My last post on this blog was on Valentines Day, 2013, over 4 years ago. When I started this project in 2010, I thought it would take me about 3 years to finish. And it probably would have if I hadn’t had my mother pass away, had my marriage fall apart, moved 3 times in 4 years, and found a new soul mate who I married almost a year ago. That kind of change, both wonderful and grueling, has made it hard to focus on this project. But I’m back and ready to start jamming again. 15 solos down and only 10 more to go.
In 1982, the Scorpions released Blackout, a fairly unremarkable album with the exception of the hit single “No One Like You” that starts with a mesmerizing guitar intro that’s instantly memorable. Like many 14-year-old boys, I used to play air guitar to that song, long before I ever picked up an electric guitar, and during my years playing lead guitar for my band, I would still air guitar that solo whenever it came on the radio, even though I never got to the skill level where I could play the lead part from that song.
As surprising as it may sound, my Scorpions air guitar fantasy was a big part of why I became a lead guitarist, and I always hoped that someday I would learn it. There are certain solos that were always going to be on my 25 solos list, like We Will Rock You because they are such iconic rock solos, and this one is one of those that was never in doubt.
The guitarist who laid down that classic solo was Matthias Jabs, a technical wizard who played those instantly recognizable licks on this instantly recognizable Gibson Explorer. It’s a 24-fret guitar, which allows him to easily hit those super high notes, unlike my 22-fret Les Paul.
I confess that I’ve already spent a bit of time working on the solo, and it’s every bit as difficult as I imagined, but I’ve gotten far enough that I can see that I will be able to play it, if not with total mastery, at least to a level I would feel comfortable performing it on stage.
Here’s a link to the song on YouTube:
and a here’s a live version of the song from 1985, that shows Matthias’ precise guitar work.
I’m doing the solo that starts at about 2:50 in the song. Wish me luck getting back in the swing.
I love this solo. It’s very, very fun to play and I was almost reticent to record it because I enjoyed playing it so much. I often practiced this twice a day just so I could play it some more. I know that I can never capture David Gilmour’s fluid style and eccentric timing, but I put my own spin on it, and couldn’t be prouder. Hope you enjoy.
The whole song is here. Solo starts at 3:30.
There’s a reason that Dark Side of the Moon was one of the highest selling albums ever released. It’s just so well crafted, each song flowing seamlessly into to the next in what would soon become a Pink Floyd trademark. It’s filled throughout with sound effects, long intros, instrumental songs and classic radio hits like Time, Money and Us & Them.
My Dad used to play this album for me when I was 9 or 10. It wasn’t just one song here or there. He would put on the album and we would sit in the living room and listen to the whole thing. I remember liking it, but not loving it. It was kind of creepy and I found the strange voices, heartbeats and screams distracting. The ringing clocks at the beginning of Time were always surprising and jarring, but I do remember loving the long slow-building intro with the epic rototom drum pieces that perfectly built up and flowed into the beginning of the song.
I don’t have any specific memory of loving the guitar solo as a child, but later when I became a David Gilmour fan, I would marvel at the beauty of his solos, and Time is no exception. It’s brilliantly put together, with bends all over the place, including half-steps, whole bends, double bends, reverse bends, tremolo and even a tricky 1 1/2 step bend at the very top of the neck. It’s gorgeous and challenging, and I think it will be fun to learn as well.
I’ve borrowed a friend’s Strat again so I can try to capture the classic Gilmour sound. Can’t wait to dive in.
Guitar Lesson: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIVRil5W8DQ
Tabs (GuitarPro): http://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/p/pink_floyd/time_ver4_guitar_pro.htm
Here’s a video of Gilmour performing the solo live at the Royal Albert Hall: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihQT-RlFbc4
I love solos that use the whole neck of the guitar. That’s one of the reasons I liked learning Shine On You Crazy Diamond so much. Welcome to the Jungle is great in that regard, especially for such a short solo. It really makes good use of all the real estate. It’s also a lot of fun to play and harder to get right than it seemed when I first started learning it. I think it turned out well.
PS: If I look a little mad in the video, it’s because in earlier takes I kept missing notes at the end, and the takes were otherwise perfect until the very end — I was getting really frustrated with myself. I didn’t even have the energy to smile when I finally did nail it. Oh well.
Before I get into what this song and solo mean to me, let me say I’m glad to be back. I knew a big project like this, that’s likely to go on for a few years, was bound to have some long periods of inactivity. I didn’t expect this break to last a year, but here we are. I don’t have any good explanation for why I stopped practicing. Partly it was the distractions of family and work commitments, and partly it was just good old fashioned burnout. And once I had let it go for a while, it was hard to get back into the groove. But here I am. I’ve been practicing steadily for a couple of weeks, relearning some of the old solos, growing back my callouses, and getting ready to tackle Slash.
Like most of the guys my age I first heard Welcome to the Jungle via the video on MTV (which you can watch here). I had been out of high school for a while, flunked out of a semester of college at UT and was working the night shift at the IRS. The music video was on heavy rotation in 1987 and although I didn’t know why I liked it so much at the time, I realize now that it was because Guns N’ Roses killed the ’80s hair band. They kind of looked like Poison and Cinderella, but their music was edgy, raw and complex, without the forced “bad boy” image of bands like Mötley Crüe and Ratt.
