GUITAR LESSONS LONDON‘S FRIEND PAUL WOOD IN WITH A STORMING ADDITION IN OUR BRILLIANT SERIES OF FAVOURITE GUITARISTS…..THIS TIME ITS EDDIE COCHRAN
One of the classic early rock’n’roll guitarists, Eddie Cochran had only a 4 year period in the spotlight to create and cement his trademark sound, which still continues to be relevant today. Just think of “C’mon Everybody” and “Summertime Blues” and you’ve immediately got the Eddie Cochran sound in your head.
Here’s the single version of “C’mon Everybody” to get you in the mood:
Like another early pioneer Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran was able to combine inventive guitar playing and trademark riffs with songs that captured the sound of Teenage America with humour and flash. He also had the charisma, looks and the writing/arranging/multi-instrumental skills to suggest he could have been an even bigger star if he had survived longer than his 4 year spell in the limelight.
Self-taught on guitar, Eddie could play all styles of guitar and was equally at home on ballads as well as his out and out rockers. Although renowned for his trademark rhythm sound, as documented on “C’mon Everybody”/Summertime Blues/Somethin’ Else”, he was also a very tasty lead player and often contributed lead to other people’s recordings. Here’s Eddie showing he can play the blues on his instrumental tune, Eddie’s Blues. Check out the lightning lead breaks at 1.19 and then again at 3.16:
Signed to Liberty in 1956 at the age of 17, his first releases were “Sittin’ In The Balcony” and “Twenty Flight Rock” (which Eddie featured in the classic rock’n’roll film “The Girl Can’t Help It). Here’s a clip from the film showing Eddie playing “Twenty Flight Rock:
1958 produced two bona fide smash hits – “C’mon Everybody” and “Summertime Blues”.
Here’s a live TV clip of Eddie playing “C’mon Everybody”:
And here’s a Youtube lesson discussing and playing “Summertime Blues”:
1959 produced another Cochran classic -“Somethin’ Else”.
A firm favourite of the early UK rock’n’roll guitarists, he was credited by “Big” Jim Sullivan as the man who showed him how to get the American rock’n’roll bendy string sound by replacing the normal 3rd string with a much lighter 2nd string. This was an idea which Joe Brown (also on the Cochran/Vincent tour bill) saw and adopted.
Sadly, Eddie was to die at the age of 21 while on a tour of the UK in 1960. Returning to London after the last gig of the tour in Bristol, for a flight back to the States, Eddie’s taxi went off the road and hit a lamppost – killing Eddie and badly injuring his tour co-star, Gene Vincent.
Eddie was famously associated with playing an orange Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins hollow body guitar.
Gretsch have honoured Eddie through their production of both the G6120 Eddie Cochran Signature Hollow Body guitar and the (very expensive) limited edition G6120 EC Eddie Cochran Tribute Custom Shop guitar.
“Singin’ To My Baby” (the only album Eddie released in his lifetime)
The Eddie Cochran Story (4 CD box set)
A teenage musical prodigy, Lofgren first came to attention when he played with Neil Young on his “After the Gold Rush” album, aged just 17. This led to his then band, Grin signing a record deal and releasing four largely unsuccessful albums between the years 1971–1973.
Signed to a solo deal with A & M, Nils found the spotlight in both the USA and the UK with his first two solo albums “Nils Lofgren” and “Cry Tough”. Released in 1975 and 1976 respectively, these pre-punk albums and Nils’ young gunslinger guitarist reputation caught the public’s attention with the combination of Nils tough and sweet songs and explosive guitar playing.
Nils Lofgren was at this point poised to become one of the next big US stars and his reputation was enhanced with his incendiary live shows, as captured on the “official” 1975 promo only live album – “Back It Up!” (which only appeared as a general release in 2007). A gymnast in his early school days, his trademark live trick was to do a trampoline flip while playing the guitar on stage.
Here’s Nils on “The Old Grey Whistle Test” from 1975 playing “Back It Up” from his debut album. This was his first mainstream UK TV appearance.
A combination of a change in the musical landscape with the punk rock explosion and the less-well critically received follow –up albums “I Came To Dance” and “Night After Night, saw his commercial appeal start to falter (although both of the albums mentioned made the US Top 50), and none of his subsequent LPs charted in the US Top 50.
Whilst maintaining a steady series of solo releases, Nils next came to mass attention when he replaced Steve Van Zandt in the Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, first appearing with Springsteen on his massive “Born In The USA” worldwide tour. When Van Zandt returned to the E Street line up, Nils was retained with the E Street Band and Nils has continued to record/play with the Boss whenever the E Street Band has been called in to action.
Here’s Nils adding typical full 70s wig-out solos (2 minutes in, and then again at 4minutes 30 seconds) on Springsteen’s “Tunnel of Love”
Springsteen has returned the favour on Nils’ own solo albums – here’s the official music video for “Valentine” from the Silver Linings (1991) album with Bruce on backing vocals (Ringo Starr on drums!) and a great fluid melodic guitar part from Nils.
