Thursday, March 10, 2011

Solos (pt 7 of ___)

dammit, Carl gets to "We Will Rock You" before me! I would have done it days ago if not for all these reader's suggestions i've had to post (and still they come... and keep 'em coming)

dammit i'm gonna post it anyway

this is Queen's oddly belated take on Glitterbeat... and then tacked on the end there's May's solo as this kind of climax/coda... it has this kind of camply militaristic strutting quality

because describing oneself as a Queen fan is so unthinkable, you make exceptions, "I hate Queen except ___ which is great if yknow preposterous and bombastic and...". but then the exceptions start to add up, and when the number gets to at least four (in my case: "rhapsody", "killer", "rock you", "bites the dust") then you start thinking hmmm perhaps i should listen to the albums

Queen leads me towards the thorny topic that has been skirted but not quite faced head-on (and which Carl is pointing towards with his mock-self-condemnatory opening paragraph), which is the question of the gendered nature of guitar heroics, or to put that another way:

How come there are many, many female Freddie Mercurys, but hardly any female Brian Mays?

there's been plenty of excellent and inventive female guitarists through history, but, as the nominations so far indicate, few of them have been lead guitarists of the sort who would take a solo... and one argument made about this is that there's a certain sort of ego-maniacal self-projection and grandstanding/showboating bombastitude that women musicians just don't go in for...

but to that i would say, have you heard Celine Dion? She is the female Freddie Mercury. (She even mimes "rock out", air-guitarish type poses onstage I'm told). There are numberless female vocalists from Mariah on down who do gratuitous virtuosic stuff with their pipes, totally the vocal equivalent to Satriani and Vai, that quasi-classical fetishisation of technique for its own sake. So women can do look-at-me egomania and bombast just fine. They just don't do it with electric guitars. (Tori Amos tried to turn her piano into a guitar, straddling the stool in a raunchily "low-slung" way that looked like she was setting herself up for a later lifetime of chronic back pain).

So the dearth of Briana Mays and Erica Claptons, is that just because of the guitar-as-willy/guitar-as-weapon thing?


Going back to "We Will Rock You", this solo is a great example of how the solo became self-reflexive... this solo is just a celebration of solo-ing in the same way that the song itself is a celebration of rocking ... like the majority of hard rock solos by this point (late 70s) it's there because solos are a fixture, a required and expected feature .. unlike in the Sixties and early Seventies, it's not expressive (bluesy or transcendent or aching or apocalyptic), there's no emotional content at all, or real catharsis -- any catharsis is strictly mechanical in the sense of being structurally required to release the tension of the extreme minimalism of the Glitterstomp section of the song...

another great example of meta-solo -- john turnbull of the Blockheads, starts about 4-00 -- just pure flash

even longer-solo on the 12 inch version, starts starts earlier for some reason at 3.38

(there's probably a surprisingly large number of killer guitar solos on disco tracks - for all the jibes of rockism at the time, what stands out now is the sheer musicianship and muso prowess-fetish in most disco-funk)

chas jankel also did some tasty licks - passim, first proper solo at 2.30, and then again, sublime, from 4.05 onwards

best british groove band after the Stones?