UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Guitar Heroes

As I was driving home today, I checked out a Labor Day program on one of the radio stations that played the fifty great rock guitarists of all time. This of course presents a huge range of talent that features musicians from all genres of Rock: Carlos Santana, Keith Richards, Eddie Van Halen, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Robbie Krieger, Eric Clapton, The Edge and Jimmy Page.

Since the dawn of Rock and Roll, the guitar has been the instrument of choice for most aspiring musicians. It is often seen and used as a distinct extension of the player’s personality and “voice” that allows them to transmit an explicit and seductive message to their audience. It’s almost religious to many, who will follow any musician that will temporarily put them in a state of musically induced euphoria.

In It Might Get Loud, Davis Guggenheim presents a documentary that features three amazing and dedicated musicians from different periods of musical history and generations who all chose the guitar as their true calling. Doing a complete 360 from his award winning, An Inconvenient Truth, a documentary about global warming, he takes us to the world of music. Guggenheim celebrates the musical history of Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), The Edge (U2), and Jack White (The White Stripes) and masterfully intertwining these three different lives that eventually come full circle reaching the final conclusion reflecting timelessness of music and their love for the guitar.

Jimmy Page, the oldest of the three, saw rock and roll in its baby stages. Growing up in the 1940’s and 50’s England, he witnessed things that the then unborn White could only read about. In incredible rare footage, Page is shown performing in the early days blasting out “scuffle” guitar a style of music first popular in the US and later in Britain during the 1950s. Years later, Page made his way into bands that became iconic in Rock and Roll; The Yardbirds, which in its various incarnations featured notable guitarists like Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton, and finally in the greatest and one the most popular bands of all time, Led Zeppelin. No one will play guitar like Jimmy Page on “Stairway to Heaven” which is considered by many die hard rock fans to be the national anthem of rock and roll.

U2 has been around since the late 70’s and is considered one or the biggest band in the world. Starting out in Dublin, The Edge in his controlled yet relaxed way, conveys to his audience the humble beginnings of his journey with U2 giving us “personal” tour of places like a rehearsal spaces in a school room were the first ten minutes of practice was spent moving desks out of the way. Or the first outdoor “free” concert that was held on a raised cement structure in a schoolyard. He takes us into a tiny kitchen where he finds and plays old cassette tracks of a “Street with No Name” off of “The Joshua Tree”, the 1987 album that took U2 over the top.

Like Page, Edge has his own distinct sound and works very closely with a guitar technician who claims that the Edge will not repeat the same “sound” more than once in 23 songs and drives him crazy creating the perfect music that will form a direct emotional connection between him to his audience.

Jack White of the White Stripes is the youngest of the three guitarists who grew up in a predominantly Mexican section of Detroit. Though he craved to grow as a musician, he found this part of Detroit void of any musical styles except hip hop. The frustrated White was determined to play what he wanted and eventually met drummer Brian Muldoon in an upholstery shop and started jamming. The two talented young musicians would eventually form their first band, known as the Upholsterers, composed of White on vocals, guitar and piano and Muldoon playing the drums and a worm gear saw. White became so immersed in music that he spent his nights in a room surrounded by 2 drum kits, other instruments and sleeping on a piece of foam near the entrance of the room-(sounds like lower Allston), and spiritually mentored by blues legend, Son House White.

Despite these different experiences, It Might Get Loud streamlines these artists into a collaboration of musical entertainment, jamming with amazing songs like the Band’s “The Weight”. The communication between them and their mutual love for the guitar was there. These artists all have their individual approach and gift but in the end as the Rolling Stones put it, “Its only rock and roll and we like it.

About the Contributor
Bonnie Godas served as the arts editor for The Mass Media the following years: Spring 2009; 2009-2010