Thursday, August 24, 2017

It Might Get Loud Changed my Life

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Posted by teibs On September - 12 - 2009

might@ZackTeibloom “It Might Get Loud” is a wet dream for electric guitar lovers.  Directed by the Acadamy Award winning director of Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth,” we get an hour and a half of three generations of axe masters, Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White III, as they trade secrets and licks culminating in an awe-inspiring, intimate performance.

Even more telling than having the three gods in the same room getting loud, are the journeys that provide a glimpse of how the electric guitar shaped the lives of three boys from Ireland, London and Detroit. And how, in the decades since, these three virtuosos have shaped the guitar and its prominent place in rock.

We open with Jack festooning a guitar with a coke bottle, wood and nails in minutes saying “who says you need to buy a guitar?” After seeing this movie, I most certainly do.From there, the documentary takes the viewer all over the globe to explore these three icons and how love their affair with the guitar came about. The filmmakers go to Ireland to explore the school where the Edge and Bono first pushed desks aside for rehearsal space. We’re taken into a virtual room of little Jack White, youngest of 10, in a run down part of Detroit. White tells us he didn’t even have a bed growing up. He crammed two drum kits, a reel-to-reel and a guitar in a 7′ by 7′ room and slept on a sideways mat between the instruments.

We take a trip to a staircase in London with Jimmy Page as he shows us where Led Zeppelin recorded the epic drums on “When the Levee Breaks.” The Edge does yoga in Ireland as he simultaneously messes with his Blackberry. We go from location to location interspliced with tons of first-rate concert footage and loads of new footage of each man, with his signature guitar, explaining his style.

I’ve been looking forward to this movie since May 13, 2008 when I first wrote about it. My thought then was Page! White! Edge? Can’t we do better? I expected to gain a newfound respect for him. Didn’t quite happen.

Page was a driving force in arena rock. He created that stadium-filling, bombastic sound. He plays with a bow. He’s deeply rooted in blues, but practically invented metal. He produced Led Zeppelin  He was so ahead of his time Rolling Stone only gave IV a one-paragraph review. They didn’t get it. No questioning him. A true pioneer.

I’m not really sure about this Jack White character. All he’s done in the last decade is bring back stripped down blues rock. An explosive movement at the beginning of the millenium which fizzled out unfortunately early. He re-invented the two-man band, proved he could go pop and share the mic with The Raconteurs, take a back seat on the drum kit with The Dead Weather, write, produce, start a record label, make guitars by hand and stop bullets.

Then we have the Edge. There’s no doubt his work with U2 is revolutionary, but it’s not really because of the guitars. He’s an expert with the pedals. Are we supposed to be impressed when he shows us that on “Elevation” his supersonic riff is incredibly simple? That he gets his “clear” sound by playing less notes in a chord? That even when he goes out in nature to play at the beach he has to have his collection of pedals with him? The way he manipulates his sound is admirable, but he sticks out like a sore thumb.

When the three of them are in the room together, Page plays a few riffs of “Whole Lotta Love.” Jack looks at him with wonder in his eye, the way I’d look at Jack if I was in the room. He glances over at The Edge to see if he’s as awestruck as he is. He doesn’t quite appear to be. White and Page have a lineage that skips over The Edge.

The U2 guitarist says he didn’t laugh at “This is Spinal Tap,” he cringed because it was so true. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that he’s anything to scoff at himself, but he’s just not a pure guitarist. Sure, Jack and Jimmy can tear it up with a bow or a pedal. They do it all thej time. But give them a slide and a 12-string and they’ll make magic happen. Shit, give Jack a coke bottle, wood and string.

So, I think The Edge should have been replaced, but who am I to say that? It’s not like inducting someone into a hall of fame or making a top guitarists list. They had to get someone to invest a ton of time to make the documentary and you’re not going to say “well, the guitarist of (sadly) the most popular rock band in the world (still) wants to do it. Should we try to talk Slash into it instead?” Doubtful. I just think there’s more to learn from someone else. But I digress.

