June 2020 – Whazzup at CRAVE Guitars

Prelude

WELCOME BACK ONCE again guitar fans and hello to any new visitors. We are now half way through an extraordinary 2020 and the world is still turned upside down in so many concerning ways. While there may be glimmers of light at the end of the tunnel for COVID‑19, there is still a long way to go and there will be profound ramifications that it will leave in its sizeable wake. At the end of last year, we had no inclination as to what was about to befall, yet here we are now. Perhaps us hooman beans really aren’t as clever as we seem to think we are (shock, horror – hold the front page!). It seems that we also still have some way to go before all people are deemed equal and can live their lives freely, responsibly and peacefully. The first half of 2020 has passed by very quickly and, frankly, good riddance to it. I don’t like wishing life away but it has been 6 months that I’m sure we could all have done without, everything being on‑hold.

Well, here we are and no more historical facts, quotes or predictions on which to ponder this month. I said at the very end of the last article that I would get back to pontificating about ‘cool & rare American vintage electric’ guitars and, at last, I can deliver on that promise/threat (delete as applicable).

There are 3 themes on which I’d like to embark this month. Firstly, I mentioned in my December 2019 article that I had bought some gear (big surprise… not) during last year but I didn’t go any further than to list what they were, without any indication as to the whys and wherefores behind the spending spree. Secondly, after 18 months, most of the 42 repatriated guitars have now been properly assessed and worked through as far as I am able. So far, I haven’t given any real sense about what I found and what I learnt from the exercise. Thirdly, there have been a number of purchases during the first half of 2020 and in due course I can reveal what those are and how they relate both to the existing ‘collection’ and to the ‘wanted’ list from that same December 2019 end‑of‑year/look‑forward roundup.

I think that there is more than enough material to occupy one article, so without further ado, let us begin at the beginning. Sitting comfortably? Good. Then, we’ll begin…

2019 CRAVE Guitars’ Purchases

An Introduction to the 2019 CRAVE Guitars

2019 was certainly an interesting year. Due to circumstances, I started out not anticipating much in the way of guitar purchases. The relatively modest vintage guitar ‘wanted’ list from December 2018 included a Danelectro of some sort, a Fender Starcaster and a Gibson Melody Maker. These had all featured on the target list for more than one year, so it seemed a fairly realistic expectation. What actually happened was a bit more fruitful than I foresaw and I think it deserves some rationale to indicate why they weren’t random purchases. In fact, 2019 resulted in nine new additions to the CRAVE Guitars family, spanning five decades (1940s‑1980s with at least one from each). I couldn’t really afford the outlay but, although it meant sacrifices in other areas, it has probably been worth a bit of hardship. I hope you find this array of short stories moderately interesting.

1982 Fender Bullet H2

This is what happened when esteemed Fender designer John Page was tasked with creating a low cost student model to carry the ‘Made in U.S.A.’ decal and replace the outgoing Mustang and Musicmaster? The result was the Fender Bullet. I’d already acquired a 1981 Fender Bullet which was essentially a Telecaster‑on‑a‑budget model. Several aspects of the first iteration intrigued me and I set about looking for a second generation model, with the more Stratocaster‑like body outline. Initially, I was looking for a ‘standard’ one with twin single coil pickups and the integrated bent steel pick guard and bridge assembly, just like the ‘Tele’ Bullet. Instead, I found a cool Fender Bullet H2 in great all‑original condition in very smart red and white with a maple neck. This version has a more robust standard integrated hardtail bridge/tailpiece with through‑body stringing. The H2 features what at first glance appear to be standard twin ‘humbuckers’. However, looks can be deceiving. The pickups aren’t actually traditional humbuckers – they are actually 4 single coil pickups arranged as two pairs in humbucking configuration. In addition to a normal 3‑way pickup selector switch, the H2 has two additional buttons that ‘split’ the humbucking pickup pairs to give a wide range of tonal options including genuine single coil sounds (unlike most tapped or split humbuckers). When it arrived, one of the 4 pickups wasn’t working and it had to be sent to a pickup expert to fix. Thankfully, it was a weak connection between the coil and pickup lead, so easily sorted. Like the earlier Bullet, the H2 has a very nice standard Telecaster neck. The diverse sounds available from this guitar are nothing short of remarkable and it makes me wonder why this particular unique configuration hasn’t been widely used since. The early USA‑made Bullets were misunderstood and tend to attract a lot of unfair criticism from purists. As a result, like the Fender Leads of the time, they weren’t manufactured for long. Judging it on its own terms, this is really not the cheap Stratocaster imitation it may seem at first glance. I realised that the Fender Bullet H2s are both cool and quite rare, so fit the CRAVE criteria. I never envisaged that it would be so fascinating and collectable while still being affordable. This Bullet H2 came with its original (if battered and stickered) Original Hard Shell Case (OHSC).

