Permissive – The Ultimate Bad Trip Rock Groupie Bummer Movie?

IMG_2940One of the nice things about Netflix streaming is that I’m catching a lot of obscure European horror and exploitation films that I either never knew existed, or had heard about but never had the chance to see.

I stumbled on “Permissive,” a 1970 British film that falls into the first category. The brief description detailed that it was about groupies and a band. I figured it might be dated, and probably really stupid. But dated and stupid can be a lot of fun, so I took the plunge.

“Permissive” begins with female protagonist Suzy arriving in London. There’s no back story or anything, she just seems like a lost girl that probably doesn’t have any other option. She has one friend in London, a woman named Fiona, that is a groupie for bearded, hairy folk rockers Forever More.

The rest of the story is a relatively simple one, where Suzy evolves from a shy and naive girl into a scene queen groupie that basically fucks her way up the Rock and Roll Fuck Ladder. In the end, there is betrayal and death, and lots of mediocre rock music and beardy rock shenanigans.

In the end, the plot of “Permissive” isn’t really the important thing. I’m sure that the film’s producers probably wanted a straight up sexploitation film set around rock bands and groupies, but “Permissive” is a decidedly bummer of a bad trip. 1970 London looks ugly and grey, and the rock scene looks awful. Forever More was a real touring band at the time, and were signed to RCA. We’re treated to several scenes of them playing live shows, and the music is mediocre at best. It reminded me of a really lame version of Jethro Tull, and there is probably a reason they never exactly rocketed to stardom. 

If Forever More was an indication of the London rock scene in 1970, it’s no wonder David Bowie ushered in glam rock shortly after, and that punk rock was just around the bend. Scenes of Forever More and other bands playing shows in basement clubs to forty bored-looking hippies sure doesn’t make me think that things were really happening at the time. The singer/bass player for Forever More is one of the more central love interests in the film, if such a title can be applied to the guys that hopeless groupies choose to sleep with in this movie. His real name is Allan Gorrie, and he went on to greater success in The Average White Band and other ventures, but in 1970 the dude looks like a creepy Neanderthal. Seeing the groupie women trying to seduce him is horrifying to watch.

No one in this film looks like they’re having much fun, and it feels like we’re seeing the idealism of the 1960’s die on the screen.  Even the somewhat graphic sexual trysts look like the bored  participants are just balling to stave off total existential dread. The groupies themselves seem like hopeless women, and it’s difficult to fathom what their motivations are. Surely if having sex with all of those hairy ape-men is your best option, then your options must suck.

The whole film is dour in tone, and nothing fun or sexy seems to creep in, despite a fair amount of nudity, and lots of rock culture excess on display. In many scenes, people are casually smoking joints that have to be six inches long, so maybe that was the best thing going for London’s local music scene in 1970. In any case, while this film could have been a sensationalized sexploitation treatment of the music scene, the sex scenes are uniformly unsexy, compounding the feeling of hopelessness. “Permissive” is a definite bummer, and so are the “erotic” scenes. Most films covering the subject matter that “Permissive” does, tend to show a celebratory fantasy version of rock and roll, and sex and drugs. Not so with “Permissive” – I have the feeling that this film accidentally catches the depressing side of this stuff, even though the film makers were probably trying to turn a buck with what could have been standard sexploitation fare.

One thing I couldn’t figure out is how the groupies supported themselves. Forever More look like poor musicians to me, traveling in a beat up van and staying at motels. Not exactly Led Zeppelin, and not exactly equipped to pay for a bunch of groupies to get by. No one in the film seems to like each other very much either. It’s a weird downer to watch.

There is something kind of fascinating about “Permissive” though, and I’m not exactly sure what it is. I guess it’s just the unpleasant portrayal of being in a rock band, or being a woman whose best option is being sexually available to a bunch of going-nowhere band members. The editing is also kind of interesting. There are frequent quick edits of what a character’s future holds for them, and the future shown is never a nice one
IMG_2936. It reminds me stylistically of “Easy Rider” or maybe “Performance,” but this film is not nearly as good as either of those. Still, the film is interesting in its way, and of I had to give it a rating, I’d give it 5 bearded bass players out of 10.

