|How the world is changing, and why did we want
to play guitar in the first place?
or...even more about Musical Instrument Retailing in 2005.
Why would anyone bother to learn how to play the
electric guitar? An expression of their art? Concern for fellow human
beings? Because dad made you? We believe that the original reason most people
started down the guitar path has something to do with getting a reaction out of other
people...most notably, the opposite sex. Then, as time passes, it morphs into
something much more complex and intangible. We think this big pile of vinyl LPs
probably explains our complex reasoning.
For you youngsters, this pile of vinyl represents some of the great guitar albums from the mid to late 70's...and there is even a late 60's one -- as well as the early 80's -- thrown in for good measure.
Let's run down the goodness of each one...strictly opinion:
And, our favorite in the pile, Derringer Live!
There are those of you who will think, "What is he thinking...Rick Derringer?" Where is Led Zep? It doesn't matter -- this album was just that influential. While it is nearly impossible to have not heard of Rick Derringer, it is quite possible that you've never heard of this album. It is literally an incredible album that I stumbled upon quite by accident. I was visiting my aunts and uncles in Muncie, Indiana in 1977 and we took a trip to Indianapolis to the mall. I wanted to buy a copy of the song "Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo", and this album featured the only version I could find in the record stores in the mall. "All American Boy" was no where to be found. Was it fate? Was it meant to be? Probably not...just an inventory issue. This album's version of "Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo", along with "Beyond the Universe", is kind of trippy, feedback drenched, and free-form...just what a 16 year old guitarist needs!
I found the tones and attitude of this album unbelievable. I listened to it when we got home, and it was incredible. More mature than KISS. More immediate and in your face than just about anything I had in my record collection, this album really smoked then as it does now. I remember studying the album cover as I listened to the songs (remember doing that?). Rick's cool shag, Beatle boots, and a Mockingbird made the front cover killer. A real rocking band made the back cover hypnotizing. Check out that TV Les Paul on the back of the album...yes, it helped shape my decision for that Les Paul '55...or at least it provided some validation.
So what comes close to Derringer today? In my opinion, not much, and it is also pretty clear that not many people have the body of work that can touch that of Rick Derringer's. Sadly, most artists active today will never get the chance to release more than one or two albums. Rick Derringer had been recording for years when this came out. Remember -- he played lead on "Hang On Sloopy" with the McCoys when he was a teenager. On closer examination, maybe live albums themselves are things of the past! I am sure Ashlee Simpson won't do one!
Along with this killer album came the "rocker socialization" that the local music store supported. I remember going to the local store on Saturdays and seeing the older guys playing and talking trash about their bands. They seemed like impossibly good players -- and impossibly cool. This combination of cool and technical competence motivated me to practice and aspire to being a really good player. So, based on the decisions of Fender, Gibson, and...we predict it'll be soon ... Peavey, are the hometown music stores of my youth soon to be a thing of the past? Will the hometown store actually be Guitar Center? Where will the young guys get motivated?
Also remember that when I bought this album there was no Internet, no PlayStation, no Xbox, no iPod, no satellite TV (we only had four channels...the three networks and PBS), no cell phones, and no parents who obsess about their children being involved in organized activities for every waking minute of the day. Yes folks...the environment was perfect for playing guitar. Old guys...do you remember just going outside when you were young and "playing"?
So where are we today? Twenty years from now, will we see a pile of CD on a future Guitarattack.com with a guitarist talking about what influenced him? Or will we hear the laments of a melancholy guitarist for the files he deleted from his iPod because they weren't current anymore (like these albums). Twenty years from now, will we read about how a young guitarist went to Guitar Center and got "gooned" by the sales staff when he wanted to hang out and talk guitars?
Probably not, because the culture that made me want to play guitar has changed dramatically...and may have ceased to exist. But change is good, and there are signs that shredders are coming out of their caves and actually acting like they are proud of who and what they are. I also predict that smaller stores with targeted product will continue to thrive because there is just no reason to try to compete with Guitar Center/ Musicians Friend. It is probably good that Fender and Gibson just stopped the suffering and cut off the small dealers because there is no reason to try to fight that -- remember what George Gruhn said about reverse auctions back in 2000!
The good news is that Rick Derringer is still touring, Derringer Live has been released on CD (it is available at amazon.com), and guitars in general are still extremely cool. And, as long as young ladies like young men who are guitarists, I believe that those young men will gravitate to guitar...for art's sake, of course. At a minimum, buy Derringer Live, Judas Priest's Unleashed in the East, and an old ZZ Top album...and start practicing!
Finally, take some time to hang out at the local music store.
Hey old guys...mentor a young guitarist!