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Why that's just smashing!
January 21, 2012 3:43 PM   Subscribe

Perfected by the old masters, this age old tradition has been imitated, innovated and passed on to the next generation. The question remains, what made them hate those guitars so much? (MLYT)
posted by TheCoug (32 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
It breaks my heart...
posted by timsteil at 3:55 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pete Townshend vineyards.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 3:57 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I remember reading a story about Ravi Shankar talking about his reaction to Jimi Hendrix destroying his guitar at Monterey (I think). For Indian musicians like Shankar, the performance of music is holy, and the instrument a key part of that holiness. He was shocked to the point where he almost refused to play, because Jimi had just done something blasphemous. Really interesting to me, the different perspectives of that act.
posted by Saxon Kane at 4:05 PM on January 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


I saw an old clip, from The Who's pre-Who days, them playing in a club in London, and Pete Townshend desperately retuning his guitar in mid song and looking flustered. The story I heard was that one time he was so flustered by his guitar going out of tune that he smashed it at the end of a song.
posted by ocschwar at 4:10 PM on January 21, 2012


Somewhere I read or heard an interview with Townsend about The Who making a bunch of guitar blanks out of plywood for the sole purpose of playing once and then smashing and then transferring the hardware over to a new blank (and then smashing that one) and his surprise that some of them sounded as good as they did.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 4:11 PM on January 21, 2012


He was shocked to the point where he almost refused to play, because Jimi had just done something blasphemous.

That's rock & roll.
posted by mhoye at 4:22 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I cannot stand the guitar smashing. I don't know why, but for some reason that singular act makes me wonder how many broke-ass kids are in the audience that could do amazing things with the instrument -- instead of just watching it get smashed in a display of extravagance.
posted by Dark Messiah at 4:25 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pete Townshend explains why he smashes guitars

(The guy who interrupts is his father.)
posted by zingzangzung at 4:25 PM on January 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Used to have a red guitar
Until I smashed it drunk one night
Smashed it in the classic form
As Peter Townshend might
Threw it in the fireplace
Left it there a while
Kate she started crying when she saw my sordid smile

Red guitar was made of wood
It could not take the heat
Red guitar it caught on fire
And the damage was complete
It burned until all that was left
Were six pegs and six strings
Kate she says, "You are a fool
You done a foolish thing"


- Loudon Wainwright III
posted by louche mustachio at 4:44 PM on January 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


It wasn't Pete Townshend that did that KC, it was Paul Stanley, who would also pack in stuff llike smoke bombs and whatnot. For some reason I remember it being a whole slew of Ibenez Iceman guitars.

I remember seeing an old film of Townshend, back in the white jumpsuit SG-playing days. At the end of the show, rather than smashing his guitar, as he took it off, he looked down into the crowd, spotted a kid, and chucked it down to him.

I always wondered what happened to that guitar.
posted by Relay at 5:06 PM on January 21, 2012


Frank Zappa owned a guitar burnt by Jimi Hendrix at the Miami Pop Festival
posted by blob at 5:15 PM on January 21, 2012


This FPP could not possibly be complete without this clip of The Yardbirds with Jeff Beck and some other guitar nobody.
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:42 PM on January 21, 2012


I saw an old clip, from The Who's pre-Who days, them playing in a club in London, and Pete Townshend desperately retuning his guitar in mid song and looking flustered. The story I heard was that one time he was so flustered by his guitar going out of tune that he smashed it at the end of a song.

I have a hard time believing this could fluster Townshend. Watch this clip and notice what he does at 1:05. Watch closely, you might miss it.
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:57 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can't find a vid anywhere, but it'd be a crime to leave out Paul Simonon smashing his bass.
posted by Zack_Replica at 1:37 AM on January 22, 2012


there is actually a ceramic Indian percussion instrument called the ghatab I believe, which is sometimes thrown into the air to smash on the ground in time with the end of the song. I wonder how Ravi feels about that.
posted by thetruthisjustalie at 3:02 AM on January 22, 2012


Townshend related his work to that of Gustav Metzger and his theory of auto-destructive art. As an adolescent who was unable to afford an instrument I found the sight of Blackmore and his ilk (this is one of my favourites - for sheer camp it can't be beaten) smashing their instruments unbearably fucking wasteful. I'm with Ravi.
posted by peterkins at 7:04 AM on January 22, 2012


