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Articles on this Page
- 12/17/14--09:31: _EVH Wolfgang Specia...
- 12/17/14--10:00: _Charvel Guthrie Gov...
- 12/17/14--11:03: _Joe Satriani, Guthr...
- 12/17/14--11:10: _Wild Stringdom with...
- 12/17/14--11:32: _Iron Maidens' Nita ...
- 12/17/14--13:13: _Ibanez RGKP6 Guitar...
- 12/17/14--14:46: _St. Vincent Premier...
- 12/18/14--07:28: _The Commander-In-Ch...
- 12/18/14--07:41: _Platinum Rush Video...
- 12/18/14--10:17: _Steve Gunn Announce...
- 12/18/14--10:34: _MOD Kits DIY Introd...
- 12/18/14--12:38: _Ibanez Introduces T...
- 12/18/14--12:52: _Sign Up for Guitar ...
- 12/18/14--12:53: _Keith Richards Disc...
- 12/18/14--12:56: _Led Zeppelin "Good ...
- 12/18/14--13:33: _Why Guitarists Shou...
- 12/18/14--14:36: _Monster Licks Unlea...
- 12/19/14--08:08: _Gear Talk with Form...
- 12/19/14--08:12: _Springfield Rock Ci...
- 12/19/14--08:30: _Ukulele Virtuoso Ta...
- 12/17/14--09:31: EVH Wolfgang Special Guitar in Vintage White — Demo Video
- 12/17/14--10:00: Charvel Guthrie Govan Signature Guitar — Demo Video
- 12/17/14--13:13: Ibanez RGKP6 Guitar with Mini Korg Kaoss Pad — Demo Video
- 12/17/14--14:46: St. Vincent Premieres "Birth in Reverse" Music Video
- 12/18/14--07:28: The Commander-In-Chief Demos Xvive Micro XV5 Delay Pedal — Video
- 12/18/14--07:41: Platinum Rush Video Blog #8 — Leann Womack & Geoff Himes
- 12/18/14--10:17: Steve Gunn Announces 2015 Tour in Support of 'Way Out Weather'
- 12/18/14--14:36: Monster Licks Unleashed: Stretching the Limits with Glenn Proudfoot
- 12/19/14--08:12: Springfield Rock City: Top 10 Rock Star Cameos on "The Simpsons"
In the video below, Dave Nassie demos an EVH Wolfgang Special model with an arched top basswood body.
From the company:
The EVH Wolfgang Special was crafted in EVH's Mexico facility with a re-imagined design that delivers more guitar at greater value than ever.
Features include a quartersawn maple neck with an oil finish and special Wolfgang profile, smooth and fast compound-radius maple fingerboard (12"-16") with comfortably rolled edges and 22 jumbo frets, dual EVH Wolfgang direct-mount humbucking pickups, two domed black control knobs (master volume, master tone), EVH Floyd Rose bridge and locking nut, and EVH tuners.
The Wolfgang Special is available in three solid finishes (Vintage White, Stealth and Gloss Black), as well as in four flame maple top finishes (Tobacco Sunburst, Burnt Cherry Burst, Natural and Three-Tone Cherry Burst).
For more product details, visit evhgear.com.
Below, check out a new demo video of Charvel's Guthrie Govan signature model guitar.
The video was created and posted by the gang at Matt's Music Center in Weymouth, Massachusetts. I discovered Matt's Music because they're selling—via eBay—my next guitar. I won't tell you what it is because I don't want you guys swooping in on it before me!
Anyway, it was nice to find out they also post quality gear demos—and for some uncommon brands.
Here's some information on the guitar:
• Caramelized basswood body
• Available with bird’s–eye maple or flame maple top
• Bolt–on "caramelized" flame-maple neck with two graphite rods for enhanced neck stability
• Compound–radius (12″–16″) flame–maple fingerboard with 24 extra jumbo stainless steel frets
• HSH pickup configuration featuring Charvel Custom MFB pickups for clear and transparent tone.
Follow Guitar World's Damian Fanelli on Twitter. He's a swell fellow.
In the video below, Joe Satriani, Tosin Abasi (Animals as Leaders) and Guthrie Govan (the Aristocrats) sit down for a video conference with Guitar World Senior Editor Andy Aledort.
The topic? Their approach and thoughts about guitar, technique, inspiration and, of course, the upcoming G4 Experience.
More than a show, more than a seminar, more than a backstage pass, the G4 Experience will give you musical inspiration and ideas that will keep you playing for years to come.
For the G4 Experience, Satriani, Animals as Leaders (featuring Abasi, Javier Reyes and Matt Garska), the Aristocrats (Govan, Marco Minnemann and Bryan Beller) and Mike Keneally will be performing, teaching and offering attendees a chance to jam.
All of these players will be sharing their knowledge and musical insights with the campers and doing unique, close-up performances. The event also will feature Aledort, Doug Doppler, Bruce Bouillet and Stu Hamm.
The event takes place June 28 to July 2, 2015. For more information, visit g4experience.com.
Hello, and welcome to my new Guitar World instructional column.
In the coming months, I’ll share with you some of the guitar-playing concepts and approaches that have helped me develop my technique and overall playing style. I’d like to start off with an examination of ascending scalar shapes that, by design, cover the majority of the fretboard.
I have found such patterns to be very useful for both melodic and shred-style playing and also very helpful in regard to the “greater mission,” which is to gain a fuller and deeper understanding of the construction of musical ideas within the framework of the guitar’s fretboard.
The following examples are built from phrases made up of three notes per string that are played across two strings, resulting in various six-note shapes. I play these shapes in a rhythm of straight 16th notes, however, so there is an inherent “threes on twos” kind of rhythm that is alluded to throughout.
All of the phrases in this lesson are based on the E natural minor scale (E F# G A B C D), also known as the E Aeolian mode.
In FIGURE 1, using alternate (down-up-downup) picking throughout, I ascend the D and G strings, beginning on the note E on the D string’s second fret, fretted with the index finger. I follow with two more notes on the D string, fretted with the ring finger and pinkie, and then I move over to the G string and play three ascending notes fretted in exactly the same manner—index to ring to pinkie.
On the upbeat of beat two, I shift up to the next fretboard position of E natural minor and use my index finger, middle finger and pinkie to sound three notes per string on the D and G strings. A third six-note shape then appears when we move up one more time, with the index finger, middle finger and pinkie employed for the wider stretch needed for the subsequent pair of three-note shapes.
Notice that, as you ascend through this riff, there are slight variances in the shapes used on each specific string in order to accommodate the notes of E natural minor. If we move the idea down to the bottom two strings, as shown in FIGURE 2, we find that the same fretting shapes are used, albeit in a different sequence.
And the same is true when we move the idea up to the top two strings, as illustrated in FIGURE 3. Only three different physical shapes are used to form the three-note patterns, and this is good, because it enables one to develop muscle memory in the fret-hand, which is immeasurably beneficial.
The only exception to this consistency of shapes occurs when playing similar patterns on the G and B strings. That’s because these two strings are tuned a major third apart, whereas the adjacent strings in the other pairs are tuned a perfect fourth apart.
As shown in FIGURE 4, one must move up an additional half step—one fret—when crossing from the G string to the B. FIGURE 5 offers a clearer representation of this B-string shift within a longer example that moves across all of the strings. Once you have these shapes under your fingers, experiment with moving them to every area of the fretboard, and then transpose the patterns to all 12 keys.
Consider this one a blast from the past. Although we shared this video earlier this year (as part of another story), we've decided to break it into its own mini-feature this afternoon.
It shows the Iron Maidens' Nita Strauss, left, and Courtney Cox shredding at the BOSS booth at the 2012 Winter NAMM Show in Anaheim, California.
Of course, if you follow GuitarWorld.com, you know Strauss is now one of Alice Cooper's guitarists.
Just try to ignore those weird moaning noises some guy is making near the beginning of the video. Yeah, women really love that ...
By the way, the 2015 Winter NAMM show is right around the corner!
