Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Guitar sounds of the 80's

  The Summer of Van Halen | Van Halen News Desk



Replacements - Black Diamond. Off their album Let it Be from 1984. A fairly straight cover of the Kiss song. I love them for defining the guitar power pop sound for that period and launched a thousand bands. This was their breakout' (or sell out) album where they shed the shackles of the thrash band scene and began to explore slower and more personal themes. This is the sound of a band without pretensions and a really soulful rock ethic.

Husker Du - Could You Be The One from the 1987 album Warehouse and Songs. Also a Minneapolis Minnesota band (and contemporaries with The Replacements) Husker Du (Do You Remember in Swedish or something) These guys took the whole wall of sizzling guitar sound to a new level and the combination of the paint stripping buzz of the guitars over the unquestionably poppy melodies make them one of the defining sounds of the eighties for me. Hardcore guitar and strong pop sensibilities - unbeatable.



A fertile time that meant new supermarket job provided pay that could be frittered on vinyl and cd's. At the same time the heavy influences of the Clarke's with an 'e' meant that new sounds were challenging the Depeche Mode addled brain. Most notably, anything with a distortion pedal that required spandex, basketball shoes and long locks. Standing out from the crowd were one or two bands that also attracted plenty of live ticket dollars - who became outright addictions. Each produced anthems that resonated throughout the following 5+ years and still get the goosebumps - bumping; Living Colour and King's X were such legendary bands.

For tonight I chose King's X's Gretchen, from '89, which is still a timeless mix of skillful tone and tuneage with dextrous musicianship. Ty is magnificent, Doug is groovy and soulful and Jerry is Mr Gaskill. A huge and complex sound from 3 people who always left a strawberry grin imprinted on every stage. The halcyon days.

2 awesome songs from the album follow, but like any classic, any 2 random tracks would have fitted the bill just as well. (just found the acoustic 'everybody' rather than album version - super cool!).



So 80's guitar, hmmm, well I have to honor my fav guitarist, Robert Fripp. After all when Eno was asked what's the craziest guitar solo that you have heard he answered ' Fripp does the craziest solos.' If its good enough for the most accomplished Brian in History possibly the entire cosmos then its good enough for me :-)
Under heavy manners contains some excellent degenerate singing by David Byrne. It came out bang on the start of 1980. It was the only song with singing on the album, the rest was pure Frippotronics - music built up with a multitude of guitar loops but played real time - weird and almost totally inconsumable for the masses - the masses don't do music clubs.

Adrian Belew, from the album Twang Bar King and the song is 'The Ideal Woman' - people on the streets of Cincinnati were asked to describe the ideal woman. Belew is a guitar geek who loves synth treatments, I think he plays all parts in the song including the drums, the rest is guitar or treated guitar. I love the lead break which starts at half way, sounds like the amp is off or somehow the sound is muted.
Not many guitarists could team up with Fripp in King Crimson but Belew has the speed and freakiness. Belew first breaks were recording and touring first with Zappa and then with Bowie.



I've been cheeky and chosen two bands, justified I hope by the fact that they were both on the same record label,  
and if you like one you'll probably like the other. The first is Felt, whose jangly guitar pop sound is balanced nicely 
by edgy, intelligent lyrics about self-loathing and pretension (no surprise they were an influence on Morrissey). 
The other is the Monochrome Set, whose guitarist's style is described by Wikipedia as "idiosyncratically 
retrogressive". Couldn't have put it better myself..... Enjoy!


English bloke rocks up to teach in Czech village of which school her dad was head master. Bloke brings a CD of Joe Satriani's Alien album to the soviet block and misses all the dud, self-harm-inducing, stonewashed denim, would be liberation anthems from U2, latterday Stones and Roxette. What a relief.


I've gone with a band that need no introduction, and the album considered by many to be their best; Metallica's Master Of Puppets from 1986. Although they effectively invented the trash sound with 1983's Kill 'Em All, and achieved unprecedented success with their self-titled album from 1991, I feel this album best realised their potential to orchestrate epic classics by merging youthful, raw passion and a more mature writing. To me this album remains their tightest and most accomplished work. I chose Orion, the 8 minute plus epic instrumental that represents so well the sound of 80's guitar metal, followed by Battery, the balls-to-the-wall trash intro to the album.


I chose a couple of tracks by the Canadian trio Rush. Give the subject chosen was the "classic 80's guitar sound" I thought it would be good to go straight to the original source of those  jangly guitar sounds that became stock for most bands by the mid-80s. The first track was La Villa Strangiato from the Rush album Hemispheres. Also not strictly an 80s track (the album came out in 1978) it nevertheless contained the guitar chorus effect that just a few years later would become global. Like many guitarists at the time I found it a revelation and quickly began to pick up on this new sound. The second track I chose was Limelight off Rush's Moving Pictures album from 1980. This track shows how Rush had taken the chorus guitar sound an incorporated it into a shorter snappier style. Limelight is still apparently a huge live favorite.


I should also point out that the liner notes on Metallica's Master of Puppets album credit Rush.

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