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

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

Introduction

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

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

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

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

The Story of Modern Music Part XIII

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

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

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

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

Quotes about music by musicians

Right… let’s go. Enjoy.

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

‘Dimebag’ Darrell Abbot (1966-2004)

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

Damon Albarn (1968-)

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

Billie Joe Armstrong (1972-)

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

Louis Armstrong (1901-1971)

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

Louis Armstrong (1901-1971)

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

Louis Armstrong (1901-1971)

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

Chet Atkins (1924-2001)

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

Roy Ayers (1940-)

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

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

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

Syd Barrett (1946-2006)

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

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Music comes to me more readily than words

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Music is like a dream. One that I cannot hear

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

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

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

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

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

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

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

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

Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)

Music can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable

Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)

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

Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)

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

Chuck Berry (1926-2017)

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

Chuck Berry (1926-2017)

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

Nuno Bettencourt (1966-)

Music can change the world because it can change people

Bono (1960-)

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

Bono (1960-)

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

David Bowie (1947-2016)

I wanted to prove the sustaining power of music

David Bowie (1947-2016)

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

Billy Bragg (1957-)

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

Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)

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

Big Bill Broonzy (1893-1958)

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

James Brown (1933-2006)

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

Jeff Buckley (1966-1997)

Punk was defined by an attitude rather than a musical style

David Byrne (1952-)

We don’t make music, it makes us

David Byrne (1952-)

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

David Byrne (1952-)

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

David Byrne (1952-)

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

Pablo Casals (1876-1973)

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

Johnny Cash (1932-2003)

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

Ray Charles (1930-2004)

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

Ray Charles (1930-2004)

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

Ray Charles (1930-2004)

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

Ray Charles (1930-2004)

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

Ray Charles (1930-2004)

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

Eric Clapton (1945-)

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

Eric Clapton (1945-)

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

Stanley Clarke (1951-)

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

Kurt Cobain (1967-1994)

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

Joe Cocker (1944-2014)

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

Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)

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

Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)

Music is the emotional life of most people

Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)

Nobody leaves this place without singing the blues

Albert Collins (1932-1993)

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

Albert Collins (1932-1993)

Musicians understand each other through means other than speaking

Ry Cooder (1947-)

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

Aaron Copland (1900-1990)

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

Sheryl Crow (1962-)

Every song is like a painting

Dick Dale (1937-2019)

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

Dick Dale (1937-2019)

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

Nick Drake (1948-1974)

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

Bob Dylan (1941-)

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

The Edge (1961-)

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

The Edge (1961-)

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

The Edge (1961-)

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

Edward Elgar (1857-1934)

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

Duke Ellington (1899-1974)

I need drama in my life to keep making music

Eminem (1972-)

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

Eminem (1972-)

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

Brian Eno (1948-)

I’m a painter in sound

Brian Eno (1948-)

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

Brian Eno (1948-)

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

John Fogerty (1945-)

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

Aretha Franklin (1942-2018)

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

Ace Frehley (1951-)

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

Ace Frehley (1951-)

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

Keith Flint (1969-2019)

Music is the wine that fills the cup of silence

Robert Fripp (1946-)

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

Rory Gallagher (1948-1995)

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

George Gershwin (1898-1937)

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

Ira Gershwin (1896-1983)

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

Billy Gibbons (1949-)

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

Benny Goodman (1909-1986)

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

Dave Grohl (1969-)

Anyone who used more than three chords is just showing off

Woody Guthrie   (1912-1967)

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

Buddy Guy (1936-)

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

Buddy Guy (1936-)

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

Herbie Hancock (1940-)

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

Debbie Harry (1945-)

Music is a safe kind of high

Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970)

Music is my religion

Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970)

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

Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970)

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

Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970)

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

Billie Holiday (1915-1959)

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

Josh Homme (1973-)

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

Peter Hook (1956-)

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

John Lee Hooker (1912-2001)

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

John Lee Hooker (1912-2001)

No matter what you got, the blues is there

John Lee Hooker (1912-2001)

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

John Lee Hooker (1912-2001)

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

John Lee Hooker (1912-2001)

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

John Lee Hooker (1912-2001)

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

Lightnin’ Hopkins (1912-1982)

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

Son House (1902-1988)

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

Son House (1902-1988)

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

Billy Idol (1955-)

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

Billy Idol (1955-)

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

Neil Innes (1944-)

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

Janet Jackson (1966-)

I believe that through music we can help heal the world

Michael Jackson (1958-2009)

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

Mick Jagger (1943-)

You start out playing rock ‘n’ roll so you can have sex and do drugs, but you end up doing drugs so you can still play rock ‘n’ roll and have sex

Mick Jagger (1943-)

My mother always told me, even if a song has been done a thousand times, you can still bring something of your own to it. I like to think I did that

Etta James (1938-2012)

I grew up in a world that told girls they couldn’t play rock ‘n’ roll

Joan Jett (1958-)

If nothing else, music lets you know that you’re not alone

Joan Jett (1958-)

Music is healing. It’s a really powerful thing, not to be taken lightly

Joan Jett (1958-)

I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music

Billy Joel (1949-)

Musicians want to be the loud voice for so many quiet hearts

Billy Joel (1949-)

Music has healing power. It has the ability to take people out of themselves for a few hours

Elton John (1947-)

I been studyin’ the rain and I’m ‘on drive my blues away

Robert Johnson (1911-1938)

Some people tell me that the worried blues ain’t bad. Worst old feelin’ I most ever had

Robert Johnson (1911-1938)

The blues is a low down achin’ chill

Robert Johnson (1911-1938)

If you think you’re too old to rock ‘n’ roll then you are

Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister (1945-2015)

And as long as people have problems, the blues can never die

BB King (1925-2015)

Notes are expensive… spend them wisely

BB King (1925-2015)

I think no matter what kind of music you play, there will be moments when you feel like it’s all been done before

Kerry King (1964-)

Music is my life, it is a reflection of what I go through

Lenny Kravitz (1964-)

And I think for me, any great art is art which communicates human emotion

Greg Lake (1947-2016)

The bottom line is that musicians love to make music and always will

Jennifer Lopez (1969-)

If being an egomaniac means I believe in what I do and in my art or music, then in that respect you can call me that… I believe in what I do, and I’ll say it

John Lennon (1940-1980)

Songwriting is like… being possessed. You try to go to sleep but the song won’t let you

John Lennon (1940-1980)

Music is an extraordinary vehicle for expressing emotion – very powerful emotions. That’s what draws millions of people towards it. And, um, I found myself always going for these darker places and – people identify with that

Annie Lennox (1954-)

Nothing pleases me more than to go into a room and come out with a piece of music

Paul McCartney (1942-)

I always said punk was an attitude. It was never about having a Mohican haircut or wearing a ripped T-shirt. It was all about destruction, and the creative potential within that

Malcolm McLaren (1946-2010)

The popularity of punk rock was, in effect, due to the fact that it made ugliness beautiful

Malcolm McLaren (1946-2010)

Music is born out of the inner sounds within a soul

John McLaughlin (1942-)

Actors always want to be musicians, and musicians want to be actors

Marilyn Manson (1969-)

Music is the strongest form of magic

Marilyn Manson (1969-)

My music fights against the system that teaches to live and die

Bob Marley (1945-1981)

My music will go on forever. Maybe it’s a fool say that, but when me know facts me can say facts. My music will go on forever

Bob Marley (1945-1981)

One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain

Bob Marley (1945-1981)

I’m just a musical prostitute, my dear

Freddie Mercury (1946-1991)

Life is too short to listen to bad music

Freddie Mercury (1946-1991)

What I look for in musicians is a sense of infinity

Pat Metheny (1954-)

All musicians are subconsciously mathematicians

Thelonious Monk (1917-1982)

A musician’s or artist’s responsibility is a simple one, and that is, through your music to tell the truth

Tom Morello (1964-)

Music inflames temperament

Jim Morrison (1943-1971)

Music is the magic carpet that carries poetry

Jim Morrison (1943-1971)

Music is spiritual. The music business is not

Van Morrison (1945-)

You can’t stay the same. If you’re a musician and a singer, you have to change, that’s the way it works

Van Morrison (1945-)

Three chords and the truth – that’s what a country song is

Willie Nelson (1933-)

If it’s too loud, you’re too old

Ted Nugent (1948-)

If I ever really felt depressed, I would just start putting on all my old records that I played as a kid, because the whole thing that really lifted me then still lifted me then, still lifted me during those other times

Jimmy Page (1944-)

I’m all about inspiring young musicians to get out there and express themselves through music

Orianthi Panagaris (1985-)

Master your instrument. Master the music. And then forget all that bullshit and just play

Charlie Parker (1920-1955)

Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn

Charlie Parker (1920-1955)

They teach you there’s a boundary line to music. But, man, there’s no boundary line to art

Charlie Parker (1920-1955)

You can’t go to the store and buy a good ear and rhythm

Les Paul (1915-2009)

If children are not introduced to music at an early age, I believe something fundamental is actually being taken from them

Luciano Pavarotti (1935-2007)

I don’t know, my music has always just come from where the wind blew me. Like where I’m at during a particular moment in time

Tom Petty (1950-2017)

Music is probably the only real magic I have encountered in my life. There’s not some trick involved with it. It’s pure and it’s real. It moves, it heals, it communicates and does all these incredible things

Tom Petty (1950-2017)

I don’t know how much more expressive you can get than being a rock and roll singer

Robert Plant (1948-)

Music is for every single person that walks the planet

Robert Plant (1948-)

I like music that’s more offensive. I like it to sound like nails on a blackboard, get me wild

Iggy Pop (1947-)

Music is life, and life is not a business

Iggy Pop (1947-)

‘Punk rock’ is a word used by dilettantes and heartless manipulators about music that takes up the energies, the bodies, the hearts, the souls, the time and the minds of young men who give everything they have to it

Iggy Pop (1947-)

Rock and roll music, if you like it, if you feel it, you can’t help but move to it. That’s what happens to me. I can’t help it

Elvis Presley (1935-1977)

I’m always happy. I’m never sad. I never slow down. I’m constantly occupied with music

Prince (1958-2016)

Music is music, ultimately. If it makes you feel good, cool

Prince (1958-2016)

The hardest thing with musicians is getting them not to play

Prince (1958-2016)

The key to longevity is to learn every aspect of music that you can

Prince (1958-2016)

I am flattered to have been the woman to have opened the door for female rockers to be accepted into the mainly male industry

Suzi Quatro (1950-)

Rock n’ roll! It’s the music of puberty

Suzi Quatro (1950-)

Music is enough for a lifetime but a lifetime is not enough for music

Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)

I never saw music in terms of men and women or black and white. There was just cool and uncool

Bonnie Raitt (1949-)

The great thing about the arts, and especially popular music, is that it really does cut across genres and races and classes

Bonnie Raitt (1949-)

All punk is is attitude. That’s what makes it. The attitude

Joey Ramone (1951-2001)

Rock ‘n’ roll is very special to me. It’s my lifeblood

Joey Ramone (1951-2001)

The only love affair I have ever had was with music

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

Music is the greatest communication in the world. Even if people don’t understand the language that you’re singing in, they still know good music when they hear it

Lou Rawls (1933-2006)

Music should come crashing out of your speakers and grab you, and the lyrics should challenge whatever preconceived notions that listener has

Lou Reed (1942-2013)

My God is rock ‘n’ roll

Lou Reed (1942-2013)

My music, I hope, takes 100% of your concentration. I know how to do that

Trent Reznor (1965-)

If you don’t know the blues… there’s no point in picking up the guitar and playing rock and roll or any other form of popular music

Keith Richards (1943-)

Music is a language that doesn’t speak in particular words. It speaks in emotions, and if it’s in the bones, it’s in the bones

Keith Richards (1943-)

Music is a necessity. After food, air, water and warmth, music is the next necessity of life

Keith Richards (1943-)

Rock and Roll: Music for the neck downwards

Keith Richards (1943-)

To make a rock ‘n’ roll record, technology is the least important thing

Keith Richards (1943-)

I’ve always said music should make you laugh, make you cry or make you think. If it doesn’t do one those things, then you’re wasting everybody’s time

Kenny Rogers (1938-)

Texas is a hotbed of insanely good bands and musicians

Henry Rollins (1961-)

The musician is perhaps the most modest of animals, but he is also the proudest

Erik Satie (1866-1925)

Anyone who loves music can never be quite unhappy

Franz Schubert (1797-1827)

There is no such thing as happy music

Franz Schubert (1797-1827)

When you play, never mind who listens to you

Robert Schumann (1810-1856)

Songs won’t save the planet, but neither will books or speeches

Pete Seeger (1919-2014)

The music that I have learned and want to give is like worshipping God. It’s absolutely like a prayer

Ravi Shankar (1920-2012)

Music is forever; music should grow and mature with you, following you right on up until you die

Paul Simon (1941-)

Music is feeling. You can try to verbalize it. It really just hits you or it doesn’t

Gene Simmons (1949-)

Artists, musicians, scientists – if you have any kind of visionary aptitude, it’s often something that you don’t have a choice in. You have to do it

Patti Smith (1946-)

I don’t think I’ll ever write a song that’ll ever move me as much as ‘Faith’, that’ll change my life as much as that song did, or encapsulates a period of my life as well as that one does

Robert Smith (1959-)

I do a job I really, really love and I kind of have fun with. People think you can’t be grown up unless you’re moaning about your job

Robert Smith (1959-)

I had no desire to be famous; I just wanted to make the greatest music ever made. I didn’t want anyone to know who I was

Robert Smith (1959-)

I honestly don’t class myself as a songwriter. I’ve got ‘musician’ written on my passport. That’s even funnier

Robert Smith (1959-)

I lose myself in music because I can’t be bothered explaining what I feel to anyone else around me

Robert Smith (1959-)

The best music is essentially there to provide you something to face the world with

Bruce Springsteen (1949-)

Half the battle is selling music, not singing it. It’s the image, not what you sing

Rod Stewart (1945-)

If you play music with passion and love and honesty, then it will nourish your soul, heal your wounds and make your life worth living. Music is its own reward

Sting (1951-)

A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence

Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977)

I haven’t understood a bar of music in my life, but I have felt it

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

My music is best understood by children and animals

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

Too many pieces of music finish too long after the end

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

People have told me songs I’ve written have changed their life. That`s remarkable. That keeps your faith

Joe Strummer (1952-2002)

Punk rock isn’t something you grow out of. Punk rock is an attitude, and the essence of that attitude is ‘give us some truth’

Joe Strummer (1952-2002)

I believe 100 percent in the power and importance of music

James Taylor (1948-)

I never wanted to get rich or be a star. I’m an old bastard but I’m still playing! That’s the point

Bernie Tormé (1952-2019)

Music acts like a magic key, to which the most tightly closed heart opens

Maria von Trapp (1905-1987)

Music – what a powerful instrument, what a mighty weapon!

Maria von Trapp (1905-1987)

Music is a great natural high and a great natural escape

Shania Twain (1965-)

I’m always pursuing knowledge; I’m a seeker of spiritual equilibrium – and music is a big part of that

Steve Vai (1960-)

Music really is a way to reach out and hold on to each other in a healthy way

Stevie Ray Vaughan (1954-1990)

I don’t know if any genuine, meaningful change could ever result from a song. It’s kind of like throwing peanuts at a gorilla

Tom Waits (1949-)

I like beautiful melodies telling me terrible things

Tom Waits (1949-)

Songs really are like a form of time travel because they really have moved forward in a bubble. Everyone who’s connected with it, the studio’s gone, the musicians are gone, and the only thing that’s left is this recording which was only about a three-minute period maybe 70 years ago

Tom Waits (1949-)

The universe is making music all the time

Tom Waits (1949-)

I been in the blues all my life. I’m still delivering ‘cause I got a long memory

Muddy Waters (1913-1983)

My blues are so simple but so few people can play it right

Muddy Waters (1913-1983)

The blues had a baby and they called it rock and roll

Muddy Waters (1913-1983)

Being a musician is a noble profession

Paul Weller (1958-)

Music is very spiritual, it has the power to bring people together

Edgar Winter (1946-)

I think the blues will always be around. It just takes one person to make people aware of the blues

Johnny Winter (1944-2014)

I couldn’t do no yodelin’, so I turned to howlin’. And it’s done me just fine

Howlin’ Wolf (1910-1976)

I don’t play anything but the blues, but now I could never make no money on nothin’ but the blues. That’s why I wasn’t interested in nothin’ else

Howlin’ Wolf (1910-1976)

I just play blues for fun

Howlin’ Wolf (1910-1976)

When you ain’t got no money, you got the blues

Howlin’ Wolf (1910-1976)

Music, at its essence, is what gives us memories. And the longer a song has existed in our lives, the more memories we have of it

Stevie Wonder (1950-)

Music is a world within itself, with a language we all understand

Stevie Wonder (1950-)

The musical soundscape is an endless road

Zakk Wylde (1967-)

I am probably the last of a generation to be able to gain an education in country music by osmosis, by sitting in a ’64 Ford banging the buttons on the radio

Dwight Yoakam (1956-)

I think the most important thing about music is the sense of escape

Thom Yorke (1968-)

Rock and roll is here to stay

Neil Young (1945-)

There’s an edge to real rock ‘n’ roll. It’s all that matters

Neil Young (1945-)

I don’t understand this phrase ‘I’ve paid my dues’. We didn’t have any money and lived on peanut butter and jelly, and I loved it. I don’t regret any of it. We never expected to make it this far, but we worked hard to get here

Ronnie Van Zant (1948-1977)

If prisons, freight trains, swamps, and gators don’t get ya to write songs, man, y’ain’t got no business writin’ songs

Ronnie Van Zant (1948-1977)

A composer is a guy who goes around forcing his will on unsuspecting air molecules, often with the assistance of unsuspecting musicians

Frank Zappa (1940-1993)

All the good music has already been written by people with wigs and stuff

Frank Zappa (1940-1993)

Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not truth. Truth is not beauty. Beauty is not love. Love is not music. Music is THE BEST

Frank Zappa (1940-1993)

Jazz is not dead, it just smells funny

Frank Zappa (1940-1993)

Most people wouldn’t know music if it came up and bit them on the ass

Frank Zappa (1940-1993)

Music is always a commentary on society

Frank Zappa (1940-1993)

There are more love songs than anything else. If songs could make you do something we’d all love one another

Frank Zappa (1940-1993)

Without music to decorate it, time is just a bunch of boring production deadlines or dates by which bills must be paid

Frank Zappa (1940-1993)

You can’t always write a chord ugly enough to say what you want to say, so sometimes you have to rely on a giraffe filled with whipped cream

Frank Zappa (1940-1993)

Tailpiece

Well, the above represents a veritable roll call of music royalty covering multiple centuries. As you might have expected, these maxims from musicians about music are often passionate, heartfelt and powerful, almost beyond words. The historical male dominance of the industry is clear and look forward to more female music professionals being credited for their insightful observations in the future.

