Friday, September 23, 2005

Age of Enlightenment Guitar

Many thanks to those who've commented and e-mailed techy suggestions for my iPhoto quandry. Thanks to some keen walking-thru from Nicholas at New Broom, I think I'm in the process of getting things fixed.
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Ron S. has posted two consecutive posts on one of my favorite poets of the 70s/80s, David Melnick. By all means have a look. It's terribly un-New Critical of me, but I'm very happy to finally have a picture of Mr. M.
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Spent 3 hours last night at a reheasal studio with a few co-conspirators. We've decided that these events would be designated "jam sessions" rather than "rehearsals" or even "practices," since those latter terms imply the uncomfortable possibility of actually playing in front of someone else. It was fun, as always: our m.o. is to play a song thru (shredding it rather badly), then, without actually stopping, to play thru it again. Usually sometime during the second time round it begins to sound a bit better. (Kinda hard on the drummer, I'm afraid.) Last night's maulings included an impromptu "Twist and Shout," Steely Dan's "Do It Again" as sort of a heavy metal piece, Van's "Gloria," Bill Withers's "Use Me," "London Calling," "Sunshine of Your Love" sequing into "Cocaine" (in the wrong key), a version of the Damage Manual's "Blame and Demand" hampered by the fact that only one of us had actually heard the recorded version of the song, and one of those endless twelve-bar blues that two guitarists are liable to fall into when the bass player/singer has nipped off to use the potty.

Oh yes – a 9-minute version of Queen's quite politically incorrect "Tie Your Mother Down," which I insisted on a) because it's got just such a wonderful, stupidly perfect basic riff, and b) so I could try out my latest acquisition, a very cheap Korean copy of Brian May's "Red Special" guitar. That's me playing in the photo – well, actually no, that's Brian. Looks exactly like me except that 1) he's thin & I'm – uh – not 2) I don't really have a lot of hair, much less an Age of Enlightenment curly mane, & 3) I got rid of most of my flowing shirts and skin-tight pants a while back. But the guitar looks the same.

My own Red Special is a downmarket copy of a Korean downmarket copy of an authorized copy of May's legendary handmade instrument, but it's surprisingly playable, & with the 20-plus (!) different pickup options available on its vast array of Vegematic controls, along with the right amp settings & fuzz boxes, I can can actually nail some of Brian's "signature tones" ("signature tone" is guitar magazine-speak for what "distinctive voice" is in poetry-speak). Of course, I don't really sound like BM – for that I'm going to have to work on putting the fingers on the right frets in the right order, & hitting the strings at the right moment. That stuff.

Cf. "How to Play the Piano," from The Fairly Incomplete and Rather Badly Illustrated Monty Python Songbook:

1. Select the right key
2. Put it in the piano and open it (not essential, if you can't play)
3. Once the piano is fully open, put your fingers on top of the notes
4. Move your fingers about, making sure they hit the right notes in the correct order*
5. Watch your friends be amazed
*Like a pianist

For other instruments:
The same thing but without the piano

1 comment:

d said...

Mark,
You could always substitute that sweet quasi-Hawaiin shirt you have to for the flowing shirts of days gone by! and I have a fantastic pair of leather pants that I am sure we could spray=paint on you for the Big Concert!