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When I was a budding guitarist (before I realised it is the single worst profession in the world) my music was continually criticised for being ‘too simple’. My craft as a whole was even questioned because I wasn’t perhaps as knowledgeable as your average music aficionado. I specifically remember someone saying, “If you do not know the theory behind what you are playing, are you really a musician or are you simply a copier?” When I questioned further about what I was supposed to be then, I was met with tired examples like Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Berry or BB King. Guitar porn like the album Band of Gypsies, which is basically like an hour-long solo, were constantly held up as the be all and end all of music. I gave up on playing music because I became disenchanted with my instrument and the songs I was playing. I could never wail out a screamer like Van Halen, so what was the point in calling myself a ‘guitarist’ anyway?
As I have grown older I do not regret leaving the music industry in any way whatsoever. I am onto bigger and better things while my critics are still playing cover gigs at the local tavern for spare change. However, upon reflection I have come to realise that the notion of the ‘guitar solo’, or any solo for that matter, is one that is masked in egocentric bullshit. Either that or it is masking crippling insecurities. It is the equivalent of pages and pages of wanky description in a book, a used tampon in a teacup in art or a black and white student film in movies. Recently I attended a Cat Empire concert as I quite enjoyed their most recent album. Little did I know that I should have simply stayed home, because I actually got to hear very little of the songs I was smashing out in my car. Every song was milked for at least fifteen minutes as each member took turns masturbating on their instrument until the song was dead and buried. The vocalist noticed the disappointment on some of the fan’s faces, which led him to say, “If you are a fan of us and you came here to hear your favourite songs, that’s awesome, but ‘this’… THIS IS WHAT WE DO!”, referring to the cacophony of musical arrogance we had just been witness to. Fuck us for going to see a band to hear their songs, right?
I have seen enough episodes of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares to notice that if any product is specifically marketed to snobs, that is who you end up selling to and no one else. What is the point of solo-centric music if it is only wankers in berets that like it? To be honest, Band of Gypsies bores the hell out of me, as does Free Bird after thirty seconds. Hendrix only has two good songs and BB King is near impossible to listen to. I can obtain all I need to know about your instrumental efficiency in a few seconds. Anything longer than that and I’m bored out of my skull.
I am not alone either! When was the last time these so called ‘guitar gods’ were in the charts for anything? The average person can easily go through their whole life without hearing names like Joe Satriani or Yngwie Malmsteen. Even Santana needed the help of other artists to make an impact.
Ultimately, solos are like wine. Anyone that says they are really into them are either simply lying to impress people or are borderline autistic about their instrument to the extent that they can’t relate to anyone else about it. For example, I love football, but if you delve deep into the most obscure statistics about a player, you’ve lost me.You may point to me as being a simpleton or ignorant and that I don’t ‘understand what I am hearing’. But I counter that argument by saying, if a simpleton like me can’t access your music, what is the point of it? If you really want to make niche music for a miniscule audience, fine, but I have always believed that music is meant to bring people together. There is enough posturing elitism in the music industry already. Let’s not add to it.