Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock’n’Roll – Guitars, Guitars, Guitars

Shanghai Aug 2012I can’t play a note on the guitar, or any instrument for that matter. Can’t tell a G from a D and wouldn’t know open tuning if I heard it. I wish I could wail but there is a huge disconnect between my brain and my fingers. Always loved the sound of a great guitar as well as the look, and what’s not to like about a Marshall stack?  I was always more partial to the look of a Les Paul than a Telecaster and the look of an SG has always left me cold. Strats look boring whereas a Tele looks more rock’n’roll to these eyes. I imagine that if I did play I would want a Flying V, to me, one of the coolest looking guitars ever, or maybe a Firebird or Explorer. Anyone who plays guitar will no doubt be totally offended by my list. There is no Hendrix, no Clapton, no Lenny Breau, you won’t be seeing Robert Johnson, BB or Stevie Ray here either. I didn’t spend much time with their music and they never had that much effect on me. These are the guys that were my guitar gods.  To lessen the blow the list is in alphabetical order.

1.  Beck, Jeff Nigel Tufnel’s doppelganger. From The Yardbirds to the Jeff Beck group to his current material there is always something about the sound that Jeff Beck gets that is so distinctive. “Blow By Blow” and “Wired” from the mid-seventies are probably the only two instrument rock albums I ever play. His “Live At Ronnie Scott’s” DVD from a couple of years back is a study in guitar.

Fave Beck Moment – The solo in “People Get Ready” with Rod Stewart in 1985.

2. Blackmore, Ritchie “Smoke On The Water” was the one song we all tried to play on the guitar growing up. I am so inept I could never even master that although I could fake the bass line.  Blackmore was in the two classic versions of Deep Purple with Ian Gillian and then David Coverdale. “In Rock”, “Machine Head”, “Live In Japan”, “Burn”, the apex of Deep Purple’s career. I remember buying the Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow album when it first came out but I never like Ronnie James Dio’s voice.

Fave Blackmore Moment – The riff from “Smoke On The Water”

3. Derringer, Rick I have written about Rick in the past and “All American Boy” was just one of those albums that affected me as a kid. Of course Rick is responsible for the “Hang On Sloopy” by The McCoys and was part of the Edgar and Johnny Winter bands recording classics like “Free Ride”, “Frankenstein” and “Still Alive And Well”.

Fave Derringer Moment – “Beyond The Universe” from the album “Derringer”.

4. Gallagher, Rory I had no idea who Rory Gallagher was when I saw him on Centre Island in Toronto in August 1974. He was on a bill with Canned Heat, Status Quo, Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show and Todd Rundgren. With his long hair, flannel shirts and jeans he looked like a grunge kid 15 years ahead of his time. I think I knew was he was the one of the best guitarists I have ever seen, or would see.

Rory Moment – “Messin’ With The Kid” from “Live In Europe.

5. May, Brian I was lucky enough to see Queen quite a few times early in their career. Brian’s guitar playing was phenomenal on record and equally brilliant live. The legend went that he had built his own guitar and only played it with a coin, whatever it was it worked. His sound soared and every time I hear the new Muse single I think of his playing.

May Moment – The solo on “Killer Queen”

6.Montrose, Ronnie The eponymous debut album from Montrose is still one of the classic moments in metal.  Before that Ronnie had played with Van Morrison, Boz Scaggs and alongside Rick Derringer in the Edgar Winter Group. With a young Sammy Hagar on vocals and a young Ted Templeman producing the Montrose album was years ahead of its time.

Montrose Moment – “Space Station No. 5” from Montrose.

7.  Nielsen, Rick The only one of my guitar heroes who plays a five neck. Love the way Rick plays and looks when he plays. He can take credit for taking pick flicking and making it into an art form. He also knows every great fan wants a souvenir pick and his ever changing artwork on them is amazing. I have about a dozen different designs since the first time I saw Cheap Trick in Buffalo in the seventies. Because of his comic stage presence I don’t think Rick ever gets enough credit for what a fine guitar player he is.

Fave Rick Moment – “Hello There” from “In Color”

keith strings8.   Richards, Keith The god of rock’n’roll. A style all of his own, hell for the most part he only uses five strings. His physical style on stage is menacing as he swoops and slings his tele low. Not known for blistering leads he is still the driving force in the band and his interplay with Ronnie Wood is seamless.

Keith Moment – “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

9. Ronson, Mick The man who morphed Bowie from a folkie to a rocker. Low slung like the aforementioned Keith Richards Ronson was the glue that held The Spider From Mars together. I also loved Mick when he paired up with Ian Hunter as well as both of his seventies solo albums.

Ronno Moment – “Angel No. 9” from “Play Don’t Worry”

10.  Van Halen, Eddie From his sound to the look of his guitar Eddie re-wrote the book in the late seventies. No matter what you think about the band and their various vocalists Eddie is a true original.

Eddie Moment – “Eruption” from the album Van Halen

Honourable Mentions Chuck Berry, Jimmy Page, Bill Nelson, Neil Young, Joe Strummer, Johnny Thunders, Lita Ford, Rik Emmett, David Gilmour, Kim Mitchell, Ian Blurton, Link Wray, Tom Verlaine, Pete Townshend, Buddy Holly, Slash, Prince, Dave Grohl and everyone else who made me want to buy a record.

yvonneThanks to Yvonne Matsell for a great Saturday afternoon party last week. Lots of music industry folks ended up in the alley and loading dock of the spanking new ART Condo development at Sudbury and Dovercourt. It was a “parka” party showing off the new complex and featuring Broken Social Scene/Cookie Duster rocker Brendan Canning spinning tunes as well as live music from Ron Hawkins and Steve Singh from Ron Hawkins & The Do Good Assassins.

There were also art installations, great food and lots of beer. Loved seeing all sorts of folks with their kids and dogs enjoying great music and good company.

As it turns out we ran into a couple of friends who just purchased a condo in the building so we got a chance to see the “we actually live here” interior of one of the new units. Fantastic. Great view and great area.

Cam and WendiAs we were in the west end of course Wendi-Jane and I ended up at The Shanghai Cowgirl for a great rock’n’roll dinner. Nice to see the place absolutely packed. I must say the fish and chips are becoming a Shanghai staple and the onion rings are killer. Can’t wait until the deck opens in the coming weeks. Thanks Darryl!


Cam’s column appears every Thursday.

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DBAWIS ButtonCameron Carpenter has written for The New Music Magazine, Music Express, The Asylum, The Varsity, The Eye Opener,  The New Edition, Shades, Bomp!, Driven Magazine, FYI Music News, The Daily XY, New Canadian Music and Don’t Believe A Word I Say.

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