In the brand-new video below, several guitarists, including Guitar World's Paul Riario, Tarra Thiessen of Sharkmuffin and Val Vallese of Pound the Lbs., demo the new Ibanez RGKP6 Kaoss Guitar.
The guitar has a built-in Korg mini Kaoss pad. Let us explain ...
From the company:
For those looking to weave the dynamic elements of electronic music into their sound Ibanez introduces the RGKP6 Kaoss Guitar and the SRKP4 Bass.
Each instrument includes a built-in/detachable Korg mini Kaoss pad 2S that puts 100 effect programs within fingertips distance. Other mini Kaoss pad 2S features include a synthesizer, built-in mp3 player and digital recorder. As if that weren't enough, both axes contain a built-in distortion circuit for additional sonic mayhem.
For more information, visit Ibanez online. The link goes directly to the Ibanez/Korg page.
St. Vincent has shared the music video for “Birth in Reverse,” a track off of her 2014 self-titled album.
Annie Clark (St. Vincent) has had a great year; her album even landed in Guitar World's50 Best Albums of 2014.
The minimalist guitarist's style comes through on “Birth in Reverse,” the video for which was directed by Willo Perron.
“It’s funny that you would categorize it as minimalist,” she told Guitar World in the Holiday 2014 issue. “In the context of guitar rock, I could see what I do as being minimal. But in the context of pop music, it’s pushing the level of muso—pushing the limits of what people are hearing in pop music.”
Fair enough. St. Vincent’s robotic, yet oddly vulnerable, post-modern pop songs are packed with subtle complexities, spiky discordant horn charts, polyrhythmic dance grooves and moments of Bowie-esque alien grandeur.
In an overtly electronic landscape, she deploys her guitar as a stealth device, a heat-seeking missile. It sneaks up on you, and startles you at times. What seems like a synth line might turn out to be a guitar. What seems like a guitar might just be the sound of your own imagination. Like a ghost in some Orwellian machine, her guitar is very much an extension of her disarmingly dispassionate, yet somehow highly expressive vocal style.
For more about Xvive, visit xviveaudio.com.
The Commander-in-Chief, a seven-string (Ibanez) guitarist who lives in England, has just released a new album with classical guitarist Craig Ogden. In recent weeks, GuitarWorld.com has premiered three songs and videos from the album, all of which you can check out below:
For more about the Commander-in-Chief, visit thecommanderinchief.net.
Is life really like a three minute pop song?
Leann Womack has something to say about that, as well as social media.
And in case you were afraid to ask what "Americana" music is, I asked Geoff Himes, music critique from The Washington Post, and boy does he know his stuff!
All this from the Americana Music Fest in Nashville!
Scot Sax knows his way around a solid pop song. The Philadelphia musician has been writing them for years, whether it was with his own bands Wanderlust and Feel, or as a purveyor of hits for singers like Faith Hill and Tim McGraw. It was Sax, in fact, who co-wrote the country duo’s Grammy-winning smash “Like We Never Loved At All.” His catchy “I Am the Summertime,” penned while with the band Bachelor Number One, was featured in the blockbuster “American Pie.” And he’s netted countless TV credits, with song placements in shows like “Ghost Whisperer,” “NCIS,” “CSI: NY” and “Keeping up with the Kardashians.” He toured as a guitarist with Sharon Little throughout North America supporting Robert Plant and Alison Krauss' Raising Sand. His filmmaking debut, the documentary "Platinum Rush," is currently being entered into film festivals worldwide and will premiere in 2015. Sax lives in Nashville with his family.
As 2014 comes to a close, praise for Steve Gunn's phenomenal album, Way Out Weather, released this past October on Paradise of Bachelors, continues to pour in.
The album has received year-end best of 2014 recognition from many publications, including NPR Music, Pitchfork, Aquarium Drunkard, Magnet, and Mojo, who ranked the album #6 in their "50 Best Albums Of 2014."
Today, Gunn is excited to announce his first run of tour dates in 2015.
He'll be making stops at both AeroFest and Big Ears Festival, before heading back to Brooklyn for a hometown show at Baby's All Right on Wednesday, April 1st. Gunn (vocals, guitar) will be joined for this tour by Nathan Bowles (drums), and Jason Meagher (bass).
STEVE GUNN TOUR DATES
Fri. March 20 - New Orleans, LA @ Gasa Gasa*
Sat. March 21 - Mobile, AL @ AeroFest
Sun. March 22 - Columbus, GA @ WC Bradley Museum*
Mon. March 23 - Birmingham, AL @ The Bottletree*
Tue. March 24 - Asheville, NC @ The Mothlight
Thu. March 26 - Nashville, TN @ The Stone Fox
Fri. March 27 - Knoxville, TN @ Big Ears Festival
Sat. March 28 - Louisville, KY @ The New Vintage*
Sun. March 29 @ Columbus, OH @ Spacebar*
Tue. March 31 - Philadelphia, PA @ Boot & Saddle
Wed. April 1 - Brooklyn, NY @ Baby's All Right
* w/ Ryley Walker
Find out more at http://steve-gunn.com
And check out this video!!
The Wave is a versatile stand-alone, tube-driven analog spring reverb unit kit.
It can be used in front of your guitar amp or as a line-level analog reverb effect for the recording studio.
Two controls allow you to serve up a wide range of wetness from just a touch to over the top psychedelia. The "dwell" control adjusts the input signal level driving the tank and the "reverb" control adjusts the level of output reverberations from the tank.
The Wave’s all-tube design utilizes four dual triode vacuum tubes—three 12AX7’s and one 12AT7—and comes with a MOD three-spring reverb tank. MOD reverb tanks are deemed the closest to the original reverb tanks from the Sixties that are made today.
The Wave’s reverb function can be switched in and out pop-free via the front panel toggle or with a foot switch (purchased separately). The Wave has standard ¼-inch in-and-out guitar jacks in the front for use with your guitar and amp and standard RCA in-and-out jacks in the back panel for use in a recording environment.
The Wave is equipped to be rack mounted using just under 3U of space and is approximately 11 inches deep front to back. Four large rubber feet allow the Wave to be safely placed on top of most contemporary guitar amplifier heads and combos for stage use, and it fits into a rack without having to remove the feet.
The Wave comes with a pre-punched powder coated steel chassis, easy-to-follow instructions and all necessary parts.
MOD Kits and Assemblies are designed to give novice and experienced musicians the opportunity to build or modify their own amps, effects pedals and guitars. All kits come with easy-to-follow instructions and use point-to-point wiring. All effect pedals and amplifiers come with a pre-drilled enclosure and all necessary parts are included. All you need to provide are hand tools, a soldering iron and solder.
For a complete listing of kits available from MOD Kits DIY visit modkitsdiy.com.
In 1976, Ibanez approached Kiss frontman Paul Stanley to collaborate on a signature guitar that would become the instrument with which he would be forever associated.
Now, for the first time since 1996, Paul and Ibanez have reunited to re-issue three exciting new versions of the original Paul Stanley Signature Model.
"Renewing my collaboration with Ibanez feels like going home to where it all started,” Stanley said. “The guitars we created remain iconic and we will celebrate them and more as we move forward into our future together."
“We’re very excited to be partnering again with Paul Stanley,” said Ibanez Artist Relations Manager Mike Taft. “It’s been an amazing year for Paul and the band, including the release of his best-selling autobiography, the band’s long overdue induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the ongoing world tour to commemorate their 40th anniversary together.
"I couldn't think of a better time for Paul to reunite with Ibanez. Along with their distinctive styling, these historic instruments have proven themselves on albums and in concert worldwide, where their sound has made them sought after by guitarists for decades."
Stay tuned for more details soon!
Sign up for the free Guitar World newsletter to get a free 2015 Electric Guitar Buyers Guide!
It's really just that simple.
You'll get the daily GW newsletter, which often features stories not posted on our Facebook or Twitter feeds — and we'll throw in the 2015 Electric Guitar Buyers Guide.
For more information, head HERE!
