtual music has to co‑exist; being an ‘and’ rather than an ‘either/or’ approach. For info, after much deliberation, CRAVE Guitars subscribes to Apple Music.

Some streaming services provide high definition listening, such as Tidal, and they charge a premium for it. Others, such as Spotify are content to go for volume at low definition. The lesson to take from this is that streaming services are not all alike despite peddling similar wares to punters.

“You pays your money and take your choice” A British lexicographic irregular that first appeared in print in Punch magazine in 1846

Does streamed high definition music (i.e. better than CD quality) make a difference to most listeners? Big question. Well, apparently, not really. The evidence suggests that most average (i.e. non‑industry) people cannot tell the difference in blind listening tests conducted under ‘normal’ conditions. Trained listeners can, allegedly, differentiate formats but “If there’s any discernible difference, it’s so subtle and so slight, you’d have to be somebody who’s been in the business for decades like me to hear it.” (recording and mixing engineer, Prince Charles Alexander, Berklee Online study, 2019). A case of fidelity vs artistry vs money, always good for an argument. Why on Earth spoil music listening by teaching people to identify comparative digital encoding anomalies when they are so small as to be meaningless? Spotify’s strategic positioning seems to agree, while Tidal doesn’t. People who go down the high definition route are, perhaps, hedging their bets. If they have the best, it doesn’t matter whether they can hear a difference or not. No doubt there is some audiophile snobbery lurking in there too. For the sake of throwing my two penny worth into the ring, I can neither tell the difference nor can I be bothered to waste my time trying to spoil the enjoyment that music brings by attempting to do so. Time for some good ol’ fashioned snake oil to leech the contents from your bank account?

Does streaming stop me ‘digging’ for used CDs? NO. Does it stop me buying new CDs? NO. Does it encourage me to buy more CDs? Actually, YES. I still prefer to purchase and store music on CD, while recognising the inevitability of embracing the dark side of streaming culture. On the basis that vinyl and cassette have seen a popular resurgence, CD is not going away anytime soon. In practice, and probably being totally hypocritical in doing so, I tend to rip music from CD on iTunes and then stream (or rather cast) it to my music system. I know that this practice probably makes little sense but, for me, it is the best of both worlds, I have the physical media and the convenience of digital storage. Which leads neatly onto…


CRAVE Guitars’ ‘music room’

If you read my October 2023 article, ‘Return to and from Obscurity’, you will know of the sad loss of ‘mi media naranja’ (my better half) due to the vile and relentless ravages of cancer. Initially crestfallen, once accepting the loss, I set about repurposing the small ‘dining room’ which had been my wife’s bedroom into a dedicated ‘music room’, used for noodling on vintage guitars and listening to recorded music. NO TV or clock allowed! Having previously lost our home and the vast majority of our belongings (another story altogether!), I had to rebuild a hi‑fi from scratch which, in itself, was quite an exciting experience, along with uniquely decorating the room to provide a suitable listening/playing environment. It took a year of painful sacrifices involving the sale of some beloved A/V gear (I’m also a film & TV buff) to raise funds and some lengthy (re)searching for used ‘bargains’. I fully acknowledge that this indulgence seems an excess of a luxury, given everything else but other things had to be compromised to enable it. My choice.

The ‘music room’ is used every day for music listening. For those who are interested in the techy side of things, the main hi‑fi system comprises:

  • Naim Uniti Core music server with 2TB SSD storage
  • Naim ND5 XS2 music streamer
  • Naim CD5 Si CD player
  • Bryston BP17 pre-amplifier
  • Bryston 4BSST power amplifier
  • PMC Twenty.24 floor standing speakers
CRAVE Guitars Music Room

While this is neither a high‑end system nor a budget system, it has been carefully selected to meet the need for critical and enjoyable listening of both physical and streamed music (and within budget). My 500 or so most preferred CDs are immediately to hand in the room, as well as being stored in lossless digital form on the music server, thereby also making them available throughout the house via Wi-Fi (in due course). It’s certainly more than good enough for my tired, aging ears. Being pragmatic, the electronics are, after all, only a means to an end, which is to stimulate an emotional response through music.

At this point, you may be wondering whether I actually listen to all that music. Fair question. Well, yes, is the answer. There wouldn’t be much point in writing about it if I didn’t experience the results of my labours. While I try very hard, there may be the odd track here or there that gets shunted down a listening list but I would hope that’s the exception, rather than the rule. Heck, it’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it!

“Don’t tell me baby you gotta go, I got the hifi high and the lights down low” from, ‘I Need Your Love Tonight‘ (1959) by Elvis Presley (1935‑1977)


Personal top 20 ‘desert island’ albums

Depending on mood, I do go back to long‑term favourites, simply for the comfort and familiarity of a ‘known quantity’. Like chatting with an old friend. At the outset, I said this wasn’t about compiling any sort of ‘best albums of the last 75 years’. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some albums for which I hold a special affection and which have been part of the hoard for many years (so not ‘new’). Here are 20 of them, all pretty well known mainstream releases, and which I feel have stood the test of time. Regular readers will see no surprises here. This is very much a personal list, chosen at the time of writing – it would undoubtedly be different on different days/weeks/months. Some entries hold special meaning and are therefore highly evocative.

I call this my ‘desert island’ security list. That is, if I could only have 20 albums as a castaway, what would they be? Perhaps, more accurately, it could also be called ‘top 20 memories’ or ’20 comfort classics’. Now how’s all that for wistful nostalgia? For what it’s worth, here is today’s list:

  1. The Cure – Disintegration (1989)
  2. Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath (1970)
  3. The Doors – L.A. Woman (1971)
  4. Pink Floyd – Meddle (1971)
  5. John Martyn – Solid Air (1973)
  6. Steve Hillage – L (1976)
  7. Talking Heads – Remain In Light (1980)
  8. Lee “Scratch” Perry – Roast Fish, Collie Weed & Corn Bread (1977)
  9. Rage Against The Machine – Rage Against The Machine (1992)
  10. Burning Spear – Garvey’s Ghost (1976)
  11. Bob Marley & The Wailers – Live! (live) (1975)
  12. Deep Purple – Made In Japan (live) (1972)
  13. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Push The Sky Away (2013)
  14. Depeche Mode – Violator (1990)
  15. Massive Attack – 100th Window (2003)
  16. David Bowie – Let’s Dance (1983)
  17. Burial – Untrue (2007)
  18. Tangerine Dream – Rubycon (1975)
  19. John Lee Hooker – Boom Boom (1993)
  20. Beck – Sea Change (2002)

“Music is the one incorporeal entrance into the higher world of knowledge which comprehends mankind but which mankind cannot comprehend.” Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)


The future

OK, that’s the past, so now let’s take a brief, casual look at what may happen into the near future. While vinyl is doing remarkably well and CD is showing possible signs of life, it is clear that streaming is the future until something better comes along. It is certainly in the interests of the music industry to retain tight control over their valuable assets, although many artists say that the practice is detrimental to their income. However, this actually means little to the consumer. Better returns for the companies and artists simply mean higher prices for the public who have no say in the matter. The reality is that the few rich get much richer and the many poor get much poorer; sadly the dysfunctional norm of the modern capitalist world.

The commercial interests of multinational companies like Sony BMG, Universal, EMI and Warner Brothers rule their respective roosts. Interestingly, the major corporations don’t own the streaming companies, unlike in the parallel dimension of film and TV where the studios control all levels of vertical integration.

Mega‑artists with mega‑egos to match like Taylor Swift, Madonna, Adele, Jay‑Z/Beyoncé, U2, KISS, Dr. Dre, Timberlake and Ed Sheeran, along with many other big names in the lofty reaches of the higher socioeconomic hierarchy are laughing hysterically all the way to their already mega‑well‑stocked tax‑free offshore bank accounts. The industry ‘big four’ major record labels and powerful business artists together make up a resilient ‘pyramid of power’, that will continue to dominate the economics of the music biz for many years to come. Sadly, your ordinary talented hard working musicians don’t attract such filthy lucre. When push comes to shove, it’s all about the money. T’was ever thus, or more accurately…

“Oh! Ever thus from childhood’s hour” from the poem, ‘The Fire Worshippers’ (1817) by Irish writer and poet, Thomas Moore (1779‑1852)

Perhaps more worrying for creative artists and for many music enthusiasts is that the focus is clearly moving away from coherent album releases and more towards the production of single tracks out of context of other material by the same artist. By that statement, I don’t mean a rejuvenation of chart singles, which have long ceased to mean anything. The evidence shows that people are streaming individual songs, rather than a collection of tracks that would historically have made up a cohesive LP. Just look at the streaming stats of albums on any digital online platform and the predominance of maybe one or two tracks over the rest is unmistakeable. There is a feedback loop that encourages artists to change the way they make music and which goes on to influence curated playlists, radio coverage and, ultimately, sales, then repeat. The modern equivalent of the old‑fashioned radio playlist.

In 2016, it was reported that album releases were plummeting while EPs and single tracks were skyrocketing. Will we ever see (or, rather, hear) any more all‑time classic albums like ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’, ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’, ‘Rumours’ or ‘Thriller’? Only time will tell. Will the way that music is created, distributed and accessed mark the death knell of the ‘album’ as we know it? Highly likely, but not just yet. The album may, like many things, see a revival. We’ll just have to wait and see (if we live long enough). Personally, I grew up with the antiquated concept of the album or LP, so it retains a certain sensibility but, then again, I am destined for premature oblivion myself, so what the heck do I know?

The topical buzz around Artificial Intelligence (AI) will inevitably play its part in music creation with virtual artists and AI composed tracks. It’s already here and can only evolve from here on. AI isn’t new, its roots go back to 1956 and the American Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. AI generative music goes back to the mid‑1990s. Is AI a threat? The jury is currently out. Thankfully, if AI is used for music, literature and art, it won’t be used to annihilate mankind (except, perhaps, through technological mediocrity). The ultimate demise of humans is up to humans, directly or indirectly, at least for now. Who needs doomsday generative AI when we all have to endure the antics of egregious corrupt despots like Putin, Xi, Kim and too many others of their insane immoral ilk? Don’t you just love mankind’s determined destiny of denial and doom? I digress (again).

“If we don’t end the war, war will end us.” H.G. Wells (1866‑1946)

One certainty is that music will survive in its manifold forms. One hopes that tired and clichéd genres like the current vapid world of commercial pop and dance music since the new millennium will rejuvenate into something more interesting at some point. Conversely, let us also hope that the more dynamic genres don’t descend to the deplorable depths of hideous homogeneity.

Musicians will proliferate. Music will proliferate. The way we access music will change. Whatever happens, change is inevitable and it will be fascinating to see how it evolves and how we adapt. Music as an essential component of the human condition will prevail in one form or another as long as humans exist. Music is, after all, a phenomenon unique to the human race. Thank goodness for that. And, thus, the search goes on.

“When I hear music that parents hate, or older musicians hate, I know that’s the new music. When I hear older people saying, ‘I hate rap or techno’ I rush to it.” George Clinton (1941‑)


Amateur musicology?

I do not pretend to be some sort of self‑appointed authority on contemporary music. My main obsession is still vintage guitars and vintage guitar gear. Perhaps, though, my passion for music predated my addiction to guitars. Over the decades my love of modern music does, I believe, provide a reasonable insight into the science as well as art of music, with a little alchemy thrown in for good measure.

Strictly speaking, musicology is the analysis and study of music. Musicology belongs to the humanities and social sciences, although some music research also belongs to the fields of psychology, sociology, acoustics, neurology, anthropology and computer science.

Musicology covers three general disciplines; music history, new musicology (the cultural study of music) and ethnomusicology (the study of music in its cultural context). For the life of me, I can’t really (be bothered to) differentiate between the last two of those.

Clearly, I cannot compete with professional experts in the field and my research methods are hardly scholarly. I am, however, happy to be an amateur sleuth, as it allows for significant enjoyment. Music should be overwhelmingly pleasurable, rather than playing second fiddle to methodical and clinical academic enquiry. Again, my choice.

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music” Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)

In addition, and hopefully obviously to readers by now, I also play music (very badly it must sadly be said). I wouldn’t hoard vintage guitars unless I could actually conjure up something vaguely creative and emotional out of them. Perhaps interestingly, I don’t play other people’s music; I much prefer to ‘do my own thing’ for better or worse. Usually the latter.

I am incessantly amazed at what I don’t know. I know that shouldn’t be the case, but society tends to prejudge ignorance as a weakness and expertise as a virtue. What others regard as the blatantly obvious is utterly oblivious to me until I encounter it. However, isn’t that what exploration and discovery is all about?

If we accept that “Music is the universal language of mankind” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), one can only trust that exploration is the means by which we enhance and articulate our own individual musical linguistic skills.

Musicology may not be quite the right word for my approach towards modern music but I sure can’t think of a better one. Musicology Lite perhaps? Deluded dilettante? Possibly. Biased? Definitely. We all have our own opinions, right? And, thus, the search goes on.

“Music is the strongest form of magic.” Marilyn Manson (1969‑)


Sex, Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll

Musicology suggests an interest in music psychology, which is how music affects the cognitive functions of the human system. Building on some of my opinionated comments last month, here’s a thought for the day. Let us remember that music carries with it enormous power to improve our mental health and wellbeing. Music can boost serotonin, dopamine, endorphin and oxytocin levels that work on the pleasure receptors of the brain. Put simply, these magic substances can act as effective natural anti‑depressants and can help to improve both mood and behaviour. All in all, mostly good stuff then. As we all know, music, can also irritate the heck out of us sometimes, so remember to love what you love.

Now here’s an interesting diversion into music cultural history. All three human activities, sex, drugs and music directly affect the pleasure centres of the brain, so there is something scientific behind the old rockers’ adage, ‘Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll’ after all. While some suggest the phrase came from Ian Dury’s 1977 single, its roots derive from a much earlier hendiatris, ‘wine, women and song’, emanating from Germany in the 1770s, although there is some debate as to who actually coined it. Many scholars attribute its origins date back even further to theologian, Martin Luther.

“Wer nicht liebt Wein, Weib und Gesang, der bleibt ein Narr sein Leben lang. (Who not loves not wine, women and song, remains a fool his whole life long).” Martin Luther (1483‑1546)

The first modern use of the phrase was printed in a LIFE magazine article that dates from 1969, “The counter culture has its sacraments in sex, drugs and rock.” In 1971, The Spectator magazine printed, “Not for nothing is the youth culture characterised by sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.” Ian Dury certainly made the most of it.


CRAVE Guitars ‘Record of the Month’

Once again, as this is a bit of an outlier in the overall scheme of CRAVE Guitars’ articles, I cannot leave without at least mentioning one of those albums that warrants repeat listening (for me). While last month, I was clinging onto sultry summer with dub reggae, this month, with the rapid decline into grim winter, I’m going for something a little more contentedly contemplative.

Biosphere – Microgravity (2015 reissue of the 1991 studio album with additional tracks). Biosphere is electronica artist, Geir Jenssen (1962‑) from Tromsø, Troms, Norway. The 16 tracks fall broadly into the ambient, ambient techno, ambient house, field recording and progressive electronica genres. Microgravity was Biosphere’s debut studio album. Laidback ambient grooves are a wonderful way to escape and transport one’s consciousness into an otherworldly, serene dimension, great for relaxation, stress relief and focus. It is also great for testing the hi‑fi.

“If music be the food of love, play on, give me excess of it; that surfeiting, the appetite may sicken, and so die” from the play, ‘Twelfth Night’ (c.1601/1602) by William Shakespeare (1564-1616)


Tailpiece

Well that’s another monthly article done and dusted. Number 75 to be precise since I started writing CRAVE Guitars’ articles way back in November 2014. It’s come a long way.

I am genuinely grateful to be in the position whereby I am able freely to undertake such projects as this one. The author is acutely aware of the extreme difficulties faced by innocents around the globe.

The pursuit of new stuff is unlikely to abate now that it has begun in earnest. Is there anything I regret uncovering? Nope. I try hard not to regret anything; I would rather use any missteps along the way as a learning experience. Are there any guilty pleasures that have been adopted? Probably, but now isn’t the time or place for shaming my deviant musical proclivities! Surprises? Plenty. Pleasure? A mixed bag. Top tips? A few. Anticipation? Always.

What is most encouraging is that there is an almost unlimited wealth of awesome, incredible music out there waiting to be discovered if you want to look hard enough. Enjoy!

The plan is to get back to more CRAVE Guitars core raison d’être for the next article. However, we all know what happens to “the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men” from the poem, ‘To a Mouse’ (1785) by Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759‑1796), so no promises. OK? Thanks for reading.

Peace, love, truth and guitar music be with you always. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars’ ‘Quote of the Month’: “Material possessions feed the vanity of the ego, while music nourishes the spirit and sustains the soul”

© 2023 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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September 2023 – Adventures in Ambient: Music of Another Dimension

Prelude

In the last article (August 2023), I explored the alluring realm of dub reggae, as one of my musical passions. This month, as we race headlong into autumn with its cooler, darker evenings, I’d like to explore another musical genre close to my heart, ambient electronica. There seems to be a great deal of consensus about where ambient came from while, at the same time, a great deal of disagreement about what it is today, let alone where it is going. While this may sound inherently contradictory, the convoluted world of ambient music is quite fascinating, at least to me. Unlike reggae, which had a defined geographical origin – the small island of Jamaica in the Caribbean – ambient has a completely different set of roots. Also, while dub reggae and ambient seem entirely discrete, there are some crossovers.

Once again, like dub reggae, the ambient musical landscape is not really guitar‑based. It is essentially one of three things, acoustic – mainly classical – instruments, the sounds of the natural and built world all around us, and electronic sounds, primarily but not exclusively synthesizers.

As with all previous articles, this is not intended to present any sort of definitive academic analysis, it is purely my interpretation of ambient music, past and current, as I see (or rather hear) it. There are a lot of blurred overlaps and permeable boundaries here, so I am certain that some readers will disagree vehemently with my version of the story. That is their prerogative and this is my article, so I’m sticking to my biased version. This is also only the proverbial ‘tip of the iceberg’ with lots more to discover.

No AI has been used in researching and writing this article. All images used are royalty free courtesy of Pixaby and Wikimedia Commons.

So, get comfy, chill and absorb yourself into the mesmerising universe of ambient music for a while.


Defining ambient

Perhaps a good starting point is to understand what the solitary word ‘ambient’ actually means, both in non‑musical and musical contexts.

Literally, ambient is an adjective meaning ‘of the surrounding area or environment’, ‘existing or present on all sides’ or ‘enveloping or completely surrounding’. As a noun, it means ‘an encompassing environment or atmosphere’. In this article we are not talking about ambient temperatures or ambient pressures, although these may affect sound vibrations in the environment. We are also not talking ambient light, although this may affect mood and temperament.

Defining ambient sound

Ambient sound is the total of all background or surrounding noises that exist in every direction, in any immediate surroundings, as measured by sound pressure level (SPL – expressed in decibels). Decibel levels are important because they provide information to the brain on how quiet or loud a sound is in relative terms. Human ears and brains are designed to detect slight variations in SPL in stereo (binaural hearing), which help us determine from which direction a sound originates. Basically, ambient sound is the total of what you can hear in the present moment, wherever you are.

Ambient sound is always present, even if it is at very low levels. Humans cannot tolerate near‑0dB for long. 0dB is unobtainable under normal conditions. Experiments have shown that people who are deprived of ambient sound can quickly become unsettled or disoriented because humans rely on ambient sound to locate themselves within their environment. The dissociation of sight and sound is inherently problematic for us. The quietest place on Earth is an anechoic chamber at Orfield Laboratories in Minnesota, USA. It is so quiet that the longest anybody has been able to experience it is just 45 minutes.

The simple fact is that there is always some ambient sound present in our lives. These ever‑present characteristics play a part in ambient music compositions.

Defining ambient music

Ambient music is a term that means, ‘a genre of instrumental music that focuses on patterns of sound rather than typical melodic form and is used to promote a certain atmosphere or state of mind’. Another definition is ‘incidental music intended to serve as an unobtrusive accompaniment to other activities and characterised by quiet and repetitive instrumental phrases’.

So far, so what? Useful background info but it doesn’t really mean much on its own. So let’s delve a bit deeper.


A brief pre‑history of ambient music

There is a significant amount of information on the hinterwebby thingummy about the history of the genre, so this is a brief retelling of the essential elements, starting in France, then Germany before crossing the Atlantic to America and then back to the UK. These unfolding events were probably all ahead‑of‑their‑time and in the vanguard of experimental art.

Let us begin by going all the way back to 1917. French composer Erik Satie (1866‑1925) used Dadaist‑inspired explorations to invent what he called musique d’ameublement (‘furniture music’ or, more literally, ‘furnishing music’), music played by live musicians and designed to be unconsciously experienced rather than consciously listened to. Satie described his compositions as music that could be performed at a function to create a background atmosphere for the function, rather than being the prime focus of it. In Satie’s words, his music would, “… be part of the noises of the environment”.

Satie’s use of repeated short compositions is said to have influenced ‘minimal music’ from 1960s onwards, particularly the experimental avant‑garde music of composer John Cage. Satie is also regarded as an essential forerunner to modern ambient music and a key influence on British artist, Brian Eno.

During the 1940s, Frenchman Pierre Schaeffer (1910‑1995) who was, amongst other things, a composer, engineer and musicologist took a different approach. Schaeffer experimented with recording sound, then processing the signals to create an abstract sound collage. The resulting sounds and tones were unrecognisable from the originating source material. Schaeffer used musical instruments, vocals, recorded environmental ‘sound objects’ and electronic sound synthesis. This type of music composition became known as musique concrète (concrete music).

Prolific and controversial German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928‑2007) was a pioneer in electronic music. Stockhausen’s electronic music compositions comprised abstract noise collages created through the use of tape loops, oscillators and recorded sounds. He also specialised in ground breaking ‘spatial music’, using multiple sources to locate sounds within a three dimensional space (an early form of surround sound). Stockhausen created one of the first examples of purely electronic music using sine wave generators and filters, called ‘Studie I’ (1953). In 1954, he pushed the boundaries of classical music using acoustic instruments augmented by electronic sounds. The same year, he published the first fully electronic music score. Stockhausen, the so‑called ‘father of electronic music’, was an important figure who rejected conventions and heavily influenced multiple genres outside classical music, including jazz, pop and rock decades later.

Muzak is a type of background music created by American inventor George Owen Squier in 1934. Known commonly as elevator music (or lift music in the UK), it became used predominantly in public spaces, retail stores and other venues. The word muzak has become embedded in the public consciousness as synonymous with all types of generic and inconspicuous background music. Muzak was particularly prominent during the 1960s and 1970s. Muzak has been a registered trademark of Muzak LLC since 1954. Ambient by stealth?

From the 1950s, particularly in Germany, elektronische musik (electronic music) took precedence over previous forms such as musique concrète. The term ‘elektronische musik’ was first used by German composer and musicologist Herbert Eimert in 1952 to describe music created only by the use of electronic instruments and technology. As the genre developed, elements of musique concrète were incorporated into electronic music. Natural environmental recordings combined with music resurfaced later as a popular element of new age music. German electronic music heavily influenced krautrock, an experimental rock genre that emerged out of West Germany in the late 1960s and early 1970s with bands like Can and Neu!.

American composer John Cage was another influential figure in post‑war avant‑garde music including electroacoustic music. He had been experimenting with studio electronics since the late 1930s. In 1952, Cage ‘performed’ his now‑famous composition, 4′33″. The piece is not, as many believe, silence; it is the intentional ‘absence of deliberate sound’. The musicians do nothing but be on the stage with instruments. For the aforementioned duration of the piece, the audience is encouraged simply to listen to and experience the ambient sounds in the auditorium around them.

Minimal music is a form of art music that, as its name suggests, uses a very limited array of components to produce a composition. Minimal can apply to the instruments used, the sounds/tones produced, as well as the studio processes employed. Minimalism may comprise continuous drones, pulses or repetitive phrases. Minimalism emerged in New York in the late 1960s with American composers such as Philip Glass, Terry Riley, Steve Reich and La Monte Young. It has been suggested that minimalism was one influence behind experimental rock band The Velvet Underground during the 1960s and, much later, on electronic dance music (EDM) sub‑genres such as minimal techno. In 1990, British electronica duo The Orb used a sample from Steve Reich’s work on their hit single, ‘Little Fluffy Clouds’.

At this point, it is worth making quick mention of cinematic music, a.k.a. film scores or original soundtracks (OSTs). The first music to accompany film goes back to the earliest part of the 20th Century if not further, although its use really came into its own, ironically, with the advent of talking pictures in 1927. Cinematic music is composed specifically as a background to fit well with what is happening on screen by creating a certain atmosphere. Many classic theme music pieces would simply not exist without the films for which they were created. Some of the best cinematic music is an integral part of the audio‑visual experience, rather than the music being consciously listened to in isolation. The best soundtracks are equally good pieces of music in their own right and the art form has become highly respected (and profitable). John Williams, Ennio Morricone, Jerry Goldsmith, John Barry, Bernard Herrmann, Lalo Schifrin, Vangelis, Jóhann Jóhannsson and Hans Zimmer are some of the principal cinematic music composers.

In the field of television, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, set up in 1958, stands out for its experimental work in electronic incidental sound design and music for radio and TV. Key members of the unit included Delia Derbyshire, Daphne Oram and David Cain.


A brief history of electronic sound synthesis

It is probably true to say that synthesizers changed the world of music forever. Here’s a short resume of how that change came about. Warning! This is the techy bit.

Analogue synthesizers – The word synthesizer was first used by RCA in 1956, although it has widely been used to refer to electronic musical instruments from the early 20th Century onwards. Early electronic analogue sound synthesizers were developed in the 1920s and included the Theremin, invented by Leon Theremin in Russia in 1920, the Ondes Martenot, invented by Maurice Martenot in France in 1928 and the Trautnium, invented by Friedrich Trautwein in Germany in 1929.

There are basically only three parts to an analogue synthesizer; one or more oscillators to produce the sound, filters to change the sound, and voltage‑controlled amplifiers to adjust the volume of the sound. In addition, envelope generators are frequently used to change the behaviour of the sound (commonly referred to as ADSR – attack, sustain, delay, release).

Another major development in electronic sound synthesis was by American engineer Robert Moog (1934‑2005) who invented the first commercially available analogue synthesizer, the Moog Modular in 1964. The first fully integrated synthesizer, including the keyboard, was the Minimoog released in 1970. Moog developed his products in response to demand for more practical and affordable electronic musical instruments.

Moog Synthesizer

Samplers – A sampler is an electronic device that captures, records and plays back sections of the recordings. The first example was the Chamberlin, invented by American Harry Chamberlin in 1946. The British Mellotron, introduced in 1963, was perhaps the first famous electro‑mechanical instrument used to play back tape recorded sound samples.

Sequencers – A key factor in making music synthesizers usable was the introduction of the programmable sequencer to program and play back multi‑part arrangements. The first example was probably the analogue Buchla 100 synthesizer in 1964. More importantly, Moog introduced the Moog Modular Sequencer Module – the 960 Sequential Controller in 1968.

As synthesizers became more complex, additional features were added, such as arpeggiators that automatically play a sequence of notes based on a chord or scale, and a range of effects used to process the sound even further.

Digital synthesizers – The first digital synthesizer was made by Synclavier in 1977, while the first commercially successful model was made by Yamaha in 1983. The first production polyphonic synthesizer, able to play chords, was the analogue Oberheim Polyphonic Synthesizer, designed by Tom Oberheim, produced from 1975 to 1979. Yamaha, however, may disagree, citing their GX‑1 ‘Dream Machine’. These were followed shortly thereafter by the Polymoog. Another first was the programmable analogue Prophet 5 made by Sequential circuits in 1978. The culmination of these inventions was the introduction of the Fairlight CMI (standing for ‘Computer Musical Instrument’) in 1979, the first polyphonic digital synthesizer, sampler and sequencer.

Finally, polyphonic digital sound synthesis was here to stay, as was the studio recording technology able to exploit it. Miles away from ambient while owing a debt to it, Donna Summer’s massive disco hit single, ‘I Feel Love’ (1977), written and produced by Giorgio Moroder, was seen as a milestone and “a rejection of the intellectualization of the synthesizer in favour of pure pleasure”. It did, however, herald sound synthesis to the popular market. The phenomenal boom in synthpop during the 1980s, leading to the EDM boom of the 1990s, was the tangible result of lengthy electronic music development.

MIDI – MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is a powerful industry standard protocol introduced in 1983 that enables wide variety of electronic musical instruments, computers, and audio devices to communicate. MIDI has become essential for synchronizing, playing, editing, and recording music.

These, and many other tools, were a valuable resource for the new generation of experimental composers and musicians. Everything was pretty much now in place.


A brief history of ambient music

Up to this point it is probably fair to say that elements of ambient music’s predecessors existed, and indeed thrived, on the periphery of the popular music of their time, rather than being front and centre of the mainstream. During the 1960s, that was about to change, albeit relatively slowly.

One interpretation of ambient music is that it is a style of calm, often electronic instrumental music with no discernible rhythm or beat, used to create or enhance mood or atmosphere. Ambient music emphasises tone and textural layers of sound that focus on the actual sounds being produced rather than the traditional musical form in which those sounds would normally reside. As such, ambient music may well intentionally eschew formal structured composition, harmony, melody and metre.

While now commonplace, ambient music, at least in the past, broke the rules of what we understand as familiar music or song content. Ambient music is not limited by accepted tropes of how it is produced, making use of acoustic and electronic musical instruments, unorthodox implements used as instruments, environmental sound recordings and sometimes vocals. A large proportion of ambient music is instrumental, not requiring narrative arrangement through either sung lyrics or spoken words.

One characteristic of ambient music since the 1990s has been the ubiquitous use of looping, creating repeated sections of sound, initially using tape and most commonly through digital effects. Another key trait has been the use of modern digital reverb and delay techniques to provide a sense of space, disconnection and otherworldliness.

One key element of ambient music is the way it can reward equally both passive and active listening. The listener can either focus on the content or allow ‘cognitive drift’ to occur, which can encourage a sense of calm, introspection or contemplation, meditation or as an aid to sleep.

While ambient music is a self‑contained genre, it does not stand alone; it has been incorporated into, or fused with, many other musical genres. This fact, in part, contributes to the debate about what ambient music actually means today and why it has become successful both artistically and commercially.

At last, getting to the point now… Ambient music as we now (think) we know it emerged in various forms during the 1960s and 1970s, largely thanks to the commercial availability of synthesizers. The album that is widely regarded as the watershed that brought ambient music to wider attention was, ‘Ambient 1: Music For Airports’ (1978) by British musician, producer and artist Brian Eno. This studio album also established the term ‘ambient music’ in the public mind set. Eno, either solo or in collaboration with other artists, released many subsequent ambient works, further defining the genre. By the early 1980s, the ‘new’ genre had become recognised and widely accepted. Eno has been oft‑quoted that “ambient music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting”.

In 1995, Brian Eno used the term ‘generative music’ to describe any music created by a computer system that is ever‑different, non‑repeating and always changing. Eno has frequently used generative ambient music as a background for visual art installations, thereby creating an immersive audio visual experience. There are now a number of autonomous ambient music generators available on the Internet, such as Generative.fm, that provide completely unique compositions that never end, never repeat and last as long as the listener wants them to. The introduction of Artificial Intelligence (AI) into music is likely to expand the scope of generative music considerably.

A discrete subset of the genre is Japanese ambient pioneered by artists such as Hiroshi Yoshimura, Haruomi Hosono, Midori Takada, Osamu Sato and Susumu Yokota during the 1980s. The offshoot aligned with the Japanese concept of ‘wa’, meaning harmony and serenity. Japanese ambient was an expression of the deep cultural appreciation for nature, an aesthetic preference towards minimalism, and traditional values of maintaining peace.

Ambient has heavily influenced many sub‑genres of downtempo dance music, including ambient house, ambient techno, ambient dub, trip‑hop, nu‑jazz, new age, chillwave and deep house. Ambient has undoubtedly come a very long way from its avant‑garde artsy origins. Ambient was now cool and it was here to stay.

In recent years, ambient music has continued to evolve and expand. Some contemporary artists have incorporated elements of jazz, classical music, and other genres into their work, while others have experimented with new digital technologies such as AI and virtual or augmented reality to create new experiences. Improvisation and extemporisation have become integral elements of many ambient compositions.

Overall, ambient music has remained a vibrant and innovative genre that continues to explore the limits of what is possible in music. Perhaps, the essence of ambient music continues to flourish at the margins, requiring some effort to discover as the means of dissemination moves away from traditional record companies, labels, distributors and physical media. The Internet and streaming services may become the only means to access these esoteric future forms.

Ambient music’s experimental aspirations, though, have been an on‑going thorn in its side, which seems particularly hard to expunge. Partly because of its eclectic roots, many regard the lofty art & culture baggage of ambient as self‑absorbed, arrogant, sanctimonious, pompous and pretentious – or just plain dull and boring. Brian Eno in particular has attracted considerable scorn for refusing to conform to populist ideals and short‑term fads. The fact that he is not fazed by such clichéd criticisms and follows his own path regardless, encourages his opinionated detractors even further.

A predilection for ambient music is a choice, not a requisite and it doesn’t carry any cache amongst some imaginary elitist intellectual cultural community. It is, though, not for everyone, with many seeing ambient as a tedious interminable din. Indeed, if anything has been learned through the decades about ambient music is that its appeal is, at least partially, subliminal, nurturing our subconscious need for enlightened contemplation and therefore beyond our ability to control whether we appreciate it or not. Discuss…

Influential artists that have dabbled in ambient music either in part or whole include (in no particular order) Brian Eno, Aphex Twin, William Basinski, Steve Roach, Robert Rich, Pauline Oliveros, Cluster, Biosphere, Harold Budd, John Hassell, Max Richter, Tim Hecker, Terry Riley, William Orbit, Four Tet, Steve Hillage, Stars Of The Lid, Bonobo, Mark McGuire, Ash Ra Tempel, Alice Coltrane, Jon Hopkins, Edgar Froese, Oneohtrix Point Never, The Caretaker, Laurie Speigel, Tycho, GAS, Boards Of Canada, Burial, Fripp & Eno, Slowdive, Air, Julianna Barwick, A Winged Victory For The Sullen, Ben Chatwin, Richard Norris, Luke Abbott, The Cinematic Orchestra, Daniel Avery, Darshan Ambient, The Gentleman Losers, Ibizarre, A.M.P. Studio, Orbient, Nacho Sotomayor, Sigur Rós, Johnny Jewel, Bicep, Marconi Union, Memory Tapes, Neon Indian, Com Truise, The Orb, The KLF, Divination, Lawrence English and The Irresistible Force.


A brief history of other music genres related to (but not) ambient music

New age music –New age music emerged in the 1970s and 1980s, influenced by a variety of styles including classical music, jazz, world music, religious music, folk and rock. New age music often explores arcane folklore, ancient traditions, ethnic groupings, astrology, mythology, mysticism, spiritualism, fantasy and even the occult. Lacking any precise definition, it is often seen as an umbrella for many different and often divergent styles. Ambient and new‑age music are two distinct genres albeit with some overlap between them.

