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

Introduction

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

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

The Story of Modern Music Part XI 2010-2019

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

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

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

Historical Context 2010-2019

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

Year

Global Events

2010

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

2011

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

2012

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

 

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

 

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

2013

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

 

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

2014

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

 

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

2016

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

 

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

2017

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

 

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

 

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

2018

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

 

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

2019

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Musical Genre Development 2010-2019

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

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

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

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

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

Musical Facts 2010-2019

Day

Month

Year

Music Fact

11

January

2010

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

8

February

2010

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

17

February

2010

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

10

March

2010

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

15

March

2010

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

28

March

2010

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

13

April

2010

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

18

May

2010

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

25

June

2010

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

9

July

2010

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

25

October

2010

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

16

November

2010

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

17

December

2010

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

22

December

2010

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

24

January

2011

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

30

January

2011

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

6

February

2011

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

14

February

2011

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

14

March

2011

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

2

June

2011

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

6

June

2011

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

23

July

2011

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

7

August

2011

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

16

August

2011

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

7

September

2011

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

5

October

2011

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

4

December

2011

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

16

December

2011

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

20

January

2012

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

31

January

2012

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

9

February

2012

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

6

February

2012

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

11

February

2012

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

29

February

2012

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

5

April

2012

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

14

April

2012

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

16

April

2012

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

10

July

2012

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

31

August

2012

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

2

October

2012

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

10

January

2013

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

18

February

2013

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

6

March

2013

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

18

April

2013

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

20

May

2013

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

3

June

2013

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

26

July

2013

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

9

September

2013

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

27

October

2013

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

4

November

2013

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

3

January

2014

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

25

February

2014

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

18

March

2014

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

10

April

2014

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

17

June

2014

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

16

July

2014

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

25

October

2014

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

27

October

2014

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

13

March

2015

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

30

March

2015

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

14

May

2015

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

21

May

2015

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

30

May

2015

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

27

June

2015

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

11

September

2015

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

10

November

2015

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

13

November

2015

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

4

December

2015

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

28

December

2015

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

8

January

2016

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

10

January

2016

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

18

January

2016

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

4

February

2016

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

13

February

2016

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

8

March

2016

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

11

March

2016

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

6

April

2016

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

8

April

2016

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

21

April

2016

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

21

April

2016

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

10

June

2016

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

28

June

2016

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

15

July

2016

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

9

September

2016

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

13

October

2016

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

21

October

2016

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

7

November

2016

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

13

November

2016

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

2

December

2016

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

7

December

2016

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

24

December

2016

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

25

December

2016

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

31

January

2017

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

4

February

2017

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

19

February

2017

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

16

March

2017

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

18

March

2017

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

7

April

2017

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

15

April

2017

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

18

May

2017

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

27

May

2017

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

8

August

2017

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

25

August

2017

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

3

September

2017

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

2

October

2017

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

18

November

2017

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

10

January

2018

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

9

March

2018

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

9

March

2018

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

20

March

2018

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

14

April

2018

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

8

June

2018

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

2

July

2018

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

16

August

2018

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

22

August

2018

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

22

September

2018

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

29

September

2018

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

16

March

2019

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

17

March

2019

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

29

March

2019

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

29

March

2019

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

30

April

2019

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

13

May

2019

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

30

May

2019

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

31

May

2019

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

6

June

2019

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

20

June

2019

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

30

August

2019

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

6

October

2019

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

Tailpiece

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

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

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

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

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

© 2020 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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May 2017 – 50 Albums of the Last Half-Century(-ish)

posted in: Observations, Opinion | 0

A little while ago, someone looked at the development of heavy metal from the 1970s to the 2000s and exemplified it by listing one album per year. Of course, this was just one perspective but, more generally, I thought it might be interesting to do something similar across all modern music genres.

This is only my catalogue of 50 years (actually 52 years but who’s counting?) of modern musical history. It is, of course, value-laden and massively subjective, with many great artists and albums excluded by the ruthless application of selection criteria, which included:

  • Must be an original album, not an EP or single
  • Only 1 album from each year (no reissues – original release date applies)
  • Only 1 album by any artist (band or solo)
  • The album must include some guitar work (i.e. no pure electronica)
  • Albums may come from any modern music genre
  • No compilations, ‘best of’ or various artist collections
  • They must be appreciated and owned by the author (i.e. not just made up or copied from elsewhere)

The resulting compendium is not representative of popularity, perceived wisdom, other people’s opinion or commercial success. It is simply my choices for a timeline covering over half a century of great music.

