Monday, April 12, 2010

Gallagher, Marriot, Derringer & Trower – Their Lives and Music by Dan Muise

This book gives an overview into the careers – and some of the personal lives – of 4 very talented guitarists who Muise feels have been somewhat overlooked in our musical history. Of course, anyone who is interested in 60’s and 70’s r’n’r is quite familiar with all of these characters, but they are not the household names that some of their peers became. This book is Dan’s attempt to make up for that.

The author interviews the subjects (when he can) as well as many of the people who make up the subject’s life, both musical and personal. He does not go into deep background of their family lives or their childhoods (though both Marriot and Derringer had careers very early on, which shows the depth of their talent), but tries to delve as completely as possible in the space allotted to each artist’s lifework.

Flaws are certainly evident in these individual’s nature, from Rory’s paranoia and prescription drug abuse (though he abhorred illegal drugs) to Marriot’s numerous excesses and even racism, but Muise is obviously a major fan of each of these men. He does not flinch from the defects, but does not dwell on them, either, other than to show how they led to bad choices and even, in some cases, to their deaths. But he will always highlight the music that was made and tries to understand and rationalize the successes as well as the defeats.

Rory was an accomplished guitarist whom I have never really followed, so his story was new to me and the segment on Marriot concentrated more on his Humble Pie days, which I am less familiar with than the time spent with the Small Faces, so I enjoyed both of these.

I was particularly interested in the section on Derringer, which describes not only his vast history as a guitarist (The McCoys, the Winter brothers, his solo work and him sitting in with such usual 80’s acts as Cyndi Lauper!), but also his incredible production work. I knew about him producing the Winters and some of his own solo work but never knew that he produced records like the Weird Al hits! He is a wildly talented man who has worked in many different styles and is still playing to this day (while he has become a born-again Christian he still plays his secular music in concerts).

When Robin Trower hit big after leaving Procol Harum he was generally considered a gifted Hendrix clone, who he admits is a major influence. In fact, I’m told that he has a standing call with the major music stores around the USA for any Univibe pedals that appear because this is what Jimi used to use! I was not aware that his pre-PH band, the Paramounts (which morphed into PH) was a popular r’n’b band that toured with bands such as the Beatles! He is another gentleman who has had a lengthy and varied profession and continues to play currently.

As a book, this celebrates the lives of these gifted men and showcases the problems and pitfalls that befell them as well as many of their comrades. One of the saddest things about the book is the number of people who were involved have now passed on. Still, a fine, informative read.