February 2020 – The Story of Modern Music in 1,500+ Facts – Part XI

Introduction

Welcome back once again dear musical masochists. Well… here we are – finally – almost at the end of the very long linear tunnel. The ordeal is nearly over! Along the way, I hope our factual passage through time has been an enlightening and entertaining experience. Chronologically (bar the first 2 months of 2020), the long ‘Story of Modern Music’ has caught up‑to‑date. By the end of this article the facts and events covering more than three‑and‑a‑half centuries will have been laid bar for all to see. It isn’t, however, the culmination of this series of articles, as there will be a fair bit of dilly‑dallying to do to give justice to the material and to complete a coherent narrative.

If you would like to (re)visit the first 10 parts (and over 350 years) of the story to‑date, you can do so here (each link opens a new browser tab):

The Story of Modern Music Part XI 2010-2019

As the ‘teenies’ are fresh in our collective memories, one has to think hard about what might be regarded as standout ‘classic albums’ that will stand the test of time. Simply the act of interrogating recent history and coming up with nada is a concern. Yes there were some big selling albums from popular commercial artists but they don’t really stand up to scrutiny when compared with watershed releases of the past. Perhaps we haven’t yet had sufficient time to reflect but one would have thought that something important would stick out from the random melange.

It is hard to believe that it was the early 1990s when game changing albums like Nirvana’s ‘Never Mind’ and Pearl Jam’s ‘Ten’, both landed in 1991 and Rage Against The Machine’s eponymous debut struck home in 1992. Since that time? With hindsight, perhaps controversially, not a great deal. Readers will no doubt have their favourite albums from the noughties and teenies but there were no multi‑platinum multi‑million sellers outside the pop mainstream that came out of the blue. and certainly no ground‑breaking important epics such as ‘Tubular Bells’, ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’, ‘Rumours’ or ‘Thriller’, to mention just four more classic albums that went on to sell in colossal quantities and helped to define the zeitgeist. It isn’t just about numbers and money, it’s about the value of artistic creativity. Where were the musical milestones to have significant global social and cultural impact? To-date, this levelling (lowering?) of the playing field seems to have resulted from benign prosperity and social disengagement. It seems as though, whereas the youthful tortured angst of previous decades has been quelled, to be replaced with pseudo entitled vacuous celebrity‑induced cupidity and malaise. Discuss…

One sad observation of the 2010s is the number of legendary musical artists who passed on during the decade. Many had featured in previous articles for other reasons and had their last entries in this one. Their valuable legacy has helped to shape the musical landscape that we enjoy and their influential music will endure well into the future, even though they are no longer with us. At the time of writing, we can only speculate about who might have been born in the teenies that will become future legends. Watch this space.

Historical Context 2010-2019

After the economic meltdown that started in the latter part of the 2000s, the ‘teenies’ were characterised by enduring global economic recession, which adversely affected most countries. Depression exposed the ugly and inhumane economic inequality that was exacerbated by extreme avarice, arrogance and hubris further polarising the wealth gap between richest and poorest. A resurgence of east/west Cold War political tensions was intensified by the errant behaviour of maverick states such as communist North Korea and Islamic Iran, as well as a bitter trade war between America and China. Misplaced ideological posturing drove extremist terrorism, which disregarded national borders and reached unprecedented levels through devastating atrocities in many countries. Escalating regional conflict in the Middle East continued to affect international relations, trade and mobility. Unparalleled economic and humanitarian migration reached new levels and became a major refugee problem for developed‑world countries. Technologically, an insatiable appetite for Internet use led to an equally huge increase in the uptake of social media and online commerce. Driverless and electric vehicles became the focus of major tech corporations. Global concerns increased over action required to reduce CO2 emissions and extreme weather events. The equalities of LGBTQ+ communities gained widespread international recognition and forced irreversible social and cultural change in many societies.

Year

Global Events

2010

Many anti‑government protests rose up across the Middle East, widely known as the Arab Spring.

 

A massive magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti in the Caribbean Sea, killing somewhere between 100,000 and 316,000 people.

 

The Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig run by BP exploded, causing an environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. It is, to date, the largest marine oil spill in the history of the oil industry with over 210 million gallons discharged into the Gulf.

 

The world’s tallest building to‑date, the Burj Khalifa opened in Dubai, standing at 829.8m (2,722ft).

 

Controversial non-profit political organisation Wikileaks, under the control of editor‑in‑chief Julian Assange, began releasing substantial amounts of American classified information from whistle‑blowers into the public domain, thereby compromising national and international security.

 

The culturally popular American post-apocalyptic AMC television series, ‘The Walking Dead’, based on the zombie comic book series by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard was first broadcast.

2011

The leader of the Islamic terrorist group al‑Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden was shot and killed by American Special Forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

 

The Syrian Civil War started following Arab Spring protests against the Syrian government. Conflict escalated after protests calling for President Bashar al-Assad’s removal were brutally suppressed. The ensuing political and military vacuum led to territorial gains by the so‑called Islamic State in the Middle East and particularly in Syria.

 

Japan was devastated by a massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami that killed over 15,000 people. The Great East Japan Earthquake was the 4th strongest on historical record. The tsunami caused a major nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The estimated economic cost was in the region of $235bn USD.

 

NASA’s aging Space Shuttle fleet was retired from service after 30 years, 5 operational vehicles, 135 missions and 2 fatal accidents costing 14 lives.

 

The world’s human population exceeded 7 billion for the first time, highlighting serious concerns about the sustainability of uncontrolled population growth.

2012

The largest ever Atlantic storm, Category 3 Hurricane Sandy, devastated the north eastern United States, killing over 230 people and causing nearly $70bn of damage.

 

The existence of the elusive so‑called ‘god particle’, the Higgs Boson sub‑atomic unit was finally confirmed by experiments conducted at the CERN Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland.

 

Queen Elizabeth II celebrated the 60th Anniversary of her accession to the British throne.

2013

Two Islamic terrorists from Chechnya detonated 2 bombs during the Boston Marathon in Massachusetts, USA, killing 3 and injuring 264.

 

The largest outbreak of the Ebola virus in history reached epidemic proportions in Western Africa and lasted until 2016, resulting in a conservative estimate of more than 11,000 deaths.

2014

The so‑called Islamic State (ISIS) took military control of the city of Mosul in northern Iraq.

 

The new World Trade Center, the Freedom Tower, was completed in New York, becoming the tallest building in the U.S. at 1,776 feet (541m), 13 years after the original World Trade Center twin towers were destroyed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

2016

The United Kingdom held a one‑off national referendum to determine whether to remain part of or to leave the European Union (EU). The UK had become a member of the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973. The referendum result was a majority desire to leave the EU. The UK was the first country to leave the union since the EEC was formed in 1957. The process of leaving, often referred to as ‘Brexit’, was completed in 2020.

 

HM Queen Elizabeth II became the longest reigning monarch in British history, surpassing Queen Victoria (1819‑1901), who had reigned for 63 years and 7 months.

2017

Businessman and Republican politician Donald Trump became the 45th president of the U.S.A.

 

The UK triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, initiating the Brexit process that led to the UK leaving the EU after 47 years of membership.

 

American president Donald Trump announced the U.S. government’s intention to withdraw unilaterally from the Paris Climate Agreement.

