Change Of The Guard
Track 9 on Steely Dan’s debut album “Can’t Buy A Thrill” is titled Change Of The Guard. Like all Steely Dan songs the jazz influences are subtly there but to me there is something barber shop quartet about it. Again like a lot of Dan songs it features a scorching and well constructed guitar solo, this time by Skunk Baxter who went on to play to a lot of 70s college kids in a band with quite a few top 40 singles, the imaginatively named The Doobie Brothers.
In the 70s guitar solos were not just about how loud you could play, how fast your fingers could fly up and down the frets or showing what this pedal from the enormous array of pedals in front of you, could do. Obviously the early guitar heroes were at their peak so with Clapton, Blackmore, Beck, and Iommi there was plenty of ground breaking going on; but there was craft not just flash.
So in present day it is pretty hard to blow minds but I think that’s the problem; guitarists are trying too hard. What seems to have been lost is how important the feel and the building of the solo is within the song. Or to put it another way, nowadays it seems that guitarists are thinking, “Like I am just going to put this thing I have been working on right here regardless if it fits feel wise. “
Jimmy Page of you know who [What? You don’t know who? You’ve obviously stumbled onto the wrong blog by mistake. But please stay around, plenty to read here] was the master of guitar solo construction for me. The solos just seem to fit so well with the emotion, the groove and the lyrics it’s hard to imagine something different during those bars. For just one example go and have a listen to The Rover from the Physical Graffiti album.
Anyway I have as usual digressed. The Change of the Guard seems to be on the mark for what is happening in the world today. Everywhere and everything, be they countries, social constructions, religions or sport the status quo is under threat. Given the vast majority of these institutions, if not all of them, have been run by and for thousands of years by white middle aged men it is no surprise there has been a fair bit of shouting, stomping and chestbeating [see what I did there, its like product placement in movies]. Hell, now they have announced that Channel 7 not Channel 9 has just won the rights to televise the cricket. No more Chappelli and Bill Lawry, the last knights of the original cricket round table, forever immortalised by The Twelfth Man in champagne Aussie comedy that I suspect is no longer politically correct. The world is indeed changing.
I have been reading a few books and checking out some of the touring speakers that have visited Australia over the last few months all of whom have been commenting on different aspects of this period of change and challenge that is sweeping the world.
So if you have been spending the last few months working your way through The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Married at First Sight etc. let me give you a quick rundown on Homo Deus, a book by Yuval Noah Harari and also the lecture series titled Justice from the high profile Michael Sandel, Political Philosophy Professor of Harvard University.
“Now Scott, “ I can hear you say with disappointment in your voices, “You’re not going to tell us about your latest adventure with Blaze or why Hockey Dad is so worthy of a listen or why Shaun Micallef is a genius and how you had a craft beer that you almost liked?”
No I am not. This is a time to use the brain and not just to act unthinkingly from the gut like a coked up NRL player in a Bondi nightclub.
So lets crack on. Homo Deus is chockers with big questions like why did we use to worship trees and lions, then switched to some bloke in the sky and now, well not so much worshipping going on?
If you have more chance of dying of suicide than in war, if obesity kills more people than famine and if we are eradicating disease slowly but surely what are we going to worry about in the future?
Are we going to live forever?
Why do we feel compelled to consume resources beyond our needs?
Why must economies always be growing?
Why do we think we are better than our fellow animals?
In the future will we worship data as a new religion?
Lots of stuff to think about and Yuval fills in the answers with facts and his theories. Depending on your personal beliefs you will be challenged, maybe disagree and you will learn something too. The book is not too hard going in terms of readability although some of the ideas are tough to get your head around. So if you are sick of not knowing why you simply feel that you have to have another motorised toy for your double garage you should check it out.
Professor Sandel’s 2005 Harvard course lectures are on YouTube, so when you are watching them you are seeing and hearing the same stuff that the kids of well off US families were seeing and hearing, only you don’t have an exam to pass afterward. It’s a twelve X one hour episode series so its not something you plow through like binge watching a series of The Walking Dead or Game Of Thrones but if you like to have your moral positions challenged you will enjoy it.
For example one episode studies the question, when is Cannibalism acceptable?
The answer by the way is, as far as I understood it, is that it depends on your ethical position and how hungry you are.
Now I know, as Neal in The Young Ones says, “Heavy Man” but it is more of a discussion than a lecture with the students fully involved in explaining their different points of view and the good professor is a great presenter. I certainly don’t watch it after a big day’s work and as the dominatrix said to the Bishop, “Its not for everyone” but if you haven’t been exercising the brain lately and you want to get back into training this could be the place to start.
Six well constructed [like a fancy dessert] guitar solos mostly from the golden age so perfect in their settings and ethically right there can be no debate.
I’ve Been Waiting – Matthew Sweet – the definition of powerpop
Streets Of Your Town - The Go Betweens – sublime and emotional like everything they did
Nobody’s Fault But Mine – Led Zeppelin – the sheer fucking majesty
Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd – not a note out of place
All Along the Watchtower - Jimi Hendrix – two minutes later he would have reeled off another one completely different and just as perfect
Marquee Moon [either solo, there are two] – Television – Timeless and unique sound