101 Greatest Moments
I am pleasantly surprised and humbled to be included in GP’s “101 Greatest Moments in Guitar History” issue for developing the Universe 7-string with Steve Vai [“Ibanez Goes for 7, 1990”]. The seed for the development of the Ibanez 7-string happened in my loft in Philly after Steve and I had just finished watching Luis Buñuel’s An Andalusian Dog and That Obscure Object of Desire at around 2 am on a weeknight. (Note to self: Don’t try something funny like putting “Luis Buñuel” on a sign and wait at the gate for Steve at the airport, as he might become curious and say something like: “Let’s rent a couple of movies by this guy and watch them right now.”)
Years back, I informally apprenticed with an astoundingly talented luthier in Philadelphia named John Love. When I decided to go to work for Ibanez, John was already halfway through a going away present for me—a 17" carved-back cutaway
8-string acoustic guitar that I had designed. I was in a high-energy acoustic fusion band called Innersections that toured with the likes of Weather Report. Often frustrated by the guitar’s narrow range compared to the piano, I set out to make an instrument that would add a couple of octaves to the guitar.
In those days, great players like Steve, Joe Satriani, Frank Gambale, John Scofield, John Abercrombie, Vinnie Moore, Paul Gilbert, and Scott Henderson were regular visitors to my place while in Philly for work with Ibanez. Invariably, I’d pull out the John Love 8-string and let them have a go at the behemoth. That night with Steve, he pulled some amazing music out of this guitar on his first try. By 3:30 am, we had hit on the idea that a 7-string Ibanez would be a very cool idea indeed.
I was disappointed to see that the Beatles’ “I Feel Fine” was not on your list. I have read that this was the first record that actually had feedback on it. Like ten million other teens in 1964, I got an electric guitar and amp for Christmas (total cost—$65!) and spent an entire month trying to copy that sound. I thought that it would surely be on your list.
Hey, great issue! The layout, rarely seen photos, and content were all top notch and entertaining, and managed to be informative without being pedantic or tedious. One minor niggle, though. Why did the timeline stop at the year 2001? Surely there has been some awesome and transcendental moments in guitar history since then? Keep up the good work. You guys and girls are miles ahead of the competition.
Spinal Tap and no mention of Dark Side of the Moon? Shame on you. Spinal Tap was a joke, and not a great moment for guitar. That’s like saying Big Time Wrestling is akin to Major League Baseball. These kind of articles were the reason I stopped reading other guitar magazines and started reading Guitar Player. Now you’ve sunk to a new low which leaves me to continue the rest of my subscription in the hope that you redeem yourself. If not, your magazine will be history, as well.
Any kid who thought Kiss wasn’t such a “big deal” obviously never saw that publicity photo [page 55]. Check out Ace’s spandex. Funny how we never knew what his face looked like but we could tell what religion he was. I have to admit though, I dug through my vinyl and gave the Frehley solo album a spin. Yes, I have it. And no, I’m only slightly embarrassed.
Making a selection always means you have to leave things out. It looks as if you’ve chosen to leave out entire genres. You did include Andres Segovia’s first performance, so I assumed your list would include more nylon-string moments. It didn’t. It’s all rock and jazz and steel-string players. So what about flamenco? It doesn’t seem to exist. Flamenco is one of the major styles in the world, but is totally absent from your list. From the legendary 1936 recordings by Ramon Montoya to the revolutionary work of Paco de Lucia, it is all ignored. And if pure flamenco offers nothing great, surely a groundbreaking crossover recording like Friday Night in San Francisco [John McLaughlin, Paco de Lucia, and Al Di Meola] deserves a place.
Tilburg, The Netherlands
Your piece, “The 101 Greatest Moments in Guitar History,” was very interesting and well done, but I don’t understand why the cover photo of Hendrix had to be one with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. True, Hendrix didn’t live long enough to experience cancer and pulmonary disease, but did you really mean to put an image out there for budding young guitarists to absorb, featuring such a visible and dangerous aspect of this guitar idol’s habits? Don’t underestimate the influence of your images!
Walt Hampton’s comments in his letter in the April “Feedback” department are ignorant and dangerous. To say that Dimebag Darrell’s killing was no surprise because of his song lyrics is just atrocious. It was irresponsible of you to even print the letter. Dimebag’s horrific death had nothing to do with his song lyrics, it had to do with a deranged psychotic with a gun. How many professional musicians have existed throughout recorded history? Millions? How many of them have been shot to death by a “fan?” Only two that I can think of—Dimebag and John Lennon. It’s no surprise when a drug dealer gets gunned down in a turf war. It’s no surprise when a convicted murderer gets paroled and then kills again. When an adored musician gets brutally and senselessly shot and killed during a performance, that’s beyond surprising—it’s utterly shocking and devastating in ways that words can’t describe.
Thank you for printing Walt Hampton’s letter about lyrics full of anger. There’s plenty to be angry about, but a steady diet of angry, violent images is probably unhealthy for most people, and likely to push unstable people over the edge. People who distribute or consume a stream of angry images might do well to consider varying the mix a bit. Personally, I’d like to see more instrumental music. The lyrics to so many songs are trite or annoying, but I never get tired of hearing guitars.
It has been over a month, and I have re-read it a couple of times now, so it’s high time I told you that Barry Cleveland’s March 2005 article on Progressive Rock was right on the money. From his account of this burst of musical creativity, to his examples, to how this movement ran its course, and even his “essential listening” list, it’s hard to imagine coverage more accurate, or more like my own assessments and memories of this amazing period in musical history.
Though I find much of this music still inspiring today, it’s curious how this genre cannot be duplicated nor built upon by new bands—or even by the same musicians—without sounding pretentious and contrived. Without exception, once-great experimental bands like King Crimson, Yes, Genesis, Moody Blues, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer either faded away (ELP), became parodies of themselves(Yes), lost the inspiration behind their music (Moody Blues), or degenerated into pop-music machines (Genesis, though at least their original lead singer, Peter Gabriel, managed to retain much of his quirky originality).
Ah, but during those golden years, prog was a monumental one-time accomplishment which has long been in need of review. Although there are certainly many examples of great guitar work among these bands, this music deserves a closer listen (or re-listen), not just by guitarists, but by all musicians and music-lovers. Thanks Barry!
As Andrew Lowe, of Carmel, California, rightly pointed out: “I enjoyed the article on Hank Garland [Master Class, April ’05], a truly extraordinary and versatile guitarist, as well as the co-designer of the Gibson Byrdland. However, your description of the Byrdland claims a carved maple top. All of the Byrdlands I’ve known have had carved spruce tops, and if you’ll visit the Gibson Web site, I think you’ll find that the current models have them, too. Keep up the good work.” True true!