Saturday, November 11, 2017

"It Might Get Loud"

Even a blind squirrel find a nut every now and again, Torn Slatterns and Nugget Ranchers

Vladimir Putin’s name is trending on Twitter. Please tell me he sexually harassed Melania Trump.

Richard Dryfuss’s son, Harry, claims Kevin Spacey groped him when he was 18. And Richard Dreyfuss has been accused of exposing himself to a female writer. On the count of three, Hollywood, everyone get your hands out of someone else’s pants. One, two, three.

Oh, come on Louis CK. Really? 

Since you asked:

Do want to hear one of the great ironies of music? Muzak, yes, the only form of music hated more than disco, gave us arguably the greatest band in rock and roll.

Just saw, for the third time, the great guitar legend documentary, “It Might Get Loud.” (It is available on Netflix) Amazing stuff. In terms of talent, I rank Jimmy Page alone in first with the Edge and Jack White neck-and-neck for second. 

The Edge is the most technically savvy in terms of using technology for his advantage. He once built an electric guitar from scratch as a 14-year old. He wants the gear to give him every advantage it can.

Jack White is the opposite. If it was up to Jack White, all music would be performed into and listened to on two rusty Campbell’s soup cans attached to a dirty string. 

Jimmy Page is a gentleman in the middle. He did invent the two-neck rock guitar (It had only existed in country music as a combo banjo/guitar) for “Stairway to Heaven.” 

But how did Muzak give us the greatest rock band? At about age 17, Jimmy Page was happily the most successful guitarist at London’s Olympic Studios performing on “Goldfinger” and “Thunderball.” 

After almost dying of the flu from coming out of steamy bars and into the freezing equipment truck to play in a band at bars, young Jimmy found the studio work guitar heaven.

And then the studio started recording Muzak and Jimmy could not take it. He quit and started the Yardbirds and then Led Zeppelin. 

The best part was watching these three great musicians turn into doe-eyed fans of each other’s work. 

Having played in bands and watching rock documentaries, it is surprising to me how little fundamental music theory enters into things. Yes, they all know the keys, chords and basic timing terms. Very few rock stars read music. They don’t need to with the invention of recording equipment. It is all about the ear.

There is no technical music term for the scratchy sound on the guitar on “Satisfaction.” No way to write down the haunting echo of the drums on "When the Levee Breaks." 

In fact, music terms are about as important to rock stars as driving directions are to Indy 500 racers. “Go fast, turn left, turn left again, turn left again, keep doing that for 500 miles.”

As a harmonica player who needs to have the right key harmonica for each different song, it surprised and delighted me that almost all rock bands set lists list the key the song is in up top. (Most rock songs are in one key. Noted exception, "Layla." 

In my experiences in music, bands, comedy and writing, you will always run into scared little nerd stiffs, or experts, as they call themselves, who insist on breaking everything down into cold hard equations. The fact is, most of what is good in life lives outside of the equations. 

Whoa. May have just wrote something good there. You know what they say: Even a blind squirrel find a nut now and again.