1975 Fender Starcaster

The Fender Starcaster (and, no, that isn’t a spelling error) has been a long‑standing ‘wanted’ guitar, ever since I got a 1960s Coronado. There is very little similarity between the two models but as there are very few semi‑acoustic electrics in the brand’s history, I was once again curious. Unusually, I bought this one from a retailer, so I probably paid more than I normally would have considered but it was worth it. Where the Coronado is fully hollow, the Starcaster has a solid centre block running under the pickups and the massive hardtail bridge/tailpiece assembly. Surprisingly, the Starcaster has through‑body stringing like a Telecaster. While the Coronado has DeArmond single coil pickups, the Starcaster uses the sublime Seth Lover ‘wide range’ humbuckers as used on several Telecaster variants from the 1970s. While both the Coronado and the Starcaster use bolt on maple necks, they are, again, very different and the latter is unique to the model with a maple fingerboard. Both the Coronado and Starcaster were reissued by Fender in 2013 although neither are a patch on the originals. The vintage Starcasters are instantly recognisable because of the distinctive bridge assembly and the 5 controls (2 volume, 2 tone plus master volume). When going over the guitar on arrival, I found it was a rare very early 1975 (pre‑production?) model. It has been well used but is still in remarkably good condition with the sort of genuine patina that only age can bestow. The tobacco sunburst and sunburst flame maple is just gorgeous. It is also a fantastic guitar to play with a great neck and I really like the (in‑vogue) offset body shape. Even better, it doesn’t play or sound like any other Fender, ever made. The Starcaster didn’t prove popular on its original release and wasn’t produced for long before being quietly discontinued in 1982. I can understand why it didn’t sell in large numbers but that misses the point about its exclusive charms. Make no mistake, the Starcaster is a high quality instrument just waiting to be rediscovered. This beauty is not to be confused with cheapo far‑eastern Strat imitations from the 2000s that unfortunately carried the ‘Starcaster by Fender’ moniker. The case, while vintage, is not an original Fender Starcaster case. Obtaining a Fender Starcaster was a long‑standing aspiration achieved, which can now be removed from the ‘wanted’ list. These babies are now becoming extortionately expensive on the vintage market, as the ‘collectorati’ are now cottoning onto them. Seems I got this one just about in time‑ish.

1979 Fender Stratocaster Anniversary

I already have a 1977 Stratocaster hardtail and I was kinda looking around for one from the early 1970s with a vibrato before they become unaffordable (rapidly heading that way now). Along the way, I became distracted by the 1979 Anniversary Stratocaster. I missed out on a couple before I finally attained one (once again at a higher price than I intended, unfortunately). The Anniversary is distinctive in that it was Fender’s first foray into limited edition commemorative models, celebrating 25 years since the original Stratocaster’s introduction in 1954. I was attracted by the classic look of silver, black and maple fingerboard. Whether one can regard a massive 10,000 examples as a ‘limited edition’ is debatable. It also comes with a very unsubtle ‘Anniversary’ logo emblazoned on the bass horn plus a much more understated 25th anniversary neck plate which carries its serial/issue number. This one comes with its original certificate of authenticity and most (but not quite all) of its case candy, as well as its ABS OHSC, all of which is nice to have. Like all Anniversary models, this one is heavy at 10lbs (4.6kgs) but I can live with that because of the part this model plays in electric guitar heritage. It looks cool, sounds great and plays very nicely, although the action is a little high. Fundamentally, though, it is essentially a standard Stratocaster with a few aesthetic embellishments. This guitar is in excellent, almost mint condition, which suggests that it was kept as a memento rather than an instrument to be played, which in my view is sacrilege. These aren’t especially rare instruments and many purists would say they aren’t cool. Well, I’m going to stand my ground and say that I like it, which is why it now has a safe home here at CRAVE Guitars.

