Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Greatest Rock Riffs

These are in MY opinion but based on power, shelf life, accessibility, and originality. With the exception of my citation of "Eyes Without a Face", these are musical riffs and patterns that define songs to which we always groove. Most importantly, these being "riffs", I limit this listing to only obsessive passages played on guitar.

"Whole Lotta Love" (Led Zeppelin)
What more can be said - bluesy, ballsy, and simple. Makes anybody want to purse their lips and get dirty.

"Yours Is No Disgrace" (Yes)
Rumbling and simple. For a jazzy song and a jazzy, progressive rock band, the opening sequence is very basic. Steve Howe plays this raw, nasty chord progression, and it is all the more impressive when versed against his delicate jazz solos later in the song.

"Smoke On The Water" (Deep Purple)
Everybody's favorite first riff to play when learning guitar and trying to impress that significant other of the time. Simple enough, but sort of clever in its use of fourths (musical term) with the chords.

"Layla" (Derek and the Dominoes)
While I somewhat detest Clapton, the opening sequence is the stuff of legends, and can't be omitted from the list. Defines a generation in a sense.

"Sweet Emotion" (Aerosmith)
Now we get to pay tribute to a great bass riff, one that sets the tone for a great song from a great era by a great artist (at the time).

"Xanadu" (Rush)
Holy smokes, I was blown away by the double tracked effect of this gorgeous melody as it screamed through my "hi fi" stereo speakers back when I first heard it in 1983 (ok it came out in 1977)

"Eyes Without A Face" (Billy Idol) - Solo/Bridge - The obesessive pattern from Steve Stephens that kicks in at 2:15/2:24 (depending on the version) is the stuff of legend. The contrast of this hard rocking sound against the softness of the rest of the song further impresses its power upon us.

"Johnny B. Goode" (Chuck Berry)
Who can forget the opening guitar passage here? Chuck Berry, being a bit of a slug in his personal life, still defined rock music with this moment. Hell, his stuff was included on the Voyager space probe.

"Messin' The Blues" (Robin Trower)
Brutal blues riff that obsessively repeats itself over the course of a rather long jam-based song. Regardless, one that leaves you humming it later.

"Paranoid" (Black Sabbath)
What else can you say? Brutal.

"Highway To Hell" (AC/DC)
One can't list great rock riffs without mentioning AC/DC. Angus Young always stayed fairly simple with his guitar playing (except in various solos) but they still appealed to millions in their infectious simplicity. Songs like "Back In Black" and "If You Want Blood" also qualify.

"Summertime Blues" (Eddie Cochran)
Defined rock music for years to come. Good beat, easy to dance to. All that stuff.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The TV Shows I Hate To Love

I tend to haul off about TV stuff, the idiotic commercials, programs, channels, and the like. But, I do find myself hooked on a steady rotation of shows, all being contained within the genres of documentaries or scientific types of shows. I have a steady rotation amongst this core gang of programs, and regardless, I will still find things to scrutinize about them. Why scrutinize shows I like? It would be uncharacteristic of me to act otherwise. Giddy-up...

A show devoted to scientifically proving, or disproving, myths, urban legends, wives tales, and the like. The show is hosted by two nerdy, though clever, people who had worked in the logistics area of special effects production. The stoic one, Jamie, is a doddering mad genius with an overgrown moustache that I smell through the TV, compounded with an annoyingly ubiquitous and idiotic beret. With very little personality but lots of ingenuity, he seems to be very clever and in charge of the show, despite the fact that his disgusting moustache and stupid beret detracts all credibility from his analyses, just because of looking stupid. The other guy, Adam, is this loquacious sprite of a dork, complete with horn rimmed glasses and earring. He embraces this irritating San Fransiscan niftyness and sexual ambiguity that places him in every struggling art gallery and coffee house on the west coast. While clever enough to construct "rigs" for experimentation, he is the typical dopey kid with intelligence but no common sense. Can calculate angular velocity on a whim, but is too stupid not to touch the red hot piece of iron. A member of the supporting cast is a girl named Kari Byron. Wow, just that perfect "girl next door" type. Cute and always with an amazing smile. Not a stunning model per se, but one of those types of girls that everyone would love to take home to mom. Then take home to yourself. She'll be an underground celebrity - well, she already is. This show apparently has a huge budget. When they need a bunch of guns to test a theory, they don't borrow them, they buy them. Then in a later episode, if they need guns again, they don't reuse anything, they just buy them again! Wish I had that flexibility.
Anyway, it's proven itself to be an interesting show, and the two lead bozos tend to stick to the "scientific method" as it were. Hell, they blew up a cement truck with a few hundred pounds of dynamite. Too cool.

