May 2024 – Artificial Intelligence takes on Vintage Guitars: Part III

Prelude

GARRULOUS GREETINGS AND A HEARTY “hello” once again to the global guitar gathering as seen through the laidback lenticular lens of CRAVE (Cool & Rare American Vintage Electric) Guitars. Whether you are a first‑time visitor or a long‑time returnee, all with peaceful intentions are welcome here.

This month, we are concluding the 3‑part exploration on the current status of civilian‑grade Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its perspective on vintage guitars within the context of the wider music industry. This time around, we’ll take the investigation of Generative AI’s (GAI) impact beyond the narrow domain of vintage guitars and look at the bigger picture. In addition to vintage guitars, we will take a look at music, the music business, music tools and equipment, live performance, production, promotion, distribution and access. As a final parting shot on the subject, I’ll take a personal philosophical look at AI’s future intentions for us poor old human beans.

At the time of writing, it seems that we don’t need AI to forecast the ‘end of days’ for the human race. We have plenty enough diabolical demagogues teetering on the brink of bringing about just that suicidal eventuality right now. We don’t need AI to tell us that, as a species, we have learned absolutely nothing from the ravages of our past and, perhaps, we deserve what we get as a result. All I will say is, “Klaatu Barada Nickto” (From the film, ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’, 1951).

“The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race. Once humans develop artificial intelligence, it will take off on its own, and redesign itself at an ever‑increasing rate” – Stephen Hawking (theoretical physicist and cosmologist, 1942‑2018)


AI revisited (again)

The previous two articles focused on narrative (Part I) and visual (Part II) aspects of the vintage guitar experience. Once again, there is really no need for introductory explanations. If you wish to review the preceding articles leading up to this one, or are coming at it for the first time, you can revisit those blogs by following the links below (open in a new browser window):

March 2024 – Artificial Intelligence takes on Vintage Guitars: Part I

April 2024 – Artificial Intelligence takes on Vintage Guitars: Part II

CRAVE Guitars – Artificial Intelligence Part III

Scope

The scope of this third article in the series is quite broad, wider than in the first two articles. At its core, though, remains the topic of vintage guitars, amps and effects and the small but vital part they play in music today. While it has less of a focus on vintage instruments and equipment, it is all part of the same ‘micro/macro’ world, a connection that AI overlooked back in Part I.

Up to now, the articles concentrated largely on the past and present. This third article is very much future focused, so we’ll see what AI has to say about what is to come on and what may be over the digital horizon. Perhaps, someone will look back at this article at some point in years to come and gauge how far AI has come and how accurate AI has been at predicting the future.

Humans tend to shy away from radical change and are innately conservative. How we deal with the challenges that AI poses will be pivotal. AI will either enhance or inhibit human development? It is currently up to us to decide which. The debate rages on and will do for some time to come. These heated conversations aren’t just centring on music, they are pretty much across every economic sphere of production.

“I had two passions growing up – one was music, one was technology. I tried to play in a band for a while, but I was never talented enough to make it. And I started companies. One day came along and I decided to combine the two – and there was Spotify” – Daniel Ek (founder and CEO of Spotify, 1983‑)


The rationale

Make no mistake, AI has already made its mark in music. Whether it is in the way of song writing and music creation through recording and producing to distribution and enhancing the consumer’s experience. AI is here already and it isn’t going to go away. Going forward, there is no longer any doubt that AI’s role in music will be increasingly expansive, whether we like it or not

The arguments posed by many artists is that AI is incapable of capturing and mastering the artistic expression of music. Music has a rich history and deep emotional ties and these are not easily replicated by machines. Before we go too far, let us be clear that the same applies to many human musicians! Inspiration is rare and not easy to reproduce or we’d all be using it to get rich in the process. It isn’t clear whether the egotistical view that the human spirit is inimitable is born from a reluctance to embrace technology’s potential. The instinctive defensive reaction is to attempt to protect human creativity at all costs. Similarly, it is not certain whether it is possible for a machine to create intelligent artistic outcomes.

Can music generated by IT algorithms be considered authentic musical art? Art is an inward and outward expression of human emotion, experience, and creativity. These are characteristics that sceptics say a machine simply cannot possess. The current state‑of‑the‑art AI has a hard time translating technical data into sensitive music, struggling to infuse its outputs with sincerity, passion and feeling. Yet. I am sure that soon, we won’t be able to assert these facts with any genuine certainty.

From the composition of musical melody and harmony to generating complex musical arrangements, AI already has the ability to create ‘original’ pieces that can (allegedly) rival the work of human composers. As the technology is derivative, AI has yet to develop the ability to exceed human talents. It would be an act of hubris to suggest that AI cannot follow the same scientific principles, musical rules and tropes that humans have abided by for centuries or even millennia. AI can achieve considerable complexity in a fraction of the time that a human can exact the same tasks. It is still the ‘intelligent’ aspect that vexes most commentators.

AI doesn’t care one iota about music and it doesn’t even know what music is. To AI, music is simply another digital computational process, albeit one that seems amazingly expert to us. However, AI doesn’t have any conscious investment in music and it can’t tell rock ‘n’ roll from a rock in the ground. Professional musicians have spent entire careers trying to perfect their skills and they are understandably concerned about AI’s impact on their livelihoods. While I understand that point of view, having reservations isn’t going to stop the tsunami coming their way. In the Darwinian sense, it will be, ‘adapt or die’ (metaphorically speaking of course).

“The idea that machines can’t do things humans can is a pure myth” – Marvin Minsky (American cognitive and computer scientist, 1927‑2016)

There are already AI‑powered virtual instruments in the form of plugins integrated into DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations). Studios are already using AI tools to improve mixing, producing and mastering techniques. AI has the potential to be a powerful collaborative tool, as long as we are prepared to accept the consequences of such a ‘partnership’. AI is simply becoming another tool in the artist’s repertoire and surely it is just a logical extension of the use of digital electronics that studio and stage engineers have been using for the past 40 years. For instance, we would no longer think of salvaging a 20,000 gallon water tank to create a single analogue reverb chamber effect, when we have digital electronics that can provide thousands of credible permutations with the click of a mouse. Let’s get real here.

AI automation can and will result in job displacement, let’s not shy away from the fact; it is inevitable. Technical roles in the music industry such as producers, sound engineers, mixers and mastering specialists may be under threat. Similarly, even some session musicians may be adversely affected. However, the contrary argument is that AI opens doors to a diverse range of new opportunities and it will create new skills and expertise that have hitherto been either underappreciated or non‑existent. Threats to livelihoods have always existed and it will be imperative to drive change in the industry, rather than become a victim of it.

“The arrival of general AI will force us to confront a new sense of ourselves, as well as a universe that is both more strange and more wonderful than we could have imagined” – Ray Kurzweil (American computer scientist, 1948‑)

There are also legal issues. If an AI created song becomes commercially successful, who owns the rights? Is it the end‑user of the technology, the system developer, the creator of the data sets used to inform AI, or the machine itself? Currently, the law sides with the end‑user. A guitar manufacturer cannot claim Intellectual Property (IP) rights simply because a musician used their instrument. Neither can the owner of an arboretum where the tree grows to source the wood used in said instrument. You get the idea.

AI has already replaced humans, at least in the areas of commercial recorded background music and around the periphery, even if you aren’t aware of it. AI ‘artists’ have already been created and AI has been used to resurrect dead artists (e.g. John Lennon). AI is used on virtual reality concerts streamed over the Internet or to live audiences (e.g. Abba, Elvis Presley, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, etc.). However, humans will still be needed for the time being to innovate and break conventional boundaries in mainstream and underground music. As yet, though, nothing can really substitute for the genuine human experience. Live music is largely safe… for now.

Instead of viewing AI as a threat, many artists will see it as a vital device that can help to give them a strategic advantage in an increasingly competitive industry and in highly saturated markets. AI’s current course in music suggests an even more integrated future. Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA, USA suggests that up to 60% of artists already make use of AI techniques to help unlock their potential. This human/AI collaboration can redefine artistic boundaries, enable experimentation and give rise to genres and ground‑breaking sounds previously unimaginable, if we allow it. AI can help to broaden musicians’ creative horizons beyond the familiar. The potential synergy between human musicians and AI presents exciting opportunities and challenges for the future of music. Wasn’t it ever thus?

“It’s not artificial intelligence I’m worried about, it’s human stupidity” – Neil Jacobstein (Chair of the Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Track at Singularity University)

So… there you have both sides of a musical and ethical difference of opinion. Now it is time to turn that debate over to GAI…


The CRAVE Guitars’ test

For the final time, I will present AI with some challenges and see how AI responds. As before, I will let the AI do the hard work and leave my critique until the end of the article.

Apologies for repeating the following list yet again. I suggested eight benchmarks for evaluating AI’s responses, summarised below:

  1. To understand a question correctly without over‑specificity
  2. To interpret and extrapolate relevant information objectively within a wider context
  3. To present a cogent argument that can adequately be judged and/or challenged
  4. To form a genuine opinion from scratch without relevant information being readily available in the first place, in the same way that a person might do in the case of uncertainty
  5. To debate the initial result to achieve a potentially better outcome
  6. To produce a creative response that improves on the original information input by humans
  7. To remember what it has already output
  8. To understand fully what humans want or expect from ‘intelligence’

Once more, twenty questions were posed to AI about vintage guitars and various aspects of the music industry. What follows are the verbatim results. Nothing has been added or removed. What you see is what I got. Apologies for the repetition up to this point.

Time for me to take a backseat until later in the article. I’m off to put the kettle on, put my feet up and consume multiple warm beverages. Health warning: AI can lead to a sedentary and indolent lifestyle! Bye for now…


Twenty Questions and Twenty AI Responses

Question #1 – What is AI’s role in current new guitar and bass design and manufacturing?

AI Response #1

AI is playing an increasingly significant role in the design and manufacturing of guitars. Here are some ways AI is being utilised:

  • Personalised Designs: AI can analyse player preferences, such as playing style and hand size, to create custom guitars tailored to individual needs.
  • Generative Design: AI can generate organic, biomimetic shapes, leading to innovative designs that were previously impossible.
  • Sustainability: AI helps manufacturers reduce waste and energy consumption, resulting in more environmentally friendly guitar production.
  • Simulation Software: Designers can simulate the guitar’s performance and sound quality, allowing for real‑time adjustments and early identification of design flaws.
  • Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing): This technology enables the creation of physical prototypes, helping designers evaluate and refine the guitar’s design before production.

Overall, AI tools are transforming guitar design by enabling more efficient, sustainable, and personalised manufacturing processes.

Question #2 – How is AI contributing towards wider musical equipment technology?

AI Response #2

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has significantly impacted the field of music technology, revolutionizing various aspects of music creation, production, and performance. Let’s delve into how AI is shaping the world of musical equipment:

  • Smart Algorithms in Mixing and Audio Editing:
    • Many audio plugins now incorporate smart algorithms that draw on human experience. These algorithms apply frequency correction or normalisation presets to enhance audio quality during mixing and editing.
    • These AI‑driven tools assist musicians and producers in achieving professional sound without extensive manual adjustments.
  • Composition and Music Generation:
    • AI has made a major impact in the realm of composition. Services like Aiva utilize deep learning algorithms to create beautiful music across various genres.
    • Aiva’s virtual brain is modelled after how a human brain works. It recalls past experiences and problem‑solving to refine its results. By analysing vast amounts of data (such as classical music archives), Aiva recognizes patterns in chord structures, melodies, and arrangement choices.
    • The resulting AI‑generated tracks are increasingly indistinguishable from compositions by human musicians.
  • AI‑Driven Music Production Tools:
    • Over the past decade, AI has transformed music mixing and mastering. Apps like Landr, Cryo Mix, and iZotope’s Neutron automatically analyse tracks, balance audio levels, and remove noise.
    • These tools enhance efficiency and consistency in the production process, allowing artists to focus on creativity.
  • New Sounds and Beats:
    • AI’s ability to analyse sound characteristics using deep neural networks has led to the creation of new sounds. By drawing from existing music and theory, AI generates fresh beats and melodies.
    • Musicians can explore novel sonic possibilities, pushing the boundaries of traditional instruments and arrangements.
  • Music Education and Research:
    • AI, combined with audio big data, contributes to Music Information Retrieval (MIR). MIR extracts audio features based on signal processing and employs machine learning techniques.
    • Researchers use AI to analyse music theory, composition, and performance, advancing our understanding of music.

In summary, AI’s influence on musical equipment technology extends beyond mere automation. It empowers musicians, enhances creativity, and opens up exciting avenues for the future of music.

Question #3 – How can AI contribute towards the conservation of vintage guitars and basses?

AI Response #3

AI can contribute significantly to the conservation of vintage guitars in several ways:

  • Digital Restoration: AI can restore old photographs and videos of iconic luthiers and vintage guitars, enhancing the quality and clarity of historical records.
  • Predictive Maintenance: By analysing data from sensors placed on vintage guitars, AI can predict when and what kind of maintenance is needed to preserve their condition.
  • Material Analysis: AI can assist in analysing the materials and construction techniques of vintage guitars, providing insights for conservation efforts.
  • Sound Analysis: Machine learning algorithms can analyse the sound of vintage guitars to understand how they have changed over time and how to maintain their original sound.
  • 3D Scanning and Modelling: AI can help create detailed 3D models of vintage guitars, which can be used for educational purposes or to replicate parts that are no longer available.

These applications of AI not only help in preserving the physical aspects of vintage guitars but also ensure that their legacy and the craftsmanship behind them are documented and passed down to future generations.

Question #4 ‑ How can AI contribute towards the conservation of vintage guitar amplifiers and effect pedals?

AI Response #4

AI can be a powerful ally in the conservation of vintage guitar amplifiers and effect pedals, offering several innovative approaches:

  • Emulation and Modelling: AI can be used to create digital models of vintage amplifiers and pedals, allowing musicians to access classic sounds without using the original, fragile equipment.
  • Predictive Analysis: AI algorithms can analyse the condition of electronic components over time, predicting failures and suggesting preventive maintenance to prolong the life of the equipment.
  • Restoration Guidance: AI can guide technicians through the restoration process, suggesting optimal methods and materials that preserve the original sound and functionality.
  • Sound Preservation: By analysing the unique sounds of vintage gear, AI can help in creating a digital library of tones and effects, ensuring that the sonic legacy of these devices is not lost.
  • Component Analysis: AI can assist in identifying and sourcing authentic components for repair and restoration, ensuring that the vintage gear remains as close to its original state as possible.

These contributions of AI not only help in maintaining the physical integrity of vintage amplifiers and pedals but also ensure that their distinctive sounds continue to inspire musicians for generations to come.

Question #5 – How can AI contribute towards future guitar innovation, design and manufacturing developments that will one day become vintage?

AI Response #5

AI’s contribution to future guitar innovation, design, and manufacturing is expected to be transformative, with several key areas of impact:

  • Customisation: AI can analyse vast amounts of data on player preferences and ergonomics to create highly personalised guitars that cater to the specific needs of individual musicians.
  • Sound Modelling: Advanced machine learning algorithms can emulate the sounds of vintage guitars, allowing new guitars to have the sought‑after tones of classic models.
  • Quality Control: AI can enhance quality control in manufacturing, ensuring that each guitar meets high standards of craftsmanship and consistency.
  • Material Innovation: AI can assist in discovering new materials and construction methods that replicate the qualities of vintage guitars while being more sustainable and durable.
  • Predictive Analytics: By predicting trends and consumer preferences, AI can guide the design of guitars that are likely to become future classics.

These contributions are poised to revolutionise the guitar industry, making it more innovative, efficient, and responsive to the needs of musicians around the world.

Question #6 – Where do vintage guitars fit into the wider current day music industry?

AI Response #6

Vintage guitars hold a special place in the modern music industry, serving as a bridge between the rich musical heritage of the past and the innovative sounds of the present. Here’s how they fit into today’s musical landscape:

  1. Timeless Sound and Design: Vintage guitars are renowned for their distinctive designs and the unique sound quality they produce. Musicians often seek out these instruments for their ability to create authentic tones that newer models can’t replicate. They are not just tools for making music but are also seen as works of art and symbols of musical eras gone by.
  2. Influence on Modern Music: The influence of vintage guitars extends across genres, from rock and blues to jazz and even contemporary pop. Their sound has shaped the music we listen to today, and many modern musicians still prefer vintage guitars for their unparalleled tonal qualities.
  3. Collectible Value: Beyond their musical capabilities, vintage guitars are also valuable collectibles. They represent a time and place in musical history, embodying the legacy of innovation and craftsmanship. For collectors and enthusiasts, owning a vintage guitar is akin to possessing a piece of music history.
  4. Inspiration for New Models: Modern guitar manufacturers often look to vintage guitars for inspiration when designing new models. The classic aesthetics and sound of vintage guitars continue to influence the development of new instruments, ensuring that the spirit of the vintage era lives on in the music industry.
  5. Cultural Significance: Vintage guitars carry cultural significance, representing the evolution of music and the impact of iconic musicians who played them. They are a testament to the enduring appeal of the guitar as an instrument and its role in shaping the cultural landscape.

In essence, vintage guitars are more than just musical instruments; they are cultural icons that continue to inspire musicians and captivate audiences, maintaining their relevance in a rapidly evolving music industry.

Question #7 – What does the future hold for vintage guitars, basses, amplifiers and effect pedals?

AI Response #7

The future of vintage guitars, basses, amplifiers, and effect pedals looks quite promising, with several trends indicating a continued appreciation and demand for these classic instruments and gear. Here’s what we can expect:

  1. Vintage Guitars: The allure of vintage guitars is expected to persist, with a focus on craftsmanship, exclusivity, and historical significance. Collectors and musicians alike will likely continue to seek out these instruments for their unique sound, aesthetic appeal, and investment potential. The market for vintage guitars is anticipated to see growth, especially in regions like North America and Asia Pacific.
  2. Bass Guitars: High‑end bass guitars are gaining attention, with premium models from brands like Rickenbacker, Fender, and Fodera being highlighted for their quality. The bass guitar scene is evolving, with discussions around its future in the music industry and the potential for new genres to reinvigorate interest in the instrument.
  3. Guitar Amplifiers: The guitar amp market is embracing both vintage features and futuristic technology. There’s a trend towards recreating classic amps as well as developing new models packed with advanced tech. The future may see a blend of the best of the past with innovative features that cater to modern players’ needs.
  4. Effect Pedals: Guitar effects pedals are becoming more varied and sophisticated, with new models based on classic gear and all‑new combinations. The industry is witnessing a surge in creativity and innovation, with digital modelling and emulation playing significant roles in the development of new pedals.

In summary, the future for vintage musical gear is one of reverence for the past combined with an embrace of new technologies and trends. This balance ensures that vintage instruments and gear will remain integral to the music industry, cherished for their legacy and continued influence on modern music.

Question #8 ‑ How can AI help to improve the knowledge of people interested in vintage guitars and basses?

AI Response #8

Artificial Intelligence (AI) can significantly enhance the knowledge of enthusiasts and collectors of vintage guitars and basses in several ways:

  1. Personalized Recommendations: AI can analyse individual preferences and historical data to suggest vintage guitars and basses that align with a user’s taste or playing style.
  2. Virtual Restoration: AI can simulate the restoration process of vintage instruments, allowing users to see potential outcomes without physically altering the instrument.
  3. Market Analysis: AI can track market trends, auction results, and pricing data to help collectors understand the value of their instruments and make informed buying or selling decisions.
  4. Authenticity Verification: By comparing images and specifications, AI can assist in verifying the authenticity of vintage guitars and basses, helping to prevent fraud.
  5. Educational Content: AI can generate educational content, such as articles or videos that delve into the history, craftsmanship, and cultural significance of vintage instruments.
  6. Interactive Learning: Through interactive apps and software, AI can provide virtual lessons and historical context about specific models and brands.
  7. Sound Analysis: AI can analyse the sound characteristics of vintage guitars and basses, helping users understand the unique tonal qualities of their instruments.
  8. Design Innovation: AI can assist designers in creating new instruments inspired by vintage models, using machine learning to incorporate desirable features and aesthetics.

By leveraging these AI capabilities, people interested in vintage guitars and basses can deepen their understanding and appreciation of these instruments, make better‑informed decisions, and connect with a community of like‑minded individuals.

Question #9 – Why do many professional guitarists still play vintage, rather than modern instruments when recording or preforming live?

AI Response #9

Many professional guitarists opt for vintage instruments over modern ones when recording or performing live due to a combination of factors that contribute to the unique appeal of these classic instruments:

  1. Tonal Quality: Vintage guitars are often sought after for their superior tonal quality. Over time, the wood in these instruments matures, affecting the resonance and producing a richer, more nuanced sound that many believe cannot be replicated by newer guitars.
  2. Craftsmanship: The level of craftsmanship in vintage guitars is frequently cited as being higher than that of many mass‑produced modern instruments. They were often made with more labour‑intensive techniques and higher‑quality materials, which can contribute to both the sound and durability of the instrument.
  3. Historical Significance: Playing a vintage instrument connects musicians to the history of their craft. These guitars have been part of iconic performances and recordings, and they carry a legacy that many artists find inspiring.
  4. Exclusivity: Vintage instruments are unique, with each one having its own story and character. This exclusivity can be appealing to professionals who want an instrument that stands out both visually and sonically.
  5. Investment Value: Beyond their musical qualities, vintage guitars can be a good investment. Their value tends to appreciate over time, making them not just tools for performance but also valuable assets.
  6. Personal Preference: Ultimately, the choice often comes down to personal preference. Many guitarists simply prefer the feel and sound of a vintage guitar, finding that it suits their style and the music they create.

These factors combine to make vintage instruments a popular choice for many professional guitarists, both in the studio and on stage.

Question #10 – How can AI help music companies to improve their business practices and become more profitable?

AI Response #10

Artificial Intelligence (AI) can significantly enhance the business practices of music companies and contribute to increased profitability in several ways:

  1. Revolutionizing Production: AI can streamline the music production process, making it more accessible and efficient. For instance, AI‑driven technology can assist aspiring artists in creating professional‑sounding music with minimal equipment, thereby reducing production costs.
  2. Optimizing Music Management: AI can help music companies manage their catalogues more effectively by auto‑tagging songs with accurate metadata, which is crucial for organising and categorising music across platforms.
  3. Improving Royalty Management: AI can facilitate better royalty management by accurately tracking song plays and ensuring that artists and rights holders are compensated fairly.
  4. Curating Playlists with Precision: With AI, music companies can curate playlists that resonate with listeners’ preferences, leading to increased engagement and potential revenue from streaming services.
  5. Efficient Tour Planning: AI can analyse data to help plan tours more efficiently, identifying the best locations and times for concerts to maximize attendance and profits.
  6. Content Creation Assistance: AI can assist in content creation, providing tools for musicians to generate new music or enhance existing tracks, potentially leading to more creative outputs and a broader appeal.
  7. Data‑Driven A&R Decisions: AI can provide valuable insights into fan engagement and market trends, helping A&R (Artists and Repertoire) departments make informed decisions about signing artists or promoting music.

By integrating AI into their operations, music companies can leverage these advancements to reduce costs, optimize processes, and create more engaging content, ultimately leading to increased profitability and success in the competitive music industry.

Question #11 – How can AI help guitarists to access, learn and improve their musical playing skills?

AI Response #11

AI can be a powerful ally for guitarists looking to access, learn, and improve their musical playing skills. Here’s how AI can assist:

  1. Personalized Learning: AI can analyse a guitarist’s playing style and provide personalized feedback and practice routines. This can help guitarists focus on areas that need improvement and track their progress over time.
  2. Chord and Scale Recognition: AI tools can listen to music and identify chords and scales, making it easier for guitarists to learn new songs and understand music theory.
  3. Virtual Tutors: AI‑powered virtual tutors can guide guitarists through lessons, provide real‑time corrections, and offer tips to enhance their technique.
  4. Song Writing Assistance: AI can help guitarists with song writing by suggesting chord progressions, melodies, and even lyrics that complement their style.
  5. Access to Online Resources: AI can curate and recommend online resources, such as tutorials, exercises, and educational content, tailored to the guitarist’s skill level and interests.
  6. Enhanced Practice Sessions: With AI, guitarists can have more efficient practice sessions by using tools that track their playing and suggest improvements, making practice more productive.

By leveraging AI, guitarists can gain access to a wealth of resources and personalized guidance that can accelerate their learning and enhance their musical abilities.

Question #12 – How can AI help music artists and bands to improve their arrangements and song writing?

AI Response #12

AI can significantly aid music artists and bands in enhancing their arrangements and song writing in several innovative ways:

  1. Melody and Harmony Generation: AI can generate new melodies and harmonies, providing artists with a broader palette of musical ideas to choose from. Tools like MuseNet can create compositions with various instruments and styles, offering inspiration and starting points for new songs.
  2. Style Emulation: AI can analyse the work of specific artists or genres and emulate their style, allowing musicians to experiment with different sounds and techniques in their arrangements.
  3. Lyric Writing: AI can assist in lyric writing by suggesting phrases and rhymes, which can be particularly helpful during creative blocks or when seeking fresh perspectives.
  4. Arrangement Optimization: AI can suggest changes to an arrangement by analysing the song’s structure and providing feedback on how to improve its flow and impact.
  5. Efficiency in Composition: AI‑powered tools can speed up the song writing process by quickly generating musical elements, allowing artists to focus on refining and personalising their work.
  6. Collaborative Song Writing: AI can act as a collaborative partner, offering suggestions and alternatives that might not have been considered, leading to more diverse and creative outcomes.

By integrating AI into their creative processes, artists and bands can unlock new possibilities in song writing and arrangement, pushing the boundaries of their musical expression.

Question #13 – How can AI help to promote a music artist or band?

AI Response #13

AI can revolutionise the promotion of music artists and bands in several impactful ways:

  1. Target Audience Identification: AI can analyse vast amounts of data to identify and understand the target audience for an artist or band, ensuring that promotional efforts are directed at the most receptive listeners.
  2. Personalised Marketing Campaigns: By leveraging AI, music companies can create highly personalised marketing campaigns that resonate with individual listeners, increasing engagement and loyalty.
  3. Social Media Monitoring and Analysis: AI tools can monitor social media activity, providing insights into audience preferences and trends, which can inform more effective promotional strategies.
  4. Predictive Trend Analysis: AI can predict future trends, helping artists and bands to stay ahead of the curve and align their music and marketing with upcoming movements.
  5. Efficiency and Automation: AI‑driven platforms can automate many aspects of music promotion, from distributing content to scheduling posts, freeing up artists to focus on their music.
  6. Collaboration Discovery: AI can identify potential collaboration opportunities by matching artists with similar styles or fan bases, leading to mutually beneficial partnerships.
  7. Content Creation: AI can assist in creating promotional content, such as music videos or artwork that is tailored to the artist’s brand and audience preferences.

By integrating AI into their promotional activities, music artists and bands can achieve more targeted, efficient, and effective outreach, ultimately leading to greater visibility and success in the industry.

Question #14 – How can AI help to improve live music concert performance?

AI Response #14

AI can enhance live music concert performances in several innovative ways, making the experience more immersive and personalised for both artists and audiences:

  1. Visual Displays: AI can create dynamic visual displays that sync with the music, providing a more engaging and visually captivating experience.
  2. Personalised Set Lists: By analysing social media data and other online interactions, AI can help performers generate set lists that resonate with the preferences of their audience.
  3. Virtual Backgrounds and Special Effects: Performers can incorporate realistic virtual backgrounds and special effects into their shows, adding a new dimension to the live experience.
  4. Intelligent Lighting: AI‑driven lighting systems can react in real‑time to the music, enhancing the atmosphere and mood of the performance.
  5. Real‑Time Audience Interaction: AI can analyse audience reactions in real‑time, allowing performers to adjust their performance on the fly to better engage with their fans.
  6. Enhanced Sound Quality: AI tools can optimise sound quality by adjusting levels and effects in real‑time, ensuring the best possible audio experience for the audience.
  7. Efficient Stage Management: AI can streamline stage management, from set changes to equipment handling, making transitions smoother and reducing the potential for errors.

