Kevin Ayers, one of the founding guitarists and songwriters of the psychedelic music movement in the 60s, has died. A man who inspired, and drew inspiration from, his friends Syd Barrett and Jimi Hendrix, Ayers founded Soft Machine at the dawn of the psychedelic era. He toured with Pink Floyd and Hendrix, released some significant solo albums, and then became a recluse. He was 68 when he died. RIP, Mr. Ayers.
: Genesis - “Trick Of The Tail.”
On 1976’s “Trick Of The Tail,” guitarist Steve Hackett finally got a vehicle in which to showcase his prodigious talent. After Peter Gabriel’s departure, the remaining members of Genesis had to prove that they were every bit as creative as he was. Without being buried in Gabriel’s lavish vocal productions, and with a bit less of Tony Banks’ keyboards — both of which had minimized his role in the classic “Lamb Lies Down On Broadway” — Hackett re-established himself as a player who could single-handedly carry anything the band attempted.
From the charging opener of “Dance On A Volcano” all the way to the instrumental epic “Los Endos,” Hackett’s guitar garnered recognition in a way it never had before. His melodic lines, coupled with the occasional bombast of chords, showed that Hackett’s style was as distinctive as any of his contemporaries. “Trick Of The Tail” is still an an excellent example of how to integrate guitars and synths without the two battling each other at every turn.
: Rolling Stones - “Sticky Fingers.”
Released in 1971, this album marked the official debut of new lead guitarist Mick Taylor into the Stones’ lineup, a change that made “Sticky Fingers” the most guitar-intense record in the group’s history.
From the locomotive force of “Brown Sugar” and “Bitch” on to the sinister guitar lines of “Sister Morphine,” all the way to the pure acoustic shine of “Wild Horses” and Delta blues of “You Gotta Move,” Taylor and Keith Richards covered a wide range of guitar territory that encompassed hard rock, country, blues, and even a little jazz.
Taylor shines on the quasi-Latin break in “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” and on “Moonlight Mile” (which he cowrote), proving that he was the right man for the job after Brian Jones had been tossed out. Trading riffs and solos, Richards and Taylor were the best guitar duo the Stones ever produced, and this was their finest album together.
: The Kinks - “Kinks.”
The benefit of hindsight proves that The Kinks’ 1964 debut may have been the first true hard rock album. On the strength of the heavy slit-speaker distortion of “You Really Got Me,” this album (followed quickly by the single “All Day And All Of The Night”) placed buzzsaw power chords and catchy riffs into the mainstream of pop music.
Kinks leader Ray Davies developed the template for heavy riffs with “You Really Got Me,” basing the song on moving 5ths, which became the foundation of heavy metal. While Jimmy Page and Vic Flick were said to have played on several Kinks’ songs—but only as sidemen; Page denies he ever did a Kinks solo—credit for the legendary Kinks distortion goes to lead guitarist Dave Davies, who slit his Elpico amplifier speaker with a Gillette razor blade. History was made, and the sound of hard rock was born.
Others eventually did it louder, and sometimes better, but the Kinks did it first.
: The Ventures - “Walk Don’t Run”
The debut release by the all-instrumental Ventures was massively influential in the guitar universe from the moment it was released in 1960. The band’s core - rhythm player Don Wilson, lead guitarist Bob Bogle, and bassist (eventually lead guitarist) Nokie Edwards - recorded “Walk Don’t Run” after hearing Chet Atkins’ version. It was a brilliant choice, and cameto define the Ventures’ sound for the next 50 years: recording guitar-drenched versions of popular tunes, dance songs, and the occasional original. And by relying solely on instrumentals, the Tacoma, Washington band was able to overcome any international resistance, promptly becoming a worldwide sensation.
This album also featured a cover of the popular “Sleep Walk” and the original composition “The McCoy” (said to have been the inspiration for the name of Rick Derringer’s first band). The band is credited with making Fender guitars popular with rockers in the early 60s, along with inspiring innumerable bizarrely shaped six strings, starting with the Mosrite, which they used exclusively for years. The Ventures remain the most popular instrumental band in history, and continue to tour, spreading the gospel of surf guitar the world over.
PS. The cover of this album features NO members of the actual Ventures, who were on tour when the photo was taken. The fumbling musicians are stand-ins.
: Ted McCarty - “Flying V Patent.”
On this week in 1958, Gibson’s Ted McCarty was awarded a patent for the design of the guitar that came to be known as the “Flying V.” That was 55 years ago, folks. Happy birthday to the V.
: Keith Richards - “Life.” An Autobiography.
Richards’ long-awaited book, “Life,” is now in bookstores, and the Stones’ guitarist is getting rave reviews for telling it like it is - and was. From his take on fellow guitarists like Mick Taylor, Ronnie Wood, and Eric Clapton to his own relationship with the guitar - along with his life of excess - Keef doesn’t leave anything out of this book. A great read.http://tiny.cc/rfjkc
Brookes tells the story of how his beloved acoustic was ruined and led him on the search for a new one. The book is set against the backdrop of the fascinating stories and the players that made the guitar the world’s most popular instrument.
: Christmas With Chet Atkins.
Chet takes on all the classics in his inimitable style. Another great holiday gift for every guitarist. And very inexpensive.http://bit.ly/8D17Hb
: Merry Axemas - Guitar Gifts
Now that the holiday season is officially in the home stretch, the staff at the NGM is going to provide you with guitar gift ideas over the next few days. First up is “Merry Axemas,” a collection of great holiday songs performed by guitarists as varied as Steve Vai, Jeff Beck, Joe Perry, Brian Setzer, Steve Morse, and a host of others. Pure December joy. Find it athttp://bit.ly/6Y4ij0
: Marshall Amplification - “Marshall Fridge.”
Iconic amp maker Marshall has just introduced a refrigerator that is shaped exactly like a Marshall half-stack. The controls on the mid-size fridge are equipped with genuine Marshall parts, including knobs that go to “11.” The fridge sells for $299 and is available directly from Marshall at http://marshallfridge.com/?kid=75JW
: Resonator Grill.
There is a long tradition of resonator guitars (aka Dobros, Nationals) being made out of strange ready-made metal goods, much like cigar box guitars. One of the most popular objects used for making resonators like this is the simple charcoal grill. Usually bowl-shaped, sometimes not, often made by Weber, these guitars can serve dual duty as both musical instruments and cooking equipment given the proper construction.