There is, as mentioned last month, a certain irony in using plain words to articulate the meaning of music but that is just the medium I’m using. I would encourage you to listen to the source material for many of the elements covered in this series so far. There is a lifetime of ever‑growing musical exploration to be had out there.

CRAVE Guitars posts a ‘quote of the day’, both about music and more generally about ‘life, the universe and everything’ (Douglas Adams) every day on Twitter and Facebook. The previous article and this one have allowed me to draw from that broader research and to focus resources on the collective wisdom of this particular theme.

Having now done two consecutive articles on quotations, you are probably all quoted out by now, so be reassured that there won’t be any more for a while (except my traditional personal observation at the end of every article). As far as I can tell, this is the penultimate article in this long series, which means that, all being well, we should culminate the next month, as scheduled. As a bit of bait, I will leave you to ponder what else might be espoused in the way of a conclusion. Any guesses?

Despite the global shutdown of society, I’m sticking to what I know and love doing, which is to continue my mission to share with anyone who may be interested some selfishly selected stuff about ‘Cool & Rare American Vintage Electric’ Guitars. Weirdly, I am actually very comfortable in splendid seclusion and I would be quite happy to continue a relatively hermetic lifestyle whatever comes to pass. In the meantime, above all, please look after yourselves and take care – stay home, stay safe. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars’ ‘Quote of the Month’: “True wealth is appreciating what you have now and neither grieving for what you might have had nor for what you may wish to have”

© 2020 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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November 2019 – The Story of Modern Music in 1,500+ Facts – Part IX

Introduction

Welcome to the end of the 20th Century. Not actually, of course, that was 20 years ago now. I mean, in the ‘Story of Modern Music’, having covered almost 350 years so far, welcomes you to the very end of the century that really transformed mankind’s potential and bestowed opportunities hitherto unforeseen and unthought‑of, including musically.

If you would like to (re)visit any of the first eight chapters of the story to‑date, you can do so here (each link opens a new browser tab):

I did think of trying to compress the last three decades into a single article and then thought better of it on the grounds that doing so might diminish the impact of the period within the overall picture. So, just for now, the millennial years will have to wait. The result is that the 1990s will have its own dedicated article, although it will be a slightly more diminutive read compared to the previous five decades/articles.

The Story of Modern Music Part IX 1990-1999

It is quite tricky to pinpoint exactly what the ‘90s meant to music devotees. It seemed to depend where you lived, your age and, perhaps, what socio‑economic ‘class’ you belonged to. Whether it was grunge, alternative, Britpop or dance music that floated your boat, there was a new and exciting scene to associate with and belong to. The psychological attachment to a musical style was important to many, especially young people who were looking for some structure to life while the old order of social and political systems seemed to be disintegrating around them. Although not quite as disobedient and defiant as previous musical archetypes, there was still an underlying seething resentment of ‘the man’, which various groups saw as attempting to control their chosen form of exuberant self‑expression. In a sense, they were tapping into the anger of the marginalised.

With previous decades, it was notable that births of familiar artists outnumbered deaths, while the ‘90s saw that trend beginning to reverse. Many future artists that may well achieve sustained fame may have been born in the ‘90s but not yet discovered, while the stars of previous eras are getting, let’s be honest, a bit long in the tooth.

Similarly, it is becoming difficult to distinguish what definitive musical gems will rise from the seeming homogeneity of releases to become revered as ‘classic’ in years to come. Arguably, the 1990s marked the last vestiges of milestone singles and albums. From then on, listening habits began to change fundamentally and that, in turn, changed the way we regard significance, at least through the traditional lens of sales figures.

Historical Context 1990-1999

Some commentators called the 1990s as the ‘best decade’, although that clearly depended on your circumstances and point of view! The dawn of the 1990s experienced widespread international political restructuring, especially in Eastern Europe following the end of the Cold War and the fracturing of the communist Eastern Bloc. The 1990s also saw the growth in environmental consciousness based on dire scientific predictions about global warming and climate change. Ironically, scaremongering about ‘greenhouse gases’ led to an expansion of ‘green’ industries in developed countries. Similarly, many commentators observed signs of societal dysfunctionality, leading to prescient dystopian novels such as ‘Generation X’ by Douglas Coupland (1991), ‘Random Acts Of Senseless Violence’ by Jack Womack (1992), and ‘Prozac Nation’ by Elizabeth Wurtzel (1994). The wealth gap between the haves and have‑nots was striking; a morally unjustifiable trend that would only worsen from the 1990s onwards. The increase in the pace of technological change in post‑industrial countries fuelled the migration towards ‘digitocracies’ and resulted in manufacturing being outsourced to low‑cost developing countries on a massive scale. A period of unprecedented growth in the use of the Internet fuelled unsustainable speculation in the value of high‑tech companies, known broadly as the ‘dot‑com bubble’, a phenomenon that was bound to burst, which it ultimately did. Many companies that had become reliant on IT during the decade were fearful of the impact of Y2K on computer systems that were not prepared for the turn of the millennium.

Year

Global Events

1990

Following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of soviet communism, East and West Germany were reunited as the Federal Republic of Germany.

 

Political internee and equal rights campaigner, Nelson Mandela was released from prison after serving 27 years. His return to freedom effectively marked the end of apartheid in South Africa.

 

The ground breaking American cult TV series Twin Peaks burst onto screens. Created by David Lynch and Mark Frost, and starring Kyle MacLachlan. It is considered a landmark in television drama.

 

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, named after American astronomer Edwin Hubble, was launched into low Earth orbit. The telescope was designed to look into deep space.

 

The first Middle East Gulf War started after Iraq invaded and annexed neighbouring Kuwait. A U.S.‑led coalition of 35 countries responded with Operation Desert Storm resulting in a coalition victory.

1991

Communist rule of the soviet USSR ended, resulting in a break up into a number of separate countries. The dismantling of the communist state effectively ended the 45‑year old Cold War between Russia and America.

 

British computer scientist and engineer, Tim Berners-Lee posted a short summary of the World Wide Web project, effectively launching the Internet, initially to research institutions and then to the general public.

1992

The infamous Los Angeles riots took place after 4 LAPD officers were acquitted of using excessive force in the arrest of African-American Rodney King the previous year. The incident had been videotaped and broadcast widely on TV, sparking renewed civil rights activism.

 

Founded in 1918, Central European country Yugoslavia descended into bitter civil war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a devastating military conflict that lasted until 1995.

1993

Democrat politician Bill Clinton became the 42nd president of the U.S.A.

 

Another massive American cult TV series, The X-Files was first broadcast, created by Chris Carter and starring David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson.

 

The European Union (EU) succeeded the European Economic Community (EEC) when 12 countries signed the Maastricht Treaty, signalling a process of closer political and economic union.

1994

The trilateral North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the U.S.A., Canada and Mexico came into effect.

 

Anti-apartheid revolutionary and politician Nelson Mandela was elected as president of South Africa. He was the country’s first black head of state and the first to be elected in a fully representative democratic election.

 

The Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) declared a cease fire in Northern Ireland, paving the way for de‑armament and the subsequent peace process.

 

The 38Km (23.5mile) Channel Tunnel rail link beneath the English Channel from Folkestone in England to Calais in France was opened for business.

1995

The phenomenally successful multi‑national online auction and e‑commerce website eBay was launched, founded by entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar and based in San Jose, California.

 

Former professional American footballer O.J. Simpson was found not guilty of the double murder of former wife Nicole Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman. The criminal trial, held in Los Angeles, was widely broadcast on TV.

1996

Dolly the sheep became the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell by using nuclear transfer in Scotland, UK. Dolly died in 2003 at the age of 6.

 

Heir to the British throne, Prince Charles was formally divorced from Diana, Princess of Wales in London.

1997

The British crown colony of Hong Kong was returned to Chinese sovereignty as a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China after 156 years of British rule.

 

Diana, Princess of Wales, was killed in a car crash in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris, France at the age of 36. Her lover, Egyptian socialite Dodi Fayed, was also killed in the crash, sparking many conspiracy theories.

 

Albanian-Indian Roman Catholic nun and humanitarian missionary Mother Teresa died of a heart attack in Rome at the age of 87.

 

The Pacific Rim countries were hit by the major Asian Financial Crisis, starting in Thailand and spreading rapidly across east and southeast Asia, resulting in an international financial contagion that threatened a severe worldwide economic meltdown.

1998

The male virility drug Sildenafil, commonly known as Viagra, became available for use in America. It was originally discovered by pharmaceutical company Pfizer as a treatment for heart‑related chest pain.

 

The Internet search engine Google Search was launched. It is the most widely used search engine on the World Wide Web, with over 90% market share in 2019, handling more than 5 billion searches per day.

 

Multinational technology giant, Apple Inc. launched the highly successful iMac computer.

 

The multilateral Good Friday Agreement was signed in Belfast by the Republic of Ireland and Britain as part of the on-going Northern Ireland peace process.

 

The first module of the International Space Station (ISS) was launched into low Earth orbit. The ISS has served as a multinational microgravity research laboratory.

1999

The Euro became the official single currency for the majority of European Union (EU) countries, known commonly as the Eurozone. The security of the Euro is overseen by the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, Germany.

 

Politician, Vladimir Putin became President of Russian Federation, succeeding former president, Boris Yeltsin.

Musical Genre Development 1990-1999

The 1990s was a decade of sometimes dysfunctional music set against a background of major political change and social polarisation/alienation.

One phenomenon of the 1990s that isn’t genre‑specific but which built on the perennial success of pop music was the ‘boy band’ and its all‑girl equivalent. Artists included Backstreet Boys, Boyz II Men, *NSYNC, Take That, Westlife, All Saints, S Club 7, Spice Girls and Destiny’s Child. The record company ‘manufactured’ bands didn’t have it all their own way; solo pop music artists were also highly successful during the 1990s, including Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, Jessica Simpson, and Mandy Moore.

American heavy metal saw a resurgence including bands like Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Pantera achieving massive popularity. Meanwhile, British heavy metal was also prospering with NWOBHM bands such as Def Leppard, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden.

Hip‑hop became increasingly divisive, inciting gang warfare, gun violence and drug use, fuelling rivalry between east and west coast artists, and resulting in a number of high profile deaths including Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G.

The English ‘Manchester movement’ (or ‘Madchester’ as it was often called) was strong in the late 1980s and early ‘90s. The scene centred on venues like the Haçienda nightclub in Manchester, run by post‑punk band New Order and led by local bands such as Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and The Charlatans, although the latter were actually based in the west midlands. The music isn’t necessarily a genre per se, it was more of a loose social and cultural grouping that also encompassed fashion, art and media. The OTT craziness of the Manchester scene was faithfully represented in the film ’24 Hour Party People’, made in 2002, directed by Michael Winterbottom. Other artists associated with the vital hotpot based around the UK’s North West were The Verve, Inspiral Carpets and James, as well as Scottish band Primal Scream. The Manchester ‘baggy’ zeitgeist would be important in the growth of the drug‑fuelled rave scene later in the decade.

A fusing of genres led to the emergence of trip hop as a discrete genre that grew from its roots in Bristol, UK and was pioneered by artists like Massive Attack, Tricky, Portishead, Morcheeba and Sneaker Pimps. Sometimes referred to as ‘downtempo’, it is typified by taking electronica, hip‑hop, house, funk, dub, soul and psychedelia and creating something altogether different and fresh. While its roots were clearly experimental and atmospheric, trip hop was influential in that it led to other popular mainstream forms that became subsumed in the electronic dance craze (see below) of the 1990s and early 2000s, including breakbeat, bigbeat, drum ‘n’ bass, IDM, dubstep and acid jazz. Like the Manchester movement, trip hop was very much a UK‑led genre, which had little mainstream success in the U.S.

Like punk before it, alternative rock and its counterpart, experimental noise rock, is a musical genre that railed against the major record corporations that ran the music business and the mainstream pop and rock products they marketed. Independent producers and record labels that existed outside the studio system were very much part of an active underground movement, particularly in America, and this is where a number of bands came to public attention at the start of the 1990s. Compared to the mainstream, alternative artists found it relatively difficult to garner wide audience appeal, so word of mouth, radio and record releases were the way that the message got out. The alternative moniker is more of an umbrella term relating to artists’ status in the system, rather than having definitive identifiable genre characteristics. Notable alternative artists include Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., Nine Inch Nails, Beck, Jane’s Addiction, Smashing Pumpkins and Pixies. Before they signed to a major label, R.E.M. were seen as alternative and this started a broadening of the definition that included other major artists such as Rage Against the Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters, Queens Of The Stone Age, Radiohead and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. The start of the new millennium saw other alternative rock artists emerge including The Strokes, Interpol and The Rapture, extending and ensuring alternative rock’s destiny into the 21st Century.

Grunge is a specific genre of music that developed in the Pacific North West of the United States and more specifically its epicentre in and around Seattle in Washington State. Like alternative/noise rock, grunge was an underground movement centred on an independent record label, in this case, Sub Pop records based in Seattle. Grunge is influenced by punk, metal and alternative styles resulting in something altogether different from all of them. Grunge is characterised by slow, raw arrangements and a distinctly distorted lo‑fi sound. Compositions often followed a quiet‑loud‑quiet structure. Lyrics tended to be downbeat, melancholic, anti‑consumerist and often depraved with a focus on cultural alienation and social isolation. While all of the following rejected the term ‘grunge’ as defining their music, especially after signing to major labels, the early pioneers of Seattle’s grunge scene included Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Mudhoney and Alice In Chains. The core grunge scene had largely fizzled out and diversified by the end of the 20th Century. A revival of the grunge ethic evolved in the 2010s to include artists like Courtney Barnett, Wolf Alice and Yuck.

Britpop was essentially an upbeat and positive British reaction to the dark and depressing American grunge scene. The music and its cultural background (nicknamed ‘Cool Britannia’) lasted approximately from 1993‑1997 before fizzling out. The major bands of the Britpop period included the ‘big four’; Oasis, Blur, Pulp and Suede. Collectively they expanded popularity to include other artists such as Supergrass, Cast, The Lightning Seeds, Sleeper and Elastica. The so‑called ‘Battle of Britpop’ between Oasis and Blur around 1995 was a media‑fuelled highlight catching the public’s imagination at the time. Britpop was important for influencing many quintessentially British bands that came along for the ride including Coldplay, Travis, Feeder, Stereophonics, Elbow, Snow Patrol and Keane. Further influences included Kaiser Chiefs and Arctic Monkeys in the 2000s.

Dance music (in this context, Electronic Dance Music – EDM) was a phenomenon that had its roots in the late 1980s but exploded in the early 1990s and lasted well into the 2000s. Dance music comprises largely electronically produced progressive dance music intended for use at nightclubs, festivals and (often illegal) raves by DJs who mixed and re‑mixed heavy beats through loud PA systems to audience rapture. In fact, many record labels and DJs became far more celebrated than the musical artists they played in their DJ sets. The predominant sub‑genres of dance music include house, techno, trance, drum ‘n’ bass and dubstep, although these only represent the tip of the dance sub‑genre iceberg. Dance beats generally comprise programmed synthesizers, samplers and drum machines to produce buoyant, insistent 4/4 dance rhythms. Dance music also became synonymous with recreational drug use such as ecstasy (MDMA) as well as party holiday destinations such as Ibiza and Mykonos islands in the Mediterranean Sea. Some of the famous artists of the dance scene include The Chemical Brothers, The Prodigy, Underworld, Orbital, KLF, The Shamen, The Future Sound of London, 808 State, Groove Armada, Aphex Twin, Basement Jaxx and Daft Punk. Later artists built on the foundation, include Pendulum, SBTRKT and Skream. DJs became pivotal in promoting the dance craze and became famous in their own right, including Carl Cox, Fatboy Slim, Pete Tong, Paul Van Dyk and Armin van Buuren. There are many sub‑genres of dance including acid house, IDM (Intelligent Dance Music), ambient, breakbeat, downtempo, jungle and UK garage, all ensuring that dance music remains up‑to‑date and relevant in the 21st Century.

Musical Facts 1990-1999

Day

Month

Year

Music Fact

23

January

1990

American guitarist and co-founder of southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, Allen Collins died from pneumonia in Jacksonville, Florida at the age of 37.

8

February

1990

American country and rock & roll singer and songwriter, Del Shannon committed suicide as a result of depression at his home in California at the age of 55.

18

February

1990

English singer Freddie Mercury made his final public appearance with other members of pop/rock band Queen at the Brit Awards ceremony, held in London.

20

March

1990

English electronic/alternative rock band Depeche Mode released their career-defining classic 7th studio album, ‘Violator’ in the UK.

26

March

1990

Northern Irish blues/rock guitarist, Gary Moore released his classic studio album, ‘Still Got The Blues’.

3

April

1990

Highly acclaimed Grammy award winning American jazz singer Sarah Vaughan died from cancer at her home in Hidden Hills, California at the age of 66.

10

April

1990

American East Coast rappers Public Enemy released their politically charged 3rd studio album, ‘Fear of a Black Planet’.

16

April

1990

Indie rock giants, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds released their 6th studio album, ‘The Good Son’.

26

June

1990

Prolific American alternative rock band Sonic Youth released their successful and significant 6th studio album, ‘Goo’.

24

July

1990

American heavy metal rock band Pantera released their classic 5th studio album ‘Cowboys From Hell’.

21

August

1990

Legendary American blues guitarist and singer B.B. King received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6771 Hollywood Boulevard.

27

August

1990

American blues guitarist, singer and songwriter, Stevie Ray Vaughan and four others died tragically in a helicopter crash in East Troy, Wisconsin at the age of 35.

31

August

1990

The funeral service of American blues/rock guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan took place at Laurel Land Cemetery in Dallas, Texas.

3

September

1990

English heavy metal rock band Judas Priest released their 12th studio album, ‘Painkiller’.

21

September

1990

American thrash metal rock band Megadeth released their superb classic 4th studio album, ‘Rust In Peace’.

6

October

1990

American Heavy metal band Metallica began recording their massive studio album ‘Metallica’ (aka the ‘black album’) in Los Angeles, California.

9

October

1990

American thrash metal band, Slayer, released their mega 5th studio album, ‘Seasons In The Abyss’.

29

October

1990

Legendary award-winning American blues guitarist, singer and songwriter John Lee Hooker was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

8

January

1991

English guitarist and songwriter, Steve Clark of hard rock band Def Leppard died of alcohol poisoning at his home in London, at the age of 30.

15

February

1991

Successful English pop singer, songwriter, guitarist, record producer, and actor Ed Sheeran was born in Halifax, West Yorkshire.

21

March

1991

Legendary American inventor and founder of Fender Electric Instrument Manufacturing Company, Leo Fender died from Parkinson’s disease in Fullerton, California at the age of 81.

8

April

1991

English trip-hop pioneers, Massive Attack, released their successful debut studio album, ‘Blue Lines’ in the UK, including the dance anthem, ‘Unfinished Sympathy’.