Most Haunted
One of two popular ghost hunting shows, this is the one people have accused to be fake. Haven't figured out the bottom line about it, but these British folks explore hideously old houses and castles and film their activities. The host is this wonderfully scaredy-cat type of personality, literally one who would be scared of her own shadow. She's a real pip. Annoying to the point of detracting from the veracity of the other members' research. There's an overzealous medium named Derek who is very convincing, however.

Ghost Hunters
On a related note, another ghost hunting show featuring a team of people that are led by a couple of off-duty Roto Rooter guys with lots of equipment and assistants. Good show, but with too much dialogue and little action. I suppose that's the reality of such ghost hunting efforts, but things could be compacted down a bit. They constantly have a bed of scary sounds/music behind moments when the crew claims to hear a noise, and one is left to discern if the odd bangs and booms are from the soundtrack or from the actual footage.

Deadliest Catch
A fascinating show about crab fishermen in the Bering Sea, it always captures my interest and reminds me that things aren't all that bad. They document a bunch of fishing boats during the brief crab fishing seasons, amidst horrible weather and long hours. While a very risky job, the deck hands always cash in on a week's work with twenty thousand dollar checks.

How It's Made
A creepy, creepy show that shows how things are assembled and produced. Apparently this show is based out of Canada, like the French Canada area. All the products shown are products nobody every heard of. They abruptly cut to commercials, and the scripts are written for a second grade audience. But damn it, I have to know how bricks are made.

David Blaine Specials (various)
Blaine is a great street magician (are there many?) and his on-the-scene segments are fun and truly spontaneous. I love when he is in New York City and he flashes a wild trick to a bunch of wandering crackheads, as they invariably run away out of fear once the trick is completed. That's the real magic - making the crackheads disappear. Keep him handy... maybe for a sawbuck he'd do tricks just so the creepies run away.

Iron Chef America
Yes, a Food Network product, I have to admit. It's fun to see chefs sweat and struggle, despite the irritating and ubiquitous commentary stemming from Alton Brown. Two competing chefs are required to develop five unique dishes based on a "secret" ingredient. I also enjoy watching the odd moments when the cocky judges are forced to sample creations such as squid ice cream. Some day the producers of the show should come up with a truly challenging secret ingredient. Forget mushrooms, halibut, tofu or kobe beef. How about things like cork, bleach, scalp, or Beetle Bailey clippings.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Relationship Injustice Part 6 - Your #1

So who is your number 1? Your #1 is the person with whom you were close to, shared tender moments, and something underlying proved a spiritual connection that far exceeded the bounds of the relationship itself. Perhaps he/she was just a friend - most likely that person is one with whom you hardly communicate, but that person is the one you'll never stop thinking of, caring about, or missing. Everyone has their own #1, and in rare cases - very rare cases - that #1 ends up the spouse in one's life. Most of the time, however, it is the person we all think of, wonder about, and miss.

As I've said before, this person is the classic definition of a soulmate. One who defines ourselves in a sense, but we'll never spend our lives with. I hated the "soulmate" term so much, I had to define and invent my own, hence the notion of the "#1". The reality of the world is such that we will probably never be with an ideal partner, and perhaps, in the context of a crappy environment such as our daily lives, it isn't meant to be. Most of the time, the ills of modern real life are what estranges us from our true #1's. In Buddhist beliefs, that #1 (our soulmate) can only be joined with us in the afterlife, and without the spoilage of the world in which we exist, that bond will be reformed upon our ultimate passage to the beyond. Who knows, that may be wishful thinking.

For most, that #1 will be someone that never leaves the mind or heart, though doesn't impede upon one's current relationship. That person doesn't destroy marriages or close relationships, because the #1 is just a memory or thought - not an active temptation.
I've done a ton of interviewing to discuss people's #1's - and generally it was not that person's spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend.

An interesting aspect of my interviews - I asked all subjects the following : "If your #1 came back right now, would you leave your current relationship?". 80% of the time the answer was "no". The reasoning was sensible; people change, grow, learn, etc. What everyone's #1 person represents is largely a snapshot of a wonderful era, and that era can certainly not be preserved when people move on and learn. Clearly our memories of the past will always be selective. We tend to remember the good times. As such, the memories of our #1's tend to exclude the ugly times, and consequently that selective memory process, by trimming the fat away, makes the times with that person seem more hallowed and heavenly. Our #1's will always seem better in hindsight - but it's the person we are with now that matters. While you might think of a particular person from the past, never forget that memories of the past are involuntarily heavily self edited, and the present is what matters most.