Youtubin’: ZZ Top’s Elwood Francis plays “Got Me Under Pressure” with a 17 string bass

This went viral a few days ago, with everyone missing the point!

Remember when ZZ Top used to showcase goofy guitars in all their music videos?  Be it a furry bass or a guitar made out of Muddy Waters’ house, ZZ Top have long showed off bizarre electric stringed instruments as part of their schtick.

It doesn’t matter that you could play this song on one string if you tried hard enough.  All that matters is that Elwood got peoples’ eyes on ZZ Top!  And tongues are waggin’, pro and con.  Not that any of that matters.  When you look at ZZ Top’s history, Elwood now fits in better than ever!




#987: The Summer Awakens

RECORD STORE TALES #987: The Summer Awakens

It’s official:  the earliest swim on record for any summer at the lake is May 13!  If you don’t believe in global warming, then I can tell you that past weekends in early May, we were snuggled up in jackets and long pants.  This year, early May was as warm as early July used to be.  What an incredible weekend.  Clear and sunny until late Saturday.  By then we were indoors waiting for the Toronto Maple Leafs to once again exit the playoffs in the first round.  But I’m jumping head of myself!

Traffic was light but the music was heavy.  Albums for the drive up:

As expected, both were awesome on the road.  There was no clear winner.  Interestingly, Jennifer liked “Roots In My Boots” by Scorpions, which I considered a bit of a throwaway.  Regardless, both albums did well on the highway and rocked us safely to the cottage in two hours.

First music on the porch:

  • Kathryn Ladano – Open

Not a new release, but since the good Doctor was next door, it felt right to serenade her with some of her best music!

From there we settled in with the first hot dogs of the year, and I began to prep for my show that night (Top 11 Star Wars movies) by watching The Phantom Menace.  10 years ago, the only way to do that would be to bring a DVD and watch it on the laptop.  If we wanted to watch a Star Wars movie 30 years ago, we needed to bring the tape and a VCR!  Everything is so easy now, but dependent on a good internet connection.  That connection enabled me to do the first cottage show of the year, and a success it was.  I experimented with some new lighting and it worked way better than last year after sundown.  A successful show — and one of the best we’ve ever done.   Certainly one of my favourites.

It’s always hard to sleep after a caffeinated show like that.  I got four or five hours, and was up and at ’em early Saturday.  It was so quiet.  Most cottagers have not opened yet — their loss!  They were not able to listen when I rocked Kiss on the front porch on Saturday.  Kiss albums this weekend included Dynasty, Kiss, Hotter Than Hell, Peter Criss, and Rock and Roll Over.

I made fish for breakfast (trout) and went to go pick up my new bass from neighbor Donna.  Her brother was Don Simmons of Helix, and this bass used to belong to him.  It is my honour to play it on the porch in his memory.  Although I use the word “play” very loosely.  I have never played bass before and can only “barely” play guitar as it is.  It took some time to get used to the size of the body.  Even the neck felt huge.  But it sounded great and really rumbled the porch.

I made chicken and steaks on the barbecue and burned up a bunch of old wood — without losing my glasses this time.  After being on my feet all day Saturday, I took it easy in the evening, missing the bright orange sunset.  I had been on my feet all day and it felt good to rest up in the evening.

We departed for home early Sunday.  Albums for the road home:

These albums, Priest especially, gave me some serious retro vibes, as if I had stepped into a time machine and was 16 again.  I had this happen numerous times last year, and I wrote about that feeling in multiple previous chapters.  It’s a very intense feeling, as if I was no longer living in the year 2022, but had stepped into 1987 again.  It felt as real as the steering wheel in my hands.  Looks like this summer will be no different.  Lots of flashbacks in store!

An excellent start to what I hope will be an amazing year.

VIDEO: May 13-15 Weekend / Max the Axe “Space Marine”

Amazing weekend at the lake once again, and you can see it all right now, to the tune of “Space Marine” by Max the Axe from Trillion Dollar Threats!  This short metallic blitz of a song is a condensed and concentrated rewrite of “Hard Drive” from their 1995 EP Bodies of Water.  It’s a fantastic tune from Max with another killer riff.

This year represents the earliest “first swim of the year” on May 13, a record.  A sign of a hot summer to come.

In this video you will see my new Fender acoustic bass.  This originally belonged to Don Simmons of Helix and I am fortunate enough to have bought it from his sister Donna.  This will provide many hours of summer entertaining at the cottage as I slowly become acquainted with this lovely instrument.  Tomorrow you’ll get the full story of the weekend in Record Store Tales #987:  The Summer Awakens.

REVIEW: John Paul Jones – Zooma (1999)

JOHN PAUL JONES – Zooma (1999 Discipline Global Mobile)

Three words:  “Bass”.  “Heavy”.  “Groove”.

Purchased at Encore Records a short time after its release, Zooma by John Paul Jones blew me away from first listen.  If you’re wondering who the heavy influence in Them Crooked Vultures really is, it was Jones this whole time.   Just listen to the title track on Zooma.  You could be fooled into thinking it’s a brand new jam by the Vultures, so heavy is it.