I enjoy making music but I consciously maintain a division between the tools and talent involved. In my opinion, far too many folks who are musically inclined invest their energies and emotions within the tools that they fetishize. When Jimi set his axe on fire or Pete two-handed one into the risers, it's a powerful reminder that the performance originates first and foremost from the humans on stage, not the instrument in their hands. The music is what's sacred, and it lives in people, not things.
posted by blue t-shirt at 8:25 AM on January 22, 2012


Smashing a guitar simply because you think it's "cool" or it's what the crowd wants is disgusting. The videos of Bieber and the Jonas Brothers actually made me feel a little sick.

But I believe an instrument trashing is the artistic equivalent of an orgasm, when the energy is so unbearably high, the adrenaline is flowing so hard and fast that the destruction is simply a continuation of the music itself; its absolute highest point before it can no longer sustain it's momentum.

I mean, I can't see any other reason to smash the shit out of well crafted thing otherwise.
posted by DuchessProzac at 8:28 AM on January 22, 2012


Bieber and the Jones brothers smashing instruments is a reasonably accurate metaphor for their "output".
posted by Dark Messiah at 8:45 AM on January 22, 2012


*Jonas.
posted by Dark Messiah at 8:45 AM on January 22, 2012


Oh my god - in this posted by zingzangzung - there's surreal commentary from a (drunk?) Shelley Winters talking about seeing the Plasmatics and Blondie in Berlin and "doing a movie about the punk rock world... directing, not acting... don't laugh..." and kind of sounding more punk than Pete. (Sorry to derail a little.)
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 8:56 AM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I recall seeing an interview with Kurt Cobain (or possibly a later one with Dave Grohl) about the reason Nirvana often smashed their gear:

It was to signal that the show was well and truly over. So, rather than the audience waiting for an encore that would never come (and then leaving disappointed), instead they get a big cathartic spectacle after which it is apparently* impossible for the band to play any more. Everyone gets to go home satisfied.

*Apparently is the key word there. It's not as if a major touring band goes on stage without several backups of everything.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:37 PM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I enjoy making music but I consciously maintain a division between the tools and talent involved.

Ehh? The talent involved somehow doesn't filter down to the luthiers and engineers who have spent centuries studying and perfecting their craft- they're just tools of the performer.

Or the songwriters- the performers are just a vehicle to showcase the intrinsic value of the composition.

Of course the song was just a tool of the theorist; a working model of his new understanding of music.

I get the rejection of the crass materialism of the veneration of things, but some of that fetishism is because the tools are an artform in and of themselves.

I imagine the luthier who worked out the ergonomics of his design, who endlessly tested and refinded both the interaction of materials and methods of construction...

I imagine him silently cursing the lout who destroys his art with the muzak version of "The Real Me" being the only surviving memory of Pete Townshend.

And a poorly recorded version at that.
posted by quintessencesluglord at 12:46 PM on January 22, 2012


I enjoy making music but I consciously maintain a division between the tools and talent involved.

That is ridiculous. Consider the difference between this guitar, this one, this guitar I used to own vs. this one my college roommate owned, or this, or this one.. well I could go on, but if you are a guitarist, you can look at these guitars and immediately imagine what they sound like, what they play like, what sort of musician would choose each instrument and why, and what sort of music would be best suited to that instrument.

I have argued this many times before. A musician and his instrument are inseparable, especially with fretted instruments.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:02 PM on January 22, 2012


Are you willfully misinterpreting what I'm saying, or am I just that poor of a communicator?

I never said all guitars were the same, nor did I say there was no skill involved in the construction of musical instruments.
posted by blue t-shirt at 2:08 PM on January 22, 2012


I'm teetering on the fence with this one. I love instruments and am one of those folks who believes an instrument kind of develops its own soul over time, you know, making it entirely unique and irreplaceable.

On the other hand when Hendrix or Townsend destroy the thing that symbolizes their identity, their reason for living, its like a strange virgin sacrifice. Maybe for a few moments they are God, destroying everything only to be reborn.
posted by snsranch at 2:14 PM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd like to see a band carefully assemble a guitar or two at the end of their set. Now that would be impressive.
posted by xil at 3:13 PM on January 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Are you willfully misinterpreting what I'm saying, or am I just that poor of a communicator?

