A Cool Kat walks into the auditorium’s bathroom. He’s got a wife beater on that’s frayed at the collar; his jeans have a whole in the knee; and he has tattoos that suggest (in Asian characters) that he has some kind of duality or inner strength about him. The Kat also has a perpetual snarl on the face, and he doesn’t so much as give me a passing glance as he steps to the urinal near mine. His reproductive organ is medium sized, and non-threatening, so I say: “What do you think of all these solos?”
“Solos?” says the Kat. It’s loud in this bathroom. The metal band of no name, plays over his right shoulder, so I assume he didn’t hear me.
“Guitar solos, drum solos, they even had a bass solo out there for the love of all that’s holy,” I said. “I paid hard-earned money for this show. I don’t want to watch some self-indulgent, over paid rock star get his nards off playing his solos for ten minutes. I want to hear songs, music, and structure.”
“You ain’t where it’s at Daddy-O,” the hipster, Kat says. I had always wanted to be called Daddy-O, so it took me a second to get over that fact that this guy was attempting to belittle me in fashion that insinuated I was old.
“You know these guys don’t care what you think don’t you?” I said. He shrugged and looked forward. I ddin’t know if I was trying to convert the incontrovertible, but I leapt headlong:
“They don’t care whether or not you understand the intrinsic value of what they’re doing up there!” As the kids say, I was hating on the hip Kat, but I had had this bug crawling up my 50% polyester/50% cotton slacks for as long as I could remember. This kid just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. “They don’t whisper to their band mates, ‘Look at that kid over there on air guitar. He really gets it. If he had a guitar right now, I’ll bet he’d be hitting the right chords and everything. Jimmy, the road feller, go get that kid, give him a guitar and get him up here. That kid’s got the goods. That’s not going to happen my friend.’”
“Let’s say that one of your dreams did come true,” I continued. “Let’s say you ran into one of your gods on the street, or how about a backstage pass. Let’s say your dream came true, and you got a backstage pass where you could finally tell this guitarist how much he’s meant to your life. You could say, ‘dude, that eighteen minute solo you played out there dude, that was the bit dude!’ You want to know what they’d say to you? They’d say SECURITY! They would rather run into a five foot seven cockroach than a fan that they have to talk to.”
“I just like the group Daddy-O,” the Kat said, “and I enjoy hearing them play music.”
“Then quit applauding solos,” I said. “It’s not music. It’s self-indulgence. Spread the word.” (Flush to fade out.)
We’re only encouraging them to do more solos when we applaud, is something else I would’ve loved to say to the hip dude. In their heads, I’m sure most of these guitar players are saying, they think I’m a guitar god. When, in essence, we’re just trying to show that we understand the complications involved in strumming or picking a guitar string…We don’t. Some of us don’t think it’s as complicated as rock journalists purport it to be, but most of us don’t care one way or another. We just want to hear the songs, but we’ve been conditioned to clap. If we don’t clap, people will stare, and they’ll know that we don’t know that that guy can pick his guitar strings in a manner no one has since Moses stepped down from Mount Sinai. It’s like when a reference comedian drops a joke about how Archduke Ferdinand’s assassination started World War One. Everybody just laughs themselves silly. One percent of the audience probably gets the joke, but no one wants it known that they don’t get it, and that they’re not intelligent enough to understand culture, history, or a super cool and ridiculously complicated Brian May guitar solo.
We don’t want the guy next to us to think that we don’t appreciate an eighteen minute guitar solo that involves seventeen different chord changes, the bowel movement facial expressions that appear to biologically accompany higher note sections of solos, and the inevitable pause that occurs halfway through where people feel compelled to cheer him onto another seven minutes.
“Dude, when I went to Clapton the other night he played an eighteen minute solo!”
Don’t you frigging hate that? I would’ve asked for my money back.
“What the fog? No way man, Clapton is god dude!”
Give me song structure. Give me 1st verse, refrain, 2nd verse, refrain, and a succinct solo that is conducted as a bridge to freshen our palette before we get onto the 3rd and 4th and 5th repetition of the refrain that leads us to the fade out. (If you’re Paul McCartney, go ahead and add 12 to 14 more repetitions of Hey Jude before the fade out. At that point in their career, it appears even George Martin couldn’t edit them.) My point is if the solo, or interlude, is an integral part of the song’s structure I have no problem with it. I’m not against instrumentation in a song. I’ve tried listening to the Counting Crows. They have too many lyrics. They don’t let the music do the talking. They don’t let the music breathe in the songs I’ve heard. I prefer a nice mixture of lyrics with music. I ascribe to Mike Patton’s belief that vocals should, at best, be used as nothing more and nothing less than another instrument in a song.
As I said though, it’s our fault that we get inundated with solos when we attend a rock concert. We understand that these fellas need a break in their 90 minute extravaganzas, but how much time do they need to get a glass of water, get a hit on the bong, a swig on the Jack, or a snort on a line of ants? Does it take eighteen ear splitting, headache inducing, and Noriega surrendering minutes?? I paid money to watch this show. Go vainglorify yourself in the backroom where I don’t have to listen to it.