Saturday, August 15, 2015

May I Land My Kinky Machine?-Vaughan & Bowie

Painting by Frank Kelly Freas
Stevie Ray Vaughan's guitar playing on David Bowie's Let's Dance album has been obsessing me of late, it's so pitch perfect and manages to maintain his distinctive style (that great vibrato) while at the same time being beautifully restrained, every part honed to the bare essential (you can hum the solos) so as to service only the song in the best possible way. It's a testament to Vaughan's class and talent that he manages to enliven the songs without being overly showy or in anyway out of the context with the slick danceable pop album Nile Rodgers and Bowie envisioned. Sadly money disputes prevented him from doing the Serious Moonlight tour and instead we got Earl Slick mugging and generally acting a boob. But there's a great bootleg of the rehearsals in Dallas when SRV was still part of the band, when I get a chance I will post it.

The guitar playing on Let's Dance has got me listening to Stevie Ray Vaughan again for the first time since I was kid learning guitar, in particular there's a DVD of a 1983 show at the El Macombo that I highly recommend for anyone remotely interested, if you have no patience for the blues idiom or guitar soloing (lots of it, but never wanky, always with soul) you shouldn't bother. It's a high energy sweaty club gig and the very best comes near the end when Vaughan covers Hendrix's "3rd Stone From the Sun" (did Hendrix ever do this one live? If anyone knows please comment) and completely abandons his blues chops (which are in abundance) to revel in some gleeful auto-destruction and psychedelic sonics of pure noise worthy of Townshend and Hendrix. Unfortunately I can't find an upload of the video, just audio, it's even more impressive when you see the way he mercilessly attacks his guitar, but for the time being here's the audio, followed by some well known cuts from the aforementioned Bowie album. 
Bowie, Vaughan & Rodgers