Friday, September 25, 2009

This Might Get Loud

Been meaning to write up this review for a while now. I headed down to Houston Street to catch This Might Get Loud as soon as I could. It's a documentary produced by the same people who made "An Inconvenient Truth". Don't worry, it's not politically charged at all.

Basically they get three famous rock guitarists from three different eras together in a room, along with guitars and equipment, and see what happens. The three rock stars are Jimmy Page, The Edge, and Jack White.

It starts off with some sort of vignettes, each of the three by himself, giving random thoughts about music and guitars. They go into each one's very earliest memories from childhood and how they first discovered rock and roll, and guitars in particular. They show some of the oldest film and video clips available. They even get Jimmy Page at about 12 years old, on British TV strumming an acoustic guitar singing skiffle style. The Edge takes you back to his high school and shows you the room where their music teacher let the band, later to be known as U2, learned to play. He showed the bulletin board where he first read the notice that Bono was looking for a guitar player. Jack White takes you to the streets of Detroit, in an Spanish neighborhood, where he and his seven siblings were among the few English speakers still living there. He explains that it was not the Mecca of rock music in the eighties.

The very first scene is Jack White building a make shift electric guitar out of a plank of wood, a coke bottle, a pickup, some string, and a hammer and nails. "Who need to buy a guitar" he muses. The Edge tells you about how he and his brother built an electric guitar from scratch when he was 10 years old, including carving the body and neck, carving grooves for frets, laying the metal frets into those grooves, winding the wire around the magnets to make the pickups...

There are lots of scenes of each of them on their own, in their own element, doing their own process.

Eventually, they all arrive in a sort of studio room... more like a movie studio than a music studio... but all of their own equipment is there, set up by their own people. They all talk about music, guitars, their experience in the business, their process... everything.

At one point you see Jack White and The Edge talking and doing stuff when Jimmy Page starts to rock out some recognizable Zeppelin riff. The two of them almost turn white as their jaws seem to hit the floor. Everything instantly stops as their attention is glued to the rock legend.

There's not nearly enough playing, in my opinion. But there is some... and what they have is good. They all jam out together on Zeppelin's "In My Time of Dying". A great number for fans of gritty slide guitar, which is perfect for Jack White. The Edge puts his own technical, crisp, clean, non-gritty spin on it. Even blindfolded, you would be able to pick out each one's style with no problem. They wrap it up by working out a group version of "The Weight" by The Band.

I learned quite a bit about Jimmy Page. I didn't really know much about him except he was from England and played in The Yardbirds. I had no idea about his life as a studio musician, writing and playing jingles for commercials and movies, as well as Musak.

I was also incredibly impressed by Jack White and his story. I knew virtually nothing about him... wasn't even sure if his drummer was his wife or what... turns out it's his sister. I wasn't sure if he was all talk, playing up some sort of image, but he comes across as a real and authentic. He talks about having virtually nothing while growing up, but scraping together enough music equipment that his bed couldn't fit in his room anymore, so he slept on a mat on the floor. He loves working with old dented broken, half out of tune guitars and pianos. There are also some almost scary similarities between him and Jimmy Page in some really strange ways... like in the old records they both listened to as kids, and some of the songs they chose to play early on.

If you are a fan of rock guitar, or rock music in general, this is a MUST SEE.

ADDENDUM: It is now November 26, 2011 when I'm looking back at these old blog entries, and I felt I had to add that I have since found out that Jack White's drummer in The White Stripes IS his ex-wife, and NOT his sister. And while I still dig Jack White, I really can't believe a word he says.

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