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Play It Loud: An Epic History of the Style, Sound, and Revolution of the Electric Guitar Hardcover – October 25, 2016
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Audio CD, Audiobook, CD, Unabridged
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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“Every guitar player will want to read this book twice. And even the casual music fan will find a thrilling narrative that weaves together cultural history, musical history, race, politics, business case studies, advertising and technological discovery. It could serve just as easily as a text on entrepreneurship and corporate R&D in the 20th century as it could a weekend vacation read.”
—Daniel Levitin, Wall Street Journal
“A lively and fascinating history….You're going to want to keep your tablet or phone nearby as you read it, because you'll be absolutely compelled to find and listen to the signature songs and riffs referenced throughout the volume. The authors do a great job of introducing just enough technical information to make their points, while keeping explanations clear enough so that those of a nontechnical bent—like this reviewer—can follow them. Tolinski and Di Perna have produced a book that lives up to the urgent, innovative, all-encompassing spirit of its subject.”
"More than the story of an iconic instrument, Play It Loud is a cultural history, calling up the tastes, styles and fads, the economics and even the geopolitics of 90 years of music-making.”
—Dallas Morning News
“A brief tour of rock history, led by the instrument most associated with that screaming, swaggering genre….Getting to know the instruments behind the music you love is a worthwhile endeavor. Better still is getting to know the people behind those instruments, and Play It Louddoes a good job of cracking the legend of Les Paul to reveal the mad scientists, itinerant tinkerers and passionate musicians behind the development and evolution of the electric guitar.”
—Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star
“Fast, fun and informative, this book delivers lots of quick bits on your favorite hits—just like a good 45 used to.”
“The electric guitar—from the Resonator of the 1920s and Charlie Christian’s jazz playing in the 1930s, through Les Paul and the heyday of Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page—unfolds in the pages of Play It Loud. The book... tells its story through both technical developments and the inventors and musicians who made it all happen.”
“The definitive book about the history and business of the electric guitar.”
“The authors... bring freshness to chestnuts through technical nuggets aplenty.... The electric guitar changed the world, and Tolinski and di Perna impressively reveal its epic story.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Providing a holistic overview packed with contextual insights, music journalists Tolinksi and di Perna skillfully pinpoint the watershed innovations and key musicians who turned a novelty into a mainstay of popular music…An engaging introduction to a fun topic with broad appeal.”
—Library Journal (starred review)
“A comprehensive history of the electric guitar, tracing its roots in George Beauchamp’s experiments in search of a way to amplify a guitar’s vibrations... The authors engagingly explore the importance of amplifiers on artists’ sounds, particularly the Vox amps used by the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix’s manipulation of feedback.”
“Play it Loud is a dynamic history of the electric guitar, but more important, it’s about the artists who painted the universal tones, colors, textures, and movements on the world canvas, through their fingertips, into a consciousness revolution to our hearts and minds. Brad and Alan get inside the note of the political and cultural significance of the guitar.”
—from the foreword by Carlos Santana, Grammy Award–winning artist and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee
“Play It Loud is a fascinating, elegantly written, page-turning account of how a musical weakness—the guitar’s inherently low volume—led to the development of the instrument that transformed contemporary music and culture: the electric guitar. It’s all here—the history, the science, the musicians, and of course, the stringed beauties and the sounds they helped create. An essential addition to any serious guitarist’s library.”
—Jonathan Kellerman, New York Times bestselling author of The Murderer’s Daughter
“It’s all here: everything knowable now becomes known about the plugged-in ax that changed the world. A comprehensive history of the electric guitar in cultural context is something long wanted, awaited and needed. At long last, it has arrived.”
—Billy Gibbons, ZZ Top guitarist/vocalist and Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame inductee
“Brad Tolinski and Alan di Perna's Play It Loud is a marvelous survey of how the electric guitar has rocked its way into the hearts and minds of millions of music lovers. This is a rich trove of unforgettable anecdotes and vignettes. Highly recommended!”
—Douglas Brinkley, New York Times bestselling author of Rightful Heritage
About the Author
BRAD TOLINSKI was the editor-in-chief of Guitar World, the world's bestselling magazine for musicians, for twenty-five years. He is the author of Light & Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page.
ALAN DI PERNA is a longtime contributor to Guitar World and Guitar Aficionado and has written for Rolling Stone, Creem, Billboard, Guitar Player, and other leading music publications. He is the author of Guitar Masters: Intimate Portraits.
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I really enjoyed reading the book, for the most part. I've had various lead guitar players show me their newest guitar. (Check out my Byrd! Check out my hot Pink Ibanez! Check out my new Strat!) If you don't have much knowledge of what you're looking at, it's not going to make much of an impression (at least to a keyboard player like myself). Being a fan of various rock acts, of course I already knew Hendrix played a Strat, or the Telecaster was a country guitar, who played Gibsons, and about the Beatles and their Rickenbackers. Getting a historical context for everything, lets it all fall into perfect dialectal perspective. However, the book has a few flaws, at least in my eyes, which slightly limited my enjoyment. First, the back promised interviews with various guitar legends, like Keith Richards, Santana, Les Paul, and dozens more players. I'm sorry, but maybe a few quotes, often sourced second hand, but interviews? For this book? That's a stretch. I have a strong feeling that this book was pulled together out of various articles that the writers have already published in Guitar Player, or elsewhere. Why do I think this? In many places, you'll see the same information repeated, like the various illnesses that forced Fender to retire in '65 and sell the company to CBS. Also, the book seems to jump around at times, talking about one developer, jumping to a musician, then a few pages later, jump back. Thank God there's a massive timeline in the Appendix, so you can keep the historical dates straight. A small section showing the differences between various guitar models in the index, might have been helpful, though the book does have plenty of guitar photos throughout.