20

April

1991

English guitarist and front man of rock bands Small Faces and Humble Pie, Steve Marriott died in a house fire at his home in Essex at the age of 44.

23

April

1991

American guitarist, singer and songwriter with New York Dolls, Jonny Thunders died in mysterious circumstances in a hotel room in New Orleans, Louisiana at the age of 38.

30

July

1991

American heavy metal rock band Metallica released their massively successful single ‘Enter Sandman’.

12

August

1991

American heavy metal band Metallica released their career-defining 5th studio album, ‘Metallica’, often referred to as ‘the black album’.

27

August

1991

American alternative rock band from Seattle, the home of grunge rock pioneers, Pearl Jam burst onto the scene with the release of their astonishing platinum-selling debut studio album, ‘Ten’.

10

September

1991

American grunge rock pioneers Nirvana released their ‘90s anthem for disaffected youth, the near perfect hit single ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’.

17

September

1991

American hard rock band, Guns n’ Roses, released their 3rd and 4th studio albums ‘Use Your Illusion’ parts I & II on the same day in the U.S.

23

September

1991

Scottish alternative rock band, Primal Scream released their massive 3rd studio album, ‘Screamadelica’.

24

September

1991

American grunge rock pioneers Nirvana released their career-defining classic 2nd studio album ‘Never Mind’ in the U.S. Well over 30 million copies have been sold so far.

24

September

1991

American alternative rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers released their 5th studio album, ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik’, produced by Rick Rubin.

28

September

1991

American jazz trumpeter, Miles Davis died of complications from a stroke, pneumonia, and respiratory failure in a hospital in Santa Monica, California at the age of 65.

14

November

1991

Legendary American guitarist and singer Jimi Hendrix received a posthumous star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6627 Hollywood Boulevard.

18

November

1991

Massive Irish rock band, U2, released their storming 7th studio album, ‘Achtung Baby’ in the UK.

24

November

1991

English singer with pop/rock band Queen, Freddie Mercury died of pneumonia resulting from AIDS at his home in London at the age of 45.

15

January

1992

Rock band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience and country music legend, Johnny Cash were both inducted into the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

29

January

1992

Influential American blues singer, songwriter, upright bass player and guitarist, Willie Dixon died of heart failure in Burbank, California at the age of 76.

21

February

1992

American heavy metal rock band Pantera released their classic 6th studio album ‘Vulgar Display Of Power’.

31

March

1992

English heavy metal rock band Def Leppard released their classic 5th studio album, ‘Adrenalize’.

20

April

1992

English indie rock icons, The Cure released their upbeat, commercial 10th studio album, ‘Wish’.

21

April

1992

American rap rockers, Beastie Boys, released their 3rd studio album, ‘Check Your Head’.

27

April

1992

Indie rock giants, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds released their great 7th album, ‘Henry’s Dream’.

9

May

1992

American guitarist, singer and songwriter Bruce Springsteen made his live American TV network debut on ‘Saturday Night Live’ with show host Tom Hanks.

21

July

1992

American alternative rock band Sonic Youth released their cult, cool, classic 8th studio album, ‘Dirty’.

29

September

1992

American alternative rock band Alice In Chains released their sophomore studio album, ‘Dirt’.

6

October

1992

American rock band R.E.M. released their classic top‑selling studio album, ‘Automatic For The People’.

3

November

1992

American rock band Bon Jovi released their classic 5th studio album, ‘Keep The Faith’.

10

November

1992

American rock band Rage Against The Machine released their outstanding and career defining eponymous debut album ‘Rage Against The Machine’.

9

December

1992

Although not officially announced until January 1993, English bass guitarist Bill Wyman left The Rolling Stones.

21

December

1992

Legendary American blues guitarist, Albert King died from a heart attack at his home in Memphis Tennessee at the age of 69, just 2 days after his last concert.

6

January

1993

English bass guitarist Bill Wyman officially announced that he was leaving The Rolling Stones after more than 3 decades with the band.

23

March

1993

English alternative/electronic rock band Depeche Mode released their 8th studio album, ‘Songs Of Faith And Devotion’ in the UK.

20

April

1993

Emerging English alternative rock band Radiohead released their debut album, ‘Pablo Honey’ in the UK.

29

April

1993

English session guitarist, songwriter and producer who played extensively with David Bowie’s Spiders From Mars among others, Mick Ronson died from liver cancer in London at the age of 46.

23

August

1993

English new romantic band Duran Duran received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1770 Vine Street.

21

September

1993

American alternative grunge rock band, Nirvana released their 3rd and final studio album, ‘In Utero’.

19

October

1993

American rock band Pearl Jam released their major 2nd studio album, ‘Vs.’.

9

November

1993

American East Coast rappers Wu-Tang Clan released their incendiary debut studio album, ‘Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)’.

19

November

1993

American grunge rock band Nirvana recorded their classic live acoustic concert and album, ‘MTV Unplugged In New York’ at Sony Music Studios.

23

November

1993

American rock band, Guns N’ Roses, released their 5th studio album, ‘The Spaghetti Incident?’

24

November

1993

Legendary American blues/rock guitarist, nicknamed The ‘Master of the Telecaster’ and ‘The Ice Man’, Albert Collins died from lung cancer at his home in Las Vegas, Nevada at the age of 61.

4

December

1993

Non-conformist American guitarist and composer extraordinaire, Frank Zappa died of prostate cancer at his home in Los Angeles at the age of 52.

1

February

1994

American pop punk rock band Green Day released their breakthrough 3rd studio album, ‘Dookie’.

1

March

1994

American grunge band Nirvana played their last ever live concert, interrupted by a power cut, in Munich, Germany.

1

March

1994

American alternative rock artist, Beck released his 3rd studio album, ‘Mellow Gold’.

8

March

1994

American alternative rock band, Nine Inch Nails released their career-peak 2nd studio album, ‘The Downward Spiral’.

5

April

1994

American singer, songwriter, guitarist and member of grunge rock band Nirvana, Kurt Cobain died from a self‑inflicted shotgun wound in Seattle, Washington at the age of 27.

19

April

1994

Alternative rock band Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds released their classic, career-defining 8th studio album, ‘Let Love In’.

26

April

1994

American country music legend Johnny Cash embarked on a whole new period of his career with the release of his classic studio album, ‘American Recordings’.

27

April

1994

The famous San Francisco music venue the Fillmore reopened its doors at 1805 Geary Boulevard. It had been closed since 1989 after being damaged in an earthquake.

23

May

1994

Influential American virtuoso jazz guitarist, Joe Pass died from liver cancer in Los Angeles, California at the age 65.

24

May

1994

American rappers, Beastie Boys, released their classic 4th studio album, ‘Ill Communication’ in the U.S.

14

July

1994

English rave band The Prodigy released their breakout 2nd studio album ‘Music for the Jilted Generation’.

22

August

1994

Pioneering English trip-hop band, Portishead released their ground breaking debut studio album, ‘Dummy’.

23

August

1994

Acclaimed American singer, songwriter and guitarist Jeff Buckley released his first and only studio album, ‘Grace’. A modern classic.

26

September

1994

English trip-hop outfit, Massive Attack, released their great sophomore studio album, ‘Protection’ in the UK.

4

October

1994

Versatile American ‘redneck jazz’ guitarist Danny Gatton died from self-inflicted gunshot wounds at his home in Newburg, Maryland at the age of 49.

1

November

1994

American grunge band Nirvana released their impressive award-winning live album, ‘MTV Unplugged in New York’, 6 months after Kurt Cobain’s death.

5

December

1994

English indie rock group The Stone Roses released their sophomore studio album, ‘Second Coming’.

13

March

1995

English alternative rock band Radiohead released their breakout 2nd studio album, ‘The Bends’ in the UK.

13

June

1995

Canadian singer, songwriter, musician and producer Alanis Morissette released her classic 3rd studio album, ‘Jagged Little Pill’.

14

June

1995

Renowned Irish blues/rock guitarist Rory Gallagher died of MRSA following liver failure caused by medication and alcohol in London at the age of 47.

9

August

1995

American guitarist Jerry Garcia of psychedelic rock band Grateful Dead died from a heart attack while at a rehabilitation centre in California at the age of 53.

2

September

1995

12 years after it was founded, America’s homage to contemporary music, the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame Museum opened on the shore of Lake Erie in Cleveland, Ohio and was celebrated with an all-star concert.

26

September

1995

American alternative rock band Sonic Youth released their great 10th studio album, ‘Washing Machine’.

2

October

1995

Australian artists, Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue released the haunting and elegiac duet single ‘Where the Wild Roses Grow’.

7

November

1995

American alternative rock band Alice In Chains released their eponymous 3rd studio album, ‘Alice In Chains’.

21

November

1995

American rock legend, Bruce Springsteen released his 11th studio album, ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad’.

17

January

1996

Music greats, David Bowie, Pink Floyd and Velvet Underground were all inducted into the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

5

February

1996

Australian alternative rockers, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds released their dark 9th studio album, ‘Murder Ballads’.

16

April

1996

American alternative rock group Rage Against The Machine released their sophomore studio album, ‘Evil Empire’.

17

May

1996

American blues, soul and funk singer, songwriter and guitarist, Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson died of a heart attack after collapsing on stage in Yokohama, Japan at the age of 61.

15

June

1996

Legendary American jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald died of complications from diabetes in Beverley Hills, California, at the age of 79.

18

June

1996

American alternative rock artist, Beck, released his classic, top-selling 5th studio album, ‘Odelay’.

17

July

1996

English bass guitarist with R&B band The Animals and Jimi Hendrix’s manager, Chas Chandler died of an aneurism in Newcastle, at the age of 57.

10

September

1996

American alt-rock group R.E.M. released their classic 10th studio album, ‘New Adventures In Hi-Fi’.

13

September

1996

American rapper Tupac Shakur died of gunshot wounds following a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada at the age of 25.

19

September

1996

American jazz guitarist George Benson received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7055 Hollywood Boulevard.

31

October

1996

English/American guitarist Slash announced that he was leaving rock band Guns N’ Roses after a relationship breakdown with the group’s lead singer Axl Rose.

2

November

1996

Sublime American singer and guitarist, known as ‘the songbird’, Eva Cassidy died from cancer in Bowie, Maryland at the age of 33.

10

January

1997

American soul legend James Brown received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1501 Vine Street.

12

February

1997

English singer and songwriter David Bowie received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7021 Hollywood Boulevard.

4

March

1997

Alternative rock band, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds released their classic 10th studio album, ‘The Boatman’s Call’.

9

March

1997

American rapper Christopher Wallace (a.k.a. The Notorious B.I.G.) was shot and killed in Los Angeles, California at the age of 24.

11

March

1997

English former member of The Beatles, Paul McCartney was knighted by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace, London.

7

April

1997

British dance/electronica/big beat duo, The Chemical Brothers, released their massive studio album, ‘Dig Your Own Hole’ in the UK.

14

April

1997

English electronic/alternative rock band Depeche Mode released their classic 9th studio album, ‘Ultra’ in the UK.

29

May

1997

Renowned American singer, songwriter and guitarist Jeff Buckley died tragically from accidental drowning in Wolf River Harbor, Memphis, Tennessee at the age of 30.

4

June

1997

English bass guitarist and founder of rock band Small Faces, Ronnie Lane died from pneumonia resulting from multiple sclerosis in Trinidad, Colorado at the age of 51.

16

June

1997

English alternative rock band Radiohead released their top-selling 3rd studio album, ‘OK Computer’ in the UK.

30

June

1997

British rave band, Prodigy, released their massive zeitgeist‑defining 3rd studio album, ‘The Fat Of The Land’ in the UK.

22

August

1997

German industrial metal rock band Rammstein released their massive 2nd studio album, ‘Sensucht’ (translated crudely as ‘Desire’).

11

September

1997

American blues legend John Lee Hooker received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7080 Hollywood Boulevard.

30

September

1997

English trip-hop band, Portishead released their eponymous sophomore album, ‘Portishead’ in the UK.

12

October

1997

American folk singer, songwriter and guitarist John Denver died tragically in plane crash in Monterey Bay, California, at the age of 53.

19

October

1997

American guitarist, best known for his work with Alice Cooper, Glen Buxton, died of complications from pneumonia in a hospital in Mason City, Iowa at the age of 49.

10

November

1997

Highly-regarded American session guitarist and one of the most recorded musicians in popular music history, Tommy Tedesco died of lung cancer in Northridge, California at the age of 67.

22

November

1997

Australian singer and front man of the rock band INXS, Michael Hutchence committed suicide in Sydney, Australia at the age of 37.

19

January

1998

American singer, songwriter and guitarist, Carl Perkins died from throat cancer in Jackson-Madison County Hospital, Tennessee, at the age of 65.

30

January

1998

English pop singer and songwriter Sir Elton John received his knighthood from Her Majesty The Queen.

19

February

1998

Legendary American jazz trumpeter Miles Davis received a posthumous star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7060 Hollywood Boulevard.

20

April

1998

English trip-hop outfit, Massive Attack, released their classic 3rd studio album, ‘Mezzanine’ in the UK.

14

May

1998

American singer and actor, Frank Sinatra died from a heart attack at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California at the age of 82.

6

July

1998

Legendary American singer, guitarist and actor, nicknamed the ‘King of the Cowboys’, Roy Rogers died of heart failure in Apple Valley, California at the age of 86.

25

July

1998

American virtuoso jazz guitarist, Tal Farlow died of oesophageal cancer in New York City at the age of 77.

17

August

1998

Mexican-American guitar legend Carlos Santana received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7080 Hollywood Boulevard.

15

September

1998

American heavy metal rock artist, Marilyn Manson released his massively successful classic 3rd studio album, ‘Mechanical Animals’.

24

September

1998

American icon and rock ‘n’ roll legend Elvis Presley was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

1

October

1998

American guitarist, singer and songwriter and founder of rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival, John Fogerty received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7000 Hollywood Boulevard.

2

October

1998

American country & western ‘singing cowboy’ Gene Autry died of lymphoma at his home in Studio City, California at the age of 91.

6

October

1998

American rock band Queens Of The Stone Age (QOTSA) released their self-titled debut album, ‘Queens Of The Stone Age’.

13

October

1998

The Crossroads Centre in Antigua, founded by English blues/rock guitarist and singer Eric Clapton, opened its doors to help clients with drug and alcohol rehabilitation.

3

November

1998

American alternative rock singer, songwriter, musician and producer, Beck, released his 6th studio album, ‘Mutations’, the follow up to the massive ‘Odelay’.

29

November

1998

American jazz pioneer of the 7-string guitar, George Van Eps, died of pneumonia in Newport Beach, California at the age of 85.

25

December

1998

English pop/rock band, The Beatles, received a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame at 7080 Hollywood Boulevard.

30

December

1998

American surf rock band The Beach Boys received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1500 Vine Street.

15

March

1999

Legendary American singer and songwriter Bruce Springsteen was inducted into the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

28

April

1999

American rock band Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7018 Hollywood Boulevard.

17

May

1999

Award-winning American singer, songwriter, guitarist, electronica musician and producer Moby released his mega-successful 5th studio album, ‘Play’.

15

June

1999

After a long break, American Latin rock band Santana released their highly successful 17th studio album, ‘Supernatural’.

16

June

1999

English rock singer, drummer and member of progressive rock band Genesis, Phil Collins received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6834 Hollywood Boulevard.

24

June

1999

English blues/rock guitarist, Eric Clapton auctioned many of his guitars in New York City. The proceeds were used in support of the Crossroads Centre he founded in Antigua as a residential treatment centre for alcohol and chemical dependencies.

11

August

1999

American rock band KISS received a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame at 7080 Hollywood Boulevard.

7

September

1999

American virtuoso guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer Steve Vai released his astonishing 5th studio album, ‘The Ultra Zone’.

2

November

1999

American alternative rock band Rage Against The Machine released their 3rd studio album, ‘The Battle Of Los Angeles’ in the UK.

23

November

1999

American alternative rock artist, Beck, released his adventurous 7th studio album, ‘Midnite Vultures’.

17

December

1999

American smooth jazz, funk and soul saxophonist, Grover Washington Jr. died of a heart attack in New York City at the age of 56.

26

December

1999

Highly acclaimed American soul singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer, Curtis Mayfield, died from complications of diabetes in a hospital in Roswell, Georgia at the age of 57.

Tailpiece

The 1990s was certainly a strange decade both musically and culturally, notably as a segue to the 21st Century. While it seems very recent, it is actually receding into long‑term memory, thereby affecting our perceptions of what it meant to us at the time. Still to come, the new millennium is temptingly beckoning and it will prove as frustrating as it was liberating.

Now… we have a minor problemo. I was hoping to conclude this series of articles conveniently in December at the very end of the current decade. However, there are still one, two or maybe even three articles still to write before we are done. December 2019’s article will therefore, ceteris paribus, interrupt the sequence in that it will cover a summary of 2019 through the eyes of CRAVE Guitars, meaning that the ‘History of Modern Music’ will resume early in 2020, all being well. This series has been a gargantuan task thus far, so perhaps a short break in proceedings won’t do any harm. Heaven knows what will follow after it has been concluded though. Looking into the crystal ball of the future is largely futile, so I’ll have to start thinking hard about the ‘next big thing’ very soon. However, that can wait for next year/decade. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars’ ‘Quote of the Month’: “It is a moral travesty that, if you have got everything, you think you can get away with anything.”

© 2019 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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August 2019 – The Story of Modern Music in 1,500+ Facts – Part VI

Introduction

So, here we are again, good people. Like the immortal rose‑tinted glasses of the ‘Summer of ‘69’, 50 years on, the summer 2019 is beginning to degrade and enter the memory banks while the evenings are inexorably drawing in again. Perhaps it is poignant to recount the past and reflect a little on how we got to where we are now.

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

In the last article, the world of music transformed seemingly overnight with the rise of rock ‘n’ roll acting as a significant catalyst for American and British youth culture in the 1950s. Of course, it wasn’t quite like that in reality – so many different ingredients came together to create an irresistible phenomenon. If the 1950s wasn’t enough to challenge the traditionalists, things were about to get a whole lot more liberal and lively in the 1960s. Even greater social change compounded the consternation of the older, and typically more old-fashioned, conservative generation.

The Story of Modern Music Part VI 1960-1969

While rock ‘n’ roll now seems to be a permanent fixture in the minds of modern music lovers, in its purest form, it didn’t last that long before it became diluted and music evolution moved on rapidly. However, the influence of rock ‘n’ roll was pervasive, acting as a major stimulus to all other sorts of genre developments. The 1960s stood alone from previous and subsequent decades in terms of political, cultural, economic, technological climate and this was reflected in the distinctive music emerging over the same period. For many readers, the 1960s is now within ‘living memory’ – it is, just about, for me. Up to now, much of the chronology will be history, picked up second hand from written or pictorial records. From here on in, readers may well have some experience of these events for real. For a younger audience, be patient, we’ll get to your era soon. There is a lot to get through this month, so it focuses only on one decade with a few photos again.