Critics snubbed it upon its release in 1972, but Exile on Main St. has become one of rock’s greatest landmarks. Keith Richards recalls the making of the Rolling Stones' masterpiece and how the album’s new reissue project became a walk down memory lane.
"To me, Exile on Main St. was probably the best Rolling Stones album as far as the connection between the band members,” Keith Richards says. “We were coming up with song ideas like crazy. And the ideas were catching on. Everybody was going flat-out.”
The anniversary reissue of the Rolling Stones’ landmark double album this May will provide a heavy blast of nostalgia to those who were around when Exile was first released, in 1972. The newly remastered tracks, as well as the session outtakes, will also be a revelation even to those who know the album inside and out.
But perhaps no one feels the nostalgia, or the revelations, as profoundly as Keith Richards. There’s no denying that the album is quintessentially Keef in its swagger and the cocky sprawling grandeur of its musical scope. Hedged all about by rough edges, Exile’s elegantly wasted, slightly messy nonchalance is what imparts a frisson of raw truth to the overall beauty of the thing. Perhaps it’s not coincidence that Exile was recorded, amid scenes of legendary rock star decadence, in the vast, dank cellars beneath Richards’ home at the time, a palatial villa called Nellcôte, on the sunny French Riviera.
“I’m listening to these tracks, and suddenly I’m back in that old basement in the south of France,” marvels Richards, phoning in from another tropical paradise, a small island in the West Indies. “It’s amazing, especially for me, that ability to transport myself back in time.”
The Stones guitarist played a key role in preparing the Exile reissue, which will be released in three formats. The basic package is a CD containing newly remastered versions of the 18 tracks from the original album. The Deluxe version includes a bonus disc with 10 previously unreleased tracks from the album’s era, while the Super Deluxe release adds on two 30-gram vinyl albums containing the original album and bonus tracks, a DVD on the making of Exile and a 50-page collector’s book with photos.
The Exile reissue project reunited Richards and his lifelong Glimmer Twin Mick Jagger with Jimmy Miller, the Rolling Stones’ late-Sixties/early Seventies producer who recorded and mixed the original album and many other great Stones records. A rock-solid drummer in his own right, Miller has always had some kind of primordial connection with the Stones’ profoundly rhythmic essence. Richards says, “I look back on it all, and I’ve got to say Jimmy Miller was the perfect producer for the Rolling Stones.”
Also onboard for the reissue project was the band’s present-day producer, Don Was, who sorted through hours of tapes to resurrect the bonus tracks. These include alternate takes of “Loving Cup” and “Soul Survivor,” plus an early version of “Tumbling Dice” titled “Good Time Women.” There’s also a cache of previously unreleased tracks, including “Dancing in the Light,” “Plundered My Soul,” “Following the River,” “Aladdin’s Story” and “Pass the Wine,” which has appeared on bootlegs under the working title “Sophia Loren.” For the Exile reissue, every effort was made to unearth fresh material from the vaults. In some cases, Jagger wrote and recorded brand-new vocals for what had previously been instrumental tracks. Richards overdubbed some guitar on a few tracks, but he stresses that he did as little as possible to the original recordings.
“I brushed a little acoustic guitar,” he says. “I can’t even remember on which song now. The original guitar track sort of stuttered and fell apart halfway through, so Don said, ‘Well, we better replace that.’ But that’s all I did really. As I said to Don, these tracks already are Exile, because they come out of that dusty basement. You can’t really screw around with them that much. Just tack them on. They are what they are, right from the same place.”
For Richards, the project triggered fond memories of those who have since departed the Stones, including original bassist Bill Wyman, and those who have since departed this life, such as session piano great Nicky Hopkins. “To hear Nicky Hopkins’ piano on ‘Sophia Loren’ was a treasure,” he says quietly. “And Bill’s solid as a rock, man. What a bass player! I’m actually more and more impressed with him, listening to this. You can get used to a guy, but listening back, going over this stuff to make this record, I’d say, ‘Jesus Christ, he’s better than I thought!’ ”
Richards also speaks fondly of his former Stones co-guitarist Mick Taylor, who joined in 1969 as a replacement for founding member Brian Jones. But Richards denies murmurings that Taylor, who left the band in late 1974, contributed overdubs to the reissue package. “That’s a rumor, babe,” he says. “If he was on there, I would know. We’ve had no contact with Mick for a long time.”
Hearsay seems to be dogging Richards’ footsteps these days. There’s another story going around that he has completely forsworn alcohol and all other intoxicants. “That’ll be the day, honey,” he says. The remark is punctuated by one of those long, slow Keef laughs, a groundswell that starts as a faint rumble in the nicotine-coated larynx and terminates in a rheumy expulsion of breath. “Let me put it this way: the rumors of my sobriety are greatly exaggerated. Hey, I cut down a little.”
Perhaps these suspicions of temperance are fueled by the disciplined rigor of the guitarist’s schedule these days. Along with preparations for the Exile reissue and DVD, Richards has been the subject of a new film biography directed by his longtime friend—and most dead-on impersonator—Johnny Depp. Keef is also completing a book-length autobiography, due out in October, with co-writer James Fox. “It’s the story so far, so to speak,” he says. “James has really put me down memory lane. It’s weird, man, trying to remember everything, and then reliving it as the memory comes back. Like, ‘Oh God, I gotta go through this thing twice!’ ”
But one life experience that Richards doesn’t seem to mind reliving is the making of Exile on Main St. It would be difficult to overstate the album’s importance in the great scheme of rock music. It is the climax of the Stones’ four-album winning streak that began with 1968’s Beggars Banquet and continued to gain momentum through the superb Let It Bleed and Sticky Fingers, as the Sixties gave way to the Seventies. On Exile, the Stones attained a perfect balance between the American roots genres that had inspired them all along: blues, country, R&B, early rock and roll, and gospel. In this regard, Exile is almost like an Olympian athletic feat, one of those rare moments when nature, human effort and sheer random happenstance all come into graceful cosmic alignment.
“All those musical styles were part of what we’d been picking up while touring America,” Richards explains. “To us English boys, hanging out watching guys in America play music was like a dream come true, man. We were soaking stuff up like sponges wherever we could find it—south side of Chicago, those downtown juke joints…anywhere. New Orleans… Shit, man.”
Exile on Main St. is also one of rock and roll’s archetypal double albums. Although it was released a few years after the Beatles’ White Album, the Who’s Tommy and Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland, Exile nonetheless had an immense role in establishing the double-vinyl album as a distinctive and unique art form. It’s an eloquent lesson in how open-ended jams like “I Just Wanna See His Face,” can slot in amid well-wrought rockers like “Rocks Off” and calypso-tinged acoustic ballads like “Black Angel.” Like all of rock’s great double albums, Exile takes the listener on an epic journey, one that commences with a sheer blast of energy on side one, moves into acoustic mode on side two and glides languidly to a stirring gospel conclusion over the course of sides three and four. In this regard, Exile represents the apotheosis of album rock—the move away from hit singles and into longer formats that had begun circa 1966.
“I think this is the first album where we didn’t have a 45 [rpm single] hit on it,” says Richards. “We picked some singles off it, but it was made for what it was. It was an album album. Of course, when it first came out, sales were not up to par to start with. But after six or nine months, they started to pick up as people got into it.”
Created with sublime indifference to the pop market, Exile on Main St. is one of the first DIY rock albums, recorded at the guitar player’s house at a time when that sort of thing simply wasn’t done. While Exile is not exactly lo-fi, there’s a delicious murkiness to the sound, a sense of mystery shrouded in messiness. It’s a sure bet that the New York Dolls were listening to Exile when they were getting started in the early Seventies. The roots of punk are right there in the snarling, brittle mesh of Keith Richards and Mick Taylor’s guitars. You can’t quite tell who’s doing what. It’s not too far a leap from that to the intertwined double-guitar approach of Television’s Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd, which in turn gave rise to thousands of latter-day punk bands. And, of course, Exile also set the pattern for the dual-guitar dynamic that Richards and Ronnie Wood have pursued ever since Mick Taylor’s departure, a guitar style that Richards often describes as “an ancient form of weaving.”
