Play It Loud: An Epic History of the Style, Sound, and Revolution of the Electric Guitar – Brad Tolinski and Alan di Perna
Thoughts: I came across Play it Loud at a used book sale. I came away from the book with two main things: first, a list of influential artists, albums and tracks to become more familiar with, and second, an appreciation of how electric guitarists have innovated and carved out their own niches by tinkering with their instruments (as well as their amps, strings, pedals, and other accompanying gadgets), usually in search of a particular tone. It’s inspired me to think more about and experiment more with the timbre of the instruments I play.
(The notes below are not a summary of the book, but rather raw notes - whatever I thought, at the time, might be worth remembering.)
Tolinski, Brad and Alan di Perna. 2016. Play It Loud: An Epic History of the Style, Sound, and Revolution of the Electric Guitar. Doubleday Canada.
- xiv: to look up: “Funk rhythm guitarist Jimmy Nolen[, who] used his axe almost like an amplified washboard… [accompanying] countless James Brown hits, such as ‘Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag’”
- 7: The acoustic resonator guitar works by having one or more cones (usually spun aluminum) attached to the guitar’s bridge - they behave a bit like the cone of a speaker.
- 35: to look up: Ralph Ellison’s 1952 novel Invisible Man - “made him the first black author listed on the New York Times best-seller list”
- 63: the authors point out Les Paul as one of the first electric guitarists to actively tinker with and modify their guitars/amps. This approach/tendency would come to be common.
- 66: to listen to: Les Paul’s rendition of “Lover” - multitracked, lots of studio effects
- 90: authors point out that the Fender P-Bass (or any electric bass) can be played with a pick, which gives it a “bright, crisp atttack that can be further accentuated by muting the strings with the palm of the picking hand” - experiment with this!
- 100: There’s a qualitative difference between “pre-CBS” Fenders (up until 1965 - highly sought-after) and later Fender guitars
- 104: to listen to: guitarists who influenced Muddy Waters: Son House, Robert Johnson, Charley Patton
- 105: to listen to: blues guitarists in Chicago in the mid 1940s: Big Bill Broonzy, Memphis Slim, T-Bone Walker
- 106: Muddy Waters’s slide guitar playing, inspired by Robert Johnson, Son House, was complemented by the playing of his frequent collaborator, Jimmy Rogers, whose playing was more inspired by Charlie Christian
- 109: to listen to: another Waters collaborator, on harmonica: Marion “Little Walter” Jacobs
- 111: to listen to: Muddy Waters’s “I Can’t Be Satisfied”, “I Feel Like Going Home” (recorded without the members of his regular band), “I Just Want to Make Love to You”, “Hoochie Coochie Man” (recorded with the band)
- 117: it’s well-known that the blues were a very large influence on rock & roll, but country music was also a very important influence on the budding genre
- 129: to listen to: Blues Breakers: John Mayall with Eric Clapton
- 129: Clapton achieved his distinctive tone on the album above by using the bridge pickup on his Les Paul, turn the bass all the way up, and turn amp and guitar up as high as possible so that the guitar was always tending towards feedback
- 141: humbucker pickups eliminate 60-second hum by using two coils, with electricity running through the two in opposite directions. One side effect is that it also cancels some of the guitar’s high end, leading to a more bassy tone than a single coil pickup, which is more bright and trebly.
- 161: To look up: R&B artists Larry Williams, Roy Lee Johnson - inspired John Lennon; the Beatles covered their songs early in their career
- 170: Among jazz guitarists, innovation tends to be harmonic or melodic. Among rock guitarists, innovation tends to be timbral.
- 172-173: Vox amplifiers, especially the AC30 introduced in 1959, have come to be associated with the British Invasion sound. Authors describe the tone as “bright, highly dynamic” and “jangl[y]”
- 176: Chris Barber shaped the history of rock music by bringing Blues musicians like Big Bill Broonzy, Muddy Waters, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee to the UK, where they inspired and were studied by artists like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, the Rolling Stones.
- 193: to become familiar with: early political songs by Bob Dylan, e.g. Masters of War, Blowing in the Wind, With God on Our Side, A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall, The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll, The Times They Are A-Changin’
- 205: to listen to: Super Session (1968) by Al Kooper, Mike Bloomfield, etc. - Kooper took inspiration from a practice employed by jazz labels: take a bunch of good musicians, put them together, and tell them to make music. The album was very successful.
- 208: To listen to: tracks by the Yardbirds like Happenings Ten Years Time Ago, Heart Full of Sour, Shapes of Things, Over Under Sideways Down - helped establish psychedelic rock
- 209: Pete Townshend sought to maximize the cacophonous sound of feedback. One of his techniques was to rapidly toggle the pickup-selector switch.
- j: is this how Duane Allman got that striking sound near the end of his solo on In Memory of Elizabeth Reed?
- 223: 1967 was a big year for rock albums. To listen to: Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Are You Experienced, the Beatles’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Pink Floyd’s The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow, Cream’s Disraeli Gears, The Doors’s The Doors (Jan 4 1968)
- 228: The Who and Jimi Hendrix played well-received consecutive sets to close the 1967 Monterey Pop festival, helping launch successful careers in the US. Listen to!
- 238: To listen to: The Sex Pistols’s Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols (1978) - “perhaps the most important punk rock album of the era”
- 250: to listen to: Van Halen’s Van Halen (1978). Feat. Eruption, second track.
- 311: to listen to: artists recorded by the Fat Possum label. “launched in 1991, with an initial mission to seek out and record obscure Mississippi blues artists who had hitherto received little or no exposure” e.g. T-Model Ford and R. L. Burnside
- 314-315: to look up: the music of Glenn Branca, who wrote music for successively larger electric guitar ensembles, e.g. Symphony No. 13: Hallucination City, with an orchestra of 100 electric guitars
- 318: Garage rock has historically been more multicultural and more gender-balanced than other rock genres. Examples of groups with female performers: Goldie & the Gingerbreads, the Pleasure Seekers, the Luv’d Ones, the Liverbirds, the Pandoras, Thee Headcoatees, the 18.104.22.168’s, Thee Tsunamis, the She’s, Summer Twins
Posted: Feb 25, 2021. Last updated: Feb 25, 2021.