Historical Context 1960-1969

Although fundamental human equality was still a pipedream for many in the west, freedom of expression and individual liberties probably characterised the ‘Swinging Sixties’ more than anything else, including the Sexual Revolution and civil rights movements. People felt able to say and do things that were unthinkable in previous decades. People were also able to protest against what they felt were moral injustices. Many families experienced benefits from improving economic prosperity and technological advancement. The Cold War and the space race dominated international relations, particularly between the capitalist ‘west’ and communist ‘east’. The latter part of the 1960s saw symbols of the peace & love movement, gaudy fashion and hippie ‘flower power’, all kaleidoscopically prevalent. If there was a decade that could live up to the description of ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll’, the 1960s would be it.

Year

Global Events

1960

America launched the first satellite navigation geo‑positioning system into space, called Transit for use by the U.S. Navy, entering operational service in 1964.

 

The oral contraceptive pill was approved for use by married women in America followed by Britain in 1961.

 

The classic great American novel, ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, written by author Harper Lee was published.

 

The classic and ground breaking psychological horror film, ‘Psycho’, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Anthony Perkins was released.

1961

Democrat politician John F. Kennedy became the 35th President of the U.S.A. JFK’s election heralded a new wave of hope and optimism set against the background of the Cold War.

 

The American‑backed military invasion of the Bay of Pigs in Cuba intended to topple Fidel Castro failed, thereby escalating political tensions.

 

The infamous Berlin wall separating east and west Germany was constructed. It remained until 1989 when it was symbolically destroyed by the German people.

 

Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space aboard the Soviet Vostok 1 capsule.

 

Astronaut Alan Shepard became the first American to go into space aboard a Mercury spacecraft.

1962

The Cuban Missile Crisis between United States and the Soviet Union narrowly avoided escalation into a full‑scale nuclear world war.

 

American actress and cultural icon Marilyn Monroe died of a drug overdose at the age of 36. Her death was ruled controversially as probable suicide.

 

Marvel’s fictional super hero Spider‑Man made his first comic book appearance.

 

The first satellite television transmission and telephone calls took place over the Atlantic ocean from Europe to North America, relayed by the American Telstar communication satellite.

1963

American president John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Former U.S. Marine, Lee Harvey Oswald was accused of the murder only to be killed while in police custody by local night club owner, Jack Ruby, fuelling many conspiracy theories.

 

Democrat politician Lyndon B. Johnson became 36th President of the U.S.A. following the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

 

The infamous Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary in San Francisco Bay was closed as a prison. The island is now a museum and tourist attraction run by the U.S. National Park Service.

1964

Sidney Poitier became the first African American actor to win an Academy Award (Oscar) for his role in the film ‘Lilies of the Field’.

 

South African anti‑apartheid campaigner Nelson Mandela was jailed, having been charged with sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government.

1965

America joined the Vietnam War by sending U.S. Marines into battle supporting the South Vietnamese against the Chinese‑backed North Vietnamese National Liberation Front (the Viet Cong).

 

American space missions took a significant step forward with the launch of manned Gemini low Earth orbiting capsules. The successful programme ended in 1966.

 

Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov became the first person to make a spacewalk, lasting 12 minutes after exiting the Voskhod 2 spacecraft.

 

Renowned British Fashion designer Mary Quant launched the iconic mini skirt in London, encouraging young women to dress to please themselves.

1966

The Chinese Cultural Revolution began, led by Chairman Mao Zedong, intended to preserve Chinese Communism and purge capitalism from its society. The oppressive campaign lasted until Mao’s death in 1976.

 

The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was founded in Oakland, California in 1966, intended to patrol African American neighbourhoods and protect residents from acts of police brutality. It ceased operation in 1982.

 

The classic, ground breaking science fiction TV series Star Trek was first broadcast, created by American producer and screenwriter, Gene Rodenberry.

1967

British sailor Sir Francis Chichester became the first person to circumnavigate single‑handedly around the globe in his yacht the Gypsy Moth IV.

 

Argentinian Marxist revolutionary and guerrilla leader Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, a major figure in the Cuban Revolution, was executed while in military detention in Bolivia at the age of 39. His death secured his status as a political martyr and counter‑culture rebel icon.

 

The first successful human heart transplant took place, carried out by Dr Christiaan Barnard in South Africa.

 

The first American Football Super Bowl took place between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Green Bay Packers. Green Bay won.

 

1968

Russia brutally crushed the Prague Spring uprising in Czechoslovakia, forcing the country to subordinate its national interests to those of the ‘Eastern Bloc’.

 

The classic science fiction film, ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ was released, directed by Stanley Kubrick.

 

American civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated by lifelong criminal James Earl Ray in Memphis, Tennessee.

 

The ambitious American Apollo space program got underway with the first manned flight aboard Apollo 7. The program ended in 1972 with Apollo 17.

1969

Supersonic passenger flight became possible with the introduction of the Anglo‑French Concorde airliner.

 

The cult classic counter-culture movie ‘Easy Rider’ was released, starring Dennis Hopper (also directing) and Peter Fonda.

 

American Senator Ted Kennedy  drove his car off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island in Massachusetts, killing 28‑year old Mary Jo Kopechne, a former aide to Senator Bobby Kennedy.

 

Police raided the Stonewall Inn in New York City, sparking demonstrations and the start of the gay civil rights movement in the United States.

 

Followers of the cult leader Charles Manson carried out a series of 9 brutal murders including that of actress Sharon Tate.

 

American manned space mission Apollo 11 successfully landed on the Moon. Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the Moon’s surface, with Armstrong proclaiming, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.

 

Republican politician Richard Nixon was elected as the 37th U.S. president. Infamously, he remains the only American President to have resigned from office, following the Watergate scandal.

 

The United Kingdom abolished the death penalty substituting it with a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment.

Musical Genre Development 1960-1969

The ‘Swinging Sixties’ were particularly important and memorable for music in America and Europe. The musical revolution that began with rock ‘n’ roll in the previous decade rapidly morphed and diversified on both sides of the Atlantic. By the end of the decade, rock and pop were firmly established as major commercial genres that continue to flourish and adapt to the current day. The 1960s was also a time in which large outdoor music festivals flourished, especially towards the end of the decade, with major events like Newport, Monterey and Woodstock in America and Hyde Park and the Isle of Wight in the UK. In addition, the 1960s saw the introduction of the music compact cassette, which made music not only cheaper but also more portable. As the famous quote, probably attributed to American comedian Charles Fleischer (1950-) goes, ‘if you remember the ‘60s, you weren’t really there’. If that is the case, this article might just serve as a timely reminder.

R&B, gospel, and jazz started to evolve into urban African American soul music, made popular by record companies specialising in the genre. One of these labels was Motown in Detroit, Michigan featuring artists such as Diana Ross & the Supremes, The Four Tops, and Smokey Robinson & the Miracles. Another record label that was hugely influential at the time was Stax Records based in Memphis, Tennessee which was significant for its racially integrated production of southern soul and blues music, including house band Booker T & the M.G.’s and artists like Otis Redding. Atlantic Records which began in New York also promoted soul artists such as Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and Wilson Pickett. Some other popular soul and R&B artists of the 1960s include The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Isley Brothers and the Jackson Five. Racial segregation was a major hurdle for aspiring black musicians and soul is often seen as being closely associated with the American civil rights movement.

Surf music originated in the early 1960s on the west coast of America, particularly around the surfing culture of Orange County in southern California. It was influenced by instrumental rock ‘n’ roll artists like Link Wray, The Ventures and Duane Eddy. Surf is, however, distinct from rock ‘n’ roll and was important in the formation of modern rock music. Surf music tended to fall either into instrumental tunes performed by the likes of Dick Dale & The Deltones or harmonised vocal songs characterised by The Beach Boys. The musical style is heavily based around reverb‑drenched electric guitar sounds often making use of a guitar’s vibrato and the amplifier’s tremolo effect. Lyrics focused on, unsurprisingly, surfing, girls, cars and sunny west coast beach culture. Surf was relatively short‑lived and was taken over by many other American and European genres from the mid‑1960s onwards.

Up to the early 1960s, British artists were in the shadow of American acts and were often playing catch‑up. While not a genre in its own right, the so‑called ‘British Invasion’ began around 1963 with many artists from Britain becoming massively popular in the United States. UK artists sometimes took American songs and gave them a British sound. Perhaps the most significant phenomenon was coined ‘Beatlemania’, when Merseybeat pop group The Beatles broke onto the American music scene circa 1963 and spearheaded the export of UK music to the USA. Other British artists included The Rolling Stones, The Animals, Cream, The Hollies and The Who. By the end of the decade American artists had largely regained their homeland audiences. Various attempts to recreate the phenomenon have only been partially successful, for instance Britpop in the 1990s with artists like Oasis, the Spice Girls and Robbie Williams.

By the mid‑1960s, there was a strong revival of folk music, notable especially for songs with a social and moral conscience, widely articulating the feelings and messages of the various turbulent protest movements of the time. Songs encompassed issues such as poverty, class, the Vietnam War, social injustice and racial segregation. Songs also began to exhibit a stronger leaning towards the emerging rock oriented music scene. Perhaps the most significant artist of the period was Bob Dylan who controversially and ultimately successfully fused acoustic folk and electric rock genres.

Pop music is a diverse genre that attracts a lot of debate. It developed not from the broader traditional popular music of previous decades but from rock ‘n’ roll in the late 1950s and ‘pop’ became a commonly used term since the 1960s to describe non‑classical highly commercial and easily accessible youth‑oriented music. From about 1967, there was a clear divergence between rock music and pop music. Rock became harder edged and played by ‘real’ musicians recording albums while pop was refined into short catchy radio friendly ‘singles’ that were largely industry driven, highly produced, easily packaged, widely marketable and hugely profitable. Musically and lyrically, pop songs are generally uncontroversial and tended not to challenge the listener to any significant degree. Pop artists would sometimes appear and disappear overnight, as it was the songs, sales and chart position that mattered more to the record companies, rather than the performer. The term ‘one‑hit‑wonder’ is often associated with the throwaway appeal of pop music consumption. Conversely, the corporations assert that profits enable investment in new artists. Successful pop artists from the 1960s included The Monkees, The Shadows, Herman’s Hermits, The Dave Clark Five, The Everly Brothers, The Bee Gees and The Lovin’ Spoonful. Pop music continues to evolve and has had a number of peaks since the 1960s including in the early 1980s with artists like Michael Jackson and Madonna and late 2000s including the likes of P!nk, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. Pop therefore represents considerable mainstream economic business to the industry.

Experimental psychedelic rock was popular during the late 1960s and is often associated with the hippie/flower power counterculture. It is also associated with the widespread use of cannabis and manufactured hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD (acid). Song lyrics frequently referenced drugs and altered/elevated states of consciousness. Songs were often long and comprised extended instrumental extemporisation and improvisation (often called jamming). Musicians regularly used esoteric instruments like the sitar, tabla vibraphone and organ, much of it influenced by Asian, Indian and oriental music. Psychedelic rock and folk rock became closely associated with simple messages of peace and love that began with 1967’s ‘Summer of Love’ phenomenon and reached a climax at the Woodstock festival in 1969. Many rock bands of the period stretched the boundaries of the genre, including the Grateful Dead, The Velvet Underground, Janis Joplin, The Beatles, The Doors, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Jefferson Airplane, Cream, The Moody Blues, Gong, Hawkwind and early Pink Floyd.

Ska is a genre that originated in Jamaica in the late 1950s and came to popular prominence in the early 1960s. Ska was influenced by Caribbean calypso and Latin music combined with American jazz and R&B. Ska developed heavy basslines and offbeat accents producing a distinctive up‑tempo dance rhythm. Jamaican producers began recording ska on their own labels which were then played on DJ sound systems. Ska became popular not only in Jamaica but also in Britain, being associated with the decade’s mod and skinhead sub‑cultures. Importantly, ska was the precursor to rocksteady and reggae. Key players in the genre were Prince Buster, Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd and Duke Reid. Ska experienced a major revival in Britain in the late 1970s and early 1980s on the back of the punk rock boom through Two Tone Records and artists like The Specials, Madness, Bad Manners, The Selecter, and The Beat.

Classic rock music, or simply just rock, really came into its own as a separate broad genre during the 1960s deriving from America and the UK. Rock’s origins stem from rock ‘n’ roll, blues, folk, country and R&B. Experimentation with sound and composition mean that there are many, many sub‑genres and crossover styles of rock music. Rock is predominantly performed by a band with vocals, one or more electric guitars, bass and drums played in an un‑syncopated 4/4 rhythm and comprising a verse and chorus structure. Rock became distinct for increasing use of volume and distorted electric guitar sounds. Classic rock was the starting point for the various offshoots that followed including hard rock, psychedelic rock, blues rock, folk rock, progressive/contemporary rock, heavy metal, glam rock, soft rock, AOR, roots rock, jazz rock, punk rock, new wave, post‑punk, grunge, alternative rock and indie. Many of these styles of rock music remain popular to the current day. Culturally, rock music has often been connected with political activism as well as changes in social attitudes to race, sex, crime and drug use, and is often seen as an expression of young people’s rebellious rejection of adult uniformity and conformity. Artists associated with classic rock include The Kinks, Small Faces, Free, Bad Company and Jeff Beck.

Hard rock split from pop and rock during the latter half of the 1960s. As rock music was beginning to define itself throughout the 1960s, an offshoot rapidly developed that had its own distinctive sound. Hard rock took commercial rock and gave it a heavier and more aggressive style. Hard rock vocals tended to be in the higher registers and were often raspy and guttural. The hard-edged, loud, distorted guitar‑heavy music was influenced by blues, rock and garage. Hard rock could often be identified by catchy ‘power chord’ riffs and impressive lead guitar solos. Hard rock quickly became associated with excluded and defiant young people and the lyrics frequently had a distinctly anti‑authoritarian slant. This sometimes hostile approach to the mainstream was characterised by some acts destroying their instruments on stage, for instance by Pete Townsend of The Who and Jimi Hendrix. The hedonistic rock lifestyle went hand in hand with the music, resulting in musicians reportedly partying as hard as they played, regularly destroying property. Many rock artists developed drug and alcohol dependencies, which resulted in some high profile deaths, including Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix. Notable hard rock bands from the 1960s include The Who, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Steppenwolf and The Rolling Stones and later in the early 1970s by bands like Rainbow, Whitesnake, Aerosmith, Kiss, Queen, AC/DC, Alice Cooper and Van Halen.

Musical Facts 1960-1969

Michael Stipe (REM)

Day

Month

Year

Music Fact

4

January

1960

American singer, songwriter, producer, artist and former frontman of indie rock band R.E.M. Michael Stipe was born in Decatur, Georgia.

22

January

1960

Australian singer, songwriter and co-founder of rock band INXS, Michael Hutchence was born in Sydney, New South Wales.

9

February

1960

Legendary American singer Elvis Presley received his first star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6777 Hollywood Boulevard.

3

March

1960

American rock ‘n’ roll singer and now soldier, Sargent Elvis Presley set foot in the UK for the first and only (confirmed) time while his forces plane was refuelled at Prestwick Airport in Ayrshire, Scotland.

13

March

1960

British/Irish bass guitarist, best known as a member of rock band U2, Adam Clayton was born in Chinnor, Oxfordshire, England.

31

March

1960

American blues rock guitarist, Popa Chubby (a.k.a. Theodore ‘Ted’ Horowitz) was born in The Bronx, New York City.

4

April

1960

Legendary American rock ‘n’ roll singer Elvis Presley recorded his classic hit single, ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’ at RCA studios in Nashville, Tennessee.

6

April

1960

American guitarist and member of blues/rock groups The Allman Brothers Band, Gov’t Mule and The Dead, Warren Haynes was born in Asheville, North Carolina.

17

April

1960

American rock ‘n’ roll singer and guitarist Eddie Cochran died tragically following a car accident in Wiltshire, UK, at the age of just 21.

23

April

1960

English guitarist, singer, songwriter and key member of heavy rock band Def Leppard, Steve Clark (1960-1991, 30) was born in Hillsborough, Sheffield.

10

May

1960

Irish singer and songwriter Paul Hewson, a.k.a. Bono, front man of massive rock band U2 was born in Dublin.

1

June

1960

Great English bass guitarist with indie rock icons The Cure, Simon Gallup was born in Duxhurst, Surrey.

6

June

1960

American virtuoso rock guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer, Steve Vai was born in New York.

20

June

1960

English bass guitarist and co-founder of new romantic band Duran Duran, John Taylor was born in Solihull, Warwickshire.

27

October

1960

American soul singer Ben E. King recorded his first songs as a solo artist after leaving The Drifters, the classics, ‘Spanish Harlem’ and ‘Stand By Me’.

7

November

1960

American guitarist and songwriter with rock band KISS from 2002, Tommy Thayer, nicknamed ‘The Spaceman’ was born in Portland, Oregon.

8

February

1961

After changing their name from The Quarrymen, English pop band The Beatles made their debut appearance at Liverpool’s Cavern Club, their first of 292 performances at the venue.

7

May

1961

Welsh guitarist and long-term member of hard rock band Motörhead, Phil Campbell was born in Pontypridd.

12

May

1961

English guitarist, songwriter and member of post-punk band, The Cult, Billy Duffy was born in Manchester.

29

May

1961

Award-winning American singer, songwriter and guitarist, Melissa Etheridge was born in Leavenworth, Kansas.

3

June

1961

English guitarist and founding member of psychedelic rock bands Ozric Tentacles and Nodens Ictus, Ed Wynne was born in London.

10

June

1961

American bass guitarist, singer and songwriter, former member of alternative rock band Pixies and currently fronting The Breeders with her twin sister, Kim Deal was born in Dayton, Ohio.

10

June

1961

American guitarist and member of The Breeders with her twin sister, Kelley Deal was born in Dayton, Ohio.

23

July

1961

Multi-talented award-winning English singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer, DJ and co-founder of Depeche Mode, Martin Gore was born in Dagenham, Essex.

8

August

1961

Irish guitarist and songwriter with rock band U2, The Edge (a.k.a. David Evans) was born in Barking, Essex, England to Welsh parents.

13

September

1961

American guitarist, singer, songwriter and co-founder of thrash metal rock band Megadeth, Dave Mustaine was born in La Mesa, California.

16

September

1961

English guitarist, singer and songwriter with indie rock band My Bloody Valentine, Bilinda Butcher was born in London.

3

October

1961

The Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee welcomed its first inductees, Jimmie Rodgers, Fred Rose and Hank Williams.

10

October

1961

English bass guitarist and actor best known as member of new wave/pop group Spandau Ballet, Martin Kemp was born in London.

10

February

1962

American bass guitarist and songwriter, best known as a member of heavy rock band Metallica, Cliff Burton (1962-1986, 24) was born in California.