So, many roads lead back to Exile on Main St.“The thing about recording Exile was it was the first time we weren’t in a studio to make a record,” Richards says. “It all sort of happened by circumstance, really. We all decided we were going to move out of England, due to great pressure from H.M. Government. So we said, ‘Let’s keep going. We’ll do it somewhere else.’ And we figured, Oh, the south of France sounds good. I mean what’s wrong with that?”
The “great pressure” he refers to came from Britain’s graduated tax laws, which required big earners like the Stones to pay some 90 percent of their income. That, combined with the band’s frequent drug busts and harassment from the police, forced them out of England. But the early Seventies were a time of heavy change for the Stones in many regards. They’d moved away from their manager, the notoriously belligerent Allen Klein, and launched their own label, Rolling Stones Records. Mick Jagger married Nicaraguan beauty Bianca Pérez Morena de Macias and settled down to a life of quiet domesticity in France, with the other Stones living nearby.
Richards had been together with Anita Pallenberg since 1969, after he’d won the striking blonde German/Italian fashion model away from Brian Jones. But, unlike Mick and Bianca, Keith and Anita had never felt the need to sanctify their union via anything as bourgeois as marriage. Their son, Marlon, was about a year and a half when they settled into Villa Nellcôte, a grand maison with stately neoclassical columns, capacious salons and a killer view of the Bay of Villefranche. Built in 1899, Nellcôte had been inhabited by a succession of financiers and diplomats before it became the domicile of Keith Richards and his bizarre ménage. “Anita and I went looking at a couple of places, but Nellcôte kind of chose us immediately,” he says. “It was just an incredible joint. It was like a mini Versailles, and it didn’t cost a lot.”
While the other Stones lived fairly quiet lives at home, Nellcôte quickly became Party Central, with an endless stream of friends, friends of friends, drug dealers, celebrities and gangsters passing through the villa’s grand portals. Guitars, amps, records, stereo gear, empty bottles, books, discarded foodstuffs and assorted pets were soon all over the floor and furnishings beneath Nellcôte’s magnificent crystal chandeliers. Richards says that Marlon, now in his early Forties, has no memories of the place. “He was too young, probably around two years old,” the guitarist says. “He was running around bare-assed. Although he probably remembers the smell.”
Nellcôte’s basement became the Stones’ recording studio by default. The original plan was to find a commercial facility nearby. “We figured there’s gotta be some decent studios in Cannes or Nice or somewhere around there, even if it was Marseilles,” Richards says. “But we checked them all out, and it was pathetic. This was 1971. No doubt they’ve got great joints there now, but then, no. It was, like, forget about it. So then it became, ‘Let’s rent a house and see if we can do it there.’ Which is where the idea of bringing our mobile truck came in.”
That would be the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio. Though mobile recording facilities are now commonplace, they were in their infancy in the early Seventies. The innovative Stones had put their own recording truck together, income source than for their own use. The unit had been loaned out to Led Zeppelin for their third and fourth albums, and the Stones had used it when recording tracks for Sticky Fingers at Jagger’s home, Stargroves. It had also been used for “location recordings for TV and the BBC, and stuff like that,” Richards explains. “But suddenly we realized, We got a truck, man—a mobile control room. But then we couldn’t find a house to record in. So we ended up using my basement.”
Below Nellcôte’s ground floor lay three levels of basement, subdivided into chambers of various sizes and shapes. Together with pianist/road manager/de facto sixth Stone Ian Stewart, Richards set about hanging microphones and carpets to control acoustic reflections. Home recording was virtually unheard of in 1971. The equipment was bulky and expensive and, thus, strictly the province of rock royalty like the Beatles and Stones. People didn’t really know much about recording in spaces that weren’t acoustically designed for that purpose. The Stones were moving into uncharted territory when they ventured below stairs at Nellcôte.
“There were all these little subdivisions in the basement, almost like booths,” Richards recalls. “So what would happen was that, for a certain sound, we’d schlep an amp from one space to another until we found one that had the right sound. Sometimes the guitar cord wasn’t long enough! That was in the beginning, anyway. But once we started to work there, my little cubicle became my cubicle, and we didn’t change places much.
“But at first, it was just a matter of exploring this enormous basement, saying, ‘What other sound is hiding ’round the corner?’ ’Cause you’d have weird echoes going on. Sometimes we wouldn’t be able to see each other even, which is very rare for us. We usually like to eyeball one another when we’re recording.”
Summer came to the French Riviera as sessions got underway. The basement was very hot and humid, and keeping guitars in tune was sometimes a challenge. The environment no doubt inspired the album’s working title: “Tropical Disease.” But it’s the dust that Keef recalls most vividly.
“It was a dirt floor,” he says. “You could see somebody had walked by, even after they disappeared ’round the corner, because there’d be a residue of dust in the air. It was a pretty thick atmosphere. But maybe that had something to do with the sound—a thick layer of dust over the microphones.”
Despite the challenging environment, the songs came fairly quickly. Before leaving England, the Stones had started some tracks at Olympic Studios in London and at Stargroves. Down in France, they picked up these threads. Keith remembers the acoustic-driven country number “Sweet Virginia” as one of the first they worked on. “I can’t remember if that was the actual first,” he says. “That would be beyond even my phenomenal memory. But I recall that Mick had ‘Sweet Virginia’ prepared and ready to go. I have a feeling that we’d been playing around with that one on the last sessions. Maybe on Sticky Fingers, or whatever. So it was a work in progress.”
Another work in progress was the aforementioned “Good Time Women” which soon became Exile’s one big single, “Tumbling Dice.” “I know we did that one fairly early on in France because I remember the weather,” Richards says. “The basic idea, as you can hear from ‘Good Time Women,’ was already there. But it took a while for it to turn into ‘Tumbling Dice.’ We were stuck for a good lyrical hook to go with this really great riff, so we left it in abeyance for a bit. And then I think Mick came up with the title ‘Tumbling Dice,’ although he may have got it from someone else. Ha!”
The evolution from “Good Time Women” to “Tumbling Dice” is a classic example of the Jagger-Richards songwriting partnership at work. It also exemplifies the way the Stones will often allow a track to develop over time, re-recording it repeatedly and often in many different locales. “If you chase a song far enough, you’re gonna corner it—like a rat!” Richards says with a laugh.
But the pace was generally brisk. “Sometimes we’d get two tracks in a night down there,” he says. “And then there’d be other times when we’d be three days on one song.”
The work schedule was fairly regular, the guitarist recalls. “Charlie Watts was living a long way away, a six- or seven-hour drive, for some reason. But then drummers are quirky, you know. So we’d generally work for four days a week, five at a push. But the weekends would be off.”
Various Stones would sleep over at Nellcôte from time to time, but occasionally inspiration struck when some of the members were away. Such was the case when Richards’ signature track, “Happy,” came into being.
“It was pretty early in the afternoon,” he recalls. “Jimmy Miller was there checking on the previous night’s session tapes. I said, ‘Oh shit, I’ve got an idea, Jimmy.’ He said, ‘Well, just lay it down with the guitar.’ So I start laying it down, and suddenly Jimmy’s behind me playing the drums. He’d come down from the truck, and I hadn’t even noticed. I’m just hammering away, figuring this thing out. Suddenly I hear these great drums behind me, and now it’s starting to rock. It’s one of these ‘three feet off the ground’ feelings. And then, suddenly, I hear this baritone sax, and there’s Bobby Keys honking away. Suddenly it’s becoming very happy.”
Even the song’s lyrics sprang from that initial inspiration. “Most of ’em anyway, in some garbled form,” Richards says. “The whole idea was there. ‘I never kept a dollar past sunset…’ That was all there.”