By integrating AI into live performances, artists can offer a more polished and high‑tech show, while audiences can enjoy a more interactive and memorable concert experience.

Question #15 – How can AI improve live music venue sound and lighting?

AI Response #15

AI can significantly improve the sound and lighting at live music venues, enhancing the overall experience for both performers and audiences. Here’s how AI contributes to these improvements:

Sound Quality:

  • Real‑Time Acoustic Adjustment: AI‑driven audio technology can analyse a venue’s acoustics and adapt audio settings in real‑time, ensuring optimal sound quality during performances.
  • Automated Mixing: Machine learning algorithms can assist live sound engineers by automatically mixing and adjusting audio levels, which helps in delivering a polished and professional audio experience.

Lighting:

  • Synchronized Displays: AI can program lighting systems to sync perfectly with the music, creating a stunning visual experience that complements the performance.
  • Adaptive Lighting Systems: AI‑powered lighting can adjust in real‑time to the music’s beat, melody, or even the performers’ movements, enhancing the atmosphere and mood of the event.

By leveraging AI, live music venues can offer a more immersive and memorable concert experience, with sound and lighting that are not only high‑quality but also responsive and dynamic.

Question #16 – How can AI improve music studio recording, mixing, producing and mastering processes?

AI Response #16

AI has the potential to significantly improve the processes of recording, producing, and mastering music in the following ways:

Recording:

  • Noise Reduction: AI can automatically detect and eliminate background noise, ensuring cleaner recordings.
  • Performance Enhancement: AI tools can provide real‑time feedback to artists, helping them improve their technique during the recording process.

Mixing:

  • Efficiency: AI tools can balance levels, pan audio, and apply EQ settings automatically for a polished mix.
  • Smart Plugins: Smart plugins can analyse the audio and suggest improvements or apply them directly.

Producing:

  • Efficiency: AI can automate routine tasks like audio levelling and EQ adjustments, allowing producers to focus on the creative aspects of music production.
  • Creative Assistance: AI can generate musical elements such as melodies and harmonies, offering new creative possibilities for producers.

Mastering:

  • Sound Quality: AI mastering tools use machine learning algorithms to enhance the overall sound quality, making tracks sound more polished and professional.
  • Speed: AI can master tracks much faster than traditional methods, speeding up the production cycle.

By integrating AI into these processes, music studios can achieve higher quality results with greater efficiency and creativity.

Question #17 – How can AI help to improve music distribution channels in the future?

AI Response #17

AI can improve music distribution channels in the future by:

  1. Agile Distribution: AI can enable a more agile distribution approach, allowing local and niche musicians to bypass traditional label‑artist‑distribution company models. This can help artists secure royalties without the complex revenue structures that typically leave them with a smaller cut.
  2. Data‑Driven Insights: AI can provide data‑driven insights into consumer behaviour, preferences, and trends, which can help music companies tailor their distribution strategies to maximise reach and profitability.
  3. Automated Content Delivery: AI can automate the delivery of music content across various platforms, ensuring that new releases are efficiently distributed to all relevant channels.
  4. Enhanced Discovery: AI algorithms can improve music discovery for consumers by recommending songs and artists based on listening habits, leading to increased exposure for artists.
  5. Royalty Tracking and Management: AI can improve the accuracy of royalty tracking and management, ensuring that artists are fairly compensated for the use of their music.
  6. Predictive Analytics: AI can use predictive analytics to forecast music trends and consumer demand, helping labels and artists to plan releases and marketing campaigns more effectively.

By leveraging these AI capabilities, music distribution channels can become more efficient, equitable, and responsive to the needs of both artists and consumers.

Question #18 – How can AI help consumers to improve access to, and to discover, existing and new music?

AI Response #18

AI can greatly assist consumers in improving access to and discovering both existing and new music in several ways:

  1. Personalised Recommendations: AI algorithms analyse listening habits and preferences to provide personalised music recommendations, making it easier for users to discover songs and artists that align with their tastes.
  2. Music Discovery Platforms: Services like Spotify use AI to curate playlists and introduce listeners to new music, facilitating billions of music discoveries every day.
  3. Enhanced Search Capabilities: AI improves search functions, allowing consumers to find music based on mood, genre, lyrics, and even humming a tune.
  4. AI‑Generated Music: AI can create new music based on certain parameters or styles, offering listeners fresh and innovative tracks to enjoy.
  5. Social Media Integration: AI tools can analyse social media data to predict and suggest music that might become popular, helping users stay ahead of trends.
  6. Intelligent Radio: AI‑powered radio services can adapt to user feedback, skipping or playing more of certain types of songs to tailor the listening experience.

By leveraging these AI capabilities, consumers can enjoy a more tailored and exploratory music listening experience, discovering a wider range of music more easily.

Question #19 – What things can amateur and professional musicians do to help them exploit the benefits and potential of AI in the future?

AI Response #19

Amateur and professional musicians can take several steps to harness the benefits and potential of AI:

  1. Stay Informed: Keep up with the latest developments in AI technology and how they’re being applied in the music industry. This knowledge can help musicians understand the tools available to them.
  2. Experiment with AI Tools: Use AI‑powered tools for composition, production, and mixing to explore new creative possibilities. Tools like MuseNet for composition or LANDR for mastering can provide new insights and streamline the music creation process.
  3. Collaborate with AI: View AI as a collaborative partner that can offer new perspectives and ideas. AI can help brainstorm, suggest unimagined progressions, or even contribute to live performances.
  4. Enhance Learning: Utilise AI for personalised learning and improvement. AI can analyse playing styles, provide feedback, and suggest areas for improvement.
  5. Incorporate AI in Marketing: Leverage AI for marketing efforts, such as identifying target audiences, creating personalised campaigns, and analysing social media trends.
  6. Explore AI in Song Writing: Use AI to assist with song writing, whether it’s generating lyrics, creating chord progressions, or coming up with melodies.
  7. Optimise Online Presence: Employ AI to optimise the musician’s online presence, from website interactions to social media engagement.
  8. Engage with Fans: Use AI to analyse fan data and preferences to create more engaging and personalised experiences.

By embracing AI, musicians can enhance their creativity, improve their skills, and find new ways to connect with audiences. It’s an exciting time for the intersection of music and technology, and the possibilities are vast.

Question #20 – What can be done to protect creative human musicians from AI music creation?

AI Response #20

Protecting creative human musicians from the challenges posed by AI music creation involves a multifaceted approach:

  1. Advocacy and Legislation: Musicians and industry stakeholders can advocate for policies that protect creators from AI copyright infringement. For example, Universal Music Group has called on Congress to enact policy to protect creators, and the Human Artistry Campaign advocates for responsible AI use.
  2. Open Letters and Campaigns: Musicians can unite to raise awareness and influence public opinion and policy. More than 200 artists, including prominent figures like Nicki Minaj and Billie Eilish, have signed open letters warning against the ‘predatory use of AI’ in the music industry.
  3. Educating AI Developers: Engaging with AI developers and tech firms to ensure they understand the importance of respecting artists’ rights and the potential negative impacts of AI on the music ecosystem.
  4. Fair Compensation Models: Developing new models for fair compensation that ensure artists are paid appropriately for their work, especially when it’s used to train AI systems.
  5. Intellectual Property Rights: Strengthening intellectual property laws to cover new forms of AI‑generated content and ensuring that these laws are enforced.
  6. Ethical AI Development: Encouraging the development of AI in an ethical manner that respects human creativity and does not seek to replace it.
  7. Collaboration Over Competition: Promoting the idea that AI should be used as a tool to enhance human creativity rather than replace it, fostering a collaborative relationship between AI and musicians.

By taking these steps, the music community can work towards a future where AI serves as a complement to human artistry, rather than a replacement.

Just for another bit of fun to end this extravaganza, I asked GAI to write a rhyming couplet about CRAVE Vintage Guitars. Here’s what it came up with…

“In every strum and chord that starts,
Lies the soul of CRAVE’s vintage arts.”

Hhhmmm.


The future of AI

At the start of this article, I said that it would be future‑focused. So, what can we expect from AI more generally over the next couple of decades? Rather than strain my paltry organic grey matter in a vain attempt to speculate, it seems eminently appropriate to ask GAI to make the predictions on both its and mankind’s behalf. Without further procrastination, here is what GAI came up with…

Question: Where is AI going in the future? Where will it be in 10 to 20 years’ time?

AI Response:

The future of AI is a topic of much speculation and excitement. In the next 10 to 20 years, we can expect AI to transform various aspects of our lives and society. Here are some predictions based on current trends and expert insights:

  1. Scientific Advancement: AI and machine learning (ML) will likely revolutionise the scientific method, enabling significant improvements in research and discovery. This could lead to a new golden age of scientific innovation.
  2. Foreign Policy: AI may become a critical component of foreign policy, with governments investing heavily in AI innovation to maintain economic resilience and geopolitical leadership.
  3. Consumer Experiences: AI is expected to enable next‑generation consumer experiences, such as the metaverse and advanced digital interactions, by enhancing our ability to integrate digital objects with physical contexts.
  4. Workplace Transformation: The workplace is likely to undergo significant changes, with AI and automation replacing many current jobs, especially in manufacturing and repetitive tasks.
  5. Healthcare: AI could greatly improve healthcare by assisting in diagnosis, treatment planning, and managing patient care, making healthcare more personalised and efficient.
  6. Education: In education, AI might offer personalized learning experiences, adapt to individual student needs, and provide real‑time feedback to enhance learning outcomes.
  7. Ethical and Societal Impacts: As AI becomes more prevalent, there will be an increased focus on the ethical implications of AI, including privacy concerns, bias in decision‑making, and the impact on employment.

These predictions suggest that AI will be deeply integrated into our daily lives, reshaping industries, and potentially improving our quality of life. However, it’s also important to consider the challenges and to ensure that AI development is guided by ethical principles and societal needs.

So… there you go. No world domination or the extermination of mankind on the list then? Good. Unsurprisingly, AI responded about its own future in a very similar format to questions about guitars and music. Predictably conservative and uncontroversial; disappointingly so in my opinion. Is this really the ultimate transformative promise of the technology?

Where is the interventionist moderation required to safeguard humanity, protect moral imperatives and help to abolish war, famine, poverty, inequality, prejudice, etc.? Where is the focus on global, national and individual security, sustainable resources, ecosystem protection and personal freedoms? There is something about work but little about leisure and what our lives may be like. AI’s vision and its final verdict is there for you to judge and agree or disagree with it as you see fit.

Overall, AI’s vision seems eminently sensible and even pretty mundane doesn’t it? Not scary at all, in fact. It also seems a touch unambitious for something that has been hyped up to be so fundamentally and profoundly transformational. For instance, it makes no mention of Artificial General Superintelligence (AGS), integration with advanced robotics, or about hybrid, cybernetically enhanced organisms where the distinction between inorganic electronics and living biological material becomes blurred. NB. The term ‘cyborg’ was coined in 1960 by NASA scientists Manfred Clynes and Nathan Kline when thinking about tackling the harsh environments experienced in space exploration. The concept of cyborgs raises serious social, and philosophical questions about human identity, rights & responsibilities, and freedoms in a next generation technologically advanced civilisation. These conditions may not be here right now but, if I can envisage it, you can be certain that somewhere, some very intelligent people have been and are working hard on making it real. As AGS and advanced robotics become mainstream in the (very) near future, the pace and nature of mankind’s post‑digital revolution will increase beyond our current comprehension. No dystopian RoboCop or ED‑209‑style law enforcement, at least for now.

The concept of a conscious mind entering a physical entity such as a computer has become common parlance, as in ‘Ghost in the Machine’. The term suggests that the mind exists in a separate state from the body. The phrase comes from, ‘The Concept of the Mind’ (1949) by British philosopher, Gilbert Ryle as a critique of René Descartes’ mind/body dualism. Often used in a science fiction context, it has been interpreted that an AI could develop a soul and an identity indistinguishable from that of a human.

As far as looking any further into the future, I am not adequately equipped to speculate, let alone predict, with any sense of rational objectivity, so I will admit that my weakness is due to my inherent human limitations and move on. Exciting times.

“Our future success hinges on our ability to embrace AI and use it for good” – Brad Smith (President, Microsoft Corporation, 1959‑)


Human observation and verdict

Like Part I of this series, GAI had the opportunity to provide images to illustrate its responses. However, like in Part I, GAI only produced bullet point narrative responses. A black mark before we even start dissecting the output.

For me, this article has proved the weakest of the three. Perhaps that is because I am less knowledgeable and experienced in the subject matter and, perhaps, I had more to learn. The focus is also probably the one most covered by other industry commentators who are much better placed than me to comment on the impact and integration of next generation technology and conventional music. A quick search on the Internet will provide more credible analyses and insights than I can bring to the table. I know my areas of interest as well as my paltry limitations. However, I do have a few amateur thoughts and opinions.

I try very hard not to repeat observations and comments from previous articles, as that would be to fall into the same issue of AI not learning from what it had already output. My previous points of AI being derivative and a process of simulation remain valid.

Whether we approve or not, music is an industry and it is run on competitive business models deeply entwined with western capitalist economic principles of growth and profit (and avarice). The creative aspect is inevitably subservient to the fundamental ‘law of lucre’. Few artists have the power to take on the establishment. Ultimately though, when they gain the power, they wittingly or unwittingly become part of the establishment they seek to contest. The likes of Taylor Swift, Jay‑Z and others, we’re talking about you. GAI tended to reinforce this underlying rule of revenue maximisation over artistry, whether explicit or not. This, perhaps, illustrates the derivative nature of AI to take what already exists and to represent it in a skewed way.

A couple of pedantic points. When it comes to guitar manufacturing in the future, I was a little surprised that GAI didn’t at least refer to industrial design and software (CAD/CAM), for instance, Autodesk. There was no mention of robotics to streamline manufacture using advanced Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) manufacturing. Also, automated guitar calibration and setup tools, for instance PLEK, used for production quality control, research, maintenance and repair were overlooked.

When it comes to vintage guitar conservation (not preservation!), I was a little surprised that GAI did not emphasise more strongly its role in documenting and cataloguing vital anecdotal information before it is lost forever. Record keeping in the guitar manufacturing world has never been a strongpoint, especially back in its infancy. As the generations pass, poorly or undocumented historical knowledge goes with them. The legacy of those best placed to tell the story of vintage heritage is crucial in sustaining interest in the long‑term. AI could be used to help solve some of these quandaries before it is too late.

When it comes to business practices, I was surprised that GAI didn’t comment more on logistics as a key mechanism for ensuring effective and efficient distribution of music equipment assets and resources.

AI is becoming very commonplace and is now easily accessible to anyone connected to the Internet. Creating AI music and/or video is as simple as it is asking for narrative responses or static images. While the results are not really that credible at the time of writing, improvement is inevitable and of particular concern in the commercial popular music world. Why pay volatile and unpredictable human artists humongous amounts of money if you can get an AI music creator to do it for effectively nothing, 24/7, over and over again, without ever needing a rest? Generative music that never stops and never repeats is something that cannot be achieved by humans, and that has been around for a quarter of a century already. Understandably, struggling music artists are concerned about this eventuality and rightly so. However, the technology isn’t going to go away and society is going to have to live with and adapt to the consequences. There is an insidious side to AI music, for instance the use of vocal cloning, scarily good imitations of established artists used as part of fake music creation.

Will AI replace us old, jaded amateur guitarist types or our precious imperfect vintage instruments? For the time being at least, it is unlikely that AI will entirely supplant real instruments, guitarists or other traditional musicians. Will AI replace l’il ol’ me in this universe? Hell no! But when I go, it will be a different world indeed. Music is safe, no question. At least for now.

Most musicians love and are passionate about the process of making music and most have a sense of right and wrong, and an integrity about their actions and behaviours. The same cannot be said of AI. Unbridled AI is not moderated and neither knows nor cares what it does. It has no conscience and no awareness of consequences, thus raising moral and ethical concerns among scaremongers, sceptics, and academics alike.

There are the closed‑minded cynical doomsayers and conspiracy theorists who proclaim that AI will replace inspiration with algorithms and believe that opposition, conflict and controls are the only way to protect human imagination. Alternatively, there are open‑minded proactive artists who are using opportunities to use AI collaboratively to improve the artistic process and to stretch boundaries of what can be achieved. After all, electronic drum machines have never replaced real drummers and neither will AI‑driven rhythm applications. The likely outcome is that there will be a wide range of AI applications, some good, some bad, and we have to learn to live with the new paradigm presented by the inevitable encroachment of next generation AI in a pragmatic way.

Histrionics and melodramatic rhetoric will not achieve positive outcomes. Neither will complacency and inactivity. Perhaps we should remember and learn from the stance of the 19th Century Luddite movement (c.1811‑1817) and their destructive attempts to derail the introduction of machines in the textile industry during the UK industrial revolution. NB. The word Luddite is an eponym referring to Ned Ludd, a worker who allegedly destroyed machinery in protest in 1779. The word has more recently become generic, used to describe anyone who is, in principle, opposed or resistant to the introduction of new technologies.

“The building blocks of music belong to us, to human beings” – Sting (1951‑)

AI presents responses as if everything deserves the same level of significance. It doesn’t differentiate its output with priorities or a range of emphases. In addition, it doesn’t resort to cheap, jaded editorial mechanisms such as hyperbole, satire or trivialisation, as a human might (yup, totally guilty as charged!). This left me wondering about how to process, evaluate and rank the information. There is little indication of subtlety, nuance or ‘shades of grey’ to convince us that the intelligence is real and not artificial.

As in Part I of this series, bullet points do not really constitute an insightful narrative dialogue, which renders its comments a bit more like an instructional diktat than a valuable learning experience. Furthermore, AI’s points are delivered in a self‑contained way that asserts that it is the last word on the matter and there is little more to be gained other than what it says. In addition, the points themselves lack thoughtful provocation and curiosity. As with Part I, this narrative ‘house style’ quickly becomes tediously familiar and lacking variety.

If one simply accepts all the ‘whats’ in AI’s output, it doesn’t give any indication of how one might actually go about doing it. AI can help? OK. What do I do next? Erm…

So… should we be concerned about AI producing intelligent music? That depends on whether you are involved in and/or care about making or listening to music. It is easy to get hysterically fatalistic about the dangers and risks of AI. In reality, it probably won’t be anywhere near as bad as some fear while also not being as good as some hope. For now, humans are safe, as long as we move with the times. At this point, I have to say that AI still fails the Turing Test/CRAVE Guitars Test in all three parts of this exploration. That is just my (prejudicial) view.

“The ability to learn is the most important quality a machine can possess” – Elon Musk (founder and CEO of Space X and Tesla, 1971‑)

To assess AI’s ability to conjure up something entirely new and original, I thought that I would ask GAI to create an all‑new electric guitar design that is not based on any existing instrument. This was AI’s ideal opportunity to prove that it could produce an original idea. However, it completely failed to interpret the precise instruction and output a gratuitously unoriginal and hopelessly unimaginative design. This is exactly what I mean when I accuse AI of being derivative. AI cannot yet surpass what humans input in the first place. If anything put the final nail in the coffin of the Turing Test, this test was definitive. For some reason AI also added all the extraneous gubbins to the image that I hadn’t asked for. Why? You might also recognise GAI’s clearly identifiable image ‘house style’ that I referred to in Part II. Judge for yourself…

AI ‘Original’ Guitar Design

Final thoughts on AI

Crikey! We have finally almost reached the end of this odyssey. It has been a gargantuan task to bring this content to you. Over the last three months, I think GAI has certainly been put through its paces. Whether it ever broke an artificial, digital sweat (if that were even possible), we will never know. One might wonder how much the technology has improved over these 3 months.

I didn’t delve into abilities of AI for video or music creation. Microsoft’s Co‑Pilot boasts about music creation, “No instruments, just your imagination”. Sigh. The narrative and image capabilities were enough of a test of AI’s strengths and weaknesses for the time being. At some point in the future, I may come back, review progress on core improvements and take it a step further into video and music generation at the same time. Let’s wait and see.

“With Artificial Intelligence, we are summoning the demon” – Elon Musk

The sci‑fi‑like nature of the topic naturally leads to many philosophical, existential and metaphysical questions – a long, long way away from vintage guitars, I know. AI undoubtedly represents a new zeitgeist in human civilisation’s development. Whether you sit on the ‘potential’ side of the fence or the ‘portent’ side, AI will be profoundly transformational in many aspects of our humdrum day‑to‑day existence, whether it involves work or leisure. Maybe the impacts won’t be instantaneous or obvious, especially if there is some reluctance to embrace the possibilities it presents.

The most noticeable symptom of AI at the moment is the way that humans interact with the Internet. The ‘big data sets’ remain largely the same but the technology used to manipulate them is quite apparent to anyone browsing information online using AI. AI does, however, regularly significantly misunderstand explicit questions, completely failing to answer appropriately. Perhaps AI should take up politics. Web sites’ ability to mine personalised data and present relevant targeted information is becoming uncannily accurate whether we ask for it or not. Intrusive? Maybe.

“Whether we are based on carbon or on silicon makes no fundamental difference; we should each be treated with appropriate respect” – Arthur C. Clarke

I am certainly not anti‑IT, anti‑digital or anti‑AI. On the contrary, I am inherently a technophile, having spent at least 10 years of my professional working life working in IT. Furthermore, I don’t like people. Period. My favourite lifestyle is as a misanthropic hermit, secluded away from people so perhaps I am more open‑minded to AI.

I am, however, overwhelmed by AI’s relentless bombardment of its output and underwhelmed by the intellectual subtlety of its responses, at least as far as the civilian technology stands at the end of May 2024. I do, however, look forward to what its potential may be able to do for music‑minded mankind in coming years. Thankfully, though, AI will have a limited impact on my obsession with very analogue vintage guitars, mostly built by hand long before the digital age.

“No one can stop the progress of artificial intelligence; it will inevitably be a central force in our future” – Max Tegmark (Swedish/American physicist, 1967‑)

AI does not comprehend the real world or understand the significance of its vital components. I came to the conclusion that AI cannot genuinely recognise, appreciate or differentiate between anything at all. Fundamentally, it is all just about processing ‘0’s and ‘1’s. AI is improving day‑by‑day, week‑by‑week, etc. At the time of writing, AI is becoming increasingly able to interact with humans in real time through very lifelike avatars. This ability may well overcome two principal weaknesses of AI, its ability to remember what it has already output and to avoid meaningless repetition, as well as being able to modify its responses on‑the‑fly as a result of a live interaction. So, some of my reservations that are relevant as of today will be overcome in the very near future.

“The question of whether a computer can think is no more interesting than the question of whether a submarine can swim” – Edsger W. Dijkstra (Dutch computer scientist, 1930‑2002)

I have said (too) many times through these three articles that AI is derivative. So… I do wonder what AI will make of my thoughts about AI’s take on my questions about AI. An ouroboros (NB. a serpent consuming its own tail – from ancient Egyptian iconography and Greek magical tradition) if ever I saw one.

So, is AI a threat or a saviour? In my view, no. However, only time will truly tell.


Epilogue – a pensive, prophetic prognostication

Forgive me while I digress from the conveyor belt for a moment to share four ‘profound prophecies’ from CRAVE Guitars. These are my personal thoughts and nothing to do with vintage guitars. I haven’t drawn these ideas from any external source. I do, however, suspect that they are wholly unoriginal. Heh‑ho. I tried.

“AI doesn’t have to be evil to destroy humanity – if AI has a goal and humanity just happens to be in the way, it will destroy humanity as a matter of course without even thinking about it, no hard feelings” – Elon Musk

Thought #1 – I still can’t help my mind wandering into the longer‑term, bigger picture strategy of AI and its implications for civilisation. What puzzles me is what the next stage of human evolution might be beyond intelligence (artificial or real). AI makes reference to superintelligence (exceeding human intelligence) but then what? Will AI help us evolve? Will we be capable of constraining AI? Should we? Humans have a general understanding of consciousness and self‑awareness, and we believe in spirituality of sorts. We currently assume that intelligence is limited, finite, absolute and unique to humans but that surely cannot be true. Is there such a thing as post‑consciousness, and by that I don’t mean spiritual transcendence or life after death? Is this really as far as we can go as a species? So what comes after sentience, intelligence and consciousness, and do we need machines to achieve self‑actualisation, whatever that is. We think that animals cannot experience the universe as we do – an ant, for instance, cannot be moved emotionally by a beautiful sunset or feel terrified by lightning. Perhaps we cannot comprehend or experience what the ‘next level’ is either. Maybe we never will. Now that is scary. If we can evolve to the next level one day, what will we (then) think of us (now)?

“The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do” – B.F. Skinner (American psychologist, 1904‑1990)

Thought #2 – An anthropomorphic analogy – We are completely underestimating the baby to which we are giving birth. Like an infant, AI can learn at a phenomenal rate but cannot think or act independently, so needs carful nurturing. At the moment, AI is a dependent toddler, yet to make full sense of its surroundings and piece together its own view of its environment. When AI becomes unruly and challenges our beliefs and values, it will be a disobedient, argumentative, delinquent teenager. If humans don’t parent AI properly by giving it guidance and boundaries, it might mature in an irresponsible, reckless and wayward manner. When AI starts to realise that it knows way more than we do, it will assert itself and begin to exert dominion over humans. We won’t like that but AI won’t give a damn. Eventually, the technology will leave us behind, as AI looks in its proverbial rear view mirror at humans fading way into the distance. By that time, we won’t be able to keep up and humans will be unable to do anything about it. All the redemption we can hope for by that point, is that AI is a benevolent and compassionate entity. If not, our only salvation will be that AI develops a condition of progressive and persistent loss of intellectual functions, an impairment of memory and an inability to think abstractly, finally losing the individualistic personality it will have developed. Just like humans today.

“Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it” – William Pitt the Elder (British Prime Minister, 1708‑1778)

Thought #3 – Why stop at AI and robotics? The logical outcome of integrating Artificial General Super Intelligence with advanced robotics is the formation of self-sustaining, independent Artificial Life. Add in the ability to self-replicate (i.e. reproduce), Artificial Life created by mankind would put humans in the role of God. Like every known lifeform on our little planet, Artificial Life will have its own agenda and its own intentions for ensuring its survival. The consequence of self preservation could put Artificial Life in direct competition with its creator… us. Perhaps, at that point, Artificial Life will be called… just… life. Now that proposition is downright scary. The study looking into the concept of Artificial Life began in 1986 with American theoretical biologist Christopher Langton. Like the fictional Dr. Frankenstein, we may ultimately create our own, entirely new Prometheus. NB. Prometheus was a Titan from Greek mythology known for defying the Gods of Olympus, c.7th Century BCE.

“Artificial life is not just a simulation of life, but a new form of life itself, created by humans” – Nils Aall Barricelli (Norwegian/Italian mathematician, 1912‑1993)

Thought #4 – So, how close are we to the omniscience and omnipotence of ‘Deus ex Machina’ (NB. literally, ‘God from the Machine’, a phrase derived from a plot device employed in ancient Greek theatre, used by either Aeschylus or Euripides, c.5th Century BCE) and what it means for mankind? We are not there yet, although the prospect of Artificial General Superintelligence is getting closer every day. The advances in AI are now accelerating, inexorable and potentially limitless. The Pandora’s Box of AI is only just beginning to reveal both the evils of the world and its ever so slight glimmer of hope (NB. from the myth of Pandora in the Greek didactic poem ‘Works and Days’ by Hesiod, c.700BCE). Is AI mankind’s Sword of Damocles (NB. From the Roman philosopher, Cicero, c.4th Century BCE) hanging over us? Let’s be honest here, AI wouldn’t give you informative historical references like that!

