Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Guitar Canon

We’ll start with the riffmeisters because rock ‘n’ roll is, when you get down to it, a guitar riff. Chuck Berry is king of this castle. Keith Richards is his queen (queen bitch?). Courtiers include Angus Young, Johnny Ramone. Jack White guards the gates.

The romantic poets. Mark Knopfler. Jorma Kaukonen. Eric Clapton sometimes. Peter Green.

The street poets. Jimi Hendrix. Duanne Allman. Johnny Winter. Mick Taylor. Mike McCready.

The innovators. Bo Diddley. Link Wray, for “Rumble”. Lou Reed. Tom Morello. Hendrix could just as easily be here, but then there’s hardly any category he that wouldn’t fit into.

The nihilists. Neil Young, when backed by Crazy Horse. Early Pete Townshend. Wayne Kramer and Fred “Sonic” Smith. Steve Jones.

Servants of the song. First and foremost, George Harrison, whose contributions, whether spectacular or not, were always apt. Roger Squire. Mick Jones of The Clash. Lindsey Buckingham. The Edge.

Picker-strumers. Tumbling melody lines, cleanly-picked, alternated with acousto-electric strumming. Roger McGuinn. Johnny Marr. And Peter Buck, whose style is reminiscent of both.

The minimalists. Curtis Mayfield. Robbie Robertson. Luther Perkins.

The savage. Bruce Springsteen. Paul McCartney, which can only come as a surprise to those who haven’t cottoned on to the fact that every jagged, bordering-on-losing-control Beatles solo (“Taxman”, “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, “Good Morning Good Morning”) is his. Dave Davies, because no single till this day has sounded as savage as “You Really Got Me”.

Dream weavers. Kevin Shields’ guitar symphonies. The shattered tapestries of Lee Renaldo and Thurston Moore. Nick McCabe and Simon Tong, especially on Urban Hymns. And, when he’s in the mood, Jimmy Page.

The younger brothers.
The unappreciated ones, playing vital roles in the shadow of their more illustrious axemates. Sterling Morrison. David Crosby. Stone Gossard. Malcolm Young, who’s actually the elder brother.

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