This is the first in a new series on I Heart Guitar where various folks – friends, luminaries, bandmates, journalists, maybe I’ll even get my kid to write one – get to take over I Heart Guitar briefly to talk about their five favourite guitarists. First up is Angela Allan. Got a few more folks writing theirs now including (if he can squeeze it in around his That Metal Show commitments) Eddie Trunk. Take it away Angela!
My first encounter with a guitar was at age two. I was sitting on the bed – mesmerised by the guitar’s shape sitting beside the bed on its stand – I leaned over to touch it and fell off the bed. My head smacked into the guitar.
Don’t panic, the guitar is fine. It was my dad’s guitar and I still have it today – hairline crack and all. (My head however, probably did suffer, and it probably still does today.) But as far as my musical talents go, I can play a mean tambourine and I can certainly whack a triangle like nobody’s business. So in homage to those who are masters of the shred, here are the guitarists who send girls (and guys) weak at the knees with their skill and their awesome hair, which is also important.
Probably not so strong in the “awesome hair” category, BB King and his trusty guitar Lucille deserve a mention. The 86-year-old blues guitarist is known for influencing almost every electric blues guitarist out there with his technique. Live, King doesn’t play as much as he used to, but being in his presence – a jovial, gregarious character – is enough. It’s as if you’ve been transported to a small Chicago blues club and it’s only you sharing the intimacy between King and Lucille.
While Orianthi may look she should grace covers of fashion magazines with her blonde hair and pixie-like face, she’s been playing guitar since the age of six. Despite a music teacher telling her she should learn a more “feminine instrument, like the harp”, Adelaide-born Orianthi joined Santana on stage at the age of 15. She was selected to join Michael Jackson’s This Is It tour – this girl has attitude, looks and shredding ability to boot (oh, and awesome hair). Last year, Orianthi donned zombie make-up and fake blood each night on Alice Cooper’s No More Mr Nice Guy world tour.
Jack White may not win the title of “greatest guitarist of all time” and he’s known to shuffle from drums to guitar, he does feature in It Might Get Loud (not sure what The Edge was doing in that documentary, but that’s another story), giving music fiends an insight into how the mysterious Mr White operates; the sole purpose of The White Stripes was to create as much noise as a duo could, and this relied on his guitar finesse. As a child, White’s sheer love of the instrument led him to move out all the furniture (including his bed) from his room to fit in all his guitar equipment, while he would sleep on a mattress. And if you’ve been fortunate enough to see White live, you’ll know the guitar is simply his first love. And music his second. (And he does fit into the “awesome hair” category.)
Oh yes, this may be an obvious choice (but his wife and drummer Cindy Blackman gets the award for “awesome hair”. Google her, you’ll agree), but Santana’s guitar virtuosity is certainly impressive. In his band, he aptly pioneered rock, salsa and jazz in a frenzy of flashy skills and distinctive style. Before deciding to pursue music full-time, Santana was a dishwasher at a local diner and would busk in his spare time. In the 1990s, Smooth – the lazy, twangy anthem with Rob Thomas – introduced Santana to a new generation. These days, his live shows are just as electric and his on-stage banter includes comments about love, the universe and the psyche: a spiritual experience as well as a musical one.
Winner of “awesome hair” by far, Hendrix had a talent that has yet to be matched. In a Rolling Stone interview I did with a photographer who witnessed Hendrix live in 1968, he described Hendrix as having “one amazing gesture, one amazing musical chord and one amazing movement of his hands and his body after another.” The photographer noted that off stage, Hendrix was a softly spoken and charismatic character, but when he performed, the magnetic guitarist was a soul lost in the music. Acid trips aside, Hendrix’s skill came down to sheer ability and love of the music.
About the author
Angela Allan is a music writer for Rolling Stone Australia, Fairfax, Australian Penthouse, FHM Australia and is a member of the ARIA Voting Academy. She’s a part-time tambourine shaker, and full-time fan of Alice Cooper, The Cure, Jack White and AFI. She worships Davey Havok and chocolate chips.
You can follow her antics here: