Bob Seger, left, and his Silver Bullet Band in London in 1977 (from second to left: Drew Abbott, Robyn Robbins, Alto Reed, Chris Campbell and Charlie Allen Martin). Malcolm Clarke/Getty Images


“[Bob] Seger’s absence from digital services, combined with the gradual disappearance of even physical copies of half his catalog, suggest a rare level of indifference to his legacy,” Tim Quirk wrote for NPR Music in late March in his feature, “Where Have All The Bob Seger Albums Gone?”
Today, much of Seger’s music has finally arrived in the digital realm, and so half of that late-career dereliction — whether by design or overly tightened professional security — is now erased. Taylor who?
No less than 13 of Seger’s previously unavailable albums — Beautiful Loser, Night Moves, Live Bullet, Stranger In Town, Nine Tonight, Against The Wind, The Distance, Greatest Hits, Like A Rock, Greatest Hits 2, The Fire Inside, Ultimate Hits and Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man — are now available on most major streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, but notably excluding both Pandora Premium and Tidal.
Unlike many streaming holdouts, the vast majority of Seger’s music — even his bestselling Greatest Hits — was also never available to purchase as digital files. Compounding the problem, physical copies of many of his greatest albums also remain difficult to find, though some of Seger’s albums, including Greatest Hits and his 1968 debut, Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man, are now being reissued on vinyl.

“[Bob] Seger’s absence from digital services, combined with the gradual disappearance of even physical copies of half his catalog, suggest a rare level of indifference to his legacy,” Tim Quirk wrote for NPR Music in late March in his feature, “Where Have All The Bob Seger Albums Gone?”

Today, much of Seger’s music has finally arrived in the digital realm, and so half of that late-career dereliction — whether by design or overly tightened professional security — is now erased. Taylor who?
No less than 13 of Seger’s previously unavailable albums — Beautiful Loser, Night Moves, Live Bullet, Stranger In Town, Nine Tonight, Against The Wind, The Distance, Greatest Hits, Like A Rock, Greatest Hits 2, The Fire Inside, Ultimate Hits and Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man — are now available on most major streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, but notably excluding both Pandora Premium and Tidal.
Unlike many streaming holdouts, the vast majority of Seger’s music — even his bestselling Greatest Hits — was also never available to purchase as digital files. Compounding the problem, physical copies of many of his greatest albums also remain difficult to find, though some of Seger’s albums, including Greatest Hits and his 1968 debut, Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man, are now being reissued on vinyl.

By Andrew Flanagan

Bob Seger’s Music Finally Arrives Online

On the heels of his historic induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame (and amid unconfirmed rumors of new arrivals to his family), Jay Z has announced his thirteenth solo studio album, 4:44, to be released on June 30.
The album was announced jointly through a Sprint promotion in partnership with Tidal and will be initially exclusive to that streaming platform. Jay Z purchased Tidal and unforgettably relaunched it in early 2015. Earlier this year, Sprint bought a $200 million stake in the streaming service, which Jay Z purchased for $56 million.
Little is known of 4:44 outside of a promising 30-second-long promotional video for the song “Adnis,” below, which stars Moonlight’s Mahershala Ali playing a boxer shot in high contrast, while Jay Z laments:
“Letter to my dad / that I never wrote / Speeches I prepared that I never spoke / Words on a paper that I never read / Proses never penned they stayed in my head.”

The beat under Jay here is steadfastly Los Angeles, a wobbling time signature and twinkling, lush-and-frenetic instrumentation, anchored by a Lynchian vocal line. (No need to rush to Sprint and Tidal just yet, however — “Adnis,” both the song and video, are still only available as a sample even to subscribers.)
Article continues after sponsorship
In addition to offering new Sprint customers a six-month trial of Tidal’s HiFi tier — which offers higher-fidelity streams than competitors, though, as we’ve noted before, the devices you use have a huge effect on its sonic efficacy — Sprint is using the cross-promotion to tout its 1Million Project, which will provide high school students with wireless Internet devices and unlimited access. The initiative launched a pilot program earlier this year to 4,000 students in five districts, five schools and through one non-profit initiative. There are 15 million students in public high school in the U.S. according to the National Center for Education Statistics, which means the program could eventually provide 6.6 percent of U.S. high school students with reliable web access.

Jay Z Announces New Album, ‘4:44’

Anita Pallenberg, sitting outside the Excelsior Hotel in Venice alongside Keith Richards in 1967. Archivio Cameraphoto Epoche/Getty Images


Arguably, no single rock musician has had a greater ripple effect on both men’s and women’s fashion than Keith Richards. Things that shouldn’t have made sense — from Nudie suits and scarves as belts, to cheetah-prints and graphic striped trousers mixed with polka dots — always looked effortless on him. Unbeknownst to many at the time, it was Anita Pallenberg’s closet from which Richard was pulling.
“As a kid I wanted to dress like Keith Richards, I wasn’t at all interested in women’s fashion, it was guys in bands I wanted to emulate,” British designer Pamela Hogg tells NPR Music. “But it was a long time before I realized Anita was behind all these great looks, they couldn’t help but be influenced by her amazing sense of style, it was contagious.” She and Pallenberg would eventually connect in a coffee shop in Paris in the 1980’s, and their friendship would result in Pallenberg walking Hogg’s runway during London Fashion Week in 2016.
When Pallenberg, a German-Italian actress and model, died last week at 73 she was remembered foremost, if headlines are any guide, as The Rolling Stones’ “muse and rock-star girlfriend of Keith Richards. She was, clearly, much more than that — an icon and creator in her own right, the baddest of the bad girls, an incendiary force who helped the Stones become the Stones. Pallenberg was the one who shook the shy, awkward schoolboys out of the band’s system and helped extricate their inner outlaws. The truth is, it’s hard to imagine what the Rolling Stones would have would have looked like had Pallenberg never made her way backstage at a show in 1965.