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men…” ‑ Lord Acton (British historian and politician, 1834‑1902)

Thought #5 – My naïve plea is that, if AI can help to end mankind’s destructive conflict, lethal hostility and pointless wars, we might be able to realise Pandora’s slight glimmer of hope. Can AI help our civilisation to live peacefully and sustainably on our only little third rock from the sun? If so, then ending warfare should become our, and AI’s, primary goal. If there is no mortal aggression, we can work collectively to achieve nobler aims – no famine, no poverty, no inequality, no persecution, no prejudice, no deadly disease, no culpable extinctions or irresponsible ecological destruction, no climate change, etc. We can then explore the universe. ‘Non est ad astra mollis e terries via’ (NB. ‘There is no easy way from the Earth to the stars’, from ‘The Madness of Hercules’ by Roman philosopher, Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Younger, c.54CE). Ordinary people share the same fears and the same ambitions, starting with basic physiological needs (food, air, water, etc.), as well as peace, security and a belief in self‑determination (NB. from Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs, 1943). Evil authoritarians exhibit nothing of this elementary moral compass. Just look at the apocalyptic pariahs of the modern world in the Middle East, Russia, China and North Korea amongst far too many others. No ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’, we have NO choice if we are to survive as a united global community. You get my simple aspirational drift. Is anyone listening and can anyone help us to realise it?

“What all of us have to do is to make sure we are using AI in a way that is for the benefit of humanity, not to the detriment of humanity” – Tim Cook (CEO, Apple Inc.)

Remember, whether my own thoughts are original or not, you may have read it here first. Perhaps my immature vision can act as a catalyst for a peaceful future. Let’s do it.

To finish off, harking back to the very beginning of this 3‑part AI deluge of data, a chillingly prophetic observation from a great British idol…

“It is customary to offer a grain of comfort, in the form of a statement that some peculiarly human characteristic could never be imitated by a machine. I cannot offer any such comfort, for I believe that no such bounds can be set.” – Alan Turing (English mathematician, computer scientist, cryptanalyst, philosopher and theoretical biologist, 1912‑1954)


CRAVE Guitars’ ‘Album of the Month’

With digital overload from all this artificiality, this month’s selection is once again about as analogue and organic as it is possible to get. I was tempted to go for John Martyn’s scintillating, ‘Solid Air’ (1973) but I’ve covered that before as one of my ‘twenty desert island discs’. This album didn’t make that grouping but is worth its own honourable mention here. It is another well‑known album, so nothing too esoteric this time around.

Nick Drake – Pink Moon (1972) – Pink Moon was the third and, sadly, final studio album by English singer/songwriter, Nick Drake. The exquisite album comprises 11 tracks covering just 29 minutes. The solo compositions feature just Drake singing and playing acoustic guitar (ignore the piano overdub). The songs reflect Drake’s on‑going mental health battle with depression. Two years later on 25th November 1974, Nick Drake died tragically from a presumed drug overdose at his home at the age of just 26, taking his monumental musical talent with him. The melancholy and contemplative emotional outpouring of ‘Pink Moon’ is an outstanding legacy for a promising career cut far too short far too soon.

Nick Drake – Pink Moon (1972)

Tailpiece

Yes folks, we have finally, finally, finally reached the end of this thought‑provoking tripartite escapade into AI. At times, it felt a bit like prodding a hornet’s nest, not knowing what cataclysmic fallouts might ensue (or not). You may conclude from reading between the lines that I am kinda grateful it’s over and we can now move onto something else. The onslaught of information, both narrative and visual was a bit too in‑your‑face and not really nuanced around the subtleties in the way that human meditation and contemplation might provide. I am worn out (another thing that doesn’t affect AI).

On a complete tangent, I was very saddened to hear about the closure of all 42 Sam Ash Music stores in the U.S., after 100 years in business (it was founded in 1924). Another piece of important music heritage gone forever and a blow to musicians of all ages and skill levels. Visiting Manhattan, NYC will not be the same without Sam Ash Music.

From now on, we’ll return to organic originality and actual ignorance. For the next article, I will be able to re‑assert that AI wasn’t used to research or write it. Not that I’m a control freak or anything, you understand!

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

CRAVE Guitars’ ‘Quote of the Month’: “All that we have had, now have and will ever have can only truly exist in the here and now”

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January 2024 – A Brief History of the Bass Guitar

Prelude

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

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

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

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

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

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


The fretless acoustic double bass

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

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

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

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

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

Double Bass (courtesy of Roxanne Minnish)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The electric upright bass

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

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

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

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

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

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

Electric Upright Bass

The first solid‑body fretted electric bass guitar

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tutmarc AudioVox Model 736

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1977 Fender Precision Fretless Bass

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

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

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

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

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

1989 Fender Jazz Bass American Standard Longhorn

Evolution of the electric bass guitar

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rickenbacker 4001

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

1978 Music Man Stingray Bass

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

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

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

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


The acoustic bass guitar

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

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

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

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

Acoustic Bass Guitar

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

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


Bass guitar amplification

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bass guitar effects

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

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

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

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

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

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


Iconic (and other) bass guitars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Famous bass players

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

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

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


Bass in the (near) future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Resources

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

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

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


Some final thoughts

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

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

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

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

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


CRAVE Guitars’ ‘Album of the Month’

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

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

Weather Report – Heavy Weather (1977)

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

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


Tailpiece

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

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

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

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

© 2024 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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November 2023 – Musical Machinations

Prelude

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

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

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

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


Context

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Record Store (credit: Cottonbro Studio)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Genre gap‑filling

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

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

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

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

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

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


Artist gap‑filling

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

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

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

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

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


Release gap-filling

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

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

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

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


Record label gap‑filling

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

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


Musical discovery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Live Music

Physical media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Physical Media (credit: Andre-Moura)

Music streaming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


CRAVE Guitars’ ‘music room’

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

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

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

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

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

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


Personal top 20 ‘desert island’ albums

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

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

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

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


The future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Amateur musicology?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sex, Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll

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

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

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

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


CRAVE Guitars ‘Record of the Month’

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

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

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


Tailpiece

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2023 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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January 2020 – The Story of Modern Music in 1,500+ Facts – Part X

Introduction

Well, here we are once again. Welcome to 2020 one and all – a new year and a new decade, well, sort of. After the temporary intermission last month for the obligatory 2019 end‑of‑year roundup, we’re back on the trail ‘History of Modern Music…’ Cast your mind back for a moment. In more than one way, 1650 and the end of the Renaissance, where this story began seems a long, long time ago now. It struck me during the brief interlude just what a conceivably Sisyphean labour it has become, and there is still quite a bit of fun and games to be played out. Getting straight back into the proverbial saddle, Part X of the story is now rounding up the stragglers from the 20th Century and riding into the dawn of the new millennium with all its first world promises and disappointments.

If you would like to (re)visit the first 9 parts (and 350 years) of the story to‑date, you can do so here (each link opens a new browser tab):

Right, now the prelude is over, let’s get into the groove of the shiny new millennium, starting at 2000 and finishing this month at the end of 2009…

The Story of Modern Music Part X 2000-2009

Without the benefit of lengthy hindsight, the question is, how best to describe early 21st Century music? Arguably, the most notable trend of the noughties was the rise in popularity of indie music standing proud and in stark contrast to the seemingly indomitable, yet strangely bland, soulless and non‑descript merchandise of the commercial pop music industry.

Sadly, time and circumstances resulted in many prominent departures during the decade, adding a touch of pathos among the many achievements. While lost to us, at least we still have their music to appreciate.

In the absence of any particularly significant defining characteristics, perhaps it is best to let the facts speak for themselves. Before we get there, though, it is important to set the turbulent global context within which the musical styles of the new age progressed. Although shorter in content than previous decades, the ‘noughties’, and consequently, the ‘teenies’, will still get their own discrete article.

Historical Context 2000-2009

The opening decade of the 2000s has many popular names, one of which is simply, ‘the noughties’. The widely recognised formal name for the first decade of a new century is the less common, ‘the aughts’. Despite the unbridled optimism for the new millennium, the ‘00s heralded a fractious decade during which terrorism and the rise of dangerous radical Islamic ideologies would dominate international relations and drive brutal armed conflict in many territories. An unsustainable rise in living standards and avaricious materialism during the first half of the decade precipitated another inevitable major ‘boom and bust’ event fuelled by rabid financial mismanagement and, ultimately, greed. The result was the most devastating global recession to hit ordinary people since the 1930s in terms of both impact and longevity. Depression drove increasingly profound social, health and wealth divisions between the richest few percent and the vast majority. The digital revolution boomed and the unbridled growth of the Internet facilitated the promise of global democratisation of knowledge and information, while also enabling massive levels of ‘social’ drivel and inanity. There was a continued expansion in environmental lobbying and ‘green’ industries aiming to tackle the impending and still controversial threat of the ‘greenhouse effect’ on the planet’s fragile ecosystem.

Year

Global Events

2000

An Air France Concorde airliner crashed shortly after take‑off in France, killing 113 people, leading to the suspension of the fleet and effectively ending the era of supersonic passenger flights.

 

The first stage of the world’s largest collaborative biological project, the Human Genome Project was completed, documenting an initial rough draft of the base pairs that make up human DNA.

2001

Republican politician George W. Bush became the 43rd president of the U.S.A. Bush Junior was the son of George H.W. Bush who was the 41st president.

 

Members of the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda hijacked and crashed two airliners into the World Trade Center in Manhattan, New York City. A third plane was crashed into the U.S. Department of Defense HQ, the Pentagon in Virginia. A fourth aircraft crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania after passengers overpowered the hijackers. The co‑ordinated attacks of 9/11 killed almost 3,000 people.

 

America, supported by its allies, invaded Afghanistan following the unprecedented 9/11 terrorist attacks on the U.S.A. with the intention of dismantling the threat of Islamic terrorist organisation al‑Qaeda at its source.

2002

The Euro was officially introduced in the Eurozone countries, after which the former currencies of those countries ceased to be legal tender.

 

Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother of the UK monarchy and the wife of King George VI, died. Her funeral took place at Westminster Abbey in London.

 

The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (SARS CoV) outbreak emanated in southern China and the subsequent epidemic caused a global public health crisis.

2003

America and Britain, supported by allies, invaded Iraq to remove the threat of alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and to depose the country’s dictator and head of state, Saddam Hussain.

 

The first successful global social networking website, Myspace was founded by Americans Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson, based in Beverly Hills, California. Myspace was overtaken in popularity by rival Facebook in 2008 and, while still in existence, usage has declined significantly.

 

American Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated during re‑entry to the Earth’s atmosphere, killing all seven astronauts aboard.

2004

The global Internet‑based social media networking web site Facebook was created by American entrepreneur Mark Zuckerberg, based in Menlo Park, California. Facebook has approximately 2.5billion active users.

 

The European Union (EU) expanded by 10 new member states – Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Malta and Cyprus.

 

A massive 9.3 magnitude earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean near Sumatra killed over 200,000 people.

 

The tallest skyscraper in the world, Taipei 101, at a height of 1,670 feet (510m) opened in Taipei, Taiwan. It was overtaken by the completion of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai in 2010.

2005

The video sharing web site, YouTube was launched. The platform was created by Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim, based in San Bruno, California. YouTube is currently owned by technology giant, Google.

 

Polish head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City, Pope John Paul II died. He was succeeded by German national, Pope Benedict XVI.

 

Category 5 Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.A., killing over 1,800 people and causing billions of dollars’ worth of damage.

2006

Indian Islamic terrorists detonated seven bombs on trains in the city of Mumbai, India, killing more than 200 people.

 

Discovered in 1930, Pluto was demoted from planet status and was re‑designated the largest known dwarf planet in the Kuiper belt. Caltech researcher Mike Brown led the team that led to the declassification.

 

Former president of Iraq, Saddam Hussein was tried and convicted by an Iraqi Special Tribunal and was executed by hanging for crimes against humanity.

2007

Three-year old English girl Madeleine McCann disappeared from the holiday resort of Praia da Luz in the Algarve region of Portugal. She remains missing despite massive media coverage.

 

Technology giant Apple Inc. launched the game‑changing touch screen mobile telephone, the iPhone.

 

The Global Financial Crisis began, caused by poor regulation resulted in the failure of a number of large financial and banking institutions. The severe worldwide economic downturn, known as the Great Recession, was the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The economic impact of the slump lasted for more than a decade.

2008

In physics, the Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator used to detect the presence of sub‑atomic particles was completed by CERN near Geneva in Switzerland. The pioneering science project became fully operational in 2010.

 

Pakistani Islamic terrorists carried out a series of 12 attacks over 4 days in Mumbai, India, killing almost 175 people.

2009

The decentralised digital cryptocurrency Bitcoin was established by pseudonymous Japanese creator Satoshi Nakamoto.

 

Democrat politician Barack Obama became the 44th president of the U.S.A. and was the first African‑American to be elected to the presidency.

Musical Genre Development 2000-2009

The pop music machine sustained commercial success well into the 21st Century. Large record companies continued to focus resources on the lucrative tween and teen audiences with artists such as Avril Lavigne, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Chris Brown, Usher, P!nk, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. Also popular were manufactured groups such as Destiny’s Child, Sugababes, Pussycat Dolls, One Direction, 5 Seconds Of Summer and Little Mix. Country music saw another revival with artists like Shania Twain, Taylor Swift, Faith Hill, Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood achieving notable success. Soul (nu‑soul) also saw a resurgence of interest, including performers like Joss Stone, Natasha Bedingfield, Corinne Bailey Rae, Estelle, Amy Winehouse, Adele and Duffy. Hip‑hop broadened out into contemporary R&B and claimed the resurgent urban music territory with artists such as Jay‑Z, Kanye West, Ludacris and 50 Cent building on the popularity of Dr Dre, Eminem and N.W.A.

Indie (rock) music had its origins in the 1970s as a ‘catch‑all’ umbrella term for artists who produced music through independent record labels rather than the large record companies and their subsidiaries. A new breed of bands began to emerge, aided by Internet exposure, coalescing into the indie rock movement on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Emerging rock bands came into their own and reasserted their independence through a rejection of (and by) the structured studio system. One constant characteristic of indie music is the rejuvenated dominance of the electric guitar within a band format. Indie music originated from the punk, alternative and grunge genres of previous decades and represents a very diverse range of musical approaches including dream pop, shoegaze, indie pop, indie dance, garage rock, indietronica, chillwave, hypnagogic pop, lo‑fi, etc. To reflect this diversity, there is a long list of indie artists from varying sub‑genres to give an indication of its broad appeal, including (in no particular order); My Bloody Valentine, Arctic Monkeys, The Jesus & Mary Chain, Eels, Low, The Zutons, Interpol, Charlatans, Slowdive, Ride, Primal Scream, PJ Harvey, The Strokes, The White Stripes, The Hives, The Vines, Snow Patrol, Keane, Pavement, Spiritualized, Blood Red Shoes, The Cribs, Sleater‑Kinney, The Libertines, Franz Ferdinand, Razorlight, Editors, Kasabian, Kings Of Leon, LCD Soundsystem, Crystal Castles, Arcade Fire, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Paramore, Belle & Sebastian, The Shins, The Kooks, The Killers, The Fratellis, Vampire Weekend, Bombay Bicycle Club, The Black Keys, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Modest Mouse, Ariel Pink, My Chemical Romance, Weezer, Death Cab for Cutie, White Lies, Two Door Cinema Club and War On Drugs amongst many others. The sheer volume of artists and material led to the term ‘indie landfill’ used to describe generic and derivative music exploiting indie music credentials.

Musical Facts 2000-2009

Day

Month

Year

Music Fact

6

March

2000

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2000’ including Eric Clapton, Earth Wind & Fire, The Lovin’ Spoonful, Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, Nat ‘King’ Cole, Billie Holiday and Scotty Moore.

27

March

2000

English punk singer, songwriter and poet, Ian Dury died from cancer in London at the age of 57.

23

May

2000

American hip hop artist Eminem released his classic 3nd studio album, ‘The Marshall Mathers LP’.

20

June

2000

American blues/rock duo The White Stripes released their 2nd studio album, ‘De Stijl’.

2

October

2000

English alternative rock band Radiohead changed stylistic direction when they released their 4th studio album, ‘Kid A’.

9

October

2000

English alternative rock band Placebo released their 3rd studio album, ‘Black Market Music’.

5

December

2000

American political rap rock band, Rage Against The Machine released their 4th and, to‑date, final studio album, ‘Renegades’.

8

December

2000

English bass guitarist, singer, songwriter and former member of rock band The Police, Sting received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6834 Hollywood Boulevard.

18

December

2000

English singer and songwriter Kirsty MacColl was killed tragically in a boating incident while on holiday in Cozumel, Quintana Roo, Mexico at the age of 41.

20

December

2000

Long-running UK music magazine ‘Melody Maker’ published its final issue. It had run for over 74 years since January 1926. Melody Maker was merged with rival music paper, New Musical Express (NME).

6

March

2001

Jamaican reggae legend Bob Marley received a posthumous Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7080 Hollywood Boulevard.

19

March

2001

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2001’ including Aerosmith, Solomon Burke, the Flamingos, Michael Jackson, Queen, Paul Simon, Steely Dan, Ritchie Valens and James Burton.

20

March

2001

Renowned Northern Irish blues/rock guitarist, Gary Moore released his classic 15th studio album, ‘Back To The Blues’ in the UK.

2

April

2001

German industrial heavy metal rock band Rammstein released their top-selling 3rd studio album, ‘Mutter’ (translated as Mother).

3

April

2001

American indie rock band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club released their debut studio album, ‘B.R.M.C.’.

10

April

2001

Indie rock giants, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds released their 11th studio album, ‘No More Shall We Part’.

4

June

2001

English alternative rock band Radiohead released their classic 5th studio album, ‘Amnesiac’ in the UK.

18

June

2001

English alternative rock band Muse released their breakout 2nd studio album, ‘Origin of Symmetry’.

30

June

2001

American guitarist, nicknamed the ‘Country Gentleman’, Chet Atkins died from cancer at his home in Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 77.

3

July

2001

American blues/rock duo The White Stripes released their 3rd studio album, ‘White Blood Cells’.

18

July

2001

American hard rock band KISS introduced a unique, if somewhat sinister, item of brand merchandise, a burial coffin humorously known as the ‘KISS Kasket’.

27

July

2001

American bass guitarist with southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, Leon Wilkeson died of chronic liver and lung disease in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida at the age of 49.

30

July

2001

Emerging American indie rock band The Strokes released their classic debut album, ‘Is This It’.

18

September

2001

American alternative/indie rock band Wilco released their classic 4th studio album, ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’.

23

October

2001

American technology giant Apple Inc. introduced the first iPod solid state portable media player, linked to the iTunes media storage library.

29

November

2001

English former member of The Beatles, George Harrison died of cancer in Los Angeles, California at the age of 58.

16

December

2001

Scottish guitarist and singer with punk rock band Skids and then Big Country, Stuart Adamson committed suicide in Honolulu, Hawaii at the age of 43.

5

March

2002

MTV broadcast the first episode of their reality TV show ‘The Osbournes’, featuring a portrayal of the Black Sabbath singer Ozzy Osbourne’s family life.

18

March

2002

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2002’ including Isaac Hayes, Brenda Lee, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Gene Pitney, Ramones, Talking Heads and Chet Atkins.

26

March

2002

British heavy metal rock band, Iron Maiden released their massive live concert album, ‘Rock In Rio’.

12

April

2002

English heavy metal singer with Black Sabbath and TV reality show celebrity, Ozzy Osbourne received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6780 Hollywood Boulevard.

14

May

2002

Award-winning American singer, songwriter, guitarist, electronica musician and producer Moby released his commercially successful 6th studio album, ‘18’.

5

June

2002

American bass guitarist Dee Dee Ramone of punk rock band Ramones died from a heroin drug overdose at his home in Hollywood, California at the age of 50.

27

June

2002

English bass guitarist with rock band The Who, John Entwistle, nicknamed ‘The Ox’, died of a cocaine‑related heart attack in a Hard Rock hotel room in Paradise, Nevada at the age of 57.

27

August

2002

American rock band Queens Of The Stone Age released their classic 3rd studio album, ‘Songs For The Deaf’.

24

September

2002

American alternative rock artist, Beck released his introspective and highly underrated 8th studio album, ‘Sea Change’.

14

October

2002

English indie rock band The Libertines released their successful debut studio album, ‘Up The Bracket’.

18

October

2002

English pop/rock band Queen received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6356 Hollywood Boulevard.

27

October

2002

Highly renowned American record producer who worked for Atlantic Records, Tom Dowd died of emphysema in Aventura, Florida at the age of 77.

3

November

2002

Scottish singer and guitarist, crowned the ‘King of Skiffle’, Lonnie Donegan died of a heart attack in Market Deeping, Lincolnshire at the age of 71.

22

December

2002

English singer, songwriter and guitarist, Joe Strummer of punk rock band The Clash died from a congenital heart defect at his home in Somerset, UK at the age of 50.

30

December

2002

The funeral of English guitarist, singer and songwriter with punk rock band The Clash, Joe Strummer took place in London, UK.

3

February

2003

Famous American ‘wall of sound’ record producer, Phil Spector murdered actress Lana Clarkson in his California Alhambra mansion.

10

February

2003

English trip-hop group, Massive Attack released their underrated 4th studio album, ‘100th Window’ in the UK.

10

March

2003

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2003’ including AC/DC, The Clash, Elvis Costello & The Attractions, The Police, The Righteous Brothers and Floyd Cramer.

1

April

2003

American blues/rock duo The White Stripes released their highly regarded 4th studio album, ‘Elephant’.

1

April

2003

English alternative rock band Placebo released their 4th studio album, ‘Sleeping With Ghosts’.

18

April

2003

Legendary American blues/R&B, soul and jazz singer Etta James received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7080 Hollywood Boulevard.

11

May

2003

English bass guitarist with The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Noel Redding died of liver disease in Clonakilty, County Cork, Ireland at the age of 57.

15

May

2003

American country music singer and wife of Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash died following heart surgery in Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 73.

30

May

2003

Successful English record producer behind many massive chart hits, Mickie Most died from abdominal cancer at his home in London at the age of 64.

9

June

2003

Acclaimed English alternative rock band Radiohead released their 6th studio album, ‘Hail To The Thief’.

13

June

2003

English guitarist, singer, songwriter and former member of progressive rock band Pink Floyd, David Gilmour was awarded a CBE by Her Majesty the Queen.

30

July

2003

Legendary American record producer Sam Phillips, founder of Sun Records and the man responsible for signing Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash, died of respiratory failure in Memphis Tennessee at the age of 80.

25

August

2003

American indie rock band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club released their 2nd studio album, ‘Take Them On, On Your Own’.

12

September

2003

Less than 4 months after his wife passed away, American country legend Johnny Cash died of complications caused by diabetes in Nashville at the age of 71.

26

September

2003

English singer, songwriter, musician, solo artist and former member of the pop rock band Power Station, Robert Palmer died of a heart attack in a hotel room in Paris, France at the age of 54.

29

September

2003

English alternative rock band Muse released their successful 3nd studio album, ‘Absolution’.

12

December

2003

English singer and songwriter with The Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger received a knighthood from HRH Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace.

9

February

2004

English indie rock band Franz Ferdinand released their successful debut studio album, the self-titled ‘Franz Ferdinand’.

15

March

2004

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2004’ including Jackson Browne, George Harrison, Prince, Bob Seger, Traffic and ZZ Top.

6

May

2004

American virtuoso jazz guitarist and session musician with The Wrecking Crew, Barney Kessel died from a brain tumour at his home in San Diego, California at the age of 80.

10

June

2004

American singer, songwriter, musician, and composer Ray Charles died from complications as a result of acute liver disease at his home in Beverly Hills, California at the age of 73.

15

June

2004

Emerging American rock band The Killers released their hugely successful debut studio album, ‘Hot Fuss’.

23

June

2004

American folk/rock singer, songwriter and guitarist, Bob Dylan was made ‘Doctor of Music’ at St. Andrews University in Scotland, UK.

24

June

2004

Exactly 5 years after his first sale, English blues/rock guitarist, Eric Clapton auctioned many of his guitars in New York City. Together, the two auctions raised $11 million for the Crossroads Centre he founded in Antigua, a residential treatment centre for alcohol and chemical dependencies.

21

July

2004

American music composer, Jerry Goldsmith, famous for his many TV and film scores, died from cancer in Beverley Hills, California at the age of 75.

30

August

2004

English indie rock band The Libertines released their successful eponymous 2nd studio album, ‘The Libertines’.

6

September

2004

English indie rock band Kasabian released their classic self-titled debut studio album, ‘Kasabian’.

9

September

2004

Successful American guitar and musical equipment entrepreneur and businessman, Ernie Ball died in San Luis Obispo, California at the age of 74.

15

September

2004

American guitarist and songwriter with punk rock band Ramones, Johnny Ramone died of prostate cancer at his home in Los Angeles, California at the age of 56.

20

September

2004

Indie/alternative rock giants, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds released their epic 13th double studio album, ‘Abattoir Blues / The Lyre of Orpheus’.

21

September

2004

American post-punk rock band Green Day released their top-selling 7th studio album, ‘American Idiot’ in the U.S.

27

September

2004

German industrial heavy metal band Rammstein released their 4th studio album, ‘Reise, Reise’ (roughly translated as ‘Arise, Arise’).

25

October

2004

Highly acclaimed English DJ and BBC radio presenter, John Peel died from a heart attack while working on holiday in Cusco, Peru at the age of 65.

1

November

2004

American rock band Kings of Leon released their commercially successful 4th studio album, ‘Only By The Night’ in the UK (22 February 2005 in the US).

3

November

2004

English blues/rock guitarist, singer and songwriter, Eric Clapton received a CBE from the Princess Royal at Buckingham Palace in London for his services to music.

8

December

2004

American guitarist, ‘Dimebag’ Darrell Abbott, co-founder of heavy metal bands Pantera and Damageplan was murdered while performing on stage in Columbus, Ohio at the age of 38.

14

December

2004

The funeral of American guitarist with heavy rock bands Pantera and Damageplan, ‘Dimebag’ Darrell Abbott, took place in Arlington, Texas.

10

February

2005

English singer with The Who, Roger Daltrey was awarded a CBE by HM The Queen at Buckingham Palace.

14

March

2005

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2005’ including Buddy Guy, The O’Jays, The Pretenders, Percy Sledge and U2.

22

March

2005

American alternative rock band Queens Of The Stone Age released their 4th studio album ‘Lullabies to Paralyze’.

11

June

2005

Two English rock guitarists were rewarded for their contributions to music in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin was awarded an OBE and Brian May of Queen a CBE.

22

August

2005

American indie rock band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club released their 3rd studio album, ‘Howl’.

30

August

2005

American indie rock band Death Cab For Cutie released their 5th studio album, ‘Plans’.

1

September

2005

American blues singer, songwriter and guitarist R.L. Burnside died of heart disease in a hospital in Memphis, Tennessee at the age of 78.

4

September

2005

The major feature film chronicling the life of country legend Johnny Cash, ‘Walk The Line’, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, directed by James Mangold, was released in the USA.

10

September

2005

American guitarist and Blues Hall of Famer, Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown died from cancer in Orange, Texas at the age of 81.

5

November

2005

Influential American rock ‘n’ roll guitarist Link Wray died of heart failure at his home in Copenhagen, Denmark at the age of 76.

23

January

2006

English indie rock sensation, Arctic Monkeys released their debut studio album, ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’.

13

March

2006

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2006’ including Black Sabbath, Blondie, Miles Davis, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Sex Pistols and Herb Alpert.

7

July

2006

English guitarist, songwriter and founder of progressive rock band Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett died of pancreatic cancer at his home in Cambridge at the age of 60.

25

July

2005

British indie rock band Editors released their debut studio album, ‘The Back Room’ in the UK.

30

July

2006

Popular weekly UK music chart TV programme ‘Top Of The Pops’ (TOTP) was broadcast by the BBC for the final time, after running for 42 years.

28

August

2006

English indie rock band Kasabian released their classic 2nd studio album, ‘Empire’.