2018

The longest total lunar eclipse of the 21st Century took place, lasting approximately 1 hour and 43 minutes.

 

Canada legalised the sale and use of cannabis, only the 2nd country to do so, Uruguay being the first.

2019

A catastrophic fire broke out in the roof of medieval Roman Catholic Notre Dame de Paris cathedral in France, destroying much of the building’s roof, spire and upper walls.

 

The final stronghold of the so‑called Islamic State in Al-Baghuz Fawqani, Syria, was liberated.

 

Violent protests and civil unrest occurred in Hong Kong, ignited by controversial Chinese legislation that allegedly undermined the region’s autonomy and civil liberties.

 

Activists belonging to Extinction Rebellion, a global movement created to use direct non‑violent civil disobedience to force governments to react positively towards the threat of climate change, biodiversity loss and ecological collapse, caused widespread disruption in major cities worldwide.

Musical Genre Development 2010-2019

Sadly, during the 2010s there were no recent new genres or emergent significant sub‑genres, and little sign of any on the horizon. It is a struggle to identify any hugely influential genre developments during the ‘teenies’. Yes, there were ventures, projects, collaborations, experiments and side lines including, for instance dubstep and grime but, let’s be honest, these aren’t really new; they are simply variations on past themes that were re‑established for wider audiences. However, modern music has shown an incredible tenacity to rejuvenate and reinvent itself, especially when it appears to be entering the doldrums. One can only watch and wait to see what happens from here on in. Let’s start with some of the nuances during the 2010s.

Female pop mega‑artists such as Adele, Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga and even Lana Del Rey have become very powerful, successful multi‑millionaires predominantly focusing their considerable resources on commercially lucrative target audiences. These industry pillars have become renowned as much for their business acumen as their musical prowess. New artist, Billie Eilish looks set to continue this trend into the 2020s. The token male artist in this bracket is probably Ed Sheeran.

The indie movement continued to grow from strength to strength into the 2010s broadening the diversity of indie and keeping it fresh by fusing with other styles such as folk, blues, rock, punk, roots, garage and Americana. Notable indie artists of the teenies include (in no particular order); Courtney Barnett, Arcade Fire, Vampire Weekend, The War On Drugs, Band Of Skulls, The National, Sharon Van Etten, St. Vincent, Fleet Foxes, Real Estate, Feist, Tame Impala, Parquet Courts, Kurt Vile, Girls, Courteeners, Daughter, Angel Olsen, Fleet Foxes, Haim, Father John Misty, Ariel Pink, Sheerwater, Foals, Two Door Cinema Club, Villagers, EMA, The Horrors, The Kills, The Low Anthem, Royal Blood, Rival Sons, The Vaccines, Alt‑J, The XX, Wolf Alice, The Dead Weather, The Twilight Sad, Cage The Elephant, London Grammar, Savages, Band Of Skulls, Warpaint, Slaves, Wolf Alice, Bat For Lashes, K.T. Tunstall, Cigarettes After Sex, Blood Red Shoes, Real Estate and Dry the River among a multitude of others.

While clearly a niche subgenre of the fading mainstream Electronic Dance Music (EDM) and related genres and closely related to ambient, downtempo, progressive electronic, darkwave, glitch and chillwave, Intelligent Dance Music (IDM) flourished, building on the shoulders of pioneers such as The Orb, Future Sound of London, Orbital and Aphex Twin. IDM and related artists pushed the boundaries of esoteric syncopated, and stripped down electronica to new, often indulgent extremes. Under the broadest definition, some IDM artists include; Four Tet, Boards of Canada, Caribou, Crystal Castles, Neon Indian, Jon Hopkins, Bonobo, Burial, Flying Lotus, Memory Tapes, Apparat, Toro y Moi, James Blake, Oneohtrix Point Never, Com Truise, Autechre, Mouse On Mars and Squarepusher.

In the late 20th Century, modern jazz had newfound credibility in the fusion years of the 1970s, with artists like John McLaughlin, Stanley Clarke, Herbie Hancock, Al Di Meola, Utopia and Weather Report, followed by other virtuoso instrumentalists like Larry Coryell, Larry Carlton and Lee Ritenour during the 1980s. Move forward in time to the 21st Century and jazz experienced a stunning rejuvenation, often referred to as nu‑jazz or jazztronica, eschewing old-style constraints and fusing jazz elements with electronic music ranging from the traditional to the experimental. While growing on the popularity in the 2000s of artists like St. Germain, Mr. Scruff, Joss Stone and Jamie Cullum, nu‑jazz really came into its own in the 2010s. Nu‑jazz artists embraced hip‑hop, electronica, dance, reggae, electro‑swing and many other forms to create something vital and engaging, including artists such as Snarky Puppy, The Cinematic Orchestra, Floating Points, GoGo Penguin, Thundercat, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, The Comet Is Coming, The Correspondents and Mammal Hands.

Musical Facts 2010-2019

Day

Month

Year

Music Fact

11

January

2010

American indie rock band Vampire Weekend released their 2nd studio album, ‘Contra’.

8

February

2010

English trip-hop group, Massive Attack released their 5th studio album, ‘Heligoland’ in the UK.

17

February

2010

Northern Irish indie rock band Two Door Cinema Club released their debut studio album, ‘Tourist History’.

10

March

2010

Welsh guitarist and member of progressive rock band Man, Micky Jones died of cancer in Swansea at the age of 63.

15

March

2010

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2010’, including ABBA, Genesis, The Hollies, Jimmy Cliff, The Stooges and David Geffen.

28

March

2010

Highly influential American jazz guitarist Herb Ellis died of Alzheimer’s disease in Los Angeles, California at the age of 88.

13

April

2010

Experimental virtuoso English rock guitarist, Jeff Beck released his 10th solo album, ‘Emotion And Commotion’ in the UK.

18

May

2010

American blues/rock duo The Black Keys released their classic 5th studio album, ‘Brothers’.

25

June

2010

Canadian rock band, Rush, received a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame at 6752 Hollywood Boulevard.

9

July

2010

English indie rock group Bombay Bicycle Club released their understated acoustic 2nd studio album, ‘Flaws’.

25

October

2010

American singer and songwriter Taylor Swift released her commercially successful 3rd studio album, ‘Speak Now’.

16

November

2010

After many years of negotiation, The Beatles’ back catalogue was finally made available on Apple’s iTunes music platform.

17

December

2010

American rock singer, songwriter and musician, Captain Beefheart (real name Don Van Vliet) died from complications resulting from multiple sclerosis in a hospital in Arcata, California at the age of 69.

22

December

2010

The famous zebra crossing at Abbey Road, London, just outside Abbey Road Studios and featured on The Beatles’ classic titular 1969 album cover, was Grade II Listed by English Heritage.

24

January

2011

English pop singer, Adele released her massive commercial 2nd studio album, ‘21’.

30

January

2011

Legendary English composer of classic film and television scores, John Barry died of a heart attack in New York at the age of 77.

6

February

2011

Irish blues/rock guitarist and singer, Gary Moore died from a heart attack in Malaga, Spain at the age of 58.

14

February

2011

English alternative/indie rock singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, P.J. Harvey released her award‑winning 8th studio album, ‘Let England Shake’.