Keith Richards with Anita Pallenberg in 1970. Mark and Colleen Hayward/Redferns

Anita Pallenberg, sitting outside the Excelsior Hotel in Venice alongside Keith Richards in 1967.

Archivio Cameraphoto Epoche/Getty Images

Arguably, no single rock musician has had a greater ripple effect on both men’s and women’s fashion than Keith Richards. Things that shouldn’t have made sense — from Nudie suits and scarves as belts, to cheetah-prints and graphic striped trousers mixed with polka dots — always looked effortless on him. Unbeknownst to many at the time, it was Anita Pallenberg’s closet from which Richard was pulling.
“As a kid I wanted to dress like Keith Richards, I wasn’t at all interested in women’s fashion, it was guys in bands I wanted to emulate,” British designer Pamela Hogg tells NPR Music. “But it was a long time before I realized Anita was behind all these great looks, they couldn’t help but be influenced by her amazing sense of style, it was contagious.” She and Pallenberg would eventually connect in a coffee shop in Paris in the 1980’s, and their friendship would result in Pallenberg walking Hogg’s runway during London Fashion Week in 2016.
When Pallenberg, a German-Italian actress and model, died last week at 73 she was remembered foremost, if headlines are any guide, as The Rolling Stones’ “muse and rock-star girlfriend of Keith Richards. She was, clearly, much more than that — an icon and creator in her own right, the baddest of the bad girls, an incendiary force who helped the Stones become the Stones. Pallenberg was the one who shook the shy, awkward schoolboys out of the band’s system and helped extricate their inner outlaws. The truth is, it’s hard to imagine what the Rolling Stones would have would have looked like had Pallenberg never made her way backstage at a show in 1965.

By the time she moved into an apartment with then-guitarist Brian Jones in 1966, The Rolling Stones had ditched its matching houndstooth coats for a mix of tailored blazers, skinny ties, slacks and polo shirts, in an attempt to out-fab the Fab Four. “The Beatles are all over the place, like a bag of f****** fleas, right? And you’ve got another good band. The thing is not to try and regurgitate the Beatles. So we’re going to have to be the anti-Beatles,” Richards wrote in his 2010 memoir, Life.
From feathered boas, furs, satins and velvets, Pallenberg’s extravagant and imaginative style quickly became the band’s own. “[Anita and Brian] were both dauntless shoppers and excessively vain. Hours and hours were spent putting on clothes and taking them off again. Heaps of scarves, hats, shirts and boots flew out of drawers and trunks. Unending trying on of outfits, primping and sashaying,” Marianne Faithfull, a close friend of Pallenberg’s, wrote in her 2010 autobiography, Faithfull. “I would sit mesmerized for hours, watching them preening in the mirror, trying on each other’s clothes. All roles and gender would evaporate in these narcissistic performances where Anita would turn Brian into the Sun King, Francoise Hardy or the mirror image of herself.”
The contrast of the Stones’ raw, blues-inflected sound with the decadence of their appearance would transform the band into cultural icons, not just pop stars. And unlike artists who come up with new looks for different album cycles, once the Stones began following Pallenberg’s lead, they continued cultivating that singular look for the decades to come. Within the band’s style entity, individual members had nuances — shimmying Mick Jagger, for example, was the more flamboyant of the bunch, while Charlie Watts opted for a more tailored look.
Like Faithfull, who wrote that Pallenberg was “dazzling, beautiful, hypnotic and unsettling” and that “other women evaporated next to her,” Hogg concedes that, more than the clothes themselves, it was Pallenberg’s spirit that made her such a phenomenon. “Her personality made her style work, she was a free spirit with only her rules to follow or break. She had natural style, you can’t buy that. You instantly knew you were in the company of a caliber woman.”

Anita Pallenberg Was No Simple Muse

Prodigy, one-half of iconic New York rap duo Mobb Deep, has died, according to a statement provided to NPR by a publicist for the group. The statement goes on to say that the rapper, born Albert Johnson, was hospitalized “a few days ago in Vegas after a Mobb Deep performance for complications caused by sickle cell anemia crisis.” Johnson battled the disease throughout his lifetime. He was 42 years old. No cause of death is known at this time.
The emcee was best known for crafting narratives of struggle and survival, depicting New York in the depths of the crack era, but he had music flowing through his veins from the beginning.
Prodigy On Mobb Deep’s Early Days And Protecting His Success

MICROPHONE CHECK

Prodigy On Mobb Deep’s Early Days And Protecting His Success

Prodigy’s mother, Fatima Johnson, was a member of the ’60s R&B group The Crystals, and also served as Mobb Deep’s first manager. When she passed, on Christmas Eve, 2016, Prodigy publicly eulogized her on Instagram: “I want to take a moment and salute this beautiful soul. Fatima Johnson, may u Rest In Peace,” he wrote. “There wouldn’t be a Mobb Deep without you literally!! Our first manager, our first support team and believed in us when no one else did! You’ll always always be remembered.”
Prodigy co-founded the Queens-based Mobb Deep in the early ’90s, alongside partner Havoc (Kejuan Muchita). The two became synonymous with a brand of East Coast gangsta rap that represented the ill street blues, grit and grime of pre-gentrified New York City, debuting with Juvenile Hell in 1993. But it was their 1995 follow-up, The Infamous, that cemented their image and legacy. The music was dark, with eerie undertones that reflected the environmental hazards and criminal exploits of day-to-day living in the hood.

