Tag Archives: Guitar Hero

RIP Prince

Just when I thought the high-profile rock star deaths of 2016 were slowing down, Prince died. He was only 57 years old and apparently died due to complications relating to the flu. I’d heard that he’d taken ill following a recent concert and had been rushed to the hospital, but I never imagined that the Purple One would die. I only recently (the last 2 years or so) got into Prince. I can’t exactly recall what spurred my interest in him, but my wife and I really dug into his second-to-last album, the bizarre rock opera ART OFFICIAL AGE, which came out in 2014. Both of us falling in love with a record top-to-bottom is an extremely rare event in my household, which should tell you something about Prince and his appeal.

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 11.53.49 AM

Kids today probably don’t know very much about Prince, and I blame that on him. In recent years, Prince’s militancy regarding the online presence of music essentially resulted in wiping him from history for most young music fans. Hell, I grew up in the early 1980s and prior to 2014 I really only thought of him when watching re-runs of Chappelle Show. Scrubbing his music from the web resulted in him being half-remembered as a joke and as the guy who single-handedly ruined Tim Burton’s 1989 BATMAN film. I guess this strategy made him some money, because ART OFFICIAL AGE was the last album I purchased in an actual record store last year after Prince removed all of his music from Spotify.

I’m sad that Prince is gone and that his legacy is kinda screwed up, because Prince was simply amazing. Like a weird fusion of Hendrix and Michael Jackson, Prince was a genuine  guitar hero. I think that’s the biggest thing young people today don’t know about Prince: he was a legitimate shredder. There is an outstanding song on ART OFFICIAL AGE called “Clouds” where at the very end Prince does this amazing guitar solo. It’s a brief burst of virtuosity that’s probably the most sublime (yet tasteful) bit of music I’ve heard in the last ten years. There’s something really rad about a guy that talented being so restrained. If I could play guitar like Prince, I’d have a double-album of nothing but obnoxious solos.

Prince-Purple-1984-BIllboard-650

The best artists evolve and shift over time and boy did Prince do that…and then some. From his early days a downright dirty talking pop star to a quasi-religious (or not?) fanatic who shunned his early success. He spent much of his later years holed up in his house studio recording whole albums that he never bothered to release (that’s if filmmaker Kevin Smith is to be believed). If there’s anything positive to come from his untimely passing, I hope that it’s we get access to some of that music. I’ll bet that much of it is fucking amazing and all of it is super weird.

Rest In Power, dear sweet Prince.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Van Halen Announce 2015 North American Tour–They’re Playing Where You Live

I’ve been out of it lately and I’ve been meaning to do some writing…well today Van Halen announced a pretty big North American tour and shook me from my malaise. I missed the band the last time they reunited and toured–so this news has me pretty stoked. Sure, Michael Anthony is still out of the band and he-who-shall-not-named is still playing bass (and fat), but this announcement has me reaching for my Visa card.

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 5.25.44 PM

Sure, I’m still trying to recover financially from buying a pair of Replacements tickets, but this is Van Halen. Van fucking Halen. One of THE last truly great, truly massive rock bands. I’m sure this won’t be their last tour, but this will probably be the last chance I’ll ever get to see them.

And look at all the chances Van Halen is giving me (and you) to see them this summer:

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 5.19.48 PM

And the dates keeps going! Too many dates for one screen grab!!!

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 5.20.43 PM

That’s pretty much every American city worth a damn, and then some. Hell, the band is even playing my hometown of Kansas City, Missouri and they only have one horse! Since moving to Denver a year ago, I’ve yearned for seeing a concert at Red Rocks (Morrison, Colorado) and this might be my chance to finally pull the trigger and visit that epic outdoor venue. But who will accompany me? Mrs. Defending Axl Rose ain’t the biggest Van Halen fan, and these tickets are gonna be expensive. I hate dragging her to stuff, but I really hate dragging her to concerts that cost $100 a pop. My fantasy list of people I’d like to see this show with would be: my Dad, Robin Renee, Gandhi, and maybe my 8th Grade Science lab partner who liked to scribble “Van Halen” on his trapper keeper (sorry dude, I have forgotten your name).

Alas, I’m broke as hell but I’m gonna fill out a home equity loan application tomorrow so I can buy tickets for this tour. I’ll keep you all posted. In the meantime, how about a little mood music?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“Reelin’ In The Years”

Like coffee, Steely Dan is a bit of an acquired taste.  I grew up in a household where, for a few years, there were only two CD’s in the house: The Beatles REVOLVER and A DECADE OF STEELY DAN.  That greatest hits compilation gathered quite a bit of dust.  The appeal of a band like The Beatles is instant and able to transcend age and experience.  The appeal of a band like Steely Dan is…a bit more complicated.

