CL111006 - The Sound of Young America

This show is hosted by Jesse Thorn.

John Roderick is a singer and guitarist who has worked with bands like Death Cab for Cutie, Harvey Danger and The Decemberists. He is also the frontman of the Indie Rock group The Long Winters. Among his other side projects were a few cameo appearances on Jonathan Coulton’s album Artificial Heart. Had it been up to his parents he would have become a lawyer, but the ZZ Top song Gimme All Your Lovin’ got in the way and changed his life.”

Gimme All Your Lovin' by ZZ Top (CL111006)

John grew up in Anchorage, Alaska. Among all the other things that were causing him anxiety as a teenager were the questions from his parents about how he was going to get into a good law school with his attitude. They got MTV while he was in Junior High and the iconography of ZZ Top materialized and beamed down on him. With their dusty Fedoras and their opaque sunglasses they seemed like they were 1000 years old. When John heard the opening of that song and it felt so right and while he was listening to it, he was playing along on a tennis racket. The guitar tone is the whole tune! It is warm and it envelops you. This is what electric guitar is supposed to sound like and any variation on that sound is somebody screwing it up. There is a tremendous amount of soul in the guitar playing of Billy Gibbons, but there is no other soul in the rest of the band at all. It was a record built on drum machine and had all the tones of Rock ’n’ Roll, but with the mechanical, hypnotic regularity of machine music.

The guitar solo of that song was the part John was waiting for when he played along on his tennis racket. It was his featured moment and he stepped to the front of the stage, the lights brightened, and he got to take his solo turn. There are only 3 guys in the band and there is all this noise happening while at the same time somebody is playing a really scorching guitar lead. These 3 guys couldn’t possibly be playing all that music and it made John aware of what an overdub could do.

As a teenage boy who was working on being a music snob, it was a little transgressive to even like this song because it was immensely popular and John would have been stoned to death in the High School parking lot. He was listening to the album in the privacy of his own home and he was absolutely hypnotized by it while he was playing along on his tennis racket. John can’t even separate that action from the eventual work he spent learning to play the real guitar. He was not going to be a lawyer, but he was going to get a guitar. It seemed so much better and for the 45 minutes he was playing the tennis racket to ZZ Top every afternoon after school, it was a place where all was right with the world.

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