“New York got a n**** depressed / so I wear a slug-proof underneath my Guess,” Prodigy rapped on 1995’s “Survival of the Fittest.”
The Queensbridge Houses from which they hailed and represented on record are the same, storied projects that nurtured hip-hop legends Marley Marl, MC Shan, Roxanne Shante, and Mobb Deep contemporaries Nas, Cormega, Nature, Tragedy Khadafi, and more. Like the projects, Mobb Deep’s discography stands as a testament to the socioeconomic conditions into which they were born and bred.
“I got you stuck off the realness / we be the infamous / you heard of us / official Queensbridge murderers,” Prodigy raps in their most memorable song, “Shook Ones Pt. II.” Other classics among Mobb Deep’s eight-album discography include “Quiet Storm,” the duo’s 1999 collaboration with Lil’ Kim.
In recent years, Prodigy had parlayed a prison sentence into a solo career, an autobiography (My Infamous Life) — even a cookbook. Released in 2016, Commissary Kitchen: My Infamous Prison Cookbook highlighted the ingenuity he exercised to eat healthy while serving a three-and-a-half year sentence for gun possession.

Prodigy had been in Las Vegas, where Mobb Deep performed over the weekend as part of the Art of Rap tour, featuring other legendary acts Onyx, Ghostface Killah, KRS-One, and Ice-T.

Mobb Deep’s Prodigy Dies At 42

By Geoff Exgers June 22, 2017

The convention couldn’t sound less rock-and-roll — the National Association of Music Merchants Show. But when the doors open at the Anaheim Convention Center, people stream in to scour rows of Fenders, Les Pauls and the oddball, custom-built creations such as the 5-foot-4-inch mermaid guitar crafted of 15 kinds of wood.
Standing in the center of the biggest, six-string candy store in the United States, you can almost believe all is well within the guitar world.
Except if, like George Gruhn, you know better. The 71-year-old Nashville dealer has sold guitars to Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Paul McCartney and Taylor Swift. Walking through NAMM with Gruhn is like shadowing Bill Belichick at the NFL Scouting Combine. There is great love for the product and great skepticism. What others might see as a boom — the seemingly endless line of manufacturers showcasing instruments — Gruhn sees as two trains on a collision course.
“There are more makers now than ever before in the history of the instrument, but the market is not growing,” Gruhn says in a voice that flutters between a groan and a grumble. “I’m not all doomsday, but this — this is not sustainable.”

The numbers back him up. In the past decade, electric guitar sales have plummeted, from about 1.5 million sold annually to just over 1 million. The two biggest companies, Gibson and Fender, are in debt, and a third, PRS Guitars, had to cut staff and expand production of cheaper guitars. In April, Moody’s downgraded Guitar Center, the largest chain retailer, as it faces $1.6 billion in debt. And at Sweetwater.com, the online retailer, a brand-new, interest-free Fender can be had for as little as $8 a month.
What worries Gruhn is not simply that profits are down. That happens in business. He’s concerned by the “why” behind the sales decline. When he opened his store 46 years ago, everyone wanted to be a guitar god, inspired by the men who roamed the concert stage, including Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana and Jimmy Page. Now those boomers are retiring, downsizing and adjusting to fixed incomes. They’re looking to shed, not add to, their collections, and the younger generation isn’t stepping in to replace them.

Gruhn knows why.

“What we need is guitar heroes,” he says.

He is asked about Clapton, who himself recently downsized his collection. Gruhn sold 29 of his guitars.
“Eric Clapton is my age,” he says.
How about Creed’s Mark Tremonti, Joe Bonamassa, John Mayer? He shakes his head.
“John Mayer?” he asks. “You don’t see a bunch of kids emulating John Mayer and listening to him and wanting to pick up a guitar because of him.”
Guitar heroes. They arrived with the first wave of rock-and-roll. Chuck Berry duckwalking across the big screen. Scotty Moore’s reverb-soaked Gibson on Elvis’s Sun records. Link Wray, with his biker cool, blasting through “Rumble” in 1958.

That instrumental wasn’t a technical feat. It required just four chords. But four chords were enough for Jimmy Page.
“That was something that had so much profound attitude to it,” Page told Jack White and the Edge in the 2009 documentary “It Might Get Loud.”
The ’60s brought a wave of white blues — Clapton, Jeff Beck, Keith Richards — as well as the theatrics of the guitar-smashing Pete Townshend and the sonic revolutionary Hendrix.
McCartney saw Hendrix play at the Bag O’Nails club in London in 1967. He thinks back on those days fondly and, in his sets today, picks up a left-handed Les Paul to jam through Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady.”
“The electric guitar was new and fascinatingly exciting in a period before Jimi and immediately after,” the former Beatle says wistfully in a recent interview. “So you got loads of great players emulating guys like B.B. King and Buddy Guy, and you had a few generations there.”
He pauses.
“Now, it’s more electronic music and kids listen differently,” McCartney says. “They don’t have guitar heroes like you and I did.”
[Meet the critic who panned Sgt. Pepper]
Nirvana was huge when the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, 38, was growing up.
“And everybody wanted a guitar,” he says. “This is not surprising. It has to do with what’s in the Top 20.”
Living Colour’s Vernon Reid agrees but also speaks to a larger shift. He remembers being inspired when he heard Santana on the radio. “There was a culture of guitar playing, and music was central,” adds Reid, 58. “A record would come out and you would hear about that record, and you would make the journey. There was a certain investment in time and resources.”

Why my guitar gently weeps

The slow, secret death of the six-string electric. And why you should care.
By Geoff Edgers

June 22, 2017

The convention couldn’t sound less rock-and-roll — the National Association of Music Merchants Show. But when the doors open at the Anaheim Convention Center, people stream in to scour rows of Fenders, Les Pauls and the oddball, custom-built creations such as the 5-foot-4-inch mermaid guitar crafted of 15 kinds of wood.
Standing in the center of the biggest, six-string candy store in the United States, you can almost believe all is well within the guitar world.
Except if, like George Gruhn, you know better. The 71-year-old Nashville dealer has sold guitars to Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Paul McCartney and Taylor Swift. Walking through NAMM with Gruhn is like shadowing Bill Belichick at the NFL Scouting Combine. There is great love for the product and great skepticism. What others might see as a boom — the seemingly endless line of manufacturers showcasing instruments — Gruhn sees as two trains on a collision course.
“There are more makers now than ever before in the history of the instrument, but the market is not growing,” Gruhn says in a voice that flutters between a groan and a grumble. “I’m not all doomsday, but this — this is not sustainable.”