11

February

1962

Talented American singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, including guitar, bass and drums, Sheryl Crow was born in Kennett, Missouri.

2

March

1962

American singer, songwriter, founder and front man of the rock band that bears his name, Jon Bon Jovi was born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey.

8

April

1962

American guitarist, co-founder and ex-member of rock band Guns N’ Roses, Izzy Stradlin (a.k.a. Jeffrey Dean Isbell) was born in Lafayette, Indiana.

2

August

1962

American folk singer, songwriter and guitarist Robert Allen Zimmerman formally changed his name to… the one and only Bob Dylan.

25

August

1962

Northern Irish guitarist who has been a member of hard rock bands Def Leppard, Dio and Whitesnake, Vivian Campbell was born in Belfast, County Antrim.

11

October

1962

English pop group The Beatles had their song ‘Love Me Do’ reach no. 4 in the UK singles chart, their first record to do so.

16

October

1962

Australian/American bass guitarist and co-founder of rock band, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Michael Balzary (a.k.a. Flea) was born in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

17

October

1962

English newcomers, The Beatles made their first regional television appearance playing 2 songs live on Granada’s ‘People And Places’ show.

18

November

1962

Great American guitarist, songwriter and long-time member of metal rock band Metallica, Kirk Hammett was born in San Francisco, California.

24

November

1962

English guitarist and songwriter with the Stone Roses and The Seahorses, John Squire was born in Altrincham, Cheshire.

8

December

1962

American guitarist, well known for his 10-year stint with heavy metal band Megadeth, Marty Friedman was born in Washington D.C.

9

January

1963

English drummer, Charlie Watts joined the rock band The Rolling Stones, starting a long-term membership of the group.

19

January

1963

English pop/rock band, The Beatles made their first recorded UK TV appearance on the ITV/ABC show, ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’.

2

February

1963

American singer, songwriter and guitarist, the ‘songbird’, Eva Cassidy (1963-1996, 33) was born in Washington D.C.

22

March

1963

Emerging English pop group The Beatles released their debut studio album ‘Please Please Me’ in the UK. Merseybeat had well and truly arrived.

27

May

1963

American folk singer, songwriter and guitarist, Bob Dylan released his classic 2nd studio album, ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’.

30

June

1963

Impressive, prolific Swedish virtuoso neoclassical heavy rock guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen was born in Stockholm.

3

August

1963

American guitarist, singer, songwriter and co-founder of heavy metal rock band Metallica, James Hetfield was born in Downey, California.

9

August

1963

Popular British weekly pop music television show, ‘Ready Steady Go!’ was first broadcast by ITV. The show ran until December 1966.

9

August

1963

Multi-award-winning American soul/R&B singer and actress, Whitney Houston was born in Newark, New Jersey.

30

August

1963

Dutch technology company Philips introduced the Compact Cassette to Europe at the Berlin Radio Show, followed by an American launch in November the same year.

13

October

1963

Emerging English pop band The Beatles made their first major TV appearance on ITV’s famous variety show, ‘Sunday Night At The London Palladium’.

31

October

1963

English guitarist, singer, songwriter, ex-member of post‑punk rock band The Smiths, as well as a successful solo artist and collaborator, Johnny Marr was born in Manchester.

31

December

1963

American guitarist, singer and founding member of thrash metal rock band Anthrax, Scott Ian was born in Queens, New York.

1

January

1964

The BBC’s popular chart music television programme ‘Top Of The Pops’ (TOTP) was first broadcast in the UK. The show ran for over 42 years until July 2006.

13

January

1964

American folk singer Bob Dylan released his 3rd studio album ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’’, which became a political anthem for social change in 1960s America.

5

February

1964

American bass player and ex-member of rock bands, Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver, Loaded and Jane’s Addiction, Duff McKagan was born in Seattle, Washington state.

7

February

1964

‘Beatlemania’ struck America when The Beatles landed at New York’s JFK Airport on their first visit to the USA.

9

February

1964

‘Beatlemania’ struck again when English pop band The Beatles made their American TV debut on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’.

11

February

1964

English pop band The Beatles made their debut live performance in America at the Washington Coliseum in front of 8,000 screaming fans.

26

May

1964

American rock guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer and actor, Lenny Kravitz was born in New York City.

30

May

1964

Great American guitarist with rock bands Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave, as well as several solo projects, Tom Morello was born in New York.

3

June

1964

Great American guitarist with thrash metal rock band Slayer, the formidable Kerry King was born in Los Angeles, California.

19

June

1964

English rock band, The Animals, released their seminal hit single, ‘House Of The Rising Sun’.

10

July

1964

English pop/rock group The Beatles released their 6th studio album ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ in the UK.

24

July

1964

The Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island, U.S.A. descended into controversy when Bob Dylan performed an electric rather than acoustic set.

13

November

1964

English rock band The Rolling Stones released their cover of the classic Willie Dixon blues song, ‘Little Red Rooster’ as a single in the UK.

23

December

1964

American guitarist, singer, songwriter and long-time member of rock band Pearl Jam, Eddie Vedder was born in Evanston, Illinois.

20

January

1965

The self-proclaimed ‘father of rock ‘n’ roll’, legendary American DJ Alan Freed died from uraemia and cirrhosis in hospital in Palm Springs, California at the age of 43.

28

January

1965

Emerging English rock band, The Who made their debut television appearance in the UK on the ITV music show ‘Ready Steady Go!’

14

February

1965

Australian/French multi-instrumentalist, including guitar, known for working with alternative rock bands Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and Grinderman, Warren Ellis was born in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia.

8

March

1965

Legendary American folk guitarist, singer and songwriter Bob Dylan released his first top 40 hit single, ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ in the U.S.

12

May

1965

English rock band The Rolling Stones recorded their trademark song ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ at RCA’s studio in Hollywood.

17

May

1965

Prolific composer, singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer and founder of industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor was born in New Castle, Pennsylvania.

16

June

1965

Legendary American folk singer and guitarist Bob Dylan recorded his classic song, ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ at Columbia studios in New York.

23

June

1965

English guitarist and founding member of rock band Oasis, Paul ‘Bonehead’ Arthurs was born in Manchester.

23

July

1965

British/American guitarist, member of hard rock bands Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver, as well as a successful solo artist, Saul Hudson (a.k.a. Slash) was born in London.

29

July

1965

The full-length film ‘Help!’, featuring a certain English pop quartet, The Beatles, was premiered in London.

6

August

1965

English pop group The Beatles released their 5th studio album, ‘Help!’ in the UK, which was also the soundtrack to their film of the same name.

15

August

1965

English pop band The Beatles broke the (then) record for an audience of 55,600 at Shea Stadium in New York City.

20

August

1965

English rock band The Rolling Stones released their massive hit single, ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’.

28

August

1965

Canadian country music singer, songwriter and guitarist, Shania Twain, the ‘Queen of Country Pop’ was born in Windsor, Ontario.

30

August

1965

American folk guitarist, singer and songwriter Bob Dylan released his classic 6th studio album, ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ in the UK.

13

October

1965

English rock band The Who recorded their classic single ‘My Generation’ at Pye Recording Studios in London, UK.

21

October

1965

Pioneering American rock ‘n’ roll bass player, forever associated with singer Elvis Presley, Bill Black died of a brain tumour in Memphis, Tennessee, at the age of 39.

26

October

1965

HM Queen Elizabeth II presented members of the English pop band The Beatles with MBEs at Buckingham Palace in London.

29

October

1965

English rock band, The Who released the single ‘My Generation’ in the UK, reaching number 2 in the British singles chart.

12

November

1965

Emerging young English singer, songwriter and guitarist Marc Bolan performed his first single, ‘The Wizard’ on national UK TV music programme ‘Ready Steady Go!’

12

November

1965

American rock band Velvet Underground performed their debut live performance at Summit High School in New Jersey.

19

November

1965

English guitarist, songwriter and lead man for alternative rock band Spiritualized, Jason Pierce was born in Rugby.

21

November

1965

Avant-garde Icelandic singer, songwriter, producer and actress, Björk Guðmundsdóttir was born in Reykjavík.

25

November

1965

American guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer, a member of punk rock bands Rancid and Transplants, Tim Armstrong was born in Albany, California.

3

December

1965

English pop/rock group The Beatles released their 6th studio album ‘Rubber Soul’ in the UK.

3

December

1965

English rock band, The Who, released their classic debut studio album, ‘My Generation’ in the UK.

10

December

1965

American singer, songwriter and guitarist, front man of alternative rock band Dinosaur Jr., the great J. Mascis was born in Amherst, Massachusetts.

4

March

1966

Member of The Beatles, John Lennon, made his infamously controversial statement that the band was “…more popular than Jesus…”.

18

March

1966

American guitarist and founder of heavy rock band, Alice In Chains, Jerry Cantrell was born in Tacoma, Washington.

25

March

1966

Renowned Canadian blues rock guitarist, Jeff Healey (1966-2008, 41) was born in Toronto.

5

April

1966

American guitarist and co-founder of rock band, Pearl Jam, Mike McCready was born in Pensacola, Florida.

22

April

1966

English garage rock band The Troggs released their version of the Wild Ones’ song, ‘Wild Thing’, which became a classic hit single of its time.

1

May

1966

English pop/rock band, The Beatles performed their final UK live appearance at the NME Poll Winners’ Party, held at the Empire Pool, Wembley in London.

13

May

1966

English rock band, The Rolling Stones released their dark and sinister hit single, ‘Paint It, Black’ from the album ‘Aftermath’ (U.S. release).

16

May

1966

Original American surf pop/rock band, The Beach Boys released their best-selling classic 11th studio album, ‘Pet Sounds’ in the U.S.

16

May

1966

American folk singer, songwriter and guitarist, Bob Dylan originally scheduled the release date of his classic 7th studio double album, ‘Blonde On Blonde’. It didn’t actually become available until early June.

26

May

1966

English pop/rock band, The Beatles recorded ‘Yellow Submarine’ at Abbey Road Studios in London.

30

May

1966

American singer, songwriter, guitarist and co-founder of alternative rock bands Pavement and the Jicks, Stephen Malkmus was born in Santa Monica, California.

16

July

1966

British music icons Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker formed the short-lived blues/rock super group Cream.

5

August

1966

English pop/rock group, The Beatles released their classic 7th studio album, ‘Revolver’ in the UK.

20

August

1966

American guitarist, songwriter and founder of heavy metal rock bands Pantera and Damageplan, ‘Dimebag’ Darrell Lance Abbott (1966-2004, 38) was born in Arlington, Texas.

12

September

1966

Featuring an American/British pop-rock band, The Monkees show premiered on American TV network NBC.

20

September

1966

Portuguese/American guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer and member of rock band Extreme, Nuno Bettencourt was born in Terceira, Azores.

23

October

1966

Anglo-American rock trio, The Jimi Hendrix Experience recorded ‘Hey Joe’, their debut single, which peaked at number 6 in the UK chart.

2

November

1966

American blues guitarist Mississippi John Hurt died of a heart attack in a hospital in Grenada, Mississippi at the age of 73.

6

November

1966

American virtuoso rock guitarist, member of rock bands Mr Big and Racer X, as well as successful solo artist, Paul Gilbert was born in Carbondale, Illinois.

17

November

1966

American surf band, The Beach Boys had a number one hit in the UK singles chart with the classic song, ‘Good Vibrations’.

17

November

1966

Talented American singer, songwriter and guitarist, the graceful Mr Jeff Buckley (1966-1997, 30) was born in Orange, California.

25

November

1966

The Jimi Hendrix Experience played their debut live performance in the UK at the Bag O’Nails Club in Soho, London.

7

December

1966

English guitarist and songwriter who has worked with bands Oasis, Beady Eye and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Gem Archer was born in Durham.

9

December

1966

English blues/rock super group Cream, comprising Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, released their debut studio album, ‘Fresh Cream’ in the UK.

13

December

1966

Anglo-American rock band The Jimi Hendrix Experience, made their UK TV debut on popular music programme ‘Ready Steady Go!’.

13

December

1966

Anglo-American rock band The Jimi Hendrix Experience recorded their classic track, ‘Foxy Lady’ (a.k.a. ‘Foxey Lady’ in the U.S.), released as a single in May 1967.

16

December

1966

Anglo-American rock band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience released their debut single in the UK, ‘Hey Joe’, reaching no. 6. It failed to chart in the U.S.

23

December

1966

After 3 years on air, UK TV network channel ITV broadcast the final episode of the popular music programme, ‘Ready Steady Go!’ following a Musicians’ Union ban on miming on television.

29

December

1966

Anglo‑American rock trio, The Jimi Hendrix Experience made their first UK TV appearance on the BBC’s ‘Top Of The Pops’, performing their single, ‘Hey Joe’.

4

January

1967

American rock band, The Doors, released their classic self-titled debut studio album, ‘The Doors’.

11

January

1967

Anglo‑American rock trio, The Jimi Hendrix Experience recorded their classic song, ‘Purple Haze’ at De Lane Lea Studios in London. It took 3 takes in 4 hours to complete.

14

January

1967

American heavy metal guitarist, singer and songwriter, founder of heavy metal band Black Label Society, Zakk Wylde was born in New Jersey.

17

January

1967

English rock guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer, solo artist and session musician, Richard Hawley was born in Sheffield.

3

February

1967

Pioneering English record producer and studio engineer, Joe Meek murdered his landlady and then committed suicide in London at the age of 37.

17

February

1967

English Blues rock band John Mayall and the Blues Breakers released their 2nd studio album, ‘A Hard Road’ with Peter Green replacing Eric Clapton as guitarist.

20

February

1967

American singer, songwriter and guitarist with grunge rock band Nirvana, Kurt Cobain (1967-1994, 27) was born in Aberdeen, Washington state.

12

March

1967

American rock band, The Velvet Underground released their debut studio album, ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico’, with iconic cover art by pop artist Andy Warhol.

17

March

1967

American singer, songwriter, guitarist and co-founder of alternative rock band Smashing Pumpkins, Billy Corgan was born in Chicago, Illinois.

12

May

1967

Anglo‑American rock band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience released their debut studio album, ‘Are You Experienced’ in the UK.

29

May

1967

English singer, songwriter and guitarist with rock bands Oasis and High Flying Birds, Noel Gallagher was born in Manchester.

1

June

1967

English pop/rock band, The Beatles released their classic 8th studio album, ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ in the UK.

1

June

1967

Aspiring English singer David Bowie released his eponymous debut studio album, ‘David Bowie’ in the UK.

7

June

1967

American guitarist, singer, songwriter and founding member of alternative rock band Jane’s Addiction as well as former member of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dave Navarro was born in Santa Monica, California.

16

June

1967

The ‘Summer of Love’ officially arrived with the start of the legendary 3-day Monterey Pop Festival in California. Artists included The Animals, Simon & Garfunkel and Sly & The Family Stone.

16

June

1967

English psychedelic/progressive rock band Pink Floyd released their classic single, ‘See Emily Play’, written by Syd Barrett.

17

June

1967

The ‘Summer of Love’ continued with the 2nd day of the 3-day Monterey International Pop Festival in California. Artists included Canned Heat, Jefferson Airplane, Otis Redding, Steve Miller Band and The Byrds.

18

June

1967

The ‘Summer of Love’ continued with the 3rd and final day of the Monterey International Pop Festival in California. Artists included Buffalo Springfield, Grateful Dead, Ravi Shankar, The Jimi Hendrix Experience and The Who.

24

June

1967

German guitarist with Industrial Metal rock band Rammstein, Richard Z. Kruspe was born in Wittenberge.

12

July

1967

Great American guitarist and founding member of heavy rock band Dream Theater, John Petrucci was born in New York.

4

August

1967

English psychedelic progressive rock group, Pink Floyd released their debut studio album, ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn’.

25

September

1967

American rock band The Doors released their all-time classic 2nd studio album, ‘Strange Days’.

30

September

1967

English broadcaster the BBC aired their pop music channel Radio 1 for the very first time in the UK. The first record played by DJ Tony Blackburn was, ‘Flowers in the Rain’ by The Move.

3

October

1967

American singer, songwriter and guitarist Woody Guthrie died from Huntington’s Disease in New York City at the age of 55.

9

November

1967

The brainchild of Jann Wenner, the very first issue of Rolling Stone music magazine was published in the USA, featuring a photo of John Lennon on the front cover.

10

November

1967

English blues/rock super group Cream released their classic 2nd studio album, ‘Disraeli Gears’ in the UK.

1

December

1967

Anglo-American rock trio, The Jimi Hendrix Experience released their sophomore studio album, ‘Axis: Bold as Love’ in the UK.

7

December

1967

Shortly before his tragic death, American soul singer Otis Redding recorded his classic single, ‘(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay’.

10

December

1967

American soul singer, Otis Redding was killed tragically when the plane in which he was travelling crashed into Lake Monona near Madison, Wisconsin, at the age of 26.

16

December

1967

English rock band, The Who, released their 3rd studio album, ‘The Who Sell Out’ in the UK.

27

December

1967

Canadian singer, songwriter and guitarist, Leonard Cohen released his classic debut studio album, ‘Songs of Leonard Cohen’.

13

January

1968

American country music legend Johnny Cash performed two live shows at the notorious Folsom State Prison in California.

21

January

1968

Anglo-American rock trio, The Jimi Hendrix Experience recorded their cover version of Bob Dylan’s, ‘All Along The Watchtower’ at Olympic Studios in London.

30

January

1968

American psychedelic rock band, The Velvet Underground released their classic sophomore studio album, ‘White Light/White Heat’.

8

March

1968

The famous New York live music venue Fillmore East opened its doors at 105 Second Avenue and East 6th Street in Manhattan. It closed 3 years later on 27 June 1971.

6

April

1968

English progressive rock band Pink Floyd announced that guitarist and singer Syd Barrett had left the band he helped to found.

15

April

1968

English guitarist, singer, songwriter and original member of alternative rock band Radiohead, Ed O’Brien was born in Oxford.

20

April

1968

After changing their name from Roundabout, English hard rock band Deep Purple played their first live concert as Deep Purple in Tastrup, Denmark.

24

May

1968

English rock band, Small Faces released their classic 4th studio album ‘Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake’.

24

May

1968

English rock band, The Rolling Stones released their massive hit single, ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’.

28

May

1968

Multi-talented Australian singer, songwriter, actress, entrepreneur and sex symbol, Kylie Minogue was born in Melbourne, Victoria.

5

June

1968

Marc Bolan’s band Tyrannosaurus Rex released their debut album, ‘My People Were Fair And Had Sky In Their Hair… But Now They’re Content To Wear Stars On Their Brows’ in the UK.

15

June

1968

Acclaimed American jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery died of a heart attack at his home in Indianapolis at the age of 45.

28

June

1968

English progressive rock group Pink Floyd released their sophomore studio album, ‘A Saucerful Of Secrets’ in the UK. It was the only Pink Floyd album to feature both Syd Barrett and David Gilmour.