14

March

2011

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2011’, including Alice Cooper, Neil Diamond, Dr. John, Tom Waits and Leon Russell.

2

June

2011

Canadian country singer Shania Twain received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6270 Hollywood Boulevard.

6

June

2011

English indie rock band, Arctic Monkeys released their 4th studio album, ‘Suck It and See’.

23

July

2011

English singer and songwriter, Amy Winehouse died from an alcohol overdose in Camden, London at the age of 27.

7

August

2011

American bass player and key member of Johnny Cash’s backing band, the Tennessee Two, Marshall Grant died in Jonesboro, Arkansas at the age of 83.

16

August

2011

American indie rock band The War On Drugs released their breakout 2nd studio album, ‘Slave Ambient’.

7

September

2011

On what would have been his 75th birthday, American rock ‘n’ roll singer Buddy Holly received a posthumous star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1750 North Vine Street.

5

October

2011

Accomplished Scottish acoustic folk guitarist Bert Jansch died after a long battle with lung cancer in London at the age of 67.

4

December

2011

American blues guitarist, singer and member of Howlin’ Wolf’s band, Hubert Sumlin died from heart failure in Wayne, New Jersey at the age of 80.

16

December

2011

American blues/rock duo The Black Keys released their classic 7th studio album, ‘El Camino’.

20

January

2012

Legendary American multi-genre singer, Etta James died of leukaemia in hospital in Riverside, California at the age of 73.

31

January

2012

American singer and songwriter, Lana Del Rey released her breakout 2nd studio album, ‘Born To Die’.

9

February

2012

English bass guitarist and former member of The Beatles, Paul McCartney received a solo star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1750 North Vine Street.

6

February

2012

Scottish indie rock band The Twilight Sad released their underrated 3rd studio album, ‘No One Can Ever Know’.

11

February

2012

American soul/pop singer, producer and actress, Whitney Houston died from drug misuse and accidental drowning at the Hilton hotel in Beverley Hills, California at the age of 48.

29

February

2012

English singer and member of media pop band The Monkees, Davy Jones died from a heart attack in Florida at the age of 66.

5

April

2012

English innovator, entrepreneur, businessman and founder of iconic Marshall amplifiers, ‘The Father of Loud’, Jim Marshall OBE, died from cancer in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire at the age of 88.

14

April

2012

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2012’, including The Beastie Boys, Donovan, Guns N’ Roses, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Small Faces/The Faces, Freddie King and Tom Dowd.

16

April

2012

English indie rock band Spiritualized released their 7th studio album, ‘Sweet Heart Sweet Light’.

10

July

2012

English-American guitarist Slash (a.k.a. Saul Hudson) received a solo star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6901 Hollywood Boulevard.

31

August

2012

Northern Irish indie rock band Two Door Cinema Club released their 2nd studio album, ‘Beacon’.

2

October

2012

Highly acclaimed English session guitarist ‘Big Jim’ Sullivan died of complications from heart disease and diabetes in Billingshurst, West Sussex at the age of 71.

10

January

2013

Swiss founder and manager of the famous Montreux Jazz Festival since 1967, Claude Nobs, died in Lausanne at the age of 76.

18

February

2013

Alternative rock band, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds released their outstanding reflective 15th studio album, ‘Push the Sky Away’.

6

March

2013

English blues/rock guitarist and singer, Alvin Lee died of complications following surgery in Estepona, Spain at the age of 68.

18

April

2013

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2013’, including Heart, Albert King, Randy Newman, Public Enemy, Rush and Donna Summer.

20

May

2013

American keyboard player with, and co-founder of, The Doors, Ray Manzarek died from bile duct cancer in Rosenheim, Germany at the age of 74.

3

June

2013

American rock band Queens Of The Stone Age released their 6th studio album ‘…Like Clockwork’.

26

July

2013

Reclusive and influential American blues/rock guitarist, singer and songwriter, J.J. Cale died from a heart attack in La Jolla, California at the age of 74.

9

September

2013

English indie rock band, Arctic Monkeys released their 5th studio album, ‘AM’.

27

October

2013

Legendary American singer, songwriter, guitarist, member of the Velvet Underground and successful solo artist, Lou Reed died of liver disease at his home in New York at the age of 71.

4

November

2013

American singer and cultural icon, Janis Joplin received a posthumous star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6752 Hollywood Boulevard.

3

January

2014

American singer and guitarist, Phil Everly, half of the vocal harmony duo The Everly Brothers, died of lung disease in Burbank, California at the age of 74.

25

February

2014

Spanish virtuoso flamenco guitarist and composer, Paco de Lucía died from a heart attack while on holiday in Playa del Carmen, Mexico at the age of 66.

18

March

2014

American indie rock band The War On Drugs released their 3rd studio album, ‘Lost In The Dream’.

10

April

2014

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2014’, including KISS, Nirvana, Cat Stevens, Peter Gabriel, Linda Rondstadt and Hall & Oates.

17

June

2014

American singer and songwriter, Lana Del Rey released her 3rd studio album, ‘Ultraviolence’.

16

July

2014

Renowned American blues/rock guitarist, Johnny Winter died from emphysema and pneumonia near Zurich, Switzerland, at the age of 70.

25

October

2014

Scottish bass guitarist with blues/rock super group Cream, Jack Bruce died of liver disease in Suffolk, England at the age of 71.

27

October

2014

American singer and songwriter Taylor Swift released her commercially successful 5th studio album, ‘1989’.

13

March

2015

Australian guitarist, singer, songwriter, poet and co‑founder of psychedelic rock bands Soft Machine and Gong, Daevid Allen died from cancer in Australia at the age of 77.

30

March

2015

English dance/rock band The Prodigy released their 6th studio album, ‘The Day Is My Enemy’.

14

May

2015

Legendary blues guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer, B.B. King died from a stroke caused by type 2 diabetes in Las Vegas, Nevada at the age of 89.

21

May

2015

American bass guitarist Louis Johnson of funk band Brothers Johnson died from internal bleeding in Las Vegas, Nevada at the age of 60.

30

May

2015

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2015’, including Green Day, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, Lou Reed, Ringo Starr, Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble and Bill Withers.

27

June

2015

English bass guitarist with progressive band Yes, Chris Squire died from leukaemia in Phoenix, Arizona at the age of 67.

11

September

2015

English indie rock band The Libertines released their highly anticipated 3rd studio album, ‘Anthems for Doomed Youth’.

10

November

2015

American musician, songwriter, arranger and record producer Allen Toussaint died of a heart attack while on tour in Madrid, Spain at the age of 77.

13

November

2015

Islamic terrorists attacked a concert where American rock band Eagles of Death Metal were performing at the Bataclan Theatre in Paris, France. A total of 89 innocent people lost their lives.

4

December

2015

A commemorative statue of The Beatles was unveiled in their home city of Liverpool, 50 years after their last gig there.

28

December

2015

English singer, songwriter, bass guitarist, founder and front man of rock band Motörhead, Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister, died of cancer in Los Angeles, California at the age of 70.

8

January

2016

Iconic English singer, David Bowie released his final studio album, ‘Blackstar’, on his 69th birthday, just 2 days before his untimely death.