1983 Fender Stratocaster Elite

This is the first of a pair of Fender Elites that I bought in 2019 (and the second Stratocaster!), both of which I think are quite desirable. As background, the Elite series was only produced in 1982 and 1983 before it was withdrawn shortly before CBS sold Fender in 1984. It is the innovative electronics that really set the Elites apart. The signal chain starts with 3 ‘noiseless’ single coil pickups including an additional dummy coil to reduce hum. These pickups are distinguishable by the Fender logo covers with no visible pole pieces. Instead of a 5‑way pickup selector switch, there are 3 on/off buttons, 1 for each pickup, giving 8 permutations in all (including all ‘off’). This arrangement provides easy access to more sounds than the standard Stratocaster of the time. The switching is unusual but also very intuitive (far better than Fender’s current S‑1 switching). The signal then passes through an on‑board active pre‑amp powered by a 9V battery. The controls are different too and not just the nice soft‑touch logo knobs. There is the usual single master volume complemented by two master tone controls, comprising Fender’s propriety MDX (MiD‑range eXpander) boost and TBX (Treble/Bass eXpander) circuit. The Strat’s iconic jack plate is also absent, with the output moved to the body edge. The bridge assembly is also unique, here it is a top‑loading hardtail Fender Freeflyte bridge. In use, it plays just like a Strat, although it is a touch on the heavy side. The sounds though are, as you might expect, quite different from a normal Stratocaster. Before the purists clamour with cries of sacrilegious iconoclasm, the electronics went on, albeit modified, to be used in both the Eric Clapton and Buddy Guy signature guitars, so the Elite wasn’t an abortive experiment. This example looks particularly cool in creamy Olympic White with a lovely rosewood fingerboard. This Elite is in lovely all‑original excellent condition and comes with its ABS OHSC. Like many 1970s and 1980s Fenders, these are now becoming more desirable on the vintage market. These original Elites are not to be confused with the similarly named but otherwise standard Elite series instruments issued by Fender between 2016 and 2019.

1983 Fender Telecaster Elite

More?! OK then. Onto the second in the pair of Fender Elites. This one is a 1983 Telecaster Elite in lovely translucent Sienna Burst with a gorgeous rosewood fingerboard. Like the Stratocaster Elite, it is a fascinating variant on the classic design. The electronics here comprise dual‑coil noise‑cancelling Alnico 2 pickups routed through an on‑board active 9V preamp with 2 volume controls allied to the same MDX (mid‑range) and TBX (high‑range) tone controls as found on the Stratocaster Elite. Like its sister model, it has the unique top‑loading hardtail Fender Freeflyte bridge. The body has cool single binding on the top edge, similar to the original Custom Telecaster from the 1960s. For some inexplicable reason, the designers at Fender felt that a Telecaster would look good with a Les Paul‑like scratchplate. They were wrong, it doesn’t. Fortunately, the scratchplate was provided in the case, rather than being attached and even then, it could be stuck on with double‑sided tape. Personally, I prefer it without the scratchplate, revealing the woodgrain through the finish. Like the Stratocaster, the Telecaster is a touch on the heavy side but I can forgive that because of its unique position within the Fender canon. This little beauty is in near mint condition and includes its OHSC. The Elite is far from your average Telecaster and, on my unending quest for something cool and rare, it has found a good home here at CRAVE Guitars. Both Elite models (and there was also a Precision bass in the range as well) are harder to come across than standard models, so the prices tend to reflect their relative scarcity. The Elites are unequivocally ‘curio’ guitars from the last dying days of Fender’s notorious CBS era, so they tend to be frowned upon by purists, which makes them all the more appealing to the maverick side of my enduring addiction to the quirky and idiosyncratic guitars from a generally unloved period of guitar history.