When not playing with Springsteen, Lofgren continues to tour and put out albums as a solo act (he has now over 20 solo albums to his name). Sometimes appearing alone, sometimes with one other instrumentalist, and sometimes in a group format, Lofgren always puts on an exhilarating live show with a mix of newer songs and classics from his early solo albums. He still has a guitar technique which can combine both intricate fast and fluid frills and real rock guitar – whether acoustic or electric. Here’s a fantastic solo acoustic clip of Nils playing “Keith Don’t Go” – a classic from his debut album and still a highlight of his set today:
Nils always comes out post-show to meet the crowd, sign autographs and just chat with his fans. If he plays a solo show anywhere near your town – go see him, you won’t be disappointed. Believe!
Although Nils has a wide range of guitars, he is most closely associated with Fender and the Fender Stratocaster – in particular the 1961 model. See this Nils promo video for Fender for a great close up of his playing:
The Loner – Nils sings Neil
FAVOURITE GUITARISTS – BILL PITCOCK IV
One of the most underrated guitarists of his generation, Tulsa guitarist Bill Pitcock IV is a name that is only likely to reverberate amongst power pop aficionados or the curious people that have looked at the musician’s credits on albums by Dwight Twilley and Phil Seymour.
Bill began performing professionally in 1964 as the guitarist with his parent’s dance band, Billy Pitcock and his Orchestra.
Completely self taught, Bill rose to fame as the lead guitarist in the 1970s for the Dwight Twilley Band – effectively a vehicle for Tulsa friends Dwight Twilley and Phil Seymour. The band originally rehearsed and recorded in the room above his dad’s electric shop (the Pitcock Electric Company) in Tulsa.
Pitcock continued to work with Twilley and Seymour on their subsequent solo albums and live performances.
Bill is the lead guitarist on such classic power pop songs as “I’m On Fire,” (Dwight Twilley Band), “Girls, (Dwight Twilley), and “Precious To Me” (Phil Seymour).
Dwight Twilley is quoted as saying:
“In the early days of the Dwight Twilley Band, sometimes a manager would come backstage to tell us a major act was in the audience. We’d say ‘To see us?’ And he’d say, ‘Well, no – they’re here to see Bill Pitcock.’
“As a musician he was simply a genius, a super extraordinary talent who was an integral part of my sound. He influenced guitarists everywhere.”
His principal forte was the super fast but short lead break – as best featured on the debut single (and U.S.) hit for the Dwight Twilley Band – “I’m On Fire”. Catch the break from Bill just over one minute into the song
An unlikely guitar hero – bespectacled, bearded and keen to stay out of the limelight behind the double front man appeal of Twilley and Seymour, here are a couple of U.S. TV clips of the Dwight Twilley Band with Bill on guitar and Shelter label mate Tom Petty as a guest on bass:
Lookin’ For The Magic:
and “Twilley Don’t Mind”
Spruced up for the 80s, Bill’s powerpop/rockabilly style guitar featured on solo hits for both Twilley and Seymour:
Dwight Twilley: Girls
Phil Seymour: Precious To Me
Pitcock’s debut solo album(“Play What You Mean”) was released in 2009 and he was featured on the well-received Dwight Twilley “comeback” album “Green Blimp” in 2010
Bill Pitcock IV was 58 when he died as a result of cancer on April 8, 2011.
Guitar parts recorded before his death appear on the 2011 Dwight Twilley album “Soundtrack” – which is dedicated to Pitcock. He is fondly remembered by Twilley on the “secret” final track “My Friend Billy” which appears after the credited album closer “The Last Time Around”:
“My friend Billy can kick your ass on guitar, in a stadium, a studio or even in your local bar”
To close, here’s a live clip from 82/83 of Bill with Dwight Twilley (and Susan Cowsill on backing vocals) burning through a live version of “I’m On Fire”
Dwight Twilley Band: Sincerely
Dwight Twilley Band: Twilley Don’t Mind
Phil Seymour: Phil Seymour
Dwight Twilley: Soundtrack
FAVOURITE GUITARISTS – CYRIL JORDAN
Learning to play guitar by listening to his favourite British Invasion singles of the
early 60s, Cyril Jordan is a founding member of San Francisco’s legendary Flamin’
A band that seemed to be permanently out of time, their early albums in the 60s
showed them doing covers of 50s rockers by Eddie Cochran and Little Richard.
Their classic 70s albums paid homage to the 60s sounds of the Byrds, Beatles and
Stones. The 80s band was the closest they ever came to straight forward 70s rock
and they clearly didn’t like the sounds of the 80s because they were almost dormant
throughout the 90s.
Cyril Jordan has been a constant presence throughout. Early albums (Sneakers/
Supersnazz) showed off his rock’n’roll chops (and a few nods towards the Lovin’
Spoonful) before the band took on a harder rockin’ sound on “Flamingo” (inspired
by playing shows with the MC5 and the Stooges). They followed this up with their
first classic album with the original band line up (“Teenage Head”) which mixed their
original 50s based sound with the late 60’s blues rock swagger of the Stones.
