Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It Might Get Loud...

I just saw the movie, "It Might Get Loud," starring The Edge, Jimmy Page and Jack White. I did not read any reviews, had no idea what it was about, and walked into the theatre like a blind man seeking out air conditioning on a hot, humid Louisiana afternoon..."Is this the place? Is this where I can seek temporary refuge?" Yes it is!! This movie reminded me once again of why I am a musician and proud of it. From the moment the first frame spun, I felt like I was in Church. My eyes filled with tears every 10 minutes or so and I could nearly contain myself from my own overwhelming sense of gratitude and awe reassured with a long-lost bear hug of "It's gonna be OK kid, you're home now." My jaw unhinged at every uncanny resemblance, and my hair stood on end every time the guitar picks touched the strings. EVERY TIME. I don't want to give away the entire movie, but I would like to talk about how the movie affected me and my personal relationship with each of these artists’s body of work.

First, I want to talk about The Edge. I have been an avid U2 fan since I first heard them and I truly believe that because of his willingness to explore the nether-regions of soundscape he paved the way for other bands like Radiohead to do the same. He pulls out an old box of cassette tapes, stating, “I have no idea what's in here.." and they happen to be the demos of his famous chilling intro ideas for "The Streets Have No Name." That alone was worth the price of admission. That intro has to be one of the most dynamic, explosive, yet ethereal intros ever written in the history of music. He craves to discover new ways to project and distort the amplified guitar sound and has long gotten over his fear that he may be "just a guitarist." He takes us back to the school hallway where Larry first posted a flyer looking for band mates , and the classroom where they used to practice. The band had no tolerance for the violence and the economic depression that was forced upon Dublin in the 70's and 80's and therefore made up their mind to not play the game and rise above they did. Being of Irish descent myself, it was hard to hear of what was happening in Ireland at that time, and when we would visit, we were blocks away from bombings. The band used music to elevate consciousness and we all listened. He recalls going into the studio to record their first big release, and trying to explain to the producer that the guitar he was holding was the only guitar the band owned, and therefore, couldn't get all these "other sounds" the studio was trying to pull out of him. A monster was created and well, we all know how that story ends, don't we?

Let's talk about Jimmy Page. I am going to be really honest about this one. I LOVE Jimmy Page but I can't stand Robert Plant's whiny, nasal voice. Therefore, not a huge Zeppelin fan. There are some songs dear to my heart where he doesn't annoy me, like "Thank you," but I wish I could purchase every Led Zeppelin recording sans vocals. I even have a rule in the van, "NO LED ZEPPELIN, unless Robert Plant is not singing." Jimmy Page came along and single-handedly placed a 'mystical' component into rock n roll. I listen to what he did with Zeppelin, and I can't help but deduct that at times the guy was channeling! I love his work in The Yardbirds as well, but what was really touching was his story about the moment he decided to quit being a studio musician. He was a VERY accomplished studio musician, and what most may not realize, is that when you are constantly being asked to play every single different genre of music immediately upon request with perfect accuracy, well... it evolves you into a badass . It pushes you even closer towards mastery of your craft. I sing on commercials and I learned this firsthand and consider my studio experience essential to my sense of discipline and professionalism, as well as my ability to sing just about anything, very, very well. When he realized that his sessions had morphed into soulless muzak, he trustingly abandoned ship, taking his chops, versatility and soul with him. When you listen to Page talk, you can feel his discipline and his kindness, and when he puts on a Link Wray record, it's as if he morphs into a schoolboy, so excited that not even he can put into words the energy and emotion raining upon him. So,.. he plays air guitar. I don't think another guitar player can receive a higher salute than that. Jimmy Page will always be considered one of the greatest, most inventive guitar players that ever lived, and to witness how humble and open-minded he remains to this day, well, that probably explains why he seems so genuinely happy and looks younger than his true age.

Jack White. What can I say? Being from Cleveland, I have to say that I am partial to supporting a fellow North-Coaster from 2 ½ hours away with humble beginnings and a relentless flair for breaking the rules. I was unsure if he was trying to re-create The Flat Duo Jets with The White Stripes, but falling in love with his delivery as well as watching him give credit to Dexter Romweber for inspiration, my front and back door are still open. But, what I had always sensed, but was not sure of, was, "Does Jack White have the blues?" The answer to that question is, "FUCK YES." White boy got the fucking blues yo. If he and Nick Curran played a night at the Continental Club together, everyone in the whole damn place would go blind. Bring canes. I want to write a song with THAT guy. People can say what they want and have their opinions about every type of music, why they don't like this band or that band, or who rules and who sucks,...but no one can ever say that Jack White doesn't have soul. Little brother gets it, has more soul and is more in touch with Blues roots than most of his Black “chart mates” and would spend his last few dollars on strings or a weird thrift store musical find over a sandwich. Guaranteed. I have a new found respect for him and couldn't help but beam with pride over his reel to reel skills and vinyl collection. I am a hardcore LP collector and one who still believes that The Stones should be listened to on vinyl with the lights off. But when you throw on an old Howlin' Wolf or Son House record to the tune of 2009, that makes you a seeker. The true musician has an unsatisfied hunger to recreate the feeling they get when they and the music are one, when the song speaks for them. Wanting to be there in the exact moment that the song was written and recorded. Challenging yourself to experience your instrument in a new way to create chaos, tension and birth. These are things Jack White understands. He lives on the cutting edge of creation. (I hear that the view is always best from the edge.) Something that he talks about which is so important, is the moment that he realized he could break the rules. He had this revelation while listening to Son House, and I had the revelation while watching Diamanda Galas perform live. At that moment you realize how big you are and that you haven't even scratched the surface. The world never looks the same again and your writing changes forever. When you throw out the rules, you allow the divine to possess you, (if you've got the guts.) Jack's got the guts and so do I. I feel a song coming on... needless to say, I have gotten out my White Stripes records.

In closing, my favorite part was watching the whisper of "someone pinch me" twinkling in the eyes of The Edge and Jack White while they strummed along with Jimmy Page. Three generations of pioneers sharing moments together, in their own language and cadence, bonded by passion for the unexplainable force that one feels while creating a perfect musical moment with another. I call it "home." Go see the movie, support the vision,(in this fast-food digital society of compressed mp3's), and break the rules. We must protect our heroes. Amen.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, what you said about Led Zepplin was spot-on. When I was touring, I had a similar rule: "No Zepplin, Beatles, or The Grateful Dead". People often looked at me in bewilderment because I cannot stand Robert Plant. Especially with my upbringing. They were my dad's fav band (next to the Beatles) and he always played them. I remember telling my 3rd grade teacher (music) that Zepplin (her fav) would be much better without the singer.
    Now as a pseudo-musician I can go on and on about Jimmy Page. But, I will stop there because you summed it up pretty damn well.