Saturday, December 22, 2007

Alvin Lee and Johnny Winter

Probably the greatest guitarists that many young people have never heard of are Alvin Lee and Johnny Winter. Lee's group Ten Years After has one hit that still gets a lot airplay, "I'd Love to Change the World." I don't think Johnny Winter gets much airplay at all.

This clip is good because, instead of using that annoying MTV style of constant fast cuts, the camera lovingly stays on Lee's guitar. You get a really good look at how a master Rock'n'Roll guitarist moves his fingers across the fretboard. Here is a second clip from the same concert.

Here is a video from 1969 of one of Ten Years After's most famous hits, Good Morning Little Schoolgirl, which has always struck me as a sinister song. The '60s psychedelia is silly.

Here is a live performance of Slow Blues In C. It is unbelievable how fluid his playing is.

Who is the best guitarist to come out of the great state of Texas? Stevie Ray Vaughan? Billy Gibbons? I'll go with Johnny Winter. Here he plays Johnny B. Goode. Dude can pick.

Here is a clip from 1970. And here is Johnny smoking through Bob Dylan's Highway 61. In this clip of Sugar Coated Love he looks old, but he can still play.

San Francisco Blues.

Here is a rare recording of Johnny jamming with Jimi Hendrix on Things I Used to Do.

Finally, here is a killer version of Johnny playing Red House in 1991. There's a bass solo in the middle of this song, which reminds me of a joke.

An explorer was making his way in a canoe up the Congo with a native guide when drums began playing in the distance.

"What does this mean?" the explorer asked.

"Drums good," the guide assured him, "but when drums stop -- very bad."

For two weeks they paddled up the Congo with the drums playing. Then the drums stopped.

"What now?" the explorer asked.

"Very bad," the guide said. "Now bass solo."

Both Alvin Lee and Johnny Winter, like a lot of classic rock, are essentially Rockabilly with distortion. Both guitarists were big until the deluge, the New Wave/Punk/Heavy Metal change that hit music in the late '70s. After that I guess both guitarists sounded a little old fashioned. That was the end of the blues-rock era.

As fast as both men play, they never lose the emotion; they never sound like soulless guitar machines. That is because they both have their feet firmly planted in the blues.


Anonymous said...

"Both guitarists were big until the deluge, the New Wave/Punk/Heavy Metal change that hit music in the late '70s."

Once again, it always seems that a significant cultural change can be dated to the 70s. I think both TV and music changed in the late 70s. Since then each decade has (on average and with some exceptions) gotten worse in terms of music, movies and television.

John Kim

Billy Beck said...

Punk was a disaster. It was an elevation of people who could not play or sing, on that premise.

Johnny is The Dewd, man. That boy's everlasting place in history is secure.

Myrhaf said...

To this day you hear the influence of punk all over the radio. Singers will sing like crap because is accepted and it's safe. Ironically, the most famous punk band, the Sex Pistols, is actually good, substantial rock. Steve Jones is a good rhythm guitarist. "Anarchy In the UK" is exciting and energetic, if you can get past the nihilism in the lyrics.

But I understand your point about punk being a disaster. I listen to some of the studio work in the '70s -- Steely Dan, Yes, Led Zeppelin's astonishing "Song Remains the Same" -- and I mourn because such high standards are no longer heard in rock.

Rick "Doc" MacDonald said...

You could not have picked two better rock guitarists! I'm with you 100% on this post.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I love both Johnny Winter & Alvin Lee. Never had the chance to see A L play but i am sure he'd be full on. I saw Johnny a few times back in the late 80's & he was amazing. He plays like his guitar is part of him, it all seems so effortless lol. Also love the late great Rory G & was fortunately enough to see him on 6 occasions from the early 70's till the year before he went to the great gig in the sky. kevin