Check out the following tracks from “Teenage Head”
With the departure of original vocalist Roy Loney, and 2nd
took the band closer to his dream combination of a sound combining the 60s British
Invasion groups (Beatles, Stones, Who) with their US equivalents (Byrds, Paul
Revere & the Raiders).
The band had a short spell at Rockfield studios in the UK with Dave Edmunds as
producer during 1972 which produced the pre-punk classic single “Slow Death”
and led the way for their 1976 re-emergence with their second classic album (“Shake
Some Action”). Gone however were the leather jackets and rock’n’roll flash clothes
of the ‘72 incarnation of the Groovies and in their place came Beatle suits, Cuban
heel boots and a disinclination to play their previous classic tracks (such as “Slow
Death” “Teenage Head”). Adding a collection of Rickenbacker 12 strings to their
signature rock sound of the Dan Armstrong Plexiglass, the band looked and played
fantastic, but was seriously out of step with the emerging punk explosion. Although
their triumphant London show at the Roundhouse on 4 July 1976 had them topping
the bill over The Ramones (their Sire record label mates) and The Stranglers, both
bands would quickly eclipse the Groovies commercially.
“Shake Some Action” with its Jordan inspired descending guitar lines has become
the power pop classic single and the subject of many cover versions.
Jordan carried on with various incarnations of the band until their last official studio
release “Rock Juice” in 1992.
Long dormant and almost forgotten (other than by long term fans), Cyril Jordan
and the Groovies came back into life in 2013 with a line up including Jordan,
Chris Wilson (vocals) and George Alexander (bass) from the classic 1972 line up,
augmented by new member Victor Penalosa on drums.
A series of well received shows in London, Japan, Australia and the States showed
that the Groovies still have the power to rock out as hard as before, and with the
set list containing all the classic Groovies tracks (“Teenage Head”, “Slow Death”
and “Shake Some Action”) maybe the band has at last come to terms with its own
history. New tracks are being recorded in the studio right now – maybe finally this will
be the year of the Flamin Groovies. Can’t wait!
Shake Some Action (Hard Rock Calling 2013):
Guitar most associated with Cyril Jordan
Ampeg Dan Armstrong Plexiglass
(as seen on the cover of “Teenage Head” and a fixture on all Cyril Jordan/Groovies
recordings subsequently. Still played to great effect in 2013)
Recommended albums (Flamin’ Groovies):
I’ll Have A Bucket Of Brains (The Original 1972 Rockfield Sessions for U.A.)
Slow Death (Amazin’ High Energy Rock’n’Roll 1971-3)
Shake Some Action
FAVOURITE GUITARISTS – JOHNNY THUNDERS
LONDON GUITAR ACADEMY has the great pleasure of introducing its FAVOURITE GUITARISTS series with guest blogger-true music enthusiast and longtime friend Paul Wood! In our first in instalment we pay tribute to the immaculate JOHNNY THUNDERS
Careering out of the Bronx in 1971 as part of the New York Dolls on sky high platform shoes that would give most people a nosebleed and a bouffant hair style that wouldn’t have looked out of place on an 80s US female soap star, Johnny Thunders (and his guitar) gave the early 70’s a look and sound that would never be forgotten.
Playing in an aggressive style with a throwback to 50s rock’n’roll and r’n’b, the Thunders sound was a sharp contrast to the guitar sounds of early 70s rock.
Mixing his love for 50’s rock’n’roll and doo wop with the teen romances of the 60’s girl group sound, both the New York Dolls and his later solo albums and shows were unafraid to feature a healthy sprinkling of covers – all given the Thunders guitar sound makeover.
Notable covers either live or in the studio included Pipeline (Chantays), Stranded In The Jungle (The Jayhwaks), Pills (Bo Diddley), Don’t You Start Me Talkin’ (Sonny Boy Williamson), Bad Detective (The Coasters), There’s Gonna Be A Showdown (Archie Bell & the Drells), and Do You Love Me (The Contours).
To quote the title of their 2nd (and final official album) The Dolls were clearly a case of “too much , too soon” but the Dolls had a big influence on the trendsetters that emerged with UK punk.
With the Heartbreakers imploding in a befuddled mix of drugs and inter-band squabbles over the sound of the L.A.M.F mix, the subsequent years produced a number of sporadic releases (and re-releases) of varying quality under the Johnny Thunders name, with the best being “So Alone”.
A mysterious and lonely death in 1991 in New Orleans only served to underline his legend and reputation but to quote the title of the best track (and his best ballad) from the “So Alone” album – “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory”.
Guitars most associated with Johnny Thunders:
Gibson Les Paul Special/Gibson Les Paul T.V. (Honey yellow withP90 pick-up)
New York Dolls – New York Dolls
New York Dolls – Too Much Too Soon
Heartbreakers – L.A.M.F