Neville’s Ad­vo­cAte

Nev Marten pon­ders the back cat­a­logues of three huge bands and won­ders which he could spend eter­nity with

Guitarist - - OPINION - neville marten

Work­ing in an of­fice with fel­low gui­tarists in­vari­ably means guitars and mu­sic al­ways fig­ure high on the list when it comes to top­ics of con­ver­sa­tion. This month the cu­ri­ous ques­tion arose: if you could lis­ten to only Cream, Led Zep­pelin or Jimi Hen­drix for the rest of your life, which of these sem­i­nal bands would you back?

Some months ago I talked about desert is­land guitars. My con­clu­sion then was I would not go with my favourite Strat be­cause, over time, it was less likely to de­mand much new from me. A jazz box or a ny­lon-string on the other hand, would elicit in­spi­ra­tion and pro­vide years of for­ag­ing through fields that were less fa­mil­iar to me than the blues, rock and pop of my mu­si­cal up­bring­ing. Thus I think the same may be true of the Cream, Led Zep and Hen­drix.

My first foray into blues-rock gui­tar was when I heard the Beano al­bum. This nat­u­rally led me to Cream when the band formed just months af­ter Clap­ton quit his post with May­all. When one re­lates to a mu­si­cian it’s nat­u­ral that one fol­lows that player through thick and thin. I’d al­ways loved the fat, Gib­son-fu­elled tone that Eric wrought from his Les Paul and Mar­shall, so when this was built upon in Cream with big­ger amps and record­ing bud­gets, it was mother’s milk to me and a mil­lion oth­ers.

Hen­drix came on the scene soon af­ter and I loved the sin­gles. Hey Joe, Pur­ple Haze and The Wind Cries Mary came in quick suc­ces­sion, each rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent from the other and all mind-blow­ing to a bud­ding 17-year-old plank-spanker. But I didn’t much like the al­bums; they were too way out and reeked (to me any­way) of a gui­tarist who’d found the over­dub but­ton and gone berserk. I con­fess I was a tad closed-minded about Jimi back then (even though I was kind of right). It wasn’t un­til his death and the re­lease of Voodoo Chile (still my favourite bit of recorded gui­tar) that the depth of his tal­ent dawned on me. Then the live boot­leg Hen­drix In The West (three guys and no trick­ery) ce­mented him for me as the ge­nius he so clearly was.

I be­lieve I heard the first broad­cast of Led Zep­pelin on Bri­tish ra­dio in 1969. I was stunned. Page had di­verged from the path tram­pled by Clap­ton and Hen­drix, but re­tained el­e­ments that I loved in both – Eric’s dark but edgy tone, and Jimi’s ‘on the verge of fall­ing off’ na­ture. I loved the first al­bum. I adored the sec­ond. The third, well, I wasn’t into acoustic folk back then so, while half of it did what was ex­pected, the rest left me rather non­plussed.

CreamOfTheCrop?

Now, be­fore you lam­bast my ig­no­rance in all this, in my de­fence I was not yet out of my teens. And al­though my fam­ily was steeped in mu­sic and we lis­tened to a broad range, I was still in the for­ma­tive stages of my un­der­stand­ing. But where does this leave me and that ear­lier ques­tion?

Well, as with the Strat I’m afraid it wouldn’t be Cream. I can sing ev­ery note they ever played and, while I ad­mit we can all hear some­thing new in old favourites, I’m afraid I would tire of them af­ter a while and I’d rather re­call them with the joy and amaze­ment that first took me.

Once I had ‘found’ Hen­drix, as it were, I did get more into the back cat­a­logue. Hen­drix the mu­si­cian and the show­man I can’t praise highly enough. He kicked ev­ery­one else into obliv­ion in cer­tain re­spects, but I do still find a lot of the early al­bum stuff a lit­tle self in­dul­gent, and much of it just snip­pets of ideas joined up with over­dubs and stu­dio ef­fects. You can play al­most any Cream or Zep­pelin song on one acoustic gui­tar, give or take, but with many of Hen­drix’s stu­dio con­coc­tions that’s im­pos­si­ble. And I’m a song kind of guy so Jimi joins Eric on the subs bench (God, what am I say­ing?).

And that leaves Jimmy and the boys. I did get into folk mu­sic later on, and while I love a lot of it to­day, I never re­ally got back into those acoustic al­bum tracks. But Led Zep­pelin put so much craft into what they did that there’d be years of au­ral ex­plo­ration for me among the al­bums that I re­ally only skimmed back in the day. Hence I hang my fe­dora on their hat­stand.

I’d be re­ally in­ter­ested to hear your views on this ideal pub-ban­ter sub­ject, and per­haps which artist you could stand lis­ten­ing to – for­ever! Email me at neville.marten@fu­turenet.com.

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