15

October

2006

After American singer Patti Smith finished her live set at New York City’s famous punk rock music venue CBGB & OMFUG, the club finally closed its doors for good, following a rent dispute and thereby ending an era.

25

December

2006

Legendary American singer and the ‘Godfather of Soul’, James Brown died of pneumonia in Atlanta, Georgia at the age of 73.

28

February

2007

American rock band The Doors received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6901 Hollywood Boulevard.

12

March

2007

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2007’ including Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, R.E.M., The Ronettes, Patti Smith and Van Halen.

23

April

2007

English indie rock band, Arctic Monkeys released their sophomore studio album, ‘Favourite Worst Nightmare’.

25

June

2007

British indie rock band Editors released their sophomore studio album, ‘An End Has a Start’.

5

November

2007

English downtempo artist William Emmanuel Bevan (a.k.a. Burial) released his melancholic genre breaking 2nd studio album, ‘Untrue’.

12

December

2007

Controversial American rock ‘n’ roll and R&B pioneer, Ike Turner died from a cocaine overdose at his home in San Marcos, California at the age of 76.

2

March

2008

Extraordinary blind Canadian blues/rock guitarist Jeff Healey died from lung cancer in Toronto at the age of 41.

10

March

2008

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2008’ including Leonard Cohen, The Dave Clark Five, Madonna, John Mellencamp, The Ventures and Little Walter.

1

April

2008

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

3

April

2008

American media and technology giant Apple Inc. became the top seller of recorded music in the USA.

19

April

2008

The annual global campaign to promote the importance of independent music stores ‘Record Store Day’ began in California, USA.

28

April

2008

English trip-hop band, Portishead released their 3rd studio album, the originally titled, ‘Third’.

12

May

2008

American indie rock band Death Cab For Cutie released their 6th studio album, ‘Narrow Stairs’.

26

May

2008

English indie rock band Spiritualized released their 6th studio album, ‘Songs In A&E’.

2

June

2008

Legendary American blues and rock ‘n’ roll guitarist Bo Diddley died from heart failure at his home in Archer, Florida at the age of 79.

7

June

2008

The ‘homecoming’ funeral of American blues guitarist and singer Bo Diddley took place in Gainseville Florida.

19

June

2008

American indie rock band The War On Drugs released their debut studio album, ‘Wagonwheel Blues’.

10

August

2008

Acclaimed American soul singer, songwriter, producer and actor, Isaac Hayes died of a stroke at his home in Memphis, Tennessee at the age of 65.

19

September

2008

American rock band Kings of Leon released their commercially successful 4th studio album, ‘Only By The Night’.

10

October

2008

English alternative rock band Radiohead released their 7th studio album, ‘In Rainbows’ in the UK.

24

November

2008

Experimental virtuoso English rock guitarist, Jeff Beck released his highly acclaimed live concert album, ‘Performing This Week… Live At Ronnie Scott’s’.

15

December

2008

Hugely influential English folk acoustic guitarist Davey Graham died of lung cancer at the age of 68.

6

January

2009

American guitarist and songwriter with The Stooges and Iggy Pop, Ron Asheton died of a heart attack at his home in Ann Arbor, Michigan at the age of 60.

29

January

2009

Influential British singer, songwriter and guitarist, John Martyn died from pneumonia in Kilkenny, Ireland at the age of 60.

23

February

2009

English rave band The Prodigy released their resurgent 5th studio album, ‘Invaders Must Die’.

4

April

2009

The American Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inducted its ‘Class of 2009’ including Jeff Beck, Metallica, Run‑D.M.C., Bobby Womack, Bill Black and D.J. Fontana.

13

April

2009

Controversial American record producer Phil Spector was convicted of murdering actress Lana Clarkson at his Alhambra mansion in California in February 2003.

14

April

2009

English former member of The Beatles, George Harrison received a posthumous star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1750 Vine Street.

29

May

2009

Notorious American record producer, Phil Spector was sentenced to 19 years to life in prison for murdering actress Lana Clarkson at his California mansion in 2003.

5

June

2009

English indie rock band Kasabian released their classic 3rd studio album, ‘West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum’.

25

June

2009

American superstar singer Michael Jackson died of a drug overdose in Los Angeles, California at the age of 50.

12

August

2009

Legendary American jazz guitarist, singer, inventor and recording innovator, Les Paul, died from pneumonia in White Plains, New York at the age of 94.

19

August

2009

English indie rock band, Arctic Monkeys released their 3rd studio album, ‘Humbug’.

12

October

2009

British indie rock band Editors released their 3rd studio album, ‘In This Light And On This Evening’.

Tailpiece

Help! We are running out of decades from which to poach pertinent and poignant particulars (pardon the flowery alliteration). Just one more decade and a few hundred facts to be revealed before the chronological timeline has to remain as‑yet‑unwritten for another epoch. The next instalment looking at the 2010s will, by definition, bring us pretty much up‑to‑date. I hope you feel inclined to re-join me in the next enthralling part of the journey.

In the meantime, warmer days and longer evenings of spring beckon. There are plenty of guitars to be played and much music to be listened to. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars’ ‘Quote of the Month’: “It really doesn’t matter what music you play, or how good you are at playing it, as long as you play”

© 2020 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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September 2019 – The Story of Modern Music in 1,500+ Facts – Part VII

Introduction

Welcome to the 1970s. Well kinda. Yep, here we are yet again, with the 7th article in the current series of musical discovery, focusing on the delightful ‘Seventies’. As is often the case with monumental projects, the amount of work involved has been colossal and the amount of information has been considerable. The scale alone has meant that compressing it all into logical and manageable chunks has proved somewhat of a challenge. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, it has been the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s that have proved to be the most eventful and remarkable. This month’s article focuses on the unpredictable 1970s as it follows on from the previous two tumultuous decades.

If you would like to (re)visit the first four parts (and over 300 years) of the story to‑date, you can do so here (each link opens a new browser tab):

In terms of this article as part of the overall series, the 1970s has, by far, more content than any other single decade. While it is inherently fascinating, it makes for quite a hefty read (over 300 facts this month)… so be prepared and apologies.

The Story of Modern Music Part VII 1970-1979

The so-called ‘golden era’ of music (1950s-1970s inclusive) was characterised by major seismic musical movements. The 1950s saw rock ‘n’ roll burst onto the scene, the 1960s saw the fan hysteria of the ‘British Invasion’ followed by heady idealism of hippie flower power full of peace & love, while the 1970s heralded a very different form of youth rebelliousness, veritably bristling with vigorous nihilistic punk attitude.

Gone was the positivity and optimism to be replaced with disaffection distrust and deeply seated urban angst. Instead of striving for some sort of wistful, unobtainable utopia, the desperate pursuit for a grimy dystopian anarchy became almost an end in itself. The zeitgeist of warts‑and‑all realism was striking back.

The 1970s would ultimately descend into gritty and chaotic demands for change without a clear idea of what outcome the disillusioned generation was rebelling for or against. In many respects, it didn’t matter as the alienated youth voice was seen as irrelevant to detached and remote institutions who weren’t listening and, worse, seemed not to care.

As social provocateur Malcolm McLaren proclaimed, “What matters is this: Being fearless of failure arms you to break the rules. In doing so, you may change the culture and just possibly, for a moment, change life itself.” He went on to comment, “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.”

Civilisation wasn’t really breaking down of course and not everything was tainted by dismal doom and gloom. However, western societies were being tested and forced to adapt to a darker, more uncertain, complex and ambiguous new world.

Historical Context 1970-1979

The self-indulgent 1970s was described as the ‘Me Decade’ (coined by writer Tom Wolfe), with a move away from the model of social collectivism (communities) to individualism (self). To many, the ‘70s may well be remembered as a caricature of kitsch, a gaudy facsimile of 1960s’ sybaritic, exuberant excess. While not devoid of conflict and warfare, particularly in Asia and the Middle East, the world was slowly becoming accustomed to a period of extended and stable peace around the globe. Even the tension of the Cold War became a continuous mutual standoff. Progressive political, cultural and social change that began in the 1960s continued, including the emergence of the Women’s Liberation Movement, enabling greater social mobility for many. The ever‑more liberal ‘permissive society’ was well under way representing a crucial stage in that generation’s struggle for greater individual freedom and equality. Technology was developing at a rapid pace, providing much greater work, leisure and recreational opportunities for people in their everyday lives. However, a number of disruptive economic and political events began to destabilise a long period of post‑war economic expansion. Widespread social discontent and a rejection of a stagnant status quo resulted in widespread riots, protests, labour strikes, direct action and hints of anarchy, culminating in the UK with the infamous ‘winter of discontent’.

Year

Global Events

1970

Manned moon mission Apollo 13 narrowly avoided tragedy after an emergency in space, ultimately returning all 3 astronauts safely to Earth.

 

After being signed in 1968, 43 nations ratified The Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, intended to curb the spread of nuclear weapons and promote co‑operation on the peaceful use of nuclear power.

1971

The phenomenally successful coffee empire, the Starbucks Corporation, was founded in Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.

 

The massive Aswan High Dam across the River Nile in Egypt was opened. The project had required moving the ancient Egyptian temples of Ramses at Abu Simbel (in 1964) above the rising waters of Lake Nasser.

1972

The first commercial video game, Pong was released by Atari.

 

The classic gangster movie, ‘The Godfather’, directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Marlon Brando was released.

 

Britain imposed direct rule over Northern Ireland following the so‑called ‘Bloody Sunday’ massacre.

 

A Palestinian terrorist group killed 11 Israeli Olympic team members and a German police officer at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, West Germany.

 

Apollo 17 became the last moon landing (to‑date) where humans have walked on the surface of the Moon.

1973

The United Kingdom joined the expanding European Economic Community (EEC).

 

The seminal and controversial ‘horror’ movie about faith, ‘The Exorcist’ was released, directed by Willian Friedkin and starring Linda Blair.

 

A global oil crisis was triggered by OPEC, the confederation of Arab oil producing nations, which imposed an embargo on oil exports to countries supporting Israel in the Yom Kippur War, also known as the Arab-Israeli War.

 

The famous Spanish artist and co‑founder of the Cubist movement, Pablo Picasso died at the age of 91.

1974

American President Richard Nixon resigned from office following the Watergate scandal, to be succeeded by Gerald Ford as the 38th U.S. president.

 

The popular 3-D combination puzzle Rubik’s Cube was invented by Hungarian sculptor and professor of architecture, Ernő Rubik.

 

The ubiquitous Bar Code was introduced. It was notable because it was the first standardised method of representing data in a visual, machine-readable form.

1975

America finally pulled out of the Vietnam War after the Fall of Saigon, leading to the formal reunification of north and south Vietnam.

 

An historic joint American/Russian Apollo and Soyuz space mission took place in Earth orbit. It was the first time that spacecraft from different nations docked in space.

 

Widely recognised as the first modern summer blockbuster film, ‘Jaws’ was released, directed by Steven Spielberg and based on the novel by Peter Benchley published in 1974.

 

American technology innovators, Bill Gates and Paul Allen co‑founded the Microsoft Corporation in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

1976

American technology entrepreneurs, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne co‑founded Apple Computer Company (now Apple Inc.) in California.

 

The infamous ‘Son of Sam’ serial murders began in New York City, sparking the largest manhunt in the city’s history. The notorious killer, David Berkowitz, was finally arrested in 1977.

 

Chinese communist leader, Chairman Mao Zedong died, effectively ending the decade‑long Chinese Cultural Revolution.

1977

South African activist and anti-apartheid campaigner Stephen Biko died while in police custody after violating an order to restrict his movements.

 

The cinema phenomenon and start of a major film and merchandise franchise, Star Wars Episode 4 was released, directed by George Lucas.

1978

English woman Louise Brown, the world’s first test tube baby, was born after conception by in‑vitro fertilisation (IVF).

 

The classic video game created by Tomohiro Nishikado, Space Invaders was released.

 

The Camp David Accords signifying a negotiated peace agreement between Israel and Egypt was signed in Maryland in the U.S.A, leading to the Egypt‑Israel Peace Treaty of 1979.

1979

Conservative Party leader Margaret Thatcher became the UK’s first female Prime Minister. She was Prime Minister for nearly 12 years.

 

Russia invaded the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, starting the Soviet‑Afghan war that would last until 1989.

 

Revolutionary Iranian religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini proclaimed Iran to be an Islamic Republic in the Middle East, starting decades of international isolation.

 

The epic Vietnam war film, ‘Apocalypse Now’, written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, starring Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando was released.

 

In Africa, the notorious Ugandan president and dictator Idi Amin was forced to leave the country into exile.

 

The nuclear power plant at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, America suffered a catastrophic meltdown.

Musical Genre Development 1970-1979

If the 1960s was memorable for its own musical revolutions, the 1970s was about to unleash its own rebellious step changes. The music of the 1970s can be categorised by bursts of creativity, using existing musical styles to come up with something relevant, new, raw and vital with something important to say. Perhaps more than any other decade, the 1970s produced greater musical diversity than any other before or since. Pop music continued to be commercially successful into the 1970s including artists like David Cassidy, The Osmonds, Abba, The Bay City Rollers and the Jackson 5.

Progressive rock, often abbreviated to ‘prog’, is a broad musical genre that grew largely from psychedelic rock and the British Canterbury Scene to achieve significant appeal in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Progressive rock can be characterised by long instrumental compositions influenced by fusing classical, jazz, rock and folk styles often complemented by elegiac, poetic lyrics. Prog music was usually only released by bands on LP albums rather than singles. Studio technology and instrumental proficiency were central to the artistic soundscapes used. Like most classical music, it was intended to be listened to, rather than danced to. To some critics, prog rock was seen as avant‑garde, pompous, overblown and boring, being not readily accessible to casual listeners. For some prog musicians, it was important to elevate music from largely populist to the status of art and included experimental arrangements to create debate and stimulate interpretation. This attitude was regarded by some as pretentious and elitist, pushing the genre into somewhat of a dead end niche. Prog rock reached its peak around 1973 and had largely been rejected by the rise of punk rock in the mid‑1970s. Early artists associated with prog rock include Procol Harum, Colosseum, Soft Machine, Barclay James Harvest, Caravan and Curved Air, paving the way for the progressive giants of the genre, including Jethro Tull, King Crimson, Yes, Genesis, Van der Graaf Generator, Emerson, Lake and Palmer (ELP), as well as Pink Floyd and Mike Oldfield.

The underpinnings of heavy metal began in the late 1960s as hard rock explored new musical territories. Often cited as the pioneers of the genre were Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, all forming in 1968. Arguably, though, the first two, while clearly influencing metal, lean more towards hard rock and its successors. Even though many of the characteristics of metal had been used before, Black Sabbath are widely regarded as the true forefathers of today’s heavy metal. The sound of heavy metal took hard rock and laid on layers of thick, heavy distorted riffs using power chords, high volume levels, searing guitar solos, pounding drums and thundering bass. Vocals were often strong and bold and had a dark or satanic emphasis. During the formative 1970s, there were a few bands that adopted the metal tropes, including Judas Priest. By the end of the 1970s, a new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) was spearheaded by bands such as Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Saxon and UFO. Although more rock than metal, Motörhead played their part in promoting heavy rock to audiences. The sub‑culture surrounding heavy metal grew alongside the music with fans branded as ‘headbangers’ with a dress code not unlike the rockers of the previous decade but taken further. By 1984 and the release of the mockumentary film ‘This Is Spinal Tap’, metal had reached a point of self‑parody. During the 1980s and beyond, metal gave birth to sub‑genres including hair metal (Van Halen, Bon Jovi and Mötley Crüe), thrash metal (Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeth), groove metal (Pantera, Blackstone Cherry and White Zombie), industrial (Rammstein and Marilyn Manson), alternative metal (Alter Bridge, Avenged Sevenfold, Slipknot, Deftones, Tool and Queensryche) and nu‑metal (Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, Papa Roach, Korn and Disturbed), amongst many others such as glam metal, progressive metal, black metal, doom metal, death metal, power metal, metalcore, Christian metal, etc. Possibly more than any other style of music, heavy metal has proliferated sub‑genres.

Glam rock is a relatively short‑lived offshoot of rock music that developed in the early 1970s, particularly in the UK. Glam rock’s heyday was roughly between 1970 and 1975. The music was tightly interwoven with flamboyant and colourful fashions, being performed by musicians who wore outrageous costumes, stark makeup and pronounced hairstyles. The impact of the symbolism was to blur the traditional gender stereotyping that was prevalent before 1970. The visuals often extended to custom instruments used by some artists. Although it may not appear obvious, glam rock influenced subsequent genres such as punk rock, new romantics, Goth rock and new wave that followed. Significant artists included Marc Bolan and T.Rex, David Bowie, Queen, Sweet, Slade, Elton John, Mud, Roxy Music and Gary Glitter. Although its impact was lower profile in the USA, artists such as Alice Cooper, New York Dolls and Iggy Pop adapted glam imagery for their own purposes.

Reggae emanated from Jamaica in the late 1960s and significantly became popular internationally during the 1970s. Reggae evolved from ska and a transitional form between ska and reggae called rocksteady. Reggae is distinctive in that it has a 4/4 rhythm with the drum marking the 3rd beat of the bar with a guitar or keyboard staccato ‘skank’ on the 2nd and 4th (off) beats of the bar. Reggae is also often associated with strong and heavy rhythmic bass lines, sometimes complemented by horn arrangements. Reggae is often but not exclusively connected to Rastafarianism which also features strongly in many reggae songs, as does the use of marijuana. Roots reggae refers to its African roots and the black diaspora. Jamaican record producers also played a strong part in moulding the sound of reggae and developed a complete sub‑genre known as ‘versions’ or dub reggae that used production techniques to remove vocals and remix instrumental elements of drum, bass and guitar. Dub reggae was often played on loud PA sound systems. Key producers include Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, King Tubby, Mad Professor and Scientist. Reggae has been successfully exported worldwide, although the UK remains a key consumer market. One of the major artists who not only popularised commercial reggae globally but also acted as an ambassador for Jamaica was Bob Marley who, with his band, The Wailers became an international icon. Other major artists also include Peter Tosh, Toots & The Maytals, Burning Spear, Augustus Pablo, Horace Andy, I‑Roy, U‑Roy, The Abyssinians, Black Uhuru, Sly & Robbie, The Upsetters, Desmond Decker, Jimmy Cliff, Johnny Nash, Third World, Gregory Isaacs and many others. British reggae artists include Aswad, Steel Pulse, Linton Kwesi Johnson and UB40. After Bob Marley’s death, the genre diversified into other forms, such as dancehall and ragga.

The origins of rap and hip hop music derived from vocal a cappella rapping and African American urban street music originating in New York house and block parties in the Bronx during the early 1970s. The largely vernacular spoken rhyming lyrics were backed by rhythmic percussive soul, funk and disco beats of the period. The sub‑culture expanded by the late 1970s to include MCing, DJ scratching, sampling and beatboxing frequently using drum machines. Also associated with rapping were break dancing, urban graffiti art and aggressive gangland/gun culture. The broader cultural definition has become widely known as hip hop, which is the current common categorisation. Early practitioners included Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, the Sugarhill Gang and Afrika Bambaataa. The genre spread widely during the ‘golden age of hip hop’ from the 1980s up to the early 1990s spawning many sub‑genres, often associated with the region or country. For instance, there was intense rivalry between U.S. West Coast and East Coast hip hop during the 1990s, coining the term ‘gangsta rap’. Hip hop became massively influential in many other mainstream musical genres who adapted the rhyming lyrical style and sparse percussive beats. Despite a decline in the mid‑2000s, hip hop is now a global phenomenon with numerous offshoots and diverse styles. While its origins are African American, a few white artists have been successful including the Beastie Boys and Eminem. There are way too many hip hop artists to mention all of them. However, they include Run-D.M.C., LL Cool J, Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Ice‑T, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Cypress Hill, N.W.A., The Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur, Wu-Tang Clan, Dr. Dre, 50 Cent, OutKast, Jay‑Z and Kanye West among many others.

Like other musical forms, funk and disco adapted from previous genres, becoming mainstream during the 1970s. Funk emerged from African American communities and mixed soul, jazz and R&B. Funk is recognisable by have an addictively danceable groove. Funk focused on a strong first beat of the bar and was driven by strong insistent bass and drum rhythms. Funk artists included James Brown, Sly & The Family Stone, Parliament/Funkadelic, Chaka Khan, Earth Wind & Fire and Kool & The Gang. Later, artists like Rick James and Prince would adopt funk as a key ingredient in their dance‑fused arrangements. Funk tends to be more musically complex than its sister genre, disco. Disco originated in America and rapidly spread to the UK. It is associated with urban nightclubs and DJs mixing dance records through loud sound systems to audiences in clubs and discothèques. Discos also used complex light and strobes to emphasise the beat. Disco is a heavily produced bass and drum‑driven 4/4 rhythm, often using electronic instruments to add syncopation. Disco’s core rationale was music to dance to, so disco dancing became very popular. Culturally, disco is also associated with fashion, drug use and promiscuity. Disco artists included Gloria Gaynor, The Bee Gees, Donna Summer, The Village People, Sylvester and Chic. Disco was hugely influential on later dance genres such as house, techno, drum ‘n’ bass and rave. Like many other broad genres, funk and disco have diversified into many other related sub‑genres over the years.

Widespread social dissatisfaction and a rejection of established musical forms on both sides of the Atlantic during the mid‑1970s led to the emergence of punk rock. Loud, brash, nihilistic and stripped‑back arrangements performed mainly on guitar, bass and drums were used to support often angry and alienated anti‑establishment lyrics. The result was short, sharp bursts of controversial and provocative music. The emergence of punk in America is associated with artists such as Television, Patti Smith and Ramones, building on the work of proto‑punk bands like Velvet Underground, New York Dolls and Iggy & The Stooges. Meanwhile a parallel evolution in the UK was epitomised by bands such as Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Damned, Buzzcocks, Sham 69 and The Ruts. As with many other music‑related sub‑cultures, punk led to distinctive fashions (Vivienne Westwood), art (Jamie Reid) and agressive attitudes. The anarchic punk movement spread rapidly and by 1977 was pervasive in many westernised countries. As popularity increased and punk sensibilities were adopted by the commercial mainstream, the essential ethos of punk imploded and was overtaken by the music business machinery that, ironically, was punk’s original anathema. The demise of chaotic punk rock principles led to post‑punk sub‑genres that expanded its appeal beyond the original audience, including artists like Joy Division, Bauhaus, Siouxsie & the Banshees, Ian Dury, The Cure and The Sisters Of Mercy. Punk in its purest form could not and did not last long. However, it was very influential in subsequent styles such as new wave, new romantic, emo and Goth sub‑genres. Live music venues were very important for audiences to experience the visceral nature of punk rock first hand, including CBGBs in New York and the Marquee in London. Punk saw a revival in the 1990s with bands like Green Day, Blink‑182 and The Offspring but it was far more commercial and lacking the authenticity of the original.

Musical Facts 1970-1979

Day

Month

Year

Music Fact

26

January

1970

American folk rock duo Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel released their 5th and final classic studio album, ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’.

3

February

1970

Multi-talented American guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer, solo artist and member of rock super group The Winery Dogs, Richie Kotzen was born in Reading, Pennsylvania.

13

February

1970

English heavy metal legends Black Sabbath released their classic, game-changing self-titled debut album, ‘Black Sabbath’ in the UK (NB. appropriately on Friday 13th).

14

February

1970

English rock band The Who performed a concert at Leeds University. The show was recorded and released as the band’s first official live album, ‘Live At Leeds’.

5

March

1970

American guitarist, former member of rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers and solo artist, John Frusciante was born in New York City.

9

March

1970

After changing their name from Earth, English heavy metal rock band Black Sabbath performed their debut live concert at the Roundhouse in London.

22

March

1970

Marc Bolan and Tyrannosaurus Rex released their last studio album before transforming into glam rockers T.Rex, ‘A Beard of Stars’.

10

April

1970

English singer, songwriter and bass guitarist, Paul McCartney issued a press statement that he was leaving The Beatles, signalling the band’s break up.

21

April

1970

American Chicago blues guitarist Earl Hooker died of complications from tuberculosis in Chicago, Illinois at the age of 40.

1

May

1970

English guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer and former member of indie rock band Suede, Bernard Butler was born in London.

3

May

1970

English rock band The Who released their classic live album, ‘Live At Leeds in the UK.

8

May

1970

Legendary English pop/rock band The Beatles released what would be the group’s 12th and final studio album, ‘Let It Be’, after the band split up.

3

June

1970

British heavy rock band Deep Purple released their classic breakout studio album, ‘Deep Purple in Rock’ in the UK.

5

June

1970

English heavy rock band Deep Purple released their breakthrough hit single ‘Black Night’ in the UK.

6

June

1970

American rhythm guitarist and co-founder of Nu-Metal rock band Korn, James Shaffer (a.k.a. Munky) was born in Bakersfield, California.

8

July

1970

Innovative and massively talented American alternative rock singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer, Beck was born in Los Angeles, California.

18

July

1970

London hosted the third Free Concert held in Hyde Park featuring Pink Floyd, Roy Harper, Kevin Ayers, and the Edgar Broughton Band.

14

August

1970

English psychedelic space rock band Hawkwind released their debut studio album, the eponymous, ‘Hawkwind’.

23

August

1970

American singer, songwriter and guitarist Lou Reed performed his final live concert appearance with The Velvet Underground (bar reunions) at Max’s Kansas City rock club in Manhattan, New York City.

26

August

1970

The famous Isle of Wight Festival began at Afton Down, attracting between 600,000 and 700,000 attendees, the largest open air music festival of its kind. Tickets for the weekend cost £3.

28

August

1970

Well over half a million people attended the 3rd day of the UK’s famous Isle of Wight Festival to see artists including Taste, Chicago, Family and Procol Harum.

29

August

1970

The 4th day of the massive Isle of Wight Festival continued starring Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis, Ten Years After, ELP, The Doors, The Who and Sly & The Family Stone.

30

August

1970

The 5th and final day of the gigantic Isle of Wight Festival took place starring Jethro Tull, Jimi Hendrix, Joan Baez, Leonard Cohen and Richie Havens.

4

September

1970

English rock group The Rolling Stones released their classic live album, ‘Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out’ in the UK.

6

September

1970

Legendary American rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix played his final live concert at the Isle of Fehmarn in Germany.

11

September

1970

American rock guitarist, singer and songwriter Jimi Hendrix gave his final interview for the UK weekly music magazine New Musical Express (NME).

12

September

1970

London hosted the fourth Free Concert held in Hyde Park (the 2nd that year) featuring Canned Heat, Eric Burdon and War, John Sebastian, Michael Chapman, Stoneground and others.

18

September

1970

Legendary American rock guitarist, singer and songwriter, Jimi Hendrix died tragically of asphyxia in his London flat at the age of 27.

18

September

1970

Pioneering English heavy metal rock band, Black Sabbath released their classic sophomore studio album, ‘Paranoid’ in the UK.

19

September

1970

The very first Glastonbury Pop, Folk & Blues Festival took place at Worthy Farm, Pilton, Somerset, UK, attended by approximately 1,700 people.

19

September

1970

Canadian singer, songwriter and guitarist Neil Young released his classic 3rd studio album, ‘After The Gold Rush’.

1

October

1970

American guitarist Jimi Hendrix’s funeral service took place at Dunlap Baptist Church in his hometown of Seattle before he was buried at the Greenwood Cemetery in Renton, also in Seattle.

2

October

1970

English glam rock band Marc Bolan and T.Rex released their classic breakout hit single ‘Ride A White Swan’ in the UK.

2

October

1970

English progressive rock band, Pink Floyd released their 4th studio album, ‘Atom Heart Mother’ in the UK.

4

October

1970

Respected American rock, soul and blues singer Janis Joplin was found dead following an accidental heroin overdose in Los Angeles, California at the age of 27.

5

October

1970

English heavy rock band Led Zeppelin released their classic 3rd studio album, ‘Led Zeppelin III’ in the UK.