The preeminence of “Happy,” at the top of the album’s third side, coupled with the preponderance of great Keef guitar hooks on Exile, has led some observers to describe the disc as “Keith’s album.” But the guitarist is having none of that. “I don’t really get that,” he says. “Mick was incredibly involved. Look how many songs there are. And he wrote the bulk of the lyrics. He was very involved. I don’t think I was putting in more than anybody else. Charlie was amazing. Everybody was in great form.”
Exile does contain some of the most sympathetic guitar teamwork that Richards and Mick Taylor ever committed to disc. They mesh seamlessly, almost telepathically, on track after track. With the exception of “Happy” and possibly “Ventilator Blues,” Richards left the bulk of the slide guitar work to Taylor. But where Taylor’s leads can stand out a little too assertively on some earlier Stones recordings—particularly the live Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out album—here he’s dug in deep, roiling along with Keef and fully integrated into the guitar juggernaut. Perhaps this is in part due to the album’s ad hoc recording circumstances, combined with the fact that Taylor had been a Stone for about two years at this point and was well settled in. And maybe by living close by and actually sleeping over at Nellcôte on many occasions Taylor had fallen into sync with Richards on some elemental level.
“I also think it was because we were writing songs on the spot,” Richards says. “So I automatically fell into doing the chording and figuring out the whole thing, which gave Mick Taylor a freedom. He just came up with line after beautiful line. What a player, man.”
Exile is also awash in great guitar hooks based around Richards’ signature five-string open G tuning (omitting the low E string and tuned, low to high, G D G B D). He’d first used this tuning on “Honky Tonk Women” in 1969 and had integrated it into his approach more and more thoroughly on Let It Bleed and Sticky Fingers. But it really explodes on Exile and is the secret behind riff-mad classics like “Rocks Off,” “Tumbling Dice” and “Happy.”
“I was really bathing in that stuff at the time, finding out more and more about the tuning as I was going along,” Richards acknowledges. “In a way, with a lot of the five-string stuff on Exile, I’d just found that space. You’re listening to me in school!”
For a few magic months at Nellcôte, everything seemed to fall into place. With sax player Bobby Keys and trumpeter Jim Price right on the premises, the horn charts on Exile are a deeply organic part of the music, rather than an overdubbed afterthought, as horn parts all too often tend to be.
“I think that’s another one of the beauties of the album,” Richards says. “The fact that the horns are actually playing with the band. There is something to be said for having it all in one room. Bobby and Jim were amazing, ’cause they had to make up their parts virtually on the spot. The songs were coming out two or three a night. Sometimes I’d lay an idea for a song on them at the end of a session, early in the morning, so they’d have it in their heads by the time they got back the next day. There were only two of them, a sax and a trumpet, but Jimmy played great trombone as well, so we’d double them up until they became a section.”
Many extraordinary musicians passed through Nellcôte during the Exile sessions. The list of those who were there but didn’t play on the album is as impressive as the roster of gifted players who did. John Lennon stopped by at one point, drank a bottle of red wine and vomited. Country rock pioneer Gram Parsons and his girlfriend Gretchen were long-term houseguests. The American musician and tunesmith was a major factor behind the Stones’ pronounced country influence in the early Seventies; he was also a close friend and drug buddy of Keith’s. There has been much speculation about Parsons’ uncredited, behind-the-scenes role in writing many of the Stones’ country-tinged classics. But if he was hanging around Nellcôte for so long, how come he didn’t end up playing on Exile? Or did he?
“No, he didn’t,” Richards replies. “But why he didn’t play is a good question. Gram and I would play around a lot upstairs in the living area, and he would play with Mick [Taylor] a lot up there. So I don’t know… Gram was a little shy, and we were too busy to say, ‘Hey, Gram, come down here. We need another guitar.’ He would distance himself from us when we were working. He’d come and listen a bit, but that was it. But you know, if I have a friend—and Gram was my friend—Mick sometimes gives off a vibe like, ‘You can’t be my friend if you’re his.’ It could be a bit to do with why Gram’s not playing on the record.”
The basement sessions were a separate world from the ’round-the-clock party taking place upstairs and in a small adjacent guesthouse, where the roadies were residing. “Upstairs was a continual ball, if you know what I mean,” Richards says. “Unfortunately the Stones were rarely involved, ’cause we were busy working.”
But every party has its price and painful morning-after hangover. And on October 1, 1971, burglars got into Nellcôte and made off with somewhere between 11 and 17 guitars (accounts vary), purportedly in retribution for money not paid to dope dealers who had been supplying guests at the villa. For Richards, the memory is especially unpleasant.
“When they put the documentary ogether for Exile, they showed me some footage, and there I am, holding my favorite stolen guitar, a 1964 Telecaster. It was like, ‘Oh baby, don’t rub it in.’ There she was. Had a lovely sound. I just got used to that one, you know? I can play almost any Telecaster, but the more you play just the one, the more it becomes attached to you. I almost went into a blank after the guitars were stolen. I didn’t want to think about it. But I slowly started to build up a new collection since then. I haven’t lost one since. I learned my lesson: don’t leave them hanging around on a Saturday night!”
Just about every notable rock and roll junkie has a tale of guitars going missing, and Richards is no exception. It’s well known that he and Pallenberg were heavily into heroin during their tenure at Nellcôte. In one famous incident, the couple were so out of it that they accidentally set fire to their bed. Observers have marveled at Richards’ ability to be as creative and prolific as he was during the making of Exile while seriously strung out on dope.
“Well, I’m not going to get into those questions.” He laughs and then assumes a thick Northern English accent. “ ‘Did Charlie Parker play better because he was on the stuff?’ I found that [heroin] didn’t inhibit whatever it was I wanted to do. If I thought it was diminishing me or that I wasn’t putting my fair share into the music, then I’d have been off the stuff right away. And that’s a fact. I’m a funny kind of guy. I’ve got a metabolism you wouldn’t believe.”
Still, as the glorious Mediterranean summer gave way to winter’s chill, the idyll at Nellcôte was clearly drawing to a close. The local police were starting to get ugly, and the Stones’ phenomenal creative streak was wending toward a natural conclusion. Richards remembers “Casino Boogie,” as one of the last Exile songs to fall into place.
“I think when we got to ‘Casino Boogie,’ Mick and I looked at each other and just couldn’t think of another lyrical concept or idea for the song.” At that point Richards recalled another great junkie artist, the novelist William Burroughs. “I said to Mick, ‘You know how Bill Burroughs did that cut-up thing—where he would randomly chop words out of a book or newspaper and then try to sort them up?’ That’s how we did the lyrics for ‘Casino Boogie,’ and that was Bill Burroughs’ biggest influence on the Rolling Stones.”
At the end of November, barely one step ahead of the police, the Stones decamped for Los Angeles. Working at the historic Sunset Sound studio, they began laying overdubs onto the tracks they’d cut at Nellcôte. Billy Preston, who just a couple of years before had worked with the Beatles on Let It Be, lent his formidable piano and organ talents to “Shine a Light.” Pedal steel ace Al Perkins imparted a tearful country lilt to “Torn and Frayed,” and upright bass player Bill Plummer left his mark on no fewer than four tracks: “Rip This Joint,” “Turd on the Run,” “I Just Wanna See His Face” and “All Down the Line.” A phalanx of backing vocalists added loads of soul and gospel grandeur. Among their ranks, on “Let It Loose,” was none other than Mac Rebennack, better know as the celebrated New Orleans pianist and singer Dr. John. “He just walked in,” Richards recalls. “Mac Rebennack’s like that. If there’s music going on, in one way or another, he’s gonna get his ass in there. I love the guy.”
By the time overdubs were completed, there were too many tracks in the can to do a single album. And so the Rolling Stones joined the Beatles, the Who, Jimi Hendrix and other classic rockers who have left the world with a monumental double-album statement.
“The fact that the Beatles had done it probably gave us a sense of, ‘Oh, there is a precedent,’ ” Richards says. “But our point was that we’d put down this body of work and when it came to chopping it down to one album, nobody could agree on which songs to cut. After a while, Mick and I looked at each other and said, ‘This is impossible. How about a double? This is all one piece. It’s gonna be unique just because of where it was recorded and the way it was recorded.’ We sort of nodded at one another and said, ‘Let’s go for it.’ Which gave us hell from the record company: ‘Aw, the public hates double albums,’ and all of that. But we insisted.”