Starting with the similarities… New age music is a genre of music characterised by its soothing and relaxing qualities. It often features acoustic instruments such as flutes, harps, guitars and pianos, traditional Asian or African instruments as well as nature recordings and synthesizers. New‑age music is often used for relaxation, contemplation, yoga, massage, stress relief and anxiety management. As background music, it is used to create a calm, serene, peaceful atmosphere for other activities.

… and some key differences… Ambient music tends to be more experimental and abstract than new‑age music, with a greater emphasis on soundscapes and textures rather than rhythm, melody or harmony. New age music tends to be more melodic, structured and more easily accessible than ambient music.

Overall, both ambient and new age music are genres designed to create a sense of serenity in the listener (the ends). However, they go about achieving this goal in different ways (the means).

New age music has habitually been ridiculed (erroneously) for being part of hippie culture, with acolytes that embraced new age beliefs being called ‘zippies’. From the 1990s. Zippies were in favour of new age principles such as social change, environmentalism, and alternative lifestyles while also being influenced by rave culture, cyberculture, and psychedelic drugs.

New Age Travellers are a loose grouping of people primarily in the United Kingdom generally adopting new age beliefs along with the counter culture movement of the late 1960s. Their nomadic lifestyle often brought them into conflict with static communities and the authorities.

Prominent new age artists include Enigma, Enya, Deep Forest, Clannad, Gregorian, Phil Thornton, Patrick Kelly, Peter Gabriel, Bernward Koch, Paul Winter, Grouper, All About Eve and William Ackerman.

Nature recordings – Ambient nature sounds or, technically, field recordings are a popular sub‑genre of ambient music that feature environmental recordings such as the sounds of water, animals, thunderstorms, wind and even fire. The origins of combining natural sounds with musical compositions can be traced back to the early 20th century. Field recording is regarded by many as a genre in its own right, with or without music.

Field Recording

The use of field recordings in music became more widespread in the 1950s and 1960s with the advent of portable recording equipment and with digital recording from the 1980s. Musicians such as John Cage and Dan Gibson began using natural or built environmental sounds into their compositions.

The use of field recording in ambient music can be traced back to Brian Eno’s ‘Ambient 1: Music for Airports’, which featured recordings of airport terminal announcements and other environmental sounds. Since then, many ambient artists have incorporated field recordings to create captivating soundscapes that blur the line between music and environmental sound.

Some popular ambient nature sound artists include David Dunn, Chris Watson, Dan Gibson, Diane Hope, Lawrence English, Biosphere and Francisco López.

Downtempo and chillout music – Ambient music did not burst onto the scene overnight and, at least initially, it did not attract significant commercial success. With the popularity of EDM and the domination of house and techno in nightclubs, ambient experienced a mini‑revival towards the late 1980s with sub‑genres including ambient house, ambient trance, ambient techno and ambient dub. During the dance‑dominated 1990s, ambient music became trendy as an after‑party ‘comedown’ with the advent of ‘chillout rooms’; spaces within clubs that served as venues for a relaxing alternative to the high‑energy ‘rave rooms’.

Chillout is a form of downtempo music (or vice versa) characterised by relaxed rhythms, mellow beats, laid back grooves and atmospheric soundscapes intended to induce a tranquil mood – fertile ground for ambient music to proliferate. Chillout is heavily derived from EDM, but typically at slower tempos and with sonic palettes often reminiscent of ambient, electronic‑styled new age, progressive electronic and even elements of instrumental hip hop, dub, deep house and breakbeat.

However, neither chillout nor downtempo come under the definition of ambient, due to their prominent use of structure and rhythm. Sunset beach bars, restaurant venues and cult dance clubs in Ibiza in the 1990s jumped onto the ambient/downtempo/chillout bandwagon as an escape from the more intense side of life and a counterpoint to the hectic rave and acid house scenes of the time. In the UK, the Bristol trip hop scene also capitalised on the chillout boom.

The chillout zeitgeist during the late 1990s was partly due to a proliferation of commercial chillout compilation albums from record labels such as Ministry of Sound, Café del Mar, Café Mambo, Beyond Records, Kompakt Records and Mercury Records. Mainstreaming ultimately motivated underground producers to move away from chillout into other more adventurous leftfield ventures. By the early‑mid 2000s, popularity of chillout music faded heavily. However, it would see a revival in the 2010s and 2020s (so far), which aimed to recapture the spirit of earlier forms of the genre.

Ambient and downtempo/chillout and are not interchangeable, although the boundaries between them are often unclear. Downtempo and chillout would go on a different path to influence subsequent genres like psybient, psychedelic trance, chillwave, lounge, post rock, lo‑fi hip hop, hypnagogic pop and nu‑jazz.

Prominent downtempo and chillout artists include The KLF, The Orb, Thievery Corporation, Deep Dive Corp, East India Youth, The Album Leaf, Nightmares on Wax, Falco, Robert Miles, Morcheeba, Bowery Electric, Mr. Scruff, Tosca, Hallucinogen and Ultramarine.

Trip Hop – Trip hop is a genre of electronic music that emerged from downtempo/chillout in the early 1990s. Trip hop is characterized by its use of hip hop beats, samples, and dense atmospheric soundscapes, fusing influences from jazz, soul, funk, reggae, dub and R&B. Like other forms of electronic music, trip hop uses structure, melody and beats, differentiating it from ambient. The term trip hop was first used in an article in Mixmag magazine in 1994 about American artist and producer DJ Shadow. Trip hop music was popularised mainly by artists from Bristol in the UK such as Portishead, Massive Attack and Tricky. Trip hop further influenced genres like instrumental hip hop and UK garage.

Other artists that have made use of trip hop leanings include Sneaker Pimps, Aim, Howie B, The Dining Rooms, FKA Twigs, Glass Animals, Kosheen, Martina Topley‑Bird, Poliça, Smoke City, 9Lazy9, Bomb The Bass, Coldcut, Morcheeba, Pretty Lights, DJ Shadow, DJ Food, DJ Vadim, Funki Porcini, Gorillaz and London Grammar.

Electronica – Electronica is a massively broad term for music that uses electronic instrumentation and sound manipulation technology as the primary means of production. As such, it is a catch‑all for music that doesn’t slot easily into existing sub‑genres. In its widest sense, electronica is pervasive, directly or indirectly, in much of modern contemporary music. There is, therefore no point in defining it or attempting to establish its scope here.

Since the 1960s, electronica artists have both influenced and taken influence from many other music genres. The commercial breakthrough of electronic music occurred with the advent and subsequent domination of synthpop, Europop and Eurodance in the 1970s. This was followed by EDM sub‑genres such as house, techno and electro from the 1980s onward. The burst in electronic creativity was fuelled by a self‑perpetuating feedback loop, pushing things further in the popular mainstream as well as in the margins that continues to this day.

Some prominent artists under the diverse panoply of electronica include (again in no particular order) Clara Rockmore, Kraftwerk, Aphex Twin, Depeche Mode, Daft Punk, Kraftwerk, Röyksopp, Gary Numan, Japan, David Sylvian, Natural Snow Buildings, Global Communication, Moby, The Chemical Brothers, Orbital, Underworld, The Human League, Visage, Thomas Dolby, Howard Jones, Ultravox, Rick Wakeman, Jean‑Michel Jarre, Skrillex, Leftfield, Herbie Hancock, Electronic, Deadmau5, Fred Again.., Sven Väth, Major Lazer, Armin van Buuren, Sasha, Thom Yorke, Emerson Lake & Palmer (ELP), Daft Punk, Four Tet, Floating Points, Flying Lotus, Hot Chip, Pet Shop Boys, Fatboy Slim, The Prodigy, Giorgio Moroder, M83, Goldfrapp, Amon Tobin, Carl Cox, Crystal Castles, Infected Mushroom, Groove Armada, Eat Static, LCD Soundsystem, Faithless, Disclosure, System 7, 777, Erasure, Yazoo, Paul van Dyk, Eric Prydz, Heaven 17, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark (OMD), Tears For Fears, Monaco, Bronski Beat, Vince Clarke, Eurhythmics, Thompson Twins, Yello, Squarepusher, Machinedrum, Pendulum, Romare, Calvin Harris, Apollo 440, Ladytron, MØ, Flume, Public Service Broadcasting, Solar Fields, The Grid, X‑Press 2, Arms And Sleepers, Caribou and ATB.


A brief history of ambient electronica (and related) artists

OK, so we’ve looked at some of the genres that have led up to the current day and the prevailing view of ambient music in context. Now, it’s time to take a brief look at some key artists involved along the way, whether they could strictly be considered proponents of ambient music or not. Here are some of the most prominent.

Tomita – Isao Tomita (1932‑2016) was a Japanese composer, regarded as one of the pioneers of electronic music and space music, and as one of the most famous producers of analogue synthesizer arrangements. Tomita is known for his electronic versions and adaptations of familiar classical music pieces as well as futuristic science‑fiction themes and trance‑like rhythms. Tomita received four Grammy Award nominations for his studio album based on music by classical composer Claude Debussy, ‘Snowflakes Are Dancing’ (1974). He also famously adapted Gustav Holst’s ‘The Planets’ (1976).

Wendy Carlos – Wendy Carlos (1939‑) is an American musician and composer born as Walter Carlos and transitioning to female gender in 1972. She is known for her pioneering electronic music and film scores. Carlos studied physics and music at Brown University before studying music composition at Columbia University in New York City. She helped in the development of Robert Moog’s first commercially available synthesizer. Carlos’ breakout release was Grammy Award‑winning ‘Switched‑On Bach’ (1968), an album of music by Johann Sebastian Bach performed entirely on synthesizer. Carlos went on to release further synthesized classical music adaptations, as well as experimental and ambient electronic music. She composed film scores for three major studio films, ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (1971), ‘The Shining’ (1980), and ‘Tron’ (1982).

Tangerine Dream – Tangerine Dream is a German band founded in 1967 by Edgar Froese (1944‑2015). The best‑known incarnation of the group was the mid‑1970s trio of Froese, Christopher Franke and Peter Baumann. Tangerine Dream is considered a pioneer in electronic, ambient and space music, a.k.a. kosmische musik (‘cosmic music’). Tangerine Dream were key members of the so‑called Berlin School of electronic music. Despite having released over one hundred albums over the years, they are best known for their use of synthesizers and sequencers, including milestone albums, Phaedra (1974) and Rubycon (1975). Tangerine Dream has also composed over sixty film soundtracks as well as the score for the video game Grand Theft Auto V. However, it is their mid‑1970s material that profoundly influenced the development of electronic music styles such as ambient, new age and EDM.

Klaus Schulze – German electronic music composer and musician Klaus Schulze (1947‑2022) is considered one of the pioneers of electronic music since the late 1960s. Schulze was an early member of the band Tangerine Dream before leaving to pursue a solo career in 1970. Schulze had a prolific career, releasing over sixty studio albums. Schulze’s music is known for its long, repetitive sequences and its use of analogue synthesizers. His early work was influenced by the psychedelic rock of the late 1960s and early 1970s, while his later work was more experimental and ambient. Schulze’s music has been used in films such as ‘The Exorcist’ (1973).

Brian Eno – English musician, composer, producer and artist Brian Eno (1948‑) has become synonymous with contemporary ambient music, pioneering and contributing to the ambient, electronica and minimalist drone genres. He started out in experimental rock, glam rock, art pop and art rock as former keyboard player with Roxy Music. Along with his extensive solo career, Eno has also collaborated on many side projects with other artists including Harold Budd, David Bowie, David Byrne, Fred Again.., Jon Hopkins and Cluster. Many of his collaborations explored beyond the scope of purist ambient music. He has also been prominent behind the studio desk producing many artists including John Cale, David Bowie, Jon Hassell, Laraaji, Talking Heads, Ultravox, Devo, U2, Coldplay, Daniel Lanois, Laurie Anderson, Grace Jones, Slowdive, James, Kevin Shields and Damon Albarn. In addition, Eno has composed a number of film scores. If that wasn’t enough, Eno has also worked prolifically in other media, including audio visual installations, art installations, film and as an author. As mentioned above, Eno pioneered the introduction and growth of generative music. A little known fact is that Eno also composed the six‑second music snip that accompanied the start‑up of the Windows 95 computer operating system, known as ‘The Microsoft Sound’. Love him or loathe him, Eno’s legacy is probably as far reaching as it is incalculable.

Brian Eno (courtesy of Cosciansky)

Kratwerk – German electronic band Kraftwerk was founded in Düsseldorf in 1970 by Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider. Kraftwerk is widely regarded as an innovator and pioneer of electronic music and was one of the first successful acts to popularise and commercialise the genre. The group began as part of West Germany’s experimental krautrock scene in the early 1970s before adopting electronic instruments for which they are best known, including synthesizers, drum machines, and vocoders. Their massive hit single and album, ‘Autobahn’ (1974) cemented their reputation. Kraftwerk inspired many artists including David Bowie, Joy Division, New Order, Daft Punk and LCD Soundsystem.

Jean‑Michel Jarre – Jean‑Michel Jarre (1948‑) is a French composer, musician and record producer. He is widely regarded as an innovator in electronic, ambient, new age and synthpop music. His breakout studio album, ‘Oxygene’ (1977) has become an electronica classic, selling over 18 million copies worldwide. Jarre’s musical style builds on the work of Tangerine Dream and adds a bit of populist French va‑va‑voom. He is famous for organising extravagant outdoor events involving laser light shows, visual projections and pyrotechnics to accompany his stage music. One of his concerts in Moscow, Russia in 1997 holds the world record for the largest audience for a single outdoor event, estimated at 3.5 million people.

The Orb – The Orb is an English electronic music group founded in 1988 by Alex Paterson and Jimmy Cauty. The duo began as ambient and dub DJs based in London before making the move into music production. The Orb is well known for their psychedelic ambient space sound. Over the years, The Orb has developed a cult following among clubbers ‘coming down’ from drug‑induced highs and, as such, their music became popular in club chillout rooms. Their influential debut studio album ‘The Orb’s Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld’ (1991) established the UK’s underground ambient house trend. The Orb’s second album, ‘U.F.Orb’ (1992) confirmed the band’s popularity and ensured their longevity. The Orb was influenced heavily by predecessors, Brian Eno and Kraftwerk. The Orb has maintained their signature science fiction aesthetic throughout their prolific career.

Amorphous Androgynous – British electronic music duo Amorphous Androgynous and its better known alter ego, The Future Sound of London (FSOL), was founded by Garry Cobain and Brian Dougans in 1988. The duo’s music is characterized by its psychedelic, ambient, and experimental sound. They acted as a bridge between the underground and well‑established electronic artists and has been influential in the development of electronic music genres such as ambient house, ambient dub and trip hop. They have released several albums, including ‘Tales of Ephidrina’ (1993) and ‘Lifeforms’ (1994).

Orbital – Orbital is an English electronic music duo founded by brothers Phil and Paul Hartnoll in 1989. The band has had on‑off periods of activity, breaking up and reforming on more than one occasion through the years. The band’s name is taken from the M25, London’s orbital motorway, which was key to the early (illegal) rave scene and (legal) acid house scene of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Orbital’s involvement with dance music has led to its strong reputation as a live band. They have mixed ambient sounds along with techno, trance, breakbeat and electronic rock styles. They have also been hugely influential in the development of modern electronic sub‑genres such as glitch, wonky and Intelligent Dance Music (IDM), as well as EDM.

The Chemical Brothers ‑ English electronic music duo The Chemical Brothers, originally known as The Dust Brothers, was formed in 1989 by Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons in Manchester, UK. Along with peers, The Prodigy and Fatboy Slim, they were pioneers in bringing the big beat, techno, house and EDM to popularity. Their breakout studio album, ‘Dig Your Own Hole’ (1997) rapidly became a rave classic. Like Orbital, they have become regular headliners on the festival and arena circuits. While their music is far from ambient, the origins are still evident and their enduring influence has also been widespread.


Contemporary music genres related to ambient

Here we are now, well into the 3rd decade of the 21st Century, so what position does ambient occupy now? Has it stagnated, frozen in aspic? Is it languishing in some obscure genre limbo? Or is it still evolving either on its own terms or in other ways? Let’s look at where ambient influences have led us and which may give a clue to where it might be going in the future. Here are eight of the most important modern‑day ambient spin‑offs.

Drone – Drone is a music genre that plays on long, sustained tones or repeated single notes. Unlike other genres that use drones as a component, drone music puts drones at the forefront, removing most melody and rhythm. As such, it bears many similarities to ambient. Drone music explores the changing timbre of individual sounds over time. For electronic drone, this is often achieved by slight fluctuations in the drone’s pitch, tone and amplitude.

The origins of drone, whether electronic or classical, are found in traditional music from across the world and date back to the 1940s with ‘Monotone Silence Symphony’ (1949) by Yves Klein. Drone developed through minimal music and through rock. Drone has seen a resurgence in the 2020s. Drone music has expanded to influence countless other genres, including ambient, EDM, drone metal and post‑rock.

Progressive Electronic – Progressive music in its widest sense generally attempts to expand existing stylistic boundaries associated with a specific genre of music. It also places emphasis on creating a sense of progression or development throughout a piece of music. Layered soundscapes, intricate changes in rhythm, a wide range of sound effects and textures are commonly used. Improvisation is also a key characteristic of progressive electronic music, as many musicians use improvisation to create new and inventive sounds rather than relying on pre‑recorded samples or synthesizer presets. Another important aspect is the use of lengthy, extended compositions, with tracks frequently having multiple sections and mood changes. Basically, progressive electronic covers a large proportion of electronic music from the late 1960s to the current day, including post rock. Is it a genre in itself? Make up your own mind.

Vaporwave – Vaporwave emerged in the early 2010s and is characterised by its use of synthesizers, slowed‑down samples and a great deal of studio manipulation including time shifting and cutting up of sound clips, then applying reverb, echo and other studio effects. The advent of computer‑based digital audio workstations (DAWs), such as Pro Tools, Logic Pro, Abelton and Cubase, greatly aided production and the Internet provided the means of distribution through platforms like YouTube, Bandcamp and SoundCloud.

Vaporwave got its name from ‘vaporware’, a term applied to computer hardware or software which is announced by a developer well in advance of release, but which then fails to emerge.

At first, vaporwave was a nostalgic reflection of the sounds of the 1980s and 1990s, drawing from popular music, contemporary R&B, smooth jazz and muzak, as well as from consumer culture, corporate logos, films, radio broadcasts and television commercials. Vaporwave has been described as a form of ‘post‑Internet’ electronic musical movement that reflects the fragmented and disorienting experience of living in the digital age.

The release of ‘Eccojams Vol. 1’ (2010) by Daniel Lopatin, under one of his aliases Chuck Person, is widely regarded as the foundation of vaporwave as a genre. The debut was followed ‘Floral Shoppe’ by Macintosh Plus and ‘Far Side Virtual’ by James Ferraro (both 2011), bringing greater visibility to vaporwave and its associated aesthetics. Despite this, vaporwave remains niche with tracks not readily available on physical media such as CDs or vinyl.

Like ‘pure’ ambient, vaporwave shuns structure and rhythm. The use of looping, glitching, pitch‑bending, panning, and echoing sound samples came to define the sound of vaporwave, giving the patchwork sound a hazy, surreal, dreamy and atmospheric quality with a focus on hyperreality. The vapor movement alludes to a disconnection or separation from reality presented through its original form.

In addition, vaporwave gave birth to a distinct aesthetic based on subcultures like cyberpunk, seapunk, manga and anime. Artist names, album titles and track listings often used uncommon symbols and Japanese script. In conjunction with the heavily manipulated and often intentionally degraded sound of vaporwave music, much of the genre’s artwork featured low‑grade image distortion or digital artefacts, bringing the limitations and flaws of past technology and positioning it within the broader post‑internet artistic landscape. The integration of the visual and the music elements can be interpreted as a criticism of consumer capitalism and hi‑tech culture.

Dreampunk – Dreampunk is an evolution of Vaporwave, also emerging in the mid‑2010s. Dreampunk artists wanting to experiment with more minimal and atmospheric compositions while, at the same time, distancing themselves from the nostalgic restrictions of the 1980s. The Internet record label, Dream Catalogue, helped popularize dreampunk within the vaporwave community as well as further afield.

The abstract, hypnotic, atmospheric soundscapes and repetitive structure of vaporwave is perhaps closer to ambient music, although the presence of rhythm differentiated it from its predecessor. This contributes to the dreamlike ethereal sound for which the genre is known. Dreampunk artists tend to seek anonymity, with many using several Internet aliases to create a sense of mystique around their music, hiding behind the aesthetic, often utilizing abstracted imagery of cityscapes, neon‑lit night scenes and incorporating futuristic dystopian and cyberpunk themes. Like vaporwave, dreampunk also uses Japanese scripts to further mystify their image. Classic dystopian and cyberpunk films such as ‘Blade Runner’ (1982) and ‘Ghost in the Shell’ (1995) also influenced and inspired the music genre. Both vaporwave and dreampunk continue to thrive in the underground.

Ambient, morphed through the lens of vaporwave and dreampunk, heavily influenced other genres such as hypnagogic pop, chillwave, VHS pop, witch house and slushwave.

Some popular vaporwave and dreampunk artists include Blue In Tokio, Fishmans, T e l e p a t h (テレパシー能力者), 2 8 1 4, Windows96, SkyTwoHigh and Lindsheaven Virtual Plaza.

Chillwave – Chillwave, a.k.a. glo‑fi, is an Internet genre that originated predominantly from the United States circa 2009. Chillwave, like vaporwave, looked back to the aesthetics and musical styles of the 1980s and 1990s, intentionally evoking a sense of nostalgic reflection. Chillwave melded analogue instruments with modern recording technologies and techniques to create a hazy dreamlike atmosphere. Chillwave appropriated elements of synthpop, funk, downtempo, EDM and alternative/indie genres like indie pop, neo‑psychedelia and synthwave.

Chillwave, vaporwave and dreampunk led to a great deal of fusion and crossover material, blurring the differences between them. Chillwave declined in popularity by the start of the 2020s but like many other genres, the end of chillwave may have been greatly exaggerated. Expect it to come back to the fore in due course. Chillwave’s influence would go on to play a part in genres such as cloud rap, alternative R&B, future bass, synthwave, ethereal wave and bedroom pop.

Prominent chillwave artists include Toro y Moi, Neon Indian, Washed Out, Memory Tapes, Flume, Com Truise, Tycho, Panda Bear, Lemon Jelly and Nite Jewel.

Intelligent Dance Music and its spin offs, glitch and wonky – Intelligent Dance Music (IDM) is a genre of electronic music that emerged in the early 1990s as a derivative (and rejection) of EDM. It is characterized by complex rhythms, intricate melodies, and a focus on sound design and experimentation. IDM artists often use unconventional time signatures, polyrhythms, glitches and de‑tuned sounds to create a unique listening experience. The genre is also known for its use of ambient textures and atmospheres, which can create a vague or otherworldly feel. IDM has been influential in the development of other electronic music genres such as ambient techno, and intelligent techno.

Some of the most well‑known IDM (and glitch/wonky) artists include Aphex Twin, Four Tet, Daniel Avery, Actress, Floating Points, Machinedrum, Moderat, Oneohtrix Point Never, Boards Of Canada, Mouse On Mars, Flying Lotus, LFO, Clark, Luke Vibert, Autechre and Squarepusher.

Dream pop – Deriving more from structured alternative and indie rock rather than ambient, dream pop uses reverb‑laden guitars, effects‑rich vocals, and dense studio production, to create a psychedelic, spacious, ethereal and surreal sound, albeit with a de‑emphasized beat accompanied by quiet, breathy harmonised vocals to elevate the music from its origins.

Dream pop is commonly fused with other genres such as shoegaze and noise pop, although dream pop does not solely depend on ‘walls of sound’, heavily distorted guitar layers or feedback. Dream pop relies heavily on modulation effects such as chorus, tremolo, vibrato, delay and reverb, to create mesmerising sonic textures. Dream pop bands often employ synthesizer layers to add atmosphere and lush soundscapes. Influences include slow core, post rock and trip hop.

In a similar way to shoegaze, vocals focus on melody and timbre, rather than lyricism. It is not uncommon for dream pop groups to have multiple vocalists to make good use of harmony and ‘instrumental’ vocals.

Prominent dream pop artists include Warpaint, 2:54, Lanterns of the Lake, Beach House, Cigarettes After Sex, The xx, Bat For Lashes, Low, Chromatics, Spiritualized, Julee Cruise, Broadcast, Zero 7, Phantogram, Yo La Tengo, Cocteau Twins, Dévics, Esben And The Witch, Pure Bathing Culture, School Of Seven Bells, His Name Is Alive, How To Dress Well, Lush, London Grammar and Mazzy Star.

Ambient dub – Ambient dub fuses ambient music with dub electronica. Ambient dub is a chillout fusion of ambient, dub reggae and future dub, featuring the atmosphere of the former and the Jamaican‑style basslines, percussion, and psychedelic production techniques of the latter. The name of the genre was coined by record label Beyond Records with a series of compilation albums of the same name, starting with, ‘Ambient Dub Volume 1: The Big Chill’ (1992). Many of the prominent artists within the genre also perform or mix in elements of dub techno, dubstep or ambient techno, which has led to some confusion over ambient dub’s actual sound. While the lines are indistinct between such electronic genres, ambient dub can genuinely be discerned by its denser atmospheres, a heavier use of reverb and/or delay, and an emphasis on bass akin to traditional dub, as well as reggae rhythms.

Notable ambient dub artists include: The Dub Syndicate, Bill Laswell, Dreadzone, Higher Intelligence Agency, The Orb, Ott, Loop Guru, Transglobal Underground, Jon Hopkins, Jah Wobble, Mad Professor, Burnt Friedman, Deadbeat, The Bug, Solar Quest, Ladytron and Banco de Gaia.

Dark ambient – before we leave, it’s worth a quick mention about dark ambient, a.k.a. ambient industrial. While most ambient music creates a peaceful, welcoming and safe place, dark ambient is intended to disturb. Dark ambient emerged as a post‑industrial counterpoint to the wider ambient landscape. It is characterised by an ominous, brooding, eerie, sinister and overbearingly gloomy atmosphere, often with discordant overtones, dissonant timbres and lengthy drones. Dark ambient often crops up in film scores intended to unsettle the audience and create a sense of disorientation or suspense.

Dark ambient artists include Deathprod, Agalloch, David Lynch, Throbbing Gristle, Angelo Badalamenti, Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor, William Basinski, Blut Aus Nord, Mortiis, Cabaret Voltaire, Dolorian, NON, Controlled Bleeding, Earth, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Sunn O))) and Steven Wilson.

STOP! Enough already! I hear you cry. We are beginning to go down a bit of a proverbial rabbit hole here, so the short list that follows suggests other sub‑genres heavily influenced by ambient and its derivatives. These sub‑genres include black ambient, ritual ambient, space ambient, space music, ambient Americana, ambient house, ambient techno, ambient trance, psybient, psydub, minimalism, modern classical, ambient industrial, tribal ambient, pop ambient, dubstep and turntable music. Phew!


Key ambient+ albums:

As with my previous article on dub reggae, it would be remiss not to mention some of the key albums that have impressed over the years. Here are some predictable and some very unpredictable selections to showcase the vast expanse of electronic ambient music as it is today. As this article has hopefully shown, ambient isn’t a clearly defined pigeon hole with unbreakable rules but rather a constantly changing complex and diverse approach to experimental soundscapes. Hence this ‘top 20’ collection is more like ‘ambient+’ (as I call it; remember, you read it here first!), intended to demonstrate the ecosystem’s multiplicity. Another ‘desert island disc’ compendium to daydream about. Again, it was a difficult decision‑making process with many excellent works that didn’t make this particular cut. These albums are all classified as contemporary, i.e. 1975 to the current day.

  1. Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works 85‑92 (1993) and Vol. II (1994). Two seminal albums in the ambient genre that feature a mix of electronic and acoustic sounds. It is known for its dreamy, otherworldly soundscapes and has been described as ‘a journey through a strange and beautiful world’.
  2. Brian Eno – Ambient 1: Music For Airports (1978). Basically, the one that started it all. Essential listening for devotees of the ambient music genre. A starting point for the many great ambient works that followed and an entrée into Eno’s many other ambient works.
  3. Tangerine Dream – Rubycon (1975). Along with its predecessor, ‘Phaedra’ (1974), the pair stand out from the band’s extensive canon. The band had stopped using traditional instruments in its compositions and focused on analogue synthesizers and sequencers. Truly remarkable.
  4. Max Richter – Sleep (2015). Almost 8½ hours of sweet lilting lullaby, a transcendent, cinematic, post‑minimalist ambient album of gentle music intended to be experienced as much as it is to be listened to, awake or asleep (or, interestingly, in between – a phenomenon known as ‘eyelid movies’; what the mind conjures up when one is in the transitional state of near sleep).
  5. GAS – Pop (2000). A comforting, immersive experience and a lesson in how to make electronica sound organic and engrossing. Transcendent and transformative. A lysergic trip for your ears.
  6. Fripp & Eno – Evening Star (1975). Combining the talents of Brian Eno and Crimson King guitarist Robert Fripp. Good to see guitar making a contribution to ambient music.
  7. Four Tet – Rounds (2003). Not really ambient, more IDM and glitch. However, a disarmingly elegant stripped back intimate album. Perhaps, Kieran Hebdan’s landmark album.
  8. Boards Of Canada – Music Has The Right To Children (1998). Focusing on concepts of childhood nostalgia, created by the use of obscure samples and masterly manipulated layers of sound. The album has become rather essential listening along with ‘The Campfire Headphase’ (2005) and ‘Geogaddi (2002).
  9. Bonobo – Black Sands (2010). Lush, sumptuous and beguiling. Not ambient in a true sense but a great example of downtempo electronica from Simon Green. Also worth a listen is, ‘The North Borders’ (2013). Both also have excellent remix albums.
  10. The KLF – Chill Out (1990). A classic ambient album that features a mix of samples and original music. It’s known for its dreamy, atmospheric soundscapes and has been described as ‘a road movie in music form’.
  11. Stars Of The Lid – Tired Sounds Of Stars Of The Lid (2001). An album that features long, slow‑moving pieces that are built around drones and other ambient textures.
  12. Chromatics – Night Drive (2001) – More ambient pop, dream pop and synthwave than pure ambient. Chromatics’ ethereal style was featured by David Lynch in his surreal TV series, ‘Twin Peaks’.
  13. Burial – Untrue (2007). Enigmatic London‑based dubstep artist burst onto the scene with an album that is stark, blurred, eerie, tender and hauntingly evocative. A breath taking and inimitable event.
  14. William Basinski – The Disintegration Loops I‑IV (2002‑2003). Four albums that feature loops of decaying tape recordings. The music is haunting and melancholic, and has been described as ‘a meditation on loss and decay’. Dedicated to the victims of 9/11. Tape music entropy as it happens, captured for posterity.
  15. Tim Hecker – Radio Amor (2003). An album that features a mix of electronic and acoustic sounds, including guitar and piano. It’s known for its dense, layered soundscapes and has been described as ‘a beautiful, immersive experience’.
  16. Banco de Gaia – Last Train To Lhasa (1995). Along with its predecessor, ‘Maya’ (1994), it shows the approach of Toby Marks to progressive ambient electronica. Again, not really ambient but hugely influenced by it.
  17. Thievery Corporation – The Richest Man In Babylon (2000). Along with its remix EP, ‘Babylon Rewound’ (2004) it takes other influences including reggae and dub and brought it into the downtempo chillout world.
  18. The Higher Intelligence Agency – Freefloater (1995). British artist Bobby Bird started off running experimental electronic music nights in Birmingham. Ambient techno meets ambient dub meets ambient. Also worth a listen is, ‘Colourform’ (2010).
  19. Lindsheaven Virtual Plaza & SkyTwoHigh – Imaginary Pathways (2021). The final Internet album by Brazilian musician and producer, Cesar Alexandre before his untimely death due to covid. More dreampunk, ambient techno and downtempo with a hint of vaporwave rather than ambient. Blissful.
  20. The Gentleman Losers – The Gentleman Losers (2006). Finnish brothers that take a mix of ambient, post rock, lo‑fi, dreamlike slowcore and even a hint of Americana and blend it into a strange place where one isn’t certain of what is light and what is dark.
20 Ambient+ Studio Albums

In addition, referring back to ubiquitous compilation albums of the 1990s, one of the most significant events was ‘Ambient Dub Volumes 1‑4’ by various artists (1992‑1995) – A series of ambient dub compilation albums from Beyond Records that announced ambient dub to the world. The last of the four isn’t quite up to the first three but best seen as a whole. Another name check is for the annual ‘Pop Ambient’ compilations (2001‑) curated by Wolfgang Voigt, the man behind Kompakt Records and his nom de guerre GAS (see #5 above).


The future of ambient and ambient‑related music

The legacy of ambient music in all its facets has had a major impact on pretty much everything we listen to, even if we aren’t always aware of it. The question is, where is it going?

Ambient has exhibited somewhat of a resurgence in the early 2020s. Part of this renewed interest may be because of what is called multi‑sensory branding, where media events attempt to evoke memories through stimulation of all the senses. Another reason may be the rediscovery of obscure Japanese ambient music, as well as an interest in previously experimental, niche or underground music now garnering mainstream recognition. Streaming services make accessing unconventional music much easier. In addition, the growth of interest in mindfulness and mental health & wellbeing as a ‘cure’ for stress and anxiety caused by an increasingly frenetic and unpredictable world has reinforced the search for aids to relaxation, introspection and contemplation.

One thing we’ve learnt from this escapade is that ambient and ambient+ (or whatever else you want to call it) has been pushing the boundaries ever since the start of the 20th Century. If nothing else, it will continue to explore the outer limits while influencing the mainstream.

Probably the most significant tool in the future of ambient electronica won’t even involve human beings or actual instruments! AI will make significant inroads into generative music. Ultimately, though, this is likely to be a bit of a creative dead end. The drawback of AI is that it can only learn from what has come before it, it lacks the imagination and inventiveness of the human mind. At some point, AI generated ambient will become stale and derivative and human creativity will, once again be needed to bring spontaneity and unpredictability back to front and centre of music. Go People!

Given the inherent limitations of traditional musical instruments, electronic music may, arguably, have the greatest potential for innovation and creativity. One can only imagine the possibilities yet to be explored.

While many critics view electronica as soulless, cold and inert, it is sure to develop the ability to elicit more organic, fluid emotional responses. Many artists are looking backwards to analogue instruments and production techniques to add warmth and to create beauty out of its inherent imperfections.

Genre developments can only surprise once before they become part of the historical mosaic. One possible future is that ambient reaches a point where it becomes sterile and disposable. One might envisage it derided in the way that elevator muzak has become. Arguably, a proportion of current‑day throwaway popular music is already demonstrating that bleak possibility with anything new ultimately being short‑lived around the periphery before being subsumed into universal, amorphous homogeneity.

How we will be listening to music is another factor. If music becomes more clichéd, contrived and derivative, it will become more and more dismissible, fading into the background environment. However, isn’t that exactly what Erik Satie intentionally started with back in 1917?

For some, like the author, ambient resonates with the psyche on both a subconscious and conscious level. Others, meanwhile, may find the genre melancholic or even highly irritating. Ultimately, like all music preferences, it is partly a deliberate decision and partly predetermined in some obscure way.

