Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

Tag: bo diddley

A Problem Custom-Made

I’m not qualified to give advice, but I do like telling people what to do; in this case, my counsel is required. Someone needs to speak to Oteil and warn him off this dangerous path he’s set himself down: custom guitars made from silly shapes can lead to no good.

A short, biased, and incomplete history:

between 1955 and 1960, New York, New York, USA --- Bo Diddley --- Image by © Michael Ochs Archives/Corbis

Bo Diddley was the progenitor of the Ridiculous Guitar, but the cigar-box is not a true Ridiculous Guitar, as RGs require that you be embarrassed for the owner; Bo pulled it off. According to Wikipedia, he came up with this shape after whacking himself in the nuts with a normal guitar. That sounds true enough.

Some will argue that Jimmy Page and his iconic double-neck belong on this list; they do not. First off, a Ridiculous Guitar can’t just be, you know: bought. It has to be designed, and preferably over-designed, and there can only be one of them; the double-neck was a production guitar, the EDS-1275. You could walk into Sam Ash on 46th and buy one: this disqualifies it. Second, Jimmy Page did not look uncool when playing the double-neck. He looked like this:

jimmy page double neck

And that is the opposite of uncool.

Nor does Junior Brown and his trademark guit-steel:

[PDF] Junior Brown at SXSW -

While the guit-steel is certainly silly-looking, it’s 100% functional, and a Ridiculous Guitar prizes aethetics over all. Also, a man dressed that well can play anything he wants and look good doing it.

Others might bring up Rick Nielsen’s five-neck Hamer, but they would be silly simpletons: the five-neck is patently a joke, and therefore not on the cool/uncool spectrum. Even though it’s pretty darn cool:

rick nielsen five neck

I like how they couldn’t figure out what to do on the last neck, and just said, “Fuck it: make it fretless.”

Now, one of Rick’s many, many guitars might fit the definition of a Ridiculous Guitar. It is ludicrously shaped and custom-made and all, but I am making a ruling that Rick Nielsen’s self-awareness pushes this one into the “acceptable” category:

rick nielsen cartoon guitar

That’s just funny. Guy’s playing himself. Also: you see all those picks on the mic stand? Uncle Ricky’s gonna throw ’em in the crowd; folks go home with a souvenir. Cheap Trick’s awesome.

We now leave the realm of the self-aware, and when you think of someone with no self-awareness, you think of Gene Simmons. I’m surprised he’s only sported one Ridiculous Guitar throughout his career, as he’s the perfect candidate: clueless, cheesy, rich, and doesn’t give a shit how the instrument actually sounds.

[PDF] Gene Simmons Axe

That is a bass shaped like an axe; it was called the Axe Bass. Gene is imaginative. (Eagle-eyed gear nerds will note the split headstock: the neck was aluminum just like Garcia’s Travis Bean.) He had his built by a guy, but–of course–licensed out the design and his name, first to Kramer in 1980. They made 175, and if you want of of them, then get to Ebay in the next 27 hours (and bring eight grand).

Gene has since brought the rights to his guitars elsewhere, and you can buy an Axe Bass from him; it comes with a presentation ceremony and meet-and-greet with Gene. Go check out the site, and see if you can find out any information about the instruments. I found page after page about different payment plans, but would be hard-pressed to tell you what kind of pickups the sucker has.

Remember Pat Metheny?

pat methany gutar

Ever see that film of spiders who have been given acid trying to spin webs? (Mickey gave the spiders acid.) This makes the list of Ridiculous Guitars due to arrogance: Miles Davis played a normal trumpet like a human being, but you needed this? Suck my balls, and buy a Strat.

We’ve been beating around the bush, Enthusiasts. Everyone here knows that for the true mainline RG high, you need to use a metal syringe.

This was/is Michael Angelo:

michaelangelo double guitar

In the 80’s, a lot of shredders shredded, but when it came to shredding, Michael Angelo was the garbage truck sized shredder that pulls up to offices and shreds tons of documents at a time. In fact, he played so many notes that he maxed out the potential of one guitar, and had to play two simultaneously. Mr. Angelo was ambidextrous, and could play both guitars at the same time. Should he? I don’t know. But: he could.