I'll pick the poor communicator option.

Tools are useless without the person who uses them. One concept my art history teacher taught me is "technomorphia," the tools determine the type of work you can produce with them. That is, when all you've got is a hammer, every job looks like a nail.

So in this sense, you can't separate a musician's talent from his instrument. That's why we talk about guitar players being a Gibson Man or a Fender Man or whatever. That's why Hendrix played a Strat or a Flying V, Chet Atkins played a Gretch, why Roy Buchanan switched from playing a Fender Steel to a Telecaster, etc. Most of these instruments are mass produced and one is pretty much the same as another, with some variation in build quality. But they're usually not fetishizing a specific instrument, so much as a type of instrument. I mean, I am a Gibson man so let me give you an example of my own thought process that came up in this thread.

I cited a link of Pete Townshend playing with the Who, because he does this cool tuning-while-playing trick. Oh I loved Townshend when I was just a young novice guitar player. I bought a new Les Paul Standard because Townshend played one, and I couldn't afford the Standard or the really expensive Custom. But when I saw that Who clip again, I noticed, oh holy crap, is he playing a 1961 Les Paul SG, or is that a 61 Les Paul Jr like I used to own? Damn I miss that Jr, I sold it for $350 and now it would be worth about $6000. But no, it's not a Jr, it's got two pickups and the Jr. only has one. Hey, those are P-90 single pole pickups, not the usual double humbuckers, that's an SG Special. Wow Allison Robertson of The Donnas used to play an SG Special. Lately I've been listening to this YouTube clip over and over, playing along to it on my Les Paul Deluxe. Oh Allison was so hot that day, she is getting the max sound out of that SG, that is how you do it, pure Gibson guitar, no effects pedals, just Marshall tube amps cranked to 11 and your fingers flying on the frets. My face is melting. Oh I must have played along to this clip a couple hundred times, I can even get my Les Paul Deluxe to sound like that SG, althought it would be easier if I had my old Jr with the P-90 pickup. Hell, it would be easier if I was as talented as Allison is. But then, I suddenly realize.. my Deluxe is positioned the same as the SG Special. The Jr. was the low end (one P-90 pickup) then the Special was the low midrange, and then the regular SGs had dual humbuckers, those were high end, some were even Customs with 3 pickups and more gadgets. I couldn't afford that, any more than I could afford the Les Paul Custom of that era. So I settled on the low-midrange Les Paul with the cheaper mini-humbuckers, it was the same as the Standard except for the pickups. Now I realize it: I like the sound of the midrange mini-humbucker pickups on my Deluxe, just like Townshend and Robertson liked the midrange P-90s on their SGs. They could afford better, but they liked the cheaper pickups for the rawer sound. And that's probably why I like their playing, it sounds right to me, they play a style suited to the sound of that guitar, the guitar like mine. Then I thought back to an incident in a bar where I saw a live band playing. I saw the guitarist, I did a doubletake. Hell, is that a 1959 Les Paul Junior? It's not the SG shape, it's the single cutaway. I remember seeing Uriah Heep in like 1974, the guitarist was playing a 59 Jr just like that (and he was bashing it with chains). I asked him on a break, he was excited that anyone recognized it, yes indeed it was a 59 Les Paul Jr. And then he handed it to me and said, "check it out!" I picked it up and started playing, I noticed the neck was about way thicker than my old Jr. and mentioned that to the owner. He said, "Yeah, the 59s have a way different neck, they made them thinner starting in 1960." I found the guitar almost impossible to play, I was so adapted to the thinner neck of my old Jr. and my current Deluxe. Now a few months later, I'm watching another YouTube clip of Allison Robertson. She's a little younger and less experienced than in her later SG Special days. And what is she playing? A 1959 Les Paul Jr. Ah, that's how she learned to love those P-90 pickups. She grew up playing that Les Paul Jr. just like I did. Dammit now I really miss my old Les Paul Jr. Someday I will buy another, on the vintage guitar market. But they keep rising in price so fast, I better buy one soon or they'll be like $20k instead of $6k. And hell, the Jr. was the cheap, low end kiddie guitar.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:06 PM on January 22, 2012


Everyone would agree that in most musical situations, some tools are more appropriate than others. Naturally, artists will find a favourite for ergonomic, aesthetic or sentimental reasons; that's neither here or there.

