Does Musical Geography Still Matter?

Sorry my blog posts have been a bit scarce lately. A few weeks ago, my super-cool 91-year-old dad (who sometimes posts here) went to Joshua Tree, tripped, and fractured his hip. So to help out, I’ve been shuttling the 400 miles from my home in San Francisco to West Covina, the right-wing, smog-shrouded LA suburb [...]

A REAL Cult Band

I just watched an amazing documentary on Netflix: The Source Family, the story the early-’70s cult led by James “Father Yod” Baker. Baker’s Sunset Strip restaurant, the Source, was a fixture of my LA youth — a popular hang for both hippies and music-industry types. (You’ve probably seen it as the backdrop for the breakup scene [...]

Odds & Ends & Pixies

Oh man — the gods have been generous this week.

I just received from Warmoth all the parts for my next DIY guitar. I loved testing eight sets of P-90 pickups for Premier Guitar, but I don’t own any P-90-eqipped guitars.I will soon, though!

This one will be a bit of a platypus — [...]

Jimmy Page at 13

BBC dumbaas: "What are you going to do when you leave school? Take up skiffle?"

Aha! Now we know why no one has developed a cancer cure! It’s because young James Page took that skiffle thing a little too seriously. Yep — it’s Jimmy Page at 13 in 1957. (He turned 70 this week.) Imagine how different the world would be had he followed his stated goal of becoming a [...]

What Wolf Taught Us (and What We Forgot)

My pal Josh Hecht is making a documentary on Howlin’ Wolf. Josh, a noted engineer and audio instructor who came of age hanging out in Chicago blues clubs in the ’60s and ’70s, has corralled great interviews with the likes of Sam Phillips, Jimmy Page, and the late Hubert Sumlin, Wolf’s longtime guitarist. He [...]

Getting It Right the First Time

Oh man — I got to open for Television last night in San Francisco, accompanying storyteller Dennis Driscoll. These days the band includes original members Tom Verlaine, Billy Ficca, and Fred Smith, plus Jimmy Rip filling in quite capably for original guitarist Richard Lloyd. They’ve been doing shows where they play their debut album, Marquee [...]

Guitar Solo Obsessions

Are there any particular guitar solos you’re obsessed with lately?

Here’s one I can’t stop listening to: Jim Hall’s solo on Sonny Rollins’ 1964 recording of “God Bless the Child.”

This may seem like a weird statement, given how much self-indulgent wanking infests this site, but I have a love/hate relationship with guitar [...]

Was J.S. Bach a Punk?

Oh, my.

But for better or worse, I like being reminded that superhuman geniuses weren’t necessarily super in every regard. Maybe because it gives the rest of us hope or reassurance? Plus, it’s too easy to typecast artists into archetypes, like so:

Paragon: Bach, Verdi, Palestrina, Beethoven Punk: Berlioz, Liszt, Wagner, Boulez Batshit: Schumann, [...]

Sister Rosetta Tharpe
(and the False History of Rock & Roll)

Sister Rosetta Tharpe — the most criminally underappreciated guitarist in rock?

NOTE:Nothing controversial about this post — it only involves race, gender, and religion!

A few decades ago, the standard history of rock and roll went something like this: In the mid 1950s. black R&B and white country music collided. White kids went apeshit. Rock happened.

That may hold a bit of water as sociological history, [...]

The WRONG Way to Use a Talk Box

Any talk box fans out there?

Whew. Didn’t think so. I mean, doesn’t everybody hate those godforsaken things? Wasn’t it all downhill after “Tell Me Something Good?”

But did you know that the “talking guitar” has a rather exalted history four decades pre-Frampton Comes Alive? Check out this performance by Alvino Rey, the steel guitar [...]