One of my favorite solos ever, almost certainly the favorite for the mighty Led Zeppelin. I’ve loved this one for over a decade which is not the same I can say for those old Foo Fighters records. Just listen to how he keeps building the solo until there is a climax, not unlike a sexual experience. Many people, including an interview I can now not find with Jimmy Page, have ascertained that songs like “Stair way to Heaven” are modeled like this for that exact reason.
The Elder and I talked about Mumford last week and he commented on my post after some back and forth that he thought most guitar solos are “superfluous ostentation” which I think is the equivalent of tail fins on a car. They look cool and add to the overall picture but don’t really do much for the ride. (He continues the debate here.)
I disagree. I think the tail fins make the car, that the little detail that makes a big splash and makes that 1961 Buick Le Sabre really shine. I love the guitar solo and I wish there was something comparable in every song. It often shows that someone has put a lot of time and thought into adding some flavor to their music and I dig it.
Not “In the Court of the Crimson King” but certainly a nice little verse taken by the incredibly tasteful and talented George Harrison. I’ve been working on playing this bass line since I picked one up and I’m finally getting close.
My parents listened to lot of early Beatles and Neil Diamond when I was very young so the former was probably my first interaction with the guitar solo because the latter doesn’t have a lot of soloing in between the “love on the rocks”. The Beatles were straight forward initially and didn’t get into much of the strangeness/awesomeness until Rubber Soul. The guitar solo verse is when the possibilities of dancing really kicks up which is probably why I liked it as a young man. I can remember noodling around the living room while this played in roughly 1990 and loving the guitar part. George is no Robert Fripp but has some of the tastiest licks in the history of popular music.
Nirvana is still huge. I had a 14 year old student tell me last week that Kurt is her idol and she won’t be in school the anniversary of his death. I told her I was alive when he shot himself and I went to school and there is no reason you should stay home now. I also should have said, try to pick a role model that didn’t ruin his life by shooting up heroin and then putting a shotgun in his mouth.
My next real memory of loving the guitar solo came from my childhood idol Kurt Cobain. My brother had Nevermind and I would steal it in the fourth grade and listen to it all day. At the time, I though this was an amazing solo that was unparalleled by anybody else I knew at the time. In hindsight, Nirvana was never really about the solo and was centered around Kurt’s lyrics, Grohl’s heavy ass drum licks and the competent bass playing of Krist Novoselic.
Regardless, I remember playing air guitar in between cartoons and just loving it. This is not some crazy time changing or genre pushing solo, it just bridges the song together and inserts a little finesse into an otherwise straight ahead song. This is another reason the solo is great, it can really be that final piece that ties a song together. Would this song had been a hit without the solo? Yes, but it wouldn’t have sounded as cool.
Who doesn’t like the blues?
Towards the beginning of high school, I got very into blues, specifically Muddy Waters and as a result of hearing the above jam during a scene in the gangster flick Goodfellas. I’ve loved the blues ever since and I think it is an art form that has inspired an infinite amount of other art. Now what would the blues be without guitar solos? I mean it is a cornerstone of the whole genre it’s how pickers would distinguish themselves from one another in the now legendary “cutting contests” and it’s how all of the white imitators learned how to make their guitars cry and sing. What if you just took the guitar solo out of all blues music, where would it be? This brought it to rock and roll and why we will hear them there too. Just listen to these boys wail, you must not have a pulse if this doesn’t move you.
As I got a little older and into college, I got into the jam. The Dead was a mainstay in my listening, as well as Zeppelin, The Allman Brothers and the like. A concise jam with substance, a goal, a beginning and an ending really lights me up. I like form in my rock and roll freedom. This here is one of the Dead’s finer takes on a classic song with a very tasteful solo. I was actually a best man in a wedding last summer whose last song was this cut! It doesn’t falter into musical masturbation range which brings up one contention I will give to my brother.
Some artists, particularly in the jam field but also in many others, can get into long overdrawn solos that can end up going nowhere for me as a listener. Take Phish for example. I went to school in Vermont and should have been a fan, but I also felt like the solos would take forever and almost always left me unfulfilled The Dead can do this at times as well, especially in the 80’s, and it can wear on me. I would also cite the excess of bands in the 80’s like Van Halen, whom I love but definitely get into some ridiculous bouts of guitar heroics that lose me. Trey Anastasio, guitarist of Phish, once said that they are looking for that two amazing minutes in 18 minutes of playing. So, why not just play great for five and call it good?
Note that this song is in one of the weirdest times ever, something like 17/8. Thank you Mr. Fripp for your continual weirdness.
As of late, I’ve gotten very much into the weird stuff like progressive rock and this band, King Crimson. The guitars on all their songs, mostly done by the only consistent member Sir Robert Fripp, are weird and amazing. There isn’t traditional form here but so much is added by the guitars and the different effects put onto them. It literally makes this awesome band that has put out music for almost forty years relevant at this point. I can understand why one wouldn’t like guitar solos if they are long and go no where, but if they add a great flavor to the song, how can you hate on them? One day Brother, we will be doing the 747 dance together again somewhere and you will learn to love the jam or at least how to have fun dancing like a fool. Oh yeah, and don’t forget Jimi Hendrix.