Richards adds that mixing the album was daunting, “only from the point of view that there was so much of it. Mixing a double album was different than mixing a single album. So we were going into uncharted territory. Mick and I would look at one another and say, ‘How many more songs to go?’ mopping our brow, so to speak. But I can’t remember it being that difficult. I think we were so intimate with the tracks by then that, listening to the overdubs and mixing, it just put the icing on the cake. I remember it as being a very joyous couple of weeks. We were all on top of it. Jimmy Miller, all of us—we all knew what we were doing. It was just a matter of watching it fall into place. It was one of those rare things: a perfect mixing session.”
Sequencing the album, however, was more of a chore. As mentioned previously, much of Exile’s magic lies in the way the songs flow from one to the next. But that magic didn’t just happen spontaneously.
“Trying to get the track order down was murder, actually,” Richards says, laughing. “I’d be sending cassettes to Mick in the middle of the night—putting my version of what the order should be under his door. I’d come back to my room and there’d already be a cassette under my door with his version of what it should be. ‘Hey, Mick, that’s pretty good, but you’ve got four songs in a row in the same key. We can’t do that!’ You’d come across all these weird little problems that you never thought of. It was like making a jigsaw puzzle. By the time I got the final version, I didn’t give a shit anymore!”
While the music on Exile is a product of that summer in the south of France, the album’s packaging and conceptual framework were largely inspired by L.A.’s late-Seventies aura of faded Hollywood decadence. The “Main Street” referenced in the title was a seedy thoroughfare in downtown Los Angeles, which harbored a Chinese restaurant that the Stones liked to frequent at the time. The black-and-white cover images—a bizarre and vaguely disquieting assortment of showbiz freaks and geeks from days gone by—were snapped from the walls of an L.A. tattoo parlor by photographer Robert Frank. All these elements contributed to a wistful fin-de-siècle mood that permeates the album packaging and perfectly reflects the mood at the time of the album’s creation. It was indeed the end of an era. The Sixties were dead and long gone by the time Exile was released on May 12, 1972; so were Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison, as well as the Beatles, a band with which the Rolling Stones had long been associated. The hippie dream had failed to materialize.
And so on Exile, the Stones seemed to be enshrining themselves among the yellowing photos of yesteryear’s forgotten entertainers. A series of 12 postcards included with the original album—and faithfully reproduced in the Deluxe reissue—offered a comedic depiction, also in blurry black and white, like an old movie, of the Stones arrival “in exile.” The caption for the final card reads:
“Taylor realizes the fall is complete, ‘they’ll be Forever Exiles on Main Street.’ He suggests early retirement. ‘No better not, it’s getting quite late and we’ll be fogged in forever quite soon.’ ”
The reference to “early retirement” is especially rich 40 years on. But what was it that enabled the Stones to not only endure but also triumph when so many of their Sixties contemporaries had either dropped dead, split up or become woefully irrelevant?
“I’m probably the worst person in the world to answer that question,” Richards replies. “I suppose at that particular period, the early Seventies, everything else had run out of steam—the Beatles and whatever. And I think maybe it’s just the fact that we kept going that did it. At the same time, what was picking up then was stuff like Zeppelin. A whole new energy came in from another generation. There was a lot going on. As I think about it, we didn’t see any reason to stop, and we were on a roll. So we just followed it. And suddenly, you find you’re 66 years old.”
As for the possibility of the Rolling Stones or some younger band making a modern-day equivalent of Exile on Main St. today, Richards demurs. “I’m not saying it’s impossible,” he says. “But, hey, it’s probably highly unlikely.”
Last month, Guitar World and Supro Amps got together to launch the Led Zeppelin Guitar Solo Video Challenge.
Below, you can check out the all entries we've received! In fact, if you DON'T see your video here, please send it again ASAP because we stopped accepting videos on December 10.
The winner of the contest will get a new Supro 1624T Dual-Tone guitar amp (MSRP $1,459)!
He or she also will receive a Fender Classic Series '60s Telecaster, a copy of Guitar World Editor-in-Chief Brad Tolinski's latest book, Light & Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page (signed by Tolinski), and the Guitar World instructional DVD, How to Play the Best of Led Zeppelin!
The videos will be viewed by members of the Guitar World staff. We'll pick a winner by December 25, 2014!
Godflesh’s seventh studio album, A World Lit Only by Fire, is out now.
What inspired you to first pick up a guitar?
My stepfather. He was a guitarist very influenced by David Gilmour, Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page. As a young kid, seeing him play always inspired me to want to pick up a guitar. After that it was when I was listening to punk. I got into the Stranglers and then into more hardcore punk, like Discharge. I quite simply just wanted to play extremely basic and primitive punk guitar styles.
What was your first guitar?
I was about 11 when my mum and stepfather bought me this cheap Gibson ES copy. It was like a copy of a copy of a copy. An absolute piece of crap! But what I liked about it was that it looked just like [Kevin] Geordie [Walker]’s guitar from Killing Joke.
What was the first song you ever learned?
I first learned how to play a barre chord, and from what I can recall I was playing Discharge’s “Fight Back,” which was the first seven-inch by them that I bought.
Do you remember your first gig? What was it like?
My first gig was with my ambient noise project, Final, in front of maybe 15 people. At that stage, it sounded just like power electronic noise. I actually never even used a guitar; it was all microphone feedback, shortwave-radio noise and synth.
Godflesh are known for their massive low sound and aggressive tone. In terms of gear, what is the “secret weapon” to your sound?
Strangely, I don’t feel that there really is a secret weapon to my guitar sound. I used to exclusively use Boss Heavy Metal pedals and Boss delays, but I feel now I can recreate the tone almost instinctively. It’s all about texture. It may take some time to get there, but I can pretty much use any distortion and get the sound. I use an eight-string guitar now, which is extremely important in terms of being able to play lower and have more strings to explore discords!
A World Lit Only by Fire is Godflesh’s first album in 13 years. What inspired you to resurrect the band?
Many things inspired me to resurrect Godflesh. As much as anything, I really felt the need to compose like Godflesh again and indulge in riffs that are both heavy and somewhat surreal, abstract and essentially nasty. Riffs that are driven by a sense of dissonance and discordance are very exciting for me.
You used drum machines on this record, like you did when you first started the band. How did that help ignite your creativity?
The machines and drum sample banks are something I have been working with throughout my career. I always find machines very inspiring creatively, because I have a very clear picture of what rhythms I wish to hear and how to produce them. It was very, very important for us to go back to that original sound and concept.
You’ve always had a unique approach to guitar and songwriting. What advice would you give to young players just getting started?
I feel if I do have a unique approach to guitar and songwriting, it’s accidental, just a sum of its parts and my influences. I was never traditionally taught. I learned the basic chords and after that paid no attention whatsoever. I go completely on feel, and most of the time I have no idea what chord forms I am playing. My only bottom line is that it sounds good. My advice for young players is to tear up the rulebook and explore a guitar as if it is something completely fresh and new to them, so new ideas and concepts can emerge.
In this Monster Lick Unleashed, I'm using the diminished 7th scale in the key of E. The notes used in the scale are E, G, Bb and C#.
I particularly love this scale for the intense sound it creates when played fast or slow. This scale is perfect to use in combination with the pentatonic.
This lick combines some of my favorite techniques for creating runs and passages in solos. I'm always looking to keep a flow going with my soloing. My goal is always to be able to switch in and out of different techniques with ease and fluidity.
Obviously, I practice every separate technique with intensity until I have it mastered, but when it comes time to add the ideas to my soling, I focus very heavily on the transitions between the different techniques.
This lick is very fast and out there, but the thing to take from it is how you can combine these techniques. This is an extreme example, but you can apply the same ideas to any style of solo.