Why pick these 52 years? My age makes it difficult to go back further than the mid‑1960s for a start, so there aren’t any selections from the ‘birth’ of rock ‘n’ roll in about 1954 to the ‘dawn of rock’ in about 1965 – to be honest, I don’t own and am not particularly familiar with pre-’65 albums. I’ve brought it right up to date with 2016 being the last full year at the time of writing. However, anything beyond about 2010 is probably too recent to really place any kind of enduring significance to the entries – historical retrospective can be beneficial that respect. Arguably, the longer the intervening time period, the more consolidated, reliable and credible that hindsight becomes within context (discuss…).

Feel free to make up your own timeline over whatever period you like, using your own criteria. This is just my perspective; I can guarantee that anyone reading it will disagree with it and would produce a VERY different route through the roadmap of time. Actually, that’s both the point and the fun of it – if we all ended up with the same journey, we would live in a very dull world.

So… here we go, in chronological order…

The 1960s(-ish):

1965 Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited

1966 John Mayall’s Blues Breakers – Blues Breakers With Eric Clapton

1967 Jimi Hendrix – Are You Experienced

1968 The Velvet Underground – White Light/White Heat

1969 King Crimson – In The Court Of The Crimson King

The 1970s:

1970 Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath

1971 The Doors – L.A. Woman

1972 David Bowie – The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars

1973 John Martyn – Solid Air

1974 Lynyrd Skynyrd – Second Helping

1975 Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti

1976 Thin Lizzy – Jailbreak

1977 Bob Marley & The Wailers – Exodus

1978 AC/DC – Powerage

1979 The Clash – London Calling

The 1980s:

1980 Talking Heads – Remain In Light

1981 The Cramps – Psychedelic Jungle

1982 Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska

1983 ZZ Top – Eliminator

1984 Iron Maiden – Powerslave

1985 Dire Straits – Brothers In Arms

1986 Metallica – Master Of Puppets

1987 Guns n’ Roses – Appetite For Destruction

1988 Cowboy Junkies – The Trinity Session

1989 The Cure – Disintegration

The 1990s:

1990 Megadeth – Rust In Peace

1991 Nirvana – Nevermind

1992 Rage Against The Machine – Rage Against The Machine

1993 Dinosaur Jr – Where you BEEN

1994 Portishead – Dummy

1995 Sonic Youth – Washing Machine

1996 Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds – Murder Ballads

1997 Rammstein – Sehnsucht

1998 Massive Attack – Mezzanine

1999 Suede – Head Music

The 2000s:

2000 The White Stripes – De Stijl

2001 The Strokes – Is This It

2002 Beck – Sea Change

2003 Placebo – Sleeping With Ghosts

2004 Kasabian – Kasabian

2005 Editors – The Back Room

2006 Johnny Cash – American V: A Hundred Highways

2007 Seasick Steve – Dog House Music

2008 The Black Keys – Attack & Release

2009 The Horrors – Primary Colours

The 2010s (so far):

2010 Warpaint – The Fool

2011 The Kills – Blood Pressures

2012 Richard Hawley – Standing At The Sky’s Edge

2013 Savages – Silence Yourself

2014 Band Of Skulls – Himalayan

2015 Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool

2016 Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker

So… how many of these do you own and/or like? What course would you take through the last 5 decades? I’m sure that readers will be up in arms about what’s missing.

As with other CRAVE Guitars’ challenges, this exercise wasn’t as easy as when it was first envisaged. Reflecting on the list and making a few observations…

The albums listed are not necessarily my favourites; just ones that carry some meaning within the context of the topic. See my rant of July 2016 for my suggested top 20 most influential albums, some of which also appear in this list. There were many beloved albums (and favourite guitarists – see CRAVE Guitars’ February 2017 article) that didn’t make the final list. There are some great albums by great artists that don’t appear. Some albums on the list may not be the pinnacle of achievement by the artist but they appear because of the way the selection criteria worked.

The widely-regarded, guitar-dependent and ‘important classics’ on the timeline tend to come from the 1960s and ‘70s. These albums have stood the test of time and still have relevance today. Some represent ground-breaking events and their appearance on the timeline will be of no great surprise. Why no Rolling Stones or The Beatles on this list? Well, I’m not a Beatles fan and the Stones came close for a number of years including 2016 but got pipped at the post elsewhere. No Pink Floyd? Surprisingly not. No watershed albums like, for instance, Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’, Mike Oldfield’s ‘Tubular Bells’ or Sex Pistols ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’? Not on this occasion. No manufactured boy/girl bands from the formulaic TV ‘talent’ production line (or their heinous celebrity-driven ilk)? Heck no! Real music only, please.