1947 Gibson ES-150

Thus, we move onto the ‘Big G’. The author sadly hit one of those dreaded ‘big birthdays’ in 2019 and without much else to celebrate, I figured that I would mark my passing years with something self‑indulgent. I had been keeping my eyes peeled for a vintage Gibson ES‑150 for several years and watching as the prices escalated to, frankly, silly levels. I couldn’t afford one of the carved top pre‑war models with the Charlie Christian pickup, so I was looking around for a newer model, which would be cheaper. For those that may not know, the Gibson ES‑150 was introduced in 1936 and is acknowledged as the first commercially successful electric Spanish guitar. I eventually found a lovely 1947 ES‑150 from the first year of post‑war production and sporting a single P90 pickup. This one was way, way more expensive than I could normally justify so, because of my impending mortality, I was tempted to go for it. In fact, it is the most I’ve ever spent on a single instrument to‑date. This ES‑150 was residing in Italy, so I imported it before Brexit shuts down all opportunities to access vintage fare from our European colleagues. Owning a really old hollow body non‑cutaway jazz guitar is new territory for me, so it was with some trepidation and excitement that I was delving into this particular art form. The guitar itself is in fine all‑original condition with just surface crazing to the lovely sunburst nitrocellulose finish. There is no serial number or Factory Order Number (FON) which, along with the features, dates it to 1947. Playing it is a different experience altogether, as it needs heavy semi‑flat wound strings to get the laminated top vibrating. Then there is the limited upper fret access to contend with, so it takes some time to acclimatise to the technique. Being deep‑bodied and fully hollow, this one actually works quite well as an acoustic jazz guitar too. As you may know, I really like single pickup guitars, so there is less to get in the way of pure P90 tone. The ES‑150 is currently a bit of an outlier within the CRAVE Guitars family. One thing is for sure, it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Definitely not the ideal guitar of choice for metal heads though.

1965 Gibson Melody Maker

This 1965 Melody Maker was a bit of a gap filling exercise. Between 1959 and 1971, Gibson released four versions of their ‘student’ guitar, the Melody Maker. The first was a single cutaway Les Paul shape (1959‑1961), the second was a unique and really cute double cutaway model (1961‑1965), the third iteration was a somewhat crude and short‑lived double cutaway model (1965‑1966) and the final generation was SG‑shaped (1967‑1971). This is one of the rather ‘ugly duckling’ models from 1965 (weirdly often called the ‘type 2’, even though it’s the third body shape), which completes the set. The Melody Maker comprises a slab mahogany body with double cutaways, a set mahogany neck with the typical narrow headstock, one single coil pickup, and comes in a reserved cherry nitrocellulose finish. Unsurprisingly, this model has never been reissued by Gibson, although there has been a Joan Jett signature guitar. The Melody Maker name has re‑appeared a number of times since the 1960s. This example is not in pristine shape but is all‑original and it comes with its OHSC. At least this one hasn’t been butchered over the years unlike many. I was shocked that a recent guitar magazine article (which I won’t name but they really should know better) was recommending that the vintage Melody Maker body should be routed and the pickup replaced with a P90 or humbucker! Unbelievable and indefensible! I think that the narrow single coil pickups give the Melody Maker a distinct tone, which is very underrated by purists. Melody Makers are unique in the Gibson history books and unmolested examples deserve much more credit in my view. They are made from the same materials in the same Kalamazoo factory by the same people as other highly prized models and should be regarded (and treated) as worthy vintage instruments in their own right. They are very light and resonant, making them really easy to pick up and play. Compared to many Gibsons from the 1960s, Melody Makers are still relatively affordable on the vintage market and represent a good starting point for people interested in collecting vintage guitars from a major American brand. Personally, I have to admit that I am not a huge fan of this pointy body shape but now that I own one, it is growing on me.

1989 PRS Classic Electric

Having dipped my toes into the world of Paul Reed Smith (PRS) guitars with an elegant 1988 PRS Standard, I was looking around for other early hand‑finished guitars that were made in PRS’s original facility in Annapolis, Maryland. These early, so‑called ‘pre‑factory’ models are becoming increasingly collectable, especially as they are now beginning to get to vintage age (and price!). The early PRS Customs are becoming incredibly expensive, so my eyes settled on an early PRS model that was initially called the Classic Electric when introduced in 1989. The model was swiftly renamed as the CE after a legal dispute with Peavey over the original name. NB. The CE is not to be confused with the far Eastern PRS SE (‘Student Edition’) guitars. I also had my sights set on the early solid Electric Blue metallic finish, which I think is stunningly beautiful. This example is a very early Classic Electric, being only the 473rd guitar off the production line, distinguished by its 24‑fret, bolt‑on maple neck and the plain headstock carrying the block ‘PRS Electric’ logo (soon to change to the familiar modern ‘Paul Reed Smith’ signature script logo). There are quite a few marks including one significant ding to the body and the finish on the back of the neck has worn down. The wear indicates that it has been well played, which is often a sign of a soundly put together instrument. OK, it doesn’t have the flashy flame or quilted maple cap, faux binding, bird inlays or set neck but it is still a very creditable guitar that plays very well and sounds great. The CE is one of those under‑the‑radar PRSs that the collectors tend to overlook, although genuine owners praise them very highly. PRS finally got around to re‑releasing the bolt‑on CE model in 2016 but the new ones really aren’t the same as these early ‘handmade’ examples. Despite the wear and tear, it is all‑original and comes with its OHSC but no case candy. You can’t have everything. A vintage PRS Custom to add to the Standard and Classic Electric sadly has to remain on the wish list for the time being.

