Join 3,503 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Last Week, Nile Rodgers Experienced Real Fear
October 15, 2013 10:08 AM   Subscribe

The Hitmaker is Nile Rodgers' 1959 Fender Stratocaster. Last week, he left it on a train in NYC. (Warning: Autoplaying great music) Legendary Producer/Writer/Guitarist Nile Rodgers writes on his blog about the near-loss of one of the most famous instruments in music - "The Hitmaker," also known as the "World's Most Successful Guitar," which Rodgers played on hits by everyone from Chic, David Bowie, Madonna and Duran Duran to Daft Punk. Oh, yeah, and that's The Hitmaker playing the funky riff sampled on Rapper's Delight, too. From a previous MeFi post, here's Nile Rodgers talking about music and, starting at the 55:40 mark, playing The Hitmaker and demonstrating some of the most famous riffs ever played.

Nile Rodgers and The Hitmaker played the key guitar riffs on some of the most well-known pop songs and albums of the last 40 years. When you hear it, you'll recognize the sound. And it's all one brilliant genius with that same guitar - producing, writing, and playing the some of the greatest riffs of all time. Just a few examples:

Chic - Le Freak
Chic - Good Times
David Bowie - Let's Dance (But the guitar solo there is Stevie Ray Vaughan)
Madonna - Like A Virgin
Diana Ross - I'm Coming Out (sampled on Mo Money Mo Problems by The Notorious B.I.G. Ft. P Diddy & Mase)
Duran Duran - Notorious
INXS - Original Sin
Sister Sledge - We Are Family
Diana Ross - Upside Down
Daft Punk - Get Lucky
posted by The World Famous (35 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh man, I left a guitar on the bus once, on my way to rehersal, and can relate to the manic scrambling trying to figure out where it might be. I retraced the bus route and managed to check three different #11 busses within an hour of losing it, but I never got it back.
posted by grog at 10:14 AM on October 15, 2013


Somewhere there's a blog about Earthwing the lost skateboard, with fewer pictures of a gilt-edged Manhattan apartment, but probably just as much Fear.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:30 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hitmaker? After viewing that house and the view of the "lagoon", I'd rechristen that guitar The Money Tree. Good to see Nile didn't inhale his money up his nose like so many other musicians of that era.
posted by Ber at 10:30 AM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


A soft case? A $60 soft case?!? Even my 2002 Gibson Firebird V reissue, worth very nearly nothing compared to this Strat, gets a hard case. Sheesh.
posted by 1adam12 at 10:30 AM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Great story, thanks. Two things though: a) why is he taking a pre-CBS strat on the train in a soft case? and b) how come he lives in the suite from the final scene of 2001?
posted by colie at 10:32 AM on October 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Good to see Nile didn't inhale his money up his nose

He made a pretty good run at it. I was so impressed with the long interview, when it was posted here, that I went out and got his autobiography, wherein he describes the process of reaching the end of the line and getting sober. There was a great story from that time. He was in Florida, working on someone's record, and an impromptu gig came up. Rodgers sat in. The next day, the client said, hey, want to hear a tape of your playing last night? And it was horrible - out of time, ego-filled, too loud, out of tune. It was a real shock for him.
posted by thelonius at 10:34 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Did he use that guitar for the beginning of "Modern Love", or on Black Tie White Noise? Damn, baby.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:07 AM on October 15, 2013


This reminds me that I don't think my friend ever got his puppet back.

I bought a Strat over the summer, because my rig just couldn't do the Strat "quack," and one of the riffs I played (over and over, on a dozen different guitars) was the riff from Le Freak. Nile's playing, to me, is the sound of a Stratocaster.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:07 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Jeez. So nice to hear a story like this coming out well.
posted by nevercalm at 11:11 AM on October 15, 2013


Nile Rodgers' autobiography is great. Highly recommended.
posted by 4midori at 11:20 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Coincidentally, there was a story here last week of someone on the bus losing their lifesize cardboard cutout of Nile Rodgers.
posted by rollick at 11:20 AM on October 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


"This is the story of the man behind the hits. From the mean streets of New York City, to the drug-fueled excesses of the '80s, meet Nile Rogers: The Hitmaker"
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 11:21 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


A soft case? A $60 soft case?!? Even my 2002 Gibson Firebird V reissue, worth very nearly nothing compared to this Strat, gets a hard case.

A Firebird is made out of mahogany and will crack if you look at it funny, especially the 60's era ones because of the way they milled the headstocks against the bias of the woodgrain. Fenders are like baseball bats. I have a Thunderbird that I'm afraid to take out of the house in its hardshell, but my Jazz goes over my shoulder in a gig bag. I've dropped it or let it slide to the floor by accident (jazz basses have that weirdly angled butt that makes 'em hard to stand up) more than a few times and it doesn't even go out of tune.

I forgot to latch the case to my P-bass once and picked the case up by the handle and made it all the way out to the street, where it took a suicide dive, headstock first, onto the rough asphalt from about 3 feet up. I had to loosen the neck bolts, straighten it out & tighten them down again. It's got a couple nasty-looking dings in it, but it was otherwise unaffected, though I thought for sure I'd killed it, at first. It's damn hard to do more than cosmetic damage to a Fender.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:26 AM on October 15, 2013 [14 favorites]


From the docu:
Nile's guitar, a 1959 Stratocaster, is known affectionately as The Hitmaker. Its sound has defined his career as a songwriter, performer, and producer, since the early '70s, and it is believed to have been played on $2 BILLION DOLLARS worth of hit music.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 11:27 AM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


I find it interesting that Nile is having such a moment just now.