When I'm writing music, I tend to break up these techniques more and focus on melody rather than pure shred. There are sections in some of my songs where things get really crazy, but for the most part when using these techniques I wouldn't shred them out like this.
But this is how I practice them. I push myself to the maximum when practicing things like this, so when it comes time to write, I can whip out these ideas with no problem. This should be your focus, too. Push yourself to your limits.
All of us have different ways of playing and various styles; it's not important to play this exactly the way I do. What's important is that you understand the ideas and techniques behind the lick and create your own version.
Australia's Glenn Proudfoot has played and toured with major signed bands and artists in Europe and Australia, including progressive rockers Prazsky Vyber. Glenn released his first instrumental solo album, Lick Em, in 2010. It's available on iTunes and at glennproudfoot.com. His brand-new instrumental album — Ineffable— is out now and is available through glennproudfoot.com and iTunes.
From a guitarist's perspective, the 1970 Woodstock film, which documents the highs and lows of the August 1969 Woodstock Festival, has several highlights.
There's Jimi Hendrix's immortal take on "The Star-Spangled Banner"; a mesmerizing performance by newcomers Santana; and Pete Townshend's high-flying Gibson SG acrobatics with the Who.
But for a full-on blues-rocking experience, there's no beating Ten Years After's adrenaline-fueled reading of "I'm Going Home." The performance, an intense nod to vintage blues and '50s rock and roll, featured the lightning-fast fretwork of Ten Years After frontman Alvin Lee.
"The solo on the movie sounds pretty rough to me these days," Lee told Guitar World late last week. "But it had the energy, and that was what Ten Years After were all about at the time."
The performance made instant stars out of the British band, which led to more big-name festivals, a label change and their biggest hit, 1971's "I'd Love to Change the World." Although a version of Ten Years After tours today, they do it without Lee, who has found happiness as a solo artist, carefully choosing a handful of festival performances each year.
Lee is releasing a new studio album, Still On the Road to Freedom, August 28 via Rainman Records. The album's 13 new tracks revisit various points in Lee's career, with nods to Fifties rock, psychedelic music and blues. Along the way, of course, is a healthy serving of Lee's trademark riffs and sounds. The album title is a reference to his 1973 LP with Mylon LeFevre, On the Road to Freedom, which featured contributions from George Harrison, Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, Mick Fleetwood and Ron Wood.
Lee recently sat down to discuss his new album and his gear over the years, including his famous "Big Red" Gibson ES-335.
GUITAR WORLD: How often do you pick up a guitar these days?
Pretty much every day. I write and record all the time; it’s my hobby and my passion. I have a Spanish gut-strung guitar, a Dobro resonator and a Line 6 Variax hanging on the wall, and they all get played regularly. The new Variax is very impressive.
Your new album covers a lot of musical ground, revisiting your past, looking to the future and offering a myriad of different guitar sounds. Did you intend to look back?
It kind of evolved from luck and circumstance, as if it were trying to get out on its own. I originally had 33 songs to choose from. As they developed and evolved, I picked out the ones that showed the most promise. As I continued to work on them, I realized they pretty much went through most of my musical influences and styles over the years, so from then on it became a time-warp concept.
What gear did you use on the new album?
Mainly a Gibbo [Gibson] ES-335 and a Martin acoustic. I used a Wal bass and a Gretch baritone guitar for bass, as well as Pete Pritchard’s Music Man and a doghouse double bass called Charlie Boy. Amp-wise, I used a Wem 15 Dominator and a very old Yamaha I bought from Mick Abrahams. I also used the original Pod, which is better than the new ones, as a pre-amp into a Fender Champ and Mustang. Plus Guitar Rig and Amplitude and too many others to mention.
On “Listen to Your Radio Station," I used the Metalizer pedal Leslie West gave me. It’s quite radical and has to be tamed, as the slightest finger twitch comes blasting through the amp. Leslie came up to me at the Night of the Guitars sound check and said, “Alvin, you’re a damn fine guitarist, but you’re not loud enough." He then proceeded to give me loudness lessons. I like Leslie’s playing. He has excellent rock and roll phrasing.
What are some of your more prized pieces of gear, the things you'd rush to save from a fire, for instance?
My Martin acoustic. I bought it in New York in 1970, and the guy gave me a receipt for $150 for the customs. I walked into the “something to declare” channel and showed the guy the receipt. He opened the case and said, “A Martin guitar with Grover machine heads for $150?” I had found the only customs man who was a musical-instrument expert. Four hours later, I walked out with my Martin having paid a fine, a penalty and having had to buy it back. Ever since then, I’ve used the "nothing to declare" channel.
On the album's opener, the title track, you can immediately tell it's Alvin Lee on guitar—not just because of your note choices but also your sound. How would you say your sound has evolved over the years? Are you still using your Woodstock-era Gibson ES-335?
I've still got the original Woodstock 335, but, sadly, I don’t use it these days as it has become too valuable. She’s now in a vault since some loony offered me half a million dollars for her.
Sound-wise, I never use pedal effects on stage and seldom in the studio. I prefer to get my overload sustain from having the Marshall cranked up high, then by turning the guitar down to 5 or 6, you get a nice clean jazz sound. The crunch comes in around 7 or 8. What else do you need?
How involved were you in the creation of Gibson's Custom "Big Red" Alvin Lee ES-335?
That all came about because of Pat Foley at Gibson. He asked me if I'd be interested, and I said of course, it’s a great compliment. So he came over to England to photograph and measure Big Red, and Gibson pretty much took it from there. I had no involvement until I got the first prototype. Then I made a few changes, which resulted in my getting several more prototypes. Now I’ve got a whole bunch of them—a gaggle of Gibsons.
Who were your favorite guitarists when you were growing up?
My favorite country blues player was Big Bill Broonzy. City blues was Freddie King, but I liked them all—Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Ralph Willis, Lonnie Johnson, Brownie McGhee and the three Kings, B.B., Albert and Freddie. Jazz-wise, I listened to Django, Barney Kessel and Wes Montgomery. Charlie Christian, Benny Goodman’s guitarist, was a great influence on my swing phrasing.
My all-time favorite rock and roll players were Scotty Moore, Chuck Berry and Franny Beecher, and I listened to the country playing of Merle Travis.
Did you admire the other great fast bluesman of the time, Johnny Winter?
Strangely enough, I wasn't into fast guitarists. I preferred Peter Green’s subtle touch. I saw him with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers at the Marquee Club in London and was very impressed. He was the only guitarist I've ever seen to turn the volume control on his guitar down during a solo.
What kind of delay/reverb, amp and overdrive did you use on the solo on "I'd Love to Change the World"?
As far as I remember, it was a Wem Dominator used as a pre-amp into the old Marshalls. I had the Wem 15-Watt power amp padded down to guitar input level. The echo was an EMT plate.
The first time I saw the Woodstock film, I was completely knocked out by Ten Years After's performance of "I'm Going Home." It is, without a doubt, one of the movie's highlights. I remember thinking I'd never seen a blues/rock guitarist play that fast before, at least in the context of 1969. And then there was the intensity of the band. Where the hell did that come from?
You’re obviously a man of very good taste! Seriously, though, I never really tried to play fast. It kind of developed from the adrenalin rush of the hundreds of gigs I did long before Woodstock. They called me "Captain Speedfingers" and such, but I didn't take it seriously. There were many guitarists faster than me—Django Reinhardt, Barney Kessel, John McLaughlin and Joe Pass to name a few.
The solo in the movie sounds pretty rough to me these days, but it had the energy, and that was what Ten Years After were all about at the time. However, I often wonder what would have happened if they had used “I Can't Keep From Crying, Sometimes” in the movie instead of "I’m Going Home."
Anything else you'd like to add?
Rush out and buy Still On the Road to Freedom!
Outside of Saturday Night Live, no other current TV show can boast as many impressive musical guests as The Simpsons.
And The Simpsons has the edge because its many musical appearances are actually meant to be funny.
