Can’t Surprise Mom

Another installment in my ongoing series.

This is backing up a bit, but once I was genuinely committed to playing guitar – ELECTRIC guitar – I naturally gravitated towards guitar-heavy music, and that meant going back in time, poring over the pages of the tablature-rich, ossified Guitar For The Practicing Musician and trying to figure out what the guitar gods of the last age were doing.   I also took lessons from guy named John Carney via the local music store.   He was a good dude, very much of the age (shiny-snaps shirt open 1/3 of the way, black jeans, kinda longish hair) and a pretty patient teacher. Instead of stuffing me with theory he would ask me to bring in a track to work on. I’d bring a tape and in about 5 minutes he’d have a basic tablature transcription and then we’d work our way through it, occasionally learning some theory along the way. At some point I heard Ted Nugent’s paean to domestic violence “Stranglehold” and was blown away and bought the cassette. Sure the lyrics are a goddamn nightmare but the combination of swampy funk groove and the endless yet surprisingly tasteful guitar solo that makes up the bulk of the song are prototypes of 70’s hard rock. So I brought it to John and he taught me the couple of riffs that the actual song consisted of. Then he sat there listening to the solo and said something to the effect of “OK, there is no way I am transcribing all of that business. Here is the A-minor pentatonic blues scale; it’s all he’s doing, just playing those five notes in various combinations up and down the neck. Just, like, learn that and then do it for six or seven minutes and you’re good.” And I was off. I don’t think I learned another scale for 2 or 3 years. You can play 80% of rock, blues and country songs produced in the last 60 years and never use another scale; just figure out the key and go.

On the way to or from practice one day, I slid the Nugent cassette into the deck of our Mazda GLC and glanced over to see how much Mom was hating the music. Not much of a reaction. I pointed out that it was Ted Nugent. “I know,” she said. “I saw him in concert one time. He came swinging out of the rafters on a vine, wearing a loin cloth.”

I don’t know what I expected. I had seen her record collection so there was no reason to be surprised that she had been witness to some Live Gonzo. I asked who else she had seen. Ridiculous. Janis (“people kept putting bottles of Wild Turkey on the stage, and she kept drinking them”), the Doors, the Allman Brothers[1], on and on.

[1] Apparently they played for 3+ hours then went to the local college radio station and played on the air for another couple hours. She didn’t say if they managed to get in anything aside from “Whipping Post.”