Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What Makes A Music Rock Star?

What makes one music artist a Rock Star while another not? What is it about the essence of a musician that makes him or her seem larger than life, untouchable? Is it the level of fame? Is it the attitude? Is it the make-up and clothes? I think that it is all of these things, but I also think there is something deeper, something that lies underneath and is hard to grasp. In fact, when discussing the essence of a Rock Star, it's not a stretch to say that Rock Stars are like Gods. The embody a aura of the fantastical , to the point that the are no longer viewed as mortals.

But what is it about the Music Artist that makes them a Rock Star? Just naming a few that stand out, like John Lennon, Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Robert Plant, these artists all had many common traits. For example, they all wore excessive clothing and attitudes too. When John Lennon strutted down the streets of New York City with his white suit and Yoko, man, you could see this guy a mile a way. You couldn't' miss the cool, hip I don't give a crap attitude. Same with Jagger, Bowie, Plant and others. But was the attitude enough? I mean, sure these guys could dress, but so could a bunch of other dudes.

All of the mentioned Rock Stars above had more than just the clothes and attitude, they had the music. We're not talking about one or two hits, but dozens if not hundreds of hits, that is quite frankly, mind boggling. All these Rock Gods were just machines when it came to writing and music. It was non stop for them and this dedication and effort was a bit part of their personality.

Take Jimmy Page, for example, although he wasn't a lead singer like the other Rock Stars I just mentioned, he was still a Rock God. He was Jimmy Page, for gawd sake, this guy just rocked. And he too held a common trait with the other guys, he wore great clothes, had attitude and was a hard worker.

I'll go as far as saying that, in order to be a true Rock Star, a true Rock God, you need more than just the clothes and the attitude, you need the hard work and perseverance. Take Iggy Pop, for example, here's a guy who had only a handful of hits, but there isn't one person who would doubt that he is a Rock Star.

So what makes a Rock Star? I think it's a combination of looks, attitude, style, fanaticism to succeed and that special something that is indescribable but lies just underneath, that aura of a Rock God.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

My 15 All-Time Favorite Rock Drummers

On the Last Post I told you about Rock And Roll Guitar Solos. Today I'll talk about the Rock Drummer

The Rock Drummer has been a bit of an enigma. I consider him the blue collared worker of the band. He works the hardest, gets the least pay and is for the most part ignored by fans, groupies, and other band-mates.

Let's face it, while the Lead Guitarist and Vocalist are busy schmoozing it up, and basically hogging the limelight, the poor drummer is off to a corner somewhere getting drunk. No other film has made this more clear than Spinal Tap, that off-beat Mocumentary of Rock Gods vs Mortal Man. If you haven't seen the film, watch it, it is that good. One of the themes of the film was that of the exploding drummer. In essence, Spinal Tap (The Band) couldn't keep their drummer because he kept exploding. And that is pretty much the way drummers are viewed, they are integral and you can't have a band without one, but they are also generally ADD kids who have never grown up.

But Sometimes, there are drummers who stand out and make their mark. Basically, these drummers destroy myths and through pure energy and charisma become an integral part of the band. I've Gone ahead and listed some of my favorite Rock/Metal Drummers, and as in previous posts, there is no order because they are all great to me.

1. John Bonham-Led Zeppelin: Legend Drummer, this guy could do everything, and his death also marked the death of Led Zeppelin.
2. Keith Moon-The Who: Legendary Power House drummer and mad man. Loved his booze and women, and a monster on stage.
3. Rick Allen (drummer) - Def Leppard - Any drummer that could play as good as this guy is tops in my books. He did it with one arm.
4. Phil Collins - Genesis - Phil Collins was both a lead singer and drummer, that's some raw talent, I don't care who you are.
5. Lars Ulrich - Metallica - Got a bad name in recent times as a corporate front man, but this guy is still one of the best drummers ever.
6. Alex Van Halen - Van Halen:
7. Nick Mason - Pink Floyd: A legend drummer
8. Neil Peart - Rush:
9. Igor Cavalera - Sepultura: - When it comes to timing and speed and new metal beats, can't be beat.
10. Paul Bostaph - Slayer: - Insane Speed.
11. Chad Smith - Red Hot Chilli Peppers:
12. David Silveria - Korn:
13. Topper Headon -The Clash:
14. Phil Rudd - AC/DC: -
15. Ringo Starr - The Beatles: Ringo needs to be on this list because he was one of the first, back-beat king.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Rock And Roll Guitar Solos

There was a time when the Lead Guitarist was God, everyone admired and wanted to either be him or with him or her. There is just something iconic of a Lead Guitarist banging away at his guitar, it is the image of rock and roll. Although lead guitar solos are prevalent in every genre of music, including jazz and blues among others, we generally think about the Rock and Roll Lead Guitarist. The Rock and Roll guitarist's very sound, taking advantage of Harmony's and melody's bends and hammers, screeching a piercing note to the awe of the audience is what a rock and roll concert is all about. The lead guitarist is also a generally Type A personality, he stands out in front, often with his other type A friend the Vocalist and just rocks out. His solos are all about the dramatic effect of the performance, a singularly decided moment to either go nuts or stay controlled, either way he is decidedly the lone man with the gun. Whether he is banging out a wailing solo loud enough to pop a listener's ear drum with a distortion inspired solo or a more subtle harmonized, soothing riff, it's his right and domain.

The Lead Guitarist has always been somewhat of a front man, for example, it's not often that a bassist or drummer takes a leading role onstage, and often, the crowd tend to forget they exist. With the exclusion of say, Getty Lee from Rush or Flea from the Chilipeppers, Bassists, for example, are known for their support of the rock and roll melody. They don't generally stand out, and in fact, most bands don't want bassists to stand out too much. A poorly executed bass run can be just as bad as a poorly tuned stage band. Similarly, the Rock drummer is also a bit of lone man out, he sites in the back, often hidden by the drum rack and most people don't think twice of him. The drummer has one roll (pun intended) and that is to keep the rhythm and make sure that everyone is on the ball. Although a drummer is arguably the most important part of the band, his crusade is often a thankless one, and more often than not, the better he is the less he is noticed.

But you can't say that about a lead guitarist, in fact, his very presence is all about the show. A lead guitarist would be a failure if he didn't stand out and wow the audience with some great riffs, melodically and harmonically. The lead guitarist is probably one of the least essential parts of the band, I mean, the rhythm guitar does all the harmonizing, lead guitar just sits around for the most part and wailing in from time to time. And yet, he is essential to the energy of the music, his solos can bring positive or negative anticipations in the listener, her can make a listener happy, sad, angry, contemplative and so on.

If you think about Lead guitarists like Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, David Gilmour or Brian May, these guys made sense and became the energy of the band. But generally, a lead guitar solo is very very short, and often only as an alternative to a verse or chorus line, in fact, the lead guitarist is a virtual minimalist when it comes to over-all presence within a song. Solos can happen anywhere in a song, either at the beginning, middle or end, but generally you hear them after the first or second verse, and often in place of a chorus. Generally, Lead Guitar solos are played in place of a chorus which is generally where the emotion and power of a song is generally stored. But this isn't always the case, especially when you consider blues rock artists like Clapton who will play small guitar hooks and solos anywhere they feel like it. For these artists, a guitar solo has the same right as the vocalist and therefore can and should be played whenever the guitar feels that it's voice should be heard.

The Lead Guitar Solo is and will always be the heart and soul of a rock band, even though it's importance may have waned a little over the years, his roll is no less important than it was 30 or 40 years ago, and the audience will still admire him because he embodies the essence of rock and roll.