Personally, I have confidence that people who appreciate ‘real’ music and have a passion for creating and performing it that will perpetuate this idiosyncratic form of music into a healthy future. Once again, discuss…


Tailpiece

So… there you have it. Another lengthy (apologies) delve into a relatively narrow niche of the wondrous world of music. Back to the real world, sadly. I cannot write about things that I don’t have some sort of fascination with. Having said that, these ambient+ genres are not exclusive listening. However, they can be just the ticket when one feels like some chillaxing, escaping from reality or as an antidote to insomnia.

Why do I dig ambient and electronic ambient+ music? It just resonates with me, It creates a welcoming oasis of contemplative calm away from a crazily intense ‘real’ world and it is somewhere to go that isn’t, well, here. Nothing profound, transcendent or conceited. See you in The Matrix soon.

I have no idea what’s up next, so it will come as much of a surprise to me as it will to you. Thoughts on a postcard please.

Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars’ ‘Quote of the Month’: “If you could literally have the world, what, exactly, would you do with it?”

© 2023 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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August 2023 ‑ Dub Reggae Revelation

Prelude

It has been far, far too long since I wrote a CRAVE Guitars’ article. At some point, I may (or may not) go into the whys and wherefores behind the near 3‑year hiatus. I may also look into a brief résumé of what has happened to CRAVE Guitars during that period (hint… given Covid lockdowns, the cost‑of‑living crisis, etc., not a massive amount!). I am a bit out of practice.

In the meantime, I thought I would divert my attention a little, away from vintage guitars. The topic of this article is to present a few thoughts on one of my favourite music genres… dub reggae. It has allegedly been summertime in the UK, so I immersed myself in the crucial vibes of dub and that spawned the idea to write, which inspired me to listen to more dub, and write more. And so on. Although not particularly guitar oriented, I believe it is still worthy of exploration. As one might imagine, dub is often overlooked and misunderstood, even though it is a complicated branch of mainstream reggae. I hope that it may be of interest to someone out there and maybe, just maybe, there is something new to learn.

My passion for dub reggae was ignited in the mid‑1970s in a time before CDs when a friend introduced me to a specific vinyl LP, ‘Garvey’s Ghost’ by Burning Spear (1976). This particular studio album is the dub version of the vocal roots reggae album, ‘Marcus Garvey’ (1975), also by Burning Spear. For those not familiar with Burning Spear, Winston Rodney is a Rastafarian roots reggae artist, born in Saint Ann, Jamaica in 1945. As a youngster at the time, I hadn’t heard anything like it before and it made such an impact that it remains my favourite dub album and a reference against which others may be judged. I visited Jamaica back in 2008, although it wasn’t deemed safe for, especially white, tourists to move around freely.

This article looks at what dub reggae is, where it came from, why it became influential, who was involved and when it mattered. Despite some extensive research, I want to stress that this is my personal interpretation of the subject matter and should not be regarded in any way as definitive.

I would dearly like to illustrate the article with more images. However, copyright restrictions and CRAVE Guitars’ zero budget precludes relevant illustration. So… the words will have to suffice as a 1,000th of a picture.

Reggae, roots and dub, as music genres, should be viewed as a fundamental fragment of Jamaica’s fascinating geography, history, demographics, politics, economics, culture and religion.

Right… Time, then, to spark up the chalwa and feel the righteous vibration…


A brief history of Jamaica

It is quite astounding that such a prolific genre of music could arise in – and be sustained by – such a small island in the Caribbean. In order to understand the context into which such unbound creativity emerged, perhaps there is something in Jamaica’s past that may explain it.

Jamaica is the third largest island of the Greater Antilles in the Caribbean Sea, after Cuba and Hispaniola (a.k.a. Haiti and the Dominican Republic), at 4,244 square miles. It has a tropical climate with hot and humid weather and high annual rainfall. Flora and fauna are also diverse with many species only found on the island, many in the Blue and Crow Mountains National Park. Jamaica lies in the hurricane belt of the Atlantic Ocean and has experienced significant storm damage on a number of occasions in its past.

Jamaican Beach

Humans have inhabited Jamaica from as early as 4000‑1000 BCE, although there is little known about their ancient society. The main pre‑colonial inhabitants were the Taino who may have originated from South America around 800AD. The indigenous Taino called their home Xaymaca. Most of the Taino people disappeared following the arrival of Europeans, although some may have sought safe sanctuary in the island’s mountainous and forested interior.

Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, under the sponsorship of Spain, first sighted the island in 1494 and called it Santiago. Columbus spent a year shipwrecked on the island from 1503 to 1504. Jamaica was not considered strategically important by the Spanish.

Spain ruled Jamaica from 1494 to 1655. The capital was established in what is now known as Spanish Town. The Spanish were the first to introduce African slaves to the island. Over time, the Spaniards changed the name of the island from the native Xaymaca to Jamaica.

In 1655 Britain captured and colonized Jamaica by force and formally gained possession of the island from Spain in 1670.

Following the British takeover, the island’s governor actively offered safe harbour to pirates and buccaneers in Port Royal in south eastern Jamaica in return for defending the town from Spanish attack. Some of these mercenaries and renegades became legal privateers operating in the name of the King of England. The pirates focused on attacking and plundering mainly Spanish ships on the trade route between Spain and Panama. Perhaps the most famous privateer of the 17th Century was Welshman Henry Morgan, who also became a plantation owner and governor of Jamaica. The legendary pirate captain Blackbeard (Edward Teach) was also believed to live in Port Royal c.1700. By the end of the 17th Century, Port Royal was known as a Pirate Utopia and its pervasive corruption, prostitution and lawlessness earned it the nickname of ‘Sodom of the New World’. Even though piracy was outlawed in 1681, it wasn’t until around 1730 that pirate numbers disappeared after action from the British navy. Piracy still occurs in the Caribbean in the present day.

‘The wickedest city on earth’, Port Royal, was destroyed by a devastating 7.5 magnitude earthquake and tsunami in 1692 (when part of the town sank into the sea), by fire in 1703 and by hurricanes in 1712, 1722, 1726 and 1744. It almost seems that the destruction of Port Royal was nothing short of divine retribution, with the hand of God smiting a modern‑day Sodom and Gomorrah. After that onslaught, Port Royal was effectively abandoned.

In the middle of the 17th Century, the Dutch introduced sugarcane to the British West Indies. Sugar rapidly began to replace cotton and tobacco as the main crop.

Britain set about increasing both the European and the African slave population throughout the 18th Century, as the sugar plantation industry spread across Jamaica. Success of the plantation system relied upon exploiting African slaves for labour. Many Jamaicans with slave origins can trace their ancestry back to the West African countries of Ghana and Nigeria. The British government abolished the transatlantic slave trade in 1807 and the practice of slavery itself in 1834. Consequently, the island’s plantation system collapsed. Descendants of African slaves who fled the plantations for the interior of the island set up their own communities and are still known today as Jamaican Maroons.

Britain made Jamaica a Crown Colony in 1866 and the capital was moved just 11 miles from Spanish Town to Kingston in 1872. Long‑term strife, through rebellions, resistance, skirmishes, riots and uprisings were commonplace throughout the 19th Century, causing significant social, economic and political unrest. Toward the end of the 19th Century, the demand for sugar waned significantly, creating severe economic decline.

The Jamaican government is based on a parliamentary democracy and the two main parties are the right‑wing JLP (Jamaica Labour Party) and left‑wing PNP (People’s National Party). A long‑standing feud between the two opposing parties has led to considerable political violence since they were formed in 1943.

Following the end of World War II, large‑scale emigration from Jamaica to the UK, USA and Canada occurred during the 1950s and 1960s when the country was still under British rule. Internally, political and racial tensions continued to grow and force change. Jamaica established internal self‑government in 1959 and became an independent island country on 6th August 1962. Jamaican Independence Day is celebrated annually as a national holiday. The independent Jamaica is part of the Commonwealth of Nations with the British monarch as head of state, at least for now. The Jamaican government is seeking further constitutional change from 2025.

Political conflict, economic instability and widespread gang‑related disorder were major issues that plagued Jamaican society during the remainder of the 20th Century and into the 21st. Jamaica experiences high levels of crime and violence, and has one of the highest murder rates in the world. Organised crime and gang violence are rife especially in deprived areas. An intense street culture developed with disaffected, violent and discontented youths often known originally as ‘rude boys’ and latterly, ‘yardies’. The street subculture became widespread, associated with Jamaican ska and rocksteady music, even spreading to the UK as part of the mod and skinhead trends of the 1960s where it became known as boss reggae’.

Reggae artists were sadly not immune from violence and gun crime. Among the artists tragically murdered include Prince Far I (1983), Hugh Mundell (1983), Peter Tosh (1987), Carlton Barrett (1987), King Tubby (1989), Junior Braithwaite (1999), Henry ‘Junjo’ Lawes (1999), Lucky Dube (2007) and Winston Riley (2012). Famously, in 1976 seven armed men invaded Bob Marley’s home in Kingston in a failed assassination attempt. Marley was shot in the chest and arm and his wife, Rita Marley, was shot in the head. Both survived the politically motivated attack.

The Jamaican white population decreased drastically during the 19th Century. According to census figures, in 1662, 87% of the population was white while by 2011, it was just 0.16%. This dramatic decline was a result of the end of slavery, the decline of the sugar industry with the abandonment of plantations, and a blending of racial boundaries.

Today, Jamaica currently has a total population of approximately 2.8m, with over 92% being of black African origin. The major religion, by far, is Christianity at over 72% of the population, principally Protestant. The official language is English, while the main spoken language is a creole Jamaican Patois based on English. Jamaica’s national motto is, “Out of Many, One People.”

Over half the Jamaican economy relies on tourism and services, with an estimated 4.3 million foreign tourists visiting Jamaica every year. Sugar remains the main crop grown in Jamaica followed by bananas, cocoa and coffee. Mining, oil refining and manufacturing also make up a proportion of its GDP by sector:

  • Services – 58.22%
  • Industry – 20.93%
  • Agriculture – 8.34%
  • Other – 12.51%

The spiritual context behind reggae

Jamaican Flag

This is where things begin to get interesting. Jamaica is a diverse multi‑ethnic, multi‑cultural and multi‑faith country. However, the distinguishing religion that contributed significantly to the home‑grown music industry of the country, particularly reggae, is Rastafarianism. Below are a few notable individuals and some of the ritual symbolism that have helped to define Rasta from the 1930s to the current day.

Haile Selassie I (1892‑1975) – Haile Selassie was Emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 until his death. Selassie’s pre‑imperial name was Ras Tafari Makonnen. Rastafarians adopted his name and believe in the incarnate divinity of Selassie as the messiah who will lead the peoples of Africa and the African diaspora to freedom. Haile Selassie visited Jamaica on 21st April 1966, attended by approximately 100,000 black Jamaicans and Rastafarians from all over the island. Selassie reportedly respected Rastafarian beliefs even though he was a devout Christian. Selassie died in Ethiopia at the age of 83.

Marcus Garvey (1887‑1940) – Marcus Mosiah Garvey Jr. was born in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica. Garvey was a Jamaican political activist and black nationalist. He was the founder and first President‑General of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League, commonly known as UNIA from 1914. Garvey was a key influence on the Rastafarian movement from the 1930s. Many Rastas regard Garvey as a prophet, although the reverence was not necessarily reciprocated, as Garvey was a Catholic, not a Rastafarian.

The principal tenet of Garveyism is the ideology of unification and empowerment of African‑descended people and the repatriation of the descendants of enslaved Africans to the African continent.

Garvey was responsible for the establishment of the short‑lived Black Star Line from 1919 to 1922, a shipping company created to facilitate the transportation of goods and Africans throughout the global economy. The company used the Ghanaian Black Star of Africa flag, as a symbol of the ‘Back to Africa’ movement and of anti‑colonialism. The line’s name was a rejection of the competing British White Star Line.

Marcus Garvey and the UNIA were responsible for the Pan‑African flag created in 1920 comprising three horizontal stripes of red, black and green. The colours represent red for the blood that unites all people of Black African ancestry and shed in the name of liberation, black for the colour of the people, and green for the abundant natural wealth of Africa.

Garvey died in London at the age of 52. When Jamaica gained independence in 1962, the new government hailed Garvey as a hero. In 1969, he was posthumously conferred with the Order of the National Hero by the Jamaican government.

Leonard Howell (1898‑1981) – Howell, along with peers Joseph Hibbert and Robert Hinds, was one of the first preachers of the Rastafarian movement. Howell is regarded by many as ‘The First Rasta’, following the coronation of Ethiopian Emperor Hailie Selassie in 1930. Howell died in Kingston, Jamaica at the age of 83.


Rastafarianism – While the predominant religion of Jamaicans in Christianity, Rastafarians make up only 1.1% of the Jamaican population. Rastafarianism is an unstructured religious movement originating in Jamaica in the 1930s and has now become established globally. Rastafarianism takes elements from the Christian Bible and combines them with the ideology of Marcus Garvey and the belief that Haile Selassie was the second advent of the Messiah. Many theologians question the legitimacy of the Rasta doctrine as a true religion in its own right, regarding its philosophy and beliefs as more of a pseudo‑religion.

Rastafarian Dreadlocks

Jah – Jah is a term widely used by Rastafarians as their name for God. Jah is a shortened form of YHWH (Yahweh, Yehovah, or Jehovah), translated as ‘lord’, as used by the ancient Israelites. The word Jah appears literally in the King James Bible (Psalm 68:4), “Extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name JAH, and rejoice before him”. However, even though Rasta faith draws elements from the scriptures, the Jah of Rastafarians should not be regarded as synonymous with the God of the Christian Bible. The expression of Jah as spoken by Rastafarians is “I and I”, where the first “I” is the Almighty and the second “I” refers to oneself. A goal of Rastafarian meditation is to maintain or raise awareness of the unity of I and I.

Zion – Rastafarians regard Africa as their Promised Land, or ‘Zion’, specifically Ethiopia, due to the reverence held for Emperor Haile Selassie. Zion is another Biblical reference and an idealisation of Jerusalem. Zion may refer to Africa, Ethiopia or Jamaica, as well as an individual’s state of mind. Rastas commonly believe that Black Africans are descended from one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel through the lineage of the Ethiopian royal family. Neutral commentators might suggest that Zion has become a nostalgic, semi‑mythological and metaphorical paradise in the way it is idealised by Marcus Garvey and the Rastafarian movement. Furthermore, it may be argued that Zion is used more as a motivational symbol rather than an objective critical reality.

Babylon – Rastafarianism is strongly Afrocentric and proclaims that the African diaspora is oppressed and suffering in exile within Western society, which they refer to as ‘Babylon’. Rastas compare the exile of African people displaced outside Africa to the imprisonment of the Biblical Israelites in Mesopotamia. A frequent mantra for Rastas is to “chant down Babylon”, advocated by Marcus Garvey as the ultimate goal of Rastafarianism; to overcome oppression, bring an end to suffering, and act as a powerful anthem for social change.

Livity – Livity is seen as the ideal lifestyle for Rastafarians, comprising prayer and meditation, a righteous – often vegetarian – diet (ital), and the same positive love for everything (one love). Livity is about Rastafarians living a natural lifestyle, including a focus on the growth of natural hair and a rejection of alcohol, tobacco and synthetic medicines. Furthermore, the concept of livity incorporates a belief that the energy or life force of Jah exists within, and flows through, all living things (positive vibration). The word irie can mean anything from good, fine and OK to a powerful, pleasing and all‑encompassing quality.

Dreadlocks – While dreadlocks date back as far as 1600‑1500 BCE in Europe, the distinctive hairstyle, often called ‘dreads’, has been adopted by many Rastafarians. Dreadlocks in Rasta tradition are symbolic of the Lion of Judah, inspired by the Nazarites of the Bible and representing male inner strength and courage. The Lion of Judah is depicted at the centre of the Imperial Flag of Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. Natty Dread is a common term that refers to a Rastafarian with dreadlocks. In addition to the symbolic colours of red, black and green of the Pan‑African flag, the yellow stripe of the imperial flag is said to signify the historical rebellion against colonial rule and those who stole Jamaica’s wealth. The four colours – red, black, green and yellow – are collectively known as the Rasta colours. Since the 1970s, dreadlocks have become a popular fashion statement of choice worldwide, even among non‑Rastafarians.

Ganja – Marijuana/cannabis is colloquially referred to as ganja, callie weed, kaya and the herb. For many, although not all, Rastafarians, smoking of ganja is considered a sacrament and a key component of their belief system. Rastas contend that the use of ganja is promoted in the Bible, literally in Exodus, Psalms, Isiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. For instance, in the Book of Exodus, God gave Moses instructions to build the tabernacle (the Tent of the Congregation that was the portable earthly dwelling of Yahweh), “Then the Lord said to Moses, take the following fine spices, 500 shekels of liquid myrrh, half as much of fragrant cinnamon, 250 shekels of fragrant calamus [cannabis], 500 shekels of cassia – all according to the sanctuary shekel – and a hin of olive oil”. NB. One shekel equates to approximately 13g. For Rastas, the use of ganja is believed to have healing properties, is used an incense to ward off bad spirits, promotes peace and love, and provides introspection or meditation that enables them to discover their internal divinity. Ganja is smoked either in the form of a hand‑rolled spliff (joint) or through a ‘wisdom’ chalice or chalwa, a smoking pipe, also referred to as a kutchie. Ritual use of ganja is often used in communal meetings called ‘groundings’ or ‘groundations’ (depending on size) with ganja traditionally circulated in an anti‑clockwise direction. Rastas have long advocated for the legalisation of cannabis in those parts of the world where possession and use are illegal. Use of ganja became widely associated with Jamaican reggae music when performed by Rastafarians, especially during the 1970s.

Jamaican Ganja

Reggae music variants and timeline

Mento – Mento is a Jamaican acoustic folk music that melds West African and European influences into a distinct style. Calypso music, which emerged from Trinidad and Tobago far to the south east of Jamaica, had tended to become a generic term for West Indian music. However, while mento is similar to calypso, it should not be confused with it. Jamaican mento was particularly popular in the 1940s and 1950s. A mento band generally used acoustic guitar, banjo, hand drums and a rhumba box used for basslines. Mento lyrics were a commentary on Jamaican social life and issues experienced by Jamaican citizens. Mento is still played today, mainly for tourist entertainment. Mento is important because it is regarded as a necessary precursor of ska, rocksteady and, ultimately, reggae, roots and dub.

Notable mento artists included Louise Bennett, Count Lasher, Lord Flea and, most famously, Harry Belafonte, an American star born in Jamaica.

Ska – Ska is a lively and energetic popular dance music and is seen as the forerunner of reggae. Ska combined elements of Caribbean mento, calypso, American jazz and rhythm & blues. The word ‘ska’ first appeared in a 1964 news article, despite the genre having been around since the late 1950s. The term ska is possibly a contraction of ‘skavoovie’, a greeting used by musician Cluett Johnson. Alternatively, ‘ska’ was used by Jamaican musician and producer Byron Lee to differentiate ska from mento.

Jamaican ska music is characterised by a 4/4 rhythm with drum accent on the 3rd beat of the bar and a guitar chop on the 2nd and 4th beats, known as an upstroke or ‘skank’. Skanking is also an indigenous dance style that accompanied ska music. One of the earliest ska tracks was, ‘Easy Snappin’’ by Theo Beckford (recorded in 1956 and released in 1959), made popular by producer Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd and his Downbeat Sound System. ‘My Boy Lollipop’ (1964) by Millie Small is widely regarded as the first international ska hit single.

Special mention should be made of Laurel Aitken, a Cuban/Jamaican singer, often referred to as the ‘Godfather of Ska’. A legacy of ska, known as boss reggae, became very popular in the UK, as the skinhead trend cottoned on to high energy ska through their association with Jamaican youths in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Ska has had roughly three incarnations; original Jamaican ska from the late 1950s and early 1960s, British 2‑Tone in the post‑punk late 1970s and the so‑called ska revival of the 1980s and 1990s.

Notable ska artists include Desmond Dekker, The Skatalites, Byron Lee & the Dragonaires, Lorenzo ‘Laurel’ Aitken, The Melodians, Toots & the Maytals, Prince Buster, Jimmy Cliff, Derrick Morgan, Ernest Ranglin and The Pioneers.

In the UK, notable ska artists include The Specials, Madness, Bad Manners, The Beat, The Selecter, Judge Dread and Spunge.

Rocksteady – Rocksteady was a short‑lived but crucial musical link between ska and reggae. Rocksteady was essentially a slower tempo form of ska and was popular as a dance genre. It emerged around 1966 and was popular for only 2 years until 1968 when reggae became the predominant genre. The term rocksteady came from a song by Alton Ellis called, ‘Rocksteady’ (1967). Producer Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd continued to be a key character in rocksteady. Rocksteady was influenced by American soul, resulting in a focus on romance and love songs, which became known as ‘lovers rock’, a mainstream reggae sub‑genre in its own right. Rocksteady was also influential in the evolution of radio friendly pop reggae and Euro reggae.

Notable rocksteady artists included The Paragons, The Heptones, The Gaylads, Delroy Wilson, Ken Boothe, Phyllis Dillon, The Wailers, Jackie Mittoo, The Ethiopians, Tommy McCook, The Melodians and Hopeton Lewis.

Reggae – Rocksteady rapidly evolved into what we now know as mainstream reggae from around 1968. The word reggae first appeared on a single by Toots and the Maytals, ‘Do the Reggay’ (1968). It was around that time that Jamaican studio technology began to be upgraded and the role of producers and sound engineers became increasingly important. Reggae arrangements typically comprise vocals, drums/percussion, bass, guitar(s), keyboards and horns. Reggae bands tended to have fewer musicians, horns became less prominent, bass players tended to become more experimental, aided by the slower tempo that began with rocksteady.

Reggae retained the same 4/4 time signature as its predecessors, although its component parts now became more stylized. The drum pattern, usually snare and bass drum, retains its emphasis on the 3rd beat of the bar. As there is no accent on the 1st beat, it is ‘dropped’, hence what is called reggae’s ‘one drop’ rhythm. In addition, the slower ‘rockers’ rhythm uses a bass drum on every eighth note, while the even slower ‘steppas’ rhythm uses a bass drum on every quarter beat. Reggae also retains the guitar or keyboard staccato ‘skank’ on the offbeat 2nd and 4th beats. Reggae introduced the offbeat double‑skank, enabled by the slower, more laid back tempos of reggae rhythms. The rhythm part often uses melodic, syncopated basslines.

An important element of reggae and dub was the ‘version’. B‑sides of rocksteady and reggae singles were often instrumental with greater emphasis on drums and bass, and little or no vocals. Guitar and keyboards, as lead instruments, were ‘dubbed’ in and out of the mix with little studio manipulation.

The Jamaican sound system culture (effectively nightclubs) made great use of these ‘versions’ as a basis for a live artist or MC to talk, chant or rap over the rocksteady backing tracks. The practice became known as deejaying or toasting. Probably, the most famous deejay of the era was U‑Roy who used rhythms made by producer Osbourne Ruddock (a.k.a. King Tubby) as a backing for his distinctive ad‑libbed vocals. To keep things simple and cheap, many ‘riddim’ tracks, as they were known, were used over and over. The person choosing the music and operating the turntables for sound systems was called the ‘selector’, rather than a DJ. Many observers have suggested that American rap and hip hop had its roots in Jamaican deejay/toasting from the late 1960s and early 1970s.

At the same time, the Rastafarian movement became increasingly popular and Rasta traditions became a key, if not core, part of reggae culture. Rastafarian artists’ influence led to reggae lyrics that gave greater prominence to black consciousness, politics and protest. In turn, reggae, to a lesser or greater extent, became a vehicle for Rastafarian messages and provided a platform for Rastafarian visibility. Ironically, while Rastas saw Babylon as the oppressor, they actively used Babylon to spread their Afrocentric gospels.

While ska and rocksteady were popular, reggae became a mainstream global phenomenon in the first part of the 1970s, helped largely by Jamaican reggae’s iconic ambassador, Bob Marley. Marley has sold more reggae records than any other artist in history. ‘Legend: The Best Of Bob Marley & The Wailers’ (1984) is the biggest‑selling reggae album of all‑time with over 28 million copies sold since its release. There is so much written about the legend that is Robert Nesta Marley (1945‑1981) that I won’t retell his story here. Suffice it to say that no‑one from Jamaica has had the impact that Marley had through his music, his image and his Rastafarian beliefs

Bob Marley

Another key factor in the globalisation of reggae music was the Jamaican crime film, ‘The Harder They Come’ (1972), starring reggae star Jimmy Cliff. The soundtrack to the film became commercially successful in many countries outside the Caribbean, greatly raising awareness of reggae on the international stage.

The extraordinary success of Jamaican reggae helped to sustain international demand for pop reggae and lovers rock for radio playlists and singles charts. The phenomenal popularity of reggae, including commercial songs produced by non‑Jamaican artists for non‑Jamaican audiences, boomed particularly in the USA and UK. This cross‑pollination and fusion with other musical genres led to the vastly increased diversity of reggae styles, while its heritage still remained instantly recognisable.

Reggae was also influential in the British punk rock/post‑punk/new wave era including works by artists such as The Clash, the Ruts, The Police, Jah Wobble, Don Letts, Blondie and The Slits.

Notable reggae artists across its hugely diverse catalogue include (in no particular order) Bob Marley & The Wailers, Peter Tosh, Gregory Isaacs, Culture, Black Uhuru, Israel Vibration, The Itals, Dennis Brown, Horace Andy, Sly & Robbie, U‑Roy, Jacob Miller/Inner Circle, John Holt, Third World, Don Carlos, Freddie McGregor, Dennis Alcapone, Sugar Minott, Beres Hammond, Junior Reid, Maxi Priest, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Aswad, Dillinger, I‑Roy, Trinity, Junior Murvin, Marcia Griffiths, Althea & Donna, Big Youth, Junior Byles, Susan Cadogan, Dr Alimantado, Clint Eastwood & General Saint, Matumbi, Eddy Grant, Jah Cure, Lone Ranger, The Maytones, Musical Youth, Dawn Penn, Ranking Dread, Ranking Joe, Garnett Silk, Twinkle Brothers, The Upsetters, The Wailing Souls, The Hippy Boys, I Wayne, Mikey Dread, Morgan Heritage, Tapper Zukie, Boris Gardiner, Lucky Dube, and UB40.

Notable reggae producers include Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Duke Reid, Joe Gibbs, Bunny ‘Striker’ Lee, Harry J, King Tubby and Dandy Livingstone.

Notable international reggae record labels responsible for bringing the genre to the global masses include Island Records, Greensleeves, Virgin Frontline, Trojan Records, Jamaican Recordings and VP Records.

Roots Reggae – The lines between reggae and roots are blurred. Perhaps it is better to see them as ends of a continuum with artists leaning more to one end or the other, rather than being discrete or derivative. Roots evolved at the same time as reggae in the late 1960s. Many reggae artists attracted by commercial success, fame and international recognition also crossed over into roots with its more serious and authentic style and vice versa. The likes of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer were prime examples of reggae artists tapping into the ‘vibration’ of Rastafarian black pride and African roots.

The visit of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie to Jamaica in 1966 led directly to a growth of the Rasta movement and the idea of black liberation and the spiritual connection to God (Jah). Rastafarian transcendent themes and the unrest of Jamaican political violence were integral to roots, engendering it with a more ‘gritty’, socially conscious and down‑to‑earth style than its more popular, more acceptable, and marketable counterpart. Even the word, roots, referred to the origins – roots – of West African slave descendants. The hard‑hitting messages of roots were seen as revolutionary, fuelling urban conflict and resistance in Jamaica. Roots became particularly popular in the UK and Africa. Roots, like mainstream reggae, was overtaken in popularity by dancehall by the early 1980s.

Notable roots reggae artists include Burning Spear, Bob Marley & The Wailers, Peter Tosh, Misty in Roots, Steel Pulse, The Congos, Linval Thompson, Prince Far I, Bunny Wailer, Max Romeo, The Mighty Diamonds, The Abyssinians, The Gladiators, Luciano, Johnny Clarke, Keith Hudson, Prince Lincoln Thompson, Alpha Blondy, Junior Murvin, Winston Holness, Michael Prophet, Hugh Mundell, The Revolutionaries, Morwell Unlimited, Roots Radics, Pablo Moses, Cornell Campbell, The In Crowd, Bushman and Yabby You.

Dub reggae – At last… getting to the root (sic!) of this article. The sublime (and occasionally ridiculous) dub reggae.

Dub reggae is quite difficult to define and is perhaps best described by the sum of its parts. Essentially dub comprises the remixing of existing recordings, at least that’s how it began. Producers and sound engineers extensively manipulated the original track by (usually) removing the main vocal content, resulting in largely instrumental arrangements. Studio effects such as reverb and echo are used widely on pretty much all but the earliest dub recordings. The drum and bass parts – providing the ‘riddim’ – are the heavy driving centrepiece of dub tracks. On top of the sparse rhythm base, lead instruments, vocal extracts and/or other, often seemingly random, sounds are dubbed in and out of the mix. These basic components give dub a very distinctive and recognisable sound. Dub tracks mixed on the then new analogue multi‑track recording desks made isolating different musical elements far simpler and creating multi‑layered arrangements much easier. Modern dub is usually composed as dub from scratch.

The word dub derived from early film soundtracks of the 1920s and the copying – doubling – of a sound recording from one medium to another. Jamaican dub emerged in the late 1960s, roughly at the same time as reggae and roots. The purely accidental omission of the vocal track for a ‘version’ of The Paragons hit, ‘On The Beach’ (1967) by sound engineer Byron Smith proved highly popular and extremely fortuitous, as it basically spawned a genre. After that simple error, instrumental ‘versions’ of reggae songs were ‘dubbed’ onto acetate discs. Over time, dub came to describe the method used to create the distinctive style as much as the music itself. The term ‘dubwise’, coined by ace rhythm duo Sly & Robbie, has come to mean using a strong drum‑led bassline in dub.

Studio sound engineers and producers treated the mixing desk as an experimental instrument in its own right and essential to the creation of the dub sound. Some studio staff attracted an almost legendary reputation, well beyond that of the musicians actually providing the music. Producers such as Osbourne Ruddock (King Tubby), Lee “Scratch” Perry, Joe Gibbs and Errol Thompson were the pioneers of what we now know as dub, with many apprentices such as Scientist following in their footsteps. The authentic sound of dub has been attributed to the use of analogue recording studios of the 1970s when there were no digital effects or tracking. While many artists release both vocal and instrumental dub ‘versions’, some are associated more with dub. Some key figures, like Lee Perry and Augustus Pablo, were both artists and producers.

A dubplate is an acetate disc usually of 10” diameter, traditionally used by studios after mixing and prior to mastering. However, dubplates were pioneered by producer King Tubby for reggae sound systems as a way to distribute and play exclusive music. Special one‑off ‘versions’ would be cut for crews from different sound systems to compete head‑to‑head in what was called a sound clash. These unique discs were known as ‘dubplate specials’ and attracted high demand. The aim of a reggae sound clash is to go song‑on‑song (“dub fi dub”) and beat or ‘kill’ their opposition. The sound clash craze spread to London in the 1970s with the likes of Jah Shaka’s Mighty Jah Shaka Sound System being one of the first. The British film drama, ‘Babylon’ (1980) focused on London, urban Brixton’s sound systems and its sound clash culture.

Then there is the extended 12” Reggae Discomix. These have nothing to do with mirror balls or Travolta‑esque dance moves. A Reggae Discomix is the original, usually roots, vocal track immediately followed by a dub version, mixed together in heavy style. For some, the Discomix provides the best of both worlds.

As dub crept up on Jamaican audiences, there has been much debate over who released the first dub album, especially as local administrative record‑keeping was not seen as important at the time. Rather than try to credit any specific release it is, perhaps, better just to celebrate the quality of the early dub albums.

The pre‑dub release of ‘The Undertaker’ by Derrick Harriott and the Crystallites (1970), engineered by Errol Thompson was one of the first instrumental rocksteady albums. Another proto‑dub album was Bob Marley & The Wailers’ instrumental rhythm ‘Soul Revolution 2’ (1971), also called, ‘Upsetter Revelusion Rhythm’, produced by Lee Perry.

Competing for the first legitimate dub album were, ‘Blackboard Jungle Dub’ / ‘Upsetters 14 Dub Black Board Jungle’ (released 1973) mixed in stereo by King Tubby and Lee Perry. A further contender for first dub album was ‘Java Java Java Java’ (recorded c.1972, released 1973) by Impact All Stars featuring melodica maestro, Augustus Pablo and produced by Errol Thompson. ‘Aquarius Dub’ by Herman Chin Loy (recorded c.1971‑1973, released c.1975) with a stripped back, largely instrumental sound without much studio trickery was also one of the first. All of these recordings were seminal and proved highly influential. Certainly worth checking out, if nothing else.

The mid‑1970s was the peak creative period for dub and, just like reggae and roots, dub gave way to dancehall in the early 1980s. Over time, dub has developed its own style that extended way beyond its original traditional roots influences, many in the sub‑genre underground. Dub, has endured and has seen a resurgence in the 21st Century, not only in its original form but in many contemporary forms as well. Dub’s influence has spread far and wide over the years, and not just in reggae.

Some notable dub reggae artists and producers include King Tubby, Prince/King Jammy, Scientist, Niney The Observer, Lee “Scratch” Perry, The Upsetters, Herman Chin Loy, Dennis Bovell/Blackbeard, The Aggrovators, Augustus Clarke, Bunny ‘Striker’ Lee, Alpha & Omega, Gaudi, Mad Professor, Augustus Pablo, Sly & Robbie, Linval Thompson, Roots Radics, Alborosie, Errol Brown, Joe Gibbs, Yabby You, Ossie Hibbert, Dub Syndicate, Soul Syndicate and Errol ‘E.T.’ Thompson.

Notable Jamaican sound systems include King Tubby’s Hometown Hi‑Fi, Winston Blake’s Mighty Merritone, Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd’s Downbeat, Duke Reid’s The Trojan, Noel ‘Papa Jaro’ Harper’s Killamanjaro (intentionally misspelled) and Tom Wong’s Tom The Great Sebastian.

Dancehall – Dancehall is a departure from traditional reggae both in style, content and production. Faster riddims were often constructed digitally and vocals were once again rapped. Dancehall evolved as a product of political turbulence, economic uncertainty and extensive social change in Jamaican communities during the early 1980s.

While reggae has never really fallen out of fashion, its mainstream reach had become ever more diluted and its popularity declined in the early 1980s. Another factor was the death of Bob Marley in 1981. This tragic event seemed to symbolise the ‘end of reggae’ as we know it. Thirdly, studio recording technology in Jamaica was transitioning from the old analogue desks to more modern digital equipment, thereby changing the intrinsic sound and techniques of recordings from rough‑and‑ready to slick, clean and sharp. Electronic instruments were also increasingly digital. Lyrics tended to be about partying, dancing, violence and sexuality, rather than the now‑outdated Rasta messages of social injustice, suffering and oppression.

All these factors, among others, led to the emergence of dancehall. Initially, dancehall music was not widely played on radio and was seen by many Jamaicans as the people’s music of the 1980s and 1990s. The legacy of dancehall is helped by the growth of digital reggae since the 1980s. Producer Philip ‘Fatis’ Burrell and his Xterminator record label was a key factor in establishing dancehall’s longevity.