My point is that an instrument is a tool. Genius transcends the tool, and its destruction is this concept made manifest.
posted by blue t-shirt at 5:28 PM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


People go to guitar shows to see guitars.

People go to rock concerts to see people play (and smash) guitars.

See the difference?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:36 PM on January 22, 2012


Yea, I know the feeling. My first electric was a Sears Silvertone with a bigsby trem. It's gone. In my teens I ran across a 1971 Gibson ES-335 and bought it for $500. It's long gone now. The list goes on and on. Losing guitars, whether by selling them after a poor decision or actually losing them it's always the same. It's kinda like lamenting about lost loves. They are just gone and ya can't get 'em back.

It's funny about guitars and thinking about all of the variations, makers, tweaks and tunings, but the bottom line is if you can make a $5000 boutique guitar sing, you can make a Tijuana Toy sing too. That and everything else in between.
posted by snsranch at 5:43 PM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's funny about guitars and thinking about all of the variations, makers, tweaks and tunings, but the bottom line is if you can make a $5000 boutique guitar sing, you can make a Tijuana Toy sing too. That and everything else in between.

This is an argument my photography professor used to make. He said that a great photographer could make great photographs with even a cheap Brownie camera instead of a $10k high end Hasselblad rig. I have come to disagree with him.

I have a cheap little 1960 Gibson L-2 3/4 size guitar, it's a hand-me-down from my little sister who took guitar lessons and then lost interest in it. I like the 3/4 size because I have a short little finger and it's easier for me to reach the frets. It's even a "guitar of legend," Gibson reissued it as the Arlo Guthrie LG-2 3/4. Anyway, my old L2 is beat to shit, but it sounds pretty good, considering. But it plays like shit. I love to play it, but I get the sense I have to sorta "push the song uphill" so to speak. It's a goddam effort to play. A 3/4 neck actually has higher tension on the strings so it's harder to push the strings down into the fret. I have to make an effort to pull my fingers up, or else I'm just pressing down so hard I end up sliding my fingers down the strings and making that horrible screech. The intonation is bad, it's hard to get all 6 strings into tune. I really need to get a new nut but I took it to the guitar shop and they said it's so fragile, they wouldn't touch it unless I did a complete restoration for a minimum of $1500. Hell, I can buy a reissue new model, or maybe even a different old L-2 for that kind of money. Yes, I can make music on that guitar, but it certainly isn't melodious, nor would anyone consider it "singing." And even then, I can only produce music on that guitar with extreme effort.

Now on the nigh end, a few years back I was in Tokyo at a high-end guitar boutique. They had a MIDI guitar rig, wow was it elaborate. I forget the exact model of guitar, I think it was something like a Fender Jaguar, but totally refitted with full MIDI gear. It didn't have pickups as such, you know how MIDI works, they're triggers. You play a note and it triggers the MIDI interface to send a signal to the MIDI processor that you've hit that note, and it comes out of a synthesizer. The guy set it up, handed me the guitar.. and I could not get a single note out of the guitar. I played and played, and nothing came out. I asked the guy, is this set up right? What's the deal? He picked it up and started playing, and said no, it's fine. But he was playing in an extremely precise jazz style, carefully picking each note rather than playing chords. He handed it back to me, I still couldn't get it to make a sound. I even tried my best to emulate his playing style. I even tried playing just a single note, over and over in different ways. But nothing came out. The guitar vendor looked at me like I was insane, he said nobody ever had this problem before. I guess I would have to totally relearn how I play guitar just to make the goddam MIDI triggers work.

So, no. I can make my Les Paul Deluxe sing, but I can't make a $10k MIDI guitar rig sing, or a cheap L-2 sing. Your guitar has to be good in the same way you are good at playing it. It can't be crappy in a way that exacerbates the ways you play crappily. That would be like asking an opera diva to sing with marbles in her mouth. Sure you could probably tell she had talent, but it would ruin her ability to express it.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:53 PM on January 22, 2012


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