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Tuesday, 8 September 2009

The legacy of Les Paul


The legacy of Les Paul
The world of rock n roll is not the most natural for giving plaudits and platitudes out to the deserving yet unsung characters but with the passing of one of the most influential heroes you could ever come across. The name of Lester William Polsfuss may not sound like the type of name that will have a stadium audience rocking and rolling but when you shorten it to Les Paul you will probably start to grasp why the world of music is a quieter place this week. Although a musician in his own right, the solid body guitar is what the man was most famously known for and you can guarantee that some of your heroes have rocked the stage using his instrument. Quite simply, the Les Paul guitar is one of the most important weapons a rock and roll act can have in their arsenal. Don’t get us wrong, the Stratocaster, the Telecaster and even the Flying V Guitar have the right to be cherished but the Les Paul is so iconic that it stands out from the rest.
A large part of the reason for its enduring popularity is the number of famous guitar players who regularly play the instrument. This creates a massive demand in their fan base to pick up the instrument as all the inspirational fans pick up the same guitar as their hero. This has seen the Les Paul be the instrument of choice for a whole army of budding musicians and local bands.
One of the most famous players of the Les Paul has been Slash and in the past few days the legendary guitarist has been paying tribute to the man behind his machine. Its hard to think of so many of the great Guns N Roses or Velvet Revolver songs without picturing the Les Paul guitar playing its part. Axl Rose may believe that he was the only focal point for the crowd but with Slash’s guitar playing and Duff McKagan keeping the bottom end together, the music was top notch throughout. And that’s what the Les Paul offered, quality and constancy in an electric guitar and if you were to examine even a partial list of guitarists who used it, it would read like a who’s who of rock n roll.
Classic guitarists like Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Mick Ronson, Joe Perry and Zakk Wylde have all been spotted playing the Les Paul. Given the influence of these musicians, it is easy to see why so many future generations have chosen to use the instrument and it has played its part throughout the years.
Punk rock may have stood itself apart from the generations that went before but Steve Jones of The Sex Pistols and Mick Jones from The Clash were more than happy to be play the Les Paul and the legacy doesn’t stop there. Modern guitarists like Noel Gallagher have ensured that a new generation of budding musicians and music fans have been introduced to the Les Paul and you can guarantee that the musical legacy and influence of Lester William Polsfuss will live on for many generations to come.

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Friday, 7 August 2009

Could we finally have a cool supergroup again?

It sounds as though it cant be a bad thing but how many times have you heard the word supergroup only to be let down by what was eventually offered to the fans? It seems simple enough to take a bunch of talented musicians and have them make some music that everyone will love but somewhere along the way, supergroups stopped becoming fun. Back in the 1960s, Neil Young would be popping up everywhere and the tapes of John Lennon jamming with Keith Richards, Eric Clapton and Mitch Mitchell as Dirty Mac are still revered today. At the time, that band pulled members from The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Cream and The Jimi Hendrix Experience but the era of the supergroup hasn’t been as exciting since then but that may be changing sometime soon.
Even jaded rock fans would have raised an eyebrow at the news that Dave Grohl, Josh Homme and John Paul Jones are going to work together in a group called Them Crooked Vultures. There hasn’t been much music working its way from the band yet but there has been a promise to not suck and if they achieve that, then they will probably be a bigger success than many peoples previous attempts to pull together a supergroup.
Dave Grohl certainly needs no introduction having been in two of the biggest bands of the last two decades. When Kurt Cobain took his own life and ended the career of Nirvana, you would not have put too much money on the drummer going off to become the biggest success of all the group. That is exactly what has transpired with Grohl dropping the drum sticks and picking up guitar and forming the Foo Fighters. The first Foo Fighters record was practically a solo lp in all but name but since then they have evolved into stadium rockers extraordinaire. That has kept Grohl rather busy but he has found time to hook up with some other bands with one of the most popular being with the Queens of The Stone Age.
Grohl joined with Homme and Nick Oliveri, and Mark Lanegan on a few numbers, for the phenomenal ‘Songs For The Deaf’ record so there is a previous working relationship between the two as well. Grohl also provides the link to the other member of the new group as rumours persisted that he would be the man to complete a reunion of another well revered rock n roll band.
When the Led Zeppelin reunion tour rumours were starting to build, the talk was about who would replace John Bonham on drums and Dave Grohl was heavily tipped to take on the mammoth role. We all know that Bonhams son eventually took the chair but perhaps something stuck with John Paul Jones. Grohl may not be playing with Robert Plant or Jimmy Page but he will get the chance to play behind their bass player, which is much more than most rock n roll fans will ever get to do.
Who knows if Them Crooked Vultures will be a success but it can only be hoped they do because with the talent at their disposal, they could be just what the genre needs.

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Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Led Zeppelin to tour without Percy?

So Led Zeppelin are planning on touring without Robert Plant… arghhh! Sacrilege I hear you all cry, and at first I thought so too. Personally I think it is just a ploy to attempt to kick Robert Plant in to action, but if it did get to the point of going out on the road without Percy, it would be horrible to see one person picked out and held aloft as ‘The New Singer Of Led Zeppelin’, after all, no one could be that.

However, I had a plan – so if you are listening Mr Page and Mr Jones (assuming that young Jason doesn’t get a say in the absence of dad John) after hearing all the rumours (Steve Tyler, David Coverdale etc) it got me to thinking that they should go down the route taken by MC5 (although in a bigger scale than the proto-punk legends) and get in a range of different singers. Not necessarily all on the same night, but get in great singers for just a few dates.

Led Zeppelin are one of the few bands that could do it as their back catalogue is so well known and every man and his dog holds them up as a great influence that they could get the best singers and front men in the world in for a handful of gigs so it wouldn't interfere with existing commitments. Just look at how well Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins went down with JP and JPJ at the Foo Fighters show at Wembley earlier this year.

This would also keep the integrity in tact, as it wouldn't be like any single singer was being touted as a replacement for Plant. It would be more like saying that the guy is irreplaceable so let other great singers put their spin on the songs.

No doubt some people would hate it, but it would be great going to go to see ‘Led Zeppelin’ and not know who you are getting, only for Steve Tyler to show up one night or people that you might never usually bother consider watching go at it without their own agenda. I would never usually go and see Meatloaf for example, but I could imagine him doing a stunning job as a one off. Or even some soul singer. After all, every one said Jay-Z would fail dismally at Glastonbury this year, but he received unanimous praise afterwards.

I don’t want to see Jack White, Eddie Vedder as the replacement for Robert Plant, but would love to see them doing a few tracks. Hell, maybe if they got it right then Plant could do a slot himself. It would mean that someone like Steve Tyler could do it in between Aerosmith commitments, whilst also throwing in some unknowns or really left field choices. It would be like the greatest Led Zeppelin Tribute Show. You could even tailor it to different markets. So in Australia they could wheel out Jimmy Barnes, Bryan Adams in Canada or even something as weird as Prince doing a couple of dates in Minneapolis (so long as no idiot thought it would be a good idea to get James Blunt or Robbie Williams involved in the UK).

Anyway, I would still much rather that if it was to happen then Robert Plant did it himself, but if he is determined to duck out, then let’s hope they do it right.

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