RIGHT-ON '70S CLASSICS
by Mike Keneally.
Guitar Player, February 1994
Has anyone plumbed the depths of '70s rock guitar more thoroughly than GP columnist Mike Keneally? Those who have witnessed the ungodly '70s medley perpetrated by Mike and Dweezil Zappa with their band Z (it features brief quotes from 200 tunes, delivered non-stop and with laser-surgery precision) will testify that this odd fellow knows the twixt-Jimi-and-Eddie years like the back of his - well, whatever. -Ed.
Certain passages from certain '70s recordings among the moments that make life worth living, and many of those moments lunged from guitars. This article makes no pretense of beinga comprehensive compendium of such, but it presents a tidy stack of them. Some are unjustly obscure; some you know backwards and forwards. Dig in.
Since Jimi Hendrix' Band Of Gypsys album was recorded on New Year's Eve '69/'70, it seems an approriate kickoff point. The descending melodicism of both Ex.1 and Ex.2 lends an air of funk despair, perhaps dread for the decade to come - which proved to be a not particularily astonishing decade for our man Jim. Ex.3, another late Hendrix riff, is an uncelebrated hook, but it's a monster - a fact that didn't escape Alice Cooper's band when they were looking for a way to begin "Elected".
Doom, Pt.1: From Robert Fripp, one of the mildest-mannered guitarists in the hemisphere, come some of the most ferocious motifs, none more laced with doom and grandeur than the King Crimson-era sucker in Ex.4.
The pristine beauty of sheer anger is a little conundrum that John Lennon felt comfortable wallowing around in. He could use slow, pretty arpeggios to support sheer verbal invective, as in Ex.5. (The early '70s were an unusually fertile period for arpeggios that spoke volumes - e.g. the Hollies' "Long Cool Woman" intro, George Harrison's playing on Ringo's "It Don't Come Easy", and - especially - the repeating figure beneath Eddie Hazel's solo on Funkadelic's "Maggot Brain.")
XTC's Drums And Wires album is a textbook of two-part guitar inventions; the one in Ex.6 is especially sweet. the tautness of the strummed rhythm is set off by the twang of the other part's pull-off: C# to the open G string (the C# is pulled so sharply, it almost sounds as D). Andy Partridge and Dave Gregory have pointed many guitarists towards rich and peculiar new vistas in rhythm and melody. Deal with them now, if you haven't already.
Interlude #1: The Battle Of The 7sus4-To-7 Progressions. There is a skirmish in my soul over which 7sus4-to-7 chord progression is the most tear-jerking; certainly the more celebrated, and the one which brings back the warmest memories, is the intro to "Bargain" by the Who (of course, the entire Who's Next album brings on massive nostalgic hemorrhaging). But a progression just as evocative, although by much murkier means, is the one John McLaughlin introduces a couple of minutes into "Right Off" from Miles Davis' A Tribute To Jack Johnson. What really gives this B7sus4-to-B7change its tang is the fact that bassist Michael Henderson is still playing the swing riff in F that starts the piece, and he hangs there for a few bars after McLaughlin starts in B. And the Miles starts soloing over it. Oh my God - what more could you want?
To be nine years old and hear this Grand Funk Railroad thing [Ex.7] thunder from the speakers after being lulled by an acoustic intro was to know that guitar was cool.
It's almost annoying how beautiful some Joni Mitchell songs can be. Many players have toiled their whole lives through without creating anything nearly as radiant as Ex.8. This is a blast to play, and a sure-fire stress reliever. It helps if you tune your guitar properly: C, G, C, E, G, C, low to high.
to part 2
©1994 Guitar Player Magazine