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Browsing: Behind the Curtain

Those of an age likely have one enduring Carlos Santana visual indelibly stamped on their eyeballs. It is an image of the guitarist standing onstage at the Woodstock Music & Art Fair. The date is August 16, 1969 and the time is roughly 2:00 p.m. in on what is becoming a cloudy Saturday Afternoon. He is wearing a sleeveless black vest, sporting a wispy black goatee and mustache, and his head is thrown back in a pose of spiritual bliss. A closer look at his eyes will reveal not so much an ecstatic reverie as a psychedelic one. He tears…

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Vinnie Vincent is a superhero. Well, in a way. He is part of a great and rare fraternity called the Secret Society of Six-String Supermen or S.S.S.S.S [imagine the sound of a pick sliding down a guitar string]. It is the most exclusive organization in the world—in the history of the world—and there is only one way to attain membership: You must be a legit, no arguments, bona fide guitar playing superhero. There is no club like this, though I’d like to believe there is one. If one existed, Vincent would be in it. Alongside him would be fellow guitar…

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Maybe the best way of trying to describe who Jaco Pastorius was and my encounter with him back in 1977 right around the release of his first self-titled solo album is by beginning this narrative with an episode guitarist Steve Morse once had with the legendary bass player. This incident illustrates both the peculiarity and the preciousness of Pastorius, both his absolute love and passion for the bass guitar and the peculiar behavior that would haunt him his entire life. It is a dichotomy musicians, friends and family had been trying to understand for years. With Jaco’s murder on September…

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The Columbia Records complex in Century City is a beehive of activity. The building — made of chrome, polished wood and a thousand windows reflecting sunlight — is composed of offices, archive rooms, cubicles and conference suites. In every corner of the building secretaries, administrators, A&R staff, and promo and marketing people are running around carrying out the day-to-day activities required to run one of the biggest record labels in the world.  Before Sony bought them out in 1988, the label included everyone from Boston and Jeff Beck to the Jacksons and Stevie Ray Vaughan. It is this latter artist’s…

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John Entwistle of The Who was the most remarkable rock bass player in history. He ranked number one on Rolling Stone’s 2011 Top Ten Bassists Of All Time poll and number seven on Bass Player’s The 100 Greatest Bass Players of All Time list but even that doesn’t tell the whole story. In The Who, he not only held down the role of bass player but also operated on multi-tasking levels by acting as a rhythm guitarist, lead guitarist and timekeeper and also provided stellar background harmonies and even the odd lead vocal on such classics as “My Wife” and “Boris…

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Sometimes, interviews don’t go well. It’s part of the business, and as rock journalist Steve Rosen can attest in his latest Behind the Curtain entry, it happens.  I’m often asked, “What is the worst interview you ever did?” It’s an interesting turn of phrase, because lurking behind the suggestive and intriguing façade of the query is the true heart of what the person posing the question really wants to know and that is, “Who is the biggest asshole you ever met?” Mainly this kind of inquiry comes from friends who are trying not to be indelicate in their line of…

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The mythology of Frank Zappa has always loomed large and with his passing on December 4, 1993, that legacy expanded even more. Sporting an unforgettable look with his mustache and chin patch, Francis Vincent Zappa Jr. II was one smart dude. He was an avid fan of 1950s rhythm and blues and while still in his teens he was picking up on eccentric 20th century classical composers like Anton Webern, Edgar Varese and Igor Stravinsky. In high school he started composing original classical music at the same time he was playing drums in local R&B bands. These were just some…

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This is something I get asked all the time: “Who is your favorite guitar player you’ve ever interviewed?” I both love and hate this question. I love when people ask me this because it gives me a chance to think back on all the astonishing guitarists I’ve met, and what it was like sitting there in a room with them and, for a brief moment, sharing their lives. But at the same time I hate that question for the very same reasons. I go back to when I interviewed Jeff Beck or Jimmy Page or Pete Townshend or Paul Kossoff,…

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I have always wanted to be a songwriter. I have always wanted to write songs and play guitar in a rock and roll band. Who doesn’t? I tried to write songs not long after I started playing guitar when I was about 13 years old. I would sit in my bedroom with my cheap little acoustic guitar and strum the few chords that I knew—mainly G and C because you could make them with one finger on the fretboard—and try to find words that somehow fit the very juvenile melodies I was humming. But even before I began trying to…

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During Steve Lukather’s 40+ years as a guitar player and professional musician, he has done some stuff and seen some things. Some remarkable, insane, unbelievable things. Here are just a few of them: Played with two of the four Beatles—Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr—and became a member of the 12th incarnation of Ringo’s All Starr Band in 2012. Produced several unreleased tracks with Jeff Beck. You know what? There’s no reason to even list a third achievement. I mean the dude sat in a studio and recorded Jeff Beck while he was cutting guitar tracks. What else do you need…

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