The hour and a half feels a bit longer, but almost all of it works. A bizarre story line of Jack teaching young Jack White some techniques never really came together and I could have done without watching The Edge play with his Blackberry while doing Yoga.

Either way, I learned a ton about each man. Jimmy Page has a ridiculous record and CD collection, but can’t sing a lick. The trio does a darling version of “The Weight to close the film and we see them rehearsing, figuring out who will take the high part (Jack) who will take the low and barely be audible (Edge) and Page won’t even attempt it. Seeing The Edge as a young man playing Skiffle music was a hoot and JW admitting that in his hispanic neighborhood, playing an instrument was the least cool thing you could do and he did it anyway made me respect him even more.

A Profound Effect

I went to the first possible screening in Austin. 11:30 a.m. Friday morning. I woke up at 8:30 and couldn’t fall back asleep for the life of me. I couldn’t contain my excitement. I listened to DeStijl on the way there and let it play four times before the day ended. I knew I would love this movie, but I didn’t expect to have tears in my eyes and to come away knowing that my life would be different from now on.

10 years ago I saw “Almost Famous” and my first comment* was “I need to be a music writer.” After “It Might Get Loud” I came to a decision that was a long time coming. I need to get an electric guitar and play it until my hands bleed like Jack’s on “Blue Veins.”

When Page said he felt like he was playing muzak as a studio musician, it woke me up. He said he wasn’t putting any of himself into it, wasn’t being creative with it. It made me think about Guitar Hero. I’ve gotten way too good at it. Stupidly good. I’ve easily wasted 500 hours playing the crap out of a piece of plastic and for what? I can get 5 stars on expert playing behind my head and it’s mildly entertaining to watch, but that’s not music. I’m retiring from Guitar Hero forever.

Yeah, you may catch me playing a song once a month if a room of people are playing and it’s the only music option in the room, but I will never own the game, play it on my own or give it more than a passing play from now on. I was born to rock. I’m 24 years old, goddamnit. It’s not too late. I’m going to do this.

Ironically enough, the pawn shop that I sold my Guitar Hero, PS2 and stereo to has a big guitar sale going on. A couple paychecks from now, I’m getting a cheap electric guitar and mini amp. I’ll start punk, learn a few chords and play the fuck out of them. I’ll get a slide. I’ll develop a style. My fingers will be callusy stumps. There will be blood. I can’t wait.

Just a warning: It might get loud.

*Partly because I had a nightmare involving my mom and a zombie cat invasion in a basement, but I’m chalking the early wake-up to getting to see JW on the big screen for the first time since “Shine a Light.”

**Aside from “Almost Famous really could have used more nudity.” Seriously, one flash of Kate Hudson’s flat chest? This is a rock movie. Show us some more. This is me at 14 talking. I don’t still care about nudity in movies or anything.

Rock on.

2 Responses

  1. Cabeza Said,

    Nice write up dude…

    i’d like to offer you a small word of advice on guitars:
    (if you need qualifications – I’ve been a professional musician in Austin for 10 yrs- been playing guitar since i was 12…blah blah)

    DO NOT buy a crappy cheap guitar as your 1st guitar. Crappy cheap guitars are hard to keep in tune and you’ll get frustrated quickly because everything just sounds crappy coming out of it…trust me here. Save up another chunk of cash to get a GOOD guitar – something that stays in tune and seems to sound pleasant no matter what you play…the key thing is you’ll find great satisfaction from just strumming and playing very simple things..you’ll be inspired to keep playing and as a result – your playing will improve.

    good luck!

    Posted on November 13th, 2009 at 4:29 pm

  2. Festival Crashers » Blog Archive » What I’m thankful for Said,

    […] thankful I own a guitar and am following a dream I got from Jack in It Might Get Loud. My fingers are littered with blisters from playing “Seven Nation Army” until my […]

    Posted on November 26th, 2009 at 12:09 am

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