1959 Silvertone 1304

I had a bit of a mad spell towards the end of the year when I was buying several guitars for the sake of it. I was looking for a vintage Danelectro and came across this funky little 1959 Silvertone 1304 with its single cutaway and dowdy brown finish. It is very similar to the Danelectro U1 (differentiated by pickup position and headstock logo), which is no surprise seeing that Danelectro manufactured Silvertone guitars for the Sears & Roebuck retail and mail order company at the time. The 1304 is actually a pretty rare model being only available in Sears & Roebuck’s ‘Wish Book’ Christmas catalogue and related advertising of 1958, 1959 and 1960. The neck and familiar ‘coke bottle’ headstock is also rare, being finished in natural, rather than colour matched to the body, apparently due to supply shortages at the time. It also has the circular electrics cover on the back and the squared off neck joint that confirms its age and lineage. The ever present Lipstick pickup and body‑edge tape will be familiar to Danelectro fans. It also feels, plays and sounds just like you’d expect a vintage Danelectro from the 1950s, i.e. great. This was the last of the Danelectro single cutaway body shapes before they moved to double cutaways in the 1960s. The single pickup and simple controls let you focus on playing and getting the most out of a very cool and groovy (and lightweight due to semi acoustic construction) instrument. It is a lot of fun to pick up and play and hard to put down. The action is a little high but that resistance actually forces one to play differently compared to a more ‘refined’ guitar. Like others in this résumé, it is in fine all‑original condition, although it sadly doesn’t come with an original 1950s case. These cool Silvertone and comparable Danelectro guitars are still amazingly affordable for vintage guitars from the so‑called ‘golden era’, perhaps because they were (generally) made in large numbers and sold to a largely undiscriminating ‘student’ audience at the time.

2019 CRAVE Amps? What Amps?

Right, that’s the 2019 guitars covered, so what else was new? Well CRAVE Amplifiers didn’t achieve anything at all in 2019 – no new additions and no losses. Nada. As it turned out, I was quite happy running two relatively similar modest little units as daily go‑to amplification during the year, a 1978 Fender Champ and a 1978 Fender Vibro Champ both in ‘silverface’ livery. Don’t underestimate these diminutive 5W Class A valve amps, they are really great for what they are. I acknowledge that I’m not a vintage amp specialist, so they are not hugely abundant here at CRAVE Guitars. Owning vintage valve amps demands space, time and effort as well as oodles of filthy lucre, so I’m not in a huge rush to buy up large numbers of vintage amps.

An Introduction to the 2019 CRAVE Effects

CRAVE Effects did a little better during 2019, although there were only five new pedals to join the clan. Having said that, two of those were outstanding examples of the type. As with amps, because I am not a vintage effect expert, I’m sticking to a few well‑known global brands from the 1960s to 1980s, rather than go too far into the realms of the unique, idiosyncratic and unusual.

1987 BOSS RV-2 Digital Reverb

It may seem heretical to many but this is the first vintage digital effect to join the CRAVE club. This Japanese BOSS RV‑2 was sought out principally because there are few vintage compact analogue reverb pedals out there. Yes there are the bulky (and expensive) vintage valve reverb tanks from the likes of Fender but I wanted something small and convenient to add an extra special dimension to the aforementioned Fender Champs, neither of which have on‑board reverb. So, a digital reverb was the way to go with this rather plain looking but flexible 1987 BOSS RV‑2. It provides a range of reverbs and it sounds quite natural without too many sibilant digital artefacts, although not quite the soft and cuddly warm tones of traditional analogue reverbs. Still, it does its job very well and it is from the right era (pre‑1990s), which is why it’s here. Interestingly, the high current draw of the digital circuitry in the RV‑2 means that it cannot be powered by batteries and requires a BOSS PSA power supply in order to do its ‘0’ and ‘1’ digi‑thing.