Notable dancehall artists include Eek‑A‑Mouse, Buju Banton, Beenie Man, Yellowman, Barrington Levy, Sean Paul, Cocoa Tea, Prince Jazzbo, Shabba Ranks, Tenor Saw, Sizzla, Anthony Johnson, Josey Wales, Charlie Chaplin and General Echo.

Ragga – Ragga, a contraction and bastardisation of ‘ragamuffin’, used as a pejorative term by white colonists, became associated with scruffy and unkempt Jamaican ghetto dwellers. Jamaican youths appropriated the insult with the intentionally misspelled Raggamuffin music or, more commonly, Ragga in the early‑mid 1980s. Ragga emerged in Jamaica during the 1980s as a subgenre of dancehall and reggae music fused with hip hop and digital electronica. With its ‘gangsta’ leanings, some ragga is much closer to hip hop than reggae. Ragga has its origins in the late 1960s and, like deejaying/toasting before it, is distinguished by a DJ that improvises lyrics over a sampled or electronic backing track. Like dancehall, the musical style is quite different from reggae.

One of the earliest ragga tracks was, ‘Under Mi Sleng Teng’ (1985) by Wayne Smith, produced by King Jammy. Ragga is often seen by many as synonymous with dancehall and therefore has a lower profile despite its rich history. Ragga heavily influenced early jungle and dubstep music.

Notable ragga artists include Chaka Demus & Pliers, Shaggy, The Bug, Frankie Paul, Ini Kamoze, Capleton, Wayne Smith and Bounty Killer.

Soca – Soca, a.k.a. Soul of Calypso, is a music genre that emerged in the 1970s as a result of Trinidadian Lord Shorty, the ‘Father of Soca’, who attempted to revive the spirit of untainted calypso music, which had declined in popularity compared to the rise of reggae. While soca is not reggae, it fuses calypso with African and East Indian influences, as well as elements of Jamaican reggae. Jamaican ska artists, Byron Lee & the Dragonaires also dipped their toes into the warm waters of soca.

Reggaeton – Another, arguably derivative, form of reggae developed in the 1980s in Panama, called reggaeton. Central American ‘big reggae’, or reggae grande, evolved from dancehall and combines reggae tropes with American hip hop, Latin American, and Caribbean music, with vocals sung or rapped, often in Spanish. Puerto Rican, Daddy Yankee is probably the best known reggaeton artist.

There are various other reggae sub‑genres not mentioned above, such as kumina, Niyabinghi, and reggae fusion, along with derivatives such as ska jazz and ska punk. No radical new sub‑genres have really appeared since the 1980s, perhaps suggesting a degree of creative stagnation. Reggae does, however, continue to produce new artists, including Ziggy Marley, Protoje and Chezidek.


The legacy of dub reggae

Jamaica’s musical legacy is massively disproportionate to its humble genesis. Dub reggae’s influence has grown over the years and continues to exert its presence, not only on reggae and its sub‑genres but also across many other music genres including dub poetry, hip hop, punk, dubstep, big beat, jungle, grime, trip hop, drum & bass, techno, ambient dub, future dub, UK garage, dubtronica, psydub, electro‑dub, post‑disco, EDM/IDM, rock and pop. It is fair to say that dub’s fingerprint is pervasive in modern music to some extent or other. Such diversions were orchestrated by alternative artists such as Adrian Sherwood, Jah Wobble, The Orb and Sound Iration.

(Dub) reggae’s geographical reach has also spread globally with artists from many countries getting involved with the dub bonanza, including Slamonella Dub, The Black Seeds and L.A.B. (New Zealand), Rebelution (Austria), Soul Revivers, Alpha Steppa, Steel Pulse, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Pato Banton, Aswad, Oku Onuora, Creation Rebel, Dennis Bovell/Blackbeard, Winston Edwards, Dreadzone, Hollie Cook, Dubkasm, Zion Train and Alpha & Omega (UK), Alborosie and Gaudi (Italy), Bush Chemists and Dubmatix (Canada), Dubblestandart (Austria), Brain Damage and Manudigital (France), 10 Ft. Ganja Plant, Groundation and Easy Star All‑Stars (USA), Ace Of Base (Sweden), Alpha Blondy, Colbert Mukwevho, Ismael Isaac and Lucky Dube (Africa), and Pressure Drop (Australia).

The current and future of reggae

The second decade of the 21st Century has seen a renewed interest in reggae roots and dub in its many variants. Contemporary reggae, particularly with a heavy use of electronica, is often described as ‘digital reggae’ because of the type of instruments and recording methods used in modern studio production. Purists say that digital reggae lacks the raw emotion and earthy authenticity of analogue reggae, roots and dub. Techniques that were simply not possible in the past are now commonplace and the requirement for traditional brick‑and‑mortar studio space has reduced significantly with the widespread use of home recording. Cynics might suggest that ease of digital production has distorted established tropes to become clichéd or caricatures of the original; detached or at least dislocated from its Caribbean ghetto background. Perhaps it is better to celebrate success and accept the status quo as an ‘and’, rather than an ‘either or’.

By the late 2000s, dancehall reggae from the privileged districts of uptown Kingston and without connection to the generally disadvantaged areas of downtown Kingston, perhaps unsurprisingly, became known as uptown reggae, including artists like Sean Paul, Alex Marley and Marcus I.

The so‑called reggae revival is a trend that is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, even if it doesn’t regain the multinational dominance it had in reggae’s ‘golden era’ from 1968 to 1983. While its pedigree lies in the unique tapestry of Jamaican life, location and history, reggae and dub are now a global phenomenon, safe in the hands of enthusiasts keeping the traditions and influences alive and well. More importantly, opportunities for involvement in dub are available to all.

While Rastafarianism is reportedly in favour of gender equality, female artists have been woefully underrepresented in reggae generally and particularly in dub. In addition, several dancehall and ragga artists have been accused of homophobia, including targeted song lyrics, aimed at the LGBTQ+ community. Hopefully, these intolerant and prejudicial characteristics will be overcome in time.


Some great reggae and dub recording studios

The concentration of outstanding studio capacity into one small city (with a population of less than 2 million people) is truly extraordinary. The key studios, some famous and others less well known, are listed below in alphabetical order. These studios are all based in Kingston, Jamaica – the spiritual home of reggae – unless stated otherwise:

  • Aquarius – founded by Herman Chin Loy in the early 1970s
  • Ariwa – founded by Mad Professor in London, UK in 1979
  • Big Ship – founded by Freddie McGregor in 1995
  • Black Ark – founded by Lee “Scratch” Perry in 1973
  • Black Scorpio – founded by Maurice ‘Jack Scorpio’ Johnson in the early 1970s
  • Channel One – founded by Joseph ‘Jo Jo’ Hoo Kim in 1973
  • Digital B – founded by Bobby Digital Dixon in 1988
  • Dynamic Sounds – founded by Byron Lee in 1963
  • Federal – founded by Ken Khouri in 1961
  • Harry J – founded by Harry J in 1972
  • Hitmaker Studio – founded by Donovan Bennett in 2002
  • Jammy’s – founded by Prince/King Jammy in 1985
  • Joe Gibbs – founded by Joe Gibbs in 1975
  • King Tubbys – founded by Osbourne Ruddock in 1971
  • Music Works – founded by Augustus ‘Gussie’ Clarke in 1988
  • Penthouse – founded by Donovan Germain in 1987
  • Randy’s – founded by Vincent ‘Randy’ Chin in 1962
  • Studio One – founded by Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd in 1963
  • Treasure Isle – founded by Duke Reid in 1964
  • Tuff Gong – founded by Bob Marley in 1977
  • Wackie’s – founded by Lloyd ‘Bullwackie’ Barnes in New York, USA in 1973
  • Xterminator – founded by Philip Fatis Burrell in 1988

Some great dub reggae recordings

It would be remiss of me, after all of that exposition for me not to reveal my preferences for some dub reggae albums. This is purely subjective and based on my own personal favourites, rather than any form of recommendation. This is, hopefully obviously, only be the tip of an enormous iceberg. There are innumerable possibilities from which to choose and picking a top 20 was a tough job, albeit with perhaps a fairly predictable outcome. Apologies to all those I might have overlooked in making this, my ideal ‘desert island disc’ compendium.

  1. Burning Spear – Garvey’s Ghost (1976)
  2. Scientist – Scientist Rids The World Of The Evil Curse Of The Vampires (1981)
  3. The Upsetters – Super Ape (1976)
  4. Agustus Pablo – King Tubbys Meets Rockers Uptown (1977)
  5. King Tubby – Dub From The Roots (1974)
  6. The Upsetters – Blackboard Jungle Dub / 14 Dub Blackboard Jungle (1973)
  7. Herman Chin Loy – Aquarius Dub (1975)
  8. Linton Kwesi Johnson – LKJ In Dub (1980)
  9. The Aggrovators – Dubbing At King Tubby’s (2016)
  10. Niney The Observer – Sledge Hammer Dub In The Street Of Jamaica (1977)
  11. Gaudi – Dub, Sweat And Tears (2004)
  12. Gregory Isaacs – Slum In Dub (1978)
  13. Horace Andy – In The Light / In The Light Dub (1995)
  14. Yabby U – King Tubby’s Prophesy Of Dub (1976)
  15. Keith Hudson – Pick A Dub (1974)
  16. Mad Professor – Dub Me Crazy!! (1982)
  17. Lee “Scratch” Perry – Heavy Rain (2019)
  18. Johnny Clarke – Dread A Dub (2012)
  19. Prince Far I & The Arabs – Dub To Africa (1979)
  20. Dennis Brown – Dubbing At King Tubby’s (2016)
Top 20 Dub Reggae Album Covers

For dub newbies, exploring the list above would, I believe, serve as an excellent introduction to the genre. I certainly wish such an informative list had been around for me in my early days of dub epiphany. A righteous way to bring this digest to a conclusion, I think.


Tailpiece

There you have it, my return to writing (welcome or not) via a brief guide to mento, ska, reggae, roots, dub, dancehall and ragga. I hope you found something herein to enjoy.

As to THE crunch question of WHY such creativity exploded in the way that it did, when it did, in such a small island community in the West Indies, the answer frustratingly still eludes me. Serendipity? Chance? Coincidence? The quest continues.

One thing is certain, support for, and influence of, reggae’s diverse ecosystem is as healthy today as it has been for several decades, making it truly universal and multi‑generational. I believe that reggae can continue to be a positive force for change. One Love. Irie.

Finally… my appreciation for reggae isn’t just my personal passion. In November 2018, the ‘reggae music of Jamaica’ was added to the UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The award was in recognition of reggae’s “contribution to international discourse on issues of injustice, resistance, love and humanity underscores the dynamics of the element as being at once cerebral, socio‑political, sensual and spiritual.” Nuff said (and much more succinctly!!!).

This article may be the start of exploration into other genres for which I have a passion. Let’s see how this one goes first.

Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars’ ‘Quote of the Month’: “Perfection isn’t good enough”

© 2023 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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July 2020 – More Whazzup at CRAVE Guitars

Prelude

HELLO AND WELCOME to the second half of 2020 for what it’s worth. The fact that most of us meek hominids have made it this far is surely a good thing (for mankind, if not the planet), despite the best efforts of coronageddon. At the time of writing there are over 17 million confirmed cases and 667,000 deaths recorded globally due to coronavirus and sadly the numbers are still rising. I hope you are surviving amongst the mercenary madness. Thoughts, as always, lie with those affected directly and indirectly. Also, it is important to recognise the detrimental effects of the COVID pandemic on mental health & wellbeing; the risk of long‑term psychosis is a concern, worse because it cannot be seen and is rarely disclosed as an issue. Civilisation still has some way to go before it can prove resilient to the virus and worthy enough to survive as a species.

Before further ado, let’s move forward to the past. In the last article, I covered the key acquisitions made by CRAVE Guitars during 2019. As signposted last time, this month I’ll be covering the experience of repatriating 42 guitars and basses (40 of them vintage) after an extended period in enforced storage and bringing them back to as good a shape as they can be. None of the guitars covered here were featured in last month’s article, so there is no overlap between the two.

What are we actually talking about here?

As a reminder, here is the full list of the guitars that eventually returned home (by brand/alphabetic order):

Vintage Fender guitars (13):
  • 1966 Fender Coronado II
  • 1965 Fender Duo-Sonic II
  • 1965 Fender Jaguar
  • 1965 Fender Jazzmaster
  • 1965 Fender Musicmaster II
  • 1966 Fender Mustang
  • 1972 Fender Mustang Competition
  • 1977 Fender Stratocaster
  • 1983 Fender Stratocaster ‘Dan Smith’ Era
  • 1988 Fender Telecaster
  • 1974 Fender Telecaster Custom
  • 1973 Fender Telecaster Deluxe
  • 1972 Fender Telecaster Thinline
1966 Fender Coronado
Vintage Gibson guitars (20):
  • 1983 Gibson Corvus II
  • 1963 Gibson ES-330 TDC
  • 1985 Gibson ES-335 Dot
  • 1983 Gibson Explorer
  • 1984 Gibson Explorer
  • 1982 Gibson Explorer CMT/E2
  • 1984 Gibson Explorer Custom Shop Edition
  • 1984 Gibson Explorer ‘Union Jack’
  • 1976 Gibson Firebird Bicentennial
  • 1966 Gibson Firebird III
  • 1980 Gibson Flying V2
  • 1989 Gibson Les Paul Custom
  • 1977 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe Gold Top
  • 1975 Gibson Les Paul Standard
  • 1964 Gibson Melody Maker
  • 1961 Gibson Melody Maker D
  • 1982 Gibson Moderne Korina Heritage
  • 1981 Gibson RD Artist
  • 1965 Gibson SG Junior
  • 1968 Gibson SG Standard
1981 Gibson RD Artist
Vintage other brand guitars (5):
  • 1966 Epiphone Olympic
  • 1962 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins Double Cutaway Hollowbody
  • 1965 Gretsch 6135 Corvette
  • 1974 Rickenbacker 480
  • 1964 Silvertone 1449 ‘Amp in Case’
1974 Rickenbacker 480
Vintage basses (2):
  • 1977 Fender Precision Fretless Bass
  • 1978 Music Man Stingray Bass
1978 Music Man Stingray Bass
Non-vintage guitars (2):
  • 2002 Gibson Les Paul Standard
  • 1998 Gibson Les Paul Standard DC
1998 Gibson Les Paul Standard DC

Many purists may assert that some of these aren’t ‘vintage’. However, that is a debate for another time and place (and has actually been deliberated upon in previous articles). CRAVE Guitars’ cut‑off point is currently the end of 1989, i.e. over 30 years old.

While I might bloviate limitlessly about these musical devices, you will probably be relieved that I won’t be going through each of the guitars in sequence and in forensic detail. Rather, I will try to relate the key headlines, the highs and lows, the learning points and any resultant implications arising from the exercise.

At the time of writing, 38 vintage guitars have been given a well-deserved cossetting and these are the ones I’ll be covering here. The only ones remaining are the two vintage bass guitars, which I dread will both need some expert remedial work, as well as the two newer guitars (1998 and 2002). These remaining instruments will get the treatment they require in due course but now is the time to reflect on the significant work done on the major assets. I abhor calling them that but in this context, I guess that’s what they are.

Where they went and how they returned

In this first section, I may reiterate some points I’ve previously covered, so for regular readers, please forgive me for repeating myself. The elephant in the room is… ‘why?’.

I have to admit that the events that led to ‘here & now’ include a very dark period for me and the impact of the hardship still deeply affects me to my core. I won’t go into the detail of the circumstances, suffice to say that I lost pretty much everything back in 2011 and rapidly had to find a temporary home, not only for us as a family, but also for most of my guitars, which at that time was around 37 of them.

My first job was to document what was going away as best as I could, which included photographs and a comprehensive database covering each guitar. Fortunately for me, a good friend was able to find a safe space for them and they were stored away in a dry and reasonably ventilated roof space. Certainly not the ideal conditions for temperature and humidity but when desperate needs must, it was a saviour of momentous proportions and for which I will be eternally grateful. At least we live in a cool temperate zone, so the swings in climate could be a lot worse.

I had hoped to get back on my feet in a matter of just a few months, however that turned into a year and then several years until they were brought back home in 2019. I felt truly bad about the imposition on my friend and very fearful about what deterioration might be taking place in a less than perfect environment over an extended period of confinement. At least the guitars were all in cases of one sort or other, offering some degree of protection. During the lengthy hiatus, some guitars were retrieved, others swapped out and some were interred. Some of them, however, spent the full 7‑8 years in horrible exile.

We eventually relocated into a new home in the SW of the UK in 2017. When we moved, a few of the newer non‑vintage gear had to be sold off to preserve the core vintage items. A year after our move, my friend also moved home, staying in the SE of England. It was that combination of events that led to ‘the 42’ and I being reunited at long last in January 2019. A specialist haulage company charged the Earth for the pleasure of transporting them 200‑odd miles but at least they arrived OK. I had originally planned to refurbish our damp, dark cellar to make a new home for the guitars first but, as is usually our luck, circumstances got in the way and now I’m living amongst many stacked guitar cases. At least they are always close to hand.

Repatriation Guitar Cases

I knew that it wasn’t just going to be a case of unpacking and playing them as if nothing had happened, so I set about planning a very unhurried and practical approach to assessment and reconditioning. There was no set order to this process; it was very much a case of starting at the beginning and working through in whatever order they happened to be in. Now, in July 2020, I have worked through all the key returnees.

Nevertheless, it has taken over 18 months to complete the programme of refurbishment to this point. Not a quick procedure but not rushed either. I always felt that it would be better to take it easy rather than potentially to make things worse by jumping in too enthusiastically. They are already old, a little longer doesn’t matter.

General Condition

Thankfully, all the guitars were in cases, although the condition of each case varied greatly. Some cases are good and strong, while others have various signs of wear and tear and some are very tatty and weak, providing hardly any physical protection but better than nothing. The oblong cases were far easier to accommodate, being easier and safer to stack, unlike the shaped ones.

The first thing to notice was a predictable coating of general entropy. A lot of people pay a lot of money for genuine old dust and grime (heehee), so the cases stay as they are, as testament to the trials and tribulations to which they had been exposed. I am not one of those snobbish ‘collector’ types that insist on everything being perfect and as‑new. I fully understand that I am only a temporary custodian in their long lifespan that in some cases started before I was born and which most likely will well outlast me. This part of their existence has at least been documented for all to see. It is all part of our collective heritage, albeit a miniscule representation.

Opening each case for the first time and taking each guitar out was the point of maximum trepidation and anxiety, rather than excitement. On initial release, each one was given a cursory once over to see if there was any immediate and obvious appreciable damage. I can report that, so far, that no appreciable impairment has occurred to any of the guitars during stasis. No significant issues requiring immediate corrective work were noticed, which was a massive relief. Phew!

One thing common to many, if not all, guitars was an unidentified surface film/smear, despite being effectively protected from too many outside elements. There were also signs of varying degrees of oxidation and/or corrosion to some metal parts although, again, nothing particularly serious. Most of these ‘issues’ would be rectified by a sensitive clean. A few guitars seemed to have more nitrocellulose weather checking than I remember. Whether this was a result of inaccurate memory or a genuine reaction to environmental factors, I cannot be absolutely sure. While finish crazing can add mojo to a vintage guitar, I’d rather not intentionally make it worse, so I was a bit despondent on that front, as the crazing process is irreversible. So, job number 1 would be a thorough deep cleaning – not enough to ruin the genuine patina of age but just to bring the finish back to life and protect it for the future.

1984 Gibson Explorer

The next thing was a quick acoustic strum and noodle before plugging them in. All of them were strung at full tension to preserve the neck relief but the strings themselves showed various degrees of corrosion and were horribly sticky to the touch. What surprised me was that about 80% of them were still in tune. Impressive. They sounded dead and lifeless though, even acoustically. So, job number 2 would be a full restring and setup for each of them.

Each guitar was then plugged in to an amp to test the instrument’s electrics. This is, sadly, where the most obvious degradation was evident across the board. Initially, some showed no signs of electrical life at all, which was a concern. Others had annoyingly intermittent noisy signals, many had rough scratchy pots, iffy crackly switches and raucous jittery jack sockets. I don’t think that any permanent failures occurred although they clearly needed to be seen to before they could be used in earnest. To be honest, with unkempt electrics and long dead strings, they generally sounded awful compared to how they should be. Not a promising initial analysis. So, job number 3 would be to go over the electrics where necessary to return them to usable operation.

That’s about it. Thankfully, there were no major concerns other than any reservations I might have had anyway (these are vintage guitars after all). The appearance could easily be resolved through some sensitive tender loving care (TLC). The electrics, I was pretty sure could be cleaned up and just used. Restringing and setting them up properly would, I hope give them a new lease of life. Phase 1 sorted then – just 3 key straightforward tasks for each guitar plus anything specifically identified on each one as they went through the TLC procedure.

Playability

As mentioned above, straight out of storage, pretty much every guitar felt dead and lifeless with little resonance from the bodies. Anyone who has followed CRAVE Guitars over the years knows that it is my firm belief that guitars should never be kept as mere trinkets and they need to be played regularly. The guitars seemed to agree wholeheartedly with this observation, as they were telling me loud and clear that they didn’t appreciate not being used for so long. It makes me wonder how many would‑be collectors are put off vintage guitars because they try one out in this unprepared state and then presume that they are all like that.

As I wasn’t in a hurry, I experimented with my approach to this zombie‑like phenomenon. They are just bits of wood, metal and plastic after all; why should a period of abandonment make that much difference? What is it that makes the difference? I decided to take some amateur and idle investigation a little further.

1983 Gibson Corvus

Some guitars I stripped down straight away, while others I decided to play for a while before reconditioning them. The interesting thing is that they didn’t need cleaning or restringing to bring them back to some resemblance of vitality, they simply needed playing for a while. Even with ratty old strings, tarnished finish and creaky electronics, they surprisingly would recover much of their vibrancy after a few days of being used. Some needed more teasing than others – no surprise there. This doesn’t mean that they couldn’t be made even better. Those that were given some TLC first seemed to spring back a bit quicker and stronger with fresh strings on board.

Most of the guitars did not need much in the way of set up to restore their playability. Not one needed a truss rod adjustment (phew!). I suppose the necks have been OK for several decades and they had already settled into how they should be. However, restringing gave an opportunity to check action, nut, bridge saddles, intonation and pickup height to fine tune them. A couple needed appropriate lubrication for the nut, bridge and tuners but not much. Time for some D’Addario/Planet Waves ‘LubriKit Friction Remover’, especially on vibrato‑equipped instruments. Just a few simple things made a lot of difference.

However, getting back to the point, the biggest difference to usability was simply to play them for a while. The comparison between ‘before’ and ‘after’ was remarkable in almost every instance. I’m sure that there must be scientific reasons but I’m not clear in my mind what actual cause and effect is going on here.

General TLC

This is the bit of maintenance that I’m probably best at – the simple stuff. I have mentioned quite a few times that my practical guitar tech skills are limited. What I can do though, is to give guitars a thorough pampering. The first thing is to take the old strings off (and recycle them). Some needed a bit of extra dismantling, for instance to get at the electrics, to shim a bolt‑on neck or to capture neck/body codes and document internal condition.

Cleaning is a relatively straightforward and painless process but it does make a huge difference to aesthetics. If there were specific reasons to do so, I might start off using T‑Cut judiciously to get through thick grime or smooth out some minor scratch marks. However, T‑Cut isn’t recommended to use on vintage guitars but it can help in some circumstances, as long as one is very careful. I have tried other abrasive products with varying degrees of success.

Most of the cleaning process was done using my guitar maintenance ‘system’ of choice, which is D’Addario/Planet Waves products.

More gentle than T‑Cut is D’Addario’s ‘Step 1 Restore: Detailer’, which is good for restoring the underlying nitrocellulose finish without ruining the natural aging and patina that develops over many years. It also helps to reduce minor swirl or plectrum marks, giving a nice healthy overall sheen. The degree of elbow grease required depended on each guitar and it is worth it.

After leaving the finish for a day to stabilise, I then used D’Addario’s ‘Step 2 Protect: Guitar Wax’, which uses premium quality Brazilian carnauba wax to give it a lovely finish and protect it for the future. As a wax, I’m uncertain as to how effective it actually is on nitrocellulose or polyester finishes but I figured that it certainly can’t do any harm. It is important here not to use anything that contains silicon or other unhelpful contaminants.

At this point, I would stop and not use D’Addario’s ‘Step 3 Shine: Spray Cleaner’ unless I continued to play the guitar for some time. It is ideal for use when a guitar needs a quick spruce up after playing, before putting it back into its case and/or moving onto the next one.

Plenty of people prefer other maintenance systems such as Dunlop’s excellent cleaning products. I just prefer the ’Addario/Planet Waves’ products. It may seem like I’m promoting and/or recommending their products, I’m not – it just works for me. They are quite expensive per millilitre but I think worth it on balance.

All rosewood and ebony fingerboards needed a good clean and multiple applications of lemon oil (which, incidentally, ain’t what it used to be!). Here, I use Kyser Lemon Oil, now that I’ve run out of my old good stuff, which it seems you can’t get any more. I’m still looking for something better though. Maple fingerboards only needed the same cleaning as for body/neck finish and it is important not to use lemon oil on lacquered maple fingerboards.

The condition of frets unsurprisingly varied from guitar to guitar, especially in the lower ‘cowboy chord’ frets. A few will require expert fret work at some point but not immediately. There were a few signs of rough surface corrosion. At its worst, rust build up could be removed using very fine grade wet & dry paper, whereas routine sprucing up could be achieved with fine wire wool depending on condition. For a final gleam, I used D’Addario’s ‘Fret Polishing System’. Visually, it does make a difference and it makes playing much nicer, especially when string bending in the higher registers.

Most of the other metalwork was OK and nothing needed anything radical. One has to be careful on gold, chrome or nickel plating, not to abrade the surface too much, so a gentle application of Brasso Metal Polish wadding was usually enough to remove surface tarnish and restore a nice metallic shine. I didn’t need to go further and use something harsher like Solvol Autosol on any guitar metalwork.

The crackly, glitchy, scratchy electrical components, including the usual pots, switches and jack sockets were mostly solved with a dose of electrical contact cleaner and repeated use to clean the surfaces. Here, I use Tone Electro-Sound Guitar Pick-Up & Electronic Cleaner, which is expensive but cheaper than the class leader, DeoxIT. There were a few remaining electrical problems that will require soldering and/or replacement parts/wires but nothing requiring immediate attention. As they were mostly OK when they went into confinement, it was really only new issues that will need sorting out.

1965 Fender Duo-Sonic II

As I’m sure most guitarists will attest, new strings are a key part of the playing experience. Here, I am very pragmatic and don’t insist on a ‘must have’ type of string. I am certainly not a string snob, opting for some (expensive) esoteric boutique product that needs changing after every play. Frankly, I can’t tell the difference. What I will mention is that it requires a level of investment to restring 40+ guitars, especially without ready access to bulk buying as a regular end‑consumer.

For Stratocasters with a vibrato block, I generally use Fender Bullets 10‑46 gauge. For most standard scale guitars, I use Ernie Ball Regular Slinky 10‑46 gauge. For short scale guitars or ones that benefit from a little extra string tension, I’ll go up to Ernie Ball Power Slinky 11-48 gauge. For the Gibson ES‑150, I haven’t decided on a suitable string set yet but it will probably need something like 12-56 semi‑flat wound strings to give it the necessary volume, warmth and resonance that it deserves. With the dreaded Brexit negotiations and no clear trade deals with either the European Union or the U.S.A. (or anyone else for that matter), I may decide to migrate to British‑made Rotosound strings for general use.

A final buffing with a lint‑free duster keeps the guitar’s finish nicely clean and shiny. No guitars are going back into long‑term storage and all will be played regularly over time. They aren’t on constant display and are kept indoors in their cases when not being played.

Remedial Work

Most of the guitars were in pretty good condition when they were stored away, so they didn’t go into incarceration with (m)any outstanding issues. Fortunately, they also came home in pretty good condition too. As mentioned above, I think both basses need some expert attention to their necks. I can’t be sure what issues they may have or what may be required but it is probably best to leave that to the experts.

There are a few guitars that do need electrical work doing, once again, anything beyond cleaning up contacts is best left to the experts. Some have intermittent problems (hums, crackles) or weak signals. On some, the balance of tones doesn’t seem right and could do with investigation. Perhaps some combination of new pots, switches, wires, capacitors, jack sockets, solder joints, etc. may be required.

If replacements and/or repairs are needed, where possible, these will be vintage correct. However, finding genuine vintage parts in the UK is a big issue and importing them is disproportionately expensive, so it isn’t something to be taken on lightly. In several instances, I may have to be pragmatic and replace faulty vintage parts with newer quality equivalents. After all, it is better to have guitars working properly, otherwise they are just planks of wood, bits of metal and plastic that won’t get played. Things like vintage pots can always be fitted retrospectively if need be.

Apart from the basses, not one of the guitars suffered neck problems, which I am genuinely amazed at. I guess they were old and settled anyway. Certainly no fretwork will be needed other than some basic levelling, crowning and polishing. I wish it was something I felt more confident about doing myself but I know that, if I made a mistake, it would undoubtedly be worse than when I started. Best left to a competent technician.

None, thankfully, require any finish work. I would prefer to leave any worn finish, dinks, scuffs, scratches or other marks as they are, rather than refinish a guitar and ruin its authenticity. Besides, I am smitten by the untold stories behind the genuine blemishes and imperfections that give them character. These are not new guitars and neither should they look it. Neither are they museum pieces, so the ravages of daily use are important to both their integrity and charm.

I only have one refinished guitar, which is CRAVE Guitars’ ‘signature’ 1975 Gibson Les Paul Standard. The guitar came to me when it was about two years old and had significant buckle rash on the back. For a while, it was finished in natural before being refinished again in a beautiful cherry sunburst. If you are wondering, it was originally a dark tobacco sunburst. At the time, as a teenager, I didn’t know any better and had absolutely no idea that in several decades that I would a) still have the guitar or b) value original finishes. Oh well. One lives and learns.

1975 Gibson Les Paul Standard

Guitar cases are a different matter. Some of the very old ‘cardboard’ cases are pretty tatty and there is not much that can be done about that. A number of cases have broken latches or missing handles and I would like to work through these to make them at least usable. Sourcing vintage or OEM NOS parts and restoring the hardware isn’t easy, as latches, hinges and handles were mainly riveted on, rather than screwed. Again, this isn’t entirely necessary or urgent, so it can be a project for a future date. Mostly, they are best left as they originally came to me.

Parts and Accessories

There are a few guitars that have had newer parts fitted at some point (not by me, I might add!). Some of these examples could do with sensitive conservation by using vintage original replacement parts. None of this is necessary or urgent so, like several other jobs, it can be done over time as opportunities present themselves. Messing with them or modifying them is not on my agenda.

Case candy is always nice to have but I don’t go out of my way to acquire it, if it wasn’t original to the guitar. Authenticity matters here. We have more than enough fake news and phoney history to contend with, without adding unnecessary doubt to the origins of the guitars.

Some have optional parts missing, for instance, my 1977 Fender Stratocaster doesn’t have its original bridge cover but, let’s face it, does it really matter? It may be another ‘nice to have’ but it serves absolutely no beneficial function.

1977 Fender Stratocaster

Many of the guitars have their original cases but, similarly, many came to me with non‑original or modern cases. While I might like to get vintage original cases for some guitars, that can be inordinately expensive and it kinda messes with originality. Another ‘nice to have’ but not essential. If an occasion comes along to conserve the instrument better, I’ll consider it as and when. It really is the contents that matter.

If I’ve done my buying well in the first place, the acquisition of parts and accessories to restore a guitar to as close to its original condition generally aren’t needed. There are always exceptions to each rule, so it’s on a case‑by‑case basis.

Documentation and Photographs

By now, you’ll have hopefully concluded that they are all in more‑or‑less acceptable playable condition. Everything else is a bonus.

All that is left to do is to document each guitar at this particular point in time. As mentioned above, when the guitars went into storage, they were photographed and their individual characteristics logged onto a comprehensive database. Now, several years later, some of the details on the database can be updated and, where information was missing, new data can be added.

CRAVE Guitars – Database

New photographs have been taken for historical evidence and also added to the database. In the event of some potential future catastrophe such as theft or damage, all the necessary details will be available. Many of the same photographs can also be used on the web site to go with new all‑new features that have been written. I will come back to the web site in due course, so that’s enough on that front for the time being.

In addition, and perhaps more interestingly, this article and the documentation are all part of each these guitars’ long life stories and something that can go with them if and when they ever get passed on. Perhaps for the first time in their long lives, there is a written and photographic moment‑in‑time record for these wonderful heritage artefacts. This extensive task is still only partially completed but there is no ‘burning bridge’ imperative to hurry the task and it can be done at leisure.

The one I couldn’t put down

Rediscovering these lovely vintage guitars all over again was a real pleasure and there weren’t really any major surprises or disappointments. I wasn’t planning on comparing or ranking the returnees. There was, however, one guitar that stood out above all the rest during the process.

It was… drum roll please… the cool 1965 Fender Jazzmaster. It is an all‑original, pre‑CBS standard sunburst Jazzmaster, so there is nothing particularly unusual about it to differentiate it from any other of the period. Once it was resurrected, fairly nearly the end of the programme, it was the one that I just couldn’t put down and I kept playing and playing if for several weeks before I was compelled to move on. The Jazzmaster must have had some fairy dust sprinkled on it for it to stand out from very tough competition.

1965 Fender Jazzmaster

I consider myself to be very fortunate not only to have had all the guitars but also to re‑experience them for a second time. I am therefore largely content with my lot, despite the hellish privations in getting through the wicked times to this redemptive point.

What next?

Well, the obvious next thing to do is to play and enjoy them. That is, after all, the whole point of having these things in the first place, isn’t it? They can’t all be played at once, so organising them so that they can have equal opportunity for playtime will be important.

That brings us back to an oft‑repeated bugbear of mine, which is my priority to refurbish the house’s currently unused cellar to make a safe and secure home for them all. In the meantime, they are arranged not too badly, so they can be accessed without too much heavy lifting.

While I have worked through the vast majority of the repatriated guitars, these only represent about two thirds of all the instruments here at CRAVE Guitars. There are also the other 24 guitars (and counting), some of which could well do with the same sort of pampering that the returnees have had, and some also need similar remedial work to, for instance, frets, electrics, etc.

1967 Gibson Melody Maker SG

I think the cycle of TLC is a continuous one. Once one cycle has been finished, it will be time to start another one. It is a bit like the metaphor of ‘painting the Forth Bridge’, i.e. an on‑going, repetitive and never ending process. Almost the definition of Sisyphean. At least it is a pedestrian task that I can enjoy as therapy from the mad, mad world unravelling outside my little hikikomorian bubble.

While the focus of this article has been on the guitars, there are also effect pedals and amplifiers that need regular attention and some of which were repatriated alongside the guitars. The same basic principles apply to keeping them in tip‑top shape, even though their needs are different.

I don’t need to sell any guitars although a bit of rationalising and trading up may actually be a good idea. The thing is that I’m not one of those people who regularly buys and sells to keep a constant flow of ‘new’ (to me) guitars coming through. I tend to grow an attachment to guitars, and especially these guitars that have been through so much at my expense. There is maybe a small number that I could part with to make space for something else. It’s just whether I can break the emotional ties. Oh, that and the impending global recession will undoubtedly have a bearing on matters.

