Most rock & roll songs are
in 4/4. Which means that the snare is hitting on "2"
and "4" and everyone is playing along with that. (That's
also where the audience is clapping unless you're at a Country
concert, where those white folk clap on "1" and "3"...)
But there is a lot of flexibility
with that "2" and "4." We're only talking
about milli-seconds here, but you can lay a little behind that
beat, like on any Sam & Dave song ( e.g. "Soul Man")
or you can push it a little and be on top of the beat (e.g. "I
Saw Her Standing There".) Needless to say, if you go too
far in either direction the song will drag, or feel rushed (e.g.
a lot of amateur bands.)
The best Rock & Roll songs
are the ones that are just on the front edge of that "2"
and "4." It's not the kind of thing that your average
audience member is even aware of, at least not consciously. When
people say "I liked that band" or "I didn't..."
they often can't exactly say why they did or didn't. It's just
a feeling. Well, the "feeling" is in the "feel"
of the beat.
What am I getting at with this?
Well, last week I was in Liverpool and I saw a show at The Cavern
featuring three bands that played there before, and during, the
Beatles' Cavern days. (1961-1962) (Yep, you're right, these guys
are all in their 60's now.) And I gotta tell ya, I was shocked.
These bands were ROCKIN'! I know it's hard to believe. They all
looked like (and probably are) grandfathers. But they were all
jumpin' on that "2" and "4" and playing Rock
& Roll the way it was meant to be played.
It was quite an interesting experience,
for several reasons. First of all, The Cavern is really hot.
It's hot like "Man these guys are good!" but it's also
hot like, "This shirt was dry when I came in here..."
It's small, it has a low ceiling, and it's crowded. It's at least
20 degrees warmer than outside. I honestly wondered if any of
these guys were gonna fall over dead. Second of all, it gave
me new insight into the general quality level of the bands The
Beatles were competing with. If these guys are this good now,
imagine how they must have put out 40 years ago, when they weren't
worried about breaking a hip. And lastly, it made me wonder why,
in 1961, one town had so many musicians who "understood"
the concept of rockin'. They were all playing American Rock &
Roll songs, but they seem to have intuitively kicked it up a
notch. Maybe it was just the thousands of post-World War II British
baby-boomer kids living in poverty with pent-up energy and nowhere
Here are some pictures,
then and now.
I know I'm just a child of the
Rock & Roll era. That's why the overly processed "modern"
stuff doesn't do much for me... If you watched the MTV Music
Video Awards this week you saw that 90% of the stuff on there
was some version of hip-hop. Sure, you can dance to it, but it's
too mechanical. It's not "live." I like to feel my
foot tappin' and my head noddin' and my soul sayin' "yeah!"
If you want to play on top of
the beat, and make real Rock & Roll, you first have to know
where the beat is. This week's email special is the Sabine ZipBeat
By the way, thanks for the entries
in the Pittsburgh Guitars' "T-Shirt" photo contest.
The one in the grocery store is cool, it's nice to know folks
shop while wearing their Pittsburgh Guitars shirt. And the teeny
little baby wearing the shirt is so cute. If you haven't entered
yet, send your photo via mail or email. The most interesting
photo will win a FREE Martin "Little Martin" guitar.
Since a couple of folks mentioned that they don't have a Pittsburgh
Guitars T-Shirt yet, we're adding the T-shirt to this week's
email special. These are priced below our cost... `cause we want
YOU to be fashionably dressed!
See you soon,
PS: Here's a picture of the new "Little Martin"
PPS: This week's Customer Web Site:
As I mentioned last week, I just
got back from Liverpool. On this trip I also had the chance to
go to London and visit Abbey Road Studios. (The original name
was "EMI Studios," since it's owned by EMI Records.
The address is #3 Abbey Road. When The Beatles called their last
album "Abbey Road" most of the world thought that was
the name of the recording studio. Eventually, EMI gave up and
renamed the studio "Abbey Road.")
I knew from photos that Abbey
Road's Studio 2 (where The Beatles recorded 95% of their songs)
was big, but I was still surprised. The room is 60 feet by 38
feet, and the ceiling is 24 feet high. That's almost four times
the size of our store! The control room is on a different level,
up a long flight of stairs. What struck me was how removed I
felt from the control room. In modern studios you're usually
not more than five feet away from a large window into the control
room, and right on the other side is the mixing board with an
engineer, staring at you. At Studio Two you have no sense of
the tape machines and the producer and all of the behind-the-scenes
stuff. I think the huge size actually made the recording process
more comfortable. It would feel more like a band rehearsal...
and way off in the distance somewhere someone would be turning
Speaking of photos of The Beatles
at Abbey Road, I've seen a hundred pictures, and I don't ever
recall seeing a guitar stand. Their guitars were always leaning
on an amp, or balanced on a chair, or laying on top of the piano.
