Hey John, since I've seen you answering some questions I thought I would ask one too. I'm just learning to play guitar, I have this beautiful MiM Fender Strat and I love it, but my only issue is that a lot of your songs I want to learn are on acoustic and don't sound great electric, at least not for me since I'm still new. So I have two questions. When there are electric guitars, what guitar is used, and what are some mountain goats songs that I could learn that sound good on electric?
Two things here – I’ve played very few on electric guitar, and I’m not very good on electric - different discipline, though I’ve developed over time. “Idylls of the King” I played on an ESP I used to have & occasionally write on. “Dinu Lipatti’s Bones” I played on a ‘78 Custom Les Paul they had at the studio where we were working, that’s one of my better electric moments. (I also did the piano and am still proud enough about it to mention it parenthetically.) “Lovecraft in Brooklyn”…possibly an ASAT? Maybe a Fender Jag? I do not remember, that one’s sound is really more about the pedals (possibly my T-Rex Bloody Mary though possibly the Centaur that JV loves) though I think I played electric well on that song. “Design Your Own Container Garden,” again the ESP.
But the thing is, if you play electric, just change the way the song is played. Your version of my song doesn’t have to sound like my version: rework how it’s played to suit the instrument you’re playing it on and it’ll be better, in my view, than if you’re trying to make it sound like the original. Make it yours! If you try to do my patented attack-the-guitar-like-it-owes-you-money technique on electric, it won’t sound good. In my experience when you play an acoustic tMG song on electric, use a medium-light pick and use a lot of upswing – treat it like it was jazzier than it is in the original and you’ll find places to go with it.
Throwback Track of the Week: The Eagles / “Those Shoes” (1979)
My favorite Eagles song - and arguably their coolest - this gem first appeared on their 6th studio album The Long Run (1979), which proved to be the band’s final album during their original “classic” incarnation from ‘71-'79. Flying under the radar to the better remembered album singles (which included Grammy-winning #1 hit “Heartache Tonight”, the title track & “I Can’t Tell You Why”), this is a can’t miss track for casual and die hard fans alike. Featuring a seriously sultry funky beat courtesy of drummer Don Henley and newcomer bassist Timothy Schmit, the groove is absolutely infectious and sets the tone early. The open space puts the lead guitar tandem of Don Felder and Joe Walsh on full display, and boy do they ever relish in the spotlight here. Starting with the opening guitar lick, Walsh’s guitar screams with funk and attitude, using the Talk Box (of which he was one of the device’s earliest innovators and helped mainstream) to complement the funky groove and the coolly-cynical detached vocal by Henley. So much to love here. The double guitar attack by Felder/Walsh. Walsh’s guitar absolutely soars on the big solo, displaying a funky style with such cocky flair and precision, I don’t think the ghost of Jimi Hendrix could have improved upon it. The general guitar sound and tone here captures a similar feel to Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour circa the Wish You Here/Animals/The Wall era, which coincidentally falls roughly into the same time as this album’s rather long recording period ('76-'79). The uber-funky bridge section with the hushed falsetto vocal takes the song up a notch when you think it’s already at 10. Or how about the “butt out, butt out” Talk Box refrain? So cool in fact, the Beastie Boys sampled it (along with the drum groove) on their classic 1989 song “High Plains Drifter” from Paul’s Boutique. Lyrically, the song shines too, serving up some rather unflattering (but honest) social commentary about both the sexual predatory nature of men and the precarious situations women often find (or put) themselves in, in social settings like bars. Joe Walsh’s imprint on the sound is so obvious, it’s a bit profound that he’s not a credited writer of the song. The penmanship going to the trio of Felder, Frey, Henley (perhaps add it to the long list of issues that broke up the band at the time…) In a decade that specialized in indulgent, confident guitar-oriented rock, it doesn’t get much better than this. While I confess the Eagles never quite had the cool factor for me compared to rival 70’s rock outfits like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd or Aerosmith, this one rocks out as good as any of those bands at their best. Do yourself a favor and revisit this should-be classic.
Suggested Target Demo: Fans of “Have a Cigar” by Pink Floyd, “Back in the Saddle” by Aerosmith