There will also inevitably be further additions to the ‘collection’ in due course. I can’t see it getting smaller but I can certainly envisage it getting bigger. However, due to the finite constraints of space, time and money, buying anything else is on hold for a while out of plain old and boring necessity.

Help Needed

I mentioned in the last article that vintage guitars, effects and amps need expert attention from time to time to keep them working at their best, so this is basically a reiteration. If there is someone out there with the requisite skillset to help maintain these treasures, and who is local to SE Cornwall in the UK, I would be interested in exploring opportunities. Is there anyone out there attracted to the proposition? If there is, please contact me at the e-mail address at the bottom of every page on the website.

Learning points

Well, having gone through all of the above, I must have learned something, right?

Probably the most important lesson is simply, ‘don’t do what I did’. Don’t store guitars away for long periods, especially in inappropriate environmental conditions. I couldn’t help what happened to me and I did what I had to do using my best judgement at the time. In retrospect, I am not sure what I could have done differently and retain the guitars. I ‘swear to God’ that I don’t ever want to go through that experience again.

The second lesson is ‘to take your time and not rush in’. To do so would risk the integrity of the guitars. After all that time away, a few more weeks waiting to be sorted out made no difference in the big picture. A measured approach worked wonders and also took a lot of the potential stress out of the process. In effect, instead of a single insurmountable task, breaking it down into manageable steps made it more of a therapeutic and cathartic exercise.

The third lesson is to ‘do what you can and do not do any more’. Leave the other stuff to the experts. Be prudent and cautious about what you undertake. Any foolish actions might well prove to be irreversible and therefore regrettable. One also really doesn’t want to make them look like new; they are old and they are meant to look and feel that way. Conserving these artefacts is important, while preserving them (proverbially ‘pickling them in aspic’) is not. Sensitive refurbishment means accepting that what they are is a direct result of what happened to them and to be happy about it. That doesn’t, however, mean that they should now be neglected all over again. They can be played, enjoyed, maintained and kept in good condition, no problem. They’ve survived this long; my job is to ensure that they survive for a long time after me.

That is really it. Three fundamental, profound and straightforward learning points. Simples! The vista of glorious vintage guitars has been re‑opened to me, so that is one thing to celebrate for sure. The haptic experience of playing these gracefully aging instruments has been restored at long last.

Tailpiece

So, that represents some of their story, revealed at long last. After a year‑and‑a‑half, I can finally say that I am relatively pleased with how things are and no longer over‑anxious about what I might find. Why am I not over the moon? Any overwhelming joy or excitement has been surpassed by the detriment of the past decade that I cannot obliviate.

There is still plenty to do, even in one’s splendidly isolated silo of virus‑induced exile. The short‑term aim is largely to continue on the path already set, while also looking forward more ambitiously to the medium‑to‑long‑term future. I have a plan; it is executing the plan that is the problem. That, ultimately, comes down to filthy lucre.

Anyway, that’s two out of the three catch‑up topics now dealt with. I hope you’ll be willing and able to return for another tasty course of ‘whazzup’ delights next month.

Stay safe and hope you continue to survive the coronapocalypse. Remember that the basis of karma is to ‘be good and do good’. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars’ ‘Quote of the Month’: “Addiction to false beliefs is equivalent to wronging the world’s rights”

© 2020 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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May 2020 – The Story of Modern Music in 1,500+ Facts – Part XIV

Introduction

Hello and welcome back for some more rambling discourse from CRAVE Guitars. It seems the world is still in the firm grip of the deadly COVID‑19 ‘coronageddon’. My thoughts and wishes go out to everyone directly affected. Trusting that you are surviving the latest global health crisis, thank you again for tipping up here for a bit of idle distraction.

Dah, Dah! Here we are, at last. After 14 fun, fact‑filled fragments, it seems that we have, finally, come to the end of this major venture, summing up post‑Renaissance musical development up to the current day. By the end of this article, we’ll not only have brought things pretty much up‑to‑date but also we’ll take a look at the current state of the musical landscape, as well as take a speculative look into the near future.

As is customary, if you would like to (re)visit any of the first 13 parts of the story (and 370 years) to‑date, you can do so here (each link opens a new browser tab):

Loose Ends – 2020 so far

Historical Context 2020

Compared with previous decades, stating the obvious, we are only at the very beginning of the 2020s. There is therefore little to report thus far. However, these early doors events will have profound and long‑lasting consequences for humanity. Behind the stark headlines, the trend for both capitalist and communist systems is one that permits or even encourages a ‘privileged’ elite to implement systematic, cynical and cruel punishment of those in poverty and the oppression of the vulnerable. Meanwhile, the rise of the populist far right seems to be gathering momentum, threatened by on‑going economic migration.

Year

Global Events

2020

Devastating bush fires in eastern Australia, known as the ‘Black Summer’ started in 2019 and continued into 2020. The fires burned 18.6 million hectares (46 million acres, 186,000 square kilometres, 72,000 square miles), killing an estimated 1 billion animals, 34 people and destroying nearly 6,000 buildings.

 

After much political turmoil, the UK formally withdrew from the European Union (EU) after 47 years of membership, triggering an 11‑month transition period to agree trade arrangements between the UK and the EU.

 

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, the worst since the SARS outbreak in the early 2000s. The virus pandemic emanated in China and spread to more than 210 countries. Worldwide confirmed cases exceed 5.8 million with more than 360,000 deaths. Major stock market crashes precipitated an inevitable global economic recession alongside massive social disruption.

Musical Facts 2020

Day

Month

Year

Music Fact

7

January

2020

Canadian musician and songwriter, best known as the drummer of the rock band Rush, Neil Peart died of aggressive brain cancer in Santa Monica, California at the age of 67.

1

February

2020

English guitarist, producer and founder of post-punk rock band Gang Of Four, Andy Gill died of pneumonia in London at the age of 64.

29

March

2020

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2020’, including The Doobie Brothers, Whitney Houston, Depeche Mode, T.Rex, The Notorious B.I.G. and Nine Inch Nails.

25

February

2020

American guitarist, songwriter and co-founder of alternative rock duo Mazzy Star, David Roback died from metastatic cancer in Los Angeles, California at the age of 61.

20

March

2020

American country music legend, singer, songwriter, actor, producer and businessman, Kenny Rogers died from natural causes at his home in Sandy Springs, Georgia at the age of 81.

3

April

2020

Award-winning American soul singer, songwriter and guitarist, Bill Withers died from heart complications in Los Angeles, California at the age of 81.

7

April

2020

Award-winning and influential American country singer, songwriter and guitarist, John Prine died as a consequence of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 73.

9

May

2020

American rock ‘n’ roll pioneer, singer, songwriter, and musician, Little Richard died from bone cancer in Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 87.

The Current and Future of Modern Music

Alrighty, now we are up‑to‑date with real‑world current events, there is one last thing for me to do before formally concluding this long‑running series. Up to now, everything has been retrospective, factual and objective. Now, it’s time to take an off‑road diversion for the rest of this article, which comprises the author’s forward looking and wholly biased subjective value judgements. You have been warned!

To wrap things up, I thought it was worth both a critique of where we are now, as well as a speculative look forward at the short‑term future for modern music. Looking any further forward than the near future is relatively pointless. In the absence of the proverbial crystal ball, we can only venture a few thoughts about what future generations might encounter. Let’s begin with the recent past and where we are now.

A ‘Millennial’ Critique

A number of things seem to be influencing music development in the first quarter of the 21st Century. For convenience, this ‘analysis’ is split into 3 separate but interdependent themes. These themes are not only sequential but also part of a continuous feedback loop that changes the dynamic between the parameters continuously over time. The 3 key factors that are defining our current relationship with music are:

  1. How we make and perform music
  2. How we distribute and access music
  3. How we listen and respond to music

I’d like to say at this point that, while hindsight can certainly aid clarity, it’s really too soon to be conclusive and definitive. It is a pretty ambitious task, so let’s get going and see where it leads us…

1. Making and Performing Music

It is logical to presume that the proportion of the population that creates music is significantly smaller than the percentage that listens to what is created. This hasn’t changed since music began. Likewise, the instruments that musicians use to create music have not changed fundamentally for a long period of time. Taking most modern musical styles as an example, singing is singing, guitars are guitars, basses are basses, drums are drums and keyboards are keyboards… well, you get the drift. However, the way they are used and combined in composing and arranging music has changed significantly since the dawn of the digital age, which started to have a major impact in the 1980s.

The time‑honoured fashion of getting some mates together, forming a band, coming up with some decent songs, playing them live to an audience, hopefully getting a recording contract, going into the studio and laying down an album with a few singles and taking things from there has largely now gone. Yes, it still may be the route for many aspiring musicians but it is no longer the only route. Arguably, the dependence on the old processes has been broken.

Technology has pretty much redefined the landscape. The concept of a ‘band’ has changed, being replaced either by solo efforts or by much more fluid collaborative, collective and cameo approaches.

Similarly, the reliance on large recording studios has also been challenged. Many musicians now never even see each other in person and don’t even have to be on the same continent. The crucial role of session musicians, along with expert audio engineers, is under threat, affecting the livelihoods of many. It has become commonplace to share music files over the Internet, rather than embark on ‘full‑band’ studio recording as was commonplace in the past.

Music can now be created from start to finish in pretty much any location. Digital recording tools have revolutionised the ability to record music pretty much anywhere by anyone. A company called Soundstream developed the first digital recorder back in 1977 and, with the advent of commonplace home computers, Windows-based audio recording came on the scene around 1994. Recognising the potential, digital editing was quickly adopted by professional studios and the user interface has generally become based on replicating the studio mixing desk. The advent of the computer‑based DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) means that musicians are no longer restricted to using the large scale recording studios of the past. At its most basic, all that is needed is an audio interface using an ADC (Analogue to Digital Converter) to change sound waves into sampled ‘0’s and ‘1’s that can be manipulated within the DAW software on a PC or Mac and stored on a hard disc or SSD. Examples of today’s high quality DAWs include Pro Tools, Logic Pro, Cubase, Reason, Live, Studio One and Garageband.

For musicians, Internet‑based tutorials and digital modelling provide infinite opportunities that were inconceivable for previous generations. Technology now provides virtually limitless choice throughout the creative process. The downside of exploring endless permutations of options is that the technology can become an end in itself, rather than the means. As legendary producer Quincy Jones said, “If you don’t fully understand music, you end up working for the technology instead of the technology working for you”. These opportunities do not, of course (?), necessarily make for better music. Nothing can replace practice and hard work which, along with talent, make for great musicians. On the plus side, it may well mean that talented creative artists can now be heard where in the past they may have struggled in obscurity. However, it also means that there is a great deal of mediocre and often lazy music making to flood our everyday lives.

As mentioned in previous articles, the diversity of (sub‑) genres has proliferated since the millennium. No longer is it easy to talk about the simple and clear divisions between rock, reggae, funk, metal, country, pop, etc. The blurring of genre definitions makes it difficult to articulate what one might expect from an artist. In fact, being intentionally provocative, one might suggest that the homogenisation of modern music output has led to a bland and featureless musical landscape making it tough for talented creative musicians to be noticed. This increasingly diffusive effect is likely to continue and make it harder and harder to separate the wheat from the chaff. Many modern pieces of music are manufactured without skill and often even without an instrument in the traditional sense being used at all. This is not to suggest that musical ability has been compromised, far from it. Talking from the perspective of a guitarist, there are many, many exceptional musicians out there that it is problematic to stand out from a very capable crowd. It seems counter‑intuitive to say that increased ability is leading to a general stagnation of musical individualism. The technology is not to blame, it is how people use it that may be the culprit.

We will move onto distribution and listening habits in due course. However, I mentioned earlier that the factors are interdependent and there is a constant feedback loop to the start of the process. What I mean here is that, in the past, a band might have created a coherent collection of tracks that formed an album with the intention that those tracks are listened to in sequence from beginning to end in one session. Nowadays the distribution and listening habits have substantially changed the way that musicians are approaching song writing. The focus is increasingly on short soundbites that can be consumed in isolation without context. The lack of discrimination in the end‑to‑end process can lead inevitably to a lack of shrewd production in an ever‑decreasing spiral of unremarkable averageness.

The passionate anger and frustration of youth‑induced music‑making seems sadly lacking, being replaced by indolence, fed by unopposed uniformity and conformity. Previous musical revolutions have often been accompanied by reckless and rebellious behaviour with resentful citizens butting heads with authority and rejecting established shared societal conventions. Music was hard-edged and lyrics often used socially provocative language about sex, drugs and/or anti‑establishment activities. Where music may once have been used to articulate heartfelt protests about political tensions, for instance war, poverty or injustice, it has become replaced by yearnings for selfish privilege, celebrity status and competitive wealth.

Many traditional genres have been straight‑jacketed by conformist ‘rules’ (classical, blues and bluegrass are prime examples) that constrain their evolution unless it becomes fused with other genres in an attempt to create something ‘new and different’, e.g. alt‑country, dubstep, grime or nu‑jazz. Where will the next revolutionary game changers come from, if anywhere, and how will they manifest? Well… if we knew that, we’d be investing in them right now. So… are we predestined to a future of ever‑more standardised mediocrity? I sincerely hope not. We need something spirited to stir up the system and shock us into collective action to support radical change, rather than to reinforce the constantly regurgitated status quo.

Technology also means that the live music experience (and its economic importance) has changed, probably more for artists than it has for audiences so far. Playing live music has altered the way we might listen to an artist’s catalogue. While the stadium bands are still filling massive venues, many of these are either long‑standing industry stalwarts or over‑hyped popular artists pandering to a heavily marketed target audience. Festivals are another matter altogether, where attendees tend to go for a more expansive musical experience, rather than being drawn by a single band. It is hard to see where the future generations of lifelong professional artists is going to come from, able to reinvent themselves in line with changing tastes and consumer demands over the course of a long career.

Venues’ PA systems have become very refined and are much quieter and more ‘hi-fi’, changing the visceral experience of concerts of the past, perhaps appealing more to the head than the heart. A silent stage with in‑ear monitoring and no traditional backline is a very strange environment in which musicians now increasingly play live together. Being contentious again, many ‘live’ performances now feature pre‑recorded (sampled and played back) tracks behind solo vocal artists performing without an apparent backing band. The spontaneous variability of a live performance has been replaced by predictable and faultless replication of recorded music. The audience focus at huge events is increasingly focused on the visual spectacle, rather than the musicians. The Musicians’ Union does what it can to look after working musicians’ interests and to promote live performance within a radically new equilibrium.

We will have to wait and see what happens to concerts and festivals once the worst of the coronavirus is over. Most 2020 festivals have been cancelled and very few are covered by insurance for the impact of the pandemic. This means that many familiar annual outdoor music events may never recover and will fade into history. Arenas and smaller indoor venues that rely on multiple event organisations are likely to fare better, although social distancing measures may curb attendance at gigs, pubs and clubs for some significant time yet.

Interestingly, despite the frequent and fervent proclamations that ‘guitar music is dead’, I firmly believe that the world’s favourite instrument will continue to provide a cornerstone of music innovation for years to come.

Right. Having laid well and truly into the superficial malaise affecting music creation and performance, let’s move onto distribution.

2. Distributing and Accessing Music

Without delving too far back into history, it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on the how music gets from the musician into the ears of the listener.

Records – American inventor and businessman, Thomas Edison introduced the phonograph in c.1877 before the flat disc 78rpm ‘record’ was launched around 1898. It wasn’t until 1931 that the concept of the 12” 331/3rpm vinyl record was created by RCA Victor, while the LP ‘album’ took time before becoming popularised by Columbia Records from 1948. The monaural, double‑sided 7” 45rpm single was released in 1949 by RCA Victor to replace the ‘78’. The compact cassette, originally seen as a viable alternative to vinyl records was introduced by Philips in 1963. In 1983, Sony and Philips released the Digital Compact Disc (CD) format in a further attempt to usurp old‑fashioned vinyl records.

Radio – Guglielmo Marconi made his first radio broadcast in 1901 and the BBC started UK radio transmissions in 1922. The first experimental radio broadcast of music was made in 1919 in Australia and began to be popularised during the 1920s. Radio Luxembourg began in 1933 as one of the earliest commercial radio stations broadcasting to the UK and an important forerunner of unlicensed ‘pirate’ radio, including Radio Caroline in 1964. Stereo radio broadcasting didn’t appear until 1962 when the BBC began experimental stereo broadcasting in the London area. The Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation launched the first Digital Audio Broadcast (DAB) radio channel in 1995, shortly followed by the BBC in the UK and Swedish Radio.

Television – The BBC’s television public service began in 1932, based on the system developed by Scottish inventor John Logie Baird. By 1936, Marconi/EMI introduced a ‘high-definition electronic’ television service in the UK. Colour television broadcasts began in Britain in 1967. Digital Satellite TV was introduced by Rupert Murdoch’s News International Sky Television in 1989. The move to digital TV enabled much higher definition video and audio to be broadcast over significantly larger numbers of channels.

Streaming – Digital multimedia streaming is an Internet‑based delivery method that began to appear in the early 1990s. The first widely adopted standard digital format for audio was the MP3, released in 1993, which uses ‘lossy’ data compression to reduce file size by discarding inaudible information. The first successful MP3 player was introduced by AMP in 1997. Streaming (rental) is differentiated from downloading (ownership). The former means accessing an on‑demand electronic resource stored on a provider’s server while the latter involves the actual transfer of a digital video or audio file to the end‑user. Listening to a digital audio stream requires some sort of media player that uses a DAC (Digital to Analogue Converter) to re‑convert digital ‘1’s and ‘0’s into sound waves.

Prior to WWII, broadcasting was predominantly by radio and television while physical media was largely the preserve of vinyl records. Music distribution became considerably more varied in the post‑WWII boom period. Music became routinely available through physical media, whether it was vinyl, compact cassette or many other formats including 8‑track and reel-to-reel. Even wireless radio and television broadcasts largely relied on the profitable sales of physical media to consumers. Since the digital revolution began, other formats have become available including CD, DAT, Mini Disc, SACD and DVD Audio.

Looking back, things seemed ever so simple. Music fans listened to radio or watched TV and latched onto something they liked. In order to access and archive permanently what they wanted to listen to, fans would take their precious money to the record shop and buy the latest release from their favoured artist. They would take it home, treasure it and play it repeatedly as part of a record collection. Music sharing was possible through portable media such as cassette ‘mixtapes’. However the seemingly miraculous resurrection of the outmoded delivery system we know as vinyl by a vehemently Luddite section of the population suggests that archaic channels may be far from dead and buried.

With digital files, there is nothing tangible to see or feel. Modern distribution channels also mean that not as much effort is put into album artwork these days. There are many, many great examples of cover art from the LP era that have become iconic. If the co‑dependency between the album and artwork is lost in the digital age, it will be a loss that will sadly be little noticed. Similarly, the idea of a ‘special edition’ including additional content and merchandise has become the preserve of reissuing material on older non‑digital formats.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, there was the massively important but relatively short‑lived cable‑TV phenomenon, comprising exciting new music channels such as MTV and VH‑1, based predominantly on the broadcast of highly innovative music videos with huge production budgets. As the medium became mainstreamed, music television has been overtaken by the likes of Internet‑based video streaming services such as YouTube, Vevo, Vimeo, Netflix and Hulu, relying heavily on subscribers for economic viability.

The American music streaming service Napster was founded by Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker in 1999 as a pioneering peer‑to‑peer (P2P) file sharing service that put the emphasis on digital distribution over the Internet. While Napster allegedly infringed many copyright and royalty laws, it played an important part because it started the now‑widespread streaming of audio files (MP3, WAV, FLAC, etc.) including High‑Res Audio. Today, there is an abundance of digital music streaming providers including subscription services such as Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, Tidal, Roon, Qobuz, Amazon Music, Google Play, Rhapsody, Pandora and Groove among many others.

Musical artists understandably set about exploiting dedicated online digital platforms to get their music heard, such as SoundCloud and Bandcamp. The returns for artists from streaming are very low and rely on massive numbers of listens to earn the sort of money that successful bands of the past might have enjoyed from traditional record sales.

Compare the 20th Century’s collectable commodity with the 21st Century’s disposable produce, where music has become a throwaway commodity that is rarely valued and seldom scrutinised for musical merit. When ephemerally experienced over the Internet’s latest streaming service, music is no longer ‘possessed’ as a prized, tangible asset. Music can be accessed conveniently and added effortlessly to massive libraries of digital files. Perhaps the milestone introduction of the Apple iPod, iPhone and iTunes library in 2001 was a precursor to the current fetish for the random accumulation of quantity over selective quality. Following Apple Inc.’s audio innovations, it became clear that mobile personal media devices were a vitally important way forward for both distributors and consumers.

Furthermore, you can’t sell or donate digital files like you could a vinyl record or CD. This virtually kills the second‑hand market stone dead. It is becoming increasingly hard for record/CD collectors to spend hours thumbing through racks to find and recycle a rare gem, and thereby preserve it for future generations. Talking of browsing, scanning the Internet is not the same as visiting a record shop and discovering something you weren’t looking for and taking a risky punt with your hard‑earned cash. Bricks and mortar record shops are mostly a thing of the past and those that remain are niche independent specialist stores rather than mainstream chains. Familiar retail names such as Our Price, Virgin Records and Tower Records have disappeared from our high streets. In the UK, HMV is the sole survivor, at least for the time being.

Much of the change is being driven by the same giant media corporations that have ‘managed’ the system in the past, including Sony, Universal and Warner Brothers. The one thing that is consistent is the role of money as a fundamental incentive. Marketing is now targeting the consumer with what the distributors want you to have. One could argue that nothing has really changed but it has. Aggressive online profiling has replaced passive advertising. Providers limit your ability to explore and be curious, even if you had the time and opportunity to do so. Companies like Apple, Google and Facebook continuously accumulate and analyse ‘big data’, so they know far more about you and what you (think you) want than you do. I guess it depends on whether you believe the conspiracy theorists that this is a threat to individuals’ privacy and freedoms or not.

As consumers, you’d think that we would want to influence the way we are fed with product by remote and faceless corporations. Strange as it may seem, we appear to be sublimely acquiescent to the institutions that increasingly dictate our interests for us. It seems we no longer stop to think deeply about the consequences of our actions and, as a result, we become complicit and no longer able to make conscious decisions about what we really need or want. Perhaps this compliant behaviour has become habitual and has maybe it has actually exacerbated our inability to care about the issues.

So, where is this taking us? Well, it seems that the thin end of the wedge that separated emotion from music began shortly before the turn of the millennium and I cannot see it changing much. Internet streaming and spookily intelligent push notifications are here to stay and we’d better get used to it. The companies that struggled with adapting from the old to new ways have invested heavily in their strategic version of the future that it will be hard to change it now. It isn’t all bad news. There are a few old geeks out there keeping the values of free‑spirited ‘record collecting’ alive and passing on the importance of worthy recorded music to younger generations. Vinyl is resurgent in the 2020s and CDs aren’t faced with oblivion just yet, so there is still a hope for niche physical media and the important sense of joy and ownership that goes along with it… but for how long?

Although we’ve already covered some of the ground, let’s move onto the end user of music and how listening habits are changing.

3. Listening and Responding to Music

The human psyche, it seems, is hardwired to respond to music in a similar way as for other forms of artistic expression, such as literature, art and film. It almost seems that we have little or no choice in the matter. As a sweeping generalisation, we have largely become overloaded and desensitised to many external stimuli to the point that we filter it out of our consciousness. Musicians of the future will need to find ever more creative ways of catching our attention and tapping into our deepest emotions. At its slightest, our involuntary reaction to powerful music is when the hairs on your neck stand up and/or your heart rate increases. At its strongest, music can evoke physiological and behavioural responses such as foot‑tapping, dancing, anger, smiling or anguish. It also gives us plenty to talk about.

However we might sense it, music is a universal language based on the mathematical and physical laws of the universe. Scientifically, human physical audio receptors are restricted to a narrow perceptible spectrum (around 30hz‑20khz), meaning that we are prohibited from hearing or using infra and ultra sounds. While it is true that the possible permutations of the notes within the constricted auditory spectrum is finite, optimists might suggest that different forms of musical expression are only limited by our imagination.

Enthusiasts might contend that humankind as a species cannot thrive without music in some form or other. Artistic endeavour and appreciation is a necessity that sets Homo sapiens apart from other species. Music is, however, far from just a collection of scientific rules systematically moulded into a structured format, it is a crucial way of conveying feelings and emotions in ways that words alone cannot. Music is not something that we just hear. At its most powerful, it is something fundamental that we experience and something that stays with us throughout our lives. This reliance means that music will endure in some form or other.

One way to look at what’s happening is to consider the human experience of music as a continuum. At one extreme, the vast majority of output becomes increasingly homogenised and artificial, consumed with little effort and even less emotional connection. Commercially produced music has and will become increasingly commoditised, driven by fervent capitalism. At the other extreme, musicians continue to experiment with innovative ways to communicate with anyone prepared to listen, often demanding the listener to pay close attention in order to appreciate its merits. For those in search of something fresh, discovering meaningful music will require greater effort in order to reap subsequent rewards. In between these polar opposites will be all manner of output that revives and recycles existing material in some form or other.

One human trait is that we try to compartmentalise what we listen to, so we tend to seek convenient categories into which we fit, prioritise, communicate and share our preferences. As we exhaust the opportunities to create something profoundly new, we will continue to try and fit new music into pre-determined pigeonholes – it is just that the pigeonholes increase in number but decrease in capacity. In the last 10‑20 years, there has been a distinct blurring and fusing of genre definitions and the proliferation of sub-genre archetypes. The human capacity for radical creativity will, however, continue to flourish around the margins as sub-genres become ever more fragmented. It is now becoming increasingly difficult to predict what our future selves will regard as classic mould‑breaking music. In the same way that traditional genres are becoming less fertile, the concept of the landmark ‘album’ will become increasingly less relevant, if indeed there will be such things in the future.

We should, perhaps, remember that most music listeners are not musicians and therefore measure experiential value by completely different criteria. I have long wondered why people listen to the music they do. What makes one person a hardcore metal head, while someone else will politely appreciate classical music or another goes clubbing? There is an element here of both nature (what our brains might be hardwired to like) and nurture (as a result of upbringing, experience and environment). That debate is for another article at another time. However, diversity does tend to factor into the discussion about how and why the same people listen to music, yet differ in their preferences.

As with the earlier parts of the musical supply chain process, there has been a consequent shift in listening habits. Firstly, it seems that many people don’t actually ‘listen’ to music as a discrete activity like they used to. More likely they consume it while multi‑tasking and listening to compressed digitised files through low‑quality audio devices. The historical infatuation with pricey high fidelity equipment has, perhaps, been overtaken by a quest for convenience and affordability. The ‘hi‑fi’ system is now generally something that older generations consider an essential delivery system and they tend to use outmoded physical media to feed their serious listening activities. For many, though, music has become just a background soundtrack to their lives.

It is unclear whether the current trend for idle digestion as a tertiary activity is going to change significantly any time soon. I don’t see any signs of a reinvigoration of the passion that music can command of the human spirit and the way it can deeply impact on our mood and behaviour. It will take some profound discontent with the way things are to make people consciously change their behaviour. This sounds like the disgruntlement of a ‘grumpy old man’. Well, if there is some basis for truth in these dissatisfied observations then, yes, I’m guilty of being angry for the sake of it. However, I would like to think that there are sufficient numbers of people somewhere out there that might just agree with this jaundiced world view and want to change things for the better. It is clear that change won’t come about by accepting things as they are and it will take conscious action to motivate a desire for a new musical revolt. Goodness knows, we need it. It happened with blues and jazz at the beginning of the 1900s, rock ‘n’ roll in the 1950s, rock in the 1960s, punk in the 1970s, electronica in the 1980s and grunge in the 1990s. Since then? Nada, zilch. I look forward to seeing what the next act of social insurrection is likely to be.

If given the opportunity, do people actually enjoy the activity of listening to music in the way previous generations did? The answer is, I think, yes they do. The mechanics are very different from the past and that in itself is probably a good thing. Just because older generations see modern trends as divergent, it doesn’t mean that change should be regarded as bad. The willingness to adapt continually is fundamental to mankind’s future. I do believe that we are going through a phase where people are comfortably content to take what they are given, rather than make the effort to search actively for something they might actually prefer. I believe that, given an appropriate impetus, many people actually want something to stir the emotions more than the plain fodder of casual acceptance. Is this bland optimism? Possibly.

As a musician, I am concerned that the average person doesn’t care enough about the value associated with the years of hard work and practice that goes into trying to create something for others to listen to and appreciate. It is frustrating when this effort is ignored. This stuff matters, it really does. However, it seems that I am in the minority. I would like to take some sort of stand here but it feels like a pointless exercise, which I guess makes me part of the problem, not the solution!

After researching 370 years of music and global history over the last year‑and‑a bit, I have learned that music will keep adapting and changing to reflect the prevailing culture. Musicians will buck the trend and push the boundaries and people will respond positively to those changes. Whether the change is good or bad really doesn’t matter, as long as real change takes place. While I cannot foresee what the next uprising will be, I predict that there will be one at some point and it will change the way people perceive and react to music once again.

As both an avid listener and the aforementioned ‘miserable old git’, I will probably object to the way it goes but, let’s be honest, wasn’t it ever thus? That seemingly inevitable generational disconnect actually has to be a good thing and something to embrace. Fortunately I don’t fall into the trap of considering anything made in the last 10 years as ‘just noise’ (even if it is), so hopefully the next 10 years will be pleasantly noise free. It has become commonplace to refer to music that one doesn’t like as crap or dismiss it as rubbish, whereas more likely, the music just doesn’t resonate with one’s beliefs, norms and value system.

Personally, I am constantly searching for something that moves me and makes me think. Alongside the old classics, there are plenty of emerging and aspiring new artists trying to convey their version of reality into our eardrums. I lap up new music just as eagerly as I can enjoy the familiar old stuff. My inherent curiosity will keep me vainly searching hard for the next thing to surprise and intrigue me. As ever, the journey of discovery includes as much music that I don’t really like as much as the music that I do. One thing is absolutely for sure; there is some fantastic music being made out there by some great musicians, it just takes a bit of hard work to discover it, own it and enjoy it.

The Future of Modern Music

Right, after a great deal of introductory exposition, let’s get right to the crux of the last article in the series. Below, I present to you, 8 thought‑provoking and potentially contentious ‘visions’ of the future of music, spanning the next few years/decades:

  1. Simulated artists – The fictional band was popularised by The Archies way back in 1968 and the virtual band has been around since Gorillaz animations emerged in 1998. The truly simulated pop singer that is not human behind the scenes is actually already here. One of Japan’s biggest pop stars, Hatsune Miku, is – shock horror – not a real person. ‘She’ is a Vocaloid software voicebank developed by Crypton Future Media, visualised as a strikingly pretty 16‑year old female avatar with long turquoise twintails. Expect more of the same until we can’t tell the difference between synthesis and reality. We have also seen holographic ‘tours’ with dead artists seemingly being resurrected for new concerts. Artists such as Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Nat King Cole and Roy Orbison have all performed from beyond the grave. The next step may well be for these (and other) long‑since‑passed artists to interact in real time with an audience and a live band as if they were alive. Already, a frighteningly high proportion of music is currently recorded electronically without musical instruments, why not take it a stage further and interact purely with digitally created musicians playing digitally produced music? If you think that replacing (and paying) musicians with computer code is new, think again. Researchers have been using AI (Artificial Intelligence) to experiment with creating synthetic music for some time, being carried out by technology giants like IBM and Google among others.

  1. Virtual concerts – Once again, it’s already with us. Artists are already performing in one location and streaming video and audio of the ‘live’ concert to the audience’s far-flung locations. Watching your favourite band play live in your living room is a reality, if not yet routine. Currently, the medium is mainly delivered through via traditional TV or cinema. Using remote technology means removing the limits to venue capacity, reducing health & safety restrictions and improving environmental sustainability. VR (Virtual Reality) headsets and AR (Augmented Reality) may extend the creative possibilities considerably, including 3D, starting around now. With coronavirus shutting down the commercial live concert experience, VR is likely to be used to fill a gap in the market. Companies like NextVR, Oculus, Facebook and Sony are already well on the case and are rapidly refining the technology for mainstream mass consumption.
  1. Tokenising content – Tokenising intellectual property rights is on the verge of becoming commonplace using Blockchain technology. The concept of tokenising content means a creating a direct experiential connection between the artist and the consumer through cryptocurrency monetisation such as Bitcoin. The technology results in sharing of exclusive limited personalised content and merchandising opportunities. It seems that, where there is music, there will be large commercial corporations and empire-building individuals wanting to strip money from you in exchange for that ‘special relationship’ with your music idols. You may not have heard about some of the pioneering R&D companies, including Ujo, Choon, Viberate, Musicoin, Emusic, Voise, Mycelia, MusicLife, Bitsong, DigiMark, Blockpool, Audius and Inmusic, but expect the most promising candidates to be swallowed up by the acquisitive multinational tech giants very soon.
  1. Neuralinks – The term Neuralink was unveiled by technology entrepreneur Elon Musk as a means to bypass biological visual and auditory receptors (i.e. our eyes and ears). Taking the experience well beyond mobile devices and smart systems, we will dispense with speakers and screens to be replaced with direct computer‑to‑brain interfaces. The technology uses AI to curate music on the fly to suit mood, physiology, biometrics and taste. Consumers will potentially be able to create their own music in real time, initially consciously but potentially entirely unconsciously. Eventually, the technology may be used to ‘push’ instructions to control human actions rather than a means to ‘fetch’ content for entertainment. Physicality as we know it may ultimately become irrelevant before too long. Don’t believe me? Be careful what you wish for and watch this space…
  1. Death of physical media – It seems unlikely that any new physical media formats will be released now that the technology is focusing on broadband and digital transmission as the way forward. Experience has, however, shown us that some forms of tangible media have proved very hard to kill off. However, with technology advancing at an unprecedented rate, we may well see vinyl, CDs and the like finally disappear, as will the retail outlets that sell them. While the future will be 100% digital, fans of analogue media will resist bitterly until the very end but obsolescence is finally a foreseeable outcome within, say, 20‑30 years. New generations will readily adopt a digital ‘new normal’ and archaic physical media will ultimately meet its long overdue demise. Like records, record labels and record companies may well cease to exist as we know them today, becoming replaced by technology companies that care more about return on investment than creative purpose.
  1. Artists and genres – The idea of the rock superstar as a brand in its own right and dominating a discrete genre for years will pass into history. The will be fewer billionaire artists with 50+‑year careers, prestigious awards and numerous multi‑platinum albums to their name. Expensive artist relations will come and go as the corporate investment shifts to the predictable music product rather than volatile celebrity artists. Music is likely to be increasingly recycled and reused, rather than revolutionary. While the threat of moving into a world of ‘fake music’ (see above) is still someway off, the transition is likely to be gradual and therefore insidious. Music as a meaningful reflection of culture and society is likely to become more tenuous than it has been, without real modern‑day troubadours to tell the relatable stories of our generation. Music may well become a passive and uncritical description of the status quo, rather than a positive force able to change the world.
  1. Crossovers – We tend to think of music as discrete from other art forms. Arguably film/TV and video gaming are closest mediums to music and there are many instances of the visual/audio lines already becoming blurred. Although music soundtracks have been with us for over a century, the major change actually began with music videos 30 years ago and the trend will carry on. The cross‑fertilisation will continue to expand our experiential boundaries considerably as the technology develops. Think this is new? Inventor Major General George Owen Squier was credited with inventing a system of telephone carrier multiplexing in 1910, which was developed into the original technical basis for environmental Muzak (a.k.a. elevator music). Background music is now everywhere around us, so much so that we rarely even notice it, and it will continue to encroach subliminally into new areas of our lives.
  1. The real thing – Although one can predict the direct physical disconnection of the artist from the consumer, the natural inclination of human beings to congregate and participate in collective activities is strong and there will always be a place for performing live music to a live audience. Currently, no virtual experience can compete with live concert or festival attendance. Think of attending a massive music festival like Glastonbury without the rain, mud, tents, food, jostling to be ‘down at the front’ and queuing for toilets! VR hasn’t quite got that whole ‘being there’ side things solved just yet. The inimitable dynamics of a gigging experience will undoubtedly change but any short‑term falloff in live performances will hopefully rebound… eventually.