If only they could have taken advantage of this week's email
See You Soon,
PS: The Beatles spent 10 minutes
on August 8, 1969 taking the 'street crossing' picture. Today,
34 years later, people come from all over the world to risk their
lives and stand in the middle of the busy Abbey Road to mimic
the cover of the album. Here's the address of the Abbey Road WebCam.
PPS: Hundreds of other famous
records have also been recorded at Abbey Road, including Pink
Floyd's "Dark Side Of The Moon."
PPPS: Thanks again to the folks
who've entered our contest for a FREE Martin "Little Martin"
guitar!! There's still time to send in a picture of you in your
Pittsburgh Guitars T-Shirt. The most interesting photo will win
the Guitar!! (It can be an interesting place, interesting activity,
anything... as long as we're amused!) Deadline for entry: Sept
PPPPS: This week's Customer Web Site:
Adam Evil & The Outside Royalty
PPPPPS: Here's me at Abbey Road.
We've always been big NRBQ fans.
(Go to see them!) A few years ago their long time guitar player,
Big Al Anderson, left the band to move to Nashville and play
with Carlene Carter. Carlene Carter is the daughter of June Carter,
and her Step-Dad is Johnny Cash. So you can imagine how upset
we were when Johnny died this morning!
In honor of Johnny Cash, this
week's special is an extra 10% off any black guitar in the store!
New, used, electric, acoustic...as long as it's black!
See You soon,
PS: There's still time to get
your Pittsburgh Guitars T-Shirt photo in. The deadline is early
next week. The most interesting photo we receive of someone wearing
a Pittsburgh Guitars T-Shirt will win a FREE Martin "Little
Martin" guitar. (I previously randomly picked Sept 15th
as the cutoff date, but since that's Monday, we're extending
the entry time until next Friday, Sept 19th...)
PPS: This week's Customer Web Site:
Mike On Guitar
Yesterday we received a bunch
of new guitars, including three new Fenders... the new, less-expensive
Jaguar, the new, less-expensive Jazzmaster, and the wacky new
"Splatter" Strat. (Yes, it really looks like that thing
you make at Kennywood, where you put a piece of paper on a rotating
palette and drip paint onto it and it splats out in different
directions. And that's actually how they make THIS guitar, except
they're doing it in Mexico, instead of at Kennywood...)
As I looked at the wall, wondering
how to get more guitars into this finite space, I decided to
finally go for it... the space above the door. Velvet Elvis is
gonna have to come down and we're gonna start hanging guitars
So last night at Midnight I figured
I'd go over to the new Super Giant Wal-Mart and buy some paint,
to paint that extra piece of slat-wall I just happen to have
in my garage. (The Super Wal-Mart, by the way, is BIG... as can
be evidenced by the fact that you can buy a loaf of bread, the
new Cher CD and a gallon of Flat White Latex Paint in the same
As I drove down Route 51, I couldn't
help but notice that it was windy. Quite windy. Like there was
some sort of storm coming. Have you heard anything about that?
"Man, it sure is windy!"
I said to myself. And that reminded me of the song "Windy"
by The Association. And, like you, whenever I think of The Association
I end up thinking about The New Christy Minstrels... After all,
the lead singer on "Windy" (as well as The Associations'
other big hit "Never My Love") was Larry Ramos. And
before The Association Larry sang in a folk group called The
New Christy Minstrels. Although I'm a firm believer in drums
and electric guitars, I always enjoy hearing the New Christy
Minstrels' tune "Green, Green." And the lead vocalist
on "Green Green" was Barry McGuire, who a year later,
quit the New Christy Minstrels and had a #1 solo hit with "Eve
That of course, reminded me that
when Barry was recording his follow-up album he enlisted the
help of some friends, a folk quartet called The Mamas & Papas.
Barry planned to record a song written by "Papa" John
Phillips, but as they were layering the backup vocals, Barry
was so impressed that he suggested they release the song themselves.
