It’s complicated, Torn Slatterns and Nugget Ranchers
On Bourbon St. in New Orleans partiers swigged and smashed bottles, women tore off their tops and they all danced together in the streets. When asked about their Saints Super Bowl celebration, a partier replied; “What Super Bowl celebration?”
It was a big night for New Orleans Saints coach, Sean Payton. Not only did he coach his team to a Super Bowl win, he also won the “Malcom in the Middle” Frankie Muniz look-alike contest.
Did you know not one player returned from last year’s championship game to play in this one? I tell you, the turnover in that “Animal Planet” Puppy Bowl is brutal.
At her speech to the Tea Party Convention in Tennessee, Sarah Palin accused the Obama administration of being inept and unqualified; apparently Sarah can see irony from her house.
Sarah Palin accused the Obama administration of being inept and unqualified; and then she quit halfway into her speech.
US Skier, Bode Miller, announced he will compete in all five Alpine events at the Vancouver Olympics. Provided they don’t interfere with Happy Hour, of course.
The chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, said gays should be allowed to serve in the military. Mullen said military people should not have to hide their identity, plus it will really spice up the annual Navy Tony Awards Party.
Since you asked:
Being the full-blown rockumentary freak that I am, I love the Sundance Channel show “Spectacle” hosted by Elvis Costello. Costello, a superstar in his own right, interviews rock gods like Bruce Springsteen and Elton John (John is one of the show’s producers)
Last night I saw the show with the Edge and Bono from U2, and it was keenly insightful and interesting.
One of the recurring themes you hear from these rock gods, from Clapton and the Eagles’ Don Felder’s biography “Heaven and Hell” to Petty’s “Running Down a Dream” and even an old Stones interview, is that these guys are flying blind in the pursuit of a rock career. It’s nothing like going to law school or trade school and getting a job.
Tom Petty has said repeatedly in “RDAD” there is no manual for this stuff. One interviewer asked a young Mick Jagger how long he thought this career would last and a pensive Jagger didn’t want to seem cocky but said;
“Not to jinx it, but I think we can keep going for a couple more years easy.”
Unlike guitar gods Clapton and Richards and Townsend and Page who grew up learning to play and replay early blues and early rock classics like a juke box, the Edge and the rest of U2 started with the premise of wanting to be in a band with no musical background or influences. They just thought it would be cool to be in a band. They were a “band” long before they could even play an instrument, let alone call themselves musicians.
What this did was force U2 to play their own music and forge their own sound. Not because they were unique musical visionaries, they simply did not have the skills required to play Stones songs or Elvis songs. So, as the Edge learned some chords, they learned to write songs around them. And Bono was a natural lyricist.
What this also did was force the band away from striving for intense technical musical prowess in the studio to focusing more on enhancing their live shows and concerts. They were well aware that they had to focus the crowd’s attention on the show itself, much unlike the wildly talented musicians in Cream or Traffic, but who lacked stage charisma.
Bono tells of a party/concert attended by him and the Edge with the Stones and others in attendance and the theme was they were to all play classic numbers but from other bands like “Jailhouse Rock” and “Johnny B. Good.” Bono said he and the Edge went running from the party in terror and shame because they couldn’t do it.
And Bono told of a night the band was taken out for Mexican food by Frank Sinatra and they drank Margaritas all night. That has nothing to do with making music, I just thought it was really cool.
For mega rock stars, the Edge and Bono are heroically modest. They talked about how a musically talented producer actually taught them how to play their instruments. And, by learning to play, he wasn’t speaking esoterically, Bono said he taught them how to hold the guitar on up.
And yet, on “The Joshua Tree” video, it shows the Edge recording with B.B. King and you can see the shock and disappointment in the Edge’s face when B.B. King pleads and begs to the Edge not to have to play any chords because King simply doesn’t know how to play basic chords.
For a guitarist, that would be like finding out Batman throws like a girl.
One of the most appealing things about Bono and the Edge is that they appear to truly enjoy being rock stars. If you can't have fun being a rich rock legend, just go ahead and enroll yourself in the Pain-In-The -Ass Hall of Fame.
From my perspective I found the U2 interview enlightening, because I thought the biggest hurdle I turned as a harmonica player was being able to play what I heard my legends play note for note on a tape/CD.
At first it was a blast just finding the right key harmonica for the right song, if you can do that, you can play fairly easily with Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Tom Petty and Bob Dylan with pretty much just A, C and D harps, cross-harped for the keys they play their majority of songs in, E, G and A. Although they all have their own sound that makes them great, technically, they’re pretty basic blow-and-draw guys, especially if they are playing guitar, the harp is on a neck rack and creates a more raw/folksy sound.
When I could get the vibrato sound of Slim Harpo on “King Bee” and “Scratch my Back” with my throat and the bent and slashing ripping repeated notes from Sonny Boy Williamson “Help Me” and the soulful riffs on Junior Wells “Good Morning Little School Girl” I really thought I had arrived. (Technical wizards, Stevie Wonder, Billy Branch, Kim Wilson, John Popper, Little Walter and Magic Dick to follow later)
Soon I was to find there is another huge hurdle to jump when learning to play those notes live with a band. Everything becomes harder and more dynamic, but also more fun. You have to go from focusing on your technique and listening to yourself play – CDs don’t change - to listening to the whole band and adjusting accordingly. Plus there are people there listening to you play.
And after this, there is the whole electrical/ technical side of the gear for both live shows and recording. This is my weakest area. When I have sat down and talked with full time professional harmonica players, like the awesome Jason Ricci, Paco Shipp and Jon Gindick, they are all way into the technical aspects from tuning the harmonicas themselves by hand with tiny files, changing the wiring and sound of their microphone and amplifiers to the whole confusing morass of laying down different tracks in a studio.
But the entire concept of trying to sit down and write an original song is beyond daunting to me because I have spent so much time trying to copy others. Whereas writing their own songs is how U2 started out and they can’t imagine it being any other way.
But from painting, writing and song writing, I think the words of the great sculptor, Auguste Rodin, are apt. When asked how it was possible he could make such incredibly detailed horses out of marble, including the hairs on their mane and the veins on their muscles, Rodin said something like:
“I just knock away everything that doesn’t look like a horse.”
Or as Eric Clapton once echoed when asked how he plays such beautiful guitar solos:
“Just don’t hit a note that sounds bad.”
True 'dat, Torn Slatterns and Nugget Ranchers. True 'dat.