There you go. Does this represent a dream come true or a nightmare scenario? Does anyone want to bet against any of these eight ‘visions?’ of music’s ‘Brave New World’ (ref. Aldous Huxley)? Well, firstly, I don’t wager and secondly, I won’t be around long enough to collect if I’m right, so the question is largely moot. Whether the future is utopian, dystopian or, more likely, an uncomfortable compromise somewhere in between is largely down to us as creative musicians and willing audience members to determine. When discussing any future possibilities, it is unwise to ignore the ingenuity of human beings to invent something new when it really matters. Ultimately, it all depends on how much we care. Paraphrasing Clark Gable’s character, Rhett Butler in the 1939 film epic, ‘Gone With The Wind’, frankly, my dear, I do give a damn!

As far as musical instruments are concerned, the technology will continue to develop unbounded by the strictures of the past. However, real instruments will endure for some considerable time yet. Just as humans need to make music, we need the best tools to undertake the challenging task. Back to ‘guitars are guitars…’, etc.

The ‘teenies’ ended with 3 predominant major genre groupings; electronica, rock and hip‑hop. In terms of genre dominance in the early 2K20s, pop music is likely to retain its pre‑eminence, largely due to commercial factors, with urban hip‑hop, rock and soul/R&B all contributing to sales. Nu‑jazz and alternative rock are currently on the rise. Everything else will circulate around the periphery. Despite annual proclamations from the loyal that classical music will be resurgent, it will probably be limited to influencing other neo‑classical sub‑genres. The UK and U.S.A. will remain the central driving forces, although influences will become far more cosmopolitan and representative of music from cultures around the world.

On the good news front, global demand for music is growing in the early 2020s and I predict that the sector will continue to grow for some time. Streaming, rather than downloads, will dominate global music channels for the foreseeable future, although I would like to believe that some form of cultural democratisation has to take place in order for freedom of expression and consumption to succeed in the long‑term.

What actually is just over the visible horizon? Who knows? I am genuinely excited by the potential prospects and hope I’m not disappointed by the grim reality. Perhaps more importantly, why should we invest our souls in the musical experience? Arguably, music is inextricably bound to mankind’s existence and it has a profound connection to our human emotions and memories.

Final thoughts

I hope that you have enjoyed this very long journey. I also hope that it hasn’t gone out with a whimper but has motivated you to think about music as an important and integral part of humanity’s existence. Whether music evokes joy, sorrow, anger or passion doesn’t really matter, as long as it stimulates a primeval emotive response. Discuss…

You will probably be relieved to hear that, yes, this rambling soliloquy is the conclusion of the ‘Story of Modern Music’… for now. There are no more episodes, not even another epilogue.

The two companion volumes (history of the guitar and history of modern music) have covered a total of 23 articles in just over 2 years! The total number of musical facts in this series finally exceeded 1,750, never mind the 330+ quotes and several hundred global events to provide historical context. Due credit is given to all photographers for images sourced on Google Images for whom I could not find proper accreditation.

In terms of acknowledgements, I would like to thank my long‑serving (and suffering) wife who has to put up with me through thick and thicker. I dedicate this series to her and thanks for her patience in taking an interest in my anally retentive diatribes.

I have been asked whether all the content should be published in book form. Frankly, if I could be bothered with all the additional demands of publication, they might constitute a good book (or two). However, the benefits of doing it really don’t warrant the additional work required. Anyhow, as soon as books are published, they become out of date and would need constant revision to remain relevant – something to which I cannot readily commit.

Ideally, if I have time and inclination, I would like to condense the two major works into more accessible features on the CRAVE Guitars web site but that in itself is a mammoth task. It is on the ‘to do’ task list but, then again, so are many other things.

Tailpiece

Phew! For now, I really need to take a break from major research and writing projects. This means that there are no imminent intentions to bring you any further serialised projects in the pipeline. In fact, I don’t have any immediate ideas for one, so that’s a relief.

Please remember that facts, quotes and opinions featured in these articles are posted daily on both Twitter and Facebook, so everything in this series will remain alive and used, albeit in a different format.

You may (?!?!) also be pleased to hear that I shall, at least briefly, be going back‑to‑basics and writing some stuff about ‘Cool & Rare American Vintage Electric’ Guitars’ and related other gubbins for a while. Remember vintage guitars? Stay safe during the ‘coronapocalypse’. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars’ ‘Quote of the Month’: “Music makes a fine lifeboat for the long journey over the choppy waters of life.”

© 2020 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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April 2020 – The Story of Modern Music in 1,500+ Facts – Part XIII

April 2020 – The Story of Modern Music in 1,500+ Facts – Part XIII

Introduction

For anyone out there still surviving the appalling ‘coronapocalypse’ that is undermining and unravelling civilisation around us as we speak, it’s good that you are hanging in there and hope you’re staying healthy and safe. Take a moment and spare a thought for the many who aren’t as lucky and those that have succumbed to the deadly virus. While the general response to the pandemic shows the best characteristics in most people, it also starkly reveals the sheer idiocy and irresponsibility of a not‑insignificant proportion of the population. Shame.

Thank you again for taking the time to visit CRAVE Guitars for the latest instalment of this epic series. Given the horrifying circumstances out there, your presence here is welcomed and very much appreciated. I only hope that it can provide some idle distraction from more serious issues facing us all.

It seems that this is this is a tale that just keeps on telling. I never thought it would reach these proportions when I started out on it, just over a year ago now! I trust this 13th part of the series is not unlucky. If you suffer from triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number 13) or even primonumerophobia (the fear of prime numbers), it may be advisable to think of this as part 12a or, to be trendy, 12+.

As has become traditional, if you would like to (re)visit any or all of the first 12 parts (and 370 years) of the story to‑date, you can do so here (each link opens a new browser tab):

The Story of Modern Music Part XIII

In the last article, I presented an array of quotes about music uttered by a diverse range of non‑musicians. This time, guess what? Yep, perhaps somewhat predictably, we’re looking at quotes about music by musicians or, to be strictly more accurate, music professionals. While this is clearly a heavily skewed sample of the population expressing themselves on the wonder (or otherwise) of music, their vocabulary is revealing about what it means to them and others. As you can imagine, musicians have quite a lot to say about their passion, hence the sheer panoply of relevant observations on all things musical. There are also a couple of sneaky lyrics thrown in just for good measure.

For this article, I have omitted quotes explicitly about the guitar as a musical instrument; these were, I felt, adequately covered in the equivalent part of the companion series, ‘November 2018 – A Potted History of the Guitar: Epilogue’.

Simply because of my obsession with the world’s most popular instrument, the quotes tend to be biased towards those with some sort of connection to the guitar, although not exclusively so. I make no apology for this, it’s just the way it has turned out. Some of the quotes are very well known and may well be familiar, while others are somewhat more obscure but still worth extolling. If nothing else, I hope they inspire you to think about mankind’s unique affiliation with music a little differently.

Like last month, the quotes are in alphabetical order of the person, rather than their quote or any sort of chronological order. After much deliberation and messing around with different formats, I finally decided to lay these quotes out in a table. This is, perhaps, the most accessible and economical way of presentation, even though it means repeating the person being quoted in many instances. I apologise if that is not the best way for you to read the content.

Quotes about music by musicians

Right… let’s go. Enjoy.

Music drives you. It wakes you up, it gets you pumping and, at the end of the day, the correct tune will chill you down

‘Dimebag’ Darrell Abbot (1966-2004)

Music is something that should speak for itself, straight from the heart. It took me a long time to understand that

Damon Albarn (1968-)

Music to me is the air that I breathe, it’s the blood that pumps through my veins that keeps me alive

Billie Joe Armstrong (1972-)

If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know

Louis Armstrong (1901-1971)

Music is life itself. What would this world be without good music? No matter what kind it is

Louis Armstrong (1901-1971)

Musicians don’t retire; they stop when there is no more music left in them

Louis Armstrong (1901-1971)

When I was a little boy, I told my dad, ‘When I grow up, I want to be a musician.’ My dad said: ‘You can’t do both, Son’

Chet Atkins (1924-2001)

The true beauty of music is that it connects people. It carries a message, and we, the musicians, are the messengers

Roy Ayers (1940-)

Don’t cry for me, for I go where music is born

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

I think it’s good if a song has more than one meaning. Maybe that kind of song can reach far more people

Syd Barrett (1946-2006)

I would rather write 10,000 notes than a single letter of the alphabet

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Music comes to me more readily than words

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Music is like a dream. One that I cannot hear

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Music is the one incorporeal entrance into the higher world of knowledge which comprehends mankind but which mankind cannot comprehend

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Music should strike fire from the heart of man, and bring tears from the eyes of woman

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

To play a wrong note is insignificant; to play without passion is inexcusable

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

I can’t live one day without hearing music, playing it, studying it, or thinking about it

Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)

Music can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable

Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)

This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before

Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)

I grew up thinking art was pictures until I got into music and found I was an artist and didn’t paint

Chuck Berry (1926-2017)

Music is an important part of our culture and record stores play a vital part in keeping the power of music alive

Chuck Berry (1926-2017)

If you play music for no other reason than actually just because you love it, the skills just kinda creep up on you

Nuno Bettencourt (1966-)

Music can change the world because it can change people

Bono (1960-)

Music fills in for words a lot of the time when people don’t know what to say, and I think music can be more eloquent than words

Bono (1960-)

I had to resign myself, many years ago, that I’m not too articulate when it comes to explaining how I feel about things. But my music does it for me, it really does

David Bowie (1947-2016)

I wanted to prove the sustaining power of music

David Bowie (1947-2016)

My theory is this; I’m not a political songwriter. I’m an honest songwriter

Billy Bragg (1957-)

It is cruel, you know, that music should be so beautiful. It has the beauty of loneliness of pain: of strength and freedom. The beauty of disappointment and never-satisfied love. The cruel beauty of nature and everlasting beauty of monotony

Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)

I guess all songs is folk songs. I never heard no horse sing them

Big Bill Broonzy (1893-1958)

I only got a seventh-grade education, but I have a doctorate in funk, and I like to put that to good use

James Brown (1933-2006)

I don’t really need to be remembered. I hope the music’s remembered

Jeff Buckley (1966-1997)

Punk was defined by an attitude rather than a musical style

David Byrne (1952-)

We don’t make music, it makes us

David Byrne (1952-)

With music, you often don’t have to translate it. It just affects you, and you don’t know why

David Byrne (1952-)

You create a community with music, not just at concerts but by talking about it with your friends

David Byrne (1952-)

Music is the divine way to tell beautiful, poetic things to the heart

Pablo Casals (1876-1973)

Of emotions, of love, of breakup, of love and hate and death and dying, mama, apple pie, and the whole thing. It covers a lot of territory, country music does

Johnny Cash (1932-2003)

I was born with music inside me. Music was one of my parts. Like my ribs, my kidneys, my liver, my heart. Like my blood. It was a force already within me when I arrived on the scene. It was a necessity for me – like food or water

Ray Charles (1930-2004)

Music is about the only thing left that people don’t fight over

Ray Charles (1930-2004)

Music to me is like breathing. I don’t get tired of breathing. I don’t get tired of music!

Ray Charles (1930-2004)

Music is powerful. As people listen to it, they can be affected. They respond

Ray Charles (1930-2004)

The important thing is to feel your music, really feel it and believe it

Ray Charles (1930-2004)

Music became a healer for me. And I learned to listen with all my being. I found that it could wipe away all the emotions of fear and confusion relating to my family

Eric Clapton (1945-)

Music will always find its way to us, with or without business, politics, religion, or any other bullshit attached. Music survives everything

Eric Clapton (1945-)

The point is, technology has empowered so many musicians, you know?

Stanley Clarke (1951-)

If it’s illegal to rock and roll, throw my ass in jail!

Kurt Cobain (1967-1994)

I have one message for young musicians around the world: Stay true to your heart, believe in yourself, and work hard

Joe Cocker (1944-2014)

I want to read… poems filled with terror and music that changes laws and lives

Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)

If I knew where the good songs came from, I’d go there more often

Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)

Music is the emotional life of most people

Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)

Nobody leaves this place without singing the blues

Albert Collins (1932-1993)

Simple music is the hardest music to play and blues is simple music

Albert Collins (1932-1993)

Musicians understand each other through means other than speaking

Ry Cooder (1947-)

To stop the flow of music would be like the stopping of time itself, incredible and inconceivable

Aaron Copland (1900-1990)

There’s a lot of integrity with musicians; you really still aspire to grow, and be great, to be the best version of yourself you can be

Sheryl Crow (1962-)

Every song is like a painting

Dick Dale (1937-2019)

I don’t play pyrotechnic scales. I play about frustration, patience, anger. Music is an extension of my soul

Dick Dale (1937-2019)

If songs were lines in a conversation, the situation would be fine

Nick Drake (1948-1974)

This land is your land and this land is my land, sure, but the world is run by those that never listen to music anyway

Bob Dylan (1941-)

I have a curiosity that compels me to find ways to make music that are fresh and new

The Edge (1961-)

Music is such a great communicator. It breaks down linguistic barriers, cultural barriers, it basically reaches out. That’s when rock n’ roll succeeds, and that’s what virtuosity is all about

The Edge (1961-)

You see, rock and roll isn’t a career or hobby – it’s a life force. It’s something very essential

The Edge (1961-)

My idea is that there is music in the air, music all around us; the world is full of it, and you simply take as much as you require

Edward Elgar (1857-1934)

I merely took the energy it takes to pour and wrote some blues

Duke Ellington (1899-1974)

I need drama in my life to keep making music

Eminem (1972-)

If people take anything from my music, it should be motivation to know that anything is possible as long as you keep working at it and don’t back down

Eminem (1972-)

Aggressive music can only shock you once. Afterwards, its impact declines. It’s inevitable

Brian Eno (1948-)

I’m a painter in sound

Brian Eno (1948-)

I’m fascinated by musicians who don’t completely understand their territory; that’s when you do your best work

Brian Eno (1948-)

You should play with real musicians; the best music comes from real people interacting with each other

John Fogerty (1945-)

It really is an honor if I can be inspirational to a younger singer or person. It means I’ve done my job

Aretha Franklin (1942-2018)

Finding a good band is like finding a good wife. You got to keep trying till you find the right one

Ace Frehley (1951-)

That’s what Kiss is all about – not just music, but entertainment, y’know? We’re there to take you away from your problems, and rock and roll all night and party every day for those two hours you’re at the concert

Ace Frehley (1951-)

I enjoy being able to express myself and the band is the perfect way of doing that

Keith Flint (1969-2019)

Music is the wine that fills the cup of silence

Robert Fripp (1946-)

Hardly a day goes by without me sticking on a Muddy Waters record

Rory Gallagher (1948-1995)

Life is a lot like jazz… it’s best when you improvise

George Gershwin (1898-1937)

A song without music is a lot like H2 without the O

Ira Gershwin (1896-1983)

Until you learn to play what you want to hear, you’re barking up the wrong tree

Billy Gibbons (1949-)

Too many young musicians today want to win polls before they learn their instruments

Benny Goodman (1909-1986)

Never lose faith in real rock and roll music. Never lose faith in that. You might have to look a little harder, but it’s always going to be there

Dave Grohl (1969-)

Anyone who used more than three chords is just showing off

Woody Guthrie   (1912-1967)

I’ve never missed a gig yet. Music makes people happy, and that’s why I go on doing it – I like to see everybody smile

Buddy Guy (1936-)

Listen to the lyrics – we’re singing about everyday life: rich people trying to keep money, poor people trying to get it, and everyone having trouble with their husband or wife!

Buddy Guy (1936-)

Music is the tool to express life – and all that makes a difference

Herbie Hancock (1940-)

I do know the effect that music still has on me – I’m completely vulnerable to it. I’m seduced by it

Debbie Harry (1945-)

Music is a safe kind of high

Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970)

Music is my religion

Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970)

My goal is to be one with the music. I just dedicate my whole life to this art

Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970)

We plan for our sound to go inside the soul of a person… and see if they can awaken some kind of thing in their minds

Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970)

If I’m going to sing like someone else, then I don’t need to sing at all

Billie Holiday (1915-1959)

Music is the only thing I’ve ever known that doesn’t have any rules at all

Josh Homme (1973-)

Great music seems to come from a lot of angst, and that angst is from great musicians getting together with intense chemistry. When that chemistry isn’t there, people tend not to write great music

Peter Hook (1956-)

I don’t like no fancy chords. Just the boogie. The drive. The feeling. A lot of people play fancy but they don’t have no style. It’s a deep feeling-you just can’t stop listening to that sad blues sound. My sound

John Lee Hooker (1912-2001)

It’s never hard to sing the blues. Everyone in the world has the blues

John Lee Hooker (1912-2001)

No matter what you got, the blues is there

John Lee Hooker (1912-2001)

Poor people have the blues because they’re poor and hungry. Rich people can’t sleep at night because they’re trying to hold on to their money and everything they have

John Lee Hooker (1912-2001)

The blues tells a story. Every line of the blues has a meaning

John Lee Hooker (1912-2001)

When I die, they’ll bury the blues with me. But the blues will never die

John Lee Hooker (1912-2001)

I had the one thing you need to be a blues singer, I was born with the blues

Lightnin’ Hopkins (1912-1982)

Ain’t but one kind of blues and that consists of a male and female that’s in love

Son House (1902-1988)

The blues is not a plaything like some people think they are

Son House (1902-1988)

I don’t think punk ever really dies, because punk rock attitude can never die

Billy Idol (1955-)

Rock isn’t art, it’s the way ordinary people talk

Billy Idol (1955-)

Ladies and gentleman, I’ve suffered for my music, now it’s your turn

Neil Innes (1944-)

To have someone to relate to and hopefully enjoy the music and get a positive message out of it, to make the best music that we possibly could, those were the goals

Janet Jackson (1966-)

I believe that through music we can help heal the world

Michael Jackson (1958-2009)

I believe we should encourage children to sing and play instruments from an early age

Mick Jagger (1943-)

You start out playing rock ‘n’ roll so you can have sex and do drugs, but you end up doing drugs so you can still play rock ‘n’ roll and have sex

Mick Jagger (1943-)

My mother always told me, even if a song has been done a thousand times, you can still bring something of your own to it. I like to think I did that

Etta James (1938-2012)

I grew up in a world that told girls they couldn’t play rock ‘n’ roll

Joan Jett (1958-)

If nothing else, music lets you know that you’re not alone

Joan Jett (1958-)

Music is healing. It’s a really powerful thing, not to be taken lightly

Joan Jett (1958-)

I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music

Billy Joel (1949-)

Musicians want to be the loud voice for so many quiet hearts

Billy Joel (1949-)

Music has healing power. It has the ability to take people out of themselves for a few hours

Elton John (1947-)

I been studyin’ the rain and I’m ‘on drive my blues away

Robert Johnson (1911-1938)

Some people tell me that the worried blues ain’t bad. Worst old feelin’ I most ever had

Robert Johnson (1911-1938)

The blues is a low down achin’ chill

Robert Johnson (1911-1938)

If you think you’re too old to rock ‘n’ roll then you are

Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister (1945-2015)

And as long as people have problems, the blues can never die

BB King (1925-2015)

Notes are expensive… spend them wisely

BB King (1925-2015)

I think no matter what kind of music you play, there will be moments when you feel like it’s all been done before

Kerry King (1964-)

Music is my life, it is a reflection of what I go through

Lenny Kravitz (1964-)

And I think for me, any great art is art which communicates human emotion

Greg Lake (1947-2016)

The bottom line is that musicians love to make music and always will

Jennifer Lopez (1969-)

If being an egomaniac means I believe in what I do and in my art or music, then in that respect you can call me that… I believe in what I do, and I’ll say it

John Lennon (1940-1980)

Songwriting is like… being possessed. You try to go to sleep but the song won’t let you

John Lennon (1940-1980)

Music is an extraordinary vehicle for expressing emotion – very powerful emotions. That’s what draws millions of people towards it. And, um, I found myself always going for these darker places and – people identify with that

Annie Lennox (1954-)

Nothing pleases me more than to go into a room and come out with a piece of music

Paul McCartney (1942-)

I always said punk was an attitude. It was never about having a Mohican haircut or wearing a ripped T-shirt. It was all about destruction, and the creative potential within that

Malcolm McLaren (1946-2010)

The popularity of punk rock was, in effect, due to the fact that it made ugliness beautiful

Malcolm McLaren (1946-2010)

Music is born out of the inner sounds within a soul

John McLaughlin (1942-)

Actors always want to be musicians, and musicians want to be actors

Marilyn Manson (1969-)

Music is the strongest form of magic

Marilyn Manson (1969-)

My music fights against the system that teaches to live and die

Bob Marley (1945-1981)

My music will go on forever. Maybe it’s a fool say that, but when me know facts me can say facts. My music will go on forever

Bob Marley (1945-1981)

One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain

Bob Marley (1945-1981)

I’m just a musical prostitute, my dear

Freddie Mercury (1946-1991)

Life is too short to listen to bad music

Freddie Mercury (1946-1991)

What I look for in musicians is a sense of infinity

Pat Metheny (1954-)

All musicians are subconsciously mathematicians

Thelonious Monk (1917-1982)

A musician’s or artist’s responsibility is a simple one, and that is, through your music to tell the truth

Tom Morello (1964-)

Music inflames temperament

Jim Morrison (1943-1971)

Music is the magic carpet that carries poetry

Jim Morrison (1943-1971)

Music is spiritual. The music business is not

Van Morrison (1945-)

You can’t stay the same. If you’re a musician and a singer, you have to change, that’s the way it works

Van Morrison (1945-)

Three chords and the truth – that’s what a country song is

Willie Nelson (1933-)

If it’s too loud, you’re too old

Ted Nugent (1948-)

If I ever really felt depressed, I would just start putting on all my old records that I played as a kid, because the whole thing that really lifted me then still lifted me then, still lifted me during those other times

Jimmy Page (1944-)

I’m all about inspiring young musicians to get out there and express themselves through music

Orianthi Panagaris (1985-)

Master your instrument. Master the music. And then forget all that bullshit and just play

Charlie Parker (1920-1955)

Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn

Charlie Parker (1920-1955)

They teach you there’s a boundary line to music. But, man, there’s no boundary line to art

Charlie Parker (1920-1955)

You can’t go to the store and buy a good ear and rhythm

Les Paul (1915-2009)

If children are not introduced to music at an early age, I believe something fundamental is actually being taken from them

Luciano Pavarotti (1935-2007)

I don’t know, my music has always just come from where the wind blew me. Like where I’m at during a particular moment in time

Tom Petty (1950-2017)

Music is probably the only real magic I have encountered in my life. There’s not some trick involved with it. It’s pure and it’s real. It moves, it heals, it communicates and does all these incredible things

Tom Petty (1950-2017)

I don’t know how much more expressive you can get than being a rock and roll singer

Robert Plant (1948-)

Music is for every single person that walks the planet

Robert Plant (1948-)

I like music that’s more offensive. I like it to sound like nails on a blackboard, get me wild

Iggy Pop (1947-)

Music is life, and life is not a business

Iggy Pop (1947-)

‘Punk rock’ is a word used by dilettantes and heartless manipulators about music that takes up the energies, the bodies, the hearts, the souls, the time and the minds of young men who give everything they have to it

Iggy Pop (1947-)

Rock and roll music, if you like it, if you feel it, you can’t help but move to it. That’s what happens to me. I can’t help it

Elvis Presley (1935-1977)

I’m always happy. I’m never sad. I never slow down. I’m constantly occupied with music

Prince (1958-2016)

Music is music, ultimately. If it makes you feel good, cool

Prince (1958-2016)

The hardest thing with musicians is getting them not to play

Prince (1958-2016)

The key to longevity is to learn every aspect of music that you can

Prince (1958-2016)

I am flattered to have been the woman to have opened the door for female rockers to be accepted into the mainly male industry

Suzi Quatro (1950-)

Rock n’ roll! It’s the music of puberty

Suzi Quatro (1950-)

Music is enough for a lifetime but a lifetime is not enough for music

Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)

I never saw music in terms of men and women or black and white. There was just cool and uncool

Bonnie Raitt (1949-)

The great thing about the arts, and especially popular music, is that it really does cut across genres and races and classes

Bonnie Raitt (1949-)

All punk is is attitude. That’s what makes it. The attitude

Joey Ramone (1951-2001)

Rock ‘n’ roll is very special to me. It’s my lifeblood

Joey Ramone (1951-2001)

The only love affair I have ever had was with music

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

Music is the greatest communication in the world. Even if people don’t understand the language that you’re singing in, they still know good music when they hear it

Lou Rawls (1933-2006)

Music should come crashing out of your speakers and grab you, and the lyrics should challenge whatever preconceived notions that listener has

Lou Reed (1942-2013)

My God is rock ‘n’ roll

Lou Reed (1942-2013)

My music, I hope, takes 100% of your concentration. I know how to do that

Trent Reznor (1965-)

If you don’t know the blues… there’s no point in picking up the guitar and playing rock and roll or any other form of popular music

Keith Richards (1943-)

Music is a language that doesn’t speak in particular words. It speaks in emotions, and if it’s in the bones, it’s in the bones

Keith Richards (1943-)

Music is a necessity. After food, air, water and warmth, music is the next necessity of life

Keith Richards (1943-)

Rock and Roll: Music for the neck downwards

Keith Richards (1943-)

To make a rock ‘n’ roll record, technology is the least important thing

Keith Richards (1943-)

I’ve always said music should make you laugh, make you cry or make you think. If it doesn’t do one those things, then you’re wasting everybody’s time

Kenny Rogers (1938-)

Texas is a hotbed of insanely good bands and musicians

Henry Rollins (1961-)

The musician is perhaps the most modest of animals, but he is also the proudest

Erik Satie (1866-1925)

Anyone who loves music can never be quite unhappy

Franz Schubert (1797-1827)

There is no such thing as happy music

Franz Schubert (1797-1827)

When you play, never mind who listens to you

Robert Schumann (1810-1856)

Songs won’t save the planet, but neither will books or speeches

Pete Seeger (1919-2014)

The music that I have learned and want to give is like worshipping God. It’s absolutely like a prayer

Ravi Shankar (1920-2012)

Music is forever; music should grow and mature with you, following you right on up until you die

Paul Simon (1941-)

Music is feeling. You can try to verbalize it. It really just hits you or it doesn’t

Gene Simmons (1949-)

Artists, musicians, scientists – if you have any kind of visionary aptitude, it’s often something that you don’t have a choice in. You have to do it

Patti Smith (1946-)

I don’t think I’ll ever write a song that’ll ever move me as much as ‘Faith’, that’ll change my life as much as that song did, or encapsulates a period of my life as well as that one does

Robert Smith (1959-)

I do a job I really, really love and I kind of have fun with. People think you can’t be grown up unless you’re moaning about your job

Robert Smith (1959-)

I had no desire to be famous; I just wanted to make the greatest music ever made. I didn’t want anyone to know who I was

Robert Smith (1959-)

I honestly don’t class myself as a songwriter. I’ve got ‘musician’ written on my passport. That’s even funnier

Robert Smith (1959-)

I lose myself in music because I can’t be bothered explaining what I feel to anyone else around me

Robert Smith (1959-)

The best music is essentially there to provide you something to face the world with

Bruce Springsteen (1949-)

Half the battle is selling music, not singing it. It’s the image, not what you sing

Rod Stewart (1945-)

If you play music with passion and love and honesty, then it will nourish your soul, heal your wounds and make your life worth living. Music is its own reward

Sting (1951-)

A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence

Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977)

I haven’t understood a bar of music in my life, but I have felt it

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

My music is best understood by children and animals

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

Too many pieces of music finish too long after the end

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

People have told me songs I’ve written have changed their life. That`s remarkable. That keeps your faith

Joe Strummer (1952-2002)

Punk rock isn’t something you grow out of. Punk rock is an attitude, and the essence of that attitude is ‘give us some truth’

Joe Strummer (1952-2002)

I believe 100 percent in the power and importance of music

James Taylor (1948-)

I never wanted to get rich or be a star. I’m an old bastard but I’m still playing! That’s the point

Bernie Tormé (1952-2019)

Music acts like a magic key, to which the most tightly closed heart opens

Maria von Trapp (1905-1987)

Music – what a powerful instrument, what a mighty weapon!

Maria von Trapp (1905-1987)

Music is a great natural high and a great natural escape

Shania Twain (1965-)

I’m always pursuing knowledge; I’m a seeker of spiritual equilibrium – and music is a big part of that

Steve Vai (1960-)

Music really is a way to reach out and hold on to each other in a healthy way

Stevie Ray Vaughan (1954-1990)

I don’t know if any genuine, meaningful change could ever result from a song. It’s kind of like throwing peanuts at a gorilla

Tom Waits (1949-)

I like beautiful melodies telling me terrible things

Tom Waits (1949-)

Songs really are like a form of time travel because they really have moved forward in a bubble. Everyone who’s connected with it, the studio’s gone, the musicians are gone, and the only thing that’s left is this recording which was only about a three-minute period maybe 70 years ago

Tom Waits (1949-)

The universe is making music all the time

Tom Waits (1949-)

I been in the blues all my life. I’m still delivering ‘cause I got a long memory

Muddy Waters (1913-1983)

My blues are so simple but so few people can play it right

Muddy Waters (1913-1983)

The blues had a baby and they called it rock and roll

Muddy Waters (1913-1983)

Being a musician is a noble profession

Paul Weller (1958-)

Music is very spiritual, it has the power to bring people together

Edgar Winter (1946-)

I think the blues will always be around. It just takes one person to make people aware of the blues

Johnny Winter (1944-2014)

I couldn’t do no yodelin’, so I turned to howlin’. And it’s done me just fine

Howlin’ Wolf (1910-1976)

I don’t play anything but the blues, but now I could never make no money on nothin’ but the blues. That’s why I wasn’t interested in nothin’ else

Howlin’ Wolf (1910-1976)

I just play blues for fun

Howlin’ Wolf (1910-1976)

When you ain’t got no money, you got the blues

Howlin’ Wolf (1910-1976)

Music, at its essence, is what gives us memories. And the longer a song has existed in our lives, the more memories we have of it

Stevie Wonder (1950-)

Music is a world within itself, with a language we all understand

Stevie Wonder (1950-)

The musical soundscape is an endless road

Zakk Wylde (1967-)

I am probably the last of a generation to be able to gain an education in country music by osmosis, by sitting in a ’64 Ford banging the buttons on the radio

Dwight Yoakam (1956-)

I think the most important thing about music is the sense of escape

Thom Yorke (1968-)

Rock and roll is here to stay

Neil Young (1945-)

There’s an edge to real rock ‘n’ roll. It’s all that matters

Neil Young (1945-)

I don’t understand this phrase ‘I’ve paid my dues’. We didn’t have any money and lived on peanut butter and jelly, and I loved it. I don’t regret any of it. We never expected to make it this far, but we worked hard to get here

Ronnie Van Zant (1948-1977)

If prisons, freight trains, swamps, and gators don’t get ya to write songs, man, y’ain’t got no business writin’ songs

Ronnie Van Zant (1948-1977)

A composer is a guy who goes around forcing his will on unsuspecting air molecules, often with the assistance of unsuspecting musicians

Frank Zappa (1940-1993)

All the good music has already been written by people with wigs and stuff

Frank Zappa (1940-1993)

Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not truth. Truth is not beauty. Beauty is not love. Love is not music. Music is THE BEST

Frank Zappa (1940-1993)

Jazz is not dead, it just smells funny

Frank Zappa (1940-1993)

Most people wouldn’t know music if it came up and bit them on the ass

Frank Zappa (1940-1993)

Music is always a commentary on society

Frank Zappa (1940-1993)

There are more love songs than anything else. If songs could make you do something we’d all love one another

Frank Zappa (1940-1993)

Without music to decorate it, time is just a bunch of boring production deadlines or dates by which bills must be paid

Frank Zappa (1940-1993)

You can’t always write a chord ugly enough to say what you want to say, so sometimes you have to rely on a giraffe filled with whipped cream

Frank Zappa (1940-1993)

Tailpiece

Well, the above represents a veritable roll call of music royalty covering multiple centuries. As you might have expected, these maxims from musicians about music are often passionate, heartfelt and powerful, almost beyond words. The historical male dominance of the industry is clear and look forward to more female music professionals being credited for their insightful observations in the future.

There is, as mentioned last month, a certain irony in using plain words to articulate the meaning of music but that is just the medium I’m using. I would encourage you to listen to the source material for many of the elements covered in this series so far. There is a lifetime of ever‑growing musical exploration to be had out there.

CRAVE Guitars posts a ‘quote of the day’, both about music and more generally about ‘life, the universe and everything’ (Douglas Adams) every day on Twitter and Facebook. The previous article and this one have allowed me to draw from that broader research and to focus resources on the collective wisdom of this particular theme.

Having now done two consecutive articles on quotations, you are probably all quoted out by now, so be reassured that there won’t be any more for a while (except my traditional personal observation at the end of every article). As far as I can tell, this is the penultimate article in this long series, which means that, all being well, we should culminate the next month, as scheduled. As a bit of bait, I will leave you to ponder what else might be espoused in the way of a conclusion. Any guesses?

Despite the global shutdown of society, I’m sticking to what I know and love doing, which is to continue my mission to share with anyone who may be interested some selfishly selected stuff about ‘Cool & Rare American Vintage Electric’ Guitars. Weirdly, I am actually very comfortable in splendid seclusion and I would be quite happy to continue a relatively hermetic lifestyle whatever comes to pass. In the meantime, above all, please look after yourselves and take care – stay home, stay safe. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars’ ‘Quote of the Month’: “True wealth is appreciating what you have now and neither grieving for what you might have had nor for what you may wish to have”

© 2020 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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March 2020 – The Story of Modern Music in 1,500+ Facts – Part XII

Introduction

Before we get going, I can’t help but comment on the current crisis. We live in truly remarkable times. It seems unimaginable how rapidly and fundamentally the COVID‑19 pandemic has negatively impacted on our global society. Just one month ago, the coronavirus outbreak didn’t even register as a ‘thing’ in the last article. How quickly things change. Is the current madness possibly some Promethean portent? One can contemplate conspiracy theories until the cows come home; ultimately, it matters not whether it is intentional biological terrorism, divine intervention or arbitrary happenstance, the consequences of today’s events will undoubtedly resonate through our species’ future history (if there is any!).

