A NOT-SO-BRIEF DEFENSE OF GUITAR SOLOSThose of you familiar with my music have undoubtedly noted (and hopefully enjoyed) the frequent appearance of extended improvisational excursions on the guitar (aka "guitar solos.") Without apology or any pretension to being whatever passes for 'hip' these days I insist that these artifacts from another time remain in my music, which is itself quite possibly obsolete long before it is committed to media anyway.
I have been playing the guitar for over 30 years. When I was first learning how to play, most musicians I knew aspired to improve their command of the instrument, and at the time that meant progressing beyond simple strumming of basic chords to playing actual melodies and, yes, solos. Back then, there was even a popular acceptance of the idea that people who could play solos were obviously more advanced musicians and, perhaps, worthy of some respect for their achievements.
Unfortunately, as frequently happens in our popular culture, the idea of actually being a good guitar player soon lost its luster and was replaced (as usual) by the idea that it is far more important to be 'cool' than it is to be genuinely good. This has been true in the US for some time now, but never more so than it is today. At several points in the last 30 years, the very notion of being a good musician has actually become extremely unpopular, and this has led to some tough times for those of us who still think it's a good idea.
Admittedly, the demise of the guitar solo as a valid form of musical expression has been hastened by the excesses of many artistes (mostly young-ish, testosterone-fueled white males like I used to be) who, having discovered the joy of ripping up and down the neck of a good guitar whilst plugged into a high-gain amplifier, have proceeded to cram their infatuation down the throats of the 'innocent' record-buying/concert-going public. Like the guy who rides his un-muffled Harley up your street at 1:30 AM, the solo-happy guitarist is frequently having his fun at your expense.
However, with the application of some small degree of restraint, a modicum of good taste and a sense of appropriate timing, the guitar solo can still be a thing of great beauty and capable of evoking deep emotional responses in the listener--which is what music is for, after all. For a brilliant demonstration of this principle, go see Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler or Carlos Santana in concert. Immediately. It WILL change your life.
I submit that most of the people (mostly young-ish, testosterone-fueled white males like I used to be) who now deride solo-playing guitarists as pretentious, egocentric or simply old-fashioned poseurs are merely a product of their time--a time of outrageously high expectations, miniscule attention spans (MUCH shorter than the time it takes to really learn how to play a guitar), constant demands for instant gratification and ridiculous over-saturation of the entertainment environment by all kinds of genuinely BAD NOISE in every conceivable form of media, aided as always by the Marketing Department of the United States of America, Inc. To them I say, there are guitar solos on almost every track of this disc. Get used to the idea. Maybe even practice playing your guitar once in awhile…who knows, it might be cool again to play solos someday…
Stranger things have happened. Like the rebirth of disco, for instance…