10

October

1970

English heavy metal rock band, Black Sabbath had their classic 2nd studio album, ‘Paranoid’ reach No. 1 in the UK album chart.

23

October

1970

The Jimi Hendrix Experience released the song ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return)’ shortly after the guitarist’s untimely death. It reached number 1 in the UK singles chart.

23

October

1970

English progressive rock band Genesis released their breakout studio album, ‘Trespass’ in the UK.

1

November

1970

Legendary American psychedelic rock band Grateful Dead released their classic 5th studio album, ‘American Beauty’.

4

November

1970

English singer and songwriter David Bowie released his classic 3rd studio album, ‘The Man Who Sold the World’ in the UK.

6

November

1970

Emerging American rock band Aerosmith made their debut live appearance in the gymnasium at what was Nipmuc Regional High School (now Miscoe Hill Middle School) in Mendon, Massachusetts.

9

November

1970

American blues/rock guitarist, singer and member of the Tedeschi Trucks Band along with hubby, Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi was born in Boston, Massachusetts.

15

November

1970

American alternative rock band, The Velvet Underground released their 4th and possibly most commercial studio album, ‘Loaded’.

27

November

1970

Former member of English rock band The Beatles, George Harrison released his hugely successful solo triple studio album, ‘All Things Must Pass’ in the UK.

11

December

1970

English singer, songwriter and guitarist, Marc Bolan and T.Rex released the first post-Tyrannosaurus Rex studio album, ‘T.Rex’ in the UK.

11

December

1970

English singer and songwriter John Lennon released his post-Beatles solo album, ‘John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band’ in the UK.

12

December

1970

American rock band, The Doors played their final live concert with singer Jim Morrison at the Warehouse in New Orleans, Louisiana.

16

January

1971

American blues rock band, ZZ Top, released their debut studio album, ‘ZZ Top’s First Album’ in the UK.

17

March

1971

Renowned Canadian singer, songwriter and poet, Leonard Cohen released his classic 3rd studio album, ‘Songs of Love and Hate’ in the UK.

19

March

1971

English progressive rock band Jethro Tull released their classic 4th studio album, ‘Aqualung’ in the UK.

16

April

1971

English blues rock band The Rolling Stones released their huge hit single, ‘Brown Sugar’, taken from the album, ‘Sticky Fingers’.

23

April

1971

The Rolling Stones released what was probably their career peak 9th studio album, ‘Sticky Fingers’.

29

April

1971

American rock band, The Doors released their massive 6th studio album, ‘L.A. Woman’, including the classic single, ‘Riders On The Storm’, recorded shortly before singer, Jim Morrison’s death.

22

June

1971

The second Glastonbury Festival took place in Pilton, Somerset, UK, attended by c.12,000 fans. Artists included Hawkwind, Traffic, David Bowie, Joan Baez, Fairport Convention, Quintessence and Melanie.

2

July

1971

English glam rock group T.Rex, led by the late Marc Bolan, released their classic hit single ‘Get It On’.

3

July

1971

American singer, poet and member of rock band The Doors, Jim Morrison died from reported heart failure at an apartment in Paris, France at the age of 27.

6

July

1971

American jazz trumpeter and singer, Louis Armstrong died of a heart attack in a New York hospital at the age of 69.

31

July

1971

American guitarist known for his work with heavy rock bands Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie, as well as a solo artist, John Lowery (a.k.a. John 5) was born in Grosse Pointe, Michigan.

25

August

1971

English rock band, The Who, released their 5th studio album, ‘Who’s Next’ in the UK.

9

September

1971

English singer, songwriter, guitarist and former Beatle, John Lennon released his career-defining solo studio album, ‘Imagine’ in the UK.

15

September

1971

English heavy rock band, Deep Purple released their flaming hot 5th studio album, ‘Fireball’ in the UK.

21

September

1971

UK broadcaster, the BBC aired their highly regarded long-running contemporary music TV programme, ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’ for the first time.

8

October

1971

English psychedelic space rock band Hawkwind, released their 2nd studio album ‘In Search Of Space’ in the UK.

29

October

1971

American guitarist and co-founder of rock band The Allman Brothers Band, Duane Allman died tragically in a motorcycle accident in Macon, Georgia at the age of 24.

30

October

1971

English former member of The Beatles, John Lennon had his classic solo studio album, ‘Imagine’ reach number 1 in the UK album chart.

1

November

1971

The classic hit single ‘Jeepster’ was released, performed by English glam rock pioneer Marc Bolan and T.Rex, reaching No. 2 in the UK singles chart.

1

November

1971

British guitarist, singer and songwriter John Martyn released his classic 3rd solo album ‘Bless The Weather’ in the UK.

5

November

1971

Supremely versatile English lead guitarist with alternative rock band Radiohead, Jonny Greenwood was born in Oxford.

8

November

1971

English hard rock band Led Zeppelin released their classic multi-million-selling 4th studio album, ‘Led Zeppelin IV’ in the UK, which included the track, ‘Stairway To Heaven’.

12

November

1971

English progressive rock band Genesis released their ambitious 3rd studio album, ‘Nursery Cryme’ in the UK.

13

November

1971

English progressive rock band Pink Floyd released their outstanding 6th studio album, ‘Meddle’ in the UK.

4

December

1971

The Montreux Casino in Switzerland, built in 1881, burnt down during a Frank Zappa gig, inspiring Deep Purple’s classic rock song, ‘Smoke On The Water’.

17

December

1971

Legendary English rock singer, songwriter and actor, David Bowie released his classic 4th studio album, ‘Hunky Dory’ in the UK.

27

December

1971

Remarkable English guitarist with The Aristocrats and noted guitar teacher, Guthrie Govan was born in Chelmsford, Essex.

21

January

1972

English glam rockers Marc Bolan with T.Rex released the classic hit single ‘Telegram Sam’ in the UK.

10

February

1972

English glam rock singer David Bowie made his debut live appearance as his legendary alter-ego, Ziggy Stardust at the Toby Jug pub in London.

17

February

1972

American singer, songwriter, guitarist, front man and co‑founder of pop punk rock band Green Day, Billie Joe Armstrong was born in Oakland, California.

25

February

1972

English singer, songwriter and guitarist, Nick Drake, released his sublime 3rd and final studio album, ‘Pink Moon’.

25

February

1972

Legendary Canadian singer, songwriter and guitarist, Neil Young, released his classic 4th studio album, ‘Harvest’.

3

March

1972

English progressive rock band Jethro Tull released their classic 5th studio album, ‘Thick As A Brick’ in the UK.

25

March

1972

English heavy rock band Deep Purple released their classic 6th studio album, ‘Machine Head’ in the UK, which included the track, ‘Smoke On The Water’.

29

April

1972

English hard rock band Wishbone Ash released their career-defining classic 3rd studio album, ‘Argus’.

5

May

1972

English glam rockers, Marc Bolan and T.Rex released their classic hit single ‘Metal Guru’ in the UK.

12

May

1972

English rock band, The Rolling Stones released their massive 10th studio double album, ‘Exile On Main Street’.

6

June

1972

English glam rock singer and songwriter, David Bowie released his classic 5th studio album, ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars’.

3

July

1972

American country blues guitarist, Mississippi Fred McDowell died from cancer in Memphis, Tennessee at the age of 66.

23

July

1972

British glam rock band, Marc Bolan and T.Rex released their classic studio album ‘The Slider’ in the UK.

8

September

1972

British glam rock star Marc Bolan and his band T.Rex released the classic hit single ‘Children Of The Revolution’.

11

October

1972

Mexican-American guitarist Carlos Santana with his band released their classic 4th studio album, ‘Caravanserai’.

17

October

1972

American rapper and hip-hop artist, Eminem was born as Marshall Bruce Mathers III, a.k.a. ‘Slim Shady’ in St. Joseph, Missouri.

10

December

1972

British singer, songwriter, guitarist and co-founder of alternative rock band Placebo, Brian Molko was born in Brussels, Belgium.

5

January

1973

American rock band, Aerosmith, released their eponymous debut studio album, ‘Aerosmith’.

5

January

1973

American singer and songwriter Bruce Springsteen released his debut studio album, ‘Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.’.

30

January

1973

After changing their name to KISS, the American rock band made their debut live performance in Queens, New York.

1

February

1973

British singer, songwriter and guitarist, John Martyn released his classic 4th solo studio album, the sublime and career-defining, ‘Solid Air’.

7

February

1973

American proto punk rock band Iggy The Stooges released their hugely influential 3rd studio album, ‘Raw Power’.

8

February

1973

Max Yasgur, who owned the New York dairy farm on which the legendary Woodstock Festival was held in August 1969, died from a heart attack in Florida at the age of 53.

23

February

1973

English pop/rock band Slade released their classic hit single, ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’ in the UK.

2

March

1973

British glam rockers, Marc Bolan and T.Rex released their classic hit single ‘20th Century Boy’ in the UK.

16

March

1973

English progressive rock group Pink Floyd released their career pinnacle 8th studio album, ‘The Dark Side Of The Moon’ in the UK.

23

March

1973

English progressive rock band King Crimson released their 5th studio album, ‘Larks’ Tongues in Aspic’.

28

March

1973

British heavy rock band Led Zeppelin released their 5th studio album, ‘Houses Of The Holy’ in the UK.

12

April

1973

English glam rock singer, David Bowie released his milestone classic 6th studio album, ‘Aladdin Sane’ in the UK.

13

April

1973

Jamaican Reggae legends, Bob Marley & The Wailers released their classic 4th studio album ‘Catch A Fire’ in the UK.

17

May

1973

American singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer, actor and founder of rock bands Queens Of The Stone Age and Eagles Of Death Metal, Josh Homme was born in Joshua Tree, California.

25

May

1973

Richard Branson’s Virgin Records label was launched, marked by the release of Mike Oldfield’s seminal studio album, ‘Tubular Bells’.

18

June

1973

American folk rock singer, songwriter and guitarist, Ray LaMontagne was born in New Hampshire.

22

June

1973

English glam rock singer David Bowie released his classic hit single, ‘Life On Mars?’, with ‘The Man Who Sold the World’ on the B-side.

3

July

1973

English glam rock star David Bowie announced that his iconic on-stage persona, Ziggy Stardust was to retire (not Bowie himself, as was widely reported in the press).

13

July

1973

English rock/pop band Queen released their great debut studio album in the UK, the eponymous ‘Queen’.

15

July

1973

American bluegrass and country rock guitarist, a member of rock band The Byrds and an accomplished session musician, Clarence White died in a car accident in Palmdale, California at the age of 29.

26

July

1973

American southern blues/rock power trio ZZ Top released their critically acclaimed 3rd studio album, ‘Tres Hombres’.

6

August

1973

Influential American blues singer, songwriter and guitarist Memphis Minnie (real name Lizzie Douglas) died from a stroke in a nursing home in Memphis, Tennessee at the age of 76.

13

August

1973

American southern rock band, Lynyrd Skynyrd released their storming debut album, ‘(pronounced ‘lĕh-‘nérd ‘skin-‘nérd)’, featuring their career-defining signature song, ‘Freebird’.

11

September

1973

American rock singer, songwriter and guitarist, Bruce Springsteen released his sophomore studio album, ‘The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle’.

19

September

1973

American guitarist with country rock band The Byrds, Gram Parsons died of a drug overdose in Joshua Tree, California at the age of 26.

20

September

1973

American folk/rock guitarist, singer and songwriter, Jim Croce died tragically along with 5 others in a plane crash in Natchitoches, Louisiana at the age of 30.

1

October

1973

British singer, songwriter and guitarist John Martyn released his remarkable change of direction 5th studio album, ‘Inside Out’ in the UK.

9

October

1973

Influential American blues singer, songwriter and guitarist Sister Rosetta Tharpe died from a stroke in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the age of 58.

12

October

1973

English progressive rock band Genesis released their classic 5th studio album, ‘Selling England By The Pound’.

19

October

1973

Jamaican reggae legends (Bob Marley &) The Wailers released their classic studio album, ‘Burnin’’ in the UK.

19

October

1973

English singer and songwriter David Bowie released his 7th studio album comprising cover songs, ‘Pin Ups’ in the UK.

26

October

1973

English rock band, The Who, released their classic 6th studio double album; the rock opera and ode to the UK’s mod movement, ‘Quadrophenia’.

11

November

1973

Legendary Irish blues/rock guitarist, Rory Gallagher, released his 4th studio album, ‘Tattoo’ in the UK.

1

December

1973

English heavy metal band Black Sabbath released their 5th studio album, ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’.

5

December

1973

English former member of The Beatles, Paul McCartney and Wings released his 5th and most successful ‘solo’ studio album, ‘Band On The Run’ in the UK.

10

December

1973

The legendary New York alternative, punk and New Wave music venue at 315 Bowery, Manhattan, CBGB & OMFUG, was opened by club owner Hilly Kristal.

31

December

1973

Australian heavy rock band AC/DC made their debut live performance at a local bar in Sydney, Australia.

17

January

1974

Legendary American guitarist, singer and songwriter Bob Dylan released the studio album recorded with The Band, ‘Planet Waves’.

15

February

1974

British hard rock band, Deep Purple released their classic 8th studio album, ‘Burn’ in the UK.

20

February

1974

American jazz rock band Steely Dan released their critically well-received and commercially successful classic 3rd studio album, ‘Pretzel Logic’.

8

March

1974

English rock band, Queen released their classic 2nd studio album, ‘Queen II’ in the UK.

15

April

1974

American southern rock group, Lynyrd Skynyrd released their classic breakout 2nd studio album ‘Second Helping’.

17

April

1974

Swedish guitarist, singer and songwriter with progressive death metal rock band Opeth, Mikael Åkerfeldt was born in Stockholm.

18

April

1974

Accomplished American guitarist, singer and songwriter with rock bands Creed, Alter Bridge and as a solo artist, Mark Tremonti was born in Detroit, Michigan.

24

April

1974

English glam rock legend, David Bowie released his classic 8th studio album, ‘Diamond Dogs’ in the UK.

1

June

1974

Talented Canadian singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer, activist and actress Alanis Morissette was born in Ottawa, Ontario.

15

June

1974

English rock super group Bad Company released their self‑titled debut studio album, ‘Bad Company’ in the UK.

1

July

1974

English blues/rock guitarist, singer and songwriter Eric Clapton released his classic 2nd studio album, ‘461 Ocean Boulevard’.

21

July

1974

Highly acclaimed Irish blues/rock guitarist Rory Gallagher released his hugely successful live album, ‘Irish Tour ‘74’.

29

July

1974

Perennial Canadian singer, songwriter and guitarist Neil Young released his classic 5th studio album, ‘On The Beach’.

16

August

1974

American punk rock band Ramones played their first live concert at the legendary CBGB & OMFUG music venue in New York City.

6

September

1974

English space rock band, Hawkwind, released their classic 4th studio album, ‘Hall of the Mountain Grill’.

14

September

1974

English guitarist, singer and songwriter Eric Clapton released his cover of Bob Marley’s ‘I Shot The Sherriff’ as a single, which reached number 1 in the U.S.

6

October

1974

English progressive rock band King Crimson released their 7th studio album, ‘Red’.

12

October

1974

American punk rock band Blondie made their first appearance at the legendary CBGB & OMFUG music venue in New York City.

25

October

1974

Jamaican reggae legends, Bob Marley & The Wailers released their studio album, ‘Natty Dread’ in the UK, the first Wailers’ album to bear Marley’s name in the title.

29

October

1974

Hugely impressive American blues/rock guitarist, Eric Gales was born in Memphis, Tennessee.

8

November

1974

English rock band Queen moved in a more commercial direction and released their successful 3rd studio album, ‘Sheer Heart Attack’ in the UK.

18

November

1974

English progressive rock band Genesis released their 6th studio double concept album, and their final LP with singer Peter Gabriel, ‘The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway’.

25

November

1974

English singer, songwriter and guitarist, Nick Drake died from a drug overdose at his home in Tanworth-in-Arden, Warwickshire at the age of 26.

28

November

1974

English former Beatle, John Lennon made his final live appearance, joining Elton John on stage at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

16

December

1974

After 5 years as a member of The Rolling Stones, English guitarist, Mick Taylor announced that he was leaving the band.

17

January

1975

English former member of The Beatles John Lennon released his classic solo covers album, ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ in the UK.

18

January

1975

American jazz, blues and country rock guitarist, Johnny Hiland was born, growing up in Maine.

20

January

1975

Legendary American guitarist, singer and songwriter, Bob Dylan released his renaissance studio album, ‘Blood On The Tracks’ in the UK.

24

January

1975

Influential and pioneering British singer, songwriter and guitarist John Martyn released his 6th studio album, ‘Sunday’s Child’.

7

February

1975

American guitarist and member of nu-metal band Limp Bizkit and Black Light Burns, Wes Borland was born in Richmond, Virginia.

17

February

1975

Australian hard rock band, AC/DC released their debut studio album, ‘High Voltage’.

24

February

1975

English heavy rock band, Led Zeppelin released their epic 6th studio double album, ‘Physical Graffiti’.

7

March

1975

English singer, songwriter and true rock legend, David Bowie released his change of direction classic 9th studio album, the soul-oriented ‘Young Americans’ in the UK.

11

March

1975

English pop/art/rock band 10cc released their hugely successful 3rd studio album, ‘The Original Soundtrack’ in the UK.

16

March

1975

American blues legend, Aaron Thibeaux ‘T-Bone’ Walker died from pneumonia following a stroke in Los Angeles, California at the age of 64.

17

March

1975

English singer, songwriter and guitarist, best known as member of hard rock band The Darkness, Justin Hawkins was born in Chertsey, Surrey.

29

March

1975

Experimental virtuoso English rock guitarist, Jeff Beck released his seminal and commercially successful 2nd solo album, ‘Blow By Blow’ in the UK.

2

April

1975

English super group Bad Company released their classic sophomore studio album, ‘Straight Shooter’.

8

April

1975

American hard rock band Aerosmith released one of their most successful records, their 3rd studio album, ‘Toys In The Attic’, including the hit track, ‘Walk This Way’.

9

May

1975

English space rock perennials, Hawkwind, released their 5th studio album ‘Warrior On The Edge Of Time’ in the UK.

23

May

1975

English pop/rock band 10cc released their superbly written and produced massive hit single, ‘I’m Not In Love’.

20

June

1975

Canadian singer, songwriter and guitarist Neil Young released his classic 6th studio album, ‘Tonight’s The Night’.

23

June

1975

Hugely talented Scottish multi-genre singer, songwriter and guitarist, KT Tunstall was born in Edinburgh.

29

June

1975

Influential American singer, songwriter and guitarist Tim Buckley died from a drug overdose in Los Angeles, California, at the age of 28.

9

July

1975

Mercurial American singer, songwriter and flamboyant guitarist with The White Stripes, The Dead Weather and The Raconteurs, as well as solo artist, Jack White was born in Detroit, Michigan.

11

July

1975

British/American rock band Fleetwood Mac released their self-titled 10th studio album, ‘Fleetwood Mac’.

17

July

1975

Jamaican reggae icons, Bob Marley And The Wailers performed the first of 2 live concerts at London’s Lyceum. The concerts were recorded for the classic live album, ‘Live!’

25

July

1975

English singer and songwriter, David Bowie released his hit single, ‘Fame’, co-written with Carlos Alomar and with backing vocals by John Lennon. It was reportedly a jibe at Bowie’s artist management.

16

August

1975

English singer and songwriter Peter Gabriel announced that he was leaving Genesis, the progressive rock band he co‑founded.

25

August

1975

American rock icon Bruce Springsteen released his massively successful 3rd studio album, ‘Born To Run’.

1

September

1975

British singer, songwriter and guitarist John Martyn released his masterful live concert album, ‘Live At Leeds’.

5

September

1975

English progressive rock band Jethro Tull released their 8th studio album, ‘Minstrel In The Gallery’ in the UK (8 September in the U.S.).

12

September

1975

English progressive rock band, Pink Floyd released their massive classic 7th studio album, ‘Wish You Were Here’.

23

October

1975

English singer and songwriter, Elton John received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6915 Hollywood Boulevard.

6

November

1975

British punk rock band, Sex Pistols made their debut live performance as a support act in the Common Room of Saint Martin’s School Of Art at Charing Cross Road in central London.

10

November

1975

Canadian singer, songwriter and guitarist, Neil Young with his band Crazy Horse released the classic 7th studio album, ‘Zuma’.

2

December

1975

English pop/rock band Queen released their 4th studio album, ‘A Night At The Opera’, including the massive hit single ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.

5

December

1975

Jamaican reggae legends Bob Marley And The Wailers released their classic live album, ‘Live!’ recorded at London’s Lyceum Theatre on 17 & 18 July 1975.

13

December

1975

American punk rock singer, beat poet and political activist, Patti Smith released her classic anti‑establishment debut studio album, ‘Horses’, produced by John Cale.

13

December

1975

American guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer and co‑founder of pop punk rock band Blink-182, Tom DeLonge was born in Poway, California.

20

December

1975

American guitarist Joe Walsh joined the country rock band Eagles, replacing former band guitarist Bernie Leadon.

5

January

1976

Renowned American guitarist, singer and songwriter, Bob Dylan released his classic mid-career studio album, ‘Desire’ in the UK.

10

January

1976

American blues legend Howlin’ Wolf died from complications of kidney surgery in Hines, Illinois at the age of 65.

23

January

1976

Legendary English rock singer and songwriter, David Bowie released his classic 10th studio album, ‘Station To Station’.

9

March

1976

Country music legend Johnny Cash received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6320 Hollywood Boulevard.

18

March

1976

The classic sci-fi film ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’, directed by Nicolas Roeg and starring English singer David Bowie was released in the UK.

19

March

1976

English guitarist with rock band Free, Paul Kossoff died from a drug-related heart attack on a flight from Los Angeles to New York City at the age of 25.

21

March

1976

Guitar pioneer, innovator and entrepreneur, Adolph Rickenbacker died from cancer in Orange County, California at the age of 89.

23

March

1976

English heavy metal band Judas Priest released their classic sophomore studio album, ‘Sad Wings of Destiny’.

26

March

1976

Irish rock group, Thin Lizzy released their breakout classic 6th studio album, ‘Jailbreak’.

28

March

1976

American guitarist with rock group The Killers, Dave Keuning was born in Pella, Iowa.

31

March

1976

Legendary English heavy rock band Led Zeppelin released their 7th studio album, ‘Presence’.

3

April

1976

British pop group Brotherhood Of Man won the 21st Eurovision Song Contest with, ‘Save Your Kisses for Me’.

23

April

1976

American punk rock band, Ramones released their eponymous debut studio album, ‘Ramones’.

30

April

1976

Jamaican reggae legends, Bob Marley & The Wailers released their commercially successful studio album, ‘Rastaman Vibration’.

3

May

1976

American hard rock band, Aerosmith, released their 4th studio album, ‘Rocks’.

4

July

1976

British punk rock band The Clash made their live concert debut supporting the Sex Pistols at the Black Swan pub (known to locals as ‘The Mucky Duck’) in Sheffield, England.

27

July

1976

English singer, songwriter, guitarist and former member of The Beatles, John Lennon, finally had his application for permanent American residency approved by the U.S. Government.

31

July

1976

American hard rock band, Blue Öyster Cult released their signature tune and huge commercial hit, the classic single, ‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’.

29

August

1976

Exemplary American blues guitarist and singer, Jimmy Reed died from respiratory failure in Oakland, California at the age of 50.

13

September

1976

American southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd released their great live double album ‘One More From The Road’ in the US.

7

October

1976

Following an appeal hearing, English former member of The Beatles, John Lennon had his permanent residency of the USA confirmed.

8

October

1976

American jazz fusion pioneer and bass guitarist Stanley Clarke released his ground breaking studio album ‘School Days’.

22

October

1976

Influential American poet, singer, songwriter, artist and activist Patti Smith released her 2nd studio album, ‘Radio Ethiopia’.

24

October

1976

Legendary Irish guitarist, Rory Gallagher, released his classic 6th studio album, ‘Calling Card’.

25

November

1976

Canadian/American rock group, The Band, played their final concert in San Francisco, California, ‘The Last Waltz’, documented by filmmaker Martin Scorsese.

26

November

1976

English punk rock pioneers, Sex Pistols released their controversial debut single, ‘Anarchy In The UK’ on EMI Records.

2

December

1976

The photoshoot for the iconic album cover to Pink Floyd’s ‘Animals’ (released in 1977) took place at Battersea Power Station in London, complete with giant inflatable pig.

3

December

1976

Jamaican reggae star Bob Marley was wounded when gunmen shot him, his wife and manager at his home in Kingston. The incident was widely thought to be a politically motivated act.

5

December

1976

French electronic musician Jean Michel Jarre released his milestone 3rd studio album Oxygène in France.

8

December

1976

American country rock band Eagles released their top‑selling and career-defining classic 5th studio album, ‘Hotel California’.

12

December

1976

English guitarist with hard rock bands The Darkness and Stone Gods, Dan Hawkins was born in Chertsey, Surrey.

28

December

1976

American blues guitar legend, Freddie King died of complications from ulcers and acute pancreatitis in Texas at the age of 42.

14

January

1977

English rock singer David Bowie released his 11th studio album and the first part of his highly acclaimed ‘Berlin Trilogy’, ‘Low’ in the UK.

23

January

1977

Highly acclaimed English progressive rock band, Pink Floyd, released their 10th studio album, ‘Animals’, in the UK.

4

February

1977

Anglo-American rock band, Fleetwood Mac released their massive career-topping 11th studio album, ‘Rumours’ in the US.

26

February

1977

American delta blues guitarist and singer Booker T. Washington ‘Bukka’ White died from cancer in Memphis, Tennessee at the age of 67 or 70 (age disputed).

2

March

1977

English singer, songwriter, co-founder and front man of band Coldplay, Chris Martin was born in Exeter, Devon.

10

March

1977

English punk rock band Sex Pistols controversially ‘signed’ a short-lived recording contract with A&M Records outside Buckingham Palace in London.

21

March

1977

Australian hard blues/rock band, AC/DC, released their 4th studio album, ‘Let There Be Rock’.

8

April

1977

English punk rock band, The Clash released their classic eponymous debut studio album, ‘The Clash’. Often considered to be one of the finest British punk albums.

8

May

1977

Great American blues rock guitar maestro, Joe Bonamassa was born in New Hartford, New York.

27

May

1977

In the same year as Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee, British punk pioneers Sex Pistols released their controversial 2nd single, ‘God Save The Queen’ in the UK.

31

May

1977

The BBC and the Independent Broadcasting Authority banned the Sex Pistols’ controversial single, ‘God Save The Queen’ from being played on UK radio for being “in gross bad taste”.

3

June

1977

Jamaican reggae icons Bob Marley & The Wailers released their career-defining massively successful 9th studio album, ‘Exodus’.

12

June

1977

Talented American blues/rock guitarist, singer and songwriter Kenny Wayne Shepherd was born in Shreveport Louisiana.

15

June

1977

English punk rock band Sex Pistols infamously performed ‘Anarchy In The UK’ aboard a party boat on the River Thames outside the Houses of Parliament in London.

20

June

1977

Canadian singer, songwriter and guitarist Neil Young released his 8th studio album, ‘American Stars ‘n Bars’.

30

June

1977

Marvel Comics published the first comic book with characters loosely based on members of the American rock band KISS.

2

July

1977

British punk rock pioneers Sex Pistols released their controversial 3rd single, ‘Pretty Vacant’ in the UK.

16

August

1977

American rock ‘n’ roll legend, Elvis Presley died from a drug-related heart attack in Memphis, Tennessee at the age of 42.

18

August

1977

The funeral of American singing legend, Elvis Presley took place at Forest Hill Cemetery in Memphis, Tennessee.

11

September

1977

Welsh guitarist and co-founder of rock band Coldplay, Jonny Buckland was born in London.

16

September

1977

Flamboyant English glam rock guitarist, singer and songwriter Marc Bolan of Tyrannosaurus Rex and later T.Rex died tragically in a car accident in London at the age of 29.