So they took Barry's voice off and had "Papa" Denny
Doherty sing lead, and the recording, "California Dreamin',"
became their first hit, and led to years of success and excessive
Anytime I've ever seen pictures
or video of The Mamas & Papas John Phillips is playing a
12-string. Which brings to mind the OTHER new guitars that arrived
yesterday: Hofner electric acoustic 12-strings. They're featured
on this week's special!
See you soon,
PS: This week's Customer Web Site:
PPS: We're sifting through the
entries in Pittsburgh Guitars T-Shirt Contest. Thanks for all
of the pictures! We'll announce the winner next week!
PPPS: Hey, I've decided to start
my own TV show. I don't have much of a plan yet, but I might
call it: "Pittsburgh Guitars Presents- Carl's TV Show"
I figure we'll have some bands, some interviews, talk about guitars
and the meaning of life... you know... that kind of thing. If
you'd be interested in being involved, either behind the scenes,
or as a fascinating guest, let me know.
PPPPS: Hey again.... Saturday
November 1st. "Night Of The Singing Dead, Part XI"
Do you do any good versions of a dead rock star? We're starting
to put the show together.
PPPPPS: Speaking of wind and
The New Christy Minstrels, if you get a chance see "A Mighty
Wind," Christopher Guest's mocumentary about 60's folk groups.
(It's the same guys from "Spinal Tap.") (Not to mention
"Best In Show") (And "Waiting For Guffman")
TiVo is a digital hard-drive
video recorder. Sort of like a higher-quality, smarter VCR. And
I say "smarter" because after you use it for a while
it starts recording things on it's own... TV shows that it thinks
you might like. A year and a half ago my TiVo recorded a British
comedy called "Coupling." And it apparently knows me
well, because I really liked it. I programmed BBC America into
TiVo and watched every episode.
So you can imagine my curiosity
last night when, like most of the country, I tuned in for the
season debuts of NBC's Thursday night shows. The folks at NBC
apparently have TiVo, too... they bought the rights to do a U.S.
version of "Coupling." I knew they planned to re-cast
the show with Americans (sadly losing the beauty of the British
accents that make everything sound more innocent), but I was
surprised to see that they re-did the first British episode almost
word for word. (Of course they changed some terminology... In
England: "mobile" / here: "cell-phone"...
England: "pants" / here: "underwear"... England:
"crappy TV Show" / here: "Whoopi")
Since I knew the British episode
well, it was very interesting to see the US version. It was like
a TV "cover song." Same words and melody, but a different
band... It got me thinking of other "cover" tunes...
and how some "covers" are more successful than the
originals. The first one that came to mind was "Piece Of
My Heart." The original by Erma Franklin (Aretha's sister)
is a wonderful recording, but Janis Joplin's was a bigger hit.
The Young Rascals are still getting airplay today with their
cover of The Olympics "Good Lovin'." And Bob Dylan's
"All Along The Watchtower" was cool, but not as successful
as Jimi Hendrix's version. It makes you wonder why some bands
are so against doing "covers."
In honor of "covers"
this week's email special is the Fender Deluxe Acoustic Gig Bag.
If you don't have a cover for your guitar, or if you need something
lighter and easier to carry than your hardshell, grab one of
these. They have lots of padding, two handles and two shoulder
See You Soon,
PS: Hey, let's have a FREE Gig
Bag drawing! A lot of "covers" are big hits, even though
they're note-for-note remakes of the original. Send in a list
of your top three favorite cover hits. Extra credit if at first
you didn't know they were covers. Extra extra credit if you can
also name three TV show "covers" besides "Coupling."
Next week we'll randomly pick a winner from all of the entries.
The winner will get a free Fender Deluxe Acoustic Gig Bag!
PPS: Speaking of winners, we
have a winner from our Pittsburgh Guitars T-Shirt photo contest:
Jeff Bell! Unfortunately we can't show you all of Jeff's photo,
but it WAS the most "interesting"!! Here's part of it.
PPPS: Here's Steve K., the runner-up. (My personal
favorite) (Yes, this picture is from Pittsburgh... somewhere
between the river and the new stadium!) Steve will receive six
sets of Martin Strings:
PPPPS: Here is a sampling of other T-Shirt folk.
PPPPPS: Sometimes the original
records are fairly obscure... For example, I got a kick out of
Smash Mouth's 2002 hit "Can't Get Enough Of You Baby"
because I think I'm one of the forty-seven people who bought
the original by "? And The Mysterians" (It was their
follow-up to "96 Tears.")