29

June

1968

The first Hyde Park Free Concert was held in London, UK, featuring Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, Tyrannosaurus Rex and Roy Harper.

5

July

1968

The legendary San Francisco live music venue Fillmore West opened its doors at 10 South Van Ness Avenue. It stayed at this location until 4 July 1971.

10

July

1968

English guitarist Eric Clapton announced that the blues/rock super group Cream were splitting up, after just 3 studio albums.

13

July

1968

Under their original name, Earth, English heavy metal pioneers, Black Sabbath played their first live concert at The Crown pub in Birmingham.

17

July

1968

The unique psychedelic animated film ‘Yellow Submarine’, featuring characters based on The Beatles premiered in London.

5

August

1968

Influential American country guitarist and principal sideman for Johnny Cash, Luther Perkins, one of the famed ‘Tennessee Three’, died tragically in a fire accident in Hendersonville, Tennessee at the age of 40.

9

August

1968

English blues/rock super group Cream released their 3rd studio album, ‘Wheels Of Fire’.

6

September

1968

English blues/rock guitarist Eric Clapton recorded the guitar solo on The Beatles’ song, ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’.

7

September

1968

English rock band The New Yardbrids, later to become Led Zeppelin performed their live concert debut at Gladsaxe, near Copenhagen in Denmark.

14

September

1968

The animated series based around a fictional pop band, ‘The Archies’, from the original comic strip, premiered on CBS TV in America.

20

September

1968

English Heavy rock band, Led Zeppelin started recording their ground-breaking debut album ‘Led Zeppelin (I)’ in London, to be released in 1969.

7

October

1968

English singer, songwriter and guitarist with alternative rock band Radiohead, Thom Yorke was born in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire.

14

October

1968

English psychedelic folk rock duo Tyrannosaurus Rex released their 2nd studio album, ‘Prophets, Seers & Sages: The Angels of the Ages’.

25

October

1968

Nine days after its American launch, The Jimi Hendrix Experience released their final studio album ‘Electric Ladyland’ in the UK.

9

November

1968

English hard rock band Led Zeppelin performed their debut London concert at The Roundhouse, Chalk Farm. Members’ tickets cost 16 shillings.

21

November

1968

English bass guitarist and songwriter, principally with Britpop band Blur, Alex James was born in Bournemouth.

22

November

1968

English group, The Beatles released their highly regarded 9th studio double album, ‘The Beatles’, a.k.a. the ‘White Album’ in the UK.

26

November

1968

Aside from their 2005 reunion gigs, English blues/rock super group, Cream played their final ‘Farewell Concert’ at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

29

November

1968

Emerging British/American blues/rock band Fleetwood Mac released their classic instrumental hit single ‘Albatross’.

6

December

1968

British rock band, The Rolling Stones released their classic 7th studio album, ‘Beggars Banquet’ in the UK.

24

December

1968

American blues/rock guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer, prolific musical collaborator as well as solo artist, Doyle Bramhall II was born in Dallas, Texas.

5

January

1969

Controversial American rock singer and songwriter, Brian Warner, better known as the artist Marilyn Manson, was born in Canton, Ohio.

12

January

1969

British rock band Led Zeppelin released their self‑titled debut studio album, ‘Led Zeppelin’ on Atlantic Records in the UK.

13

January

1969

English band The Beatles released their studio album ‘Yellow Submarine’ as a soundtrack to the psychedelic animated film of the same name featuring the Fab Four.

14

January

1969

American singer, songwriter, drummer and guitarist with rock bands Nirvana and Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl was born in Springfield, Virginia.

22

January

1969

Legendary Canadian singer, songwriter and guitarist, Neil Young released his eponymous debut album, ‘Neil Young’.

30

January

1969

English rock band The Beatles made their final live public performance, filming their famous unannounced rooftop gig atop the Apple Studio building in London for the film ‘Let It Be’.

21

February

1969

Welsh singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer with rock band Manic Street Preachers, James Dean Bradfield was born in Pontypool.

22

February

1969

Legendary English pop/rock band The Beatles started recording their classic studio album, ‘Abbey Road’ at the famous London recording studio of the same name.

24

February

1969

Anglo-American rock trio, The Jimi Hendrix Experience performed their final UK live indoor concert at The Royal Albert Hall in London.

12

March

1969

English singer, songwriter, guitarist and founder of indie rock/britpop band Blur, Graham Coxon was born in Rinteln, Germany where his father was stationed with the British Army.

7

April

1969

Legendary Canadian singer, songwriter and guitarist, Leonard Cohen released his classic sophomore studio album, ‘Songs From a Room’.

9

April

1969

American folk rock guitarist, singer and songwriter Bob Dylan released his change of direction 9th studio album, ‘Nashville Skyline’.

13

May

1969

Prolific and inventive American rock guitarist, Buckethead (a.k.a. Brian Carroll) was born in Pomona, California.

14

May

1969

Canadian guitarist, singer and songwriter, Neil Young with his band Crazy Horse released their sophomore studio album, ‘Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere’.

16

May

1969

Before pioneering glam rock, English singer, songwriter and guitarist Marc Bolan with Tyrannosaurus Rex released their 3rd studio album, ‘Unicorn’.

23

May

1969

English rock band, The Who released their ground breaking epic rock opera double album, ‘Tommy’ in the UK.

26

May

1969

John Lennon and Yoko Ono promoted world peace through an 8-day ‘bed-in’ in Canada proclaiming ‘Give Peace a Chance’.

4

June

1969

American country artist Johnny Cash released his classic live album, ‘At San Quentin’, recorded at the (in)famous high security prison in California.

20

June

1969

Emerging English singer David Bowie recorded his first hit single ‘Space Oddity’ at Trident Studios, London.

3

July

1969

English guitarist, multi-instrumentalist and founder of The Rolling Stones, Brian Jones drowned in his swimming pool at his home in Hartfield, East Sussex at the age of 27.

11

July

1969

Emerging English rock singer and songwriter David Bowie released his classic debut single, ‘Space Oddity’ in the UK.

1

August

1969

The point at which aspiring rock band Earth changed their name to Black Sabbath, announced at a concert held at the Pokey Hole Club in Lichfield, Staffordshire, UK.

5

August

1969

American singer and songwriter Iggy Pop launched his long and varied music career, with or without The Stooges, with the release of his/their debut studio album, ‘The Stooges’.

15

August

1969

The legendary hippie counter-culture Woodstock Festival ‘Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace and Music’ Arts Fair began at Max Yasgur’s dairy farm near Bethel, New York, attended by over 400,000 people. Tickets were priced at $6 per day. Artists included Melanie, Arlo Guthrie and Joan Baez.

16

August

1969

The second day of the legendary Woodstock Festival took place in upstate New York. Artists included Canned Heat, Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Sly & the Family Stone, The Who and Jefferson Airplane.

17

August

1969

The third and (sort of) final day of the legendary Woodstock Festival took place on Max Yasgur’s 600-acre farm 43 miles south west of the town of Woodstock, New York state. Artists included Ten Years After, The Band, Johnny Winter, Blood, Sweat & Tears and CSN&Y.

18

August

1969

As the last of 32 acts, American guitar legend, Jimi Hendrix closed the fabled Woodstock Festival by playing a 2-hour set at 9:00 in the morning with a temporary band.

30

August

1969

After changing their name from Earth, English heavy metal pioneers, Black Sabbath played their first live concert as Black Sabbath at a local pub in Workington, Cumbria.

5

September

1969

Talented American guitarist, son of Frank and carrying on the formidable family legacy, Dweezil Zappa was born in Los Angeles, California.

7

September

1969

English guitarist, best known as a member of Britpop group Cast and his work with alternative rock artist Robert Plant, Liam ‘Skin’ Tyson was born in Liverpool.

22

September

1969

Canadian/American roots/folk/country rock artists, The Band released their classic self-titled 2nd studio album, ‘The Band’.

25

September

1969

American guitarist, songwriter, producer and one-time member of rock band Guns N’ Roses (2006-2014), Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal was born in Brooklyn, New York.

26

September

1969

Legendary English pop/rock band The Beatles released their classic final studio album with the iconic zebra crossing cover photograph, ‘Abbey Road’ in the UK.

3

October

1969

Influential American delta blues singer and guitarist Skip James died in Pennsylvania at the age of 67.

10

October

1969

American rock guitarist and composer Frank Zappa released his outstanding, classic career-peak studio album, ‘Hot Rats’.

10

October

1969

English progressive rock band King Crimson released their classic studio album, ‘In the Court of the Crimson King’ in the UK.

16

October

1969

Anglo‑American rock trio the Jimi Hendrix Experience released their 3rd and final studio album, the classic ‘Electric Ladyland’ in the U.S.

18

October

1969

American music family, The Jackson 5 made their debut on American TV, appearing on ABC’s ‘Hollywood Palace’.

22

October

1969

English hard rock group Led Zeppelin released their classic multi-million-selling 2nd studio album, ‘Led Zeppelin II’ on Atlantic Records in the U.S.

28

October

1969

Award-winning multi-genre American guitarist, singer and songwriter Ben Harper was born in Pomona, California.

4

November

1969

English singer and songwriter David Bowie released his 2nd studio album, ‘David Bowie’ (also released as ‘Space Oddity’ after the hit single from the album).

7

November

1969

English progressive rock group, Pink Floyd released their 4th part live, part studio experimental double album, ‘Ummagumma’, with cover art by Hipgnosis.

14

November

1969

Cartoon bubblegum pop group, The Archies began the longest ‘one hit wonder’ UK singles chart-topping streak (8 weeks), with their classic song, ‘Sugar, Sugar’.

27

November

1969

American guitarist, singer and songwriter, a member of heavy rock band Alter Bridge, as well as pursuing many side projects, Myles Kennedy was born in Boston, Massachusetts.

29

November

1969

English rock band, The Rolling Stones, released their classic 11th studio album, ‘Let It Bleed’ in the UK.

6

December

1969

A man was stabbed to death by a member of the Hells Angels during The Rolling Stones set at the infamous Altamont Free Festival in California.

14

December

1969

American music family, The Jackson 5 made their American Network TV debut, appearing on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’.

Tailpiece

Well there you go… that’s the 1960s in a proverbial (and quite sizeable) nutshell. An appreciation of music genre development and music facts from the 1960s catalogues the seemingly sudden eruption of creativity that took place against the background of momentous global events. The vibrancy and liberalism of the 1960s was exploratory, liberating and empowering for many, mostly young people at the time. Much of the optimistic idealism was, perhaps in hindsight, naively transient and disappointingly ephemeral. All good things come to an end and things were about to change quite fundamentally all over again.

How the heck do you follow the decade of decadence? Well, that will be the fascinating story of the 1970s, which will unfold in all its hedonistic, nihilistic grime and glory. Intrigued? Why not come back for the next enthralling episode of the ‘History of Music’. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars’ ‘Quote of the Month’: “I’m glad I’m alive. What else would I do?”

© 2019 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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November 2018 – A Potted History of the Guitar: Epilogue

Hello again. Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the studio, on stage or rehearsal room… some closure is required.

As before. if you wish to recap on any or all of the previous articles before starting here at the end, the whole ‘Potted History of the Guitar’ series, can be accessed here (each part opens in a new browser tab):

Note: For completists, I’ve updated Part VII (September 2018) to include some empirical data over the last decade to fill out the ‘recovery and rejuvenation’ section. It isn’t vital by any means. Just sayin’.

It was only after I completed the mammoth task of researching and documenting the history of the guitar, that I had another thought. All eight parts were written from scratch with little idea of where it would all end up. At the end of the 8th (and what I thought at the time was the final) part in the series, I mentioned that it had ended with “a bit more of a whimper than some almighty bang”.

After all the effort invested in telling the guitar’s epic journey, I felt a tad disappointed that something was missing but I wasn’t sure what it was. Even though the narrative needed to have a line drawn under it at some point, it wasn’t perhaps up to me to determine the last remaining thoughts about the topic.

As is my wont, and if you’ve read any of my articles before, you’ll know that I tend to have a lot of wonts, I thought about what might be a fitting coda to the outstanding ‘unfinished business’. That ‘missing link’ turned out to be something that isn’t actually part of the historical timeline or anything that I could add myself, but something else altogether.

Whereas the first eight parts were in my own words, I felt that it would benefit from, and indeed deserved, some independently derived anecdotes from some highly respected sources. So… I had this genius (!?) epiphany that I would select some imparted wisdom from people who have made a living either playing or being in the influential presence of the mighty guitar.

While working on social media over the last four years, I have compiled and posted many interesting quotes from musicians. Of the many hundreds of apt and often motivational quotes, quite a number of them make reference to the guitar in one way or another. It seems therefore appropriate to share them in order to give a sense of closure to the guitar’s long story. While I am not alone in my admiration for the instrument, I felt that readers shouldn’t just take my word (or many words as it turned out) for declaring the importance of the humble guitar within the context of music and cultural history. As a result, I will leave it to the professionals to have their say on the subject as they see it from their own perspective. You may recognise some of the names along the way, ranging from ‘Dimebag’ Darrell Abbott to Frank Zappa – a veritable and literal A‑Z of guitar wisdom over the years.

What follows are some of my favourite guitar quotes for your consideration. You may well have others that complement these and which may add something to the overall picture. All in all, I think that they provide the appropriate concluding element that I was unwittingly looking for, bringing a bit of subjective coherency to the factual chronology.

So, from the horse’s mouth of music royalty, so to speak, take the opportunity to internalise what they say into your psyche. You never know, you may end up being a better guitarist (and perhaps a more rounded human being) by taking heed of a thing or two from the masters of their trade. After all, they can say it better – and way more succinctly – than I can, so perhaps it is best left to them to articulate the remainder of this article. Are you sitting comfortably?

Musicians’ quotes about the guitar

Just to mix it up a bit, the quotes are listed in alphabetical order of the quote, rather than by the artist. There are also quite a few pictures this month, so to save repetition, where an artist has more than one quote, their picture only appears next the first one. Enjoy…

A guitar is a very personal extension of the person playing it. You have to be emotionally and spiritually connected to your instrument. I’m very brutal on my instruments, but not all the time – Eddie Van Halen (1955-)

A guitar is like an old friend that is there with me – BB King (1925-2015)

A guitar is something you can hold and love and it’s never going to bug you. But here’s the secret about the guitar – it’s defiant. It will never let you conquer it. The more you get involved with it, the more you realize how little you know – Les Paul (1915-2009)

Ah, I could make it in the shape of a guitar, and it would a) be more affordable, and b) a guitar player could double on this instrument – Leo Fender (1909-1991)

As far as I’m concerned, I’m just a guitar player, and my job is to go out there and play and entertain and do my thing – Les Paul (1915-2009)

Besides being a guitar player, I’m a big fan of the guitar. I love that damn instrument – Steve Vai (1960-)

Describing certain sounds, there’s a common language that guitar players have – Joe Perry (1950-)

Doesn’t matter what guitar you play, as long as you’ve got passion! – Eric Johnson (1954-)

Every time you pick up your guitar to play, play as if it’s the last time – Eric Clapton (1945-)

Finding ways to use the same guitar people have been using for 50 years to make sounds that no one has heard before is truly what gets me off – Jeff Beck (1944-)

For me, I think the only danger is being too much in love with guitar playing. The music is the most important thing, and the guitar is only the instrument – Jerry Garcia (1942-1995)

Guitar is the best form of self-expression I know. Everything else, and I’m just sort of tripping around, trying to figure my way through life – Slash (1965-)

Guitar playing is both extremely easy for me and extremely difficult for me at the same time – Kirk Hammett (1962-)

Guitars are fun. There are plenty of different kinds to play. They look cool. They sound cool. Don’t you want to play guitar? – Joe Satriani (1956-)

Guitars have been the obsession of my life. I first picked one up at the age of four and I’ve been a guitar junkie ever since – Johnny Marr (1963-)

I believe every guitar player inherently has something unique about their playing. They just have to identify what makes them different and develop it – Jimmy Page (1944-)

I can’t even read notes. But I can teach someone how to make a guitar smoke – Ace Frehley (1951-)

I don’t know of a guitar player that has only one guitar. They’re never happy with one. I’m never happy with just one of them. I woke up and ended up with six, even if you can only play one at a time! – Les Paul (1915-2009)

I don’t play a lot of fancy guitar. I don’t want to play it. The kind of guitar I want to play is mean, mean licks – John Lee Hooker (1912-2001)

I don’t want you to play me a riff that’s going to impress Joe Satriani; give me a riff that makes a kid want to go out and buy a guitar and learn to play – Ozzy Osbourne (1948-)

I had no aspirations to be a musician, but I picked up a guitar for two seconds and haven’t put it down since – Slash (1965-)

I just go where the guitar takes me – Angus Young (1955-)

I loved playing the guitar and I knew I was pretty good at it, so that’s what I wanted to do with my life – Ace Frehley (1951-)

I never felt so close to a guitar as that silver one with mirrors that I used on stage all the time – Syd Barrett (1946-2006)

I never stop being amazed by all the different ways of playing the guitar and making it deliver a message – Les Paul (1915-2009)

I never wanted to sing. I just wanted to play rhythm guitar – hide in the back and just play – Kurt Cobain (1967-1994)

I started out playing guitar because Jimi Hendrix was my hero, so my roots were really based on Jimi Hendrix and his style of playing – Joe Satriani (1956-)

I think people must wonder how a white girl like me became a blues guitarist. The truth is, I never intended to do this for a living – Bonnie Raitt (1949-)

I tried to make guitars that were close to what my heroes played. That’s the way it’s done. My experience is that you have to do it like a musician. You have to learn the language before you can learn to be a novelist – Paul Reed Smith (1956-)

I want every girl in the world to pick up a guitar and start screaming – Courtney Love (1964-)

I wanted to connect my guitar to human emotions – BB King (1925-2015)

I wonder if I could make an electric bass – Leo Fender (1909-1991)

I’m just a guitarist in a kick-ass rock and roll band. What more could I ask for? – Eddie Van Halen (1955-)

I’ve had three wives and three guitars. I still play the guitars – Andres Segovia (1893-1987)

If ever there’s an obscene noise to be made on an instrument, it’s going to come out of a guitar… Let’s be realistic about this, the guitar can be the single most blasphemous device on the face of the earth. That’s why I like it… The disgusting stink of a too‑loud electric guitar: now that’s my idea of good time – Frank Zappa (1940-1993)

If something is easy to repair, it is easy to construct – Leo Fender (1909-1991)

If you don’t know the blues… there’s no point in picking up the guitar and playing rock and roll or any other form of popular music – Keith Richards (1943-)

Lean your body forward slightly to support the guitar against your chest, for the poetry of the music should resound in your heart – Andres Segovia (1893-1987)

My guitar is not a thing. It is an extension of myself. It is who I am – Joan Jett (1958‑)

My guitar was a loyal person to me – Dave Mustaine (1961-)

Nothing is more beautiful than a guitar, except, possibly two – Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849)