They really were bad boys. They shot heroin and drank Jack Daniels straight from the bottle. People rioted and threw beer bottles at the stage during their concerts. They put a half-naked woman who had been raped by a robot on their debut album cover. And their music was fucking good.
Their songs were well-produced, but not over-produced. They were all great musicians, but the songs had a feeling like they were always about to come off the rails. They were indulgent and authentic at the same time. And a big reason for that was the amazing solo work of Slash.
I have to admit, I’m a little scared of taking on a Slash solo. Not only is he an amazing guitarist with incredible skill and a very distinctive style, his solo work is just super, super clean. It’s going to take a lot of practice to match the clean notes with the deceptively simple-sounding, but actually pretty difficult riffs.
Here’s the Les Paul Goldtop that Slash played in the early years. It’s a beautiful guitar with a tone that is very full and rich. I’m lucky enough to have a Les Paul from around that time (1989) and I’m hopeful I can get a similar sound.
Guitar Lesson: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dn1BHBtVJVg
This solo didn’t take me as long as my radio silence on this blog would indicate. I had to take a hiatus from practicing for a while due to work pressures and other family commitments that cropped up over the past few weeks.
I got back into practicing a few days ago and polished it off fairly quickly. I’m proud of how this turned out. Let me know if it captures the essence of Mick Jones’ raunchy style.
I bought my first LP in 1978. I was 11 years old. My dad had given me and my brother, Jak, a stereo system for Christmas the year before and handed down a few of his albums, but our collection was quite limited — a couple of Neil Diamond and ABBA records that he didn’t listen to anymore.
Jak bought a few Styx and Journey albums, and he got some heavy metal albums from a friend whose evangelical Mom had forced him to get rid of them. My first contribution to our shared collection was the debut Foreigner album, simply called Foreigner. I had heard “Feels Like the First Time” and “Cold as Ice” on the radio, but I fell in love with some of the other, less-known songs like “Long, Long Way from Home,” “Starrider,” and “Headknocker”. The feeling of playing the first music that I had purchased with my own money is something I can’t describe, but in a way I was proud of that album, and that made me like it even more.
I wanted to include a Foreigner solo in this project, but none of the songs on their first album had the right combination of difficulty and length. I already discussed my experience with Jukebox Hero, so I didn’t want to rehash that, so I picked the raunchy, instant-classic solo from “Hot Blooded”. Here’s the whole song. Solo starts at 2:40.
I bought the album Double Vision pretty soon after Foreigner and I was a little nervous bringing it home and putting it on the turntable. Would I be disappointed after loving their first album so much? The driving beat and distortion guitar at the beginning of “Hot Blooded” caught me instantly. I was not disappointed. The solo fits perfectly in the progression, with some difficult speed work, insane bends and a reckless feel. I can’t wait to dive in.
Mick Jones is more well-known as a songwriter and producer, but he’s an amazing guitar player. He’s not one to solo for 3-4 minutes, but his short solos pack a lot of power and skill. Here’s a picture of his signature black Gibson Les Paul. He’s lately been seen playing a sunburst Les Paul, but this is the one he’s best known for.
Backing Track: http://www.guitarbackingtrack.com/play/foreigner/hot_blooded_(2).htm
Live in Concert in the mid-80s: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDnXll1zyNA
Two weeks later and it’s done. I’m kind of sad to see this one over with. It’s such a fun solo to play, with bends all over the place and a lot of movement up the neck. But I must move on. Let me know what you think.
In 1981, when I was a sophomore in high school, and my older brother Jak was a senior, I relied on him for transportation to and from school. He drove my Dad’s old 1979 VW microbus, which we affectionately termed the “Magic Bus” (and which I would later inherit and use for illicit activities). I remember one day he picked me up, and as I got into the passenger seat, he turned to me and said “You gotta hear this.” He slipped a fresh white cassette in to the cassette player and turned the volume up.
The first raunchy chords of “Back in Black” boomed from the speakers. It was my first exposure to AC/DC and I had never heard anything like it. The singer had a voice that sounded like a cross between a growl and a scream. We drove slowly around the high school parking lot. By the time “You Shook Me All Night Long” came on, I was hooked. I knew I would love this band forever. I later went back and listened to the older stuff, with Bon Scott, and fell in love with that too, but it would never have the visceral gut-level appeal that the album Back in Black does for me.
Although there are many good solos on that album, I chose “You Shook Me…” because I feel it captures the essence of Angus Young’s solo style and it has a great build up to it that sounds fun to play. Here’s the full song and the original music video on YouTube.
I don’t have an SG, but I think I can get a similar sound from my Les Paul. Here’s a photo of Angus Young’s signature cherry SG — what a sweet guitar:
I never got to see AC/DC live as a teenager, and now that I could see them (they are playing Houston and Dallas in a few weeks), I find the thought mildly distasteful. I don’t want to ruin my memories of that time with a chunky Brian Johnson and balding Angus parading around the stage. I’m sure they still sound great, but they are way past their glory days.
Here’s how I want to remember Angus Young, the wild child with the schoolboy outfit who just knew how to rock:
Video Lesson: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydOctq2pJOo