Rock & Rule – Sex, Drugs, and Demons.

rock_and_rule2

Mick… Er… I mean “Mok”.

rock_and_rule5

Angel About to Sing a Demon into Existence.

“Rock & Rule” is a 1983 animated feature created by the Canadian company Nelvana. Although it never got a proper theatrical release, and was mainly shown on Canadian television and early American cable channels, it has developed a large cult following in the decades since it came out. For a long time, it was available at comic conventions as a bootleg, and it didn’t get a decent authorized release until fairly recently when it was released on DVD and Blu-ray. Even those releases look like they may have been limited in scope. 

Also mucking up the film’s history is the fact that there are two versions of it floating around. The original Canadian version used a different voice actor to play Omar, the film’s male protagonist, and he gives the character a more abrasive and cocky feel than the replacement actor did. There’s also a slightly different ending where a character we think is dead is revealed to have survived. So what’s the deal with “Rock & Rule” anyway?

It takes place in some blighted dystopian future where cats, dogs, and rats have mutated into humanoids. In the small city of Ohmtown, a small band plays to an empty club. The band members are the film’s protagonists – Omar, Angel, Dizzy and Stretch. There is a power struggle going on between Omar, who seems bent on being the band’s leader and singer, and Angel, who wants to be able to perform one of her songs.

Decadent rock star “Mok” has been searching the planet for the right voice, which he needs to open a dimensional portal to summon a demon. Apparently his popularity has waned slightly, and he wants to show everyone he’s still top dog by bringing on the Apocalypse. Sounds sort of short sighted, as dead people can’t buy records or go to concerts, but Mok is more than slightly crazy. He has a ring that his Satanic computer designed that will light up when it senses the correct voice, and guess what? Angel’s voice is the one Mok needs.

Mok, being the suave rock star that he is, invites Angel and the rest of the band to his palatial mansion conveniently located in Ohmtown. They go, but Mok is only interested in Angel, so he zonks out the other members of her band with hypnotic devices called “Edison Balls” and promptly kidnaps Angel. His mansion transforms into a high tech Zeppelin and flies off to Nuke York, where he plans to summon his demon at a concert to end all concerts.

The rest of Angel’s band pursue them, and after the Nuke York concert fails because of a power failure, Mok heads back to Ohmtown which conveniently has a power plant that can create an endless amount of energy.

At the concert, the demon is summoned, but Omar joins Angel in singing it back into the abyss, while one of Mok’s henchmen throws the demented rock star in after it.

The film ends with Angel, Omar, and the rest of the band being hailed as the next big band.

That’s the story in a nutshell. A lot happens, but not a lot happens, if you know what I mean. The story is a simple one, but “Rock & Rule” has a lot going for it. The story has just enough twists to keep things moving briskly, the animation is pretty good, and the dark environments all look pretty nice. Some of it reminds me of the Moebius comics from “Heavy Metal.”

There’s also a definite dark tone to the whole film, with plenty of Satanic and drug references sprinkled throughout, and mild sexual content. It’s hard to believe that this was originally shown on Canadian television. It’s not Caligula by any means, but it’s still pretty edgy. The soundtrack for the film is pretty good too. Mok’s music was done by Iggy Pop and Lou Reed, while Omar and Angel’s material was recorded by Cheap Trick and Blondie. The music fits the film well, with the one exception of a Earth Wind and Fire song used in a scene taking place in a disco.

The characters aren’t developed as deeply as maybe they could have been, but Mok in particular is adequately sinister, and Angel and the rest of her band mates are fun enough to watch. It’s a shame that “Rock & Rule” had such a troubled distribution and never found a larger audience, because it’s a uniquely strange animated film.

The whole thing is currently uploaded on YouTube if you have a hard time tracking down the limited DVD release. Sadly, Nelvana Studios never followed up with anything as cool as “Rock & Rule”, instead finding greater success with “The Care Bears Movie” and other kiddie cartoons. For anyone interested in strange animated films with a decidedly dark and weird tone, this one is worth finding.