The numbers back him up. In the past decade, electric guitar sales have plummeted, from about 1.5 million sold annually to just over 1 million. The two biggest companies, Gibson and Fender, are in debt, and a third, PRS Guitars, had to cut staff and expand production of cheaper guitars. In April, Moody’s downgraded Guitar Center, the largest chain retailer, as it faces $1.6 billion in debt. And at Sweetwater.com, the online retailer, a brand-new, interest-free Fender can be had for as little as $8 a month.
What worries Gruhn is not simply that profits are down. That happens in business. He’s concerned by the “why” behind the sales decline. When he opened his store 46 years ago, everyone wanted to be a guitar god, inspired by the men who roamed the concert stage, including Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana and Jimmy Page. Now those boomers are retiring, downsizing and adjusting to fixed incomes. They’re looking to shed, not add to, their collections, and the younger generation isn’t stepping in to replace them.
Gruhn knows why.

“What we need is guitar heroes,” he says.

He is asked about Clapton, who himself recently downsized his collection. Gruhn sold 29 of his guitars.

“Eric Clapton is my age,” he says.

How about Creed’s Mark Tremonti, Joe Bonamassa, John Mayer? He shakes his head.
“John Mayer?” he asks. “You don’t see a bunch of kids emulating John Mayer and listening to him and wanting to pick up a guitar because of him.”
Guitar heroes. They arrived with the first wave of rock-and-roll. Chuck Berry duckwalking across the big screen. Scotty Moore’s reverb-soaked Gibson on Elvis’s Sun records. Link Wray, with his biker cool, blasting through “Rumble” in 1958.
‘Rock is the Devil’s music’ Play Video3:31
 

Living Colour’s Vernon Reid and The Post’s Geoff Edgers deconstruct some of rock’s most iconic guitar riffs, from “Cult of Personality” to “Back in Black.” (Erin Patrick O’Connor/The Washington Post)

That instrumental wasn’t a technical feat. It required just four chords. But four chords were enough for Jimmy Page.
“That was something that had so much profound attitude to it,” Page told Jack White and the Edge in the 2009 documentary “It Might Get Loud.”
The ’60s brought a wave of white blues — Clapton, Jeff Beck, Keith Richards — as well as the theatrics of the guitar-smashing Pete Townshend and the sonic revolutionary Hendrix.
McCartney saw Hendrix play at the Bag O’Nails club in London in 1967. He thinks back on those days fondly and, in his sets today, picks up a left-handed Les Paul to jam through Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady.”
“The electric guitar was new and fascinatingly exciting in a period before Jimi and immediately after,” the former Beatle says wistfully in a recent interview. “So you got loads of great players emulating guys like B.B. King and Buddy Guy, and you had a few generations there.”
He pauses.
“Now, it’s more electronic music and kids listen differently,” McCartney says. “They don’t have guitar heroes like you and I did.”
[Meet the critic who panned Sgt. Pepper]
Nirvana was huge when the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, 38, was growing up.
“And everybody wanted a guitar,” he says. “This is not surprising. It has to do with what’s in the Top 20.”
Living Colour’s Vernon Reid agrees but also speaks to a larger shift. He remembers being inspired when he heard Santana on the radio. “There was a culture of guitar playing, and music was central,” adds Reid, 58. “A record would come out and you would hear about that record, and you would make the journey. There was a certain investment in time and resources.”
The spell of Hendrix and Santana Play Video3:16

Vernon Reid found the music of Jimi Hendrix after he discovered Carlos Santana. He talks with The Post’s Geoff Edgers about how the two guitar icons influenced his playing style. (Erin Patrick O’Connor/The Washington Post)

Lita Ford, also 58, remembers curling up on the couch one night in 1977 to watch Cheap Trick on “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert.” She was 19 and her band, the Runaways, had played gigs with them.
“It was just a different world,” Ford says. “There was ‘Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert,’ Ed Sullivan, Dick Clark, and they would have one band on and you would wait all week to see who that band was going to be. And you could talk about it all week long with your friends — ‘Saturday night, Deep Purple’s going to be on, what are they going to play?’ — and then everybody’s around the TV like you’re watching a football game.”
By the ’80s, when Ford went solo and cracked the Top 40, she became one of the few female guitar heroes on a playlist packed with men, including Stevie Ray Vaughan, Joe Satriani and Eddie Van Halen.
Guitar culture was pervasive, whether in movie houses (“Karate Kid” Ralph Macchio outdueling Steve Vai in the 1986 movie “Crossroads”; Michael J. Fox playing a blistering solo in “Back to the Future” and co-starring with Joan Jett in 1987’s rock-band drama “Light of Day”) or on MTV and the older, concert films featuring the Who and Led Zeppelin on seemingly endless repeats.
But there were already hints of the change to come, of the evolutions in music technology that would eventually compete with the guitar. In 1979, Tascam’s Portastudio 144 arrived on the market, allowing anybody with a microphone and a patch cord to record with multiple tracks. (Bruce Springsteen used a Portastudio for 1982’s “Nebraska.”) In 1981, Oberheim introduced the DMX drum machine, revolutionizing hip-hop.
So instead of Hendrix or Santana, Linkin Park’s Brad Delson drew his inspiration from Run-DMC’s “Raising Hell,” the crossover smash released in 1986. Delson, whose band recently landed atop the charts with an album notably light on guitar, doesn’t look at the leap from ax men to DJs as a bad thing.
“Music is music,” he says. “These guys are all musical heroes, whatever cool instrument they play. And today, they’re gravitating toward programming beats on an Ableton. I don’t think that’s any less creative as playing bass. I’m open to the evolution as it unfolds. Musical genius is musical genius. It just takes different forms.”

