Musical Philistine

an email I sent to a guitar-lovin' friend

So I bought Santana's award winning multi-million selling album, mostly to get "Smooth" in some sort of legal format. And I listened to the rest of the album a few times, but for about half an hour I had "Smooth" on single-track repeat while I jammed along (in A, if you must know).

And, well. Carlos Santana is a very talented guitarist. But I'm not feeling anything. I see him as a very talented, but unspecial guitarist. Nothing about what he's doing makes me go "Yes! That's it! That's the note!" or whatever.

Now, by comparison, I was wandering around Virgin Megastore yesterday and I came across a book. Square format, beige cover. "45" printed on the front in military-style stenciling, which combined with the beige gives it the appearance of, say, an old packing case. And the name of the author underneath, Bill Drummond.

At which point my reptillian brane kicked in, and the next thing I know I'm trundling away home with this book in my bag and another dent on my creditcard.

Who the hell is Bill Drummond?

Bill's a music guy. He was involved in the early 80s music scene in Liverpool - Echo and the Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes, Killing Joke, Joy Division, Julian Cope, a guitarist who's now one of The Lightning Seeds, and so forth - and at the end of the eighties he formed a little rave-ish band called The KLF.

I discovered the KLF in college, mostly through hanging out with an exceedingly talented and equally strange character by the name of John, who roped me into running raves as a techie - I did the setup, and I also ran the graphic/light/slide/video shows that were an integral part of an escapade known as Tin City. And I liked the KLF. And I listened to them lots, including wandering around college in the early hours of the morning with the headphones practically glued to my ears and the cassette on auto-reverse.

And the reason I liked them so much was that they hit me in exactly the place that Santana doesn't. They're a world apart, with samples and drum loops in place of emotional guitar riffs and licks, but every time I listened to the KLF I'd be thinking, "YES. That's EXACTLY where that sample should be placed. That's where it WORKS."

And here I am, ten years later, using the illegal magic of napster to snag a few KLF tunes (they deleted their back catalogue, so the old stuff is hard to lay hands on sometimes - you pick it up second-hand, if you look hard enough) and it's still the same. I'm still listening to Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty and thinking, "Jesus, guys, this is perfect. I can see why you gave up. You can't do better than perfect."

Anyway. Hope you enjoyed reading this, and don't send hitmen after me for my irreverence to Mr. Santana. He's good, just not good enough.