If I gave out ratings, I’d give “Rock & Rule” 7 summoned demons out of 10.

Rock & Roll Battlegrounds – Adventures at the Guitar Store

Any guitar player will occasionally venture into a guitar shop or musical supply store that specializes in guitars. They can be wonderlands to anyone that likes to play guitar and wants to see firsthand what kind of gear is available to them. Like a comic book store is a playground for comic fans, a guitar shop is a similar experience for guitar players.

But these paradises of gear lust are also weird environments with their own rules of conduct and  social orders. There are also quite a few characters you’re likely to encounter if you spend much time in guitar shops. Some of those characters are fun people to be around, and others will make you wonder if they have a secret doll-themed torture room in their homes. Proceed carefully.

In my neck of the woods, there are really only a couple of different basic types of guitar shops, but they’re different enough to make note of those differences.

First, there are the small, independently run shops. In most places they were the common type of music store until the big places like Guitar Center became more common in larger cities. You can still find some version of these mom-and-pop stores in a lot of places, many being the “all around music shop” that sells a little of everything from school band instruments to guitar gear, and they usually don’t specialize in the really expensive stuff.

Then there are the expensive vintage and boutique style stores. Those places generally have pricey vintage gear and high-end newer stuff. Some of them feel like museums, and a person might experience sticker shock the first time they walk around one. It’s disconcerting to realize that the guitars you’re brushing past are all more expensive than a new car.

met

Typical managers at a guitar shop.

IMG_2929

Paradise, or the Ninth Level of Hell, depending on your perspective.

Fact: All American guitars made before 1968 are magical, and were blessed by wizards, paying $25,000 for one makes total sense when viewed in that light.

Most of the people working at either of these places are similar to the types of people you’ll find at the big stores (more on them shortly), but you’re much more likely to encounter one type of individual at the mom and pop stores:

The Moody Owner Person

It seems like a lot of independent guitar shops are owned by moody older guys. That’s just been my experience, I’m sure it’s not universal. But with places like Guitar Center breathing down their throats, I’m sure keeping a small music business afloat is a cutthroat and stressful endeavor. I’ve been in several guitar stores where some gruff owner person started yelling at his employees or just was an unfriendly ass to customers for whatever reason. Again, I’m sure that’s not universal, and these folks are probably having to make blood sacrifices to Dark Gods just to stay in business, so maybe the twitchy eye, and mean temperament just goes with the territory.

The other main type of guitar shop are the Guitar Centers of the world, giant “big box” style stores that seem to have a little bit of everything available. Some people love those places, and others hate them. I’ve personally found that Guitar Centers vary in quality depending on location. Some are like navigating the nine levels of Hell just to get in and out with a new set of strings, and others are fairly nice to shop at.

I have one tip for shopping at any big guitar chain, and really it can be used at the small shops too – shop during off hours. There’s no reason I’ll ever go to a Guitar Center on a weekend for instance. Or anytime around a holiday, for that matter. You’re setting yourself up for an unpleasant experience, as it’s almost certain that the store will be stuffed to the gills with soccer moms and kids. The cacophony of twenty 13-year olds simultaneously trying out high gain amps playing badly and out of tune is not something easily forgotten. But go in to the same store at 10 AM on a Monday, and you’re probably going to be the only geezer walking around the place.