An industry responds:

Tell that to Guitar Center, now $1.6 billion in debt and so fearful of publicity that a spokeswoman would only make an executive available for an interview on one condition: “He cannot discuss financials or politics under any circumstances.” (No thanks.)
Richard Ash, the chief executive of Sam Ash, the largest chain of family-owned music stores in the country, isn’t afraid to state the obvious.
“Our customers are getting older, and they’re going to be gone soon,” he says.
Over the past three years, Gibson’s annual revenue has fallen from $2.1 billion to $1.7 billion, according to data gathered by Music Trades magazine. The company’s 2014 purchase of Philips’s audio division for $135 million led to debt — how much, the company won’t say — and a Moody’s downgrading last year. Fender, which had to abandon a public offering in 2012, has fallen from $675 million in revenue to $545 million. It has cut its debt in recent years, but it remains at $100 million.
[How much did this guitar story cost me? $2, 376.99.]
And starting in 2010, the industry witnessed a milestone that would have been unthinkable during the hair-metal era: Acoustic models began to outsell electric.
Still, the leaders of Gibson, Fender and PRS say they have not given up.
“The death of the guitar, to paraphrase Mark Twain, is greatly exaggerated,” says Fender’s chief executive, Andy Mooney.
He says that the company has a strategy designed to reach millennials. The key, Mooney says, is to get more beginners to stick with an instrument they often abandon within a year. To that end, in July the company will launch a subscription-based service it says will change the way new guitarists learn to play through a series of online tools.

Why my guitar gently weeps

The slow, secret death of the six-string electric. And why you should care.
By Geoff Edgers

June 22, 2017

The convention couldn’t sound less rock-and-roll — the National Association of Music Merchants Show. But when the doors open at the Anaheim Convention Center, people stream in to scour rows of Fenders, Les Pauls and the oddball, custom-built creations such as the 5-foot-4-inch mermaid guitar crafted of 15 kinds of wood.
Standing in the center of the biggest, six-string candy store in the United States, you can almost believe all is well within the guitar world.
Except if, like George Gruhn, you know better. The 71-year-old Nashville dealer has sold guitars to Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Paul McCartney and Taylor Swift. Walking through NAMM with Gruhn is like shadowing Bill Belichick at the NFL Scouting Combine. There is great love for the product and great skepticism. What others might see as a boom — the seemingly endless line of manufacturers showcasing instruments — Gruhn sees as two trains on a collision course.
“There are more makers now than ever before in the history of the instrument, but the market is not growing,” Gruhn says in a voice that flutters between a groan and a grumble. “I’m not all doomsday, but this — this is not sustainable.”

The numbers back him up. In the past decade, electric guitar sales have plummeted, from about 1.5 million sold annually to just over 1 million. The two biggest companies, Gibson and Fender, are in debt, and a third, PRS Guitars, had to cut staff and expand production of cheaper guitars. In April, Moody’s downgraded Guitar Center, the largest chain retailer, as it faces $1.6 billion in debt. And at Sweetwater.com, the online retailer, a brand-new, interest-free Fender can be had for as little as $8 a month.
What worries Gruhn is not simply that profits are down. That happens in business. He’s concerned by the “why” behind the sales decline. When he opened his store 46 years ago, everyone wanted to be a guitar god, inspired by the men who roamed the concert stage, including Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana and Jimmy Page. Now those boomers are retiring, downsizing and adjusting to fixed incomes. They’re looking to shed, not add to, their collections, and the younger generation isn’t stepping in to replace them.
Gruhn knows why.
“What we need is guitar heroes,” he says.
[Geoff Edgers’s Spotify playlist of guitar heroes you better know]
He is asked about Clapton, who himself recently downsized his collection. Gruhn sold 29 of his guitars.
“Eric Clapton is my age,” he says.
How about Creed’s Mark Tremonti, Joe Bonamassa, John Mayer? He shakes his head.
“John Mayer?” he asks. “You don’t see a bunch of kids emulating John Mayer and listening to him and wanting to pick up a guitar because of him.”
Guitar heroes. They arrived with the first wave of rock-and-roll. Chuck Berry duckwalking across the big screen. Scotty Moore’s reverb-soaked Gibson on Elvis’s Sun records. Link Wray, with his biker cool, blasting through “Rumble” in 1958.
‘Rock is the Devil’s music’ Play Video3:31
 

Living Colour’s Vernon Reid and The Post’s Geoff Edgers deconstruct some of rock’s most iconic guitar riffs, from “Cult of Personality” to “Back in Black.” (Erin Patrick O’Connor/The Washington Post)

That instrumental wasn’t a technical feat. It required just four chords. But four chords were enough for Jimmy Page.
“That was something that had so much profound attitude to it,” Page told Jack White and the Edge in the 2009 documentary “It Might Get Loud.”
The ’60s brought a wave of white blues — Clapton, Jeff Beck, Keith Richards — as well as the theatrics of the guitar-smashing Pete Townshend and the sonic revolutionary Hendrix.
McCartney saw Hendrix play at the Bag O’Nails club in London in 1967. He thinks back on those days fondly and, in his sets today, picks up a left-handed Les Paul to jam through Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady.”
“The electric guitar was new and fascinatingly exciting in a period before Jimi and immediately after,” the former Beatle says wistfully in a recent interview. “So you got loads of great players emulating guys like B.B. King and Buddy Guy, and you had a few generations there.”
He pauses.
“Now, it’s more electronic music and kids listen differently,” McCartney says. “They don’t have guitar heroes like you and I did.”
[Meet the critic who panned Sgt. Pepper]
Nirvana was huge when the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, 38, was growing up.
“And everybody wanted a guitar,” he says. “This is not surprising. It has to do with what’s in the Top 20.”
Living Colour’s Vernon Reid agrees but also speaks to a larger shift. He remembers being inspired when he heard Santana on the radio. “There was a culture of guitar playing, and music was central,” adds Reid, 58. “A record would come out and you would hear about that record, and you would make the journey. There was a certain investment in time and resources.”
The spell of Hendrix and Santana Play Video3:16

