What Ever Happened To The Guitar Solo?

Guitar Face

The other day, fellow future BumsLogic blogger Mike Eddy and I were having one of our many conversations about music. Over time, the topic turned to the lack of the great “Guitar God” in modern music. Don’t get us wrong, there are dozens of incredible, capable, groundbreaking guitars players around today–too many to list here–it’s just that at some point it ceased to be cool to play a guitar solo and/or be considered a “Guitar God.” In mainstream/classic rock the last undisputed leader was Eddie Van Halen. And that was back in the 80’s! Slash, Tom Morello, and more recently, Jack White, have seemed to inherit the role since. Those players are all rooted in classic rock styles, and while technically and creatively proficient in their playing, they don’t carry the declaration of “God” such as Clapton, Page, Hendrix, Santana, Eddie, etc. once did before them.

I played a house party gig in Washington, DC a couple of years ago and after we finished our set I had a quick conversation with a younger kid who had just watched us play. It went something like this:

NiceGuyDC: Hey man, really enjoyed your band. Cool songs.
Jaded: Thanks. Appreciate it. Thanks for listening.
NiceGuyDC: I’ll tell you what, it was kinda interesting watching you play guitar.
Jaded: Oh yea? Why’s that?
NiceGuyDC: You are definitely the first guitar player I’ve ever seen in a DC rock band that bends notes while playing.
Jaded: Ha, yea…guess so.
NiceGuyDC: You just don’t hear much of that anymore.
Jaded: No you don’t. Maybe it’s cause I’m not ashamed to admit how much I bite off Jimmy Page.

Before I move on, let me just say that there are plenty of bands/guitar players from DC that “bend notes.” I think what NiceGuyDC was trying to say was that the guitar players in today’s popular rock bands don’t play solos.  It’s not that they lack the skills or ability, it’s that they just choose not to. The guitar solo has become a sign of self-indulgence and should only be used when adding swashing effects to a two note repetitive wail.  Don’t even dare take on an extended improvisational solo outside of the jam band circuit these days, that is, unless you want to be called a jam band (Sonic Youth notwithstanding).

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Top 10 Most Overrated Musicians of All Time

1. Sid Vicious
Will any argue that this non talented, drug addicted, pathetic human being doesn’t deserve to be on this list? Let break it down: he couldn’t play bass, he couldn’t sing, he murdered his girlfriend, and he was so fucked up most the time, he would wear swastika t-shirts as some sort of punk rock statement. For some reason, legions of fans of the Sex Pistols have glorified and deified this man into some Godfather of the Punk Movement while greats like Iggy Pop, Joe Strummer (who had more talent in his left ass cheek than Sid had in his entire body), and Joey Ramone, though get their dues, are no where near the legend that Sid is. The most he ever contributed to music was an attitude.

2. Jim Morrison
As a friend recently told me, “Jim Morrison is a drunk stripper who was somehow romanticized into the greatest rock poet of a generation”. No one is questioning his abilities as a front man (behind Mick Jagger and David Lee Roth, it doesn’t get much better than Morrison). But to have movies made about his life, and book after book written about his lyrical genius is absurd to me. I love the Doors and their music. But lets face it, he wasn’t even close to being the best lyricist of his generation (can anyone say “Dylan”?), and his voice was a drunken howl at best. Though The Doors influence can still be heard throughout modern music, and Morrison truly was one of the first rock-n-roll clichés, I cant help but think that if not for Rolling Stone magazine, classic rock radio, and Oliver Stone, Jim Morrison would be about as popular as John Densmore (don’t know who he is? Exactly)

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