These stores also vary in the quality of their employees for some reason, and you’re likely to encounter a few basic character types. People like:

1. The Sales Pro

These guys are pretty common in the big stores, it seems like at least a couple of them work at each big guitar retailer I’ve ever been to. I guess they get paid on commission or earn bonuses or something, because they’re the music store equivalent of the used car salesman. Once you’re in their clutches, good luck, because there’s a pretty good chance they’re going to give you the hard sell on something. You walked in knowing you just wanted an entry level student guitar for a niece of yours, but the Sales Pro knows that what you really need is that $2,400 Les Paul hanging on the wall. Then there’s…

2. The Know Nothing

This is a common employee of the big music stores. Since it’s probably an entry level retail job with high turnover, a lot of the people working at these places just don’t know much about the gear they’re selling. You ask a few specific questions, or have a certain amount of knowledge already, and it will become obvious that these guys don’t know anything about the stuff they’re trying to sell. It’s understandable in a store with thousands of different items, but you aren’t likely to get much good info from some guy that only knows electric guitars are stringed instruments that are plugged into squarish speaker box things, and they make sound. The Know Nothing is still better to deal with than…

3. The Sales Liar

The Sales Liar is often just a more ambitious version of the Know Nothing. Sometimes these guys actually think they know what they’re talking about, and in other cases they’ll just spin any old line of bullshit in order to make a sale. Ask one of these people anything specific about a guitar or manufacturer, and you will hear all sorts of bogus information when dealing with the Sales Liar.

That Fender Squier that is marked as being made in Indonesia is really “better” than the American Strats being made these days, at least according to the Sales Liar. You’ll discover that there are still great guitars being built today, but only if you’re willing to spend at least $1,000, says the Sales Liar. Inconsistencies and obvious misinformation will be passed off as fact by these folks, so beware.

These days it’s relatively easy to research gear before ever setting foot in a store. That’s the best way to counter the dishonest tendencies of The Sales Liar.

You’re also likely to meet…

4. The Bitter Band Guy

Unsurprisingly, a lot of the employees at large guitar shops tend to be people struggling to make it in bands. It makes sense. Even though the pay is probably not great, there’s likely to be an employee discount on gear, you can look like a rock star, and it’s a good place to network for your band.

It almost assuredly beats working at some loathsome fast food restaurant or other retail job where you won’t get hired for having a bitchin neck tattoo. The problem with dealing with the Bitter Band Guy is that if they’ve been struggling too long, and their band isn’t getting the success they think it’s due, then these folks can be surly fuckers to deal with.

Look, I’m sorry your band Death Hippie isn’t doing so well, but can I just buy this overdrive pedal please?

If those years of struggling become decades, you might end up facing..

5. The Rock and Roll Throwback

These guys have likely been working for years and years in music stores. They’ve seen music fads come and go, and they’re still hanging in there. When I was younger, most of these dudes were guys that played in bands in the 60’s and 70’s. They’d sometimes have attitudes about the newer music trends that had come along since then.

They’ve largely been replaced by now middle aged rockers that still love 80’s hard rock or hair metal, and think rock has sucked since then. For the most part the Rock and Roll Throwbacks can either be cool cats or bitter assholes depending on how angry they still are by their music of choice slipping from popularity. They’d probably still like to be spending their nights playing in L.A. Twyster and doing cocaine out of the butt cleavage of strippers, but those days are long behind them now.

The Rock and Roll Throwback is often related to…

This guitar store employee can take several forms, although they are commonly either Metal guys or Bluesmen of some type. Whatever the form, they tend to think their music of choice is the only good stuff out there. At their most irritating, these dudes are just not helpful if your gear preferences or look mark you as someone from another musical team.

I once worked with a Metal Purist that we nicknamed “Dr. Dio.”  The good Dr. was openly hostile to customers that weren’t metal musicians. I once saw Dr. Dio argue with a teenager, easily less than half his age, that Faster Pussycat was a better band than Nirvana. Whatever one’s opinion on that, it was weird to watch a 40-year old with hair like Nikki Sixx losing his shit in an argument with a 17-year old. What would the Metal Gods think of that lapse of decorum Dr. Dio? What would Michael Angelo Batio think?

It’s not just the Metal Purists that can be dicks though. I once had a Blues Purist give me attitude when I was trying to buy a guitar he deemed suited for hard rock. I don’t know how to counter these people. Like any closed-minded clowns, it’s probably just better to avoid them unless you happen to play the kind of music they love. If you happen to play their chosen music, you’ve probably made an invaluable music store ally. If not, just walk quickly away.

