Nev salutes Motown’s triple-guitar threat.
We’ve done a few features on rhythm guitar over the years, and they seem to go down really well. as we so often say, rhythm is what we guitarists spend most of our time doing, and yet it’s an area where many of us fall down. The reason could be simply that it’s not as sexy as playing lead so we don’t bother. and yet, if you want a job in a decent band, or wish to do sessions, the ability to come up with interesting, cohesive and complementary parts will be vital if you’re to survive.
one bunch of players that did just that was the three-guitar line-up of Robert White, eddie Willis and Joe Messina at Motown, in detroit. Said to have played on more number ones than The Beatles, The Beach Boys and elvis Presley combined, this trio powered innumerable hits with their earcatching hooks and fascinating interplay. You may be thinking that Motown doesn’t exactly shriek ‘guitar’ at you, but do me a favour and Google the Jackson 5 doing I Want You Back and you’ll see it’s a total guitar fest: octaves, sliding 3rds and single-note melodies woven together to really propel the number along. Richard Barrett has examined the playing on decades of Motown hits – including after the company decamped to Los angeles and the line-up changed somewhat – to create some fabulous examples of how they created those groundbreaking tracks. It’s a lesson in part creation and musical interplay that we can all learn from. now, I know the feature is labelled ‘Motown’ but these ideas are easily transferable to most other styles and genres, since the principles are the same for all. Simply change the tempo, the feel or even the guitar tone and off you go. I hope you enjoy the issue – now get strumming!