Vernon Reid found the music of Jimi Hendrix after he discovered Carlos Santana. He talks with The Post’s Geoff Edgers about how the two guitar icons influenced his playing style. (Erin Patrick O’Connor/The Washington Post)

Lita Ford, also 58, remembers curling up on the couch one night in 1977 to watch Cheap Trick on “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert.” She was 19 and her band, the Runaways, had played gigs with them.
“It was just a different world,” Ford says. “There was ‘Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert,’ Ed Sullivan, Dick Clark, and they would have one band on and you would wait all week to see who that band was going to be. And you could talk about it all week long with your friends — ‘Saturday night, Deep Purple’s going to be on, what are they going to play?’ — and then everybody’s around the TV like you’re watching a football game.”
By the ’80s, when Ford went solo and cracked the Top 40, she became one of the few female guitar heroes on a playlist packed with men, including Stevie Ray Vaughan, Joe Satriani and Eddie Van Halen.
Guitar culture was pervasive, whether in movie houses (“Karate Kid” Ralph Macchio outdueling Steve Vai in the 1986 movie “Crossroads”; Michael J. Fox playing a blistering solo in “Back to the Future” and co-starring with Joan Jett in 1987’s rock-band drama “Light of Day”) or on MTV and the older, concert films featuring the Who and Led Zeppelin on seemingly endless repeats.
But there were already hints of the change to come, of the evolutions in music technology that would eventually compete with the guitar. In 1979, Tascam’s Portastudio 144 arrived on the market, allowing anybody with a microphone and a patch cord to record with multiple tracks. (Bruce Springsteen used a Portastudio for 1982’s “Nebraska.”) In 1981, Oberheim introduced the DMX drum machine, revolutionizing hip-hop.
So instead of Hendrix or Santana, Linkin Park’s Brad Delson drew his inspiration from Run-DMC’s “Raising Hell,” the crossover smash released in 1986. Delson, whose band recently landed atop the charts with an album notably light on guitar, doesn’t look at the leap from ax men to DJs as a bad thing.
“Music is music,” he says. “These guys are all musical heroes, whatever cool instrument they play. And today, they’re gravitating toward programming beats on an Ableton. I don’t think that’s any less creative as playing bass. I’m open to the evolution as it unfolds. Musical genius is musical genius. It just takes different forms.”
An industry responds

Tell that to Guitar Center, now $1.6 billion in debt and so fearful of publicity that a spokeswoman would only make an executive available for an interview on one condition: “He cannot discuss financials or politics under any circumstances.” (No thanks.)
Richard Ash, the chief executive of Sam Ash, the largest chain of family-owned music stores in the country, isn’t afraid to state the obvious.
“Our customers are getting older, and they’re going to be gone soon,” he says.
Over the past three years, Gibson’s annual revenue has fallen from $2.1 billion to $1.7 billion, according to data gathered by Music Trades magazine. The company’s 2014 purchase of Philips’s audio division for $135 million led to debt — how much, the company won’t say — and a Moody’s downgrading last year. Fender, which had to abandon a public offering in 2012, has fallen from $675 million in revenue to $545 million. It has cut its debt in recent years, but it remains at $100 million.
[How much did this guitar story cost me? $2, 376.99.]
And starting in 2010, the industry witnessed a milestone that would have been unthinkable during the hair-metal era: Acoustic models began to outsell electric.
Still, the leaders of Gibson, Fender and PRS say they have not given up.
“The death of the guitar, to paraphrase Mark Twain, is greatly exaggerated,” says Fender’s chief executive, Andy Mooney.
He says that the company has a strategy designed to reach millennials. The key, Mooney says, is to get more beginners to stick with an instrument they often abandon within a year. To that end, in July the company will launch a subscription-based service it says will change the way new guitarists learn to play through a series of online tools.

Paul Reed Smith, the Maryland-based guitar designer, says the industry is just now recovering from the recession that struck in 2009. He points to PRS’s sustained revenue — the company says they’re between $42 million and $45 million a year — and an increased demand for guitars.
“This is a very complicated mix of economy versus market, demand versus what products are they putting out, versus are their products as good as they used to be, versus what’s going on with the Internet, versus how are the big-box stores dealing with what’s going on,” Smith says. “But I’ll tell you this: You put a magic guitar in a case and ship it to a dealer, it will sell.”
Then there’s Henry Juszkiewicz, the biggest and most controversial of the music instrument moguls. When he and a partner bought Gibson in 1986, for just $5 million, the onetime giant was dying.
“It was a failed company that had an iconic name, but it really was on its last legs,” Ash says. “[Juszkiewicz] completely revived the Gibson line.”
Juszkiewicz, 64, is known for being temperamental, ultracompetitive and difficult to work for. A former Gibson staffer recalls a company retreat in Las Vegas punctuated by a trip to a shooting range, where executives shot up a Fender Stratocaster. In recent years, Juszkiewicz has made two major pushes, both seemingly aimed at expanding a company when a product itself — the guitar — has shown a limited ability to grow its market.
In 2014, he acquired Philips’s audio division to add headphones, speakers and digital recorders to Gibson’s brand. The idea, Juszkiewicz says, is to recast Gibson from a guitar company to a consumer electronics company.
There’s also the line of self-tuning “robot” guitars that Gibson spent more than a decade and millions of dollars developing. In 2015, Juszkiewicz made the feature standard on most new guitars. Sales dropped so dramatically, as players and collectors questioned the added cost and value, that Gibson told dealers to slash prices. The company then abandoned making self-tuners a standard feature. You can still buy them — they call them “G Force” — but they’re now simply an add-on option.
Journey’s Neal Schon says he battled with Juszkiewicz when he served as a consultant to Gibson.
“I was trying to help Henry and shoo him away from areas that he was spending a whole lot of money in,” Schon says. “All this electronical, robot crap. I told him, point blank, ‘What you’re doing, Roland and other companies are light-years in front of you, you’ve got this whole building you’ve designated to be working on this synth guitar. I’ve played it. And it just doesn’t work.’ And he refused to believe that.”
Juszkiewicz says that one day, the self-tuning guitars will be recognized as a great innovation, comparing them with the advent of the television remote control. He also believes in the Philips purchase. Eventually, he says, the acquisition will be recognized as the right decision.
“Everything we do is about music,” Juszkiewicz says. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s the making of music with instruments or the listening of music with a player. To me, we’re a music company. That’s what I want to be. And I want to be number one. And, you know, nobody else seems to be applying for the job right now.”