Of course, there are also lots of friendly helpful people that work at guitar shops, and once you find a place that meets your needs, and has employees you like, you are indeed a lucky person.

Just never turn your back on Dr. Dio. You never know what that guy is capable of.

In The Claws of the Lobster Boy

In the late 80’s, I was still living in a small town outside of Houston, and was trying to figure out what to do next. I was recently out of high school, and trying to make that awkward transition into adulthood.

I was casually dating a lady I’d known in high school, someone I’d had a crush on and really liked, but the whole situation was confusing to me. Most things in my life were at that point.

I still enjoyed silly things like going to the County Fair (to be honest, I still enjoy stuff like that) and so the girl I was dating (I’ll call her “Alma”) and I went on a double date to the Fort Bend County Fair with my friend George, and his girlfriend “Donna” (also not her real name).

The night went well, a fun but typical outing to the Fair, when we stumbled across a seedy collection of freak show attractions in the back corner of the midway. I always loved freak shows, and while they were not common by the late 80’s, they were still a lot more common than they are now.

One had huge elaborate banners advertising “The Lobster Boy.” The garish paintings showed a little boy with red lobster claws instead of hands, engaged in a variety of activities befitting a mutant kid.

I knew I had to see whatever lay behind the door of the trailer framed by those banners. I assumed that it was probably some sort of gaff – a fake of some kind, probably a guy wearing fake claws. That was fine with me, I loved the fake stuff too, and had already seen a “Spider Woman” several years before that was nothing more than a big fake spider body with a woman poking her head through a hole in the floor. I counted that stuff as worth the price of admission.

So after a brief discussion, we all headed towards the line to get in, paid the admission, and were allowed entry.

I don’t think any of us were prepared for what lay behind that trailer door. The inside looked like some old guy’s home. It might as well have been anyone’s trailer house. There was no stage, no glassed off display area displaying a fake stuffed Lobster Boy or anything.

Instead the place was occupied by a slightly rotund older man with badly malformed hands. he happily berated us, and offered me his hand to shake. Instead of the normal five fingers, he had two large ones that really did resemble lobster claws. I shook hands, but we were all shocked by this meeting. I don’t think it really had anything to do with the man’s deformity as much as we all suddenly felt like low-lives exploiting some old guy with a genetic disorder.

I shouldn’t speak for anyone else that was there, but that’s how I felt. The Lobster Boy himself wasn’t particularly strange, nor did he seem uncomfortable. Decades of plying his trade in this manner probably made the experience completely normal to him.

After leaving the trailer, it seemed like a slight pall had fallen over our outing, and we left soon after that.

Years later, I found out that Lobster Boy was a famous sideshow performer named Grady Stiles that had been in the business since his boyhood in the 1930’s. He lived for years in Gibsonton, a town in Florida famous for being home to many circus and fair performers when not on the road. Stiles was an abusive alcoholic, and tormented his family members for years. He even shot and killed a man his daughter was going to marry. Despite showing no remorse for the crime, Stiles was only given 15 years of probation due to sympathy for his medical condition. Apparently this light treatment by the law gave him a sense of invulnerability, and his abusive tendencies became even more severe.

Eventually, certain family members had enough, and Stiles was himself murdered in 1993 by a hit man hired by his wife Maria.

Lobster Boy_Snap Wyatt

Looks Innocent Enough. Almost Sweet. That’s what the Lobster Boy looked like.

lobster_boy

This is what Grady Stiles, “The Lobster Boy” looked like. Just add about 40 years to him.

lobster666

The true crime novel about his odd life and murder.

I own the true crime novel about his life and murder, and every time I see it, I’m taken back to that moment at the Fort Bend County Fair all those years ago. Alma and I didn’t last together much longer,and that date sort of tanked, but we’ll always have our moment with the Lobster Boy.

5 Things Many Guitar Players Argue About.

I’ve played guitar for over thirty years now. While my motivations for playing have changed over time, I can’t imagine ever putting them down for long. Since it’s a passion of mine, I tend to hang out around other musicians, particularly other guitar players, both in person and online.

