Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Link Wray: When Music Was Dangerous

Rolling Stone Magazine recently (re)released their list of “100 Greatest Guitarists”. As is always the case with this type of list, there’s any number of frustrations; so-and-so is ranked too low (Bruce Springsteen, Tom Morello, Bo Diddley, Dick Dale), so-and-so is ranked too high (George Harrison ahead of Stevie Ray Vaughn…really?), and where is so-and-so (Vernon Reid, Joan Jett).

See the full list here

But the list served as a good reminder for me today of an interesting fact about one of my favorite guitarists, Link Wray; ranked #45 on the list.

I was introduced to Wray, the father of the power chord, when I heard his instrumental “Rumble” on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack. My reaction was, I suppose, the appropriate one. I’d never heard anything quite like it. So nasty. So ominous. THREATENING.

That was the reminder from Rolling Stone today…I’d forgotten that “Rumble” holds the distinction of being on of the very few instrumental tracks that was, for a time, banned from radio play. The squares and suits at the time (1958) feared that the song might actually incite gang violence.

Remember when music was dangerous?

Link Wray stabbed his guitar amplifier’s speaker cone with a pencil to achieve this distorted, reverb-heavy sound.

Here’s a fun, albeit low-quality, clip from the movie “It Might Get Loud” , featuring guitar god Jimmy Page sharing his love for Link Wray’s “Rumble”.

If you can make an old Jimmy Page giggle like a school boy and play air guitar…you KNOW you done somethin’ right…

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