So what did I NOT like? Well, I hate to say it, but there's no accounting for taste. Or could it be pandering to whatever music is Top 10? When a book talks more about the Jetsons cartoon than it does about Fripp, or never even mentions Adrian Belew --the guitar god of late 70s early 80s progressive New Wave scene, then you need to wonder what's going on. The most perfect example of this, was when the writers said that Steve Vai joined "the big leagues" when he joined David Lee Roth's band in 1985. (pg. 260) Remember, this was after Vai played with Zappa for three years. Zappa, classical composer, Grammy winner, iconoclast, who released 60 plus albums in his lifetime, honored with statues all over Europe, that wasn't the big leagues? Playing with David Lee Roth was Vai's sell out to slick top 10 MTV crap. I mean, the book has extended quotes by Ted Nugent, but ignores Belew? Just mentions in passing people like McLaughlin, Fripp, and Al DiMeola, even ignores Coryell? All I can say, is if you like Top 10 rock, it panders to that scene. Even still, Clapton himself said that Prince was one of the great guitarists. Prince is ignored, but for his name being mentioned once. Of course, the sections on Bloomfield, Clapton, Harrison and Lennon, and Muddy Waters sort of compensated. A bit. If you're hoping for some kind of objective overview on the real innovators of the electric guitar, the book is hit and miss. Many of the sins of omission were expunged by the last chapter. This chapter talked a lot about the neo-garage rock movement, the DIY thrift store esthetic, and various Japanese guitars, or cheap models. (I inherited my brother's Harmony guitar, my first electric, so I loved learning about a guitar I cared about, and a music scene I experienced firsthand.) The focus is on Jack Black as the example of this movement, though that garage rock post punk scene was around for quite a while, before the White Stripes.
Honestly, even with the faults I found, mostly in who was focused, and who was ignored, I have to admit I learned a lot from the book. Since its an overview, some sections might be less interesting for some, especially how the jazz scene learned to incorporate the electric guitar in the 30s and 40s, or how early rockers picked their brands. For me, the book started to pick up interest, when the famous musicians I know about, were being discussed. The downside to that, is that the book had to explain the importance of the Monterey Pop Festival of 1967, or Woodstock, or why Pete Townsend smashed guitars, or why Hendrix burnt his Strat at Monterey. (He was tripping? No kidding.) So if you already know about the stories of the rock legends, or know your guitar brands, large chunks of the book will seem repetitive. New pieces of information are found throughout the book, but lots will seem like a rehash, especially if you're a long term reader of Guitar World magazine, or for that matter, any famous rock magazine. However, I realize that so much of the music scene explained about in the book, happened 25-50 years ago. For millennials playing electric guitar, the book could very well be a revelation on every page. For most people then, its a five star book. Since so much in here I already knew, and the pandering towards hair metal bands over the real electric guitar innovators, I had to give it four stars.
It traces music’s growth – particularly blues, jazz, country western, and, of course, rock – through the development of the electric guitar and some of its accessories like amps, pickups, etc.
Guitar innovators Leo Fender, Adolph Rickenbacker, Ted McCarty (Gibson), Fred Gretsch, Paul Reed Smith and others are brought to life, becoming more than just names affixed to a guitar’s head. And the place in music history of Kay, Harmony, Valco, and Teisco, makers of often overlooked and underappreciated less expensive instruments (so-called ‘catalog’ or ‘junk’ guitars), is solidly…and finally…made.
Perhaps most important, the personalities who made the electric guitar indispensable to music...why they played the ‘ax’ they did, their styles, what type of music they played, how long they stuck with a particular brand, whom they played with, when and where they debuted their guitars…unfold in interesting vignettes and anecdotes.
All of this is put in perspective by providing the cultural milieu during which these musicians and developments took place.
"Play It Loud" also dispels some of the myths swirling about the electric guitar; for instance, that Les Paul was its inventor. Actually, had it not been for George Beauchamp in the 1920s and 30s, the electric guitar might never have made it to music’s mainstream.
According to authors Brad Tolinski and Alan Di Perna: “He (Beauchamp) not only invented the first fully functional guitar pickup, he also put it to work in his pioneering design for the world’s first successful, commercially produced electric guitar.” Development of the solid-body electric guitar was Les Paul’s forte and claim to fame.
Tolinski and Di Perna, know their stuff. They did their research and then with their writing skill and talent turned that work into what is generally reserved for the mystery/adventure/spy genres…a page-turner.
Included in the book is a chronology of the electric guitar, its makers and musicians. Plus, there’s a foreword by guitar virtuoso, Carlos Santana.
"Play It Loud" is a great pickup you won’t fret about…or regret.
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It walks the reader through the entire timeline of electric guitars, from the development of the first instruments by folks like Beauchamp and...Read more