Besides collectively selling our souls to Satan to achieve fretboard mastery, most of my pals are very opinionated about various aspects of guitar playing and guitars themselves.

One thing has become clear over the years, not all of us agree about some fairly basic things when it comes to the electric guitar. We all agree that Satan makes us play better, but other than that, a lot of us disagree on many things. For instance, some of us believe that:

1. A Huge Factor Affecting the Sound of a Guitar is the Wood It’s Made Of.

Yeah, that’s a common belief, and it seems to make sense on the surface, after all the majority of electric guitars are made from wood, and the biggest portion of their mass is the wooden body and neck. That stuff must all vibrate or something right? Makes sense that different wood types would have different vibratory characteristics, doesn’t it?

Well, not really. It turns out that when it comes to electric guitars, all of that wood really just holds the various parts together. Unless a guitar is very poorly constructed, the vibrations of the wood pieces just don’t affect the guitar’s sound that much.

What DOES affect the sound of any electric guitar are the kind of pickups and electronic components used, as well as certain factors like the type of bridge a specific guitar has (the bridge is the metal part that anchors to the guitar’s body, and where the strings are attached).

The pickups “pick up” string vibration and turn it into a signal that will become the sound the guitar makes when plugged in. But the wood? The wood is mostly there to look nice.

Ask yourself this. When you go see a rock band perform, do you think the sound of the guitars is coming from the wood they’re made of? Is the sound of Black Sabbath or Slayer due to the kinds of wood their guitars are constructed of? Does that seem silly to you?

But lots of guitar people believe that wood is responsible for the sound of an electric guitar. People have done tests to prove or disprove these theories, and it turns out pretty much no one can consistently pick out guitars by just listening for clues to the type of wood used. People have also made electric guitars out of weird things like concrete, and they still pretty much sound like electric guitars. Go figure.

Even weirder…

2. Lots of a Guitar Players Think The Paint Used to Finish a Guitar Affects Its Sound.

Yep, they sure do. Decades ago, almost all guitar manufacturers used nitrocellulose lacquer to finish their guitars. It’s an older style of paint that shows wear easily, and has certain characteristics affected by temperature and age. More recently, a lot of manufacturers switched over to polyurethane finishes. They last almost indefinitely and do not show wear easily. They are also much better for the environment than the older nitro based finishes were.

Well, lots of players think that the sound a guitar makes is greatly affected by the type of finish it has. The standard line of thought is that the olde-style nitro finishes are thinner and “breathe” more than poly finishes, and thus result in a livelier sound.

Again, this might be possible if we were talking about acoustic instruments. But I own guitars with both types of finishes, and both sound good – pretty much the same – to my ears. As with the type of wood controversy, I can’t hear much of a difference. I don’t know anyone else that can either.

I always wonder what kind of music some of these cats are playing, where the sound of their guitars is so greatly affected by the wood and type of finish on them. The second an electric guitar is plugged into an amp, there are many, and much bigger effects on its sound taking place. Things like the amp itself, which brings me to…

3. Only Tube Amps Can Sound Great.

OK, so you’ve learned to play, you’ve signed over your soul to the Devil, you’ve managed to get a guitar made from magical tone woods and picked a nitro finish over a tone-destroying polyurethane. You’re good to go, right? Rock stardom is right around the bend.

No, it turns out you can critically screw up Lucifer’s rock and roll plans for you if you plug that magic guitar into the wrong type of amplifier. In the really old days, all amplifiers had vacuum tubes in them, and those tubes not only made the amps work, but they added certain pleasing characteristics to the sound that those amps made. It was all a happy accident to a degree, but almost all guitar players like the way tube amps can sound.

A few years later, tubeless “solid state” amps came on the market, and for the most part, they were not considered as pleasing as the older tube amps. They were often derided as being harsh or sterile sounding, especially compared to a tube amp. To a certain degree this was probably a fair criticism early on, but as time and technology marched forward, better solid state amps were developed, and even more recently, newer technology has allowed for the development of “modeling amps.” Basically, these amps use simulations of various amplifier types and sounds to reproduce them. So one of those can offer a ton of “modeled” amp types all in the same amplifier. And they’ve gotten good, and are getting better.