Playing guitar was one of my childhood hobbies, and I had played a little at school and at camp. My parents would drag me out to perform for my family, like all parents do, but it was a hobby – nothing more – Bonnie Raitt (1949-)

Running my hands really fast up and down the fretboard… I mean, anybody can do that. It’s the Guitar Olympics, and I can’t think of anything more pointless – The Edge (1961-)

Sometimes the nicest thing to do with a guitar is just look at it – Thom Yorke (1968-)

That’s all I wanted to do as a kid. Play a guitar properly and jump around. But too many people got in the way – Syd Barrett (1946-2006)

The guitar has a kind of grit and excitement possessed by nothing else – Brian May (1947-)

The guitar is a small orchestra. It is polyphonic. Every string is a different colour, a different voice – Andres Segovia (1893-1987)

The guitar is just a wonderful instrument. It’s everything: a bartender, a psychiatrist, a housewife. It’s everything, but it’s elusive – Les Paul (1915-2009)

The guitar is a wonderful instrument which is understood by few – Franz Schubert (1797-1827)

The guitar is the coolest instrument in the world – Steve Vai (1960-)

The guitar is the easiest instrument to play and the hardest to play well – Andres Segovia (1893-1987)

The guitar is your first wings. It’s assigned and designed to unfold your vision and imagination – Carlos Santana (1947-)

The guitar was my weapon, my shield to hide behind – Brian May (1947-)

The media says that equality for women has arrived, but if you look around, you still don’t see girls playing guitars and having success with it – Joan Jett (1958-)

The most important part of my religion is to play guitar – Lou Reed (1942-2013)

The time I burned my guitar it was like a sacrifice. You sacrifice the things you love. I love my guitar – Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970)

The violin is my mistress, but the guitar is my master – Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840)

There’s something about approaching universal truths with the simplicity of the acoustic guitar. You can take it anywhere, and it helps me reach listeners of all ages and walks of life – Jim Croce (1943-1973)

To me a guitar is kind of like a woman. You don’t know why you like em but you do – Waylon Jennings (1937-2002)

To stand up on a stage alone with an acoustic guitar requires bravery bordering on heroism, bordering on insanity – Richard Thompson (1949-)

When the intellectual part of guitar playing overrides the spiritual, you don’t get to extreme heights – John Frusciante (1970-)

When you find yourself in the deepest rut you’ve ever known, don’t ever forget how f*ckin’ good the guitar sounds – ‘Dimebag’ Darrell Abbot (1966-2004)

When you just get mixed up and there’s too much going on, then it’s time to pick up your guitar – Les Paul (1915-2009)

When you think about where guitar playing is going today… it’s going everywhere at the same time – Joe Satriani (1956-)

With my Les Paul, I know I’m small. But I enjoy living anyway – Marc Bolan (1947-1977)

Why did they keep changing guitars and amplifiers when they were perfect? They did the same things with cars, if you ask me. They forgot how to make them right, because they focused on style and bells and whistles – Buddy Guy (1936-)

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 – Stevie Ray Vaughan (1954-1990)

Conclusion

Well, there you go. A fascinating summary of the world in which the guitar exists from the real experts. Do I have a favourite quote from among that lot? Nope. How could one pick a single truism out and exclude the remainder? I think that the collective intelligence from these esteemed contributors is what makes the overall message so powerful. Given Fender’s 2018 research that suggests that half of all new guitarists in the U.S. and UK are women, perhaps in the future, it would be good to feature more memorable quotes from prominent female guitarists.

When you think that what they say relates to what is essentially just a bit of wood, metal and plastic (in most cases), the guitar truly stands out as something special. At its most basic, the guitar is an artefact that doesn’t do anything of and by itself, it requires a symbiotic attachment to the person playing it to make it work its magic. It hangs on a strap or sits on your lap and converts the emotional core of the musician’s expression into fantastic guitar music that has touched just about everyone on the planet and has become a global phenomenon like no other.

Whether from musicians or not and regardless of whether there is any profound insight or not, what people will say about the guitar in the future, one can only imagine. Whatever is divulged, ‘the guitar’ will undoubtedly be a topic that will be widely debated for as long as people pick up the instrument and play music on it.

What more can one possibly add? Well… you may have noticed that at the bottom of every monthly article is a ‘CRAVE Guitars’ Quote of the Month’. This is my own way of teasing some mental curiosity as a parting shot. So, while my humble ‘thoughts of the day’ are possibly not worthy of being considered in the company of the hallowed artists quoted above, below is my modest addition to the canon, just where it usually is, at the end of my regular monthly rant. The eagle‑eyed reader may actually recognise it because it appears at the bottom of every CRAVE Guitars’ web page and on all CRAVE Guitars’ related social media profiles. I admit that, when writing this epilogue, I tried to come up with something clever but the attempts were, unsurprisingly, contrived and derivative. So, I went back to where it all began and what I felt deeply when I founded CRAVE (Cool & Rare American Vintage Electric) Guitars over 10 years ago. I looked at it again and realised that it remains a heartfelt and very personal belief, so I reckon it fits the bill as a nice little sign‑off. Nuff said.

Now that really is, possibly, maybe, probably, perhaps the last‑ish part of ‘A Potted History of the Guitar’. Honest. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars ‘Quote of the Month’: “Love Vintage Guitars. Music matters. Create. Play. Be inspired! Share the passion… Change lives for good”

CRAVE Guitars

© 2018 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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September 2018 – A Potted History of the Guitar Part VII

Welcome back to the latest in a long series of articles chronicling the history of the world’s favourite musical instrument. Last time, we covered the advent of production solid body electric guitars during the guitar’s ‘golden era’ from c.1950-1965. That article also covered some relevant later events, but the essence was about a period of intense invention and creativity, hence why it deserved a separate article dedicated to it, even though much of the content would be familiar to many.

This month’s article mostly focuses on ‘what happened next’ between c.1965-1987, although it does also cover the subsequent period up to the current day, albeit in less depth than the earlier years. Depending on how the rest of the story is covered, this 7th part is likely to be the penultimate episode.

If you’ve been following the various twists and turns along the way, you’ll know that I have tried very hard to strike a balance between light entertainment for the general reader and the level of detail that would appeal to the needs of the nerdiest of guitar geeks out there. As previously stated, this is not an academic thesis – I just don’t have the time or resources to reference every element along the way, so it probably will never make it into book form, which is a bit of a shame but ç’est la vie. However, once the 3,500 year history has been finished, I may try to bring it all together as a ‘box set’ feature on the web site, so it will be easier to find and come back to than monthly instalments. It also provides the opportunity to correct the content. I may also add a bit off the original longer version back in (!!) and to balance the various parts as a more coherent whole.

You may wish to recap on previous articles before starting here at Part VII. If so, the previous segments of ‘Potted History of the Guitar’ series, can be accessed here (each part opens in a new browser tab):

I hope that you’ve enjoyed the journey so far and will stick with it for just a little longer. For me, it has certainly involved a huge amount of hard work researching and learning along the way. There is an enormous amount of information that had to be excluded in order to make it digestible in an online format. As always, while I have been diligent, some errors and omissions will inevitably have crept in. Not only do I apologise if that is the case but also, I welcome feedback from readers in order to correct or clarify. I would also encourage readers who might wish to look at things either from a different perspective or with a different level of detail to explore the fascinating world of guitars for yourselves.

There are not many pictures this month, as the subject matter is largely narrative‑driven. Sorry about that, photo fans.

Post-Modern Reconfiguration, Rejuvenation and Consolidation

It has become generally accepted that the electric guitar’s so‑called ‘golden era’ started at the beginning of the 1950s with the introduction of Fender and Gibson’s solid body electric guitar models and ended in the mid‑1960s around the time that Leo Fender sold up in early 1965, followed by Gibson in 1969.

On the face of it, the years immediately after the mid‑1960s would appear to be of little historic interest, particularly as far as investors and ‘serious’ collectors are concerned. While the 1950s and early 1960s have been very well documented in countless learned tomes, the subsequent years have tended to be characterised by vociferous opinion and anecdote in a relative vacuum, rather than subject to objective scrutiny.

The Internet has, perhaps unsurprisingly, encouraged many already polarised opinions to become even more extreme. Assertive and often throwaway hyperbole of many self‑appointed ‘experts’ has possibly been consistently exaggerated to the point that they have gained some sort of historical validity. Widely read ‘unpopular opinion’ is often misinterpreted as indisputable definitive evidence. It isn’t gospel; there was more to it than what many would have you believe.

This version of the ‘facts’ is arguably simply that and, while every effort has been made to remain impartial, it should be read with a degree of realistic scepticism. This doesn’t mean that there wasn’t some ‘smoke without fire’, just that the flames may have been fuelled by circumstances and intensified by ill‑informed prejudgment.

The music industry wasn’t alone in coming in for acerbic over‑criticism; the American automotive industry was also subject to similar issues during 1960s and 1970s. The parallels extend beyond the superficial with the demise of many historic car brands and the inexorable rise of Japanese competition. As with guitars, some of these old models are now becoming highly sought after. The guitar industry during the latter part of the 20th Century, it seems, was symptomatic of wider deep‑seated socio‑political problems in the world’s largest capitalist economy.

Actually, ‘what happened next’ is an equally fascinating tale and one that is worth spending a little while looking at. At the same time, it’s also worth standing back and looking at the bigger picture as events unfolded. While it’s all a matter of degree, what transpired was rife with intrigue and machination. The appeal of these transitional years is one of the reasons that CRAVE Guitars tends to focus on ‘forgotten underdog’ and quirky cool American electric guitars from between around 1960 and 1989, although not exclusively.

Was that all‑too‑brief 15‑year ‘golden era’ the end of the story? Will guitars built in the ‘dark ages’ between 1965 and 1987 remain ignored most as gross errors of judgement? Will there be another defining period of electric guitar evolution or will musicians spend their lives experiencing mediocrity by default while harking back to that unobtainable time viewed through rose‑tinted spectacles? Perhaps digital technology will deliver the next step‑change with some Darwinian mutation that future writers will look back upon and write about. OK, enough of the rant, on with the story…

The Catalysts

The trouble really started once both Fender and Gibson been acquired by faceless corporations used to running commercial businesses, rather than important customer‑led operations. Despite post‑war prosperity and growth, the period between the mid‑1960s and the mid‑1980s could possibly be described aptly as eventful and tempestuous. In hindsight, whichever way you look at it, the sale of the industry’s ‘big guns’ was a 20th Century watershed for guitar building.

Firstly, let’s take a quick look at what actually happened immediately after the ‘golden era’ drew to a close circa 1965. The subsequent corporate merger & acquisition activity impacted directly on American musical instrument manufacturing up to the end of the 1980s. A few choice examples may help to illuminate the significant strife that befell the industry for a couple of decades (in rough chronological order)…

Rickenbacker – The only one of the major American brands that didn’t ‘sell out’ during the 1960s was Rickenbacker. They had, in some ways dodged that particular bullet, as Adolph Rickenbacker had already sold his company to music industry businessman Francis C. Hall in 1953. In retrospect, the move to transfer the undertaking and to keep it in safe hands seemed both pre‑emptive and positively prophetic. Arguably, the timing enabled Rickenbacker to capitalise on 1950s creative growth and become more resilient to what was to come. RIC (short for Rickenbacker International Corporation) has remained under the ownership of the Hall family since 1953 with John C. Hall as CEO at the time of writing.

Fender – After Rickenbacker, Fender was the first of the big names to capitulate to big business ambition. In 1965, Leo Fender sold his company to CBS (Columbia Broadcasting System) for just over $13m. The reason often given for the sale was Leo Fender’s health, although an injection of capital funding probably was also contributory. Other perspectives cite Leo Fender’s desire to pursue new ideas, which he possibly couldn’t do while running the company. CBS started making changes almost immediately and expanded capacity at Fullerton to increase supply. By agreement, Leo Fender was prohibited from setting up another music instrument company for 10 years, after which he went on to found Music Man (1974) and then G&L (1980). After 20 years under CBS control and on the brink of total collapse, division president William Schultz bought the company, forming Fender Musical Instruments Corporation (FMIC) in 1985. What followed was a period of intense restructuring, with guitar production temporarily moved to Japan for approximately two years before resuming full American manufacturing with the launch of the American Series guitars in 1987. U.S. manufacturing was moved from Fullerton to Corona, California and its headquarters were relocated to Scottsdale, Arizona. Fender was once again back on the path to success as an independent company and has remained so ever since.

Danelectro – Danelectro was originally formed by entrepreneur Nathan Daniel in 1947. Daniel built his business on the back of large scale, low cost department store and mail order demand for electric guitars, often branded as Silvertone and Airline. This enabled him to start building instruments under the Danelectro brand from 1954. By 1966, Daniel sold Danelectro to industry giant MCA (Music Corporation of America). MCA tried unsuccessfully to introduce the Coral brand and to restructure its distribution network. The outcome was that Danelectro ceased production altogether just 3 years later in 1969. The brand was resurrected by the Evets Corporation in the late 1990s and, after several faltering attempts to recapture market share, Danelectro remains in operation as a successful American company with overseas manufacturing based in China and Korea.

Gretsch – Gretsch was originally founded by Friedrich Gretsch in 1883. Two years after Fender and one year after Danelectro, Fred Gretsch sold the family business to the Baldwin Piano Company in early 1967. After many organisational troubles including relocation, factory fires, Chet Atkins withdrawing his endorsement, and misjudged model decisions, Baldwin finally ceased production of Gretsch instruments by 1981. Fred W. Gretsch acquired what little remained of the company in 1985, basically just the Gretsch name and rights ownership. After a number of abortive efforts, consistent output was eventually re‑established in Japan. Rockabilly guitarist Brian Setzer became a key endorsee for Gretsch in the 1990s and consumer interest in the brand was rekindled. Retaining family leadership, Gretsch has been under the patronage of Fender since 2002 and the famous brand is once again a significant player in the guitar industry.

Gibson – Gibson was really the last of the large American names to succumb to corporate ownership. Gibson’s parent company, Chicago Musical Instruments Ltd (CMI) followed the competition in 1969 when Gibson was taken over by a South American brewing company called ECL and then subsumed by Norlin Musical Instruments in 1974. Gibson survived cost‑cutting, relocation to Nashville and general mismanagement largely intact, although its hard‑earned reputation was severely tarnished. Gibson eventually returned to private ownership in 1986 through a consortium management buyout. Despite a major financial crisis and bankruptcy protection initiated in May 2018, there are signs of a positive future for the company.

These were just some of the big players who were able to weather the economic storms during the second half of the 1960s through the 1970s and into the 1980s. In addition to the big names, plenty of other well‑known American companies failed to survive, including:

  • Valco merged with Kay in 1967; a move that included familiar names such as Supro and Airline. However, the newly combined company went bust in 1968
  • National Dobro merged with Mosrite before the latter went bankrupt, also in 1968
  • Harmony lasted until 1975 before it ceased trading

Those that survived the volatility would continue to fight for survival at best. Overall, when viewed in hindsight, it proved a disastrous phase for American guitar making and collectively one that isn’t widely documented, other than in individual circumstances. The ‘golden era’ was, seemingly, definitely over.

As is often the case, the causes of American guitar manufacturing woes between the mid‑1960s and the mid‑1980s are quite complex, based on deep‑seated structural flaws. Looking at the circumstances strategically, there were probably, amongst many other contributory factors, five key issues…

  1. Industry structure and stability – Inward investment and backing of large business should have provided a positive commercial injection to guitar companies who were either struggling with financial difficulties or were unable to grow quickly enough with existing management structures. What actually happened was that big businesses, as is their wont, were looking to cut costs and increase profit, seemingly unaware of the impact that they were having. The large companies tried to stimulate demand by experimenting and introducing new products without assessing whether what they were making was adequately meeting consumers’ needs. For small agile companies, risk taking was a vital part of the creative process, while the bigger firms focused on large scale, efficient production methods, conversely heightening the risks of failure. Remote and disconnected governing bodies tended to dictate business decisions based on balance sheets and shareholder return, rather than customer satisfaction. Arguably, though, the businesses were in dire need of ‘better’ rather than ‘different’ management both before and after takeover.
  2. Industrial relations – Strict operational disciplines, controlled production processes and rigorously applied policies are a fundamental requirement of larger bureaucratic organisations. These management styles were generally not part of the music industry’s ‘way of doing things’ at the time. Companies needed to be managed effectively rather than efficiently and, unfortunately, the pendulum swang too far towards the latter. Business managers exhibited a flagrant disregard for the expertise and skills required to make consistent, high quality musical instruments. Production facilities were relocated, often giving long‑term highly experienced luthiers a ‘move or go’ ultimatum. In addition distribution and dealership networks were changed with little regard for what went before. Unhappy employees and belligerent trade unions led to heated industrial disputes (and worse), thereby causing significant leadership and management problems. Decades of accumulated knowledge, skills, expertise and, perhaps importantly, attitude were lost to the industry in a short space of time – something that would take years to rebuild. The outcome was that quality fell, exacerbating existing deficiencies elsewhere in the industry.
  3. Industry culture – New corporate owners did not fully appreciate or take the time to understand why the guitar industry worked as it did, resulting in fundamental mistakes internally and externally. The latter disenfranchised those involved in the supply chain from distributors to dealers and, ultimately, impacting on paying customers. Crucially, working musicians’ requirements were not being met and, with that dissatisfaction, brand loyalty diminished as professional guitarists looked elsewhere for alternatives. In addition, musical tastes were rapidly changing and short‑lived fads required nimble organisations that knew how to adapt to changes quickly and appropriately. Smaller companies that were better‑tuned into what was going on could flex more easily. The larger corporations, however, were unable to spot change and respond, leading to mismatches and time lags between demand and supply. Many commentators suggest that it was because musicians weren’t running the show. However, guitarists don’t necessarily make good business people (or vice versa!), which might have contributed to the difficulties. Significantly, two of the most influential guitar innovators – Leo Fender and Ted McCarty – didn’t play the guitar at all. Nevertheless, they were effective leaders because they ensured that professional artists were closely involved with business decisions. Importantly, the time when musicians were listened to and relationships were actively cultivated had fallen by the wayside.
  4. Supply problems – Availability of consistent materials, particularly the all‑important tone woods, created challenges for large‑scale American production. Variable density and therefore weight of some imported tone woods meant that it was difficult to manufacture to dependable standards. Depending on the combination of materials, the shortage of quality inputs affected builders to different degrees. Around the same time, sustainability and environmental factors were becoming an issue, leading to further supply issues. Manufacturers started looking to alternative materials including metal (e.g. Kramer, Travis Bean), plastics (e.g. Ampeg/Dan Armstrong) and composites (e.g. Gibson) that were intended to improve consistency and streamline manufacturing processes. Other moves included building guitars not from single pieces of difficult to acquire, expensive wood but from cheaper, smaller, more available cuts. Consumers saw such actions as negative and symptomatic of other perceived underlying problems. Unfortunately for the manufacturers, customers were not impressed by ‘good intentions’ and the changes were seen as cost‑cutting measures taken a step too far. Many consumers saw through superficial claims and resented the big companies for making what they felt were false marketing claims.
  5. Far Eastern competition – Enterprising Japanese companies, revitalised by post‑WWII recovery and able to observe from outside, spotted that American labour and manufacturing costs were contributing to a combination of poor quality and high prices – an equation that would present opportunities to penetrate a previously U.S.‑dominated market. Companies such as Ibanez and Yamaha did two crucial things. The first was to use their structural advantages to make high quality instruments at lower cost, and to produce them in large enough numbers to compete with American products on their own ground. The second thing they did was to brazenly copy iconic American designs, presenting consumers with recognisable products built to (generally but not always) higher standards and sold more cheaply than the American ‘classics’. There is more on the Japanese competitive assault on American guitar makers below. They also used rapidly changing music trends to create openings for entirely new products, including their own designs, thereby beginning to build a strong and more ethical reputation of their own. When the inevitable backlash came (see below), the marketplace had already changed fundamentally.

