“Pictures From An Exhibition . . : The Instruments Of Rock & Roll At The Met Part II

In my previous post, I talked and posted pictures from the Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition “Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll” (https://roymusicusa.com/2019/04/26/pictures-from-an-exhibition-the-instruments-of-rock-roll-at-the-met-part-i/). This time I want to talk briefly about this one single display in the show. First I want to preface this with a single statement: I love Gibson SG’s. I have a SG Standard and it’s one of my main “go to” guitars. I use it for rock, fusion and slide guitar. I think their tremendously versatile, play great and are much easier on my back than Gibson Les Pauls.

The guitar that we know today as the SG was actually first introduced by Gibson in 1961 as a Les Paul. With sales of Les Pauls in decline, Gibson redesigned the guitar with a thinner, flat-topped mahogany body, a double cutaway which made the upper frets more accessible, and a contoured body. However the new design also resulted in problems with the strength of the body and neck. In addition, the redesign was done without knowledge of Les Paul himself and who was dissatisfied with the new guitar. Les Paul insisted that his name be taken off the new model and in 1963 Gibson reintroduced the guitar as the SG (for “Solid Guitar”).

This brings us the the trinity of Gibson SG’s we have below. The SG on the left belongs to Derek Trucks. He bought it in 1991 and has since been autographed by dozens of his musical heroes. The SG on the right was the one played Angus Young in concert since the 1980s. And in the center is a guitar that made my heart swoon. It’s the SG used by Duane Allman as his main slide guitar, including on Live At The Fillmore East. Yes, this is the guitar heard on Statesboro Blues. Yes, this is the guitar that CHANGED MY LIFE (too dramatic . . maybe). Fellow Allman Brother guitarist Dickey Betts gave this guitar to Duane so he would not need to spend so much time onstage retuning his guitar for slide playing. As a interesting side note, this guitar was eventually passed down to Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills & Nash.

More guitar porn next post . . . .

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“Pictures From An Exhibition . . : The Instruments Of Rock & Roll At The Met Part I

I recently went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the exhibition “Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll” which is showing through October 1, 2019. This is guitar geek heaven. The show has on display approximately 130 instruments, many of them being the actual instruments used on iconic records or played live on stage. These are the actual tools that were used to make musical history. If a museum can display the typewriter used by Jack Kerouac or paint brushes used by Edward Hopper then surely the acoustic guitar used to write and record Stairway To Heaven is worthy of similar veneration. So for the next bunch of posts I’m going to share my photos and thoughts about some of the amazingly cool stuff there.

Let’s start off with the aforementioned acoustic guitar used by Jimmy Page used on Stairway. It’s a Harmony Sovereign acoustic guitar that was one of Page’s main songwriting instruments and was used to compose material on the first four Led Zeppelin. It was also used to record most of Led Zeppelin III and the acoustic parts of ‘Stairway To Heaven”. Next to it is the  Danelectro guitar Page had in Celtic tuning (where the guitar is tuned DADGAD) and used on “When the Levee Breaks”, “In My Time of Dying” and “Kashmir”. I love the fact that such important instruments are not top of the line boutique instruments. Both Harmony and Danelectro were primarily budget instrument manufacturers.

Staying with the Jimmy Page theme, the above photo is of the Fender Telecaster that Page first used while in the Yardbirds. It was given to him in 1967 by Jeff Beck (wow!). Page hand painted the dragon design and replaced the white pickguard with clear acrylic. After the Yardbirds, Page used this guitar to record all of the first Led Zeppelin album (WOW!!).

Talk about iconic. This is the Gibson EDS-1275 Double Neck guitar that Page used to play live on “The Rain Song”, “Celebration Day” and of course, “Stairway To Heaven”. The combination six- and twelve-string guitar allowed Page to play the acoustic and electric parts live without needing to change instruments.

If you live in or near NYC or are going to be in the vicinity between now and October 1, 2019, then you should definitely check out this great exhibit at the Met.

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“Respect” . . . . : Aretha Franklin Receives The Pulitzer Prize

My previous post highlighted a classic performance from The Queen Of Soul,, Aretha Franklin in her prime. Yesterday it was announced that she was awarded a special citation Pulitzer Prize. The posthumous honor was given “for her indelible contribution to American music and culture for more than five decades”. This is just one more of the many honors and awards she’s received. Franklin, who died on August 16, 2018 at the age of 76, was a member of the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame and a recipient of the National Medal of Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Below is an excellent video from Vox that discusses the gospel roots of Aretha Franklin and how it permeated everything she did. All hail The Queen of Soul.

Aretha Franklin’s musical genius in 2 songs –

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“We Are Not Worthy” . . . . : Aretha Franklin Live at Montreux Jazz Festival, Switzerland – June 12, 1971

Last week (March 25th to be exact) was what would have been the 76th birthday of Aretha Franklin. In honor of one of of the greatest vocalists this country has produced, we have the video below of an amazing performance that captures her at her peak. Taking place on June 12, 1971 at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland with what was her last live performance with the King Curtis and the Kingpins band that also recorded the phenomenal record “Aretha Franklin Live At The Filmore West”. The material ranged from a some of her greatest hits at the time to timely covers of Diana Ross’ “Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” and Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Amazing stuff. We are not worthy.

