We used to have a series called The Rearview Mirror on Sundays. Like many of our ideas, it eventually withered away, like a night-blooming flower that didn’t get enough nutrients from its tenders (us). It provided a vehicle for me and other writers to unearth old albums that meant something to us, and introduce them to people who might not know about them.
It was a good idea, and fun for us to do, but like everything else we do here its survival depended on the intensity of our own innate interest, which is a way of saying that we don’t force anything. Things happen naturally, or they don’t. And so it died, R.I.P., though the entire series is still available here.
I’m not really making a concerted effort to revive The Rearview Mirror today. In fact, the song that prompted me to make this post isn’t even old. But it’s a tribute to a long-lost artist and it made me re-live some treasured memories of my own, so I thought this one-off addition to the series, almost three years after it expired, was the right format. (And don’t worry, SHADES OF BLACK is still coming later today.)
I stumbled across the video that spawned this post by sheer happenstance, i.e., I saw it in the sidebar of a YouTube stream for a different song. I decided to check it out when I saw who the performer was and what inspired it.
The performer is Joe Stump, whom I hadn’t thought about in a while. If you happen not to know who he is, he’s a renowned shredder who’s been playing guitar since he was a pre-teen and claims Yngwie, Ritchie Blackmore, Gary Moore, Michael Schenker, Uli Jon Roth, and Jimi Hendrix as his prime influences. Beginning in the mid-’80s he performed with a short-lived band named Trash Broadway but since then has participated in records by Joe Stump’s Reign of Terror, Holy Hell, and a lot of acclaimed solo albums.
He’s also been a member of the faculty at the Berklee College of Music since 1993, specializing in hard rock, shred, and high-tech speed metal.
As noted above, Gary Moore is one of Joe Stump‘s own guitar gods, and what I found in that YouTube sidebar was a video he released in April of this year, in tribute to Moore. Below, I’ll show you what obviously inspired it.
Stump’s performance is an 8 1/2-minute solo. Blues-based, it goes off on improvisational rocket launches but always returns to the song’s solidly anchoring, very affecting, and brilliantly soaring melodic motif, which was what made the original song that inspired this so unforgettable. So soulful, but so fantastical.
Brilliant extended guitar solos are largely foreign to the kind of extreme metal we usually cover at this site. Maybe it’s because guitarists of the caliber capable of creating solo guitar extravaganzas don’t see extreme metal as a productive platform for their talents, and I wouldn’t disagree with them. Or maybe they just don’t naturally gravitate to extreme metal, where melody isn’t normally the driving force of technically top-shelf music. (I say that because I think the greatest rock and metal soloists almost always incorporate emotional melody into their soloing.) There are some such performers, but not a lot.
Feel free to disagree with me on that last point, but while you think about that, let’s turn to Gary Moore.
As I did with Joe Stump, I’ll provide a too-brief introduction to him for those who don’t recognize the name. He was born in Belfast in 1952, and thus his influences were older than Joe Stump‘s, i.e., the likes of Eric Clapton and Peter Green. He was a member of Skid Row and then Thin Lizzy, and after that began a remarkable solo career in the ’70s. He died in 2011 from a heart attack while on holiday in Spain.
If there’s any one song for which Gary Moore is best known, it’s “Parisienne Walkways“, released in 1978. Moore had a decent voice, but it’s the guitar performance in this song that so many people remember, including Joe Stump, who obviously used it as the basis for his own tribute above.
I found a very good live video of Moore performing the song at the 2003 edition of Monsters of Rock in Sheffield, England. Moore’s set was released as a live album, and this song was of course the closer.
Watching and listening to the two preceding videos was an enormous nostalgia trip for me. And the experience also made me feel gooey enough inside to write this: That someone could make a piece of varnished wood and metal sound like these people do, it makes me think that maybe after all, against all evidence, human beings do have souls, and that we might be worth saving.
I also have to add that part of what made me dig up The Rearview Mirror series from its grave as the label for this essay was my remembrances of listening to guitar music like this in my younger days. And the first of the albums that leaped to mind (among many) was Jeff Beck‘s instrumental first solo album, 1975’s Blow By Blow (solo, yes, but he had help from keyboardist Max Middleton and from Stevie Wonder, who played clavinet on one of the two songs he gave Beck to use on the album).
I ate, slept, and breathed Blow By Blow for weeks after I first heard it. It was a weird time for me, because I was so sick (often feverish and delirious) that I couldn’t leave my dorm room in college for those two weeks, even to see a doctor. And Blow By Blow was the soundtrack to my delirium. Most of the days, I played it over and over again, five or six times a day. Weirdly, when I could, I was also reading, over and over again, Samuel R. Delaney‘s surrealistic 1975 sci-fi novel Dahlgren. In my head I’ll never be able to separate that album and that novel.
