Sunday, May 27, 2012

Keep It Simple

What makes a great rock song?

Wow. That can be answered any of a number of ways. Memorable lyrics, power chords, anthemic feel…hard to answer, right?

Not for me. To me, the most memorable rock songs have had one key component. Simplicity. A catchy riff that anyone with a used six—string can pick up and copy.

Rock history is loaded with them. Bob Diddley gave us the Bo Diddley beat – that bomp-a-chong-a-chon…bomp bomp beat. The Kinks gave use the five notes the beginning of You Really Got Me – ba-DADA-duh-DAH, that has been copied by every aspiring garage band out there.

Now sure. Some great rock songs are more complex, and they’re equally great. But I was never a big fan of ‘Art Rock’ such as bands like Yes. I think they’re great, just not my cuppa tea. To this day I still can’t figure out the beat to Roundabout. Every time I think I got it I don’t. So while those complex songs are enjoyable to listen to, and to appreciate the innate complexity entailed in their construction, they are not the types of songs that aspiring rockers look to in order to copy. They are not memorable, or at least, memorizable.

So. Back to simplicity. There was a song that came out a couple of years back that caught my ear. Because it had that innate simplicity to it. So I started researching, which these days means I went to You Tube. It was there I discovered this –

THAT is a great rock song.

Seven notes. So memorable that the audience knows them & sings the notes.

Now, don’t confuse simple with easy. Jack White showed in that video why. You will note he played that entire song with one guitar. Tell me the first time you heard that song on the radio that you thought that was a bass guitar opening. I know I did. Jack then does ‘standard’ guitar for the verses, then amps it to slide guitar lead in the chorus. The same seven notes (with a G-A bridge). The crowd goes wild, he pauses, then repeats.

And that’s the catch. Simple to learn, hard to master. How many kids do you think heard that song & immediately went to their guitars to try to mimic? Well, Jack showed some old masters how he did it –

So add Jimmy Page and The Edge to the growing group that includes me (and thank you Dawn for turning me on to Jack) that think Jack White is on his way to Rock Legend status.

And they both owe him five bucks.

1 comment:

Moxie Dawn said...

You're welcome. Rolling Stone ranks Jack as the #17 best guitarist in rock history. I love him. Like...LOVE him. I would like to stalk him, but I don't have the nerve.