The search for inspiration:

If there is a singular question in the guitar industry, it’s no different from what drives Apple. How do you get the product into a teenager’s hands? And once it’s there, how do you get them to fall in love with it?
Fender’s trying through lessons and a slew of online tools (Fender Tune, Fender Tone, Fender Riffstation). The Music Experience, a Florida-based company, has recruited PRS, Fender, Gibson and other companies to set up tents at festivals for people to try out guitars. There is also School of Rock, which has almost 200 branches across the country.
On a Friday night in Watertown, Mass., practice is just getting started.
Joe Pessia runs the board and coaches the band. He’s 47, a guitarist who once played in a band with Extreme’s Nuno Bettencourt and has worked at School of Rock since 2008.
Watching practice, it’s easy to understand why.

With Pessia presiding, the school’s showcase group blasts through three songs released decades before any of them were born.
The Cars’ “Bye Bye Love” blends quirky, new-wave keyboards and barre chords. Journey’s “Stone in Love” is classic ’80s arena rock punctuated by Schon’s melodic guitar line. Matt Martin, a 17-year-old guitarist wearing white sneakers, jeans and a House of Blues T-shirt, takes the lead on this.
The band’s other Stratocaster is played by Mena Lemos, a 15-year-old sophomore. She takes on Rush’s “The Spirit of Radio.”
As they play, the teenagers dance, laugh and work to get the songs right. Their parents are also happy. Arezou Lemos, Mena’s mother, sees a daughter who is confident and has two sets of friends — the kids at School of Rock and her peers at Newton South High School.
“There are a lot of not-easy times that they go through as teenagers,” she says, “and having music in her life, it’s been a savior.”
Julie Martin says her son Matt was a quiet boy who played in Little League but never connected with sports. She and her husband bought him his first guitar when he was 6.
“It was immediate,” she says. “He could play right away. It gave him confidence, in the immediate, and I think long term it helps him in every aspect of his life.”
She remembers her own childhood in working-class Boston.
“I know exactly what he could be out doing,” Martin says. “That enters my mind. We are so lucky to have found School of Rock. He’s there Thursday, Friday and Saturday every week, all year.”
Rush’s prog-metal is not for beginners, with its time shifts and reggae twist.
“They’ve never played this before,” Pessia says, turning to whisper in awe. “The first time.”
So who are these kids? The future? An aberration?
It’s hard to know. But Matt Martin didn’t need to think long about why he wanted to play a Strat as a kid.
“Eric Clapton,” he says. “He’s my number one.”
To Phillip McKnight, a 42-year-old guitarist and former music store owner in Arizona, the spread of School of Rock isn’t surprising.
He carved out space for guitar lessons shortly after opening his music store in a strip mall in 2005. The sideline began to grow, and eventually, he founded the McKnight Music Academy. As it grew, from two rooms to eight, from 25 students to 250, McKnight noticed a curious development.
Around 2012, the gender mix of his student base shifted dramatically. The eight to 12 girls taking lessons jumped to 27 to 59 to 119, eventually outnumbering the boys. Why? He asked them.
Taylor Swift.
Nobody would confuse the pop star’s chops with Bonnie Raitt’s. But she does play a guitar.
Andy Mooney, the Fender CEO, calls Swift “the most influential guitarist of recent years.”
“I don’t think that young girls looked at Taylor and said, ‘I’m really impressed by the way she plays G major arpeggios.’ ” Mooney says. “They liked how she looked, and they wanted to emulate her.”
When McKnight launched a video series on YouTube, he did an episode called “Is Taylor Swift the next Eddie Van Halen?” He wasn’t talking about technique. He was talking about inspiring younger players. The video series, in the end, grew faster than guitar sales or lessons. Earlier this year, McKnight shut down his store.
The videos? He’ll keep doing them. They’re making money.

Why my guitar gently weeps. The slow, secret death of the six-string electric. And why you should care.

