In the latest of our WeAreNoise Staff Picks, Scott gets pretty riff-tastic, it’s fair to say…
1. Metallica – One
Taken from their 1988 album And Justice For All… this was Metallica’s first foray into the realm of music videos. In typical Metallica fashion they did it their way choosing perhaps the most unsuitable track and indeed subject material at their disposal for the “single”.
‘One’ is literally a living nightmare – it is based on a 1971 film Johnny Got His Gun – itself based on the 1938 anti-war book of the same name by Donald Trumbo. The song tells the story of a young World War I soldier who suffers horrendous injuries caused by a landmine. Kept alive – for the purposes of medical advancements – via an early life support machine proto type, he gradually realises that he has lost his arms, legs, and all of his face (including his eyes, ears, teeth, and tongue), but that his mind functions perfectly, leaving him a prisoner in his own body with no initial way of communicating to the outside world. The manner in which the band navigates this topic is majestic. Blending audio and visual clips from the movie with a live band performance the resulting video was immense. Hetfield’s lyrics capture the very essence of the subject matter. From the beautifuly picked intro guitar piece to the machine-gun like violence of the guitar riff at the end, the song is a masterful piece of disturbing perfection. Hammet’s guitar solo has become one of the most revered in modern rock music and Ulrich’s double bass drum pattern mid way through the song is without doubt one of the most iconic moments in Metal.
For your viewing displeasure, the magnificent ‘One’…
2. Jimi Hendrix – All Along The Watchtower
A fantastic song in itself, written by the great Bob Dylan, ‘All Along The Watchtower’ was given a 1960′s “pimp my song” treatment by Jimi Hendrix. I believe Hendrix’s studio version of the song to be from another planet – an alternative dimension – a drugs-infused nebula of infinite possibilities and purple haze. This is where Hendrix came from – to briefly visit us. In a mere 4 of our earth minutes Jimi showed us what was capable with an electric guitar and nothing was ever the same again. The more you listen to the studio version the more you hear – layers upon layers of guitars, textures, colour, melody and rhythm – all committed to tape for eternity by one of the most mindblowingly creative and original musicians ever. Dylan’s mystical lyrics add to the otherworldly feel of the guitars, and what guitar playing – from the tone of the intro solo to the blissfully liquid wah-wah sound and that spine chiling slide guitar part – recorded using sounds from his home dimension – in the key of infinity. Worship.
3. Alice In Chains – Rain When I Die
God, I love Alice In Chains. By far my favourite of all the grunge-era bands, Alice had a realness and rawness about them that saw them stand miles ahead of their peers in my mind. They could also write a bloody good song. Their second album Dirt would be in my top 10 albums of all time. The sheer honesty and heartfelt pain in singer Layne Staley’s lyrics and voice has seldom been matched. These weren’t songs about death, drugs and suicide written by spotty teenagers who would faint half way through giving a blood sample. This is what the coal face of self destruction sounds like, the soundtrack to the abyss. There is no glorification, no gangsta rap posturing. They say to “write about what you know”, “3 chords and the truth” – well this was Alice’s method. Their unplugged session for MTV was simply incredible – and gut-wrenchingly sad. ‘Rain When I Die’ has always been a personal favourite of mine – from its discordant intro to the sense of release when Jerry Cantrell’s wah-wah riff takes shape and structures the song. The uplifting chorus melody adds brief respite to the depression of the subject matter. Layne never made it out alive but his music did.
4. Kyuss – Thumb
Like an electric eel winding its way through the muddy waters of the Amazon – that’s what the intro riff sounds like. Until ZAP! The distortion pedal is slammed and a whirlwind of bass and motor fuel-propelled desert rock mayhem is released. The masters of early 90′s stoner-rock, Kyuss released a collection of seriously good albums – the best of which being 1992′s Blues From The Red Sun before they split without ever really hitting the big time. They retained a cult-like following however and guitarist Josh Homme found mega fame with The Queens of The Stone Age. The Queens rocked hard but it was never a patch on Kyuss. This is them doing there thing – probably in some desert arena.
5. Led Zeppelin – Whole Lotta Love
Greek Mythology tells us that the riffs to ‘Whole Lotta Love’ and ‘Smoke On The Water’ have been eternally embroiled in mortal combat – to determine which is the greatest guitar riff of all time . This, of course, is utter bollox because I just made it up and also because there really isn’t any one single “best riff” but if we had to have some kind of summer slam for riffs these two would be getting into the ring along with ‘Enter Sandman’, ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, ‘Satisfaction’, ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ and all the other classics that you are not allowed play in guitar shops anymore. Led Zeppelin have enough riffs to sink a battleship but this riff is the kind of riff that makes you eye up your Les Paul suggestively, before whispering “Come here baby, I know exactly what you need”. Disturbed? Yes. Anyway the live version below is incredible – check out the drum fill at 3.47 – awesome. Anyone know where I can get me a pair of Jimmy’s sweet bell bottoms? Answers on a postcard please.