While the available choice of albums seemed to increase significantly from the mid‑1990s, the quality of output seemed to become more homogenous with the increase in quantity, meaning that it was harder to pick outstanding entries and, by the time the new millennium arrived, it becomes increasingly difficult to pick out the exemplary future classics from amongst the multiplicity of also-ran material. This doesn’t mean that quality deteriorated, simply that the market became increasingly saturated and tour de forces became more difficult to define. Time will tell as to which ones (if any) will have the longevity to stand out as true masterpieces.

Some years were spoilt for choice and it was a VERY hard task to select just one entry from a wealth of great albums, while other years were very sparse and it was a case of selecting from the ‘best of the rest’. For some years, there was an obvious shoo-in, while for others years it was actually quite difficult to pick a ‘winner’ from an amorphous morass of uninspiring averageness.

Within modern western popular music, it is probably not a surprise that the majority of artists in the timeline are British or American, with a smattering from elsewhere (Canada, Jamaica, Germany and Australia). Perhaps increased globalisation and geographical dispersion may introduce new influences, especially from those areas with different musical cultures, e.g. the middle east, far east, Africa and South America. Perhaps these influences, generally categorised as ‘world music’, will become more mainstream, especially as the Internet provides greater access to hitherto niche markets.

In terms of diversity, certainly the older music was male/white dominated. While a few more females populate the latter years, there is still a general shortage of female musicians in the industry. Ethnicity is predominantly white, which was a bit of a surprise and it certainly wasn’t a conscious choice. Music is one of those industries where artists from diverse backgrounds have been able to succeed and influence successive generations. As in other forms of 21st century life, ensuring equality of opportunity for everyone and the music industry depends on the best talent, rather than to segregate on the basis of specific upbringings.

Many genres were evenly distributed. However, a number of genres were under‑represented including rap/hip-hop, reggae, dance/funk/disco, etc. Surprisingly, indie music seems to have taken more of a centre stage in the noughties and tweenies, at least in this exercise. How these albums age over time will be interesting. Bands tended to feature, rather than solo artists, which was notable.

There is some pretty impressive album artwork over the half-century. It is amazing how effective musical packaging design has been. We are, sadly, long past the heyday of album art integrated with popular cultural references. I can’t see that changing with current and future media delivery systems. Why should credible artists and designers stake their reputation on, say, the latest download fad?

The rigorous application of the selection criteria was particularly challenging and may well account for some of the more obvious anomalies. A different approach might have led to a more balanced (and perhaps more predictable) result.

A slight grammatical oddity; there are 3 albums on the list whose titles are clearly prima facie questions and none of them end in a ‘?’ (1967, 1993 and 2001). Weird or what?

A number of albums on the list were debut or sophomore albums, perhaps indicating that for many artists, the pool of inventive material is more furtive early on in the limelight and, for some, success actually seems to dilute the fire of creativity, resulting in shortened professional careers. There are relatively few who have the longevity of a lifelong career. Sadly, a large proportion of the artists are no longer with us and their potential is lost forever. We miss their imagination.

When thinking about future direction within the context of the past, the outlook appears healthy and increasingly disparate, despite the broadcast media’s obsession with exploitative ‘talent’ drivel. The days when a single type of music would dominate the ‘air waves’ (remember them?) looks increasingly unlikely, simply because of the volume of new music and the ways in which it is made available to the listening public.

What will be ‘the next big thing’ and will there be any (counter-)culturally significant new genre developments like metal, new wave, punk, rave, grunge, etc.? Major mainstream step changes are possibly unlikely; the musical landscape is now so varied that anything fundamentally new is likely to be genre-specific, for example dancehall and dubstep, rather than a mass‑market popular revolution.

The emergence of completely new trends becomes less likely over time, as it can also be argued that most original ideas have pretty much been used up by now. There can only be a finite number of combinations of existing musical patterns to fuel experimentation and ultimate acceptance. The number of plagiarism litigations suggests that the future will increasingly have to recycle and re-use existing ideas, rather than create new ones. Existing genre conventions, once they have become well‑established, also tend to constrain further creativity within that particular genre. Perhaps we will see more genre cross-overs in an attempt to find that spark of innovation and inspiration.