Scores of rock icons—including three Beatles, two Rolling Stones, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Metallica—have appeared on the show as eight-fingered, yellow-tinted versions of themselves, and often in bizarre situations: the Ramones performing for Mr. Burns' birthday party (Who the hell booked that gig?) ... former Beatle George Harrison pointing Homer toward a platter full of brownies ... Ted Nugent running for president ... Aerosmith agreeing to perform at Moe's Tavern when free pickled eggs are offered. Even the Moody Blues have been on the show!
And so, in honor of the show's 25 seasons and 500-plus episodes, here are 10 of our favorite rock-star cameo appearances on The Simpsons.
We apologize for the poor quality of some of the videos below; we think they're good enough to get the point across.
10. The Ramones
"Rosebud," Episode 85
New York City's original punk rockers perform at a special event in honor of Mr. Burns' umpteenth birthday. They start the set by screaming "I'd just like to say this gig sucks!" and end it with a warm and tender "Happy birthday, ya old bastard!"
09. The White Stripes
"Jazzy and the Pussycats," Episode 380
In an episode called "Jazzy & The Pussycats," Bart is moved—literally—by the beat of the White Stripes'"The Hardest Button to Button" from the Elephant album.
When Bart and his drum kit ram into Jack and Meg White on a Springfield street corner, we expect the garage-rocking duo to be kind, friendly and forgiving toward the well-intentioned, pointy-haired youngster.
Instead, Meg screams, "Let's kick his ass!"
08. The Who
"A Tale of Two Springfields," Episode 250
Alas, there is no available video from this often-shown-as-a-rerun-around-7 p.m. episode.
It features the Who—Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle and a rarely seen (and never heard) drummer who looks like a young Keith Moon. Come to think of it, they all look like the mid-Seventies versions of themselves in this episode from 2000.
The episode, "A Tale of Two Springfields," finds Homer trying to sabotage a Who concert in Olde Springfield. It features most of "Won't Get Fooled Again"; in fact, an A chord from the song destroys the wall between the two Springfields.
07. Spinal Tap
"The Otto Show," Episode 57
From a third-season episode called “The Otto Show." After Otto kills Spinal Tap in a bus crash, we find out he doesn't even have a driver's license. He winds up losing his beloved job and reevaluating his life.
How does Spinal Tap fit in? Well, they don't, really—except that, before Otto kills them, they perform in Springfield, mispronouncing the town's name during the show and watching their gigantic Satan balloon deflate.
“We salute you, our half-inflated Dark Lord,” chant the Tap, trying to make it look intentional.
The role of Spinal Tap bassist Derek Smalls is, of course, played by Simpsons regular Harry Shearer, who voices Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders, Waylon Smithers and a million other people, regulars and transients alike.
If you really need to see some poor-quality video from this episode, you can do that right here.
"Homer the Moe," Episode 272
After Moe's Tavern is turned into a swanky, upscale nightclub by the Formico, the self-proclaimed "Dean of Design," Homer turns his basement into a bar with the help of Lenny, Carl and Barney.
When Moe finally ventures over to see what all the fuss is about, he finds R.E.M. playing in Homer's basement.
The highlight of the episode is Homer trying and failing to sing along to "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)":
"Leonardo What's-His-Name, Herman Munster, motorcade /
birthday parties, Cheetos, pogo sticks and lemonade /
You symbiotic, stupid jerk /
That's right, Flanders, I am talking about you."
05. Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr
"Lisa the Vegetarian," Episode 133 (McCartney)
"Homer's Barbershop Quartet," Episode 82 (Harrison)
"Brush with Greatness," Episode 31
We're going to cheat and count separate appearances by three Beatles as one entry.
First there's Paul McCartney (and his wife Linda), who, of course, met Apu in India when The Beatles were hanging out with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in '68. "I read about you in history class," Lisa tells him. Then Lisa, Paul and Linda bond over the decision to go vegetarian.
Then there's George Harrison. Homer is ecstatic to meet the former Beatle—but only because George is holding a brownie and is able to tell Homer where he can find many more brownies. This also happens to be the episode about The B-Sharps, Homer's vocal group, which features a parody of the Beatles' 1969 rooftop performance from Let It Be.
And then there's Ringo Starr, the first Beatle to appear on The Simpsons. Unfortunately, there is no video available of his appearance. It turns out he's catching up on responding to his Beatles-era fan mail, including a portrait sent to him in 1966 by a young Marge. "We have French fries in England," Ringo writes to Marge. "But we call them chips." He goes on to tell her that her portrait of him is "gear."
"The Mook, the Chef, the Wife and Her Homer," Episode 379
When Springfield's hapless bus driver happened upon his favorite band's broken-down tour bus, all he wanted to do was help out and give them a ride to their show. But when he gets out to lend a hand, Bart takes advantage of the driverless school bus, stealing it while yelling, "Look at me, I'm Otto! I'm a hundred years old and I'm driving a school bus!"
If that wasn't embarrassing enough, the band get a ride from a "real" fan, the elderly Hans Moleman, who we find out slept with Lars' grandmother. Bassist Robert Trujillo tells Otto, "Never listen to our music again!" before the band drive away in Hans' pickup truck playing "Master of Puppets."
03. Cypress Hill, Peter Frampton, Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth
"Homerpalooza," Episode 152
After the kids' school bus is destroyed, Homer is stuck driving Bart, Lisa and their friends to school in the morning. When Grand Funk Railroad's "Shinin' On" comes on the radio and the kids react in disgust, Homer takes it upon himself to take his children to Hullabalooza, Springfield's answer to Lollapalooza.
Hoping to convince Bart and Lisa that he's hip, Homer gets mistaken for an undercover cop when trying to hang out with a group of Generation Xers and is tossed out of the show.
Like any frustrated person would do, Homer takes his anger out on a nearby cannon, which in turn destroys one of Peter Frampton's inflatable pigs. The stunt lands him a spot taking cannon shots to the gut as as part of the festival's freak show, and Homer goes on tour with a group of guest stars that include the Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth and Cypress Hill.
Flaming Moe's," Episode 45
"Hello, St. Louis!" screams Steven Tyler to the Springfield audience. "Are you ready to rock?"
The Moe's Tavern crowd is indeed ready to rock, and the band kicks into "Walk This Way" (as Joe Perry plays what looks like a five-string guitar, perhaps to go with the four fingers on his fretting hand).
Due to the success of a hot new drink invented by Homer (and allegedly stolen by Moe), Moe's Tavern has become such a happening place that the guys from Aerosmith are regulars.
Should the drink be called the Flaming Moe or the Flaming Homer? That battle is still raging.
01. Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Brian Setzer, Elvis Costello, Tom Petty and Lenny Kravitz
"How I Spent My Strummer Vacation," Episode 293
In a 2002 episode called "How I Spent My Strummer Vacation,” Homer—and several other Springfield regulars including Chief Wiggum, Otto and Apu—attend a rock 'n' roll fantasy camp hosted by the heart and soul of The Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards (who plays the opening riff to "Start Me Up" on a Telecaster that's not plugged in).
When the one-week-long camp is over, Homer—understandably—doesn't want to leave. So Jagger offers him a chance to perform at a benefit gig, the Concert for Planet Hollywood.
Among the camp instructors are Brian Setzer, Elvis Costello, Tom Petty and Lenny Kravitz, who deliver some great lessons and one-liners and add to the already-impressive star power of this episode.
Classic: Keith Richards announcing that he has to put up the storm windows. "Winter's coming," he adds.
Another Friday ... and another viral video is making the rounds in stringed-instrument land.
This time, it's a fan-filmed clip of Taimane Gardner, a Hawaiian ukulele virtuoso, performing at the 2014 San Diego Ukulele Festival.
In the video, Gardner, who has been playing ukulele since she was knee-high to Don Ho, kicks things off with her mighty-appealing version of the James Bond theme before moving into "Stairway to Heaven" territory—and well beyond.
She's quite a talent, and it's worth checking out for sure!
And yes, Taimane—it sounds good!