Lawsuit Guitars and Trademark Protection

During the post‑1965 period, sales of major American brand guitars was in decline and the home industry was in disarray. This provides a broad background against which American companies had to contend. Generally speaking, the way in which the industry and marketplace was organised was not favourable for the likes of Fender, Gibson, Gretsch, Rickenbacker and many others.

The takeovers and general (mis-)management of American firms left the U.S. industry weakened and susceptible to aggressive business manoeuvres. American labour, tooling and material costs didn’t fall, so prices for finished instruments generally remained high for guitars that were increasingly poorly made. It is relatively easy to understand why the 20‑year period between approximately 1965 and 1985 was crucial to reshaping the global guitar making industry.

One particular Japanese guitar maker, Hoshino Gakki Gen, saw an ideal opportunity to enter the fragile American market. Cleverly, Hoshino recognised the potential animosity towards Japanese‑sounding products after WWII and adopted the Ibanez moniker. Incidentally, the Ibanez name was derived from Spanish guitar maker Salvador Ibáñez, who made classical guitars and sold them to Japan from the 1920s. When Ibáñez, failed during the Spanish Civil War (La Guerra 1936-1939), Hoshino acquired the rights to use the name, dropping the accents in the process. Hoshino’s next step was to take over an American company, Elger, which had already been importing Japanese guitars into the U.S. This move gave them ready access to the American territory, initially as Hoshino USA and then Ibanez USA. From 1970, Ibanez began systematically targeting and imitating popular American guitar models, particularly from Gibson, Fender, and Rickenbacker.

Initially, Fender and Gibson chose not to challenge these foreign copies unless they were identical to the originals, i.e. deliberate forgeries. Perhaps they didn’t see the early copies arriving in relatively small numbers as a significant threat and therefore not worth the lengthy and expensive battles through the American court system with no guarantee of success. Perhaps naively, they may have seen the copies as providing entry‑level experience that would lead consumers to trade up and purchase the ‘real thing’. Nobody really knows for sure. However, by taking their eye off the proverbial ball, the already struggling American brands were storing up a hornet’s nest of latent problems.

The relatively cheaply made Japanese copies often used bolt‑on necks, cheap materials and inferior hardware. Having said that, they were often reasonably well made for what they cost the consumer. The slavish copies appealed to many novice guitarists wishing to have guitars that, at least visually, looked like the more expensive American counterparts without the accompanying high price tags. Notably, and perhaps pertinently, Fender’s own low cost ‘student’ guitar lines (the Mustang ‘family’) and Gibson’s budget models (the Melody Maker) didn’t resemble their upmarket pro‑level instruments, further exacerbating the weaknesses in the eyes of customers.

The Japanese picture at the time is typically complex and confusing, particularly when trying to differentiate the production companies from the brands they made and the importers they used. Some of the companies such as Tokai, Greco, Yamaha and Suzuki followed Ibanez’s lead and jumped on the cloning bandwagon, making relatively faithful copies of American guitars.

The huge Kawai Teisco company was a mass producer that made guitars under many names, including Apollo, Domino, Kent, Randall, Sterling, Victoria and Winston. One brand, Antoria was actually a German company (Framus) that imported Japanese Guyatone (Suzuki) guitars that included replica Stratocaster copies. Others, such as British firm CSL (Charles Summerfield Limited) originally rebranded imported Ibanez guitars. Columbus was another brand that simply imported Japanese‑made guitars under its own name. Hondo was an American company that imported Japanese copies, giving them some home‑grown legitimacy. The Spanish‑sounding Fernandes, on the other hand, was a wholly owned Japanese company that also used the name Burny. Many companies made guitars for other companies, so the picture is further obscured. There were many, many Japanese manufacturers that were largely unknown outside the country but were indirectly contributory to the assault on America and Europe in the 1960s and 1970s, including Fujigen Gakki, the aforementioned Hoshino Gakki Gen (who also used the Tama brand), Matsumoku, Moridara and Tombo.

So… just what were all these Japanese companies actually targeting? In particular, Gibson’s Les Paul and SG models, as well as Fender’s Telecaster and Stratocaster came in for ubiquitous copying. Popular Martin, Guild and Gibson acoustics also came in for replication, as they were the world’s most recognisable acoustic instruments at the time. Acoustic copies including names like Takamine, Morris, Pro Martin and Ventura. Even the fonts used for headstock logos often mimicked the original American brand styles.

As volumes increased, the wave of imports understandably caused problems for the original manufacturers and it was only a matter of time before there was a defensive response. That reaction was based largely on Gibson’s famous Les Paul and particularly the outline shape of the headstock.

In June 1977, Gibson’s owners at the time, Norlin, filed a legal case against Ibanez/Hoshino for copying the Gibson ‘open book’ headstock outline. The case was settled out of court by February 1978, by which time Ibanez had already changed their headstock shape. However, since 1974, Ibanez had been astute enough to foresee the complication and had been developing and improving its own unique Artist guitar designs, thereby circumventing any further rights issues. From 1978, once the lawsuit was behind them, Ibanez focused purely on its own designs.

Despite appearances, there was, in fact, only one landmark lawsuit at the time and it only related to the design of the headstock on Gibson guitars. Presumably, other American manufacturers were watching and waiting for the outcome of the Gibson case. Not looking for potentially damaging confrontation in the courts, other Japanese companies sought to avoid the wrath of the American companies and changed their designs just enough so as not to fall foul of further litigation.

Ironically, some of the Japanese ‘lawsuit’ guitars have since become collectable in their own right. Although many copies that claim to be subject to the lawsuit aren’t, they are just guitars made during the ‘lawsuit era’ of the late 1970s. Generally speaking, Japanese guitar making – having made its mark for better or worse – went on to plough their own furrow in the multinational market, establishing a successful business model on which they could build.

The imitation game hasn’t gone away completely though. Many ‘knock off’ guitars in the 21st Century are emanating from China, where there is little effective means of legal challenge. While some of the guitars originating from China replicate American designs and are produced in large volumes, some of the fakes are appearing in small quantities as very convincing forgeries of rare and valuable vintage instruments.

Also, somewhat ironically, the big American brands struck back by strategically shifting manufacture of lower cost instruments off‑shore. Fender made guitars in Japan from 1982, only later changing the name to Squier to differentiate them from the American originals. Similarly, Gibson started Far Eastern manufacture of Epiphone guitars in Japan in the early 1970s, then in Korea from 1983, before relocating production again in 2003 to a dedicated Epiphone factory in Qingdao, China.

In 1984, PRS guitars was established by luthier Paul Reed Smith and has since become one of America’s major guitar manufacturers. To cater for all price points, PRS also introduced Korean production facilities for its SE‑branded guitars in 2003. While on the subject of lawsuits, after PRS had released the PRS Singlecut in 2001, Gibson filed a trademark infringement claim against PRS for allegedly copying the Les Paul design. Gibson’s lawsuit failed at appeal and PRS resumed production of the Singlecut, albeit slightly altered, from September 2005.

Fender now actively defends its trademarks, which exist in perpetuity, unlike patents that have a limited duration. To illustrate the issues, Fender’s defence of its trademark headstock design reads as follows, “The headstock is the key source-identifying feature of the modern electric guitar. In particular, the shape of the headstock (which, in the types of guitars at issue here, is part of a single piece of wood that also includes the guitar neck) is nonfunctional and primarily serves to identify the brand and model of the guitar. Fender owns trademark rights and federal registrations for the shapes of its headstock designs. These marks are instantly recognizable to generations of musicians and music fans as indicators of the source of Fender’s products and of the immense history and goodwill associated with Fender.”

Furthermore, Fender lost a 2009 application to trademark its guitar designs retrospectively. Opponents stated that consumers had had decades of unopposed exposure to those shapes from a wide variety of other guitar makers. This particular ruling opened the door to many look‑alike guitars, bar the familiar and distinctive headstock shapes.

Rickenbacker, unlike many of its counterparts, trademarks its important designs and vigorously protects them through the courts, hence why there are generally fewer Rickenbacker copies on the market compared to Fender and Gibson clones.

The whole issue of who owns what and how owners’ rights can be protected in a global market rife with replicas is a hugely complex issue and the nuanced legal debates are not for this story, so it is time to close this particular case and move on.

The Fallout and Time for Objective Re-assessment?

The Gibson law suit was, however, a wakeup call for American guitar building, as it proved beyond doubt that they were vulnerable to competition. While it may seem a relatively small isolated incident, it was contributory to the way in which guitar making, distribution and sales had to change. It was time for a shake‑out. By getting back to the basics, the rebuilding of American production that took place from the mid‑1980s resulted in vastly improved fortunes, even though it would take years for several companies to return to prosperity. Gibson and Fender were back in private ownership, Rickenbacker had sustained its business and, although Danelectro and Gretsch would find success, it took some time to regenerate historic popularity.

Despite what naysayers, respected journalists and wealthy vintage guitar collectors will delight in telling anyone who will listen, not all guitars built between 1965 and 1987 (when Fender introduced the landmark American Standards) are bad. Yes, there are many examples of poor quality instruments produced during those ‘dark ages’ but, let’s be honest, that has always been the case. Just look at some of the cheap and nasty instruments from the 1950s and early 1960s produced during the ‘golden era’.

Being a bit provocative and controversial, it is the author’s considered belief that there were many very good instruments built in the 1970s but these tend to be overlooked and caught up in the sweeping generalisation that ALL instruments from that period are sub‑standard. Some unique and interesting models only appeared during the 1970s and 1980s as part of the drive for experimentation. Some of these experiments were often made for relatively brief periods before they disappeared again. As a result, many of these rare examples are highly likely to be of interest to collectors in the future. As vintage prices of 1950s and 1960s guitars are rapidly increasing beyond many enthusiasts’ ability to purchase them, 1970s and 1980s guitars are also creeping up in value and are likely to become the ‘next big thing’ in the vintage marketplace. When they do eventually become desirable, which they will, that critical labelling of ‘poor quality’ is likely to be conveniently forgotten as the wheat is separated from the chaff.

Generally speaking, with the introduction of automated and computer controlled construction technologies, instruments from c.1990 onwards are generally consistently well‑made. This means that poor quality instruments are fewer and further between. Value‑for‑money since the 1990s has never been better with some very good guitars available at relatively low prices compared to the past. Broadly categorising the ensuing years between, say, 1990 and 2000 as a period of rejuvenation, resurgence and consolidation in the face of significant and multifarious challenges including economic downturn. The dawn of the new millennium saw further change including diversification, growth and a degree of reconfiguration. The reality, perhaps obviously, isn’t simply a case of general classification though, so such broad descriptions may best be regarded as a bit of artistic licence on the author’s part.

It may seem strange but it was often the inherent manufacturing variations and inconsistencies that have led to the handmade ‘golden era’ guitars becoming so desirable in the first place. As the idiosyncratic traits of the past have been ironed out, consumers have had ready access to consistent, reliable and higher quality guitars at virtually all price points. However, the increase in standardisation means that many modern mass‑produced guitars are often described as ‘generic’, samey and bland. It is also that lack of variation that has led to the boom in boutique, custom and modded guitars in the 21st Century.

Only time will really tell whether some of these maligned 1970s guitars will be re‑evaluated and achieve better recognition. Good examples will undoubtedly become increasingly sought after and collectable.

Recovery and Rejuvenation

Musical tastes continued to change and the 1980s and 1990s were no different. One trend was a move away from guitar music to highly produced electronic keyboard music. Japanese giant Roland (owner of BOSS effect pedals) tried to popularise the guitar synthesizers on the back of the electronica trend, as did consumer electronics company Casio who were more famous for calculators rather than guitars.

Another trend in musical taste was the explosion in popularity of glam, hard and ‘shred’ rock. Ironically, it was companies like Ibanez, once the scourge of copy guitars, which was ideally placed to cater for the trend with some cleverly designed genre‑appropriate instruments, such as their Destroyer, Iceman and Jem guitars.

Ibanez had cleverly repositioned themselves and continued to do so in order to sustain competitive advantage. In another canny move, Ibanez courted the new breed of virtuoso instrumental rock musicians, which proved successful. American guitarists such as Steve Vai and Joe Satriani were regularly seen using and advertising the Ibanez brand. Other Japanese companies followed suit, such as Yamaha and ESP/LTD. American brands such as Dean, Jackson and BC Rich also exploited the growing market for pointy rock alternatives to the old‑hat rock shapes such as Gibson’s Explorer and Flying V. Times had moved on and the traditional industry stalwarts were once again looking tired, on the back foot and at a strategic disadvantage.

By the time that some sort of equilibrium was restored from the late 1990s, the music and guitar landscape was very different from the end of the ‘golden era’. There was room for big music companies to grow, such as Peavey and Ernie Ball, the latter having bought out Leo Fender’s Music Man in 1984. The ‘big four’ brands were still there – Fender, Gibson, Rickenbacker and Gretsch, who continued to expand their ranges into high‑value custom shop as well as low‑priced models. In addition, once the barriers to entry were lowered, there were many small, opportunistic companies that sought to grow market share on their own terms, such as PRS. There was also a whole thriving boutique sub‑industry that focused heavily on producing custom instruments built to individual guitarists’ requirements; a healthy trend that continues to flourish well into the 21st Century.

The 2000s saw a reversal of fortunes with synth‑based dance and pop music becoming clichéd and well‑worn. This change of fortune facilitated a major resurgence in guitar music across a whole range of musical genres but specifically the burgeoning indie/alternative music scene. Indie music also triggered a renewed interest in retro‑styled instruments often evoking quirky designs from the past. This revitalisation enabled many gone but not forgotten guitars to experience a new lease of life. In addition, metal, progressive/contemporary, alt‑country and blues/rock genres have also seen rejuvenation and/or revivals, together with relevant instruments to suit. Even the likes of Fender, Gibson, Gretsch, Danelectro and Rickenbacker have benefitted through reissues of previously defunct models. All in all, many guitar‑based musical styles continue to flourish and guitar sales benefit from the 21st Century appetite for diversity.

Interestingly, in the 2000s and 2010s, with the renewed interest in both retro and vintage designs, many of the old American brand names that went out of business in the 1960s have since re‑emerged, including Supro, Valco, Airline, Harmony and Kay.

The global recession that started in 2008 has been the longest and deepest since the 1930s severely dampened demand for discretionary purchases such as musical instruments. However, the desire to own and play the world’s favourite instrument endures, despite regular proclamations of the ‘death of guitar music’.

Music Trades data shows that total guitar sales in America, either by number or value, have shown a general increasing trend per year since 2009:
Year    Number  Value
2009    1.65m     $924m
2010    1.74m     $922m
2011    1.94m     $921m
2012    2.34m     $903m
2013    2.34m     $821m
2014    2.50m     $839m
2015    2.49m     $935m
2016    2.47m     $1,001m
2017    2.63m     $1,070m

In comparison, the number of electric guitar sales in America has remained largely steady since the start of the recession. Where these figures will go in the future and whether sales will regain pre-crash levels anytime soon is a betting man’s game. The market is, judging by these indicators, likely to stay challenging for some time to come.

One very positive trend is that research by Fender in 2018 shows that 50% of new guitarists in the U.S. and the UK are females, suggesting that equality is finally making progress in the music industry.

Modern‑day guitarists have learned to become fickle and much more discerning. No longer could a few privileged brands expect musicians to be loyal or for their products to be accepted as the default ‘go‑to’ solution. While slower to adapt, the American ‘big four’ fought back and, although often constrained by their past, were forced to innovate and compete or die. Not all of those experiments have been successful but the point is that they are trying to adjust to the inevitability of the brave new world.

Looking at the bigger picture, the diverse structure of the guitar industry is healthy for both producers and consumers. While things will change again, the fragmented nature of the marketplace in the 2010s means that risks of major step change are reduced. For the long‑established brands, the asset value of the ‘classics’ is now cemented and, to some extent, can once again be relied upon in terms of quality and value. The reliance on industry standards also creates a problem for the likes of Fender, Gibson, Gretsch and Rickenbacker, as it inhibits what they can do in a way that consumers will accept, witness Gibson’s failed attempt to move into consumer and lifestyle electronics.

Ultimately, nothing is set in stone and there is very little that can be considered genuinely ‘new’. The only certainty is that change will be continuous and necessarily incremental. Digital music technology will continue to be both a threat to, and an opportunity for, manufacturers. The hybridisation of analogue instruments and digital technologies is still in its infancy and only time will tell, which companies will respond positively and which will fail to adapt and fall by the wayside (again).

That brings us pretty much up to the current day, at the time of writing (2018). As English punk rock pioneer Joe Strummer of The Clash once said, “The future is unwritten” and how true that is. We are nearing the end point of the guitar’s long story… except that the story will continue in perpetuity. All that is really left to do is to describe the current position (again at the time of writing) and to speculate, somewhat idly, about what that unwritten future may hold.

End of Part VII

Here we are at the end of yet another episode in the guitar’s extended tale. We are pretty much up‑to‑date and therefore almost at the end of the journey, with (I think) just one more article to go. I hope that you’ll join me, hopefully next month for the conclusion… as far as there can be one.

I am now beginning to deliberate about a companion series of articles for next year (2019). Before that happens, I need a rest from this massively resource intensive exercise. I can’t yet reveal what that new series is, as I am thinking about things I haven’t thought of yet (if you get my drift). I will have to consider how it might be done in a way that I haven’t seen elsewhere up to now – I need to bring something new to the subject matter, otherwise it is just regurgitating what others have already done. Watch this space… In the meantime, I have to start planning what I’m going to fixate upon for the remainder of this year.

Right now though, it’s time to stop writing about guitars and to start playing one of the darned things, so I’m off to plink my plank! Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars ‘Quote of the Month’: “Whatever was pre-modernism like?”

© 2018 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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February 2017 – Favourite Guitarists And Why

posted in: Observations, Opinion | 0

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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