With the very real threat of the ‘coronapocalypse’ doing its best to destabilise our fragile civilisation, thank you for bothering to pop in here and take a look at the latest in this series of articles. The cruel irony of documenting mankind’s musical history up to 2020 is not lost on me. If society, as far we know it, ends c.2020, this evidential record may, after all, tell the full story of man’s last days of making music on this Earth. One can only hope that there may be some surviving souls left to learn and convey the salutary tale of our artistic legacy to upcoming generations.

Anyhoo, as an idle distraction from looking into the abyss (paraphrasing German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche), we really should stick to the knitting (referencing American business author Tom Peters) – apologies for merrily mixing my metaphors. You may have thought that after 11 lengthy articles, several hundred documented global events and around 1,700 discrete music facts that we’d be done by now and we could simply move on to another topic altogether. Not quite. To me, the narrative remains a touch inchoate and there are a few things that I felt needed to be added in order to give more life to the sterile specifics.

Before we move onto the next morsel on the menu, it’s time for that regular monthly recap. If you would like to (re)visit the first eleven parts (and 370 years) of the story, you can do so here (each link opens a new browser tab):

The Story of Modern Music Part XII – Epilogue #1

So far this series of articles has chronicled more than three‑and‑a‑half centuries of musical evolution through a multitude of factual snippets. However, the trouble with facts is that they are just that, facts. There is little subjectivity associated with them. If nothing else, music is important to us because of the way express ourselves and how it makes us feel. Music may evoke strong memories or trigger deep emotional responses and will surely be different for every individual. What I want to convey in this article is how profoundly and vitally important music is to us mere Homo sapiens (which, paradoxically, is Latin for ‘wise man’, coined by Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1758).

If you recall my previous 9‑part series on the ‘History of the Guitar’, that particular chronology covered several millennia, so it is clear that people have been making and listening to music for many centuries and, consequently, people have also been thinking, talking and debating music’s contribution to civilisation for a similar period. In many ways, the ‘History of the Guitar’ and the ‘Story of Modern Music’ make for good companion pieces and can be correlated and cross‑referenced.

Musicians are understandably a biased sample of the population. They are embedded in their craft to the point that, for many artists, life is an adjunct to music, rather than vice versa. What I want to explore with this article is the attachment that so many nonmusicians from hugely diverse backgrounds have to music in all its manifestations. While it is certainly possible for me to pontificate on such matters (as I’m sure you are well aware that I’m prone to do), it is better that the insights herein come from recognised commentators on the human condition and who have at one time or another over several hundreds of years made statements about music. Their vocabulary is far more eloquent and succinct than mine you’ll be pleased to hear. The source of these insightful anecdotes is a rag‑tag grouping of people with some historical stature, so as to bring some further credibility to the feelings we all may have about the subject matter.

The aim is hopefully to provide a completely different perspective on music in its infinite diversity, as well as be entertaining along the way. Is it just me or is there is some intrinsic irony in using only words to describe music without any melody or harmony involved?

The other advantage of this (first) epilogue is that it is significantly shorter than any others in the series so far. I haven’t tried to go for quantity here, rather I have endeavoured to document some quality observations. You may well recognise a few of these words of wisdom. Similarly, there will undoubtedly be many that I have omitted or missed, so feel free to fill in any gaps with your own favourites.

80‑ish essential quotes about music by non-musicians

The following quotes are in alphabetical order of the person, rather than any attempt to document the sayings in date order, as with the previous articles. I hope these fascinating and varied idioms carry you off to a different place, albeit temporarily.

Beethoven tells you what it’s like to be Beethoven and Mozart tells you what it’s like to be human. Bach tells you what it’s like to be the universe – Douglas Adams (1952‑2001)

Where words fail, music speaks – Hans Christian Andersen (1805‑1875)

Life is like a beautiful melody, only the lyrics are messed up – Hans Christian Andersen (1805‑1875)

Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness – Maya Angelou (1928‑2014)

Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances – Maya Angelou (1928‑2014)

The most exciting rhythms seem unexpected and complex, the most beautiful melodies simple and inevitable – W.H. Auden (1907‑1973)

Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life – Berthold Auerbach (1812‑1882)

Without music, life would be a blank to me – Jane Austen (1775‑1817)

Music is the voice that tells us that the human race is greater than it knows – Napoleon Bonaparte (1769‑1821)

A lot of music is mathematics. It’s balance – Mel Brooks (1926‑)

There is no truer truth obtainable by man than comes of music – Robert Browning (1812‑1889)

Who hears music feels his solitude peopled at once – Robert Browning (1812‑1889)

To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the music the words make – Truman Capote (1924‑1984)

Music is well said to be the speech of angels – Thomas Carlyle (1795‑1881)

Music with dinner is an insult both to the cook and the violinist ― G.K. Chesterton (1874‑1936)

A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song – anonymous Chinese proverb

Music is the soundtrack of your life – Dick Clark (1929‑2012)

Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without – Confucius (551‑479 BCE)

If one should desire to know whether a kingdom is well governed, if its morals are good or bad, the quality of its music will furnish the answer – Confucius (551‑479 BCE)

Extraordinary how potent cheap music is – Noël Coward (1899‑1973)

We are the music makers, and we are the dreamer of dreams – Roald Dahl (1916‑1990)

If I had my life to live over again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week – Charles Darwin (1809‑1882)

Music touches us emotionally, where words alone can’t – Johnny Depp (1963‑)

Most people die with their music still locked up inside them – Benjamin Disraeli (1804‑1881)

If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music… I cannot tell if I would have done any creative work of importance in music, but I do know that I get most joy in life out of my violin – Albert Einstein (1879‑1955)

It is always fatal to have music or poetry interrupted – George Eliot (1819‑1880)

Life seems to go on without effort when I am filled with music – George Eliot (1819‑1880)

You are the music while the music lasts – T.S. Eliot (1888‑1965)

Music causes us to think eloquently – Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803‑1882)

Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life bringing peace, abolishing strife ― Kahlil Gibran (1883‑1931)

Where words leave off, music begins – Heinrich Heine (1797‑1856)

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent – Victor Hugo (1802‑1885)

After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music – Aldous Huxley (1894‑1963)

Music expresses feeling and thought, without language; it was below and before speech, and it is above and beyond all words – Robert G. Ingersoll (1833‑1899)

I need music. It’s like my heartbeat, so to speak. It keeps me going no matter what’s going on – bad games, press, whatever! – LeBron James (1984‑)

The only truth is music – Jack Kerouac (1922‑1969)

You couldn’t not like someone who liked the guitar – Stephen King (1947‑)

Music in the soul can be heard by the universe – Laozi (6th Century BCE)

It requires wisdom to understand wisdom: the music is nothing if the audience is deaf – Walter Lippmann (1889‑1974)

Music is the universal language of mankind – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807‑1882)

The great tragedy of the average man is that he goes to his grave with his music still in him – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807‑1882)

Music is the art of the prophets and the gift of God – Martin Luther (1483‑1546)

My heart, which is so full to overflowing, has often been solaced and refreshed by music when sick and weary – Martin Luther (1483‑1546)

Next to the word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world – Martin Luther (1483‑1546)

Music and silence combine strongly because music is done with silence, and silence is full of music – Marcel Marceau (1923‑2007)

A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is ultimately to be at peace with himself – Abraham Maslow (1908‑1970)

I try to apply colours like words that shape poems, like notes that shape music – Joan Miró (1893‑1983)

I painted the picture, and in the colours the rhythm of the music quivers. I painted the colours I saw – Edvard Munch (1863‑1944)

Music brings a warm glow to my vision, thawing mind and muscle from their endless wintering – Haruki Murakami (1949‑)

And those who were seen dancing, were thought to be insane, by those who could not hear the music – Friedrich Nietzsche (1844‑1900)

In music the passions enjoy themselves – Friedrich Nietzsche (1844‑1900)

Without music, life would be a mistake – Friedrich Nietzsche (1844‑1900)

If you want to make beautiful music, you must play the black and the white notes together – Richard Nixon (1913‑1994)

Music is a whole oasis in my head. The creation process is so personal and fulfilling – River Phoenix (1970‑1993)

Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul – Plato (c.428‑348BCE)

Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything – Plato (c.428‑348BCE)

Music is the movement of sound to reach the soul for the education of its virtue – Plato (c.428‑348BCE)

Musical innovation is full of danger to the State, for when modes of music change, the fundamental laws of the State always change with them – Plato (c.428‑348BCE)

I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy; but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning – Plato (c.428‑348BCE)

Love is friendship set to music – Jackson Pollock (1912‑1956)

There is geometry in the humming of the strings, there is music in the spacing of the spheres – Pythagoras (c.570‑495BCE)

Music is a very big participant in everything I do, from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to bed – Zoe Saldana (1978‑)

I would say that music in our schools should be a must. When all other things pass away, music and art are still the things that are remembered. Music is one of the things, like the ability to laugh, that has kept mankind going for thousands of years. Music keeps us sane – Charles M. Schulz (1922‑2000)

There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats – Albert Schweitzer (1875‑1965)

If music be the food of love, play on, give me excess of it; that surfeiting, the appetite may sicken, and so die – William Shakespeare (1564‑1616)

The earth has music for those who listen – William Shakespeare (1564‑1616)

The man that hath no music in himself, Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds, is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils; The motions of his spirit are dull as night, And his affections dark as Erebus. Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music – William Shakespeare (1564‑1616)

Hell is full of musical amateurs: music is the brandy of the damned – George Bernard Shaw (1856‑1950)

Music, when soft voices die, vibrates in the memory – Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792‑1822)

Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought – Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792‑1822)

How is it that music can, without words, evoke our laughter, our fears, our highest aspirations? – Jane Swan (1925‑2010)

Doctors can heal the body, but it is music that lifts the spirit – Mother Teresa (1910‑1997)

When I hear music, I fear no danger. I am invulnerable. I see no foe. I am related to the earliest of times, and to the latest – Henry David Thoreau (1817‑1862)

Music is the shorthand of emotion – Leo Tolstoy (1828‑1910)

No matter how corrupt, greedy, and heartless our government, our corporations, our media, and our religious & charitable institutions may become, the music will still be wonderful – Kurt Vonnegut (1922‑2007)

Virtually every writer I know would rather be a musician – Kurt Vonnegut (1922‑2007)

Music is the art which is most high to tears and memory – Oscar Wilde (1854‑1900)

Music makes one feel so romantic – at least it always gets on one’s nerves – which is the same thing nowadays – Oscar Wilde (1854‑1900)

Music enriches people’s lives in the same way paintings and literature do. Everybody deserves that – Victoria Wood (1953‑2016)

Music is an element that should be part and parcel of every child’s life via the education system – Victoria Wood (1953‑2016)

I listened, motionless and still; And, as I mounted up the hill, The music in my heart I bore, Long after it was heard no more – William Wordsworth (1770‑1850)

Tailpiece

That was, I believe, quite an interesting yet valuable diversion. Hopefully, you can now understand the rationale for seeking perceptions that are far more articulate than the absurd utterings of a heretical hierophant like me. One more quote that I like, which I cannot attribute to anyone in particular but which seems relevant and appropriate to current tragic events is, “Sometimes music is the only thing that takes your mind off everything else”.

What next, I hear someone say? As American amateur anthropologist Robert Ripley might say, “believe it or not”, there is a bit more ground to cover yet so my labours require a little more perseverance. Having come this far, though, I hope you’ll stick with it until the very end, which is now in plain sight.

With the artifice of our flimsy and ephemeral culture unravelling before our very eyes, please take care, stay safe, be healthy, look after yourselves and extract solace from some of the great musical milestones covered in these particular periodical parlances (sorry, I can’t help the allure of pretentious alliteration). Perhaps, if there is a sliver of something positive to take from being so close to the wretched mortal precipice, it is to ‘take nothing for granted’ and ‘make the most of every moment’. Clichés perhaps but also truisms for our tragic times. Surely, to do otherwise is eschewing sanity.

It will probably be no surprise that I relish presiding in splendid self‑imposed isolation and seclusion. This conscious choice is less to do with any prevailing contagion but more to do with being a curmudgeonly reclusive misanthrope. As I am sure you are well aware, I can’t resist the addictive magnetism of cool vintage guitars, effects and amps so, in between these inane cogitations and avoiding the prevalent plague, you probably know where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing. I hope I’m still here for ensuing articles. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars’ ‘Quote of the Month’: “The science of the universe is the rule book by which our music is created. The mystery of the brain is the filter by which our music is felt as emotion”

© 2020 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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February 2020 – The Story of Modern Music in 1,500+ Facts – Part XI

Introduction

Welcome back once again dear musical masochists. Well… here we are – finally – almost at the end of the very long linear tunnel. The ordeal is nearly over! Along the way, I hope our factual passage through time has been an enlightening and entertaining experience. Chronologically (bar the first 2 months of 2020), the long ‘Story of Modern Music’ has caught up‑to‑date. By the end of this article the facts and events covering more than three‑and‑a‑half centuries will have been laid bar for all to see. It isn’t, however, the culmination of this series of articles, as there will be a fair bit of dilly‑dallying to do to give justice to the material and to complete a coherent narrative.

If you would like to (re)visit the first 10 parts (and over 350 years) of the story to‑date, you can do so here (each link opens a new browser tab):

The Story of Modern Music Part XI 2010-2019

As the ‘teenies’ are fresh in our collective memories, one has to think hard about what might be regarded as standout ‘classic albums’ that will stand the test of time. Simply the act of interrogating recent history and coming up with nada is a concern. Yes there were some big selling albums from popular commercial artists but they don’t really stand up to scrutiny when compared with watershed releases of the past. Perhaps we haven’t yet had sufficient time to reflect but one would have thought that something important would stick out from the random melange.

It is hard to believe that it was the early 1990s when game changing albums like Nirvana’s ‘Never Mind’ and Pearl Jam’s ‘Ten’, both landed in 1991 and Rage Against The Machine’s eponymous debut struck home in 1992. Since that time? With hindsight, perhaps controversially, not a great deal. Readers will no doubt have their favourite albums from the noughties and teenies but there were no multi‑platinum multi‑million sellers outside the pop mainstream that came out of the blue. and certainly no ground‑breaking important epics such as ‘Tubular Bells’, ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’, ‘Rumours’ or ‘Thriller’, to mention just four more classic albums that went on to sell in colossal quantities and helped to define the zeitgeist. It isn’t just about numbers and money, it’s about the value of artistic creativity. Where were the musical milestones to have significant global social and cultural impact? To-date, this levelling (lowering?) of the playing field seems to have resulted from benign prosperity and social disengagement. It seems as though, whereas the youthful tortured angst of previous decades has been quelled, to be replaced with pseudo entitled vacuous celebrity‑induced cupidity and malaise. Discuss…

One sad observation of the 2010s is the number of legendary musical artists who passed on during the decade. Many had featured in previous articles for other reasons and had their last entries in this one. Their valuable legacy has helped to shape the musical landscape that we enjoy and their influential music will endure well into the future, even though they are no longer with us. At the time of writing, we can only speculate about who might have been born in the teenies that will become future legends. Watch this space.

Historical Context 2010-2019

After the economic meltdown that started in the latter part of the 2000s, the ‘teenies’ were characterised by enduring global economic recession, which adversely affected most countries. Depression exposed the ugly and inhumane economic inequality that was exacerbated by extreme avarice, arrogance and hubris further polarising the wealth gap between richest and poorest. A resurgence of east/west Cold War political tensions was intensified by the errant behaviour of maverick states such as communist North Korea and Islamic Iran, as well as a bitter trade war between America and China. Misplaced ideological posturing drove extremist terrorism, which disregarded national borders and reached unprecedented levels through devastating atrocities in many countries. Escalating regional conflict in the Middle East continued to affect international relations, trade and mobility. Unparalleled economic and humanitarian migration reached new levels and became a major refugee problem for developed‑world countries. Technologically, an insatiable appetite for Internet use led to an equally huge increase in the uptake of social media and online commerce. Driverless and electric vehicles became the focus of major tech corporations. Global concerns increased over action required to reduce CO2 emissions and extreme weather events. The equalities of LGBTQ+ communities gained widespread international recognition and forced irreversible social and cultural change in many societies.

Year

Global Events

2010

Many anti‑government protests rose up across the Middle East, widely known as the Arab Spring.

 

A massive magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti in the Caribbean Sea, killing somewhere between 100,000 and 316,000 people.

 

The Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig run by BP exploded, causing an environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. It is, to date, the largest marine oil spill in the history of the oil industry with over 210 million gallons discharged into the Gulf.

 

The world’s tallest building to‑date, the Burj Khalifa opened in Dubai, standing at 829.8m (2,722ft).

 

Controversial non-profit political organisation Wikileaks, under the control of editor‑in‑chief Julian Assange, began releasing substantial amounts of American classified information from whistle‑blowers into the public domain, thereby compromising national and international security.

 

The culturally popular American post-apocalyptic AMC television series, ‘The Walking Dead’, based on the zombie comic book series by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard was first broadcast.

2011

The leader of the Islamic terrorist group al‑Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden was shot and killed by American Special Forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

 

The Syrian Civil War started following Arab Spring protests against the Syrian government. Conflict escalated after protests calling for President Bashar al-Assad’s removal were brutally suppressed. The ensuing political and military vacuum led to territorial gains by the so‑called Islamic State in the Middle East and particularly in Syria.

 

Japan was devastated by a massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami that killed over 15,000 people. The Great East Japan Earthquake was the 4th strongest on historical record. The tsunami caused a major nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The estimated economic cost was in the region of $235bn USD.

 

NASA’s aging Space Shuttle fleet was retired from service after 30 years, 5 operational vehicles, 135 missions and 2 fatal accidents costing 14 lives.

 

The world’s human population exceeded 7 billion for the first time, highlighting serious concerns about the sustainability of uncontrolled population growth.

2012

The largest ever Atlantic storm, Category 3 Hurricane Sandy, devastated the north eastern United States, killing over 230 people and causing nearly $70bn of damage.

 

The existence of the elusive so‑called ‘god particle’, the Higgs Boson sub‑atomic unit was finally confirmed by experiments conducted at the CERN Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland.

 

Queen Elizabeth II celebrated the 60th Anniversary of her accession to the British throne.

2013

Two Islamic terrorists from Chechnya detonated 2 bombs during the Boston Marathon in Massachusetts, USA, killing 3 and injuring 264.

 

The largest outbreak of the Ebola virus in history reached epidemic proportions in Western Africa and lasted until 2016, resulting in a conservative estimate of more than 11,000 deaths.

2014

The so‑called Islamic State (ISIS) took military control of the city of Mosul in northern Iraq.

 

The new World Trade Center, the Freedom Tower, was completed in New York, becoming the tallest building in the U.S. at 1,776 feet (541m), 13 years after the original World Trade Center twin towers were destroyed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

2016

The United Kingdom held a one‑off national referendum to determine whether to remain part of or to leave the European Union (EU). The UK had become a member of the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973. The referendum result was a majority desire to leave the EU. The UK was the first country to leave the union since the EEC was formed in 1957. The process of leaving, often referred to as ‘Brexit’, was completed in 2020.

 

HM Queen Elizabeth II became the longest reigning monarch in British history, surpassing Queen Victoria (1819‑1901), who had reigned for 63 years and 7 months.

2017

Businessman and Republican politician Donald Trump became the 45th president of the U.S.A.

 

The UK triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, initiating the Brexit process that led to the UK leaving the EU after 47 years of membership.

 

American president Donald Trump announced the U.S. government’s intention to withdraw unilaterally from the Paris Climate Agreement.

2018

The longest total lunar eclipse of the 21st Century took place, lasting approximately 1 hour and 43 minutes.

 

Canada legalised the sale and use of cannabis, only the 2nd country to do so, Uruguay being the first.

2019

A catastrophic fire broke out in the roof of medieval Roman Catholic Notre Dame de Paris cathedral in France, destroying much of the building’s roof, spire and upper walls.

 

The final stronghold of the so‑called Islamic State in Al-Baghuz Fawqani, Syria, was liberated.

 

Violent protests and civil unrest occurred in Hong Kong, ignited by controversial Chinese legislation that allegedly undermined the region’s autonomy and civil liberties.

 

Activists belonging to Extinction Rebellion, a global movement created to use direct non‑violent civil disobedience to force governments to react positively towards the threat of climate change, biodiversity loss and ecological collapse, caused widespread disruption in major cities worldwide.

Musical Genre Development 2010-2019

Sadly, during the 2010s there were no recent new genres or emergent significant sub‑genres, and little sign of any on the horizon. It is a struggle to identify any hugely influential genre developments during the ‘teenies’. Yes, there were ventures, projects, collaborations, experiments and side lines including, for instance dubstep and grime but, let’s be honest, these aren’t really new; they are simply variations on past themes that were re‑established for wider audiences. However, modern music has shown an incredible tenacity to rejuvenate and reinvent itself, especially when it appears to be entering the doldrums. One can only watch and wait to see what happens from here on in. Let’s start with some of the nuances during the 2010s.

Female pop mega‑artists such as Adele, Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga and even Lana Del Rey have become very powerful, successful multi‑millionaires predominantly focusing their considerable resources on commercially lucrative target audiences. These industry pillars have become renowned as much for their business acumen as their musical prowess. New artist, Billie Eilish looks set to continue this trend into the 2020s. The token male artist in this bracket is probably Ed Sheeran.

The indie movement continued to grow from strength to strength into the 2010s broadening the diversity of indie and keeping it fresh by fusing with other styles such as folk, blues, rock, punk, roots, garage and Americana. Notable indie artists of the teenies include (in no particular order); Courtney Barnett, Arcade Fire, Vampire Weekend, The War On Drugs, Band Of Skulls, The National, Sharon Van Etten, St. Vincent, Fleet Foxes, Real Estate, Feist, Tame Impala, Parquet Courts, Kurt Vile, Girls, Courteeners, Daughter, Angel Olsen, Fleet Foxes, Haim, Father John Misty, Ariel Pink, Sheerwater, Foals, Two Door Cinema Club, Villagers, EMA, The Horrors, The Kills, The Low Anthem, Royal Blood, Rival Sons, The Vaccines, Alt‑J, The XX, Wolf Alice, The Dead Weather, The Twilight Sad, Cage The Elephant, London Grammar, Savages, Band Of Skulls, Warpaint, Slaves, Wolf Alice, Bat For Lashes, K.T. Tunstall, Cigarettes After Sex, Blood Red Shoes, Real Estate and Dry the River among a multitude of others.

While clearly a niche subgenre of the fading mainstream Electronic Dance Music (EDM) and related genres and closely related to ambient, downtempo, progressive electronic, darkwave, glitch and chillwave, Intelligent Dance Music (IDM) flourished, building on the shoulders of pioneers such as The Orb, Future Sound of London, Orbital and Aphex Twin. IDM and related artists pushed the boundaries of esoteric syncopated, and stripped down electronica to new, often indulgent extremes. Under the broadest definition, some IDM artists include; Four Tet, Boards of Canada, Caribou, Crystal Castles, Neon Indian, Jon Hopkins, Bonobo, Burial, Flying Lotus, Memory Tapes, Apparat, Toro y Moi, James Blake, Oneohtrix Point Never, Com Truise, Autechre, Mouse On Mars and Squarepusher.

In the late 20th Century, modern jazz had newfound credibility in the fusion years of the 1970s, with artists like John McLaughlin, Stanley Clarke, Herbie Hancock, Al Di Meola, Utopia and Weather Report, followed by other virtuoso instrumentalists like Larry Coryell, Larry Carlton and Lee Ritenour during the 1980s. Move forward in time to the 21st Century and jazz experienced a stunning rejuvenation, often referred to as nu‑jazz or jazztronica, eschewing old-style constraints and fusing jazz elements with electronic music ranging from the traditional to the experimental. While growing on the popularity in the 2000s of artists like St. Germain, Mr. Scruff, Joss Stone and Jamie Cullum, nu‑jazz really came into its own in the 2010s. Nu‑jazz artists embraced hip‑hop, electronica, dance, reggae, electro‑swing and many other forms to create something vital and engaging, including artists such as Snarky Puppy, The Cinematic Orchestra, Floating Points, GoGo Penguin, Thundercat, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, The Comet Is Coming, The Correspondents and Mammal Hands.

Musical Facts 2010-2019

Day

Month

Year

Music Fact

11

January

2010

American indie rock band Vampire Weekend released their 2nd studio album, ‘Contra’.

8

February

2010

English trip-hop group, Massive Attack released their 5th studio album, ‘Heligoland’ in the UK.

17

February

2010

Northern Irish indie rock band Two Door Cinema Club released their debut studio album, ‘Tourist History’.

10

March

2010

Welsh guitarist and member of progressive rock band Man, Micky Jones died of cancer in Swansea at the age of 63.

15

March

2010

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2010’, including ABBA, Genesis, The Hollies, Jimmy Cliff, The Stooges and David Geffen.

28

March

2010

Highly influential American jazz guitarist Herb Ellis died of Alzheimer’s disease in Los Angeles, California at the age of 88.

13

April

2010

Experimental virtuoso English rock guitarist, Jeff Beck released his 10th solo album, ‘Emotion And Commotion’ in the UK.

18

May

2010

American blues/rock duo The Black Keys released their classic 5th studio album, ‘Brothers’.

25

June

2010

Canadian rock band, Rush, received a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame at 6752 Hollywood Boulevard.

9

July

2010

English indie rock group Bombay Bicycle Club released their understated acoustic 2nd studio album, ‘Flaws’.

25

October

2010

American singer and songwriter Taylor Swift released her commercially successful 3rd studio album, ‘Speak Now’.

16

November

2010

After many years of negotiation, The Beatles’ back catalogue was finally made available on Apple’s iTunes music platform.

17

December

2010

American rock singer, songwriter and musician, Captain Beefheart (real name Don Van Vliet) died from complications resulting from multiple sclerosis in a hospital in Arcata, California at the age of 69.

22

December

2010

The famous zebra crossing at Abbey Road, London, just outside Abbey Road Studios and featured on The Beatles’ classic titular 1969 album cover, was Grade II Listed by English Heritage.

24

January

2011

English pop singer, Adele released her massive commercial 2nd studio album, ‘21’.

30

January

2011

Legendary English composer of classic film and television scores, John Barry died of a heart attack in New York at the age of 77.

6

February

2011

Irish blues/rock guitarist and singer, Gary Moore died from a heart attack in Malaga, Spain at the age of 58.

14

February

2011

English alternative/indie rock singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, P.J. Harvey released her award‑winning 8th studio album, ‘Let England Shake’.

14

March

2011

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2011’, including Alice Cooper, Neil Diamond, Dr. John, Tom Waits and Leon Russell.

2

June

2011

Canadian country singer Shania Twain received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6270 Hollywood Boulevard.

6

June

2011

English indie rock band, Arctic Monkeys released their 4th studio album, ‘Suck It and See’.

23

July

2011

English singer and songwriter, Amy Winehouse died from an alcohol overdose in Camden, London at the age of 27.

7

August

2011

American bass player and key member of Johnny Cash’s backing band, the Tennessee Two, Marshall Grant died in Jonesboro, Arkansas at the age of 83.

16

August

2011

American indie rock band The War On Drugs released their breakout 2nd studio album, ‘Slave Ambient’.

7

September

2011

On what would have been his 75th birthday, American rock ‘n’ roll singer Buddy Holly received a posthumous star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1750 North Vine Street.

5

October

2011

Accomplished Scottish acoustic folk guitarist Bert Jansch died after a long battle with lung cancer in London at the age of 67.

4

December

2011

American blues guitarist, singer and member of Howlin’ Wolf’s band, Hubert Sumlin died from heart failure in Wayne, New Jersey at the age of 80.

16

December

2011

American blues/rock duo The Black Keys released their classic 7th studio album, ‘El Camino’.

20

January

2012

Legendary American multi-genre singer, Etta James died of leukaemia in hospital in Riverside, California at the age of 73.

31

January

2012

American singer and songwriter, Lana Del Rey released her breakout 2nd studio album, ‘Born To Die’.

9

February

2012

English bass guitarist and former member of The Beatles, Paul McCartney received a solo star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1750 North Vine Street.

6

February

2012

Scottish indie rock band The Twilight Sad released their underrated 3rd studio album, ‘No One Can Ever Know’.

11

February

2012

American soul/pop singer, producer and actress, Whitney Houston died from drug misuse and accidental drowning at the Hilton hotel in Beverley Hills, California at the age of 48.

29

February

2012

English singer and member of media pop band The Monkees, Davy Jones died from a heart attack in Florida at the age of 66.

5

April

2012

English innovator, entrepreneur, businessman and founder of iconic Marshall amplifiers, ‘The Father of Loud’, Jim Marshall OBE, died from cancer in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire at the age of 88.

14

April

2012

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2012’, including The Beastie Boys, Donovan, Guns N’ Roses, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Small Faces/The Faces, Freddie King and Tom Dowd.

16

April

2012

English indie rock band Spiritualized released their 7th studio album, ‘Sweet Heart Sweet Light’.

10

July

2012

English-American guitarist Slash (a.k.a. Saul Hudson) received a solo star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6901 Hollywood Boulevard.

31

August

2012

Northern Irish indie rock band Two Door Cinema Club released their 2nd studio album, ‘Beacon’.

2

October

2012

Highly acclaimed English session guitarist ‘Big Jim’ Sullivan died of complications from heart disease and diabetes in Billingshurst, West Sussex at the age of 71.

10

January

2013

Swiss founder and manager of the famous Montreux Jazz Festival since 1967, Claude Nobs, died in Lausanne at the age of 76.

18

February

2013

Alternative rock band, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds released their outstanding reflective 15th studio album, ‘Push the Sky Away’.

6

March

2013

English blues/rock guitarist and singer, Alvin Lee died of complications following surgery in Estepona, Spain at the age of 68.

18

April

2013

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2013’, including Heart, Albert King, Randy Newman, Public Enemy, Rush and Donna Summer.

20

May

2013

American keyboard player with, and co-founder of, The Doors, Ray Manzarek died from bile duct cancer in Rosenheim, Germany at the age of 74.

3

June

2013

American rock band Queens Of The Stone Age released their 6th studio album ‘…Like Clockwork’.

26

July

2013

Reclusive and influential American blues/rock guitarist, singer and songwriter, J.J. Cale died from a heart attack in La Jolla, California at the age of 74.

9

September

2013

English indie rock band, Arctic Monkeys released their 5th studio album, ‘AM’.

27

October

2013

Legendary American singer, songwriter, guitarist, member of the Velvet Underground and successful solo artist, Lou Reed died of liver disease at his home in New York at the age of 71.

4

November

2013

American singer and cultural icon, Janis Joplin received a posthumous star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6752 Hollywood Boulevard.

3

January

2014

American singer and guitarist, Phil Everly, half of the vocal harmony duo The Everly Brothers, died of lung disease in Burbank, California at the age of 74.

25

February

2014

Spanish virtuoso flamenco guitarist and composer, Paco de Lucía died from a heart attack while on holiday in Playa del Carmen, Mexico at the age of 66.

18

March

2014

American indie rock band The War On Drugs released their 3rd studio album, ‘Lost In The Dream’.

10

April

2014

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2014’, including KISS, Nirvana, Cat Stevens, Peter Gabriel, Linda Rondstadt and Hall & Oates.

17

June

2014

American singer and songwriter, Lana Del Rey released her 3rd studio album, ‘Ultraviolence’.

16

July

2014

Renowned American blues/rock guitarist, Johnny Winter died from emphysema and pneumonia near Zurich, Switzerland, at the age of 70.

25

October

2014

Scottish bass guitarist with blues/rock super group Cream, Jack Bruce died of liver disease in Suffolk, England at the age of 71.

27

October

2014

American singer and songwriter Taylor Swift released her commercially successful 5th studio album, ‘1989’.

13

March

2015

Australian guitarist, singer, songwriter, poet and co‑founder of psychedelic rock bands Soft Machine and Gong, Daevid Allen died from cancer in Australia at the age of 77.

30

March

2015

English dance/rock band The Prodigy released their 6th studio album, ‘The Day Is My Enemy’.

14

May

2015

Legendary blues guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer, B.B. King died from a stroke caused by type 2 diabetes in Las Vegas, Nevada at the age of 89.

21

May

2015

American bass guitarist Louis Johnson of funk band Brothers Johnson died from internal bleeding in Las Vegas, Nevada at the age of 60.

30

May

2015

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2015’, including Green Day, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, Lou Reed, Ringo Starr, Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble and Bill Withers.

27

June

2015

English bass guitarist with progressive band Yes, Chris Squire died from leukaemia in Phoenix, Arizona at the age of 67.

11

September

2015

English indie rock band The Libertines released their highly anticipated 3rd studio album, ‘Anthems for Doomed Youth’.

10

November

2015

American musician, songwriter, arranger and record producer Allen Toussaint died of a heart attack while on tour in Madrid, Spain at the age of 77.

13

November

2015

Islamic terrorists attacked a concert where American rock band Eagles of Death Metal were performing at the Bataclan Theatre in Paris, France. A total of 89 innocent people lost their lives.

4

December

2015

A commemorative statue of The Beatles was unveiled in their home city of Liverpool, 50 years after their last gig there.

28

December

2015

English singer, songwriter, bass guitarist, founder and front man of rock band Motörhead, Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister, died of cancer in Los Angeles, California at the age of 70.

8

January

2016

Iconic English singer, David Bowie released his final studio album, ‘Blackstar’, on his 69th birthday, just 2 days before his untimely death.

10

January

2016

Chameleonic English singer, rock legend, actor and cultural icon, David Bowie died from liver cancer at his apartment in New York City at the age of 69.

18

January

2016

Highly regarded American singer, songwriter and guitarist with country rock band Eagles, Glenn Frey died from complications of rheumatoid arthritis in New York City at age of 67.

4

February

2016

Northern Irish singer Sir Van Morrison OBE was knighted by Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace, London, UK for services to the music industry and tourism.

13

February

2016

Four members of English indie band Viola Beach and their manager were tragically killed in a car accident in Södertälje, Sweden.

8

March

2016

Legendary English record producer, Sir George Martin CBE, known by many as the ‘Fifth Beatle’, died at his home in Wiltshire at the age of 90.

11

March

2016

English keyboard player with progressive rock group Nice and a founding member of super group Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP), Keith Emerson died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in Santa Monica California at the age of 71.

6

April

2016

American country singer and guitarist Merle Haggard died on his birthday as a result of complications from pneumonia at his home in Palo Cedro, California at the age of 79.

8

April

2016

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2016’, including Cheap Trick, Chicago, Deep Purple, Steve Miller and NWA.

21

April

2016

American singer, guitarist, producer and actor, Prince died from an accidental drug overdose of the pain killer fentanyl at his home in Chanhassen, Minnesota at the age of 57.

21

April

2016

Influential American blues/rock guitarist Lonnie Mack died of natural causes in hospital near his home in Smithville Tennessee at the age of 74.

10

June

2016

British pop/rock singer and songwriter Sir Rod Stewart CBE was knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for services to music and charity.

28

June

2016

American singer Elvis Presley’s main guitarist in the early rock ‘n’ roll years, Scotty Moore died in Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 84.

15

July

2016

English virtuoso rock guitarist Jeff Beck released his fascinating change-of-direction 11th studio album, ‘Loud Hailer’.

