This solo came about in a roundabout way. It may take me a while to explain it all, so be patient with this post.
I originally had chosen “Keep on Loving You”, the 1981 #1 hit that I wore out on my cassette deck as I cruised slowly around the parking lot of San Marcos High School. That song, in many ways, symbolized my high school days. It was at once cheesy and powerful, an anthem to a young man’s inability to understand the workings of the female mind, and to the powerlessness we all feel when we are compelled to stay with the one person we just know we should not be with. The song has a lot of meaning for me, and a lot of memories, so I felt that it was a great solo to put in my list of 25 songs.
The problem arose when I sat down to learn it. It came too easy. I had memorized it after about 10 minutes. After 30 minutes (still in the same practice session), I had it pretty much down. After an hour with it with it, I could have recorded it. It’s only 20 seconds long, a fraction of the length of Mississippi Queen. I love the solo, but I just didn’t feel right picking a solo that I could learn in less than a day.
So I listened to some more REO Speedwagon songs to try to find another solo that would fit into the #5 slot. “Riding the Storm Out” seemed like a good possibility — it hearkens back to a time before the big REO sellout, where they became synonymous with ball-less ballads, competing for cultural mind-share and physical shelf space with Air Supply. But listening to the solo, I felt that was a bridge too far for me to tackle at this stage in this journey. I took a listen to “Roll with the Changes,” — this is a classic REO song and one that definitely defines their early success, but there’s not a single, powerful solo that stands out among the several amazing solos that punctuate the song.
If you’ve never heard the name Gary Richrath, you’re probably not alone. Most people who are not REO Speedwagon fanatics probably haven’t. He’s the man behind the pretty amazing lead guitar work on the early REO albums, and a vastly underrated guitarist. I wanted an REO song to fill this slot, but Gary’s amazing work was making it difficult to find a song that 1) was meaningful to me, 2) was challenging enough that I couldn’t learn it in a day or two, and 3) wasn’t so challenging that I wasn’t ready for it.
I found that song today — “Take It on the Run.” Appropriately enough, the song was actually written by Richrath and was the second big single off the Hi Infidelity album, after “Keep on Loving You”. The solo is around 50 seconds and is certainly challenging, but I think it’s reachable at this stage. The warm up is over. It’s time for me to move on to the next level, and I think this solo does it. Listen to the full song here. The solo starts at 2:05.
Here is Gary’s 1960 Sunburst Les Paul that he used for most of his career. It’s a undeniable classic, and he used it to record some amazing licks. I hope I can come close to capturing his tone and style. It’s going to be a lot of fun trying.
Tabs (not completely accurate): http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/tabs/r/reo_speedwagon/take_it_on_the_run_tab.htm
Backing Track: http://25solos.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/TakeItOnTheRun_Backing.mp3. This is my own backing track that I made using Rock Band 2, recording out of my stereo into the mic input of my video camera. The sound is not great, but there isn’t another backing track anywhere on the internet that I can find.