Still, the naysayers claim they suck, and that only tube amps have the goods to produce pleasing sound. To listen to some of those people, you’d think that anyone using anything but a tube amp was a tone-killing hobgoblin waging war on good music.

I will go so far as to say that I think the amp a person plays and the electronics of their guitars make the biggest contribution to their overall sound, but then again, I’m a tone killing hobgoblin waging war on good music.

As such, other notable things guitar players argue about come into play, such as:

4. Pick guards, Effects Pedals, and Other Tone Suckers.

Yes, there are players that believe that a pick guard affects their sound. The pick guard is the thin sheet of plastic attached to the guitar body, that’s usually right around the pickups and control knobs. I’ve heard various arguments over the years about how those pick guards deleteriously affect the sound of a guitar, and how they should be removed to let said guitar “breathe” more. Again, I’ve yet to be able to hear this pick guard effect, and it strikes me as being similar to thinking that painting a car a certain color makes it faster.

Then there are the people that deride the use of effects. A lot of guitar players use various kinds of effects to shape their sound, and a lot of purists seem to think that most effects suck the tone right out of your sound.

Tellingly, many of these same purists make exceptions for effects that their heroes used. Certain fuzz boxes that Hendrix liked, and the Tube Screamer overdrives that Stevie Ray Vaughn employed, are almost universally respected, but show up at the local Blues Jam with a Boss “Metal Zone” pedal, and you’re likely to be killed by a pack of older men wearing fedoras and vests.

There are people, even famous players, that swear they can hear the different sound that a dying battery makes with certain effects. Frankly, if you can really hear that kind of thing, then you’re probably being slowly driven insane by the sound of insects crying or leaves falling to the ground.

But these controversies are gear related. Even while writing this, I can hear my guitar playing brethren saying, “You’re a tone-deaf imbecile Chris, you don’t know what you’re talking about this time.” And that’s me paraphrasing things in a nice, non-vulgar manner.

But these and many more gear related arguments get people bent out of shape. Trust me, you’ve never known rage until some paunchy, pony tailed (but balding) middle aged guitar “connoisseur” tells you your guitar is basically a painted dog turd with strings attached because it wasn’t built in America before 1968. I’ll forgive you if you take a fast shot to his knees, just watch out as some of those older “Rockers” and “Bluesmen” are also litigious lawyers. No witnesses.

In any case, things get really ugly when the conversation turns from musical gear to actual playing. Which brings us to:

5. Playing “Tastefully” Verses “Shredding”.

Sometime in the late 1970’s things changed for rock guitar. One of the biggest changes came about when Eddie Van Halen and a few other guys hit the scene, and redefined what people thought was possible with rock guitar playing. There were always guys that could play fast, but EVH definitely changed things, and he opened the floodgates for a new breed of technically proficient players that pushed the envelope with their playing. The 1980’s rock and metal scenes were dominated by players that played fast and technically challenging material that took guitar playing to a different place than it had been before.

Predictably, not everyone liked that “place,” possibly on account of an allergy to spandex and Aquanet, I’m not sure. But almost from the get-go, there was resistance from some players and fans that had really liked the blues rock that dominated the 1970’s.

At this point in the game, there are a LOT of players that will dismiss any technical-sounding fast playing as “shredding,” supposedly lacking “feel” and being soulless, too many notes, instead of a few well chosen ones.

From the other side came the criticism that the players that played more sparingly did so simply because they were too sloppy or not technically proficient enough to play more challenging material.

Of course, all of this makes Satan laugh, as he plans on getting all of those shredders AND Bluesmen in the end. They’ll all end up living in neighboring subdivisions in Hell eventually, and the joke’s on all of them – the omnipresent sound track in Hell is ABBA.

20140102-144431.jpg

20140102-144450.jpg

20140102-144505.jpg