Quick, what are the first three names that pop into your head when I say the word "guitarist"? Hendrix? Clapton? Chuck Thudfucker? Nothing wrong with that. All three of those guitarists deserve that sort of respect because they've proven that they're among the best to ever pick up the instrument ... well, except Chuck. All that dude did was fuck thuds. I still don't understand what you people see in him.
But what if I told you that in your lifetime, you've seen some of the best guitarists to ever live pass right by, virtually unnoticed, because you were too busy making fun of their wussy bands? And no, I'm not talking about some underground bullshit that you'll only hear about from other musicians -- "What?! You've never heard of Franky Whopflopple and the Hambone Torso? I thought you said you liked music!" I'm talking about big-time bands that at one point in their careers sold out 50,000-seat arenas ...
The Ridiculous Band:
Yep, I'm talking about Winger, the late '80s/early '90s hair band that was relentlessly bagged on by Mike Judge in both Beavis and Butthead and King of the Hill. The very same Winger that Lars Ulrich is throwing darts at in Metallica's video for "Nothing Else Matters." They're considered one of the last hair metal bands before grunge stepped up in the mid-'90s and stomped that shit out like a wet cigar butt.
If douchebag were measured in weight, we'd all be a part of the singularity right now.
When talking about Winger, it's extremely tempting to dive right into their song about having sex with underage high school girls, "Seventeen." It's what most people remember them for because ... well, it's a song about fucking children. But what most people don't realize is that "Seventeen" wasn't actually their biggest hit. Their two highest-charting singles were ballads called "Headed for a Heartbreak" and "Miles Away." So while we picture the fully adult Kip Winger trying to knock off a quick one before his girlfriend's teacher notices she's gone and calls her parents and she gets grounded, the band was selling out stadiums filled with big-haired '80s chicks holding lighters while Winger played sappy romance songs.
The Amazing Talent:
Lead guitarist Reb Beach was a studio musician before Kip Winger hired him on with the band, and that's unfortunate on so many levels, because if he had been picked up by a band that wasn't mocked out of existence, we'd probably still be hearing his music on the radio today. Why? Because he happens to be one of the most technical "tap artists" in existence:
That's him on a Winger reunion tour, looking like he's getting steadily angrier as he tries unsuccessfully to find the ticklish spot on his girlfriend. His fingers are just so goddamn fast, and not just in one localized area. For those who don't know how to play, that's pretty important, because it's kind of easy to build up speed over the course of three or four frets. But spread that shit over the entirety of the fretboard, and it's extremely easy to lose accuracy. You go from what he's doing, which is producing a melodic, exact pattern ... to just random bullshit clunking out through the air and annoying the people who gave you money to see you play.
But don't worry too much about Reb. After Winger died, he kept on working, not only in the studio, but on tours with Whitesnake, Alice Cooper, Night Ranger and a Winger reunion. He even replaced George Lynch in motherfucking Dokken:
The Ridiculous Band:
White Lion. I understand that this is one of those band names that most people immediately recognize, but for the life of them, they can't place what the fuck they performed. Here, let me help:
Oh, you are so totally welcome for getting "When the Children Cry" stuck in your head for the next five days. Enjoy that. Just make sure that on day three, you stay away from sharp objects and ropes, because I promise you that you will use them.
Here's the thing, though. In the 1980s, hair metal had their formula down pat. You start a band with a pretty boy lead man who isn't afraid to wear skintight spandex. If his cock isn't prominent enough, stuff something down there. Whip out the first single as an upbeat song with heavy guitar and fireworks in the video. Then follow it up with a ballad or two. Instant success. The one thing that all of them absolutely had to have, though, was a ridiculously good guitar player. It was so important that, in many bands, the guitar player shared equal billing with the singer.
Hell, for that matter, most people can tell me what band that is without even showing the guitarist's face.
The Amazing Talent:
White Lion's Vito Bratta was so fucking technical with a guitar, and he put so much effort and passion into what he was doing, he actually injured his wrist while playing, taking him out of the industry for good. He was finding himself playing for 14 hours a day -- coming home from a show and playing two more hours before forcing himself to stop. And not just cheesy little bubblegum riffs, either. We're talking about extremely technical, classical solos that few people in the world have the mastery to mimic, let alone create:
That's him performing a solo that makes other guitarists shake their heads, put down their instruments and quietly mutter "Bullshit" while they consider another line of work. The reason is because he's one of the few people on earth who can seamlessly blend classical and blues riffs without it sounding like a drunken frat dude smashing his balls across random frets. There are Berklee professors who can't do what he's doing there.
He's not the most well-spoken guy in the world, but hearing him talk about it is one of my favorite things as both a fan of guitar and someone who plays it:
The Ridiculous Artist:
He's motherfucking Prince.
You know ... Prince.
The Amazing Talent:
I almost didn't include him on this list because I always thought that people just knew that Prince was a guitar legend. But over the years, I've been continually shocked to find out that many people don't.
I can kind of see where they're coming from. Prince's biggest hits have been laced with that synthesizer- and keyboard-based pop sound. And although his solos in songs like "Let's Go Crazy" and "Purple Rain" were insanely good, they weren't the focus of the songs. Because as flamboyant as Prince is, he's one of the few musicians in the world who know how to use subtlety instead of cramming the solo right in the listeners' faces and screaming, "Listen to how fucking good I am!" He uses his talent only as a means of enhancing the song as a whole -- not using the song as a mechanism for showing off his guitar skills. But when he does cut loose ... holy fuck:
That's him playing a tribute of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." And for the first half of the video, he plays a basic rhythm piece so subtle that if it wasn't for his blindingly red pimp hat, you'd hardly know he was there. But then the solo comes around, and he just explodes. It's the same in this one:
So yeah, behind all the sparkling women's clothing and gyrating fuck-dancing lies one of the greatest guitarists to ever walk the planet.