Our world is overrun by control-crazy corporate scumbags who spend their time embedding nuggets of advertisement into every facet of our existence. The masses are more doped with social and cultural opiates than ever in the history of the species. Eat. Spend. Pray to the altar of obedience. Pray to the altar of demographics research. Purchasing power! Percentage points! Consume mass-produced toxic foodstuffs. Consume petrochemicals. Consume cleverly marketed yet essentially useless designer clothes. Consume fear-mongering media and literature that keeps you scared of everything without ever asking the real questions that confront mankind. Consume watered-down formulaic emo-pop-punk drivel that moves millions of units at Wal-Mart.
What was that last part?
Yes Virginia, shitty music is part of the design to keep us stupid and compliant. Think about it. Was the last song you heard on the radio so repetitive and predictable that you knew the chorus before it came? Yes? That was kind of comforting, wasn't it? No scary monsters on FM. Everything is under control, America.
But it isn't. In basements and alleys across the world, maladjusted miscreants are—by odd methods of finger locomotion—flagellating quivering devices of metal and wood: guitarra. With passion and devout patience, adolescent legions are ignoring the synth textures and whiny schoolboy drone of contemporary pop and slowly whipping up a bubbling alchemy of modes, scales, and voicings; burning the air with tones and frequencies conjured from eager electrons riding magnetic waves. They turn away from their schoolwork, from those teasing girls; they turn away from television, fashion, and sports to construct their magik. This is certainly no comfort to parents, teachers, the PTA, church deacons, county sheriffs, the World Bank, your neighbors, neoconservatives, or the remaining elements of the Taliban, who are all convinced that rock 'n' roll is the gateway to Satanism, drugs, and the questioning of long-held social values.
So why would they do it? Why would these punks defy their elders and devote so much time to this bizarre occult-craft?
It's simply because their Gods are so compelling. How can your idols stand up to these unruly monsters: Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Dick Dale, Eric Clapton, Tony Iommi, Nancy Wilson, Pete Townshend, Roger Waters, Frank Zappa, Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoads, Slash, Zakk Wylde... and let's not forget the Gods of Thunder: Cliff Burton, John Paul Jones, Geddy Lee, Jaco Pastorius, Flea, Billy Cox, Sean Malone, Stanley Clarke, Bootsy Collins, it goes on and on. Some are shredders, some just soulful wizards of sound and melody. Some are moon-brained aliens, or idiot savants. But all have eschewed that 9 to 5 job for something more satisfying, something more enduring. These artists, whether they realize it or not, stand as beacons of individuality and self-expression, elements that are rapidly evaporating from our homogenized culture. As history looks back on the 20th century, the music of the guitar gods will stand as a monolithic refusal—to go to war, to work in a factory, to obey authority, to follow the masses unquestioningly.
Whoa there. This is getting a little out of hand. These assholes just play guitar, right? They make no other contribution to society? And sometimes they get rich, drive drunk, and make public service announcements?
It's true. The guitar gods can be flaming pricks, egomaniacs, sad, self-deluded caricatures. More than a few are indulgent bores, and more than that would gladly sell out their last fan for a picture in a magazine and a Maserati. But you're missing the point—it's not about them, it about their gift to us: hope.
School sucks, jobs suck, and death sucks. And thanks to the example of a handful of string-shaking satyrs and their cohorts, hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of youthful men and women are forsaking that dismal slow-burning cycle of existence. Throngs of hopeful pilgrims are hauling their asses across the globe in Econolines, U-Hauls, and Ryder trucks, or maybe just their mom's Gremlin, to taste the lifestyle of the guitar gods: freedom, artistic expression, motion, new challenges, and new faces. And for those who can't take to the road, they can steal away moments after work or school to drift away on flights of fancy created by their own hands and imaginations.
And really, who else would you want the heroes of the youth to be? Gun-toting hippity-hoppers? Politicians? Prozac'd professors? Generals? Roid-raging athletes? Whiny bitch-boys like the Cure?
Give me that cocksure, tall-walkin', grab-the-bull-by-the-horns attitude. Guitar gods aren't afraid of shit, and they certainly don't take shit, from anyone. Like Walker, Texas Ranger, but cool. Guitar gods can wear sequins, get fat, go bald, visit rehab, sport sweatbands; there's no Calvin Klein ads telling us what they're supposed to look like. There's no musical reference telling us what guitar gods are supposed to sound like. They break their own trail. And if you're a snorting, chortling cynic who doesn't buy a word of this, then ask yourself: Do you break your own trail?
We don't need pop-punk or emo. We don't need Nickel Creek, and we don't need 1,000 more sampled songs that sound identical. These are paths to musical death. We need to rake the dead thatch from our harmonic gardens to make room for new tonal life. We need our guitar gods, past, present, and future.
If there is a future.
Expression and freedom are dangerous things in this world. They are dangerous to governments and corporations, and they are dangerous to you if you think you actually have the freedom to express yourself. Go stand on a corner and shout to the world that there should be no war, that there should be no animal vivisection; shout that global powers shouldn't be skeletonizing developing nations to fill their pocketbooks, and you will quickly find yourself on a watch list, on a blacklist, on parole, or in prison. The same dollar rules the music industry. Passion and creative freedom directly threaten the executive's grip on airplay and record sales. The music biz marginalizes any trend that doesn't lead directly to merchandising profits, big money. What do you think they'll do if they see that dollar slipping away? A single note can evoke so many feelings: joy, triumph, pain, anger, rebellion... how long before musical expression comes under the jurisdiction of the Patriot Act? Will your neighbors turn you in? Enjoy it while it lasts....