10

January

2016

Chameleonic English singer, rock legend, actor and cultural icon, David Bowie died from liver cancer at his apartment in New York City at the age of 69.

18

January

2016

Highly regarded American singer, songwriter and guitarist with country rock band Eagles, Glenn Frey died from complications of rheumatoid arthritis in New York City at age of 67.

4

February

2016

Northern Irish singer Sir Van Morrison OBE was knighted by Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace, London, UK for services to the music industry and tourism.

13

February

2016

Four members of English indie band Viola Beach and their manager were tragically killed in a car accident in Södertälje, Sweden.

8

March

2016

Legendary English record producer, Sir George Martin CBE, known by many as the ‘Fifth Beatle’, died at his home in Wiltshire at the age of 90.

11

March

2016

English keyboard player with progressive rock group Nice and a founding member of super group Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP), Keith Emerson died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in Santa Monica California at the age of 71.

6

April

2016

American country singer and guitarist Merle Haggard died on his birthday as a result of complications from pneumonia at his home in Palo Cedro, California at the age of 79.

8

April

2016

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2016’, including Cheap Trick, Chicago, Deep Purple, Steve Miller and NWA.

21

April

2016

American singer, guitarist, producer and actor, Prince died from an accidental drug overdose of the pain killer fentanyl at his home in Chanhassen, Minnesota at the age of 57.

21

April

2016

Influential American blues/rock guitarist Lonnie Mack died of natural causes in hospital near his home in Smithville Tennessee at the age of 74.

10

June

2016

British pop/rock singer and songwriter Sir Rod Stewart CBE was knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for services to music and charity.

28

June

2016

American singer Elvis Presley’s main guitarist in the early rock ‘n’ roll years, Scotty Moore died in Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 84.

15

July

2016

English virtuoso rock guitarist Jeff Beck released his fascinating change-of-direction 11th studio album, ‘Loud Hailer’.

9

September

2016

Alternative rock band, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds released their desperately melancholic 16th studio album, ‘Skeleton Tree’.

13

October

2016

Legendary American singer, songwriter and guitarist Bob Dylan was awarded the prestigious Nobel Prize for Literature in Stockholm, Sweden. He skipped the official awards ceremony and delivered his acceptance lecture in April 2017.

21

October

2016

Canadian singer, songwriter and guitarist, Leonard Cohen released his elegiac final studio album, ‘You Want It Darker’.

7

November

2016

Canadian singer, songwriter, poet and guitarist, Leonard Cohen died after a fall at his home in Los Angeles, California at the age of 82.

13

November

2016

Legendary American musician and songwriter, Leon Russell died in his sleep at his home in Mount Juliet, Tennessee at the age of 74.

2

December

2016

English rock band Rolling Stones released their great back-to-basics blues/rock studio album, ‘Blue & Lonesome’ in the UK.

7

December

2016

English bass guitarist, singer, songwriter and founding member of progressive rock bands King Crimson and ELP, as well as a solo artist, Greg Lake died from cancer in London at the age of 69.

24

December

2016

English guitarist with pop/rock band Status Quo, Rick Parfitt died from sepsis caused by a shoulder infection in hospital in Marbella, Spain at the age of 68.

25

December

2016

English singer, songwriter and member of pop band Wham!, George Michael died of heart failure at his home in Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire at the age of 53.

31

January

2017

Welsh guitarist and regular on-off member of the progressive jam rock bands Man and Iceberg, as well as a solo artist, Deke Leonard died at the age of 72.

4

February

2017

English heavy metal pioneers, Black Sabbath performed their final live concert of their ‘The End’ tour at the NEC Arena in their home city of Birmingham, UK.

19

February

2017

Influential American virtuoso jazz fusion guitarist, Larry Coryell died of heart failure in New York City at the age of 73.

16

March

2017

English singer and member of pop/rock band The Kinks, Sir Ray Davies CBE received a knighthood from Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace, London, UK for his service to the arts.

18

March

2017

Legendary American rock ‘n’ roll singer, songwriter and guitarist Chuck Berry died of a reported cardiac arrest at his home in Wentzville, Missouri at the age of 90.

7

April

2017

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2017’, including ELO, Joan Baez, Journey, Pearl Jam, Tupac Shakur and Yes.

15

April

2017

Influential virtuoso English jazz/rock fusion guitarist Allan Holdsworth died from heart disease at his home in Vista, California at the age of 70.

18

May

2017

American singer, songwriter and front man of hard rock bands Soundgarden and Audioslave, Chris Cornell committed suicide in his hotel room in Detroit, Michigan at the age of 52.

27

May

2017

American musician and co-founder of The Allman Brothers Band, Gregg Allman died from a heart attack in Richmond Hall, Georgia at the age of 69.

8

August

2017

American country singer and guitarist, Glen Campbell died of Alzheimer’s disease in Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 81.

25

August

2017

American indie rock band The War On Drugs released their 4th studio album, ‘A Deeper Understanding’.

3

September

2017

American guitarist and bass guitarist, songwriter and co‑founder of rock band Steely Dan, Walter Becker died from oesophageal cancer at his home in Manhattan, New York at the age of 67.

2

October

2017

American singer, songwriter and guitarist Tom Petty died of an accidental overdose of prescription painkillers at his home in Santa Monica, California at the age of 66.

18

November

2017

Scottish-born guitarist and co-founder of Australian rock band AC/DC, Malcom Young died following a long battle with dementia in Elizabeth Bay, New South Wales at the age of 64.

10

January

2018

English guitarist and one-time member of the rock band Motörhead, ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke died from pneumonia in hospital in London at the age of 67.

9

March

2018

After 66 years, the UK weekly music magazine The New Musical Express (a.k.a. NME) published its final printed copy, signalling the end of an era in British music press.

9

March

2018

British indie rock band Editors released their 6th studio album, ‘Violence’.

20

March

2018

English drummer and former member of The Beatles, Sir Richard Starkey (a.k.a. Ringo Starr) MBE was knighted by HRH Prince William at Buckingham Palace, London, UK.

14

April

2018

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2018’, including Bon Jovi, The Cars, Dire Straits, Moody Blues, Nina Simone and Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

8

June

2018

English guitarist, singer, songwriter and member of Anglo-American rock group Fleetwood Mac from 1968 to 1972, Danny Kirwan died from pneumonia in London at the age of 68.

2

July

2018

Scottish bass guitarist and founding member of 1970s pop group The Bay City Rollers, Alan Longmuir died in Larbert, Scotland, following an illness while on holiday in Mexico at the age of 70.

16

August

2018

Legendary American singer, songwriter and the ‘Queen of Soul’, Aretha Franklin died of pancreatic cancer at her home in Detroit, Michigan at the age of 76.

22

August

2018

American guitarist and bass guitarist with southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ed King died following a battle with cancer at his home in Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 68.

22

September

2018

English guitarist and singer, best known as half of London duo Chas & Dave and as a session musician, Chas Hodges died from organ failure following treatment for cancer at the age of 74.

29

September

2018

Great American blues guitarist, singer and songwriter, Otis Rush died from complications resulting from a stroke in Chicago, Illinois at the age of 83.

16

March

2019

Influential American guitarist, ‘the king of surf guitar’, Dick Dale died of heart failure in hospital in Loma Linda, California at the age of 81.

