Guitarists love to hear other guitarists talk about their craft. Jas Olbrecht, former editor of Guitar Player magazine, has had the honor of speaking with some of the most famous guitarists in history from diverse genres, and a number of those interviews are collected in the volume Talking Guitar: Conversations with Musicians Who Shaped Twentieth-Century American Music. From the blues guitar of Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown to the rockabilly stylings of Ricky Nelson, the philosophy of the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia to the two-handed tapping of Eddie Van Halen, Talking Guitar has a little bit for everyone.
The Van Halen interview is especially interesting as it was an unscheduled sit-down with the up-and-coming guitarist after Olbrecht was blown off by Pat Travers. After playing a game of one-on-one basketball and explaining his predicament, Van Halen said, “Why don’t you interview me? Nobody has ever wanted to interview me?” He introduced himself, Olbrecht started recording, and Eddie Van Halen’s “first major interview” was underway.
Johnny Winter went on record about open tuning and slide technique, Carlos Santana speaks to the importance of tone and emotion, while Tom Petty talks about understanding rhythm guitar and how important Mike Campbell’s lead work was so important in Petty’s success. Talking Guitar also features interviews with Nick Lucas, Ry Cooder, Barney Kessel, Roebuck “Pops” Staples, Carol Kaye, Stevie Ray Vaughan, James Gurley, Gregg Allman, Neil Young, Eric Johnson, Joe Satriani, and Ben Harper.
Also included is an audio CD that includes excerpts of the interviews, including Eddie Van Halen explaining how “Eruption” ended up on the debut Van Halen record, and James Gurley explaining how John Coltrane influenced psychedelic guitar.
Talking Guitar is a fascinating collection of interviews, highly recommended for aspiring rock stars.
Van Halen Rising
by Greg Renoff
ECW Press, 2015
One of the greatest American hard rock bands, Van Halen’s showmanship and musicianship is unparalleled. In Van Halen Rising, author Greg Renoff travels back to the time before Eddie Van Halen’s “Eruption” inspired countless young men and women to pick up guitars and start shredding, to the early days of the Van Halen brothers and David Lee Roth in California. A band that was written off as having no commercial potential, they were, as the subtitle proclaims, the “southern California backyard party band that saved heavy metal.”
A meticulously researched book, Renoff quotes childhood friends of the band members who were able to recall those early days and describe the parties, and, more importantly, the music. Renoff examines the influence of bands like Ten Years After and Cactus on Eddie and Alex, the impact of various cultures on Roth, and how they were able to merge those different styles into a popular style all their own.
Such an extensive look at a band’s pre-fame days is rare. Renoff does a phenomenal job, and Van Halen fans all over the world will savor every word of Van Halen Rising.
The Night Owl raved last night about music trading cards. And he showed off some cards he received from a reader, some from the early 1990s and some from the late 1970s. I have a few music cards in my collection as well, but I don’t believe I own any of the early 1990s “Rock Cards” that Night Owl flaunted. While the card designs (if you want to call them designs) aren’t attractive, the subjects are perfect for headbangers. From Slaughter to Poison to Skid Row…I would have loved these cards back in the day.
Forget “back in the day.” I would love these cards today. Though I would hope they could hire a better graphic designer.
But what I would love even more is for Topps to do something like this…
Van Halen’s first album was released in 1978, so I put the foursome’s mugshots on a 1978 Topps rookie card. This is the kind of set I would like to see, and maybe Topps can make it happen. Maybe they can sign some of my hair metal favorites to contracts and produces an Archives-style music trading card set. Members of Mötley Crüe on 1982-style cards, KISS on a 1974-style cards (like this), Winger on 1988-style cards. That’s a set I would collect.
How about it Topps?