So there you have it. It has been another interesting little challenge that has also raised a few more peripheral questions. While it doesn’t really add anything to humanity’s collective knowledge, it passes time and the task makes one think (again).

Finally, seeing as CRAVE (Cool & Rare American Vintage Electric) Guitars is all about the venerable instrument, think of all the great guitars and the guitarists that wielded them that feature on not only all the albums listed above but also all the ones that have been missed out.

This is the final monthly article before the ‘big move’ and, hopefully, things beginning to get back on track. Proverbially, I’ll see you on the other side. Until next time…

© 2017 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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December 2016 – A Year of Gains, Change, Losses and Optimism

posted in: Observations, Opinion | 0

It’s that time of year again when it seems to be the ‘in’ thing to reflect on the departing year and look ahead to the future whatever it may hold (along with a few obligatory lists along the way). So, in the spirit of seasonal laziness, here is my take on the year just about to leave platform 2016 and to wait for the 20:17 train to who knows where.

A Retrospective

In the music world, the grief that ended 2015 (e.g. Lemmy) continued into 2016. Let’s begin by remembering some of those great artists and guitarists who sadly departed and left us mere mortals behind during the year. I hope they play eternally at the ‘great gig in the sky’…

  • David Bowie on 10th January, aged 69
  • Glenn Frey on 18th January, aged 67
  • Merle Haggard on 6th April, aged 79
  • Prince on 21st April, aged 57
  • Lonnie Mack on 21st April, aged 74
  • Scotty Moore on 28th June, aged 84
  • Leonard Cohen on 7th November, aged 82
  • Greg Lake on 7th December, aged 69
  • Rick Parfitt on 24th December, aged 68
  • George Michael on 25th December, aged 53

Farewell and Rest In Peace cool dudes, you will be forever remembered for your tremendous legacy… and will be greatly missed for potential works not completed. Kudos. I am not looking forward to 2017 and the inevitable demise of more stalwarts of the music industry. Who will be next? We can only conjecture at this stage.

It has certainly been a year of change. I won’t delve into the controversial world of global politics, even though it affects our lives fundamentally every day. As English guitarist Eric Clapton said, “One of the most beneficial things I’ve ever learned is how to keep my mouth shut”. At a personal level, it has been a complete change of employment, if not lifestyle (yet). I am still working for ‘the man’ but in a different way. After 30 years as a paid employee, I was made redundant and am now self-employed. The massive drop in disposable income has affected CRAVE Guitars by forcing a, hopefully temporary, hiatus in its mission to accumulate more vintage guitars. In fact, only 3 guitars were purchased all year, but what terrific guitars they were in their different ways…

  • 1962 Gretsch 6120 Double Cutaway Chet Atkins Hollowbody (March)
  • 1964 Silvertone 1449 ‘Amp-in-Case’ (October)
  • 1981 Gibson RD Artist (January)

Bizarrely, there was not a Fender amongst them. Note to self… must try harder!

Out of curiosity, I had a look back at my ‘most wanted list’ of guitars from this time last year and I’ve only been able to knock one off the ‘plan’ during the last 12 months (and probably not the one you’d think!). Oh well.

The change, however, was an opening to refocus a bit, without straying too far from the chosen path. Rather than just stop altogether, it enabled me to look at things in a fresh way. As it turned out, a more affordable and modest vintage guitar-related ‘hobby’ filled the sizeable gap. The result was that I was able to build up a modest collection of classic vintage guitar effect pedals, starting with a ‘small box’ Pro Co Rat and ending 5 months and 16 pedals later with a Made in Japan’ Boss PH-1 Phaser. I also resurrected a number of my classic owned-from-new pedals from the ‘70s. These classic pedals can still hold their own in terms of tone and, while not necessarily ergonomic, are well worth the effort.

This cool diversion had its pitfalls, including transit damage, missing bits and difficulty finding vintage parts to refurbish a couple of cool but ‘adapted’ player-grade effects. What I learned is that, while I’m OK at buying guitars, my knowledge of vintage stomp boxes just wasn’t as strong. At least my focus was on the lower end of the vintage market, rather than the overpriced collector end (original Ibanez TS-808s anyone? Gasp!). It will take a while to build up reliable experience and make better‑informed purchases. In total, there were 17 vintage effect pedals purchased during 2016, including (by brand)…