Zooma is an entirely instrumental solo album, featuring Jones on most of the instruments.  On drums is Pete Thomas.  Trey Gunn and Paul Leary drop in for some guest appearances.  Otherwise it’s largely the JPJ show and his 4, 10 and 12 string basses!  What a heavy sound they make.

The second track “Grind” (featuring Gunn on touch guitar) is contrasted by bright highs and the deepest lows of the 12-string bass, all within a killer groove.  This track could blow a subwoofer, it’s so bass heavy.  The next track “The Smile of Your Shadow” takes things down to the acoustic level, with instruments like bass lap steel, mandola and djembe.  It’s the most Zeppelin of the tracks due to its acoustic, quieter nature.  “Goose” brings back the heavy groove again, this time on a 10-string bass.  The drums have that Zeppelin kind of beat to go with it.

But Jones is so much more than just groove (and Zeppelin references in reviews).  “Bass n’ Drums” brings out his jazzy side.  Denny Fongheiser on drums this time, and John Paul keeping is single with just four strings this time.  But that doesn’t limit his pallette at all, as he plays in a combination lead/rhythm style.  That’s just the one track though — Jones is back to 10 strings and a maniacal groove on “B. Fingers”.  It’s sonic controlled chaos…with a beat.

As tasty as the bass and grooves are, Zooma is not an easy album to digest.  It’s big, it’s large, and the tracks tend towards long and jammy.  The longest is “Snake Eyes”, with bass lap steel, organ solos, and members of the London Symphony!  It’s easy to imagine “Snake Eyes” as a modern day Led Zeppelin number, and it’s moments like this that will make the Zep diehard weep for what could have been.  But it goes on a long time, including a long orchestral outro that sounds like a soundtrack.  Brilliant but not for those with short attention spans.

“Nosami Blue” bears some superficial resemblance to the intro to “Absolution Blues” by Coverdale-Page, but this is just because both have the same roots:  the blues.  Most of the work here is being done once more on a bass lap steel.  After a long freeform blues jam, the drums kick in and we get back into a groove.  It’s like two songs in one.  And that brings us to the final song “Tidal”, which a manic and exhaustive bass workout to take the senses to the final extreme.  It is bonkers!

As a quaint leftover from the 1990s, this disc is “enhanced”.  That part of the package no longer works, but judging by the contents in the readme.txt file, it was a digital catalogue for DGM records – Robert Fripp’s label.  It appears you could actually order CDs from their catalogue right from this program.

In the Record Store days, I was instructed to stop playing this album as some tracks were too heavy.  That’s both an endorsement and a warning to you!

4/5 stars

Sunday Screening: Davey 504 – 36 string bass solo

Davey 504 is a phenomenal Youtube bassist from Italy. How many strings is too many for a bass? Don’t ask that question of Davey or he’ll slap ya!

“36 strings?!” you exclaim. “Sounds like a gimmick.”

I agree, it is a gimmick. It’s not a practical instrument in any way. But just listen to the guy play! Davey writes really catchy bass instrumental songs, and he uses the entire neck/body/whatever of this bass. The bass is set up to play like it is four 9-string basses in one. Leave a comment after you pick up your jaw from the floor.

R.I.P. Randy Coven – guest shot by Warren Murchie

I read the news today that bassist Randy Coven had passed away at age 54 of undisclosed causes.  My friend and former customer as well as a bassist himself, Warren Murchie, shared a few words regarding the passing of Mr. Coven.


By Warren Murchie

I met Randy Coven first off at a gig he had doubling up with Stu Hamm. Now, Stu’s albums are really good, not only as a bassist but also as a songwriter, and his works with Joe Satriani were incredible to say the least. I do have to say though that at this double bill, with both Randy and Stu and their respective bands and solo CDs, it was Randy that really stepped forward and was nothing short of incredible.

I HAD to talk to the guy afterwards, knowing he was someone that really had something to say to bass players in my mag. He proved to be forthcoming, informative and knowledable, and a hell of a decent character. (Many years later I met Stu Hamm in Switzerland at a bass clinic and he was a great dude too!).

As to Randy,both then and now I regret the fact that he did not have the opportunity or perhaps the wish to really create a portfolio of works. The guy was a brilliant bassist, equal to Billy Sheehan or Gary Strater of Starcastle, but of a different bent musically. It seem to be a good fit that Randy worked both with Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen over the years. He was, as Chris Squire was and is, a Lead Bassist. Like Chris however, Randy knew when to back off and work in a band environment. He could be a Team Player while still being so dazzlingly good he stood out regardless — perhaps because he could play at an Yngwie or Steve Vai level if he needed to, but also knew when to just shut up and hold the groove down.

We are all beholden to Randy, for all he added to the instrument over his all too short life. I know the world of bassists is head over heels in love with what Jaco Pastorius gave to us as a lighthouse in the dark for inspiration, but Randy, never receiving his just dues, added so much as well and demanded little. We are all lesser for the loss of him! If reincarnatinon is true, he will be screaming back here to bring us the next chapter of where bass is going to….