Daron here. A couple of people have commented here and there about how crazy all the music biz stuff seems. All I can say is, yeah. There’s an element of random luck in there, mixed with a kind of karmic flow of who you know and where you were at the right or wrong time. So little of a musician’s success depends on talent, and so much of it depends on what I can only call “the weather.”
I was struck by a line in an interview with Adam Ant I read recently. He’s apparently making some kind of comeback. Here’s the line, describing his flat: “Other walls are adorned with posters of [various people] and Slash who, as a teenager, used to babysit Adam’s then-girlfriend’s kid during his spell living in Los Angeles.” Think about that. Did teen Slash dream of being as famous and glamorized as Adam Ant? Did he have any idea then that he might in fact become quite a lot famouser and probably richer, too, than Mister Ant?
Then again, there’s my bias showing. I’m not actually sure if you went up to 100 random people in the street and asked them if they knew who Slash was versus Adam Ant which one would be known by more, or who could pick them out of a lineup. Slash suffers the eternal role of being one step behind his front man, Axl Rose.
Okay, I get it, you call him a front man for a reason. Your singer has to be the guy (or gal) everyone sees and knows. Can you name Bon Jovi’s guitar player? You’re at a disadvantage there because Bon Jovi is named for the lead singer, so are they a band or a solo act…? And then there’s the tendency of singers to go solo after a while, once they realize they don’t need you. This was an iron-clad career path back in the 80s, when the lead singers of a bunch of arena rock bands all did it: Steve Perry of Journey, Dennis DeYoung of Styx, Lou Gramm of Foreigner. Thing was, they all devolved immediately into pop balladeers and then pretty much sank from sight. Insert that Pac Man dying sound here.
It happens with female singers whose managers realize a single songbird “chanteuse” is more marketable than a whole band. So Miami Sound Machine became Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine, and eventually just Gloria Estefan. (By the way, it was a tour bus accident she had in the 80s that got everyone sleeping with their heads toward the back of the bus.) 10,000 Maniacs becomes just Natalie Merchant. I can’t even remember the name of the band Gwen Stefani fronted. They’ve been erased by her subsequent solo career. (Oh, right, NO Doubt.) Hm, hadn’t noticed it before, but the women going solo seem to have been more successful than the guys. Way more successful. Huh.
Anyway, the only real guarantee as a lead guitarist to keep from being erased is to name your fucking band after yourself. Case in point: Van Halen. Okay, yeah, David Lee Roth did go on to a rather amusing solo career (and then became an EMT in LA from what I hear? and would get people in the ambulance and they wouldn’t recognize him… or maybe that’s just apocryphal. I suppose I could Google it and see.) This tendency to name bands using the guitarist’s last name is especially prevalent in metal, where the Guitar is God. Although now that I think about it Dokken and Dio are both named for their lead singers, so it doesn’t always happen, i.e. see Bon Jovi above — and by the way, the answer to the question is Richie Sambora, who incidentally grew up not that far from me in New Jersey.
Anyway, there are other examples, though most of them didn’t get as famous as Van Halen. Even Steve Vai did it, when he did a more traditional band-with-lead-singer setup, and just called it “Vai.” (Edit: Okay, okay, some other examples, and a lot of them don’t come from metal, so sue me: Santana (duh), the J. Geils Band, the Spencer Davis Group… I still say it’s the only way some guitar players can make sure they’re not eclipsed by their singer.)
Holy crap I only just now realized Guns & Roses might refer to Axl’s last name. Man, I can be thick sometimes. I wonder if it is? I am not Googling it. I am not Googling it.
You’ll notice who I named my band after. (Well, once I’d named myself.)
Speaking of metal, people are sometimes surprised how wide my musical tastes are. But even in the lilywhite suburbs of New Jersey where I grew up you can still hear salsa and merengue on the radio, and plenty of hip hop and rap, too. I listened to everything my radio dial could pull in. Classical. Jazz. Punk. Metal. New Wave. Even Irish folk on Sunday mornings. Everything.
Just about the only thing we didn’t get on the radio was Country, but Remo had a lot of the classics like Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline in his collection, which I was constantly raiding when I was growing up. I wore out the mix tapes I made at his house long ago.
I used to get into fights in music school–and I mean almost fist fights sometimes–when snobs would say things like “Rap isn’t music.” I’m old enough to know now that there was all kinds of racist, classist bullshit going on there, but I was too stubborn at the time to think of it that way and instead I would fight about what the definition of music was, then. Dumb asses.
I like rap. I’m no good at it, but I like it. I love the Beastie Boys, who are really the successors to the Ramones when I think about it, and I liked the days of Run DMC in their prime. I watched “Yo MTV Raps” nearly as often as the “Headbangers Ball” despite the dearth of guitars in it.
Which is all a prelude to me saying, check this out:
The guy’s name is DeStorm, and the more of his videos I watch, the more wowed i am with his wordsmithing abilities. And his prolific nature. He does two of these videos a week! That rivals the old They Might Be Giants “Dial A Song” phone line they used to have. (In fact, TMBG say they discontinued Dial A Song partly because it seemed by 2006 the Internet had taken over the function it used to provide.)
Man, I’m having a good month if I can string together three coherent stanzas (or even incoherent ones a la Michael Stipe) and a chorus that I like. That guy blows me away. I stayed up until 2am the other night just watching his videos.
Finally, thank you thank you for the contributions to the tip jar. If you haven’t put in yet, though, it’s all right. Drop a comment once in a while so I know you’re listening, ok?
And I should point out, lots of folks find DGC through Top Web Fiction. Every time you read a chapter, you can click here, or on the link in the right sidebar, to “vote” for us. You get one vote per 24 hours, and it costs nothing to click. Think of it like clapping, I guess, which costs nothing but makes the musician feel great all the same.