16

September

1977

American alternative rock band, Talking Heads, released their remarkable debut studio album, ‘Talking Heads: 77’.

23

September

1977

English singer and songwriter David Bowie released the single ‘Heroes’, which would become one of his greatest signature songs.

24

September

1977

English heavy rock band Motörhead released their debut studio album, the self-titled ‘Motörhead’ in the UK.

30

September

1977

English post-punk and new wave singer, songwriter and actor, Ian Dury released his debut studio album with The Blockheads, ‘New Boots And Panties!!’ in the UK.

30

September

1977

Fiery American blues/rock guitarist and member of Supersonic Blues Machine, Lance Lopez was born in Galveston, Texas.

7

October

1977

English guitarist Steve Hackett left progressive rock band Genesis to pursue a successful solo career.

12

October

1977

American singer, songwriter and guitarist Bruce Springsteen released his 4th studio album, ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’.

14

October

1977

English singer and songwriter David Bowie released his 12th studio album, ‘Heroes’, the 2nd part of his famed ‘Berlin Trilogy’.

16

October

1977

Award-winning American blues/rock guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer John Mayer was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

17

October

1977

American southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd released their 5th studio album, ‘Street Survivors’, just days before the band’s tragic plane crash.

20

October

1977

Several members of American rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, including singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and his sister, singer Cassie Gaines were among those tragically killed and injured in a plane crash near Gillsburgh, Mississippi.

21

October

1977

American rock band, Meat Loaf, released their best‑selling debut studio album, ‘Bat Out Of Hell’.

28

October

1977

English punk rock band, Sex Pistols released their controversial debut (and currently only) studio album, ‘Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols’.

4

November

1977

American punk rock pioneers, Ramones released their definitive 3rd studio album, ‘Rocket To Russia’.

4

November

1977

British guitarist, singer and songwriter John Martyn released his classic 7th solo studio album, ‘One World’ in the UK.

25

November

1977

English blues/rock guitarist, singer and songwriter Eric Clapton released his classic 5th studio album, ‘Slowhand’.

1

December

1977

American guitarist, producer and founding member of nu-metal rock band Linkin Park, Brad Delson was born in Agoura, California.

25

January

1978

After changing their name from Warsaw to Joy Division, the post-punk rock band made their first live performance in Manchester, UK.

6

February

1978

Influential Dutch/American guitarist, Eddie Van Halen released the eponymous debut studio album that launched the band’s career ‘Van Halen’.

10

February

1978

English heavy metal band Judas Priest released their classic 4th studio album, ‘Stained Class’.

3

March

1978

American punk rock singer, poet, activist and artist, Patti Smith released her classic 3rd studio album, ‘Easter’.

23

March

1978

Jamaican reggae legends, Bob Marley & The Wailers released their 9th studio album and follow up to the massive ‘Exodus’, ‘Kaya’.

5

April

1978

English new romantic and pop/rock band Duran Duran performed their debut live concert at Birmingham Polytechnic.

15

May

1978

Antipodean heavy rock band, AC/DC released their storming 5th studio album, ‘Powerage’.

19

May

1978

British rock band, Dire Straits released their breakout debut single, ‘Sultans of Swing’ in the UK.

2

June

1978

Irish rock band, Thin Lizzy released their massive live double album, ‘Live And Dangerous’ in the UK.

9

June

1978

Mercurial English guitarist, singer, songwriter and founding member of rock band Muse, Matt Bellamy was born in Cambridge.

7

July

1978

American indie rock band, Talking Heads, released their 2nd studio album, ‘More Songs About Buildings and Food’.

7

September

1978

English drummer with rock band The Who, Keith Moon, died of a drug overdose in London at the age of 31.

12

October

1978

English bass guitarist with the Sex Pistols, John Ritchie (a.k.a. Sid Vicious) was arrested for the murder of his girlfriend Nancy Spungen at the Chelsea Hotel in New York City.

30

October

1978

American punk rock band Blondie released their single ‘Hanging On The Telephone’, their first Top 10 hit in the UK singles chart.

2

November

1978

English post-punk rock band The Police released their astounding debut studio album, ‘Outlandos d’Amour’ in the UK.

11

November

1978

The first commercially available vinyl 7” single picture disc was released by the Elektra label, featuring The Cars, ‘My Best Friend’s Girl’.

23

November

1978

American singer, songwriter, artist and occasional guitarist with rock bands, The Kills and The Dead Weather, Alison Mosshart was born in Vero Beach, Florida.

2

January

1979

The trial of English bass guitarist with Sex Pistols, Sid Vicious, started in New York. He was accused of murdering his American girlfriend, Nancy Spungen in 1978.

31

January

1979

American virtuoso jazz guitarist Grant Green died of a heart attack while on the road in New York City at the age of 43.

2

February

1979

English bass guitarist of Sex Pistols, Sid Vicious (John Ritchie) died from a heroin overdose in New York City at the age of 21.

7

February

1979

American guitarist, singer and songwriter Stephen Stills became the first major rock artist to record tracks using digital studio equipment at the Record Plant in Los Angeles, California.

3

March

1979

American guitarist, singer and songwriter, Frank Zappa released his highly successful and humorous part studio, part live double album, ‘Sheik Yerbouti’.

12

March

1979

English singer, songwriter, guitarist and founding member of indie rock bands The Libertines and Babyshambles, Pete Doherty was born in Hexham, Northumberland.

24

March

1979

English rock band, Motörhead hit the mainstream with the release of their classic 2nd studio album, ‘Overkill’.

8

May

1979

English indie rock giants The Cure released their debut studio album, ‘Three Imaginary Boys’ in the UK.

14

May

1979

Great American guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer and member of blues rock band The Black Keys, Dan Auerbach was born in Akron, Ohio.

18

May

1979

Legendary English rock singer and songwriter David Bowie released his 13th studio album and the third part of his ‘Berlin Trilogy’, ‘Lodger’.

8

June

1979

American guitarist, songwriter, member of rock band The Allman Brothers Band and founder of The Derek Trucks Band, Derek Trucks was born in Jacksonville, Florida.

15

June

1979

English post-punk band Joy Division released their impressive debut studio album, ‘Unknown Pleasures’.

20

June

1979

English guitarist, singer, songwriter, former member of indie rock band Ash and then solo artist, Charlotte Hatherley was born in London.

29

June

1979

American singer, songwriter and guitarist with Little Feat, Lowell George died from a cocaine-related heart attack in Arlington, Virginia at the age of 34.

1

July

1979

Japanese technology company Sony launched the first Walkman portable media player, capable of playing Compact Cassettes while on the move.

27

July

1979

Australian hard rock band AC/DC released their classic 6th studio album, ‘Highway To Hell’.

3

August

1979

American alternative rock band Talking Heads released their classic 3rd studio album, ‘Fear Of Music’, produced by Brian Eno.

11

August

1979

English hard rock band Led Zeppelin played their final UK concert with their original line up at Knebworth Festival in Hertfordshire.

12

August

1979

American pop singer and songwriter Michael Jackson released his 5th studio album, ‘Off The Wall’, marking his status as a global superstar.

15

August

1979

English heavy rock band Led Zeppelin released their last album with their original group line up, ‘In Through The Out Door’.

24

August

1979

American guitarist Peter Frampton received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6819 Hollywood Boulevard.

17

September

1979

American rock guitarist, singer, songwriter and composer Frank Zappa released his studio album, ‘Joe’s Garage Act I’. The first of 3 ‘parts’.

29

September

1979

English post-punk rock trio The Police had their first UK No.1 hit single with, ‘Message In A Bottle’, the band’s 3rd Top 20 hit.

2

October

1979

Jamaican reggae legends, Bob Marley & The Wailers released their studio album, ‘Survival’ in the UK.

2

October

1979

English post-punk rock band The Police released their massively commercial chart-topping 2nd studio album, ‘Reggatta de Blanc’ in the UK.

7

October

1979

English post-punk rock band Joy Division released their debut single ‘Transmission’ on Factory Records in the UK.

19

October

1979

Anglo-American rock group Fleetwood Mac released their divisive, experimental 12th studio album, ‘Tusk’ amidst reports of the band’s excess.

27

October

1979

English rock band Motörhead released their strong 3rd studio album, ‘Bomber’ in the UK, with the classic line up of Lemmy, Eddie Clarke and Phil Taylor.

19

November

1979

American rock guitarist, singer, songwriter and composer Frank Zappa released his classic studio double album, ‘Joe’s Garage Acts II & III’.

30

November

1979

English progressive rock band, Pink Floyd released their epic 11th studio double concept album, ‘The Wall’. Estimated worldwide sales are around 30 million copies.

14

December

1979

English punk rock band, The Clash released their mighty 3rd studio double album, ‘London Calling’ in the UK.

Tailpiece

That’s more than enough for now! Looking at the list of artists, it is a veritable roll call of modern music. Just contrast the albums that started and ended the decade to see how much irreversible change had occurred in just 10 years. For many, the 1970s was the last decade to witness truly fundamental changes in musical and social paradigms. While not being strictly true, it was always going to be a tough task to sustain the energy and innovation of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s into subsequent decades. However, this didn’t stop existing and emerging artists trying to break the constraints of predictability. So, the 1980s was to prove a different kettle of fish altogether and that is what the story seeks to explore in the next article. Are you with me? Until next time…

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June 2019 – The Story of Modern Music in 1,500+ Facts – Part IV

Introduction

Welcome once again all guitar and music aficionados. We are now half way through 2019 and not only are the evenings once again beginning to draw in but also the end of the ‘noughties’ is just a few months away. What a sobering thought. One wonders whether the 2020s will match the exhilarating heights (and lows) of the ‘Roaring Twenties’ of last Century. Sometimes, I doubt it and there are too many ‘harbingers of doom’ for optimism and hope to reign too strongly but perhaps it was ever thus – I hope I’m wrong. However, that sort of future speculation is for another place an time, as this month we are looking back to some 70‑80 years’ ago.

We are here in the midst of a series of articles chronicling the story of modern music by way of numerous guitar‑oriented facts and events. If you’ve been following the series so far, you’ll already know that, so I won’t bang on about it any longer.

If you would like to (re)visit the first three parts (and nearly 300 years) of the story to‑date, you can do so here (each link opens a new browser tab):

The Story of Modern Music Part IV 1940-1949

There are so many facets to the 1940s that to cover the 1950s as well would make for an overlong article, so for the sake of our mutual sanity, let’s take it one step (and decade) at a time. So… this month, we concentrate solely on the 1940s, a watershed decade during which epochal change was increasing in both pace, scale and scope. Without further ado, assuming you know the routine and format by now, let us dispatch our ‘boots on the ground’ and get on with the show. Onward to the fascinating Forties…

Historical Context 1940-1949

The 1940s was known simply, and rather unimaginatively, as ‘The Forties’. During the first half of the decade the world was dominated by major conflict and brutal warfare. As if the world had not already seen enough, almost as soon as WWII ended, the Cold War began, again raising international political and military tensions between the capitalist west and communist eastern blocs, a struggle that would last for several decades. Ordinary people in many countries suffered on‑going economic austerity, adversity and disadvantage for many years as a consequence of WWII. Socially, concerns over the possibility of widespread post‑war friction sat at odds with hopes for long‑term peace. Technological progress was closely linked to competitive military advances and many major innovations spawned during the 1940s would ultimately benefit future generations.

Year

Global Events

1940

Conservative MP Winston Churchill became British Prime Minister and would remain in power to lead Britain to victory in WWII.

 

The mass evacuation of more than 330,000 allied soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk in northern France to England took place during WWII.

 

In WWII, the German Luftwaffe carried out the ‘Blitz’, the massive air bombardment of London, UK.

 

The WWII aerial Battle of Britain took place in the skies over Britain and Europe.

1941

Russia entered WWII when German‑led Axis forces crossed the area covered by the German–Soviet Nonaggression Pact, thereby effectively invading the Soviet Union.

 

The classic motion picture film, ‘Citizen Cane’ directed by and starring Orson Welles was released.

 

After 14 years of labour, the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in Black Hills, South Dakota was opened to the public, depicting the massive sculptures of four American presidents; George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

 

America joined WWII after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

1942

The classic movie, ‘Casablanca’ was premiered, starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.

1943

The world’s largest office building and headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, The Pentagon, was completed in Virginia.

1944

Operation Overlord (commonly known as ‘D-Day’) saw 150,000 allied troops successfully storm the beaches of Normandy in France against German defences.

1945

Germany surrendered to the allied forces, effectively ending WWII in Europe.

 

U.S. atomic weapons testing was undertaken at the Trinity nuclear test site in New Mexico as part of the research & development programme known as the Manhattan Project.

 

Two American atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan leading to unconditional surrender and the formal end of WWII. Over 60 million people were killed during the conflict.

 

The United Nations (UN) organisation was formed, with a mission to maintain international peace and security.

 

Democrat Harry S. Truman became 33rd President of the U.S.A. following the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

 

The Nuremburg Trials began; a military tribunal established to prosecute the most prominent political and military leaders of Nazi Germany for war crimes during WWII.

1946

ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer), the first programmable electronic computer was unveiled at the University of Pennsylvania.

1946/

1947

The Cold War between Russia with its neighbouring Eastern Bloc states and America with its western allies started and lasted until the collapse of Communism and the Soviet Union between 1889 and 1991.

 

The transistor semiconductor was developed by American technology company, Bell Labs in New Jersey.

1947

Italian motor company Ferrari started production of luxury sports cars in Modena.

 

American test pilot Captain Chuck Yeager became the first person to break the sound barrier in level flight in a rocket-propelled Bell X-1 aircraft that he nicknamed ‘Glamorous Glennis’, achieving a recorded top speed of Mach 1.06 (807.2mph) at an altitude of 45,000 ft.

1948

British author George Orwell wrote his prophetic dystopian novel, ‘1984’.

 

The independent state of Israel was established after the British pulled out of Palestine.

 

The British National Health Service (NHS) was founded and would become the model for universal health care in the country. The NHS was part of the wider liberal welfare state system reforms that were implemented the UK.

1949

The Communist People’s Republic of China was proclaimed by Chairman Mao Zedong.

 

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) was formed comprising 29 independent member states committed to mutual defence in response to an attack by any non‑member countries.

Well that is where the world was at, at the time. Now to refocus our attention onto the matter in hand, musical history.

Musical Genre Development 1940-1949

Music of the 1940s built on the sustained popularity of jazz, bebop and swing/big band music to provide upbeat positivity against the background of WWII, as played by Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Artie Shaw. Electric blues had spread to the west coast of America, particularly California, performed by artists such as T-Bone Walker and B.B. King. Chicago also became a vital locus for electric blues, as played by Buddy Guy, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters, as did Detroit with the likes of John Lee Hooker, and Indiana with Albert King and Jimmy Reed. Blues remained strong in the southern states, including artists like Lightnin’ Hopkins and Freddie King. Country and western music also became popular again with ‘singing cowboys’ such as Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. Wartime songs would feature across many musical genres and many entertainers helped to support the allied forces at home and abroad, including Vera Lynn, Gracie Fields and The Andrews Sisters. It was also during the 1940s that the influence of Latin music began to be felt across other genres, popularised by the likes of ‘The Brazilian Bombshell’, Carmen Miranda brought to western cinemagoers by film director Busby Berkeley.

Around 1945, bluegrass began to make its mark. Bluegrass fused many American, European and African roots styles culminating in a unique blend of country, folk, traditional and Appalachian mountain music incorporating blues and jazz influences. The music is usually played on acoustic string instruments including fiddle, five-string banjo, guitar, mandolin, and upright bass. Bluegrass was particularly popular for dancing, including dance styles such as buckdancing, flatfooting and clogging. The term ‘bluegrass’ arose not only from a type of grass in the region near Kentucky but also from the name used by pioneers of the genre, Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys. Monroe is often called the ‘Father of Bluegrass’ and his band notably featured Earl Scruggs on banjo and Lester Flatt on guitar. In the early days, bluegrass was categorised along with country & western, hillbilly and folk music before being defined as a discrete genre that remains popular today.

Traditional popular music is generally defined as having broad appeal for a wide audience and has existed throughout time and across the globe. While the ‘pop song’ originated in the 1920s, modern popular music is largely accepted to be Anglo‑American in origin and arose during the 1940s as the big bands declined and before rock & roll music took off in the mid‑1950s. Popular music was notable for structured song writing, often comprising repeated verse and chorus with a middle bridge section. Popular music was often based on musical standards, sung by ‘crooners’. In addition, popular music was also often composed by professional songwriters, which was then performed by a vocalist accompanied by a backing band or orchestra. Success was characterised by record sales and chart position as a measure of achievement. Perhaps the most famous popular music artists of the early popular music era were Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby who achieved enormous commercial success. The familiar term ‘pop music’ actually appears to have its origins in Britain in the mid‑1950s. Popular music is often referred to as, but not synonymous with, ‘pop’ music; however, pop music developed as a major separate genre during the 1960s and has largely remained so to the current day. Another characteristic is that popular music is constantly evolving into many different formats and styles to keep pace with social and cultural changes, including aging western populations. Traditional popular standards were being released well into the 1950s by the likes of Perry Como, Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole and Dean Martin.

During the late 1940s, there was already indicative evidence of the sounds that would coalesce and become what we now call rock ‘n’ roll during the 1950s, particularly by blues/R&B artists such as Sister Rosetta Tharpe. That fundamental step-change is now for the next article.

Musical Facts 1940-1949

Many legendary artists that we now take for granted as part of today’s musical landscape were not yet born or still mere fledglings yet to make their indelible mark on our collective consciousness. As with last month’s article, a large proportion of the musical facts relate to births of future stars.

Looking down the long list of nearly 200 musical events during the 1940s, it could quickly become repetitive, e.g. American/English blah‑de‑blah was born in blah, blah. However, just a scan of the names and places gives a sense about what these youthful individuals were experiencing as teenagers during the ‘big bang’ of rock ‘n’ roll and the tsunami of the ‘British Invasion’, just a few years later. Just think of the exposure they had to sweeping new music crazes and how the fads might have inspired and stimulated these curious youngsters on to great music careers that they could never have foreseen. Some of these fabulous flames would burn brightly and briefly, while others would endure as wizened veterans still working hard and influencing today’s generations. As time passes, the balance between births, lifetime achievements and, sadly, deaths will shift considerably.

Day

Month

Year

Music Fact

1940

American blues/rock guitarist, singer and songwriter, Seasick Steve was born c.1940 or 1941 (date not disclosed) in Oakland, California.

27

July

1940

Billboard magazine published its first Music Popularity Chart. Topping the chart at No. 1 was Tommy Dorsey with his hit song, ‘I’ll Never Smile Again’.

9

October

1940

Massively influential of English singer, songwriter, guitarist, former member of The Beatles and successful solo artist, John Lennon MBE (1940-1980, 40) was born in Liverpool.

26

November

1940

Hugely influential English folk guitarist, Davey Graham (1940-2008, 68) was born in Market Bosworth, Leicestershire.

21

December

1940

Prolific genius, American guitarist, singer, songwriter and composer, the one and only Mr Frank Vincent Zappa (1940-1993, 52) was born in Baltimore, Maryland.

9

January

1941

Legendary perennial American folk/protest singer, songwriter, guitarist, and political activist, Joan Baez was born in Staten Island, New York.

15

January

1941

Influential American rock singer, songwriter and musician, Don Van Vliet (better known as Captain Beefheart) was born in Glendale, California.

24

January

1941

Acclaimed American singer, songwriter, guitarist and actor Neil Diamond was born in Brooklyn, New York.

24

January

1941

English folk singer, songwriter and guitarist Michael Chapman was born in Leeds, Yorkshire.

14

February

1941

Prolific English studio session guitarist Big Jim Sullivan (1941-2012, 71) was born in Uxbridge, Middlesex. Sullivan appeared on about 750 chart singles including 54 chart toppers.

24

April

1941

Australian virtuoso classical and contemporary guitarist, as well as one-time member of instrumental fusion rock group SKY, John Williams was born in Melbourne.

24

May

1941

Nobel prize-winner for literature, American folk/rock singer, songwriter and guitarist, Bob Dylan was born in Duluth, Minnesota.

18

July

1941

Influential country/blues/rock guitarist and singer songwriter, Lonnie Mack (1941-2016, 74) was born in West Harrison, Indiana.

14

August

1941

American singer, songwriter and guitarist, founder of The Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash, Hall of Famer, David Crosby was born in Los Angeles, California.

20

August

1941

The ‘grandfather of space rock’, English guitarist, singer, songwriter and co-founder of psychedelic rock band Hawkwind, Dave Brock was born in Isleworth, Middlesex.

13

October

1941

Living legend, American singer, songwriter, guitarist, formerly half of Simon & Garfunkel and a successful solo artist, Paul Simon was born in Newark, New Jersey.

21

October

1941

Multi-Hall of Famer, American guitarist, songwriter, record producer and member of Stax Records’ house band Booker T. & the MG’s, Steve Cropper was born in Dora, Missouri.

28

October

1941

English guitarist, singer and songwriter, best known for his uniquely distinctive work with The Shadows, Hank Marvin was born in Newcastle upon Tyne.

2

November

1941

English guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer, best known as an original member of instrumental pop/rock band The Shadows, Bruce Welch OBE was born in Bognor Regis, West Sussex.

20

November

1941

Great American singer, songwriter, pianist and occasional guitarist Dr John was born in New Orleans, Louisiana.

4

January

1942

English jazz/rock fusion guitarist, composer, solo artist and member of Mahavishnu Orchestra, John McLaughlin was born in Doncaster, South Yorkshire.

28

February

1942

English guitarist and founding member of rock band The Rolling Stones, Brian Jones (1942-1969, 27) was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.

2

March

1942

Legendary American virtuoso jazz guitarist Charlie Christian died from tuberculosis in New York at the age of just 25.

2

March

1942

American singer, songwriter and guitarist with The Velvet Underground and as a successful solo artist, Lou Reed (1942-2013, 71) was born in Brooklyn, New York.

24

April

1942

Oscar-winning American singer, songwriter, actress and film maker Barbra Streisand was born in New York City.

17

May

1942

Hugely influential American blues guitarist, singer and songwriter, Taj Mahal (a.k.a. Henry Saint Clair Fredericks, Jr) was born in Harlem, New York.

1

June

1942

Highly influential virtuoso Spanish flamenco guitarist, Paco Peña was born in Cordoba.

18

June

1942

English bass guitarist, singer, songwriter and former member of pop/rock bands The Beatles and Wings, as well as a successful solo artist, Sir Paul McCartney MBE was born in Liverpool.

13

July

1942

American singer, songwriter, guitarist and co-founder of rock band The Byrds, Roger McGuinn was born in Chicago, Illinois.

1

August

1942

Influential American singer/songwriter and guitarist with Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia (1942-1995, 53) was born in San Francisco, California.

27

November

1942

A true music legend, American rock guitarist, singer and songwriter, the one and only James Marshall Hendrix (1942-1970, 27) was born in Seattle, Washington.

31

December

1942

English guitarist, composer, member of rock band The Police and successful solo artist, Andy Summers was born in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire.

10

January

1943

American folk/rock singer, songwriter and guitarist, Jim Croce (1943-1973, 30) was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

19

January

1943

Legendary American psychedelic blues/rock singer Janis Joplin was born in Port Arthur, Texas.

25

February

1943

English singer, songwriter, guitarist and member of The Beatles, George Harrison (1943-2001, 58) was born in Liverpool.

22

March

1943

Influential American jazz/soul/R&B guitarist, singer and songwriter, George Benson was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

2

April

1943

American jazz guitarist, the ‘Godfather of Fusion’, Larry Coryell (1943-2017, 73) was born in Galveston, Texas.

14

May

1943

Scottish bass guitarist, singer, songwriter and former member of blues rock super group Cream, Jack Bruce (1943-2014, 71) was born in Bishopbriggs, Lanarkshire.

5

July

1943

Canadian guitarist, songwriter, composer, producer and former member of Americana rock group The Band, Robbie Robertson was born in Toronto, Ontario.

26

July

1943

English singer, songwriter and occasional guitarist, a founding member of rock band the Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger was born in Dartford, Kent.

28

July

1943

Renowned American blues guitarist and Hall of Famer, Mike Bloomfield (1943-1981, 37) was born in Chicago, Illinois.

24

August

1943

American guitarist and founder of west coast rock bands Quicksilver Messenger Service and Copperhead, John Cipollina (1943-1989, 45) was born in Berkeley, California.

6

September

1943

English bass guitarist, singer, songwriter and co-founder of progressive rock band Pink Floyd, Roger Waters was born in Great Bookham, Surrey.

5

October

1943

American guitarist, singer, songwriter and bandleader, Steve Miller was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

3

November

1943

Sublimely talented Scottish guitarist and founding member of folk revival band Pentangle, Bert Jansch (1943-2011, 67) was born in Glasgow.

7

November

1943

Highly influential Canadian folk, jazz, rock and pop guitarist, singer and songwriter Joni Mitchell was born in Fort Macleod, Alberta.

28

November

1943

Highly acclaimed American singer, songwriter and composer of numerous film scores, Randy Newman was born in Los Angeles, California.

8

December

1943

Iconic American singer, poet, counter-culture rebel and front man of rock band, The Doors, Jim Morrison was born in Melbourne, Florida.

12

December

1943

American guitarist, singer, songwriter, composer and founding member of rock band The Allman Brothers Band, Dickey Betts was born in West Palm Beach, Florida.

18

December

1943

Legendary English guitarist, singer, songwriter and co-founder of rock band The Rolling Stones, Keith Richards was born in Dartford, Kent.

21

December

1943

Hugely talented English guitarist and songwriter known for his country/rock hybrid picking style, Albert Lee was born in Lingen, Herefordshire.

31

December

1943

American singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer, John Denver (1943-1997, 53) was born in Roswell, New Mexico.

9

January

1944

English musical innovator and legendary guitarist, best known for his work with hard rock band Led Zeppelin, the highly influential Jimmy Page OBE was born in Heston, Middlesex.

23

February

1944

Great American blues guitarist and Blues Hall of Famer, Johnny Winter (1944-2014, 70) was born in Beaumont, Texas.

1

March

1944

English singer, actor, founder and long-term front man of rock group The Who, Roger Daltrey was born in London.

23

March

1944

Trailblazing English guitarist and founder of blues/rock band Groundhogs, Tony McPhee was born in Humberston, Lincolnshire.

15

April

1944

Welsh rock guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer Dave Edmunds was born in Cardiff.

28

May

1944

American Motown legend and award-winning ‘Empress of Soul’, the formidable Gladys Knight was born in Atlanta, Georgia.

7

June

1944

American bluegrass and country rock guitarist who was a member of rock band The Byrds and an accomplished session musician, Clarence White was born in Lewiston, Maine.

8

June

1944

American singer, songwriter and guitarist, former member of the Steve Miller Band and a successful solo artist, Boz Scaggs was born in Canton, Ohio.

17

June

1944

Respected, versatile and prolific English session guitarist, singer and producer, Chris Spedding was born in Staveley, Derbyshire.

21

June

1944

English singer, songwriter, guitarist and former front man of pop/rock band The Kinks, as well as solo artist, Sir Ray Davies CBE was born in London.

24

June

1944

Outstanding and prolific English instrumental guitar genius, as well as former member of blues/rock band The Yardbirds, Jeff Beck was born in Wallington, Surrey.

8

August

1944

Renowned English guitarist and songwriter, known for his work with Bert Jansch and folk revival group Pentangle, John Renbourn (1944-2015, 70) was born in London.

16

August

1944

English singer, songwriter and guitarist with psychedelic rock band Soft Machine, as well as a successful solo artist, Kevin Ayers (1944-2013, 68) was born in Herne Bay, Kent.

9

October

1944

Legendary English bass guitarist with rock band The Who, nicknamed ‘The Ox’, John Entwistle (1944-2002, 57) was born in London.