To be fair, I never gave Steely Dan more than a causal listen before casting them off as “lame.”  I must say, the band has a certain reputation among rock fans, many write them off as “dad rock”, self-indulgent, and worst of all: boring.  One of my all-time favorite comedians, George Carlin, even has a pretty funny joke that has the lameness of the band’s fans as part of it’s punchline.  Another factor at play in my inability to fully enjoy Steely Dan was my own ignorance of jazz.  Steely Dan, unlike most rock bands, are more jazz-influenced than they are blues-influenced. Jazz is a funny thing, and like coffee (and Steely Dan) a bit of an acquired taste.

“You been tellin’ me you’re a genius
Since you were seventeen
In all the time I’ve known you
I still don’t know what you mean”

And so, I remained ignorant of the greatness of Steely Dan until my second-to-last year of college.  I was driving home from school one autumn afternoon when I heard “Reelin’ In The Years” on the local classic rock radio station.  I’m sure I’d heard it before, but I must not have been ready because that afternoon I was struck-dumb by the song.

“Reelin’ In The Years” is  awesome for two reasons: the blazing guitar work and the incredible delivery of the lyrics.  The guitar work is exceptional, so much so that guitar god Jimmy Page has been quoted as saying that the guitar solo in “Reeling In The Years” is his all-time favorite solo.  That’s mighty praise.  Singer Donald Fagen has gone on to sort of roll his eyes when it comes to the song, calling it “Dumb but effective.”   And I guess it’s effective, like a shotgun’s effective when fired within a foot of it’s target.  To be fair, “Reelin’ In The Years” is a great blunderbuss of a song compared to the more nuanced work Steely Dan produced over their long run.  I guess the fact that it’s more of a straight-up rocker is part of the reason it’s the most-played Steely Dan song on classic radio today.

“Reelin’ In The Years” would be an noteworthy if all it consisted of was Elliott Randall’s out-of-this-world solo-but then there are the song’s lyrics, which perfectly match the quality of the guitar work.  Like all of Steely Dan’s best songs, “Reelin’ In The Years” is equal parts bitter and wistful.  “Reelin’ In The Years” is accusatory and at the same time filled with a sad-sort of desperation.  Steely Dan’s lyrics are famously opaque, but on “Reelin’ In The Years” the band is a bit more on-the-nose obvious than usual, without the usual literary flair or West Coast double-talk found in most of their songs.  I think that’s another reason why the song is so popular on classic rock radio: it doesn’t take a PhD in English to figure out what the hell the song is about.

Admittedly not the coolest dudes in rock.

All the best lyrics in the world don’t mean anything if the delivery is off, though.  The lyrics, though a bit dumbed-down as far as Steely Dan songs go, are delivered spectacularly.  They come come fast and furious.  There’s so much venom in Fagen’s voice as he spits the words out, his voice barely keeping up with the wailing guitar.  The amount of information, the sheer volume of emotion and narrative conveyed so perfectly and so quickly it’s downright Dylan-esque.

The song ended and I switched off the radio.  I went home and got online and started reading about the band, trying to figure out which album I was going to buy first.  A month later I went back home to visit my parents, before I left I found that dusty copy of A DECADE OF STEELY DAN.  Without asking, I slipped the album into my duffle bag and have never looked back.  I never thought I’d be a Steely Dan fan, but I am.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Track #1

A lot of albums are “front loaded.”  By that, I mean that all the good songs are located at the beginning, so you don’t shut it off.  Bands today like to put their single in the number one or two position, and generally speaking by track six you’ve hit filler.

I think it’s a better idea to put your best songs towards the middle. Consider this post a slow build to something better. This is an introductory post, my “Track #1.”

I’m a toe-tapper. A record collector with too much time on my hands.  Other than plastic Guitar Hero instruments, I have no real musical ability.  Well, that’s not entirely true, when I was in the fourth grade I could play “Hot Crossed Buns” and “Mary Had A Little Lamb” on the violin. Of course I couldn’t do that now.  A few years ago I tried to learn real guitar, but I  failed after learning only the bare-basics.  I did figure out how to play “Smoke on the Water,” which is probably the single greatest rock song of all-time if only because it’s incredibly democratic (read: anyone can play it).

So who am I to judge or critique music? Well I’m pretty knowledgeable when it comes to pop music, in all its various forms.  Not to brag or anything, but I’m totally, 100% insane when it comes to music.  In high school, when the other kids were into sports and cars, I studied the blues.  For kicks one day I bought a Led Zeppelin boxset and lost myself for a few months.

I tend to go overboard-crazy about a particular style or band.  I become obsessed and have to hear “everything.” Then, when I’m good and immersed, I yank myself out and go the opposite direction. Part of this blog’s purpose will be to document my schizophrenic interests.

I also want Defending Axl Rose  be a conversation about music.

Track #1: This is what I love and obsess about.

Tagged , , ,