1969 Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face

This is the first of two iconic classic pedals acquired in 2019. The humble but fabled English Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face rose to stardom mainly because of none other than Jimi Hendrix. This isn’t one of the earliest Fuzz Faces that used germanium transistors but one of the first to use silicon transistors, this one dating from c.1969. It is amazing what a few cheap electronic components can end up being turned into. Truth be told, I didn’t actually intend to get this pedal. It came along via an eBay auction and I decided to take a punt and put on a (relatively) low bid and… what happened? No‑one came along at the last minute to beat me and I ended up getting it. Yikes! Yes, it was hideously expensive but not as bad as it could have been. Therefore, while it was not exactly a bargain, I suppose it was still a reasonable price for what it is. Fortunately, it delivers its fuzzy glory in all the right ways, so that’s OK then. It is in excellent all‑original condition and in perfect working order, so my initial reticence was soon overcome. It actually looks pretty cool in red too. By today’s standards, its circular form factor does take up a disproportionate amount of pedalboard real estate but, c’mon, it is a vintage fuzz pedal – what’s not to like? The original Fuzz Face was definitely a batteries only zone back in the 1960s and neither is there an LED status light to indicate when it’s on. Great though it undoubtedly is, this is clearly not one of those pedals you’d want to gig with down the local pub, that’s for sure.

1982 Ibanez PT9 Phaser

At totally the other end of the value scale from the Fuzz Face, we have a fairly widely available and averagely collectable 1982 Ibanez PT9 Phaser. CRAVE Effects has somehow accumulated more phasers than any other kind over the years and that’s probably because the late 1970s and early 1980s experienced a surfeit of these simple analogue modulation effects. Let’s be honest, your average phaser really isn’t the most exciting of guitar effects compared to what else is out there, especially in these days of ubiquitous boutique eccentricities. The PT9 is pretty utilitarian and sounds OK, but not necessarily exceptional, which is probably to damn it with faint praise. I’m guessing that Ibanez chose to change their colour scheme from the previous blue/white PT‑909 Phase Tone to the orange/black PT9 in order to compete on looks with the all‑dominating and very orange MXR Phase 90 of the time. I had been on the track of a PT9 to fill a gap in the collection for a while, so the gap was duly filled. Original PT9s are still relatively affordable phasers and they are, perhaps, a good entry point for neophytes to get into vintage effects before getting into more exclusive and expensive fare. Time to move on… Next!

1981 Ibanez TS-808 Tube Screamer Overdrive Pro

… and here is the second iconic classic pedal procured in 2019. The otherwise ordinary green Ibanez TS-808 Tube Screamer Overdrive Pro rose to hallowed status via another guitarist association, this time with the inimitable Stevie Ray Vaughan. Like the Fuzz Face, the original vintage TS‑808s are now inordinately expensive on the vintage effect market, with prices increasing all the time. This was one of those times when I felt a ‘now or never’ moment and bagged a reasonably good one dating from 1981 at just below average price. At this point, I’m going to proclaim ‘emperor’s new clothes’ and say that, while it is undoubtedly a very competent pedal, does it really deserve the unchallenged accolades above all the other competent overdrive pedals out there? Just why we guitarists spend thousands of pounds/dollars on vintage instruments and vintage valve amps and then rely on some dirt cheap solid state components to make them sound ‘better’ is beyond me. To some extent, the same goes for the Fuzz Face but at least that is a down ‘n’ dirty fuzz pedal! I understand all the well‑rehearsed arguments about compensating mid‑boost and clean low gain drive into the front end of an already cooking valve amp. Perhaps I’m missing something else obvious but I really don’t think so. I also know that it goes against the grain to defer from perceived wisdom and to test the TS‑808’s seemingly unassailable reputation. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking the Tube Screamer and what it does. I just believe it is somewhat overrated for the crazy market prices being asked. Anyhow, one of the green meanies is here now and is part of the growing ranks alongside other Ibanez ‘0’ and ‘9’ series pedals. At least I no longer have to keep scanning the market endlessly for a good one at a reasonable price.

1980 MXR Micro Amp

… and right back to the other end of the value scale again with a humble 1980 MXR Micro Amp. Essentially, all a boost pedal does is to increase the signal level hitting the front end of a (valve) pre‑amp, therefore not only adding a bit of volume, but also hopefully some natural compression and a bit of smooth distortion without affecting the underlying tone. Once again, there is something of a question mark about relying on a few cheap bits of electronics to make vintage gear ‘sing’. Having said that, the Micro Amp does its job perfectly well and it can be a really useful tool in the right circumstances. However, let us be clear that it is not exactly the most exhilarating or far out stomp box out there. As an idle observation, it is funny how things come round again given long enough. Outboard pre‑amp pedals are now a ‘big thing’ in the 2020s, albeit a bit more complex than this little MXR. There are many modern‑day compact pedal pre‑amps out there, including the Hudson Electronics Broadcast, Catalinbread Epoch Pre and Fredric Effects 150 Preamp. At least the unassuming little white MXR Micro Amp doesn’t take up much pedalboard space and is oh‑so simple in operation with only a single ‘Gain’ control. Like most un‑modified MXR pedals back in 1980, the Micro Amp only eats batteries for breakfast and doesn’t come with either an LED status light or DC input.