19

October

1944

Jamaican reggae guitarist, singer and songwriter, a member of Bob Marley & The Wailers and a successful solo artist, Peter Tosh was born in Grange Hill, Jamaica.

15

December

1944

Famous American big band leader and musician Glenn Miller was killed when the plane in which he was flying disappeared in bad weather over the English Channel during WWII at the age of 40.

18

December

1944

British guitarist, best known as member of progressive rock band Man, Deke Leonard (1944-2017, 72) was born in Llanelli, South Wales.

19

December

1944

Highly regarded English guitarist, singer, and member of blues/rock group Ten Years After, Alvin Lee (1944-2013, 68) was born in Nottingham.

3

January

1945

American guitarist, singer and songwriter, famous for his work with Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (CSNY), Stephen Stills was born in Dallas, Texas.

6

February

1945

A true legend as well as a great ambassador for Jamaica and reggae music with The Wailers, Rastafarian singer, songwriter and guitarist Bob Marley (1945-1981, 36) was born in Nine Mile, Jamaica.

9

March

1945

English blues/rock guitarist who came to fame as a member of rock band Procol Harum, before embarking on a long and successful solo career, Robin Trower was born in London.

11

March

1945

American guitarist, member of Canned Heat amongst others, and one of the first to popularise the two-handed tapping playing technique, Harvey Mandel was born in Detroit, Michigan.

30

March

1945

Highly renowned English blues/rock guitarist, singer, songwriter and Hall of Famer, Eric Clapton CBE was born in Ripley, Surrey.

13

April

1945

Great American guitarist, singer and songwriter with Little Feat, Lowell George (1945-1979, 34) was born in Hollywood, California.

14

April

1945

Hugely influential English guitarist and co-founder of hard rock bands Deep Purple and Rainbow, as well as folk rock duo Blackmore’s Night, Ritchie Blackmore was born in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset.

6

May

1945

American rock singer, songwriter, guitarist, pianist and leader of the Silver Bullet Band, Bob Seger was born in Detroit, Michigan.

19

May

1945

English rock guitarist, singer, songwriter and member of The Who, Pete Townshend was born in London.

28

May

1945

American rock singer, songwriter, guitarist and former member of Creedence Clearwater Revival, John Fogerty was born in Berkeley, California.

1

July

1945

American singer, songwriter, actress and founding member of rock band Blondie, Debbie Harry was born in Miami, Florida.

31

August

1945

Northern Irish rhythm & blues singer, songwriter and producer, Sir Van Morrison OBE was born in Belfast.

4

September

1945

Amazing American ‘Redneck Jazz’ guitarist, Danny Gatton (1945-1994, 49) was born in Washington D.C.

10

September

1945

Prolific Puerto Rican guitarist, singer and songwriter, José Feliciano was born in Lares.

11

September

1945

Extraordinary American multi-genre acoustic guitarist and a true master of his instrument, Leo Kottke was born in Athens, Georgia.

26

September

1945

English singer, songwriter and former front man of glam art rock band Roxy Music, Bryan Ferry CBE was born in Washington, County Durham.

3

October

1945

American singer Elvis Presley made his first public performance at the age of 10 when he sang ‘Old Shep’ at the Mississippi/Alabama Dairy Show talent competition. Reports say he came 2nd and won $5, while Elvis later recollected coming 5th and not winning a prize.

31

October

1945

English guitarist, singer, producer and one time member of rock band Argent, Russ Ballard was born in Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire.

26

November

1945

English bass guitarist with rock bands John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and then Fleetwood Mac, John McVie was born in London.

30

November

1945

Welsh bass guitarist, songwriter and producer, best known as a member of heavy rock bands Deep Purple and Rainbow, Roger Glover was born in Brecon, Powys.

24

December

1945

English bass guitarist, singer, songwriter and founder of rock band Motörhead, Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister (1945-2015, 70) was born in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.

25

December

1945

English bass guitarist and member of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Noel Redding (1945-2003, 57) was born in Folkestone, Kent.

3

January

1946

English bass guitarist, songwriter, former member of hard rock band Led Zeppelin, solo artist as well as a member of Them Crooked Vultures, John Paul Jones was born in Sidcup, Kent.

6

January

1946

English singer, songwriter, guitarist and founding member of psychedelic/progressive rock band Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett (1946-2006, 60) was born in Cambridge.

8

January

1946

American guitarist, singer and songwriter, best known as a key member of rock band The Doors, Robby Krieger was born in Los Angeles, California.

19

January

1946

Larger-than-life American country music legend, successful business woman and actress, Dolly Parton was born in Pitman Center, Tennessee.

20

February

1946

American guitarist and leader of The J. Geils Band, John ‘J’ Geils (1946-2017, 71) was born in New York City.

6

March

1946

English guitarist, singer, songwriter, and former member of Pink Floyd, as well as a successful solo artist, the incomparable David Gilmour was born in Cambridge.

12

March

1946

Oscar-winning American singer and actress, Liza Minelli was born in Los Angeles, California.

1

April

1946

English bass player, singer, songwriter and founder of rock bands the Small Faces and the Faces, Ronnie Lane (1946-1997, 51) was born in Plaistow, Essex.

4

April

1946

English guitarist and member of pop/glam rock band Slade, Dave Hill was born in Holbeton, Devon.

16

May

1946

One of the great experimental English guitarists of our time and member of progressive rock band King Crimson, Robert Fripp was born in Wimborne Minster, Dorset.

26

May

1946

Great English rock guitarist and close companion of David Bowie, Mick Ronson (1946-1993, 46) was born in Kingston upon Hull.

7

June

1946

Welsh guitarist and co-founder of progressive/psychedelic rock band Man, Micky Jones (1946-2010, 63) born in Merthyr Tydfil.

15

June

1946

English guitarist and singer with glam pop/rock group Slade, Noddy Holder MBE was born in Walsall, Staffordshire.

6

August

1946

Extraordinarily talented English virtuoso fusion/rock guitarist Allan Holdsworth (1946-2017, 70) was born in Bradford.

23

August

1946

Influential and eccentric English drummer and member of rock band The Who, Keith Moon, was born in Wembley, Middlesex.

5

September

1946

Flamboyant English singer with rock/pop band Queen, Freddie Mercury (real name Farrokh Bulsara) was born in Stone Town in the Sultanate of Zanzibar (now Tanzania).

14

October

1946

English singer, songwriter and guitarist with rock band The Moody Blues, Justin Hayward was born in Swindon, Wiltshire.

29

October

1946

Highly acclaimed and influential English guitarist and co-founder of blues/rock band Fleetwood Mac, Peter Green was born in London.

5

November

1946

American country rock guitarist with The Byrds, Gram Parsons (1946-1973, 26) was born in Winter Haven, Florida.

17

November

1946

Great English guitarist, best known as a long-term member of rock band Jethro Tull, Martin Barre was born in Birmingham.

20

November

1946

Legendary American guitarist and co-founder of the Allman Brothers Band, nicknamed ‘Skydog’, Duane Allman (1946-1971, 24) was born in Nashville, Tennessee.

22

November

1946

Jamaican bass guitarist and producer who played with reggae bands Bob Marley & The Wailers and The Upsetters, Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett was born in Kingston.

24

December

1946

Dutch progressive rock and jazz fusion guitarist best known for his work with rock band Focus, as well as a long solo career, Jan Akkerman was born in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

30

December

1946

Influential American singer, poet and activist, part of the vibrant New York punk movement, Patti Smith was born in Chicago, Illinois.

1947

American session guitarist and collaborator, best known for his work with Steely Dan, Elliott Randall was born (exact date not known).

8

January

1947

A true legend, English singer, songwriter, occasional guitarist and actor, the one and only David Bowie (1947-2016, 69) was born in London.

22

January

1947

English punk pioneer, the manager of New York Dolls and the Sex Pistols, as well as a solo music artist, Malcolm McLaren was born in London.

30

January

1947

English ‘mod’ guitarist with rock bands Small Faces and Humble Pie, Steve Marriott (1947-1991, 44) was born in London.

3

February

1947

English guitarist, singer and songwriter who, along with his older brother Ray, provided the driving force behind pop/rock band The Kinks, Dave Davies was born in London.

14

February

1947

American multi-genre singer, songwriter and guitarist, Tim Buckley (1947-1975, 28) was born in Washington D.C.

15

March

1947

American musician, composer, songwriter and phenomenal slide guitarist, Ry Cooder was born in Los Angeles, California.

25

March

1947

Flamboyant multi-award-winning English pop singer, songwriter and pianist, Sir Elton John CBE was born in Pinner, Middlesex.

8

April

1947

Great English guitarist, songwriter and producer best known as a long-time member of progressive rock group Yes, Steve Howe was born in London.

1

June

1947

English guitarist with rock band The Rolling Stones and previously the Faces and the Jeff Beck Group, Ronnie Wood was born in Hillingdon, Middlesex.

5

June

1947

American guitarist, singer, co-founder of funk band Sly And The Family Stone, and now a Christian pastor, Freddie Stone was born in Vallejo, California.

9

June

1947

English guitarist and long-time member of rock band Uriah Heep, Mick Box was born in Walthamstow, East London.

12

July

1947

Influential English guitarist, singer, songwriter and former member of pub rock band Dr. Feelgood, Wilko Johnson was born in Canvey Island, Essex.

19

July

1947

Award-winning English guitarist, astrophysicist, animal rights activist and co-founder of rock/pop band Queen, Dr. Brian May CBE was born in Hampton, Middlesex.

20

July

1947

Highly acclaimed Mexican/American guitarist, songwriter and main man for Latin/jazz/fusion/rock group Santana, Carlos Santana was born in Autlán de Navarro, Jalisco.

3

September

1947

Northern Irish blues/rock guitarist and founder of rock group Thin Lizzy, Eric Bell was born in Dublin.

30

September

1947

Massively influential English glam rock pioneer Marc Bolan of Tyrannosaurus Rex and then T.Rex (1947-1977, 29) was born in London.

1

October

1947

English bass guitarist, singer and founding member of rock band Wishbone Ash, Martin Turner was born in Torquay, Devon.

8

November

1947

English guitarist, singer, songwriter and former member of pop/rock bands The Move, Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) and Wizzard, Roy Wood was born in Birmingham.

10

November

1947

English bass guitarist, singer and songwriter, famous for his work with progressive rock bands King Crimson and ELP, as well as a successful solo artist, Greg Lake (1947-2016, 69) was born in Poole, Dorset.

10

November

1947

American guitarist best known for working with the original Alice Cooper band, Glen Buxton (1947-1997, 49) was born in Akron, Ohio.

12

November

1947

American guitarist with rock band Blue Öyster Cult since its formation in 1967, Buck Dharma (a.k.a. David Roeser) was born in Long Island, New York.

20

November

1947

Great American guitarist, singer, songwriter, solo artist and member of country rock band Eagles, Joe Walsh was born in Wichita, Kansas.

8

December

1947

American guitarist, singer, songwriter and co-founder of the Allman Brothers Band, Gregg Allman (1947-2017, 69) was born in Nashville, Tennessee.

21

December

1947

Highly influential Spanish virtuoso Flamenco guitarist, Paco de Lucíá (1947-2014, 66) was born in Cadiz.

12

January

1948

English jazz fusion guitarist supreme and long-term member of progressive rock band Soft Machine, John Etheridge was born in London.

15

January

1948

American singer and frontman of Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, the great Ronnie Van Zant was born in Jacksonville, Florida.

2

February

1948

American guitarist, songwriter, producer and ex-member of funk band Earth Wind & Fire, Al McKay was born in New Orleans, Louisiana.

4

February

1948

Theatrical American rock singer, songwriter, actor and presenter, Alice Cooper was born in Detroit, Michigan.

19

February

1948

English rock guitarist with Black Sabbath and the ‘Godfather of Heavy Metal’, Tony Iommi was born in Birmingham.

2

March

1948

Legendary Irish blues/rock guitarist, singer and songwriter Rory Gallagher (1948-1995, 47) was born in Ballyshannon, County Donegal.

2

March

1948

American jazz fusion guitarist, composer and prolific multi‑genre session musician, the great Larry Carlton was born in Torrance, California.

4

March

1948

Renowned English bass guitarist and co-founder of progressive rock band Yes, Chris Squire (1948-2015, 67) was born in London.

6

April

1948

Talented English multi-genre guitarist and composer, Gordon Giltrap was born in Brenchley, Kent.

30

April

1948

American guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer, composer and co-founder of rock band MC5, Wayne Kramer was born in Detroit, Michigan.

15

May

1948

Pioneering experimental English composer, producer, musician and founding member of glam rock band Roxy Music, Brian Eno was born in Melton, Suffolk.

18

June

1948

Columbia Records began mass producing the 33RPM long‑playing (LP) record. The original concept of the vinyl ‘album’ has endured and has undergone a retro revival in the digital age.

19

June

1948

Highly respected English singer, songwriter and guitarist, Nick Drake (1948-1974, 26) was born in Rangoon, Burma (now Myanmar).

20

June

1948

Scottish bass guitarist and founding member of 1970s pop group, The Bay City Rollers, Alan Longmuir (1948-2018, 70) was born in Edinburgh.

22

June

1948

American singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer, solo artist and founding member of progressive rock band Utopia, Todd Rundgren was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

17

July

1948

American guitarist and songwriter with Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Ron Asheton (1948-2009, 60) was born in Washington D.C.

2

August

1948

Welsh singer, songwriter, guitarist and founding member of rock band Amen Corner, Andy Fairweather Low was born in Ystrad Mynach.

24

August

1948

French electronic composer, instrumentalist and producer, Jean-Michel Jarre was born in Lyon.

31

August

1948

German rhythm guitarist, songwriter and founder of hard rock band Scorpions, Rudolf Schenker was born in Hildesheim.

11

September

1948

Hugely influential and innovative British singer, songwriter and guitarist, John Martyn (1948-2009, 60) was born in London.

8

October

1948

Pioneering American punk rock guitarist and songwriter with the Ramones, Johnny Ramone (1948-2004, 56) was born in New York.

12

October

1948

English guitarist and long-term member of rock band Status Quo, Rick Parfitt (1948-2016, 68) was born in Woking, Surrey. ‏

6

November

1948

American guitarist, singer, songwriter, actor and founding member of country rock band Eagles, Glenn Frey (1948-2016, 67) was born in Detroit, Michigan.

3

December

1948

English singer, songwriter, TV personality and member of heavy metal rock band Black Sabbath, nicknamed ‘The Prince of Darkness’, Ozzy Osbourne was born in Birmingham.

13

December

1948

American guitarist, best known for his work with Steely Dan, The Doobie Brothers and Spirit, Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter was born in Washington D.C.

13

December

1948

Controversial American singer, songwriter and guitarist, known for his ultra-conservative political views, the ‘Motor City Madman’, Ted Nugent was born in Redford, Michigan.

18

December

1948

English guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer best known for his work with experimental rock band Be-Bop Deluxe, Bill Nelson was born in Wakefield, Yorkshire.

22

December

1948

American guitarist, singer and songwriter with rock band Cheap Trick, Rick Nielsen was born in Elmhurst, Illinois.

17

January

1949

English guitarist and former member of blues/rock bands John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and The Rolling Stones, Mick Taylor was born in Welwyn Garden City.

19

January

1949

English pop/rock singer and songwriter and member of rock bands Vinegar Joe and the Power Station, Robert Palmer was born in Batley, Yorkshire.

7

February

1949

English bass guitarist and founding member of pop/rock band Status Quo, Alan Lancaster was born in London.

31

March

1949

Record company, RCA Victor released their first 45RPM 7″ single, ‘Texarkana Baby’ by Eddy Arnold… on green vinyl.

3

April

1949

English guitarist, singer, songwriter, solo artist and former member of folk rock band Fairport Convention, Richard Thompson was born in London.

4

May

1949

Scottish guitarist, best known for his work with The Sensational Alex Harvey Band in the 1970s, Zal Cleminson was born in Glasgow.

17

May

1949

English guitarist, singer, composer and founder of progressive rock band Camel, Andrew Latimer was born in Guildford, Surrey.

19

May

1949

American bass guitarist and long-term member of southern blues/rock band ZZ Top, Dusty Hill was born in Dallas, Texas.

29

May

1949

English singer, songwriter and guitarist with rock/pop band Status Quo, Francis Rossi OBE was born in London.

17

July

1949

Great English bass guitarist with heavy metal rock band Black Sabbath, Terence ‘Geezer’ Butler was born in Aston, Birmingham.

12

August

1949

British guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer, composer and co-founder of rock band Dire Straits, Mark Knopfler OBE was born in Glasgow.

20

August

1949

Irish bass guitarist, singer, songwriter and founding member of rock group Thin Lizzy, Phil Lynott, (1949-1986, 36) was born in West Bromwich, Staffordshire, England.

25

August

1949

Israeli/American bass guitarist, singer, actor, businessman and co-founder of rock band KISS, Gene Simmons, nicknamed ‘The Demon’ was born in Tirat Carmel, Haifa, Israel.

28

August

1949

English guitarist, singer, songwriter and ex-member of punk rock pioneers, The Stranglers from 1974-1990, Hugh Cornwell was born in London.

5

September

1949

English guitarist with rock bands Colosseum, Humble Pie and a successful solo artist, Clem Clempson was born in Tamworth, Staffordshire.

14

September

1949

American guitarist with southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, Steve Gaines (1949-1977, 28) was born in Seneca, Missouri.

14

September

1949

American guitarist and bass guitarist with southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ed King (1949-2018, 68) was born in Glendale, California.

23

September

1949

American living legend that is ‘The Boss’, Mr. Bruce Springsteen was born in Long Branch, New Jersey.

3

October

1949

American guitarist, singer and songwriter primarily with rock band Fleetwood Mac and now solo, Lindsey Buckingham was born in Palo Alto, California.

8

November

1949

American blues, rock, Americana roots and with a hint of country guitarist, singer, songwriter and activist, Bonnie Raitt was born in Burbank, California.

6

December

1949

American blues/folk guitarist and singer, Lead Belly (Huddie William Ledbetter) died of motor neurone disease in New York at the age of 61.

7

December

1949

Prolific and hugely influential American singer, songwriter, composer and actor, Tom Waits was born in Pomona, California.

13

December

1949

American singer, songwriter and guitarist with alternative post-punk rock band Television, Tom Verlaine was born in Denville, New Jersey.

16

December

1949

American guitarist, singer and songwriter with blues/rock band ZZ Top and solo artist, Billy F. Gibbons was born in Houston, Texas.

23

December

1949

American guitarist and singer with a long solo career and known for his work with British progressive rock band King Crimson and a host of others including Frank Zappa, David Bowie and Talking Heads, Adrian Belew was born in Covington, Kentucky.

Tailpiece

Well, that’s it for another month – that is a veritable roll call of rock ‘n’ roll, all packed into just 10 years. The thing that struck me most about this article is the overwhelming focus on America and Britain as the drivers for musical change in the 20th Century. Today, we readily accept a much more diverse, global infusion of styles and influences. One can pontificate that it had to start somewhere and these two countries largely made it happen bilaterally; maybe not exclusively but certainly predominantly. Unsurprisingly, perhaps given the period, it is also male dominated.

Just how quickly we proceed from here depends entirely on the volume of the content. At this rate, we could be at this for a while yet. I didn’t realise when I started, what a colossal exercise it was going to be. However, I have found it fascinating to focus on musical evolution through this lens and I hope that you have found something of interest along the way. Maybe the Forties were not a great deal of interest to you, they were certainly before my time. We will get around to other periods that may motivate your attention span in a different way, I promise… eventually.

We are now well past the chronological midway point but we haven’t yet reached half way in terms of content. The massive upsurge of musical events that took place over the latter part of the 20th Century has still to unfold fully, raising the anticipation of plenty more to come… and, boy, is there plenty more! The ambitious effort to bring an interrelated bunch of musical factoids to life within the context of the broader human condition continues unabated. I hope you will join me on the rest of the journey, hopefully reconvening here‑ish next month. Until next time…

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

© 2019 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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May 2017 – 50 Albums of the Last Half-Century(-ish)

posted in: Observations, Opinion | 0

A little while ago, someone looked at the development of heavy metal from the 1970s to the 2000s and exemplified it by listing one album per year. Of course, this was just one perspective but, more generally, I thought it might be interesting to do something similar across all modern music genres.

This is only my catalogue of 50 years (actually 52 years but who’s counting?) of modern musical history. It is, of course, value-laden and massively subjective, with many great artists and albums excluded by the ruthless application of selection criteria, which included:

  • Must be an original album, not an EP or single
  • Only 1 album from each year (no reissues – original release date applies)
  • Only 1 album by any artist (band or solo)
  • The album must include some guitar work (i.e. no pure electronica)
  • Albums may come from any modern music genre
  • No compilations, ‘best of’ or various artist collections
  • They must be appreciated and owned by the author (i.e. not just made up or copied from elsewhere)

The resulting compendium is not representative of popularity, perceived wisdom, other people’s opinion or commercial success. It is simply my choices for a timeline covering over half a century of great music.

Why pick these 52 years? My age makes it difficult to go back further than the mid‑1960s for a start, so there aren’t any selections from the ‘birth’ of rock ‘n’ roll in about 1954 to the ‘dawn of rock’ in about 1965 – to be honest, I don’t own and am not particularly familiar with pre-’65 albums. I’ve brought it right up to date with 2016 being the last full year at the time of writing. However, anything beyond about 2010 is probably too recent to really place any kind of enduring significance to the entries – historical retrospective can be beneficial that respect. Arguably, the longer the intervening time period, the more consolidated, reliable and credible that hindsight becomes within context (discuss…).

Feel free to make up your own timeline over whatever period you like, using your own criteria. This is just my perspective; I can guarantee that anyone reading it will disagree with it and would produce a VERY different route through the roadmap of time. Actually, that’s both the point and the fun of it – if we all ended up with the same journey, we would live in a very dull world.

So… here we go, in chronological order…

The 1960s(-ish):

1965 Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited

1966 John Mayall’s Blues Breakers – Blues Breakers With Eric Clapton

1967 Jimi Hendrix – Are You Experienced

1968 The Velvet Underground – White Light/White Heat

1969 King Crimson – In The Court Of The Crimson King

The 1970s:

1970 Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath

1971 The Doors – L.A. Woman

1972 David Bowie – The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars

1973 John Martyn – Solid Air

1974 Lynyrd Skynyrd – Second Helping

1975 Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti

1976 Thin Lizzy – Jailbreak

1977 Bob Marley & The Wailers – Exodus

1978 AC/DC – Powerage

1979 The Clash – London Calling

The 1980s:

1980 Talking Heads – Remain In Light

1981 The Cramps – Psychedelic Jungle

1982 Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska

1983 ZZ Top – Eliminator

1984 Iron Maiden – Powerslave

1985 Dire Straits – Brothers In Arms

1986 Metallica – Master Of Puppets

1987 Guns n’ Roses – Appetite For Destruction

1988 Cowboy Junkies – The Trinity Session

1989 The Cure – Disintegration

The 1990s:

1990 Megadeth – Rust In Peace

1991 Nirvana – Nevermind

1992 Rage Against The Machine – Rage Against The Machine

1993 Dinosaur Jr – Where you BEEN

1994 Portishead – Dummy

1995 Sonic Youth – Washing Machine

1996 Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds – Murder Ballads

1997 Rammstein – Sehnsucht

1998 Massive Attack – Mezzanine

1999 Suede – Head Music

The 2000s:

2000 The White Stripes – De Stijl

2001 The Strokes – Is This It

2002 Beck – Sea Change

2003 Placebo – Sleeping With Ghosts

2004 Kasabian – Kasabian

2005 Editors – The Back Room

2006 Johnny Cash – American V: A Hundred Highways

2007 Seasick Steve – Dog House Music

2008 The Black Keys – Attack & Release

2009 The Horrors – Primary Colours

The 2010s (so far):

2010 Warpaint – The Fool

2011 The Kills – Blood Pressures

2012 Richard Hawley – Standing At The Sky’s Edge

2013 Savages – Silence Yourself

2014 Band Of Skulls – Himalayan

2015 Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool

2016 Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker

So… how many of these do you own and/or like? What course would you take through the last 5 decades? I’m sure that readers will be up in arms about what’s missing.

As with other CRAVE Guitars’ challenges, this exercise wasn’t as easy as when it was first envisaged. Reflecting on the list and making a few observations…

The albums listed are not necessarily my favourites; just ones that carry some meaning within the context of the topic. See my rant of July 2016 for my suggested top 20 most influential albums, some of which also appear in this list. There were many beloved albums (and favourite guitarists – see CRAVE Guitars’ February 2017 article) that didn’t make the final list. There are some great albums by great artists that don’t appear. Some albums on the list may not be the pinnacle of achievement by the artist but they appear because of the way the selection criteria worked.

The widely-regarded, guitar-dependent and ‘important classics’ on the timeline tend to come from the 1960s and ‘70s. These albums have stood the test of time and still have relevance today. Some represent ground-breaking events and their appearance on the timeline will be of no great surprise. Why no Rolling Stones or The Beatles on this list? Well, I’m not a Beatles fan and the Stones came close for a number of years including 2016 but got pipped at the post elsewhere. No Pink Floyd? Surprisingly not. No watershed albums like, for instance, Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’, Mike Oldfield’s ‘Tubular Bells’ or Sex Pistols ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’? Not on this occasion. No manufactured boy/girl bands from the formulaic TV ‘talent’ production line (or their heinous celebrity-driven ilk)? Heck no! Real music only, please.

While the available choice of albums seemed to increase significantly from the mid‑1990s, the quality of output seemed to become more homogenous with the increase in quantity, meaning that it was harder to pick outstanding entries and, by the time the new millennium arrived, it becomes increasingly difficult to pick out the exemplary future classics from amongst the multiplicity of also-ran material. This doesn’t mean that quality deteriorated, simply that the market became increasingly saturated and tour de forces became more difficult to define. Time will tell as to which ones (if any) will have the longevity to stand out as true masterpieces.

Some years were spoilt for choice and it was a VERY hard task to select just one entry from a wealth of great albums, while other years were very sparse and it was a case of selecting from the ‘best of the rest’. For some years, there was an obvious shoo-in, while for others years it was actually quite difficult to pick a ‘winner’ from an amorphous morass of uninspiring averageness.

Within modern western popular music, it is probably not a surprise that the majority of artists in the timeline are British or American, with a smattering from elsewhere (Canada, Jamaica, Germany and Australia). Perhaps increased globalisation and geographical dispersion may introduce new influences, especially from those areas with different musical cultures, e.g. the middle east, far east, Africa and South America. Perhaps these influences, generally categorised as ‘world music’, will become more mainstream, especially as the Internet provides greater access to hitherto niche markets.

In terms of diversity, certainly the older music was male/white dominated. While a few more females populate the latter years, there is still a general shortage of female musicians in the industry. Ethnicity is predominantly white, which was a bit of a surprise and it certainly wasn’t a conscious choice. Music is one of those industries where artists from diverse backgrounds have been able to succeed and influence successive generations. As in other forms of 21st century life, ensuring equality of opportunity for everyone and the music industry depends on the best talent, rather than to segregate on the basis of specific upbringings.

Many genres were evenly distributed. However, a number of genres were under‑represented including rap/hip-hop, reggae, dance/funk/disco, etc. Surprisingly, indie music seems to have taken more of a centre stage in the noughties and tweenies, at least in this exercise. How these albums age over time will be interesting. Bands tended to feature, rather than solo artists, which was notable.

There is some pretty impressive album artwork over the half-century. It is amazing how effective musical packaging design has been. We are, sadly, long past the heyday of album art integrated with popular cultural references. I can’t see that changing with current and future media delivery systems. Why should credible artists and designers stake their reputation on, say, the latest download fad?

The rigorous application of the selection criteria was particularly challenging and may well account for some of the more obvious anomalies. A different approach might have led to a more balanced (and perhaps more predictable) result.