17

March

2019

Irish guitarist and member of heavy rock bands Gillan and Ozzy Osbourne, Bernie Tormé died of pneumonia in London, England at the age of 66.

29

March

2019

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2019’, including The Cure, Def Leppard, Janet Jackson, Stevie Nicks, Radiohead, Roxy Music and The Zombies.

29

March

2019

Emerging American indie/pop singer and songwriter Billie Eilish released her phenomenally successful debut album, ‘When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?’.

30

April

2019

English guitarist and co-founder of jazz/funk band Level 42, Boon Gould died at his home in Dorset at the age of 64.

13

May

2019

American singer and Hollywood actress Doris Day died of pneumonia in Carmel Valley Village, California at the age of 97.

30

May

2019

Cypriot/Canadian jazz/blues singer, songwriter, guitarist and actor Leon Redbone died following complications from dementia in hospice care in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, USA at the age of 69.

31

May

2019

Pioneering American guitarist, singer and songwriter with psychedelic rock band 13th Floor Elevators Roky Erickson died in Austin Texas at the age of 71.

6

June

2019

Great American singer, songwriter, pianist and occasional guitarist Dr John died of a heart attack in New Orleans, Louisiana at the age of 77.

20

June

2019

English guitarist and former member of Pink Floyd, David Gilmour auctioned 120 of his guitars in New York, raising nearly £17m to help fight climate change. His famous Black Strat sold for £3.1m.

30

August

2019

American singer and songwriter, Lana Del Rey released her standout 6th studio album, ‘Norman Fucking Rockwell!’ (a.k.a. ‘NFR!’).

6

October

2019

Legendary English drummer and co-founder of the rock bands Cream, Blind Faith and Baker Gurvitz Army, as well as solo artist, Ginger Baker died in hospital after a long illness in Canterbury, Kent at the age of 80.

Tailpiece

So, finally, that’s the major part of the extensive adventure now covered. Along the way, way more than 100 additional facts have been squeezed into the timeline, so somewhere around 1,700 music‑related facts. That doesn’t include the hundreds of ‘Historical Context’ facts that I think brought some of the more obscure musical events to life.

Undoubtedly, over time, more ideas and data will expand the long list of factoids further. Fortunately, these supplemental incidences won’t be lost, as they will appear on CRAVE Guitars’ quotidian ‘Musical Facts Of The Day’, which are posted daily on Twitter and Facebook.

The next article… or two… or three… will be wrapping up the voluminous subject matter in a way that I hope provides adequate closure to the lengthy journey. As there are no more decades to cover, the next episode will take a different look at what has already been covered. Intrigued by what the next slice of exposition might comprise? I hope so. Come back and find out.

In the meantime, I will be continuing my personal quest to bring you ‘Cool & Rare American Vintage Electric’ Guitar heritage for your entertainment (?!?!). This chore inevitably means the routine business of accumulating and appreciating some hopefully interesting old guitar gear. Hey, it’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it and, quite frankly, I ain’t complainin’. Much. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars’ ‘Quote of the Month’: “The purpose of art, to stimulate an emotional reaction, regardless of what that reaction is.”

© 2020 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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October 2018 – A Potted History of the Guitar Part VIII

Welcome to what is, for now at least, the final part in this series of articles on the history of the world’s most popular musical instrument.

If you wish to recap on any or all of the previous seven posts before starting with this one, the whole ‘Potted History of the Guitar’ series, can be accessed here (each part opens in a new browser tab):

Having pretty much reached the present day, all that remains is to summarise where we are now and to take a somewhat flippant and imaginative look ahead. The ‘current day’ is a tricky subject, as ‘now’ is at best ephemeral. The future, on the other hand, can only ever be guesswork, even if it can be informed by the past. Perhaps the best way to predict the future is to help to create it, so that means that what happens to the next chapter of the guitar is in our hands. Can we be trusted to behave as responsible guardians of the guitar’s destiny? As Mahatma Gandhi (1869‑1948) said, “The future depends on what we do in the present”. This suggests that what will happen is not predetermined and individually or collectively, we can take action to shape the future.

There are not many images again supporting this article so, apologies to those who like pictures to speak a thousand words. Anyway, without further ado, on with the last part of the chronicle…

The guitar has come a very long way in the last 3,500 years or a road slightly less travelled in the preceding 350 years depending on whose version of the facts you want to believe. The story has finally reached that pivotal moment that lies between the past, which is, on the whole, pretty well documented and the future, which of course isn’t. There is much to be played for and the stakes are certainly high.

It is hopefully of little surprise that the future of the acoustic and electric guitar, as well as all its derivatives and distant relations, is probably well‑assured, at least for the foreseeable future. Whether it survives in the (very) long term or not, the world’s favourite musical instrument is undeniably going to be a hard act to follow, let alone surpass.

As with many industrial and technological revolutions, predictions have proved variable in terms of accuracy. As time passes, change tends to accelerate in both pace and scope. While progress may be inexorable, there is an unseen ‘force’ that tends to counteract unbridled advances and which acts as a bit of a restraint. That set of reins is the very human tendency to hold onto what is familiar while resisting change until it is either inescapable or desirable. This natural ‘drag’ effect has laid waste to many grand ideas and great inventions. Numerous well‑marketed ‘next big things’ have fallen at the hurdle of persuading the general public to take up something new or unfamiliar, especially if one’s respected peers haven’t bitten the bullet of early adoption either. Mankind’s flawed history is littered with countless failed marvels. This phenomenon isn’t, I hasten to add, just a trait of idiosyncratic musicians; it appears to be a fundamental characteristic of the human condition.

Anyway, as usual, I digress. It is time to get back to the point which is basically that whatever you read from here on has absolutely no basis whatsoever in fact and is highly likely to be extremely wrong! My consolation is that few people will regard it as portent or look back to judge its accuracy in a century’s time. There is nothing genuinely prescient here in the vein of Da Vinci or Nostradamus. Apologies if you were hoping for more in the way of a profound visionary insight. Unfortunately, my stock of that ran out last week.

General indicators of change

It is fair to suggest that popular music is often representative of, and in turn is dependent on, broader social, cultural and political movements, and guitars follow in their footsteps. Whether we like it or not, music is integral to our everyday lives, so it is not surprising that it is also inherently powerfully evocative. As a result, it can dramatically affect the way we identify with past events.

One of the key factors that drove guitar evolution has been the trends in popular music, so perhaps musical trends may provide a much generalised hint at parallel guitar developments. Let’s start by considering the (very simplistic) genre movements and the types of instrument used over the last century.  Starting with the post‑classical era, there was jazz (Gibson archtops) and blues (National & Dobro resonators) in the 1930s and 1940s, country and rock ‘n’ roll in the 1950s (Gretsch & Gibson hollowbodies), pop and rock in the 1960s (Fenders and Rickenbackers), progressive and heavy metal (Gibson solid bodies) and then punk (pawn shop guitars) and hair metal (pointy super Strats) in the 1970s. Then we get to the guitar doldrums of electronica, new age and rap in the 1980s, followed by revitalised guitar music of alternative, grunge in the 1990s, and indie (retro guitars) nu‑metal (PRS) and dance in the 2000s, etc. I struggle to think of a musical genre that so far defines the 2010s or perhaps many distinctive guitars to go with them. So there is some kind of link going on here. Google has attempted to map the progression of musical genres from 1950 to the current day (take from it what you will).