Setlist:
01. (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman (Carole King cover)
02. I Say a Little Prayer (Burt Bacharach cover)
03. Call Me
04. Brand New Me (Dusty Springfield cover)
05. Share Your Love With Me (Bobby “Blue” Bland cover)
06. Don’t Play That Song (You Lied) (Ben E. King cover)
07. Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon & Garfunkel cover)
08. Dr. Feelgood (Love Is a Serious Business)
09. Spirit in the Dark
10. Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand) (Diana Ross cover)

Aretha Franklin Live at Montreux Jazz Fest., Switzerland – 1971

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“Up on The Roof” . . . : Continued

I had recently posted about two concerts, each performed on rooftops in the center of a major city by a leading band of the day. The more well known one was by The Beatles on the roof of Apple Records headquarters in London on January 30, 1969. The other was by The Jefferson Airplane on the roof of The Schuyler Hotel, near Times Square in New York City on November 19, 1968 (see my post here – https://roymusicusa.com/2019/02/13/up-on-the-roof-two-rooftop-concerts-same-ending/).

As a follow up, here are two videos that go into the backstory of the Beatles rooftop concert. The videos go into the haphazard way it came about, from grandiose plans to just “whatever . . “.  and shows how sometimes great art comes from just going out and doing it.

The Beatles and The Rooftop Gig: Part 1 – Live Shows in 1968?

 

The Beatles and The Rooftop Gig: Part 2 – A new phase BEATLES performance…

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“You Ought To Be In Pictures” . . : The Broken Formula Of Music Biopics

Given that the Oscars are coming up and Bohemian Rhapsody is nominated, it seems like an apt time to do something different from my usual posts. Musical biopics (biographical pictures) have been a common staple of contemporary movies for a while now. As a little kid I remember seeing movies like The Glen Miller Story or The Benny Goodman Story on TV. More recently there have been hits like Ray or Walk The Line and or course, Bohemian Rhapsody. I can’t say that any of them really knocked me out though I still have yet to see Bird (Charlie Parker) or Don’t Look Back (Bob Dylan). Many of them just seemed to be dramatized versions of the old VH1 series Behind The Music.

This brings me to the video below. Here the music biopic is discussed not from the viewpoint of a music nerd but from the perspective of a film geek. Patrick (H) Willems has a great YouTube channel featuring video essays that analyze movies. Framed and interspersed with an ongoing skit that serves as meta commentary on the music biopic formula, Willems gives a brief history of film biographies in general and music biopics specifically before deconstructing the standard tropes of the genre and the problems they present from a cinematic perspective.

The Broken Formula of Music Biopics –

There are a bunch of artists that I think would be great source material for a biopic.Here’s a idea: George Harrison. The story of someone who has to find himself as an artist while in the shadow of greater artists before the world recognizes his greatness. You have Beatlemania. You have the love triangle between his wife Patti Boyd, his friend Eric Clapton and himself. You have his relationship to Eastern Spiritualism and of course his sad passing. There is a lot there.

Hollywood, call me.

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“Up On The Roof” . . . : Two Rooftop Concerts, Same Ending

Just recently was the 50th anniversary of what turned out to be the final performance of the Beatles. On January 3oth 1969, The Beatles went up on the rooftop of the headquarters of Apple Records in central London and played an impromptu gig. At the time, The Beatles were recording their album, Let It Be, and the rooftop show let them run through various tracks from those sessions. Songs played during the set include “Get Back,” where the Beatles were accompanied by Billy Preston on the keyboards, and “Don’t Let Me Down” (see the video below), “I’ve Got A Feeling,” “One After 909,” “Danny Boy,” “Dig A Pony” and finally, another version of “Get Back.” The performance ends with the police shutting down the show due to noise and John Lennon uttering the immortal words, “I’d like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves, and I hope we passed the audition.” Luckily, film director Michael Lindsay-Hogg (who also worked with The Rolling Stones) captured the performance as well as the reactions of people on the street.

The Beatles – Don’t Let Me Down

Not as well known was a brief rooftop performance by the Jefferson Airplane in New York City roughly two months before The Beatles. On Tuesday, Nov. 19, 1968, the Airplane had agreed to participate in a work-in-progress by the radical French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, tentatively titled One A.M. (for One American Movie). As they’d often staged free concerts in their hometown of San Francisco, as well as in New York, the Airplane and Godard decided to set up their equipment on the roof of the condemned, nine-story Schuyler Hotel, at 57 W. 45th Street near Times Square. Needless to say, they didn’t bother securing a film permit and the band only has the opportunity to play one song before being shut down. The performance of that one song however is epic. The song is “House at Pooneil Corners,” a post-apocalyptic song from their recently released fourth studio album, Crown of Creation. Written by singer Marty Balin and rhythm guitarist/vocalist Paul Kantner as a sequel to the earlier “The Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil,” the song showcases the band at it’s peak with each of the singers (Grace Slick, Balin and Kantner) weavuing lines around each other and the instrumentalists—lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, bassist Jack Casady and drummer Spencer Dryden, with Kantner on rhythm guitar, displaying a fierce intensity.

The clip ends with the police stoping the show.  “If they continue the music, lock ’em up!”

Jefferson Airplane – House at Pooneil Corners (In a New York roof 1968)

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