Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Human Element

While checking the latest in world news recently (my daily dose of hopelessness), I discovered that two giants in the music industry have joined that "Great Gig in the Sky."  Alvin Lee and Peter Banks both passed away; leaving a void in the music world I will surely miss.

Both were unique and took different paths in their careers.  Alvin  Lee seemingly came out of nowhere and made his name at Woodstock in 1969.  Born in England, he played in bands in Germany and England.  His band "Ten Years After" came about in 1968, and Alvin's lightning fast guitar playing on "I'm Going Home" at Woodstock--which was captured on film and made its way into the documentary movie--pretty much made him a household name.

Peter Banks rose through the ranks of rock guitarist on a much different path.  The original guitarist for Yes, Banks played on the band's first two  albums, but was on the outs when the band toured to promote the second album, "Time and a Word."  In 1970 Banks was replaced by Steve Howe, and Banks went on to record with many other musicians and bands.

Two different paths, two successful careers.  Two very different, well respected, hard playing guitarists.  I understand that things change; life has cycles and the clock never stops clicking off those precious seconds/minutes/hours/years/decades...I may not like it...but I get it.  The music world has changed too; neither Alvin nor Peter died of drug overdoses and Mick Jagger will turn 70 this summer (marinate on that last one awhile).

On a more somber note, neither guitarist got much press when they passed...probably their own misfortune for not dying of alcohol poisoning or drug overdoses.  Cirrhosis and high speed car crashes are much more newsworthy than a heart attack or cancer I guess.  I mention these two guitar players here because they played during a time when rock 'n' roll was still growing and learning.  Bill Haley, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones had all either made their mark and were well on their way to building their wings in the R&R Hall of fame.

Bands like Yes and Ten Years After were in their infancy and about to leave an indelible mark  no one could have imagined.  I appreciate and respect guitarists like Alvin Lee because they are artists in the same manner as a Picasso--they stand out and make you notice them.  Banks, on the other hand, was more of a Salvador Dali; the finished product made you think about music in a way you had not before you heard him play.

I remember the first time I saw the Woodstock documentary.  Two performances stood out for me; Santana's "Soul Sacrifice" with a kid named Michael Shrieve and his amazing drum solo, and Alvin Lee tearing it up on "I'm Going Home."

For Banks it would be "Astral Traveler."  Time and a Word is an album that true prog fans appreciate not only for what it was, but also for who was playing.  Listening to Banks play with Squire, Kaye, and Bruford  makes me wonder what could have been if egos did not get in the way and the man who named the band was not asked to leave.

So we fans are left here to enjoy the life work of two great guitar players.  Two different styles, two different methods, two different careers--and many a very appreciative fan.

 "R.I.P."  sounds too passe, even insincere..."Rock On" sounds juvenile...so I will simply say this; I was fortunate enough to have listened to two of the early greats in the world of rock 'n' roll.  I never had the opportunity to see either one perform live but I feel no less fortunate than if I had.  Music lives on, legacies stand on their own, and vinyl does not lie.  So please enjoy one more listen...

Dim the lights and please...and no standing in the aisles....

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