The type of guitars de jour used by famous musicians, including artist associations, during these epochs often reflected the style of contemporary music they played and these have largely been well covered in previous parts of the story. Just think of Chet Atkins with his Gretsch 6120, Buddy Holly with his Fiesta Red Fender Stratocaster, The Beatles with their Rickenbacker 300s, or Jimmy Page with his Gibson Les Paul Standard and EDS-1275 double neck. The various interconnections are manifold and too many to mention here, and many have been captured in photographs to become iconic in the annals of rock history.

Cinema and television music regularly use key songs to catapult us back in space and time without the need for narrative exposition to describe what’s happening. Just think about classic movies such as American Graffiti, Stand By Me, Almost Famous, Saturday Night Fever, The Breakfast Club or 8 Mile among many, many others. Those random examples don’t include the numerous biopics (e.g. Sid & Nancy, Walk The Line, The Doors) and musicals (e.g. West Side Story, Grease) or original scores (e.g. Paris Texas) that use familiar, memorable and/or popular music to transport us to another ‘reality’. Then there are the one‑offs like the mockumentary, This Is Spinal Tap. TV programmes also picked up the strategy for domestic viewing since the 1960s and often featured manufactured artists such as The Monkees or The Archies. The lists of relevant examples are endless. Music is used to draw the viewer into the director’s vision of a certain bygone era. Many of the sound tracks of our lives rely heavily on evocative (guitar) music to manipulate us emotionally and, more importantly, intentionally.

The way that environmental factors affect local communities may spark a genre direction that is then promulgated more widely. For example, one could point to the rise of electric blues in Chicago, soul in Detroit, Mersey beat in Liverpool, punk in New York and London, rap in Los Angeles/Philadelphia, or grunge in Seattle, etc. What we cannot predict is what or where any future musical revolutions (if any) may emerge, from where, and what step‑change responses guitar builders may then make.

As with many other aspects of our 21st Century lives, the nature of music, how it is made, distributed and accessed suggests that anything genuinely ‘new’ will find it much harder to stand out from the mainstream. What is already there will continue in some form and anything new will simply be added to it, often at the margins of existing genres, hence the proliferation of sub‑genres, e.g. thrash or nu-metal in rock; house and techno in dance; raga and dancehall in reggae; dubstep and grime in urban music, etc. One only has to compare and contrast the mind boggling varieties of heavy metal music and then consider how they continuously diverge, converge and cross‑fertilise in order to keep it fresh and vibrant.

While some technological change may be more predictable, social change and the music that characterises it is certainly more unpredictable. When one looks at something as specific and tangible as the guitar, it becomes increasingly risky to anticipate with any certainty what change may occur over an extended period of time, say the next century or so.

One view is that we are powerless and don’t need to think about it, as what will be, will be. Another is that we wait passively and be subject to what transpires with little or no influence over it. A third way may be not to accept the status quo and take positive action to stimulate change, which can happen in oddly random ways. Being of an opinionated sort, I tend to fall into the latter camp. Apologies, that probably actually doesn’t help much!

Perhaps the biggest challenge to the guitar’s supremacy is likely to lie in the digital revolution that really started to make an impression in the 1970s and 1980s. Part of the reason for the guitar’s seemingly unassailable success has been that it is a hugely expressive and flexible instrument, which actually makes its nuances extremely difficult to replicate in a world constructed entirely of binary 0s and 1s. We shall see whether digital advances can fully overcome the difficulties in recreating the subtleties provided by a very analogue instrument in the hands of discriminating (and generally quite conservative) musicians.

The evidence so far suggests that digital is making ever increasing inroads into the analogue guitar’s dominance and the discernible gap between analogue and digital output is decreasing all the time. How long will it be before even the most ardent luddites finally admit that they can’t really tell the difference (despite what they may say outwardly)? However, it isn’t just the sound of guitars that appeals to guitarists; it is also the feel and the look of them that matters, as well as how they allow musicians to communicate with each other in unspoken ways.

New generations of guitarists, however, may be looking for something very different from their predecessors.  What form will ‘the shape of things to come’ take? Will it be all hyper‑modernistic and crammed with tech and flashing lights and built from materials we cannot yet imagine, or will it be the same old bits of tree wood crafted into the familiar shapes of Telecasters, Stratocasters, Precisions, Les Pauls, ES‑335s and SGs that we covet today? Only time will tell how things pan out and it will be for future authors to use the convenient assistance of hindsight to determine and document what path the history of the guitar takes from here on.

Looking and learning from the past, one might simply extrapolate forward. Future guitarists may well be like their ancestors and pragmatically seek to mix the best of the past with the best of what’s to come, regardless of whether it is analogue or digital. My personal prediction is a typically ambiguous ‘sit on the fence’ one, in that guitars will probably become increasingly hybrid if they are to keep ahead of other comparable instruments. Let’s face it, there are not really any threats` to the guitar’s dominant popularity at the time of writing and it has always been a continuously evolving instrument, so it would be of little surprise if this were to continue. While the 1980’s temporary trend for synth and electronica attempted to eradicate guitar music in the minds of popular listeners, the guitar has proved very resilient and difficult to displace.

Since the 1970s, the guitar has been used to trigger digital electronics. However, while both signal tracking and polyphony still present problems, these barriers are gradually being overcome. There have been several attempts to introduce effective guitar synths over the years but they have really been analogue or digital filters activated by either an ordinary guitar pickup or by discrete signals from a hexaphonic pickup. Hex pickups, which output a separate signal for each string, were often added to an existing guitar and used to transform it into a MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) controller while still able to be used as an ordinary guitar. MIDI was a standard specification published in August 1983 by Japanese electronics giant Roland and American synthesizer company Sequential Circuits, and is commonly used to control electronic audio equipment. While attempting to revolutionise guitar music, Roland’s excursions into guitar synths since the 1980s have still relied on a standard guitar as its starting point.

Other Japanese companies specialising in electronics have also experimented with MIDI control of external synthesis engines, for instance guitars from Casio (DG20) and Yamaha (EZ-EG). It seems incredible to think that these early electronic instruments are now being considered as ‘vintage’. Today, there are now plenty of guitars on the market with MIDI capability built in. Technology has moved on and the fundamental concepts of a digital source are now ripe for being reinvestigation and improvement.

Other pioneering companies such as Line 6, now owned by another Japanese giant Yamaha, introduced their ground breaking digital modelling preamp (the Pod) and digital modelling guitar (the Variax) to indicate the direction in which development might go. Line 6’s philosophy inspired and influenced subsequent successful products such as the Kemper Profiler and the Fractal Audio Systems Axe-FX. Computer control of complex parameters, presets, firmware and downloads are commonplace for amps and effects in the 2010s and we can certainly expect this trend not only to become de facto but also to become a requirement in the near future, so a laptop at live gigs is already almost a necessity to keep your rig running smoothly – not a comfort zone for many analogue technophobe musos.

Guitar making cannot stand still and neither should it. Even the companies with a century or more of history, such as Gibson, Gretsch and Martin, have to keep moving forward or risk being overtaken. However, the tightrope of appealing to customers who appreciate the heritage is also key to the future success of long‑established manufacturers. Newer, smaller companies, though, are not constrained by the time capsule factor.