  • Boss (x5) – CS-1, DS-1, OC-2, OD-1, PH-1
  • Electro Harmonix (x2) – Little Big Muff pi, Doctor Q
  • Ibanez (x5) – AD9, CS9, FL301-DX, FL9, TS9
  • Jen (x1) – Cry Baby Super
  • MXR (x3) – Blue Box, Distortion +, Phase 90
  • Pro Co (x1) – RAT

While looking into effect pedals, I also started looking at vintage valve guitar amps again, although I only bought one very cool little loud box during 2016 (not including the Silvertone’s ’amp in case’ above)…

  • 1978 Fender Vibro Champ

What has CRAVE sold during 2016? B*gger all of any significance! I just don’t have the ‘killer instinct to sell effectively, which is why I’m not a dealer. So, the ‘collection’ continues to grow, which isn’t good news, either financially or space-wise.

Turning to recorded music, picking something special out from the ubiquitous, formulaic dross was a bit of a challenge. Here are some of the varied albums (whatever happened to singles?!) released and added to CRAVE Guitars’ playlists in 2016:

  • Jeff Beck – Loud Hailer
  • Blossoms – Blossoms
  • David Bowie – Blackstar
  • The Coral – Distance Inbetween
  • Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
  • Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker
  • Daughter – Not To Disappear
  • Dinosaur Jr – Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not
  • Garbage – Strange Little Birds
  • The Heavy – Hurt & The Merciless
  • Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression
  • The Kills – Ash & Ice
  • Megadeth – Dystopia
  • Metallica – Hardwired… To Self-Destruct
  • Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
  • Rolling Stones – Blue & Lonesome
  • Savages – Adore Life
  • Seasick Steve – Keepin’ The Horse Between Me And The Ground
  • Warpaint – Heads Up

One good point towards the end of 2016 was that I was able to see one of my all-time favourite bands and one that has kept me just about sane over many years. I saw The Cure at Wembley Arena, London on 1st December. It is 8 years since I last saw them live in London and New York. They were, as I’d hoped, awesome and still able to perform at the top of their game. They were supported by Scottish indie band, The Twilight Sad, who I’d also been looking forward to seeing for some time; impressive. As I was unable to make the pilgrimage to Glastonbury Festival this year, this one major gig made up for it. Long may Robert Smith and The Cure continue to inspire – thanks Bob. I can only hope that this tour may herald a new album in the near future (hint, hint!).

While on the topic of live bands, it occurred to me that it is a very ephemeral experience. On quiet reflection, if there is one band that I would have liked to have seen but didn’t and now it’s too late… The Clash. The one band that I haven’t seen yet that I would like to see before it’s too late… Rage Against the Machine. Of course there are many, many mainstream artists that could go on those particular lists. These were just ones that came to mind when I asked the rhetorical question.

A Prospective

Trivia fact: In English etymology, ‘prospective’ is a valid antonym for ‘retrospective’. So, I took the indulgence of looking forward through the looking glass and speculating a little on what may lie ahead.

Firstly, CRAVE Guitars will hopefully be relocating soon. I was hoping it was going to be before Christmas but it will now be in early 2017. Major problems and escalating costs with the new place, including somewhere to store the guitars dry, warm, safe and secure, means that even pedal purchasing has now been put on hold until further notice while some massively expensive but essential rebuilding takes place and (sadly) uses all my remaining (guitar) capital.

Furthermore, my self-employed work ends at Christmas, so unemployment (tactically, I prefer to call it early retirement) looms on the immediate horizon. Ironically, after years of having no time and a little cash has been turned around such that I may soon have a little time and no cash. Hey-ho, story of my life; one can’t have it all, eh?

If there is a way that CRAVE Guitars could be put on a different basis and become a full‑time occupation, I’d like to do it. I need to learn how to sell though (see above). It would be terrific if I could realise my long-held ambition and put all my hard work over the last few years to good use. Harsh life experiences over many years suggest that this won’t happen so, perhaps, it is about time for a meagre sprinkling of ‘good luck’ to come my way for once.

Unfortunately, the prevailing economic climate is not conducive to starting up a professional niche business with next to zero capital, no access to finance, sparse experience, and little reliable entrepreneurial advice, all within the context of political, economic and social turmoil. In the UK, we’ve had a General Election, political meltdown, crippling national debt and the insanity of ‘Brexit’ (what a stupid ‘word’ that is!). In the US we’ve had Clinton being well and truly Trumped (amid much conspiracy theory), which is a scary proposition for the whole world. Mad! Since the EU Referendum, the $USD to £GBP exchange rate has fallen through the floor, so one of CRAVE’s strengths – importing vintage guitars from homeland U.S.A. – is now next to impossible as the costs have simply become prohibitive (at least on the modest funds at my disposal). As 2017 looks to provide more surprises and yet more change, there is little point in further speculation about exactly what might transpire. I wonder what CRAVE’s December 2017 article will have to say (all other things being equal).