9

September

2016

Alternative rock band, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds released their desperately melancholic 16th studio album, ‘Skeleton Tree’.

13

October

2016

Legendary American singer, songwriter and guitarist Bob Dylan was awarded the prestigious Nobel Prize for Literature in Stockholm, Sweden. He skipped the official awards ceremony and delivered his acceptance lecture in April 2017.

21

October

2016

Canadian singer, songwriter and guitarist, Leonard Cohen released his elegiac final studio album, ‘You Want It Darker’.

7

November

2016

Canadian singer, songwriter, poet and guitarist, Leonard Cohen died after a fall at his home in Los Angeles, California at the age of 82.

13

November

2016

Legendary American musician and songwriter, Leon Russell died in his sleep at his home in Mount Juliet, Tennessee at the age of 74.

2

December

2016

English rock band Rolling Stones released their great back-to-basics blues/rock studio album, ‘Blue & Lonesome’ in the UK.

7

December

2016

English bass guitarist, singer, songwriter and founding member of progressive rock bands King Crimson and ELP, as well as a solo artist, Greg Lake died from cancer in London at the age of 69.

24

December

2016

English guitarist with pop/rock band Status Quo, Rick Parfitt died from sepsis caused by a shoulder infection in hospital in Marbella, Spain at the age of 68.

25

December

2016

English singer, songwriter and member of pop band Wham!, George Michael died of heart failure at his home in Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire at the age of 53.

31

January

2017

Welsh guitarist and regular on-off member of the progressive jam rock bands Man and Iceberg, as well as a solo artist, Deke Leonard died at the age of 72.

4

February

2017

English heavy metal pioneers, Black Sabbath performed their final live concert of their ‘The End’ tour at the NEC Arena in their home city of Birmingham, UK.

19

February

2017

Influential American virtuoso jazz fusion guitarist, Larry Coryell died of heart failure in New York City at the age of 73.

16

March

2017

English singer and member of pop/rock band The Kinks, Sir Ray Davies CBE received a knighthood from Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace, London, UK for his service to the arts.

18

March

2017

Legendary American rock ‘n’ roll singer, songwriter and guitarist Chuck Berry died of a reported cardiac arrest at his home in Wentzville, Missouri at the age of 90.

7

April

2017

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2017’, including ELO, Joan Baez, Journey, Pearl Jam, Tupac Shakur and Yes.

15

April

2017

Influential virtuoso English jazz/rock fusion guitarist Allan Holdsworth died from heart disease at his home in Vista, California at the age of 70.

18

May

2017

American singer, songwriter and front man of hard rock bands Soundgarden and Audioslave, Chris Cornell committed suicide in his hotel room in Detroit, Michigan at the age of 52.

27

May

2017

American musician and co-founder of The Allman Brothers Band, Gregg Allman died from a heart attack in Richmond Hall, Georgia at the age of 69.

8

August

2017

American country singer and guitarist, Glen Campbell died of Alzheimer’s disease in Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 81.

25

August

2017

American indie rock band The War On Drugs released their 4th studio album, ‘A Deeper Understanding’.

3

September

2017

American guitarist and bass guitarist, songwriter and co‑founder of rock band Steely Dan, Walter Becker died from oesophageal cancer at his home in Manhattan, New York at the age of 67.

2

October

2017

American singer, songwriter and guitarist Tom Petty died of an accidental overdose of prescription painkillers at his home in Santa Monica, California at the age of 66.

18

November

2017

Scottish-born guitarist and co-founder of Australian rock band AC/DC, Malcom Young died following a long battle with dementia in Elizabeth Bay, New South Wales at the age of 64.

10

January

2018

English guitarist and one-time member of the rock band Motörhead, ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke died from pneumonia in hospital in London at the age of 67.

9

March

2018

After 66 years, the UK weekly music magazine The New Musical Express (a.k.a. NME) published its final printed copy, signalling the end of an era in British music press.

9

March

2018

British indie rock band Editors released their 6th studio album, ‘Violence’.

20

March

2018

English drummer and former member of The Beatles, Sir Richard Starkey (a.k.a. Ringo Starr) MBE was knighted by HRH Prince William at Buckingham Palace, London, UK.

14

April

2018

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2018’, including Bon Jovi, The Cars, Dire Straits, Moody Blues, Nina Simone and Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

8

June

2018

English guitarist, singer, songwriter and member of Anglo-American rock group Fleetwood Mac from 1968 to 1972, Danny Kirwan died from pneumonia in London at the age of 68.

2

July

2018

Scottish bass guitarist and founding member of 1970s pop group The Bay City Rollers, Alan Longmuir died in Larbert, Scotland, following an illness while on holiday in Mexico at the age of 70.

16

August

2018

Legendary American singer, songwriter and the ‘Queen of Soul’, Aretha Franklin died of pancreatic cancer at her home in Detroit, Michigan at the age of 76.

22

August

2018

American guitarist and bass guitarist with southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ed King died following a battle with cancer at his home in Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 68.

22

September

2018

English guitarist and singer, best known as half of London duo Chas & Dave and as a session musician, Chas Hodges died from organ failure following treatment for cancer at the age of 74.

29

September

2018

Great American blues guitarist, singer and songwriter, Otis Rush died from complications resulting from a stroke in Chicago, Illinois at the age of 83.

16

March

2019

Influential American guitarist, ‘the king of surf guitar’, Dick Dale died of heart failure in hospital in Loma Linda, California at the age of 81.

17

March

2019

Irish guitarist and member of heavy rock bands Gillan and Ozzy Osbourne, Bernie Tormé died of pneumonia in London, England at the age of 66.

29

March

2019

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2019’, including The Cure, Def Leppard, Janet Jackson, Stevie Nicks, Radiohead, Roxy Music and The Zombies.

29

March

2019

Emerging American indie/pop singer and songwriter Billie Eilish released her phenomenally successful debut album, ‘When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?’.

30

April

2019

English guitarist and co-founder of jazz/funk band Level 42, Boon Gould died at his home in Dorset at the age of 64.

13

May

2019

American singer and Hollywood actress Doris Day died of pneumonia in Carmel Valley Village, California at the age of 97.

30

May

2019

Cypriot/Canadian jazz/blues singer, songwriter, guitarist and actor Leon Redbone died following complications from dementia in hospice care in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, USA at the age of 69.

31

May

2019

Pioneering American guitarist, singer and songwriter with psychedelic rock band 13th Floor Elevators Roky Erickson died in Austin Texas at the age of 71.

6

June

2019

Great American singer, songwriter, pianist and occasional guitarist Dr John died of a heart attack in New Orleans, Louisiana at the age of 77.

20

June

2019

English guitarist and former member of Pink Floyd, David Gilmour auctioned 120 of his guitars in New York, raising nearly £17m to help fight climate change. His famous Black Strat sold for £3.1m.

30

August

2019

American singer and songwriter, Lana Del Rey released her standout 6th studio album, ‘Norman Fucking Rockwell!’ (a.k.a. ‘NFR!’).

6

October

2019

Legendary English drummer and co-founder of the rock bands Cream, Blind Faith and Baker Gurvitz Army, as well as solo artist, Ginger Baker died in hospital after a long illness in Canterbury, Kent at the age of 80.

Tailpiece

So, finally, that’s the major part of the extensive adventure now covered. Along the way, way more than 100 additional facts have been squeezed into the timeline, so somewhere around 1,700 music‑related facts. That doesn’t include the hundreds of ‘Historical Context’ facts that I think brought some of the more obscure musical events to life.

Undoubtedly, over time, more ideas and data will expand the long list of factoids further. Fortunately, these supplemental incidences won’t be lost, as they will appear on CRAVE Guitars’ quotidian ‘Musical Facts Of The Day’, which are posted daily on Twitter and Facebook.

The next article… or two… or three… will be wrapping up the voluminous subject matter in a way that I hope provides adequate closure to the lengthy journey. As there are no more decades to cover, the next episode will take a different look at what has already been covered. Intrigued by what the next slice of exposition might comprise? I hope so. Come back and find out.

In the meantime, I will be continuing my personal quest to bring you ‘Cool & Rare American Vintage Electric’ Guitar heritage for your entertainment (?!?!). This chore inevitably means the routine business of accumulating and appreciating some hopefully interesting old guitar gear. Hey, it’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it and, quite frankly, I ain’t complainin’. Much. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars’ ‘Quote of the Month’: “The purpose of art, to stimulate an emotional reaction, regardless of what that reaction is.”

© 2020 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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January 2020 – The Story of Modern Music in 1,500+ Facts – Part X

Introduction

Well, here we are once again. Welcome to 2020 one and all – a new year and a new decade, well, sort of. After the temporary intermission last month for the obligatory 2019 end‑of‑year roundup, we’re back on the trail ‘History of Modern Music…’ Cast your mind back for a moment. In more than one way, 1650 and the end of the Renaissance, where this story began seems a long, long time ago now. It struck me during the brief interlude just what a conceivably Sisyphean labour it has become, and there is still quite a bit of fun and games to be played out. Getting straight back into the proverbial saddle, Part X of the story is now rounding up the stragglers from the 20th Century and riding into the dawn of the new millennium with all its first world promises and disappointments.

If you would like to (re)visit the first 9 parts (and 350 years) of the story to‑date, you can do so here (each link opens a new browser tab):

Right, now the prelude is over, let’s get into the groove of the shiny new millennium, starting at 2000 and finishing this month at the end of 2009…

The Story of Modern Music Part X 2000-2009

Without the benefit of lengthy hindsight, the question is, how best to describe early 21st Century music? Arguably, the most notable trend of the noughties was the rise in popularity of indie music standing proud and in stark contrast to the seemingly indomitable, yet strangely bland, soulless and non‑descript merchandise of the commercial pop music industry.

Sadly, time and circumstances resulted in many prominent departures during the decade, adding a touch of pathos among the many achievements. While lost to us, at least we still have their music to appreciate.

In the absence of any particularly significant defining characteristics, perhaps it is best to let the facts speak for themselves. Before we get there, though, it is important to set the turbulent global context within which the musical styles of the new age progressed. Although shorter in content than previous decades, the ‘noughties’, and consequently, the ‘teenies’, will still get their own discrete article.

Historical Context 2000-2009

The opening decade of the 2000s has many popular names, one of which is simply, ‘the noughties’. The widely recognised formal name for the first decade of a new century is the less common, ‘the aughts’. Despite the unbridled optimism for the new millennium, the ‘00s heralded a fractious decade during which terrorism and the rise of dangerous radical Islamic ideologies would dominate international relations and drive brutal armed conflict in many territories. An unsustainable rise in living standards and avaricious materialism during the first half of the decade precipitated another inevitable major ‘boom and bust’ event fuelled by rabid financial mismanagement and, ultimately, greed. The result was the most devastating global recession to hit ordinary people since the 1930s in terms of both impact and longevity. Depression drove increasingly profound social, health and wealth divisions between the richest few percent and the vast majority. The digital revolution boomed and the unbridled growth of the Internet facilitated the promise of global democratisation of knowledge and information, while also enabling massive levels of ‘social’ drivel and inanity. There was a continued expansion in environmental lobbying and ‘green’ industries aiming to tackle the impending and still controversial threat of the ‘greenhouse effect’ on the planet’s fragile ecosystem.

Year

Global Events

2000

An Air France Concorde airliner crashed shortly after take‑off in France, killing 113 people, leading to the suspension of the fleet and effectively ending the era of supersonic passenger flights.

 

The first stage of the world’s largest collaborative biological project, the Human Genome Project was completed, documenting an initial rough draft of the base pairs that make up human DNA.

2001

Republican politician George W. Bush became the 43rd president of the U.S.A. Bush Junior was the son of George H.W. Bush who was the 41st president.

 

Members of the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda hijacked and crashed two airliners into the World Trade Center in Manhattan, New York City. A third plane was crashed into the U.S. Department of Defense HQ, the Pentagon in Virginia. A fourth aircraft crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania after passengers overpowered the hijackers. The co‑ordinated attacks of 9/11 killed almost 3,000 people.

 

America, supported by its allies, invaded Afghanistan following the unprecedented 9/11 terrorist attacks on the U.S.A. with the intention of dismantling the threat of Islamic terrorist organisation al‑Qaeda at its source.

2002

The Euro was officially introduced in the Eurozone countries, after which the former currencies of those countries ceased to be legal tender.

 

Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother of the UK monarchy and the wife of King George VI, died. Her funeral took place at Westminster Abbey in London.

 

The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (SARS CoV) outbreak emanated in southern China and the subsequent epidemic caused a global public health crisis.

2003

America and Britain, supported by allies, invaded Iraq to remove the threat of alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and to depose the country’s dictator and head of state, Saddam Hussain.

 

The first successful global social networking website, Myspace was founded by Americans Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson, based in Beverly Hills, California. Myspace was overtaken in popularity by rival Facebook in 2008 and, while still in existence, usage has declined significantly.

 

American Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated during re‑entry to the Earth’s atmosphere, killing all seven astronauts aboard.

2004

The global Internet‑based social media networking web site Facebook was created by American entrepreneur Mark Zuckerberg, based in Menlo Park, California. Facebook has approximately 2.5billion active users.

 

The European Union (EU) expanded by 10 new member states – Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Malta and Cyprus.

 

A massive 9.3 magnitude earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean near Sumatra killed over 200,000 people.

 

The tallest skyscraper in the world, Taipei 101, at a height of 1,670 feet (510m) opened in Taipei, Taiwan. It was overtaken by the completion of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai in 2010.

2005

The video sharing web site, YouTube was launched. The platform was created by Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim, based in San Bruno, California. YouTube is currently owned by technology giant, Google.

 

Polish head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City, Pope John Paul II died. He was succeeded by German national, Pope Benedict XVI.

 

Category 5 Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.A., killing over 1,800 people and causing billions of dollars’ worth of damage.

2006

Indian Islamic terrorists detonated seven bombs on trains in the city of Mumbai, India, killing more than 200 people.

 

Discovered in 1930, Pluto was demoted from planet status and was re‑designated the largest known dwarf planet in the Kuiper belt. Caltech researcher Mike Brown led the team that led to the declassification.

 

Former president of Iraq, Saddam Hussein was tried and convicted by an Iraqi Special Tribunal and was executed by hanging for crimes against humanity.

2007

Three-year old English girl Madeleine McCann disappeared from the holiday resort of Praia da Luz in the Algarve region of Portugal. She remains missing despite massive media coverage.

 

Technology giant Apple Inc. launched the game‑changing touch screen mobile telephone, the iPhone.

 

The Global Financial Crisis began, caused by poor regulation resulted in the failure of a number of large financial and banking institutions. The severe worldwide economic downturn, known as the Great Recession, was the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The economic impact of the slump lasted for more than a decade.

2008

In physics, the Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator used to detect the presence of sub‑atomic particles was completed by CERN near Geneva in Switzerland. The pioneering science project became fully operational in 2010.

 

Pakistani Islamic terrorists carried out a series of 12 attacks over 4 days in Mumbai, India, killing almost 175 people.

2009

The decentralised digital cryptocurrency Bitcoin was established by pseudonymous Japanese creator Satoshi Nakamoto.

 

Democrat politician Barack Obama became the 44th president of the U.S.A. and was the first African‑American to be elected to the presidency.

Musical Genre Development 2000-2009

The pop music machine sustained commercial success well into the 21st Century. Large record companies continued to focus resources on the lucrative tween and teen audiences with artists such as Avril Lavigne, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Chris Brown, Usher, P!nk, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. Also popular were manufactured groups such as Destiny’s Child, Sugababes, Pussycat Dolls, One Direction, 5 Seconds Of Summer and Little Mix. Country music saw another revival with artists like Shania Twain, Taylor Swift, Faith Hill, Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood achieving notable success. Soul (nu‑soul) also saw a resurgence of interest, including performers like Joss Stone, Natasha Bedingfield, Corinne Bailey Rae, Estelle, Amy Winehouse, Adele and Duffy. Hip‑hop broadened out into contemporary R&B and claimed the resurgent urban music territory with artists such as Jay‑Z, Kanye West, Ludacris and 50 Cent building on the popularity of Dr Dre, Eminem and N.W.A.

Indie (rock) music had its origins in the 1970s as a ‘catch‑all’ umbrella term for artists who produced music through independent record labels rather than the large record companies and their subsidiaries. A new breed of bands began to emerge, aided by Internet exposure, coalescing into the indie rock movement on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Emerging rock bands came into their own and reasserted their independence through a rejection of (and by) the structured studio system. One constant characteristic of indie music is the rejuvenated dominance of the electric guitar within a band format. Indie music originated from the punk, alternative and grunge genres of previous decades and represents a very diverse range of musical approaches including dream pop, shoegaze, indie pop, indie dance, garage rock, indietronica, chillwave, hypnagogic pop, lo‑fi, etc. To reflect this diversity, there is a long list of indie artists from varying sub‑genres to give an indication of its broad appeal, including (in no particular order); My Bloody Valentine, Arctic Monkeys, The Jesus & Mary Chain, Eels, Low, The Zutons, Interpol, Charlatans, Slowdive, Ride, Primal Scream, PJ Harvey, The Strokes, The White Stripes, The Hives, The Vines, Snow Patrol, Keane, Pavement, Spiritualized, Blood Red Shoes, The Cribs, Sleater‑Kinney, The Libertines, Franz Ferdinand, Razorlight, Editors, Kasabian, Kings Of Leon, LCD Soundsystem, Crystal Castles, Arcade Fire, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Paramore, Belle & Sebastian, The Shins, The Kooks, The Killers, The Fratellis, Vampire Weekend, Bombay Bicycle Club, The Black Keys, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Modest Mouse, Ariel Pink, My Chemical Romance, Weezer, Death Cab for Cutie, White Lies, Two Door Cinema Club and War On Drugs amongst many others. The sheer volume of artists and material led to the term ‘indie landfill’ used to describe generic and derivative music exploiting indie music credentials.

Musical Facts 2000-2009

Day

Month

Year

Music Fact

6

March

2000

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2000’ including Eric Clapton, Earth Wind & Fire, The Lovin’ Spoonful, Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, Nat ‘King’ Cole, Billie Holiday and Scotty Moore.

27

March

2000

English punk singer, songwriter and poet, Ian Dury died from cancer in London at the age of 57.

23

May

2000

American hip hop artist Eminem released his classic 3nd studio album, ‘The Marshall Mathers LP’.

20

June

2000

American blues/rock duo The White Stripes released their 2nd studio album, ‘De Stijl’.

2

October

2000

English alternative rock band Radiohead changed stylistic direction when they released their 4th studio album, ‘Kid A’.

9

October

2000

English alternative rock band Placebo released their 3rd studio album, ‘Black Market Music’.

5

December

2000

American political rap rock band, Rage Against The Machine released their 4th and, to‑date, final studio album, ‘Renegades’.

8

December

2000

English bass guitarist, singer, songwriter and former member of rock band The Police, Sting received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6834 Hollywood Boulevard.

18

December

2000

English singer and songwriter Kirsty MacColl was killed tragically in a boating incident while on holiday in Cozumel, Quintana Roo, Mexico at the age of 41.

20

December

2000

Long-running UK music magazine ‘Melody Maker’ published its final issue. It had run for over 74 years since January 1926. Melody Maker was merged with rival music paper, New Musical Express (NME).

6

March

2001

Jamaican reggae legend Bob Marley received a posthumous Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7080 Hollywood Boulevard.

19

March

2001

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2001’ including Aerosmith, Solomon Burke, the Flamingos, Michael Jackson, Queen, Paul Simon, Steely Dan, Ritchie Valens and James Burton.

20

March

2001

Renowned Northern Irish blues/rock guitarist, Gary Moore released his classic 15th studio album, ‘Back To The Blues’ in the UK.

2

April

2001

German industrial heavy metal rock band Rammstein released their top-selling 3rd studio album, ‘Mutter’ (translated as Mother).

3

April

2001

American indie rock band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club released their debut studio album, ‘B.R.M.C.’.

10

April

2001

Indie rock giants, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds released their 11th studio album, ‘No More Shall We Part’.

4

June

2001

English alternative rock band Radiohead released their classic 5th studio album, ‘Amnesiac’ in the UK.

18

June

2001

English alternative rock band Muse released their breakout 2nd studio album, ‘Origin of Symmetry’.

30

June

2001

American guitarist, nicknamed the ‘Country Gentleman’, Chet Atkins died from cancer at his home in Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 77.

3

July

2001

American blues/rock duo The White Stripes released their 3rd studio album, ‘White Blood Cells’.

18

July

2001

American hard rock band KISS introduced a unique, if somewhat sinister, item of brand merchandise, a burial coffin humorously known as the ‘KISS Kasket’.

27

July

2001

American bass guitarist with southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, Leon Wilkeson died of chronic liver and lung disease in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida at the age of 49.

30

July

2001

Emerging American indie rock band The Strokes released their classic debut album, ‘Is This It’.

18

September

2001

American alternative/indie rock band Wilco released their classic 4th studio album, ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’.

23

October

2001

American technology giant Apple Inc. introduced the first iPod solid state portable media player, linked to the iTunes media storage library.

29

November

2001

English former member of The Beatles, George Harrison died of cancer in Los Angeles, California at the age of 58.

16

December

2001

Scottish guitarist and singer with punk rock band Skids and then Big Country, Stuart Adamson committed suicide in Honolulu, Hawaii at the age of 43.

5

March

2002

MTV broadcast the first episode of their reality TV show ‘The Osbournes’, featuring a portrayal of the Black Sabbath singer Ozzy Osbourne’s family life.

18

March

2002

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2002’ including Isaac Hayes, Brenda Lee, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Gene Pitney, Ramones, Talking Heads and Chet Atkins.

26

March

2002

British heavy metal rock band, Iron Maiden released their massive live concert album, ‘Rock In Rio’.

12

April

2002

English heavy metal singer with Black Sabbath and TV reality show celebrity, Ozzy Osbourne received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6780 Hollywood Boulevard.

14

May

2002

Award-winning American singer, songwriter, guitarist, electronica musician and producer Moby released his commercially successful 6th studio album, ‘18’.

5

June

2002

American bass guitarist Dee Dee Ramone of punk rock band Ramones died from a heroin drug overdose at his home in Hollywood, California at the age of 50.

27

June

2002

English bass guitarist with rock band The Who, John Entwistle, nicknamed ‘The Ox’, died of a cocaine‑related heart attack in a Hard Rock hotel room in Paradise, Nevada at the age of 57.

27

August

2002

American rock band Queens Of The Stone Age released their classic 3rd studio album, ‘Songs For The Deaf’.

24

September

2002

American alternative rock artist, Beck released his introspective and highly underrated 8th studio album, ‘Sea Change’.

14

October

2002

English indie rock band The Libertines released their successful debut studio album, ‘Up The Bracket’.

18

October

2002

English pop/rock band Queen received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6356 Hollywood Boulevard.

27

October

2002

Highly renowned American record producer who worked for Atlantic Records, Tom Dowd died of emphysema in Aventura, Florida at the age of 77.

3

November

2002

Scottish singer and guitarist, crowned the ‘King of Skiffle’, Lonnie Donegan died of a heart attack in Market Deeping, Lincolnshire at the age of 71.

22

December

2002

English singer, songwriter and guitarist, Joe Strummer of punk rock band The Clash died from a congenital heart defect at his home in Somerset, UK at the age of 50.

30

December

2002

The funeral of English guitarist, singer and songwriter with punk rock band The Clash, Joe Strummer took place in London, UK.

3

February

2003

Famous American ‘wall of sound’ record producer, Phil Spector murdered actress Lana Clarkson in his California Alhambra mansion.

10

February

2003

English trip-hop group, Massive Attack released their underrated 4th studio album, ‘100th Window’ in the UK.

10

March

2003

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2003’ including AC/DC, The Clash, Elvis Costello & The Attractions, The Police, The Righteous Brothers and Floyd Cramer.

1

April

2003

American blues/rock duo The White Stripes released their highly regarded 4th studio album, ‘Elephant’.

1

April

2003

English alternative rock band Placebo released their 4th studio album, ‘Sleeping With Ghosts’.

18

April

2003

Legendary American blues/R&B, soul and jazz singer Etta James received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7080 Hollywood Boulevard.

11

May

2003

English bass guitarist with The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Noel Redding died of liver disease in Clonakilty, County Cork, Ireland at the age of 57.

15

May

2003

American country music singer and wife of Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash died following heart surgery in Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 73.

30

May

2003

Successful English record producer behind many massive chart hits, Mickie Most died from abdominal cancer at his home in London at the age of 64.

9

June

2003

Acclaimed English alternative rock band Radiohead released their 6th studio album, ‘Hail To The Thief’.

13

June

2003

English guitarist, singer, songwriter and former member of progressive rock band Pink Floyd, David Gilmour was awarded a CBE by Her Majesty the Queen.

30

July

2003

Legendary American record producer Sam Phillips, founder of Sun Records and the man responsible for signing Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash, died of respiratory failure in Memphis Tennessee at the age of 80.

25

August

2003

American indie rock band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club released their 2nd studio album, ‘Take Them On, On Your Own’.

12

September

2003

Less than 4 months after his wife passed away, American country legend Johnny Cash died of complications caused by diabetes in Nashville at the age of 71.

26

September

2003

English singer, songwriter, musician, solo artist and former member of the pop rock band Power Station, Robert Palmer died of a heart attack in a hotel room in Paris, France at the age of 54.

29

September

2003

English alternative rock band Muse released their successful 3nd studio album, ‘Absolution’.

12

December

2003

English singer and songwriter with The Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger received a knighthood from HRH Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace.

9

February

2004

English indie rock band Franz Ferdinand released their successful debut studio album, the self-titled ‘Franz Ferdinand’.

15

March

2004

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2004’ including Jackson Browne, George Harrison, Prince, Bob Seger, Traffic and ZZ Top.

6

May

2004

American virtuoso jazz guitarist and session musician with The Wrecking Crew, Barney Kessel died from a brain tumour at his home in San Diego, California at the age of 80.

10

June

2004

American singer, songwriter, musician, and composer Ray Charles died from complications as a result of acute liver disease at his home in Beverly Hills, California at the age of 73.

15

June

2004

Emerging American rock band The Killers released their hugely successful debut studio album, ‘Hot Fuss’.

23

June

2004

American folk/rock singer, songwriter and guitarist, Bob Dylan was made ‘Doctor of Music’ at St. Andrews University in Scotland, UK.

24

June

2004

Exactly 5 years after his first sale, English blues/rock guitarist, Eric Clapton auctioned many of his guitars in New York City. Together, the two auctions raised $11 million for the Crossroads Centre he founded in Antigua, a residential treatment centre for alcohol and chemical dependencies.

21

July

2004

American music composer, Jerry Goldsmith, famous for his many TV and film scores, died from cancer in Beverley Hills, California at the age of 75.

30

August

2004

English indie rock band The Libertines released their successful eponymous 2nd studio album, ‘The Libertines’.

6

September

2004

English indie rock band Kasabian released their classic self-titled debut studio album, ‘Kasabian’.

9

September

2004

Successful American guitar and musical equipment entrepreneur and businessman, Ernie Ball died in San Luis Obispo, California at the age of 74.

15

September

2004

American guitarist and songwriter with punk rock band Ramones, Johnny Ramone died of prostate cancer at his home in Los Angeles, California at the age of 56.

20

September

2004

Indie/alternative rock giants, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds released their epic 13th double studio album, ‘Abattoir Blues / The Lyre of Orpheus’.

21

September

2004

American post-punk rock band Green Day released their top-selling 7th studio album, ‘American Idiot’ in the U.S.

27

September

2004

German industrial heavy metal band Rammstein released their 4th studio album, ‘Reise, Reise’ (roughly translated as ‘Arise, Arise’).

25

October

2004

Highly acclaimed English DJ and BBC radio presenter, John Peel died from a heart attack while working on holiday in Cusco, Peru at the age of 65.

1

November

2004

American rock band Kings of Leon released their commercially successful 4th studio album, ‘Only By The Night’ in the UK (22 February 2005 in the US).

3

November

2004

English blues/rock guitarist, singer and songwriter, Eric Clapton received a CBE from the Princess Royal at Buckingham Palace in London for his services to music.

8

December

2004

American guitarist, ‘Dimebag’ Darrell Abbott, co-founder of heavy metal bands Pantera and Damageplan was murdered while performing on stage in Columbus, Ohio at the age of 38.

14

December

2004

The funeral of American guitarist with heavy rock bands Pantera and Damageplan, ‘Dimebag’ Darrell Abbott, took place in Arlington, Texas.

10

February

2005

English singer with The Who, Roger Daltrey was awarded a CBE by HM The Queen at Buckingham Palace.

14

March

2005

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2005’ including Buddy Guy, The O’Jays, The Pretenders, Percy Sledge and U2.

22

March

2005

American alternative rock band Queens Of The Stone Age released their 4th studio album ‘Lullabies to Paralyze’.

11

June

2005

Two English rock guitarists were rewarded for their contributions to music in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin was awarded an OBE and Brian May of Queen a CBE.

22

August

2005

American indie rock band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club released their 3rd studio album, ‘Howl’.

30

August

2005

American indie rock band Death Cab For Cutie released their 5th studio album, ‘Plans’.

1

September

2005

American blues singer, songwriter and guitarist R.L. Burnside died of heart disease in a hospital in Memphis, Tennessee at the age of 78.

4

September

2005

The major feature film chronicling the life of country legend Johnny Cash, ‘Walk The Line’, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, directed by James Mangold, was released in the USA.

10

September

2005

American guitarist and Blues Hall of Famer, Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown died from cancer in Orange, Texas at the age of 81.

5

November

2005

Influential American rock ‘n’ roll guitarist Link Wray died of heart failure at his home in Copenhagen, Denmark at the age of 76.

23

January

2006

English indie rock sensation, Arctic Monkeys released their debut studio album, ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’.

13

March

2006

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2006’ including Black Sabbath, Blondie, Miles Davis, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Sex Pistols and Herb Alpert.

7

July

2006

English guitarist, songwriter and founder of progressive rock band Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett died of pancreatic cancer at his home in Cambridge at the age of 60.

25

July

2005

British indie rock band Editors released their debut studio album, ‘The Back Room’ in the UK.

30

July

2006

Popular weekly UK music chart TV programme ‘Top Of The Pops’ (TOTP) was broadcast by the BBC for the final time, after running for 42 years.

28

August

2006

English indie rock band Kasabian released their classic 2nd studio album, ‘Empire’.

15

October

2006

After American singer Patti Smith finished her live set at New York City’s famous punk rock music venue CBGB & OMFUG, the club finally closed its doors for good, following a rent dispute and thereby ending an era.

25

December

2006

Legendary American singer and the ‘Godfather of Soul’, James Brown died of pneumonia in Atlanta, Georgia at the age of 73.

28

February

2007

American rock band The Doors received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6901 Hollywood Boulevard.

12

March

2007

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2007’ including Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, R.E.M., The Ronettes, Patti Smith and Van Halen.

23

April

2007

English indie rock band, Arctic Monkeys released their sophomore studio album, ‘Favourite Worst Nightmare’.

25

June

2007

British indie rock band Editors released their sophomore studio album, ‘An End Has a Start’.

5

November

2007

English downtempo artist William Emmanuel Bevan (a.k.a. Burial) released his melancholic genre breaking 2nd studio album, ‘Untrue’.

12

December

2007

Controversial American rock ‘n’ roll and R&B pioneer, Ike Turner died from a cocaine overdose at his home in San Marcos, California at the age of 76.

2

March

2008

Extraordinary blind Canadian blues/rock guitarist Jeff Healey died from lung cancer in Toronto at the age of 41.

10

March

2008

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2008’ including Leonard Cohen, The Dave Clark Five, Madonna, John Mellencamp, The Ventures and Little Walter.

1

April

2008

American blues/rock duo The Black Keys released their classic 5th studio album, ‘Attack & Release’.

3

April

2008

American media and technology giant Apple Inc. became the top seller of recorded music in the USA.

19

April

2008

The annual global campaign to promote the importance of independent music stores ‘Record Store Day’ began in California, USA.

28

April

2008

English trip-hop band, Portishead released their 3rd studio album, the originally titled, ‘Third’.

12

May

2008

American indie rock band Death Cab For Cutie released their 6th studio album, ‘Narrow Stairs’.

26

May

2008

English indie rock band Spiritualized released their 6th studio album, ‘Songs In A&E’.

2

June

2008

Legendary American blues and rock ‘n’ roll guitarist Bo Diddley died from heart failure at his home in Archer, Florida at the age of 79.

7

June

2008

The ‘homecoming’ funeral of American blues guitarist and singer Bo Diddley took place in Gainseville Florida.

19

June

2008

American indie rock band The War On Drugs released their debut studio album, ‘Wagonwheel Blues’.

10

August

2008

Acclaimed American soul singer, songwriter, producer and actor, Isaac Hayes died of a stroke at his home in Memphis, Tennessee at the age of 65.

19

September

2008

American rock band Kings of Leon released their commercially successful 4th studio album, ‘Only By The Night’.

10

October

2008

English alternative rock band Radiohead released their 7th studio album, ‘In Rainbows’ in the UK.

24

November

2008

Experimental virtuoso English rock guitarist, Jeff Beck released his highly acclaimed live concert album, ‘Performing This Week… Live At Ronnie Scott’s’.

15

December

2008

Hugely influential English folk acoustic guitarist Davey Graham died of lung cancer at the age of 68.

6

January

2009

American guitarist and songwriter with The Stooges and Iggy Pop, Ron Asheton died of a heart attack at his home in Ann Arbor, Michigan at the age of 60.

29

January

2009

Influential British singer, songwriter and guitarist, John Martyn died from pneumonia in Kilkenny, Ireland at the age of 60.

23

February

2009

English rave band The Prodigy released their resurgent 5th studio album, ‘Invaders Must Die’.

4

April

2009

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2009’ including Jeff Beck, Metallica, Run‑D.M.C., Bobby Womack, Bill Black and D.J. Fontana.

13

April

2009

Controversial American record producer Phil Spector was convicted of murdering actress Lana Clarkson at his Alhambra mansion in California in February 2003.

14

April

2009

English former member of The Beatles, George Harrison received a posthumous star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1750 Vine Street.

29

May

2009

Notorious American record producer, Phil Spector was sentenced to 19 years to life in prison for murdering actress Lana Clarkson at his California mansion in 2003.

5

June

2009

English indie rock band Kasabian released their classic 3rd studio album, ‘West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum’.

25

June

2009

American superstar singer Michael Jackson died of a drug overdose in Los Angeles, California at the age of 50.

12

August

2009

Legendary American jazz guitarist, singer, inventor and recording innovator, Les Paul, died from pneumonia in White Plains, New York at the age of 94.

19

August

2009

English indie rock band, Arctic Monkeys released their 3rd studio album, ‘Humbug’.

12

October

2009

British indie rock band Editors released their 3rd studio album, ‘In This Light And On This Evening’.

Tailpiece

Help! We are running out of decades from which to poach pertinent and poignant particulars (pardon the flowery alliteration). Just one more decade and a few hundred facts to be revealed before the chronological timeline has to remain as‑yet‑unwritten for another epoch. The next instalment looking at the 2010s will, by definition, bring us pretty much up‑to‑date. I hope you feel inclined to re-join me in the next enthralling part of the journey.

In the meantime, warmer days