It is probably safe to say that the future is likely to be a practical symbiosis of both the familiar to satisfy the conservative traditionalists and the whizzy new gizmos to appeal to the technologically savvy experimentalists and neophytes… just as it always has been if fact. Even Gibson has been toying with the addition of digital features into its guitars, including the Les Paul HD.6X Pro and the Firebird X models. Intriguingly, Fender and other major brands have yet to declare their hands. It will be the fine balance between the opposing forces that will enable lasting incremental change, via ‘chimera’ guitars, rather than a number of fundamental radical shifts. That eventuality could prove a bit boring though, don’t you think? However, sadly, it also seems to mirror the way that modern popular music is going as well?

Leaps of unadulterated conjecture:

This next section is pure fantasy and should not be relied on as authentic in any way. It came from an idea that it can sometimes be fun to imagine what things might be like in some near or distant future. One hopes, though, that what follows doesn’t come to represent some form of self‑fulfilling prophecy.

It may be that the guitar itself could become superseded by something completely different from what musicians (rather than video game players) use today. Could it be possible that something along the lines of the PlayStation ‘Guitar Hero’ controller may someday make inroads into real instruments to create real music? I would anticipate that the majority of guitarists would sincerely hope not.

There are already some very modernistic looking instruments out there, such as the HTG Hyper Touch and the Misa Kitara (note the use of the Greek name kitara from Part I of this long story). Are these all‑electronic ‘guitars’ the sorts of instruments that will replace our beloved classic designs and become de rigeur in the near future? Alternatively, perhaps the electric guitar could somehow morph into some form of fully digital instrument via the route of hybridisation. As a logical conclusion, is the ‘Digital Guitar’ with analogue playability a holy grail and, if so, for whom? Here are some current digital guitar innovations from the 2010s…

So… suspend your disbelief for a few minutes and take a tentative look ahead to the scary world of AIs, AAs, AVs and AM (spoiler alert – these acronyms may seem familiar but in this context, they don’t mean what you think they mean today). You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile. Read on…

10 years’ hence (c.2028):

Analogue vs digital – Digital technologies will be used increasingly to enhance the analogue signal chain rather than usurp it completely. We have already seen many examples of this appearing in effects and amps, so there isn’t really any clever insight in mentioning it. Digital control of analogue signals is already becoming commonplace especially in delay and modulation effects where digital manipulation gives much more precise control over what happens in the analogue domain.

It remains unpopular to sample the original signal through an analogue to digital converter (ADC), mess around with it and then put it back through a digital to analogue converter (DAC) to turn it back into a signal for further processing. Many purists say that the act of conversion using today’s chips taints the original signal. It will be a while longer before we make that bold step of a fully digital signal chain from fingers to ears but it is getting ever closer. It will happen but possibly not by 2028, mainly because of the difficulty in engineering effective fully digital instruments and loudspeakers.

Research will continue to develop a truly digital guitar ‘pickup’ that could compare to current electromagnetic pickups and provide the first step to more complex processing in the future. Digital modelling using DSP (Digital Signal Processing) chips will continue to improve and will become almost indistinguishable from analogue electronics in effects, amps and digital audio workstations (DAWs). There will be a hardcore fan base that remains wedded to the old school stuff for many, many years to come. The guitar itself is highly unlikely to become fully digital in the next 10 years, if only because there are far too many dogmatic people invested in preserving the status quo. Auto‑Tune for the guitar anyone?

Guitar Making – In the near future, it is highly unlikely that wood will be superseded by any other material as the primary input for the majority of guitars. Wood has proved over millennia to be a very flexible, durable renewable material. Let’s face it, it can also look wonderful. One major advantage of wood is that it contributes towards the organic tone and touch of an individual musical instrument. Many alternative materials have been used in the construction of guitars since at least the 1920s, including plastics, metals, carbon fibre and a wide variety of composites. To‑date, though, wood has prevailed in terms of structural integrity allied to inherent musicality. What will change, though, is the shift away from the use of endangered exotic hardwood species such as rosewood, ebony and even mahogany to more sustainable species. For instance Pau Ferro (Libidibia Ferrea, a.k.a Bolivian rosewood) is rapidly replacing the CITES‑restricted rosewood (varieties of the genus Dalbergia) as a popular fingerboard material. Quite how fussy musicians will accept unfamiliar wood substitutes, will be determined in due course. What is clear is that guitarists really have no choice but to go with the ecologically acceptable flow in the long‑term.

Like their classical musical counterparts, the guitar itself (whether acoustic or electric) will remain very much a natural instrument for a good few years yet. The guitar will still be supremely popular and will be making great music all over the world. Guitars will be made by a broad range of entities from one man band local custom luthiers up to multinational mass manufacturers. Competition, particularly from China, will be a threat to many established western companies until their economic bubble bursts, which it eventually will at some point.

Recorded music – The vast majority of recorded guitar music will be produced on digital equipment with a few retro studios still using analogue equipment including valve preamps and tape machines. The relative accessibility of convenient digital recording equipment will continue to provide openings for all sorts of artists from the home musician to the professional mega bands using famous dedicated studio facilities such as the famous Abbey Road Studio in London. Recorded music will be increasingly distributed and accessed online, although legacy formats will maintain a solid niche popularity.

Live music – Live music will continue to grow in popularity to become the cornerstone for many successful artists, provided that they do not price themselves out of live appearances and that over‑zealous regulations don’t stop large live events from taking place. PA and monitoring systems will continue to improve significantly and sound pressure levels at venues will be severely restricted, removing some of the visceral excitement of the live music experience.

30 years’ hence (c.2048):

Analogue vs digital – Digital will be the primary domain in which music will be made, recorded, distributed and accessed. The guitar will remain analogue, although it is likely that the entire chain from the pickup onwards will be predominantly digital. However, as with current classical instruments and music, there will still be an important place for traditional analogue guitars. Amps and effects are likely to be almost totally digital. Successors to the analogue electromagnetic pickup and the loudspeaker will be introduced to a point that digital sound will be common if not universal. ‘Old fashioned’ guitars will remain very popular and will experience regular revivals and rejuvenations, even if the overall battle will be won by the digital technologies of the 2040s. New digital connectors will proliferate, as the currently ubiquitous USB port will long since have been superseded, and the jack pug/socket will be purely of vintage interest.

Guitar making – Most of the large manufacturers will be producing some sort of digital instrument as the norm, even if the vital interaction between fingers and strings will remain as it is now. All guitar tone woods will be derived from sustainable sources by strict regulation and use of rare species tightly controlled (outside the unavoidable black market). The use of alternative materials will be in full swing, reducing the reliance on today’s natural materials. New guitars will be built to be recyclable. Automated manufacturing will be the norm and the demand for traditionally made guitars will be catered for by numerous specialist guitar builders. Pure wooden analogue guitars will be vintage only and regarded with the same respect as classical instruments are now. Guitar development will be relegated to refinements around the margins, rather than core revolutions. Hybrid instruments will be fighting a rear‑guard action, with digital beginning to win the final battle. Competition to the guitar will continue but will not succeed… yet.

