Sunday, 26 July 2009

Guitar Man

In the aftermath of the Glastonbury experience with its thoughts about guitars and guitar solos, it has become clear that I am a guitar man at heart. Even whilst watching my top act, Bat For Lashes, run through their exemplary set using predominantly percussion and keyboards, the occasions when my hairs stood up were when Charlotte Hatherley added a chord or a little guitar figure to the harmony. You see, guitar playing doesn’t have to be raucous; it can be subtle and supportive.

There is something about the sound of a guitar and the player’s ability to bend and hammer on notes that gives it a soul and it is a soul that all the keyboard technology in the world can never quite reproduce. Despite guitars going out of fashion, they are still the heart of rock and roll and will never die.

It also set me thinking about solos, those things that you rarely hear these days, and which players I would set apart. Of course in the 60s and 70s there were no end of budding soloists and it was probably the overwhelming magnitude of electric noise that finally gave guitar solos a bad name, but for me the most consistently enjoyable guitarist, if you ignore Chicago’s Terry Kath, was Donald ‘Buck Dharma’ Roeser of Blue Oyster Cult. BOC are best known for ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’ but I think their best work preceded this.

I was first introduced to BOC by my roommate at University who had a copy of their debut LP and I carried on buying each release right up to about ‘Cultosaurus Erectus’ in 1980 before giving them up, but it is their debut and 1974’s ‘Secret Treaties’ that I would still buy today given the choice. BOC had an interesting 3-guitar configuration buoyed by the fact that many of them were multi-instrumentalists and when in full flight were truly magnificent. It allowed them to create multi-layered rhythms using all three players and showed that they had a grasp of musical structure beyond their peers. I saw them play live at the Hammersmith Odeon in the late 1970s and they ended their set with a song (forget which) which allowed each member to drop their own instrument and pick up a guitar so that by the climax they were all thrashing away at guitar parts. Fabulous…if you like guitars.

I love Roeser’s style; it can be exhilarating and soulful but it is never boring – a trait of so many would be guitar heroes and their extended workouts. Check out the final solo from ‘Dominance and Submission’ (Secret Treaties) to hear one of the best air-guitar solos ever. Guitars – I love ‘em.


drewzepmeister said...

Secret Treaties is one of my favorite albums by BOC! Astronomy blows me away! I was fortunate to see them in concert here in my hometown in Racine, 2002 (Only for a mere seven bucks) Great show! Yep, they played that tune and Flaming Telepaths.

musicobsessive said...

Hey Drew, sounds like you ha a good time! 'Secret Treaties' is one of those albums that gets better as it progresses so that the final few tracks are truely awesome. Rock on!