Help Needed

Vintage guitars, effects and amps need attention from time to time to keep them working at their best. While I can undertake basic maintenance, set ups and general TLC, I know that my skills are finite. I am looking for a guitar tech or luthier who can, from time to time, take on a vintage guitar and do some sympathetic remedial work, whether it involves fretwork, electrics, repairs or whatever. I’m also looking for someone who can do occasional work on effects and amps, which is basically electronics, switches, leads, soldering, etc. With over 60 vintage guitars, more than 50 vintage effects and 6 vintage amps, I need some expert help every so often. If there is someone out there with the requisite skillset for any or all of the above, and who is local to SE Cornwall in the UK, I would be interested in making a connection. Anyone interested? Please contact me at the e-mail address at the bottom of every page on the website.

Tailpiece

Actually, I think this is a good place to pause, so I’ll stop there for now. Nine guitars and five effect pedals is enough for one month.

At this point, I must stress that I did not buy any of these items as a pecuniary investment – anyone familiar with CRAVE Guitars will know that is not my motivation. However, given that savings accounts in the UK are currently offering just 0.01% interest rate, I would prefer to be broke and have great vintage guitars, amps and effects to play with and look at. The last recession that began in 2008 apparently saw 30% wiped off the value of vintage guitars, albeit temporarily. To me, it’s still a no brainer, when funds become available, eBay here I come for some vintage gear hunting. The other thing I would add is that all of the new additions are consistent with CRAVE Guitars larger strategic grand plan to conserve ‘Cool & Rare American Vintage Electric’ guitars, amps and effects as important musical and cultural heritage. Oh, and it’s also an unhealthy obsessive addiction as well but I guess you’ve sussed that out already.

At the top of this article I mentioned that there are three themes to work through and I’ve only covered one of them. I am conscious that the ‘History of Modern Music…’ series resulted in lengthy articles and this is, compared to them, quite short. I’m also a bit fatigued by the demands of lengthy researching and writing exercises. Thus, I’ll leave the rest for future article(s). I reckon that it is best to keep these reflective articles relatively consumable. Besides, there really is no rush, is there? Are we going anywhere, anytime soon? No, I thought not.

Believe me, there is still plenty of stuff to be getting on with here at CRAVE Guitars, so I guess I’ll be getting on with stuff then. Who knows what the world will be like in the coming months. Despite the continuing stresses and challenges of COVID‑19 et al, I hope that you’ll return here in due course for your prescribed diet of diversionary diatribes. Stay home, stay safe and stay (in)sane. Remember this simple but important mantra while civilisation unravels around us, Peace, Love & Guitar Music. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars’ ‘Quote of the Month’: “I can see where this is going because I’ve been where it went.”

© 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.

COVID-19 Coronavirus

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

Neil Peart

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.

Little Richard

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.

Avid Pro Tools

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.

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.

Vintage Bush Valve 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.

Colour Television

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.

Music Streaming Logos

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.

Compact Discs

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.

Pink Floyd – The Dark Side Of The Moon (1973)

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.

MTV Logo

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.

Napster Logo

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.

Streaming Service Comparable Pay Rates

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.

Apple iTunes Logo

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.

HMV Logo

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.

Hatsune Miku

  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.

VR Concert

  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.

Choon Bitcoin

  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…

Elon Musk – Neuralink

  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.

Record Shop

  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.

The Rolling Stones – Then & Now

  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.

Muzak Logo

  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.

Glastonbury Festival

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.

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.

Dimebag Darrell Abbott

 

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)

Ludwig Van Beethoven

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)

David Byrne

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)

Ray Charles

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-)

Jimi Hendrix

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-)

John Lee Hooker

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)

Prince

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-)

Keith Richards

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-)

Robert Smith

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)

Tom Waits

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)

Howlin’ Wolf

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)

Frank Zappa

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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