Ever the eternal optimist, or more probably just tragically deluded, 2017 HAS to be better than 2016. I suspect I may be bitterly disappointed… again. As you might imagine, I have no evidence to support this hypothesis, just a desperate but probably forlorn hope that things, both macro and micro, improve in the months to come. I also have to trust that the irrevocable life-changing events of 2016 lead to constructive and positive outcomes in 2017. Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961), the Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist that founded analytical psychology summed it up, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” Perhaps the old dude knew a thing or two about people’s ability to influence their own destiny.

I know that one shouldn’t gauge any sort of success by social media activity but CRAVE Guitars is gradually building a solid presence on the hinterweb. A huge “THANK YOU” to everyone who showed some interest in goings on at CRAVE Guitars over the last 12 months. At the time of writing, CRAVE’s Twitter followers (my favoured platform – @CRAVE_Guitars) were standing at over 1,330, which is amazing to me – a massive increase in a year. The majority of CRAVE’s Twitter followers are in the U.S.A., so much appreciation goes out to my transatlantic brethren. Equally, my gratitude extends to everyone inside and outside the UK, across the continents of our increasingly shrinking ‘global village’ for your time and consideration.

CRAVE Website

If CRAVE could buy any vintage guitar in 2017, what would it be? Actually, although unlikely to achieve either, I’m picking one from each of Fender and Gibson to keep things neutral. A 1970s Fender Starcaster has appealed for a long time but they are few and far between and prices are scarily high. As for the ‘big G’, a 1950s non‑cutaway Gibson ES‑150 has also been a longstanding aim, also rapidly increasing in price. So if Santa is listening, I have tried SO hard to be a good boy.

As frequently mentioned in my articles, guitars have only one purpose, as a tool to make music. Music can bring us together and help to heal the often seemingly irreconcilable schisms that inhibit mutual co‑operation and benefit. This brings me neatly onto…

A Hope

For what it is worth, a short Christmas message of redemption for 2017…

I feel that there are even greater seismic shifts ahead in every facet of our small planet. All I can hope is that for every backward step, there are many more steps in the right direction towards the panacea of world peace, ecological sustainability and, let’s face it, survival. We need to magnify the things that we all share and value, and we must strive to diminish the things that cause irreconcilable division and conflict. Ultimately, there is no choice but to work together for the sake of our enduring common humanity. We all have an obligation and a moral duty, individually and collectively, to build a better, fairer world for everyone now and for succeeding generations. As equal citizens, we must demand more from our governments if we are to achieve a viable future for life on Earth. We must respect our diversity, reject greed, protect our environment, have compassion for all living things, and rise above prejudice and hatred, if we are to stand any chance of achieving great things as a species. Strive for utopia and we may just get far enough down the road to justify the effort. It is just common sense after all and the struggle must prevail if it’s worth struggling for. We shall see. Buddha put it far more succinctly, “Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace”. Quite right!

I fear that the rise of ignorant extremism under the guise of ‘populist anti‑institutionalism’ will trigger further anarchic, nihilistic and blindly destructive tendencies when, what the world really needs right now is more ‘peace and love’. Beneath the superficiality of the naïve desperation of the ‘60s hippy movement, the counter‑culture ‘uprising’ of the time had it right all along and we should seek to realise the latent potential of their philosophical idealism and belief for good and fairness. As John Lennon sang, “Imagine all the people living life in peace.” One can hope beyond hope, however unrealistic it may seem. Concerted action, though, is needed.

May you play guitars, or at least listen to the magical music that all guitarists – great and meek alike – create on our beloved instruments. People need the therapeutic qualities of music now, more than ever before. It is a cathartic way to deal with the harsh vagaries of our capricious, chaotic, dysfunctional world. As the German philosopher and scholar, Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) wisely said, “And those who were seen dancing, were thought to be insane, by those who could not hear the music.” On that final contemplative note, it is goodbye to a weird 2016 and I hope to be back in 2017. In the meantime, I’m off to ‘plink my plank(s)’. Until next time…

CRAVE Guitars ‘Music Quote of the Month’: “If I had a pound for every perfect guitar solo I’ve ever played, I’d still be stone broke.”

© 2016 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars.

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