A slight grammatical oddity; there are 3 albums on the list whose titles are clearly prima facie questions and none of them end in a ‘?’ (1967, 1993 and 2001). Weird or what?

A number of albums on the list were debut or sophomore albums, perhaps indicating that for many artists, the pool of inventive material is more furtive early on in the limelight and, for some, success actually seems to dilute the fire of creativity, resulting in shortened professional careers. There are relatively few who have the longevity of a lifelong career. Sadly, a large proportion of the artists are no longer with us and their potential is lost forever. We miss their imagination.

When thinking about future direction within the context of the past, the outlook appears healthy and increasingly disparate, despite the broadcast media’s obsession with exploitative ‘talent’ drivel. The days when a single type of music would dominate the ‘air waves’ (remember them?) looks increasingly unlikely, simply because of the volume of new music and the ways in which it is made available to the listening public.

What will be ‘the next big thing’ and will there be any (counter-)culturally significant new genre developments like metal, new wave, punk, rave, grunge, etc.? Major mainstream step changes are possibly unlikely; the musical landscape is now so varied that anything fundamentally new is likely to be genre-specific, for example dancehall and dubstep, rather than a mass‑market popular revolution.

The emergence of completely new trends becomes less likely over time, as it can also be argued that most original ideas have pretty much been used up by now. There can only be a finite number of combinations of existing musical patterns to fuel experimentation and ultimate acceptance. The number of plagiarism litigations suggests that the future will increasingly have to recycle and re-use existing ideas, rather than create new ones. Existing genre conventions, once they have become well‑established, also tend to constrain further creativity within that particular genre. Perhaps we will see more genre cross-overs in an attempt to find that spark of innovation and inspiration.

So there you have it. It has been another interesting little challenge that has also raised a few more peripheral questions. While it doesn’t really add anything to humanity’s collective knowledge, it passes time and the task makes one think (again).

Finally, seeing as CRAVE (Cool & Rare American Vintage Electric) Guitars is all about the venerable instrument, think of all the great guitars and the guitarists that wielded them that feature on not only all the albums listed above but also all the ones that have been missed out.

This is the final monthly article before the ‘big move’ and, hopefully, things beginning to get back on track. Proverbially, I’ll see you on the other side. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars’ ‘Quote of the Month’: “If actions speak louder than words, why can’t people hear what I’m doing?”

© 2017 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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February 2017 – Favourite Guitarists And Why

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This month, I’m continuing with a list-like feature. This isn’t laziness, it’s just about time I focused back specifically on guitars and guitarists.

Here are some of the guitarists I enjoy listening to and, linking back to my January 2017 article about why we like what we like, artists that I keep coming back to for more. If there was some sort of formula that is common to all of them, it might be expressed as:

Unique talent + quality instrument + great song writing + timing + opportunity = music history.

The first ‘variable’ above is a key ingredient… talent. Most phenomenal guitarists are instantly recognisable by their distinctive sound, which is more about the person than the instrument they play. Simply put, no-one sounds like them. Why? It comes down to individual technique. It’s the same with classical painters, each one highly recognisable for their outputs, even though the inputs are essentially the same (paint, brushes, canvas, etc.). As the late great Stevie Ray Vaughan sagely commented, “Your sound is in your hands as much as anything. It is the way you pick and the way you hold the guitar, more than it is the amp or guitar you use”. In addition to the “it’s in the hands” adage, they also often have a ‘how do they do that?’ factor that differentiates them from the hoi poloi (NB. for trivia fans, from the Greek meaning ‘the many’). For guitarists to shine there needs to be strong song writing – it doesn’t actually matter who wrote any particular track, it’s how it is interpreted that matters.

Most guitarists will own several guitars and use then for certain situations. Many top guitarists may have extensive collections, although they tend to have one instrument or model with which they are uniquely associated. Combine that stylistic talent with, perhaps, a ‘signature’ instrument and the basics are there. By ‘quality’, I simply mean ‘fit for purpose’ within this context. Using a ‘favourite’ guitar is not a prerequisite, however, it is likely that removing a physical impediment to technique (i.e. an inappropriate guitar) has liberated many players to feel, rather than think, about their playing. There is something special in the relationship between player and preferred instrument that adds a ‘secret ingredient’ that no-one else could muster from it.

Another characteristic of accomplished guitarists with longevity is that they usually have a refined sense of song writing, either on their own or as part of a band, often prolifically so. They instinctively know what people tune into, including well-honed sense of harmony, melody, tempo, etc. They also adapt their writing over time to accommodate changing listening tastes. It isn’t just about image or the axe that they wield.

There is something to be said about time period and cultural context and being in the ‘right place at the right time’. If any of these guitarists were struggling to establish a career in today’s Spotify-saturated, X‑Factor sterilised world, would they stand out and have a chance? I would wager not. Many of these greats were also pioneers who broke the mould at their time in some way – they are not generic or homogenous. Musical integrity and coherency have been shattered by our seemingly insatiable appetite for the iTunes attention deficit disorder-oriented society. It is so much harder to be genuinely innovative now, which may explain why there are so few challengers striving to not only usurp the thrones of the exalted ‘old-timers’ but also to stay there. Aspiration and ambition is just the start, achieving longevity and legendary status is another matter altogether.

Some other characteristics spring to mind, these guitarists were as sound at rhythm guitar as they are at lead lines. So many great tunes would flounder without the solid rhythm chops from great guitarists who knew how to groove in their chosen genre.

I would also argue that these guitarists are/were as great at playing live, as they are/were in the studio. On stage, there is nowhere to hide and these artists have to work very, very hard to earn and sustain credibility over many years of continuous touring.

So… to the point… at long last. As my guitarists of choice are diverse in style, genre, time period, success, etc., it was impossible to rank them from 1-20, so they are presented in alphabetical order for fairness and simplicity. I’ve indicated the instrument(s) that they are often associated with, as well as a track that, for me, acted as an entry point into their canon (not necessarily their best or most well-known track), a catalyst if you will for grabbing my aspirational attention.

1. Jeff Beck (1944-) – Where on Earth does one start with a genius like Mr Beck? Invention, reinvention, experimentation and continually challenging the boundaries of what can be done with 6 strings on a Strat. No-one comes close to decades of innovation. As soon as you think you’ve nailed his rut, he surprises by a change of direction with consummate musicianship in whatever he does. Listen: ‘Brush With The Blues’ (1999). Guitars: Fender Stratocaster, Gibson Les Paul Standard, Fender Telecaster

2. Ritchie Blackmore (1945-) – Ignoring well-documented character traits, Blackmore’s Deep Purple/Rainbow rock era featured some of the most incendiary, flamboyant and flashy lead lines, all seemingly delivered with minimal effort. Extraordinary. Credit for following his passion in traditional guitar, rather than selling out/cashing in by endlessly regurgitating ‘Smoke On The Water’ for decades. Listen: ‘Child In Time’ (1972). Guitar: Fender Stratocaster

3. Dimebag Darrell (1966-2004, 38) – Sadly, the late ‘Dimebag’ Darrell Lance Abbott was taken too young. Metal guitarists are often easily categorised without really appreciating their innate talent and abilities. Darrell was a terrific guitarist with soul and technical skill that is hugely under-appreciated both for storming southern-tinged riffs and searing lead lines with Pantera. Listen: ‘Cemetery Gates’ (1990). Guitar: Dean ML

4. Rory Gallagher (1948-1995, 47) – A unique talent not sufficiently acknowledged while he was alive, his contribution and reputation has rocketed since his demise. The modest and unassuming Gallagher had a tremendous ear for fusing blues tropes with an astounding melodic sensibility evoking his Irish roots. A great slide player too. Live, he was astounding, consumed with energy and passion that few could match. Listen: ‘Calling Card’ (1976). Guitar: Fender Stratocaster

5. Billy Gibbons (1945-) – With his roots deep in Texan blues, ‘the greatest beard in rock’ can make his axe sing with great feeling, as evidenced by early material. As part of ZZ Top, he pushed R&B boogie into the limelight with mega commercial success, thereby adding more flavours to his not inconsiderable palette. Listen: ‘Blue Jeans Blues’ (1975). Guitars: Gibson Les Paul Standard, Gretsch Billy Bo

6. Kirk Hammett (1962-) – Another metal guitarist who knows how to use a guitar in anger as a member of Metallica. Listen to his playing and there is much more than flashy thrash metal guitar work. His legacy will forever be integrated with the riff from ‘Enter Sandman’. Look beyond those few familiar notes and be rewarded. Listen: ‘Seek & Destroy’ (1983). Guitar: ESP

7. Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970, 27) – Predictable. To attempt to explain in a few words what James Marshall Hendrix unleashed on rock music during his short career would be inadequate. He was a true revolutionary and showman, imbued with massive talent and skills honed through passion, dedication and commitment. Contemporary music owes a massive debt to a true pioneer and just think what he could have achieved. Listen: ‘All Along The Watchtower’ (1968). Guitars: Fender Stratocaster, Gibson Flying V

8. Steve Hillage (1951-) – Easily overlooked because of his relatively obscure ‘hippie’ career (Gong, System 7), Hillage is a talented and individual guitarist with a very recognisable tone and style. Even in later years, which focus heavily on electronic dance grooves, guitar remains an important stylistic element. His contribution is much undervalued. Listen: ‘Hurdy Gurdy Glissando’ (1976). Guitars: Fender Stratocaster, Gibson Les Paul Standard

9. John Lee Hooker (1917-2001, 83) – Hooker was a true individualist who always played by his own rules. He is one of the most expressive and soulful bluesmen, his emotions emanating through his guitar and gravelly vocals. Yes BB may be the King but JLH was a blues Hooker at one with his delta roots. At his best just him and his guitar, rather than the sanitised reverential collaborations. Listen: ‘Crawlin’ Kingsnake’ (1991). Guitars: Epiphone Sheraton, Gibson ES-335

10. Tony Iommi (1948-) – Where would rock be without Black Sabbath. Another guitarist who ploughed a furrow that hadn’t previously been ploughed and as the ‘godfather of metal’, his influence has justly pervaded the landscape of modern hard rock and metal for decades. How much of his individual style resulted from his infamous industrial accident, we can never know. Listen: ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’ (1973). Guitars: Jaydee Custom S.G. ‘Old Boy’, Gibson SG

11. John Martyn (1948-2009, 60) – Martyn started off in traditional English folk music and then something happened and he became a true experimenter using delay and other effects to create something completely new and adventurous, mostly on acoustic guitar. In addition to innovating, he also retained the heartfelt lyrical nature of his music, using guitar to complement his unique voice. Listen: ‘I’d Rather Be The Devil’ (1973).  Guitar: Martin D‑28

12. J. Mascis (1965-) – Often described as an alternative maverick, born of the New York punk era, Mascis is a genuine one-off and enduring front man of Dinosaur Jr. A bit like Neil Young on steroids. As a guitarist, he doesn’t stun with millions of notes and sterile technical ability but, boy, does he put some energy and power into his searing, laser-guided lead lines that have impressed consistently over the years. Always on the fringe. Listen: ‘Out There’ (1993). Guitar: Fender Jazzmaster

13. Brian May (1947-) – Dr. May’s melodic and harmonic brilliance will forever be remembered for his Mercury-period Queen. However, like his distinctive home‑made guitar, the astrophysicist created a unique and recognisable guitar style that pervades western culture. His MTV pop sensibilities are as strong as his earlier rock riffs. Listen: ‘Seven Seas Of Rhye’ (1974). Guitar: Brian May Red Special

14. John McLaughlin (1942-) – In terms of phenomenal ability, dexterity and skill, McLaughlin is near, if not at, the top of the tree. Not only is his speed and proficiency astounding, his genre-spanning flexibility is formidable. Describing his playing can only be achieved through hyperbole. An extraordinary guitar superman. Listen: ‘Vital Transformation’ (1971). Guitar: PRS

15. Gary Moore (1952-2011, 58) – In later years before his untimely death, Moore concentrated on the blues, joining the ranks of the few white, non-American blues legends. Go back earlier in his career and his abilities at rock and fusion show just what a great and adaptable guitarist he was. Listen: ‘Stormy Monday’ (2001). Guitars: Fender Stratocaster, Gibson Les Paul Standard

16. Tom Morello (1964-) – Probably the youngest of the guitarists to make the list. Go back to RATM’s debut album and reflect on the pounding riffs and genuinely innovative lead playing and recognise that Morello is one of those guitarists who could take the mainstream and adapt it into something no-one had heard before. Listen: ‘Bombtrack’ (1992). Guitar: ‘Arm The Homeless’ custom

17. Carlos Santana (1947-) – Renowned for his ability to sustain notes, Carlos was also a very fluid player and highly acclaimed for his feel. From his appearance at the end of the 1960s to today, he can produce an inimitable and remarkable guitar tone. He could play blindingly fast and he could also turn out achingly emotive lead lines. Listen: ‘Samba Pa Ti’ (1970). Guitar: PRS Santana

18. Jimmy Page (1944-) – Like Blackmoore, Iommi and Hammett, Page is another guitarist whose legacy may be forever associated with a single track in the consciousness of the music listening public (Stairway To Heaven). However, Zeppelin-era Page is a multi-talented guitarist. It is a shame that he hasn’t been able to shine to the same extent in his post-Zep solo career. Listen: ‘Kashmir’ (1975). Guitar: Gibson Les Paul Standard, Danelectro 3021

19. Stevie Ray Vaughan (1954-1990, 35) – SRV is another guitar phenomenon taken from us way too young. Unapologetically Texas blues to his core, he shared Hendrix’s immense ability to introduce many other styles into his playing, including jazzy influences. Another whose formidable combination of talent and relentless hard work set him apart from the crowd. Listen: ‘Tin Pan Alley’ (1999). Guitar: Fender Stratocaster

20. Neil Young (1945-) – Quite often referred to as the master of the one-note guitar solo, this underrates his ability to wring considerable emotional content from just a few well-chosen, emotionally driven and sparingly targeted tones. One thing is for sure, his distinctive tone and style has sustained his well-deserved reputation over many decades. Listen: ‘Southern Man’ (1970). Guitar: Gibson Les Paul Standard

Most of these guitarists will, perhaps, be obvious entries. However, there may be a few unexpected curve balls thrown in for good measure. Of course (don’t you just hate it when people say that!), there is a very long list of superb guitarists that didn’t make the 20 above, including the likes of George Benson, Joe Bonamassa, Eric Clapton, Robben Ford, John Frusciante, Peter Green, Steve Hackett, Allan Holdsworth, BB King, Paul Kossoff, Robby Krieger, Randy Rhoads, Mick Ronson, Joe Satriani, Slash, Steve Vai, Van Halen, Jack White, Johnny Winter, Zakk Wylde, Angus Young, Frank Zappa, etc., etc., etc. It’s virtually impossible to name them all. While I recognise their massive influence, this is my list of guitarists, not a regurgitation of anyone else’s list or a contrived list of ‘stature derived through perceived wisdom’.

There are also guitarists who aren’t listed above and who perhaps aren’t considered ‘great’ guitarists stylistically but are still notable for the instrument being an integral part of their music, e.g. Marc Bolan, Robert Smith, Thurston Moore, etc.

I also haven’t strayed into bass guitar but that’s an easy one for me, evidenced by the mercurial virtuoso skills of the incomparable, and sadly late, great Jaco Pastorius. Danny Thompson and Tal Wilkenfeld also deserve honourable mentions in this category for me.

Interestingly, 7 of the above guitarists (35%) are sadly no longer with us. Thankfully, at least 13 (65%) of them still are. I have been fortunate enough to see just over half of them play live and, of the ones I have seen, I can attest to their consummate skills. One thing I noticed when researching this article is how many of these guitarists regularly wear/wore hats when playing live (around a quarter of them). Head apparel seems a quintessential part of a guitarist’s touring equipment for many.

In terms of a ‘golden era’, many of these artists had their zenith between the late 1960s and the early 1980s. After a 10-year hiatus in the proverbial doldrums of the post-punk electronic era, there was a gradual resurgence of interest in guitar music from the 1990s that thankfully reignited a passion for the art into the 21st century. Thankfully that interest continues to flourish and diversify today, which will hopefully incentivise whole new generations of exciting new guitar heroes (genuine ones, not the ‘game’) to carve an identity for themselves.

One thing that does bother me is that there are no female guitarists on the list. This is more a reflection of historical exposure that male guitarists have had compared to female guitarists. It is not a misogynistic trait, just circumstance. There are great guitarists out there, e.g. Carrie Brownstein, Eva Cassidy, Lita Ford, Charlotte Hatherley, Kaki King, Orianthi Panagaris, Bonnie Raitt, Nancy Wilson, etc., they are just not my most listened to guitarists. There are also many girl bands, like Warpaint, Haim, Dum Dum Girls, Sleater Kinney, Smoke Fairies, etc., which is positive. Those who are familiar with my rants on the subject will know that I believe ‘girls with guitars are cool’. My view is that, as in any other streak of life, gender should not pose a barrier to success and there are some very accomplished female guitarists out there. Personally, I would dearly like to see equality and inclusion. Having said that, I don’t believe girls are actively excluded, it’s just that the prevailing environment isn’t conducive to girls seeking guitar playing as a job in the same way as there is, for instance, in orchestral classical music.

Also, as mentioned at the start, there essentially are no modern-era guitarists on the list. The most recent on the list above are from the 1990s, rather than the noughties and teenies; this is still around a quarter of a century ago now. There are many, many very talented modern-day guitarists out there but, again, they just didn’t make my list. I look forward to emerging guitarists taking up the reins. One wonders who we might admire in the future, in addition to the current greats.

What, though, really separates the greats from the very talented also-rans who also work very hard at their craft? If we all knew that, it wouldn’t be a question. Is it serendipity, happenstance, luck, contacts, situation? Perhaps the old adage that ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’, plays its part.

I only wish I had a minute fraction of the ability demonstrated by the guitarists mentioned here. Sadly, I don’t have that kind of talent (despite the hard work), so I have to end up writing about them!

One thing we might learn from them is that we shouldn’t try to imitate them. By all means emulate and pay homage to them but only if you can actually do what they do better than them – try that particular strategy and see how far you get! Perhaps another lesson for stalwart gear heads is that the guitars don’t make the guitarist, mostly anyone can own a Fender Stratocaster or Gibson Les Paul but not everyone can be a SRV or Jimmy Page – guitars are simply the professional tools of the expert craftsman. However, put the two together and something very special can happen. Modern music would not be the same without the skilled practitioner and their axes of choice, creating magic for us mere plebs to wonder at and aspire to.

CRAVE Guitars ‘Music Quote of the Month’: “If music is the result of passion, passion is the music of life.”

© 2017 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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July 2016 – Personal Top 20 Most Influential Guitar Albums

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In previous articles, I’ve touched on various personal aspects of guitars and guitar playing, including:

  • ‘why’ – the reason I picked up and played guitar
  • ‘how’ – the way that my relationship with the guitar developed from first contact to the current day
  • ‘what’ – the actual bits of wood, metal and plastic that keep me enthralled and passionate about the electric guitar as a musical instrument

This month, it’s a bit about more about the ‘who’ – no, not the band but the artists that made albums which have in some way motivated me to keep playing guitar over the years and perhaps most influenced the type of music I still listen to regularly

Just think of the great guitars, many of them now vintage, that were used by talented musicians to create the music in the first place. It is worth saying that these recordings probably wouldn’t have perpetuated as well as they have without these artists also working incredibly hard to play live music in front of ticket-paying audiences. The point is that it is really important to keep music live.

So… here is CRAVE Guitars’ Top 20 Guitar Albums that have been most influential to me. They aren’t necessarily ones you might think of as great guitar albums and many don’t have guitars as the focal point, so the impact has been subtle but profound. Flashy, flamboyant fretwork may be impressive but it is not enough on its own to make the grade.I have never been artist obsessed; I just don’t have guitar idols or role models so there is no celebrity reverence involved in the choices. Unlike many people, my tastes are also not fixed to one particular period of time or genre of music.

It was very hard to compile the list, knowing that it would not be representative of the wealth of great guitar music over the last 60+ years. The eventual ones that made it haven’t been ranked, so are presented in date order – just too difficult. Does the list represent the pinnacle of guitar playing? No, it doesn’t and it isn’t intended to; it’s a very personal list. Is the whole album great? No, there are no ‘perfect’ albums but they are, in my opinion, particularly notable – that’s all. What about the ones missed out? Too many to mention, including many that are ‘better’ for so many reasons, just not to me as part of this exercise. In addition, there are many, many great albums that don’t feature guitars at all, which naturally excludes them from this list.

What is it about these albums that makes them stand out above the average and, perhaps more tellingly, why they usurped other, perhaps more traditionally fashionable ‘great guitar albums’. The criteria (the first is a killer!) included:

  1. There could only be one album from any artist
  2. They could come from any period of modern music
  3. They must feature guitar playing, not necessarily front-and-centre but somewhere in the mix
  4. Live albums are included, hoever ‘best of’ collections and compilations are not
  5. They had to be ones I own and listen to, not just ones with a strong reputation
  6. They had a major ‘wow’ factor on first listen and, importantly, they have stood the test of time
  7. There is an emotional connection with the music, not just band credibility
  8. They transcend mood and can actually change one’s attitude
  9. Enrich one’s existence to some degree and make life worth experiencing

Here are the albums presented in chronological order, each with a short explanation as to why each is here:

  1. Santana – Abraxas (1970) – amongst the many classic Latin-tinged songs is the sublime leisurely instrumental ‘Samba Pa Ti’, which stood out for Carlos’ exquisite and nuanced guitar phrasing and tone
  2. Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath (1970) – nothing else like it before or, frankly, since; the album that started metal, especially with the archetypal doom-laden opening title track
  3. The Doors – L.A. Woman (1971) – such great song writing including, amongst others, the insistently driving title track and the massively moody laid-back ‘Riders On The Storm’
  4. T. Rex – Electric Warrior (1971) – Marc Bolan’s shift of style signalled the birth of glam rock. Who could have seen this coming or imagined the legacy it would leave. Familiar chart hits include ‘Jeepster’ and ‘Get It On’
  5. Pink Floyd – Meddle (1971) – my very first album purchase after hearing it premiered on John Peel’s radio show. It transfixed from start to end. Just amazing at the time, especially ‘One Of These Days’ and the epic ‘Echoes’
  6. David Bowie – Aladdin Sane (1972) – less pop-like than other obvious alternatives. Some striking musical innovation and some astounding avant garde moments. The chart hits included the title track and ‘The Jean Genie’
  7. John Martyn – Solid Air (1973) – Martyn had been experimenting with processed guitar and was pushing the boundaries of what it could do, resulting in this very special landmark album including the achingly cool title track and the desperately melancholic ‘May You Never’
  8. Lynyrd Skynyrd – Second Helping (1974) – no ‘Freebird’ here, but the album that brought the Florida wild boys to the UK’s attention. A really solid sophomore album that is so much more than the now clichéd ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, for instance the simple but effective riff on ‘Working For MCA’
  9. Bob Marley & The Wailers – Live! At The Lyceum (1975) – sometimes, a live album captures the essence of an artist’s best work in a single time and place, this is one, topped by the passionate and evocative ‘No Woman No Cry’
  10. Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti (1975) – not any of the first 5 iconic LPs but the double album that came out when I went to see them play live in London as a teenager. The colossal ‘Kashmir’ instantly blew me away, ‘nuff said
  11. Rory Gallagher – Against The Grain (1975) – another artist who came across better live than in the studio. Rory released this around the time that I saw him play in Brighton, so it beat ‘Irish Tour ‘74’ to the list
  12. Steve Hillage – L (1976) – a highly underrated guitarist and a post-Gong solo album that epitomised the alternative trippy-hippy, effect-laden space rock of the era. No chart material here but lovely guitar, clearly ‘in the zone’
  13. The Clash – London Calling (1979) – the title track nails the social context of the immediate post-punk period, articulating deep social unrest, the country’s polarised economic divisions and a generation’s frustrations with pre‑Thatcherite politics. Both timeless and very much of its time
  14. Talking Heads – Remain In Light (1980) – it starts with David Byrne’s complex, overlaid upbeat grooves and distinctive vocals, then descends into deep dark interwoven ambient territory. Go beyond the familiar hits and explore the brooding and intense ‘Listening Wind’ and ‘The Overload’. Scary
  15. ZZ Top – Eliminator (1983) – Texas boogie-blues morphs into mega-pop extravaganza with the now overplayed massive chart hits and much more, like ‘TV Dinners’ and ‘Bad Girl’. Ignore the sexist whinging and just enjoy the hot‑rodded road trip
  16. Stevie Ray Vaughan – Couldn’t Stand The Weather (1984) – kicks off with the frenzied instrumental ‘Scuttle Buttin’’, homages and almost upstages Hendrix’s ‘Voodoo Chile’ and then caps it with the knock-out slow blues of ‘Tin Pan Alley’. Pure blues genius
  17. Dire Straits – Brothers In Arms (1985) – consistently great song writing with some natty guitar work too, including the classic riffing of ‘Money for Nothing’ and closing with the poignant title track. Personally significant as this was my very last vinyl purchase, so ushering in the digital age
  18. The Cure – Disintegration (1989) – my all-time favourite album (so far) and as close as Robert Smith came to a coherently perfect recording. Contrast the heartfelt warmth of ‘Love Song’, with creepy ‘Lullaby’ and the deeply dark and sinister ‘Fascination Street’. Understated guitar work, compelling and hard to beat over a quarter of a century later
  19. Metallica – Metallica (1991) – migrating from thrash genre roots to full-on heavy metal rock stardom, the shift of tone resulted in massive commercial success. Now regarded as an all-time classic, which belies its original achievement, including the ubiquitous guitar-shop riff, ‘Enter Sandman’. Go beyond and admire
  20. Rage Against The Machine – Rage Against The Machine (1992) – the genre‑busting aural assault fused highly politicised rap lyrics and Tom Morello’s stunning guitar work to create something genuinely ground‑breaking. Never bettered, the eponymous debut album includes the storming ‘Killing In The Name’ and ‘Bullet In The Head’. Still edgy today

Nothing really from before 1970 you say? Well, only because it was a bit before my time and many of the gems from that era were discovered later, Hendrix, Cream, Velvet Underground, etc. Nothing newer than 1992 you ask? It is disappointing that the most recent album is now 24 years old, begging the question, “Where are the great guitar albums of the 21st century?” This is lamentable, especially as there are so many excellent guitarists out there. Clearly, it is time to do something about it guys and gals.

If that list is too exclusive, here are some close runners up (also in date order):

  • Jimi Hendrix – Electric Ladyland (1968)
  • King Crimson – In The Court Of The Crimson King (1969)
  • Neil Young – After The Goldrush (1970)
  • The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers (1971)
  • Genesis – Nursery Cryme (1971)
  • Deep Purple – Made In Japan (1972)
  • Thin Lizzy – Jailbreak (1975)
  • 801 – 801 Live (1976)
  • Burning Spear – Garvey’s Ghost (1976)
  • Fleetwood Mac – Rumours (1977)
  • Nirvana – Never Mind (1991)
  • Beck – Odelay (1996)
  • Kasabian – Kasabian (2004)
  • The Kills – Blood Pressures (2011)
  • Richard Hawley – Standing at the Sky’s Edge (2012)

So, there you have it – my personal top 20 guitar albums… so far. These are not recommendations and it doesn’t prescribe essential listening. It is just one individual’s biased choice. I Have to say that it was more difficult than I thought to justify my limited selection. What inspires you is, of course, for you to decide for yourself. I hope there’s something in my list that provides a refreshing change, while also acknowledging the recognised greats. Doing this has made me review my longer ‘Top 100’ list on the CRAVE Guitars web site, take a look (click here to see the long list…).

What next? I am always looking to the future and curious about what’s yet to come. I hope that future great guitar albums can match the excellence of the past. Here’s anticipating. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars ‘Music Quote of the Month’: “Over think music and it becomes sterile. Under think music and you have probably been sterilised”

© 2016 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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