Until two guitars weren’t enough.

michaelangelo four guitar

In addition to being a Ridiculous Guitar, Mr. Angelo’s custom whatever-that-thing-is was surprisingly good as a melee weapon, especially against a bat’leth. (Another aside for gear nerds: this monstrosity has Floyd Rose tremolos because that was the law in the 80’s.)

Mr. Angelo was also skilled at sweep picking, which was the thing after two-hand tapping. From four minutes into the first Van Halen record until the mid-80’s, you had to be able to hammer-on and pull-off and make that high-speed burbling noise to be any sort of axe-slinger. The problem with two-handed tapping is that, if done right, it sounds good; sweep picking never has that problem, as it is a distinctly unmusical musical trick. It’s just a stupidly-fast arpeggio, but if you aspired to be the next Reb Beach or Vito Bratta, you had to practice it.

And, of course: Steve Vai.

steve vai heart guitar

Bonus points for the heart theme, instead of just gluing two guitars together, but holy shit. I understand the point of this–making homicidally drunk teenagers holler in a basketball arena–but again: holy shit. Also: hey, Steve Vai, we heard you liked guitars so we put some guitars on your guitars etc.

But the winner is clearly…

michael anthony jack daniels

…and here’s why: because it is, that’s why.

And now that Sammy Hagar is in the Grateful Dead, Michael Anthony will be attending cook-outs and movie nights and he will start discussing basses with Oteil, and then Oteil will show up on stage with a guitar shaped like a giant pot leaf.

This will end poorly.

Hi, Bo Diddley

jerry bobby bo diddley

It’s a small, crappy pic: that’s Bo Diddley, so it must be from 3/28/72, one of the stellar Academy of Music shows they did right before Europe. It was released as Dick’s Pick 31; you should go and listen to it now, if you haven’t the previous 18 times I’ve recommended this run

Cool to see visual evidence of a particular show that you love, to know it all happened, that it wasn’t a hoax like 5/8/77.

Stop that.


Just Like Jack & Jill

The Dead wrote about 135 songs, and did probably half again as many covers, except that doesn’t tell the whole story. Mainly because some songs, they wrote three or four times.

Jack-A-Roe and Peggy-O are–thematically–the same song: doomed love, hyphens, Game of Thrones vibe. Ramble On Rose and ¬†Tennessee Jed are musically the same song, while Ramble On Rose and U.S. Blues are lyrically the same song. Eyes of the World and Help on the Way could be mistaken for each other in a dark alley.

The Dead are lucky that they premiered Iko, Samson, Throwing Stones,and Women are Smarter after their mind-blowing Europe ’72 warm-up show at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (Dick’s Pick 30). Otherwise, jamming with Mr. Diddley might have been a little more awkward. (And if you haven’t checked out this offering, you’re just a sillypants: the first disc* alone is worth the price of admission, featuring the five song Bo Diddley jam, a version of Are You Lonely For Me, Baby that defines “ragged but right,” and the only GD performance of How Sweet It Is**–which is odd, because they really rock the hell out of it, but perhaps the three chord tune was a bit boring for a certain bass player.)

To Lay Me Down, Must Have Been the Roses, and Ship of Fools are identical cousins; Black-Throated Wind and Looks Like Rain a bit more distantly related, but still clearly available to donate organs to one another. (Don’t tell Phil.) Chinatown Shuffle and U.S. Blues aren’t fooling anyone.

Now, don’t take this as any sort of chastisement, of course. Hell, a lot of really, really popular bands ripped themselves off: for example, AC/DC has only written, like, three songs in their entire career, which puts them two ahead of the Ramones.

*I hadn’t listened all the way through that first amazing disc when I wrote this, but you MUST check out the Smokestack Lightning, which is usually kind of a drag, but cooks right here PLUS the added fun of–about 8 minutes in or so–hearing Bobby try again and again to drag the rest of them into Truckin’, but the rest of them are simply not having it.

**I mistakenly thought that Bobby and Garcia played How Sweet It Is on Letterman, but it was actually Second That Emotion, because, in keeping with the theme of the post, they are also pretty much the same song. Check it out, anyway: Garcia with Tiger, Bobby with Pepto Pink, and the MONSTROUS Will Lee holding down the bass and backup vocals.

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