Following Rolling Stone Magazine's recently held poll to find the 100 Greatest Guitarists, reminded me of the days before guitarists were considered as the first main feature on a record.
My own music collection only contains three guitar records - a couple of singles by Duane Eddy and one from The Shadows. None were bought for the guitar playing, just for the fact they were catchy popular tunes. Listening to songs and singers is my preferred choice. Once the words have finished, that's the end of the record for me. Listening to a record used to be fairly simple affair....
Jimi Hendrix arriving in England in 1966 became the catalyst for style change in guitar playing and recording. Once word of his initial performances went round, it was not unusual to see artistes like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Brian Jones etc in the audience at a Hendrix gig. By the time we reached the seventies, Jimi's influence had become the formula for the new found rock bands. Rather than singers looking for guitar players, the roles had to some extent been reversed.
Any serious rock band first needed to have a guitarist of the calibre of those mentioned above, and then a singer. The guitar man was no longer there just to play a couple of solo breaks in the middle of a song where the singer was the star. Virtuoso guitar performances like Hendrix were now the accepted norm and equally important as part of the song. Players could now express their ideas and prove their brilliance without restrictions. Gradually, the records became longer, and longer, and longer... gone was the 3 minute track, they were now becoming listening marathons.
Having a record that seems to run on forever with a guitar solo is fine if - you are too tripped out on dope to change the record - you are guitar player - the guy on the record is pretty good. Before going further, I must confess I never carried any ambition to be a guitarist. Guys I knew, like Keith Richards and Eric Clapton, carried that urge as an undying obsessive flame, and I'm sure all players have that in regard to their instrument.
Most guitarists will know that using distortion, sustain and high volume covers up a multitude of sins even for a poor player. Some of the tracks seemed to go on forever, and were almost an album on their own. A lot of records have been ruined by guitarists ego tripping with distortion and sustain for way too long. That brings me back to not being an accomplished guitar player - I'm never quite sure what I'm meant to be listening to. Is it something good I'm missing or an added twenty minutes of meaningless distorted guitar to pad out a three minute track? In that 20 minutes I could play 3 more songs I like.....Is making it long playing like Jimi?
I have no idea what the longest ever Hendrix, or recorded rock band record is. All I can say is: the longest playing record I know is the one I am playing for you now - which has been me talking about music since 1963.