Monday, 12 March 2018

Anyone Can't Play Guitar #1: Brian May


Regular readers of this blog will know that lyrics are always the primary factor which draw me to a pop song... but that doesn't mean I don't like the music, and although piano will always be my greatest love (not to mention a nice bit of brass), I do consider the guitar a thing of wonder.

The truth is though, I worry for the future of this most primal and exciting of instruments. I fear it is being sidelined in much modern pop, if not airbrushed out completely. In the past, even dance music was built around guitar licks (check out the best of Motown or Nile Rodgers)... nowadays, it's much easier to create rhythms and melodies on computers and the glorious axe is starting to go the way of the Stone Age axe.

And so, because one can never have too many ongoing series to squander, here's one dedicated to the greatest guitar players in pop. (In my humble opinion, obviously.) Starting with my first love...


1. Brian May

Much maligned for his crimes against cool, marrying Anita Dobson, and that haircut... not to mention that fact that he built a guitar out of his fireplace... Brian May still takes some beating when it comes to the power chords. While Freddie may have had all the charisma in Queen, Brian had a lethal weapon all his own. And nowhere is that more evident than on the opening track of Queen's 1974 album, Sheer Heart Attack. What begins as a jaunty seaside escapade (with Freddie playing both the male and female roles in a doomed holiday romance) transforms into nuclear armageddon about halfway through. Truly Brighton is the seaside town they didn't forget to bomb... and Brian was flying the B-52.*


(*A far better bomber than the U-2, obviously.)


10 comments:

  1. '...his crimes against cool, marrying Anita Dobson, and that haircut, not to mention that fact that he built a guitar out of his fireplace...' You forgot to mention the ubiquitous clogs. He's well capable of banging out a mean lick though.

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  2. As a guitarist, I have to say that making his own guitar only adds to his cool, not detracts.

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    Replies
    1. As the son of a joiner, I agree.

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  3. Two words spring to mind: Tennament. And Funster.

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    1. Y'know, while I listen to Brighton Rock quite regularly, I've not listened to Tenement Funster in ages. Thanks for making me give it another spin.

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  4. I was just reading this interesting article from 1843magazine, an online offshoot of The Economist, about the financial struggles of the Gibson and Fender Co's, and the related death-knell of the electric guitar in modern pop music, as it is seemingly in hip-hop/r and b's chokehold in the charts.

    https://www.1843magazine.com/culture/the-daily/is-this-the-end-of-the-rock-guitar

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    1. Oh dear. It really is the end of the world as we know it.

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  5. I predict there will be a documentary in the next 5-10 years arguing the decline of popular music and speculation as to the reasons for it. The late Rick James spoke in an interview about the difference between past and present musicians ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yd-ZnRCAPrw ) In his opinion, the rise in sampling in the 90s was partly due to the government taking music programs out of school. That said, The Queens of the Stone Age or Arctic Monkeys can still put out a good riff

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  6. There are still some great guitar bands in the go, but they're becoming niche, not mainstream. Rick James may have had a point.

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