Well, that’s probably way too much information, but I mention it because the fact that I was out of my mind while Blow By Blow sunk deeply into me might have had something to do with its impact. Or not. Blues, funk, and jazz fusion were in the mix, but also flights of fun-loving fantasy, and maybe the fun of the music was what kept pulling me back to it, because at the time nothing else about my existence was even remotely close to fun.
I went backward getting into Jeff Beck–through The Yardbirds–and then into the Jeff Beck Group. I listened to their second album ‘Rough and Ready’ constantly. Cozy Powell, who later played drums with Black Sabbath for a while (was it the Dio or Tony Martin era? cant remember), was in the Jeff Beck Group too. After seeing who you had in your Rearview Mirror, I think an additional contender from that era would most defintiely be…ROBIN TROWER. Ever listen to ‘Bridge of Sighs’? One of my favorites.
Oh man, I loved Robin Trower, first when he was with Procol Harum and then on his own. I wore out “Bridge of Sighs” as much as I did “Blow By Blow”. I also went backwards with Beck after his solo stuff, back to The Jeff Beck Group” and The Yardbirds when I realized he had been part of that group.
Oh cool, I forgot Robin Trower was in Procul Harum.
I’ll always love “A Whiter Shade of Pale”, which was what turned me onto Procol Harum. For people who might not know it, here are two videos, the first one from back when the song was released and the second one, which I’d never seen before, of the band playing it in Denmark in 2006 backed by an orchestra and choir (Gary Brooker’s voice still stunning), though Trower wasn’t performing with them at that point.
Cool, thanks. That is a very emotional song, every time.
Flashing back on this post! We saw Jeff Beck live during this tour. (Yep. Just turned 65 ) Also on the bill – Blue Oyster Cult, mahogany Rush, Sammy Hagar, J Geils. Always my favourite Jeff Beck album.
As for Robin Trower…you can’t go wrong with Robin Trower. Especially the first few albums. Check out the Winterland show from ’75 on Youtube. With James Dewar. My first Trower show.
Also, since Mahogany Rush has come up, I HIGHLY recommend the latest Frank Marino Live at the Agora dvd. A 6 hour/3 dvd Frank-fest. Everything you would want to hear from the master. Too bad that there is not more of it on Youtube. Especially ‘It’s begun to Rain’. He hasn’t lost a step. Try this one…
Wow–cool song (the link you sent)! Blues-rock-jazz. I must admit I am not familiar with Mahogany Rush at all. They sound great. Just when you think you know a thing or two about music…
What year was that show you mentioned? early 70s? was sammy hagar around then? and J Geils? damn. Blue Oyster Cult–how were they? I’d have liked to have seen them. They are still active I think.
Thanks for the Robin Trower concert recommendations.
I cannot recommend Frank Marino and Mahogany Rush enough. ‘Strange Universe’ is an absolute must have 70’s guitar album. Also, check out the studio version of Something’s Comin’ Our Way. It has one of the best guitar solos / outros ever (IMHO). Turn that one up.!
The JB show would have been ‘A Day on the Green’. These were concerts put on by Bill Graham at the Oakland Coliseum. The Jeff Beck show was Day on the Green #4 back in 1976. (It seems to me now that JB might have been touring Wired at that time. No matter.) There were some epic shows. You can see them if you check this link.
We saw BoC quite a few times. My first time was back in ’75 maybe. Around the time of Secret Treaties (Their best!). We even won tickets to a special concert intended to be taped for a live album/video at UC Berkeley Zellerbach auditorium. I don’t believe that it was ever released although there used to be bits of it on Youtube. Even when the the BoC albums were not to my taste, we always went to see them. They were always killer live. Check Guitars101 (search Guitars101 Lossless) for some free to download boots. Try the New George’s show. There is also an excellent Trower show from the same venue. I was at both shows.. Yes they are still active. In fact they just released a new album called The Symbol Remains. It definitely has its moments.
Enjoy the Trower show. I still watch it from time to time. Winterland (again Bill Graham) used to tape every act. So there are quite a few excellent shows available. There are two good Styx shows from that time. (Don’t cringe! They rocked.) We were at both.
Great recommendations thanks.
I did see Robin Trower fortunately, in the early 80s.
I bet Blue Oyster Cult was great to see in concert. Somewhere, I swear I saw their latest album on a end-of-year list (maybe Angry Metal Guy, cant remember).
Man, you’re ringing more of those nostalgia chimes in my head. I never got to see any of those performers live in their prime but spent many hours listening to their music. And another ’70s band that just popped into my head is Wishbone Ash, which featured dual lead guitarists Andy Powell and Ted Turner. Reading about that band again just now on Wikipedia I saw this relevant quote from Melody Maker in 1972: “The most interesting two guitar team since the days when Beck and Page graced The Yardbirds.”
Prepare to eat your heart out!
02 April 1976
Winterland, San Francisco, CA
Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Wishbone Ash, Styx
Styx (Give ’em a chance. Feel free to laugh at their clothes though.)
We almost left on BTO but they killed it! Every person in the hall was on their feet for them. Alas, that one is not on Youtube.