Recorded music – Digital will almost totally dominate recorded music production, distribution and access. Diehard analogue fans will be regarded as geeks and nerds. Vinyl albums will, however still persevere… just.

Live music – Like recorded music, live music will be, apart from the musicians themselves, almost universally digital. ‘Loud’ live music will be a thing of the distant past. Music venues will begin to disappear as discrete locations, with personalised performance content delivered direct to the individual.

50 years’ hence (c.2068):

Analogue vs digital – Analogue guitar music will be like classical music is today, a popular, niche and a largely historic pastime. All other aspects will be digital.

Guitar making – Standardisation and construction will be largely prescribed. Hybridisation will just about have peaked and on its way out. The majority of guitar production will move towards making AIs (Artificial Instruments). The focus will be on the technical facets of music making, rather than subjective, emotive ones. Guitars as we know them now will be of heritage interest.

Recorded music – Music will be manufactured in the digital domain with just a few maverick analogue‑obsessed musicians beavering away in the minority. The vast majority of contemporary recorded music will be created electronically, with few outmoded musical instruments as we know them now being used. Many artists will be AAs (Artificial Artists), rather than by artistically inclined human beings – the latter will concentrate on performing historic pieces from the golden heyday of guitar music.

Live music – There will no longer be a need to travel to a discrete venue where music is performed in person to a collective audience. ‘Live’ music will be created in computers, customised to an individual’s tastes and accessed in the home, in a domain known as an AV (Artificial Venue) giving the sight, sound and feel of a venue.

100+ years’ hence (c.2120):

Analogue vs digital – Analogue guitar music will be an historic vocation and largely a lifestyle pastime. All other aspects of ‘modern’ music will be entirely digital. Some authentic old‑style music will be recreated on historic instruments for research purposes, rather than as entertainment.

Guitar making – Even the last few old‑school luthiers will be migrating to alternative materials, automation and digital electronics. Hybrid instruments will be seen as a thing of the past. AIs will be commonplace and there won’t be a need for human musicians to learn the art or skills needed to make any type of contemporary music.

Recorded music – Popular music will be artificially created without the need for accomplished musicians. Music will be constantly morphing on a second‑by‑second basis, known as AM (Artificial Music).

Live music – Performance capture will be produced electronically and experienced direct by the listener’s visual and audio receptors, bypassing the unreliable eyes and ears altogether. Finally, the digital signal path from computerised source to the recipient’s brain will be complete and will require no human intervention whatsoever.

Alternative Reality

Or… in some alternative, perhaps more desirable dimension, the unwritten future could well be pretty much as it is today, with new generations doing just what we do now, rocking to good old electric guitar music. To many guitarists, the tactile and synergetic relationship between musician and his/her guitar in full flow with other musicians is unbreakable and simply cannot be usurped by some dystopian digital future scape.

One trusts that there will always be a place for creative artisans and a desire or the musically minded to enjoy the fruits of their vision for the guitar of the future. It is encouraging that many well‑known guitar makers are actually stepping back in time in order to move forward. This isn’t the paradox that it may first seem. Savvy guitar builders are investigating in great depth what made great guitars great in the first place and identifying what musicians actually want from their instruments today. Much of this current R&D is leading to a number of findings that indicate that what was important 100 and 200 years ago (and probably longer) is still important today but with modern consistency and reliability.

Perhaps the past masters did get it largely right in the first place and that is why their products, new or vintage, are still desirable artefacts today. While traditional manufacturers like C.F. Martin use modern production methods for some parts of the building process, they are also still using tools and equipment employed by successive cohorts of luthiers, as well as relying on many of the basic techniques and skills refined and passed down from one generation to the next. Most of the top flight guitar builders also work very hard to ensure long-term supplies of precious tone woods to make into future guitars. This focus on the best‑of‑the‑best perhaps suggests that guitars may well remain, for the large part, relatively familiar in 10, 30, 50 and 100 years from now but with improvements to the detail. Perhaps it takes that bold flight of fancy to realise that we already have what we and future generations of musicians actually need. Owning inspiring guitars inspires guitar playing and results in inspiring guitar music.

There really is no point in speculating any further ahead. The likelihood is that, even with advances in medical technology, most if not all of us reading this in 2018 will not be around to see anything beyond c.2020. The guitar is dead, long live the guitar. The passage of father time will inform just how accurate these flights of fantasy (or descents into nightmare) really are. Clearly, the further one looks into the future, the less precise any predictions become. Welcome to tomorrow’s very scary ‘brave new world’.

I, for one, am certainly not laying any bets. I’d like to think that there is something about our very personal instruments that will endure for many decades, if not centuries. If we lose that quintessential ‘something special’ about making guitars that make guitarists that make music, it will all have been for nothing. Watch this space.

Conclusion

So, that’s it. The long‑running and on‑going story of the guitar has finally reached a logical stopping off point, at least for now… However, it not the end of the story by any means. Somewhat disappointingly, the denouement to ‘A Potted History of the Guitar’ series seems to be a bit more of a whimper than some almighty bang. After so much history and so much personal investment in researching it, it seems a bit of a let‑down to leave the guitar’s evolution ‘hanging’ without some sort of definitive resolution to the script and with the various loose ends neatly tied up. Nevertheless, remember that this is not a fictional piece and let us not forget that this is definitely not the epilogue.

‘They’ say that a picture speaks a thousand words. So, to sum up the 3,500‑year, 8‑part journey in a single image that tells the story of the guitar from its origins to the possible near future, here is a fitting 27‑picture montage that possibly speaks approximately 50,000 words. Basically, I could have saved 9 months of my life and just posted this one composite picture. That, I guess, is one of the benefits of hindsight. I hope that you’ve enjoyed the expedition with me and that, like me, you have learned a little something about the guitar along the way. You wanted a potted history of the guitar? Well, how about…

From this point in time onwards is the start of the future and, whatever happens next. It will be fascinating to experience the on‑going next instalment of the long story and to observe with trepidation and excitement what is to unfold. Let us try to make it a bright and positive outcome for everyone who loves The Guitar and Great Guitar Music. Thank you for reading. Enjoy the future, whatever it holds for us guitar aficionados.

End of Part VIII and the end of this series

Now… I need a break from the relentless rigmarole of the research and write routine, which has, for the best part of a year (or more), been on top of everything else. As mentioned previously, at some point, I might adapt the eight separate ‘Guitar History’ parts into a more coherent and accessible feature set on the CRAVE Guitars’ web site.

Very shortly, I will try and start to prepare for 2019’s (hopefully slightly less) epic partner piece to this year’s gargantuan opener. For the rest of this year, it is back to opinionated hum‑drum ‘normality’ with stand‑alone observations of a more topical and transient nature.

One thing I have noticed is that I haven’t been playing enough guitar in recent months, hardly any at all in fact, which is deplorable. So perhaps now that this particular endeavour is over for now, it’s time to practice what I preach, pick up a lovely vintage guitar and plink away for a bit of cathartic enjoyment. At least, in doing so within the context of the past, I now have an enhanced appreciation of the history that led to it coming into my hands and why it is so important to conserve the heritage for that future. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars ‘Quote of the Month’: “Let’s be honest, the future is all we really have and it is the only thing we can do anything about”

© 2018 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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