Opeth’s lead machine opens up about the most valuable guitars in his collection, his favourite picks, and experiencing a power failure in the middle of filming a DVD…
1. What was your first guitar and when did you get it?
“My first guitar was an Ibanez LP copy, when I was just nine or 10 years old. It was a sunburst model and I wanted it really badly because I’d just started to play guitar and I thought Ace Frehley and Angus Young were cool. They were the first players to evoke my interest. It was a really good guitar, but I don’t have it any more, unfortunately.”
2. If the building was burning down, what one guitar from your collection would you save?
“That’s a tricky one… It depends whether it’s in our storage or at home. It could be my Les Paul Junior from 1955. There’s something special about its P-90 pickup – there are many different colours in it that you can find with just the tone knob. I wanted something simple and we used it quite a lot on the previous album [Pale Communion, 2014] and this one as well [Sorceress]. It has a very aggressive, snappy tone to it.”
3. What’s the oldest guitar that you own?
I like to collect guitars from the year I was born, 1972, and so I have a Strat and a Gibson SG from that year
“That would be the Les Paul Junior. I found it in this little vintage guitar shop when I was on tour. The owner of the shop knew there was something special about it and it wasn’t expensive. You can pick them up for around £4,000 to £5,000. I also have this thing where I like to collect guitars from the year I was born, 1972, and so I have a Strat and a Gibson SG from that year.”
4. What plectrums do you use?
“I use Jim Dunlop picks and the gauge is 1.4mm. They’re Tortex Ultra Sharp – the point is a bit pointier, basically! I switched to using them about two years ago. Before that I used the green ones with an alligator on them – they’re a bit rounder than these. It’s amazing how you can hear different sounds from different picks when you get into the studio.”
5. When did you last practise and what did you play?

“I practised a little bit this morning. I’m just trying to go over an A major blues – A7, D7, E7 – trying to improvise in different ways and not just stick to the pentatonic scale. Using the diminished scale or the melodic minor – the A melodic minor over the E7 and finding all the related arpeggios. I think it’s very interesting and it broadens your vocabulary.”
6. When was the last time you changed your own strings?
“That I did when we recorded the new album. Mikael [Åkerfeldt, singer/guitarist] and I restrung all the guitars before we sent them over to the UK. Since then, I haven’t done it, but that was quite recent. I think there were at least 12 – and a bunch of acoustics as well. We use a regular PRS Angelus quite a lot while we’re recording. We also like to overdub with a Taylor Nashville-tuned guitar, so we get that sort of separated 12-string sound.”
7. If you could change one thing about a recording you’ve been on, what would it be and why?
I can go on forever with solos, but usually Mikael tells me, ‘This is good – stop it!’
“I try not to look back. You’re never 100 per cent satisfied, but it’s still a mark in time and you just have to move on and deal with it, even though you’re not super-happy. I can go on forever with solos, but usually Mikael tells me, ‘This is good – stop it!’ So I’ll stay safe and say that I wouldn’t change a thing.”
8. What are you doing five minutes before you go on stage and five minutes afterwards?
“Five minutes before, I get my in-ears [monitors] in and change my clothes, but before that, I always like to warm up for at least an hour. For the last five minutes I’ll leave the guitar with my guitar tech, so he can just check the tuning before we go on. We always do a handshake before we go on stage, too. Five minutes afterwards… that’s when beer comes into the picture!”
9. What’s the worst thing that has happened to you on stage?
“One of the worst things was when we played the Royal Albert Hall. We were filming for a live DVD and there were a lot of personal things going on as well, so a lot of pressure. There’s this delicate part in a song called Lotus Eater and it was the end of the show and I was going to play this part on my own – a simple riff, not too technical – and right when I was about to start, no sound. My pedals still had power, so the tech and I were running around like maniacs, frustration built up and after a few minutes we discovered that one of the camera guys had stepped on the power cord to my amp. We kept it in the DVD!!

10. What aspect of your playing would you like to improve?
“Probably jazz fusion. That’s something I try to work on all the time… It’s inspiring, digging into that style. I was interested in that stuff at an early age, even though I have a metal background. It’s endless; you can always get better.”
Opeth tour the UK in November – tickets are available from Live Nation:
15 Nov 2017 – O2 Ritz Manchester

16 Nov 2017 – Barrowland Glasgow

19 Nov 2017 – Rock City Nottingham

21 Nov 2017 – O2 Academy Bristol

22 Nov 2017 – O2 Institute Birmingham

10 questions for Opeth’s Fredrik Åkesson

Let’s start with two indisputable facts: 1) Today is Glenn Danzig’s Birthday. 2) Glenn Danzig is a fucking legend.
Love him or hate him, Danzig is a fascinating, irascible character whose output with the Misfits, Samhain and Danzig contains some of the best punk and hard rock in the past three decades.

DANZIG LOVES BOOKS…AND LOST PARABLES ABOUT VENGEFUL JESUS

One look at Danzig and you know this dude loves to read. But what are his favorite books? The legend obliges curious fans in the following video, in which he gives a tour of his personal library and reads lost Bible passages about Jesus killing bratty kids.

DANZIG LOVES CATS

He’s an animal lover. And he will not hide it. Glenn doesn’t give a shit if you see him buying kitty litter for his felines. But he’ll probably punch you in the face for taking a photo of him in the act.


DANZIG PUNCHES PEOPLE

Were you a punk rocker who grew up in New Jersey in the Seventies? Well Glenn Danzig was…and he punched his way out.

DANZIG “ALLOWS” PEOPLE TO PUNCH HIM

By now you’ve all witnessed the 2004 incident (if not, see below) where North Side Kings’ Danny Marianino clocks Danzig. But did you know the singer allowed this to happen because of his razor-sharp business acumen? “I allowed it to happen,” Danzig told Metal Hammer at the time. “Why? Because there are always those looking to goad you into hitting them so they can sue you. It happens to public figures all the time. It’s a way of life.”

DANZIG PLAYS HIMSELF IN AQUA TEEN HUNGER FORCE EPISODE

Who says Danzig doesn’t have a sense of humor? To those people we say, Do you even lift, bro?

EVEN COUNTRY LEGENDS LOVE DANZIG

The Man in Black, Johnny Cash, was one of country music’s biggest bad-asses. It’s only fitting that his path would eventually cross with Evil Elvis. In the clip below, Cash describes their meeting and performs the Danzig-penned, “13.”

Top 6 Most Outrageous Facts About Glenn Danzig