This odd member of the Les Paul family was produced in limited runs during the mid-1970s. Like its solidbody brethren, it has a gold top and a sharp lower cutaway. But the body is actually semihollow, features two “f” holes, and has a very 335-like upper cutaway and wide bout. Les himself was said to have liked the shape (apparently more than the SG shape, which he did not like), but there wasn’t much of a market for the model. These LP Signatures are rarities as they were produced for only about 5 years with only a few hundred manufactured each year.
: T. Rex - “Electric Warrior.”
Marc Bolan was one of the first rock musicians to gain fame as both a lead vocalist and a lead guitarist. “Electric Warrior,” released in 1971, is widely regarded as the height of Bolan’s guitar prowess. From the snaky lines of “Mambo Sun” to the sliding chords of “Rip Off” (not to mention “Bang A Gong”), Bolan’s style was a mixture of herky jerky rhythms and idiosyncratic leads that make his guitar phrasings as identifiable as his vocals. Reviewers remarked at his ability to make his guitar cough, hiccup, stutter, laugh, cry, and scream.
The cover photo, with Bolan and his trademark Les Paul in front of a rare VampPower stack, did more to cement the image of lead guitarist-as-icon than any album cover since.
: The Allman Brothers - “At Fillmore East.”
Perhaps the greatest live guitar record ever, The Allman’s “Fillmore” recording showcased the stunning interplay between dual lead players Duane Allman and Dickey Betts on seven solid tracks. Recorded over two nights in March 1971, the Allman guitarists proved that extended jams could be thrilling and inventive.
Duane’s tour de force, the 23-minute “Whipping Post” set a standard for guitar soloing that has never been matched in a live setting, while “In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed” is one of the best instrumental tunes in the history of rock guitar. Period.
: Pink Floyd - “Wish You Were Here.”
Floyd’s 1975 follow-up to “Dark Side Of The Moon” was heavier on the guitars and served to bring David Gilmour out of the shadow of the band’s hallucinogenic synth-based sound. The album’s opus, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” contains a Gilmour 4-note riff that is one of the most identifiable phrases in the history of the guitar. His acoustic playing on the title track, along with the slide overdubs, showed that there was still a lot of life left in the basics of playing G C & D chords. And the shimmering two-chord minor dirge of “Welcome To The Machine” – strummed upwards – proved that Gilmour was a master at creating atmospherics in the simplest of progressions.
“Wish You Were Here” holds up as one of the defining albums of the 1970s, and is considered by many to be the apex of Gilmour’s playing (others will, of course, point to “Comfortably Numb”). No matter what, the album is one of the finest examples of minimalist guitar playing that broke out of the blues realm and helped establish a sound, and an ambience, that has had huge influence in the nearly 40 years since its release.
Happy belated birthday to Eddie Van Halen, who turned 58 earlier this week. Here’s a classic shot of EVH taken by Neil Zlozower back in the late 1970s.
Randall William Rhoads was born on December 6, 1956 in Santa Monica, California. Randy’s playing in Quiet Riot during the 1970s attracted little attention, but when he appeared on Ozzy Osbourne’s first solo album, “Blizzard Of Ozz,” in 1980, everyone with ears took immediate notice.
From the opening strains of “Blizzard Of Ozz” to the closing moments of “Diary Of A Madman,” (the only two Osbourn
e albums released while Randy was alive), Rhoads cranked out riffs and solos that have since become iconic in the hard rock and metal guitar universe. His influence is still pervasive amongst guitarists wanting to play with a high degree of both technical skill and musical sensibility. Here’s Randy playing a live version of “Crazy Train.” http://youtu.be/ZcoweoZ6jpM
Guitar great Hubert Sumlin died a year ago today at age 80. Sumlin was the guitarist for Howlin’ Wolf for almost three decades, from the 1950s to the 1970s. Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, and Jimmy Page all admittedly learned a great deal by listening to Sumlin’s slinky lead lines. Here’s Hubert all the way back in 1964, with a live version of “Come On Home Baby.”
Clapton & Lennon?
A hand-written multipage letter from John Lennon to Eric Clapton goes on the auction block in December. The contents? Lennon proposes a new band with Clapton to surpass everything either of them had done before. Dated September 29, 1971 the letter invites Clapton to NYC and says “Eric—I know I can bring out something great—in fact greater in you that had been so far evident in your music, I hope to bring out the same kind of greatness in all of us—which I know will happen if/when we get together.” The letter is expected to fetch upwards of $20K.
: Carlos Santana & Buddy Miles - “Live!”
Released in 1972, this “Live!” album captured Santana and his band at the peak of their powers, as well as Buddy Miles in the years subsequent to his stint with The Band Of Gypsies. The album features two cuts that have become near anthemic in the guitar universe: Santana’s “Evil Ways” and Miles’ “Them Changes” (which had been known as “Changes” when Hendrix played it with Miles). It also has Santana’s extended exploration into jazz and fusion—accompanied by Neal Schon—with the 25 minute “Free Form Funkafide Filth.” After this album, Santana would give up much of his early Latin rock roots for more experimental and eventually more pop avenues; Schon would leave the following year and form Journey; and Miles would achieve unique fame as the voice of the California Raisins. As a testament to guitar-driven jamming circa the early 1970s, this album is one of the best.
Sunday listening in the lobby of the Museum today is Return to Forever’s fusion classic, “Romantic Warrior”. With Al Di Meola’s stellar guitar runs playing off of Stanley Clarke’s equally phenomenal bass playing, the band’s 1976 release remains a stellar example of guitar jazz fusion. Enjoy.
:Gibson S-1- “Ron Wood” Advert 1977.
Gibson’s S-1 was a guitar that tried to find a niche and couldn’t quite succeed. Created in the late 1970s when the guitar company was owned by Norlin, the S-1 was a hybrid’s hybrid. Featuring three single-coil pickups, a four-position chicken head phase selector switch- plus a toggle switch- but only one tone and one volume knob, and a bolt on the neck, the guitar seemed like an attempt to create an American guitar to outdo the Teisco Spectrum.
The guitar was sold from 1976 to 1980, but despite getting Ron Wood on board as an endorsee- he had just taken over Mick Taylor’s spot in The Rolling Stones- almost no one was interested in a Gibson that tried to be a Fender by way of Tokyo. It eventually suffered the same ignoble fate as a similarly designed and marketed Gibson, the Marauder.
: Boston - “Don’t Look Back”.
A lot of people don’t realize that the image on Boston’s album cover is a gigantic flying guitar with the city of Boston located under a dome on top (technically, the guitar’s back). On 1978’s “Don’t Look Back”, the band’s 2nd album, artist Gary Norman painted the low-flying guitar craft up close enough to see the frets and the gleaming machine heads. If that wasn’t enough, the inside sleeve of the record actually had a blueprint of the Boston craft that showed the guitar craft’s dimensions (in case you wanted to build one yourself).
The Boston logo emblazoned on the side was courtesy of Gerard Huerta, who did the logos for AC/DC, Ted Nugent, Foreigner, the NGM, and countless others.
One bit of trivia: Norman’s album art ultimately was copied for the design of Atari’s “Space Invaders” game pack.