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:

  • Jimi Hendrix Experience, Smash Hits:  Notes not required...this one is self-evident.  Listen to Purple Haze.   The first copy of this came by way of a friend of my mother's when I was in eighth grade, and it really confused my notion of what a guitar was supposed to sound like.   Good deal.

  • April Wine, Nature of the Beast:  Killer guitar tones from this Canadian outfit.  We saw them warm up for Ted Nugent...very killer three guitar army.  Of particular note were their red Marshall stacks with white grilles.  This particular album was a little cheesier than the previous Harder...Faster, but it still great.  BTW -- they did 21st Century Schizoid Man live, and it was truly incredible.

  • KISS, Destroyer:  DEEE-TROIT....THE ROCK CITY.  An amazing album.  Clearly their best studio effort.  I remember my friend Eric borrowing money from everyone at school (junior high) so he could walk to the record store and buy this disc...and it was worth the effort.    Dick Wagner of the Alice Cooper Group, et. al., claims he played lead guitar on this album...who cares?

  • Van Halen, II:  The follow-up to their ground breaking debut.  I personally like the sound of this one better than any other VH album.   Somebody Get Me A Doctor features one of Ed's best solos.   Supposedly Ted Templeman and Don Landee recorded and mixed this effort in ten days.   It sounds immediate, and the spontaneity really shows. 

  • Boston:  A mind-expanding trip into record production and guitar sound.  This still sounds great after 30 years.  I believe Mr. Scholz peaked too early because this effort has not been anyone.

  • KISS, Alive!:  The album that launched a million guitarists.  Deuce and Black Diamond are still the killer cuts.  What was up with those notes on the inside cover?

  • Judas Priest, Unleashed in the East:  The blueprint for nearly all metal that would follow.  Victim of Changes is still one of the great metal songs of all time.  Highly recommended.  It is hard to calculate how influential this album was...and is. The CD remaster of this sounds great and has Delivering the Goods.

  • KISS, Alive II:  I think the best thing about this album is the great photo in the middle and Rick Derringer actually playing on the studio cuts...from somewhere in New Jersey. 

  • ZZ Top, Fandango The live stuff is smoking, and the tones are intense.  Listen to Pearly Gates on Back Door Love Affair.  "He thinks he's real bad...."

  • Cheap Trick, Dream Police and Found All The Parts:  Great guitar tones and super song writing.  Cheap Trick is still one of our favorites.  Wonderful guitar photos, too.  The live version of Day Tripper is killer. We couldn't find our At Budokan LP...hope it didn't slip out during a garage sale.  The 2-CD reissue of Budokan has what is probably our favorite Cheap Trick song, Downed, which was not on the original.

  • Peter Frampton, Frampton Comes Alive!:  As Wayne Campbell said, if you lived in the suburbs, this was issued to you.  A great album...we loved the voice box urban legends.  A very well-done album that shaped the music industry for years to come.

  • Ace Frehley:  The KISS solo albums were spotty, but Ace's turned us on.  Check out the drummer on this'll be surprised.

  • ZZ Top, Tres Hombres Probably our favorite ZZ Top album...dude...this was made before they went corporate.   LaGrange, anyone?

  • Pat Travers, Crash and Burn:   This one came out in early 1980, but the sound on this...which is really incredible.  Snortin' Whiskey made this worth the price of admission.

  • Scorpions, BlackoutGerman metal that sounded extremely molten.  The tones on this album were killer, and while the songs were OK, the production really set the standard for the 80's.

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 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 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, 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!


Opinion Page

Builder's Gallery Repair Techniques Our Original Music Guitar Forum
The "Saga Sagas" Links

Play Guitar

Opinion Page
  Guitar Collection

Listen on Reverbnation

Interesting Guitars

Contact GUITARATTACK GuitarAttack Store KGS Store   HOME