I grew up a midwest 70s rock kid in the Disco Sucks era, then became a punk/indie 80s guy in college, and two things woke me out of my Disco-fearing youth.

One, my discovery out of that ironic 70s revivalism in college, ala Last Days of Disco, that this was excellent feel-good party music, and two, Elvis Costello's constant championing of the Chic catalog over the years before that became trendy.

I've been leaning towards getting a Tele lately, but this has me second-guessing that.
posted by C.A.S. at 11:31 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nile Rodgers rides a train. As a dedicated transit user, I say, "That's pretty fuckin' cool!"
posted by Ardiril at 11:46 AM on October 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


There is so much about this story that throws me for a loop, both good and surprising. Got a friend who collects guitars and when I just told him about the story, he was amazed.

My first reaction was to call Fender and have them make TWO replicas just in case.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:58 AM on October 15, 2013


I love seeing people play these old guitars instead of treating them as museum pieces or investments
posted by thelonius at 12:04 PM on October 15, 2013 [16 favorites]


Wow. Those Red Bull Lectures are an amazing resource. Putting all that filthy sugar syrup cash to good use as always!
posted by samworm at 12:44 PM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


the riff from Le Freak

There's a nice little discussion of that part here
posted by thelonius at 1:09 PM on October 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


If you are thinking of learning to play guitar, just skip straight to Nile Rodgers and save yourself some headaches. The rhythm, the way he makes you think about chords and how to not just write, but arrange music...it took me years to appreciate it; I really wish I had discovered it earlier.

As shown by his prolific resume, he may not be the best person from whom to learn to solo, but he is great at demonstrating how to play with anyone and make it sound great. Funk guitar is tremendously underrated.
posted by roquetuen at 3:29 PM on October 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


People underrate it because so many players look at what's required to play like Rodgers and just quietly back away.
posted by uberchet at 3:42 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seriously. I've tried to play two or three strings at a time on the simplest possible riffs and I still can't do it right. Rodgers plays way more intricate stuff and makes it look easy.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:44 PM on October 15, 2013


He used to play in the house band at the Apollo, where, I figure, they will show you what is wrong with your funk guitar playing. His first real pro gig, though, was on the road with a touring Sesame Street revue. The other guitarist on that gig (I think, it may have been the Apollo) was Carlos Alomar, later to be known as a Bowie sideman. Small business!

The Red Bull interview really is fascinating; he led a very interesting life, even before he became a famous musician.
posted by thelonius at 3:55 PM on October 15, 2013


I'm not a great, or even a particularly good, guitarist, but I can do some okay funk-chucking when I need to. But to me, it's the fluidity with which Rodgers moves and comps, without even seeming to do either, that makes his playing special. He plays these ridiculously intricate things that, because of the three-string playing, are, sort of, "barely there," and it makes all the difference.
posted by uncleozzy at 4:56 PM on October 15, 2013


It's damn hard to do more than cosmetic damage to a Fender.

Heh...yeah I saw the soft case and didn't wince. My 60s reissue Strat was so durable I figured it would be the third thing to survive the apocalypse after the cockroaches and Keith Richards. Ash body and maple neck - it was one of my go-to home invasion weapons.
posted by jimmythefish at 5:52 PM on October 15, 2013


The best part is the description of his rig. (A DI box.)
posted by ovvl at 6:36 PM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nile Rodgers rides a train. As a dedicated transit user, I say, "That's pretty fuckin' cool!"

The Metro-North out of Grand Central to New Haven is pretty much the ur- commuter train. I mean, he takes it to Westport, fps.
posted by dhartung at 12:35 AM on October 16, 2013


People underrate it because so many players look at what's required to play like Rodgers and just quietly back away.

Johnny Marr, a guitarist of some renown, is a huge Rodgers fan and has gotten to play with him.
posted by juiceCake at 6:49 AM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


The best part is the description of his rig. (A DI box.)

A strat, plugged straight into a Neve & played with a metal pick is a thing to behold. I've been fortunate enough to have sat nearby while this marvel took place.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:55 AM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


My God...do you *realize* what might have happened, if The Hitmaker had fallen into the wrong hands?
posted by littlejohnnyjewel at 11:03 AM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I liked his line about a lot of guitar chords containing 'too much information.' You definitely want to avoid those 6-string barre chords because it's just a mush. This why Noel Gallagher sounds so amateurish a lot of the time.

The only other player I have heard voice this opinion so strongly is John Lennon, who commonly avoided 6-string chords on rhythm guitar and was very forceful about the importance of good rhythm guitar playing that focused on the instrument's centre range. Instead he will use the 'D-shape' major chord, or the barre shape without barring (so no top and bottom strings) or the seventh shape like the C open chord, on the four inner strings.

And the style of minutely constantly varying which strings you hit on a chord shape-based riff for expressive nuance is how he got 'I Feel Fine' to sound so good (extra points cos it's played on acoustic as well).
posted by colie at 11:47 AM on October 16, 2013


Nile Rogers played on Get Lucky?

FUCK, I have finally found a song he contributed to that I FUCKING HATE.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:26 AM on October 18, 2013


He's

come too far

to give up

his guitar

let's

make a barre

and erupt

to the stars
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:45 PM on October 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Not a Sheikh, not a Sikh, not a geek, but he did write Le Freak."
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:10 PM on October 21, 2013


« Older The Day My Kid Went Punk Afterschool Special - Tee...  |  Lentil Bean is a French Bulldo... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments