TNAG Notes

TNAG Notes #22 by Stephen Bennett

 

There’s nothing like tradition, reader. It’s the handiest excuse we have for defying logic and progress. I mean…look at the politics (we’d rather not – Ed.). Thus…in keeping with the more palatable definitions of tradition, especially regarding All Things Seasonal, we thought we’d start one. After all, a tradition is only a popular novelty that won’t go away. So, with all the usual fanfare (i.e. none), here’s the Special Edition you’ve all been waiting for. Yes…it’s the TNAG Christmas Quiz!

Grab your bucket of egg-nog and that stray slice of duck-fat, don the big slipper and snuggle in by the merrily spluttering one-bar electric fire for our twenty befuddling brain-teasers, guaranteed to galvanise your grudging good cheer and rev up your flagging Festive Fun Factor. And unlike that ludicrous, annual school-test thing in the posh papers that we all put to one side for future holiday perusal (then never look at again because it’s totally bloody impossible), the answers are included at the bottom of the page. Hooray. Warning: don’t try to inflict these questions on anyone normal or in possession of an actual life. The sad truth is that A) they won’t give a toss and B) may end up strangling you with a length of reinforced tinsel. And don’t cheat because C) there are no prizes and D) you have a conscience. Really.

 

Our Handy TNAG Scoring Chart:

16 to 20. You may now sleep for the rest of the day and dream of jamming with the Ghosts of Christmas Past (Jimi), Present (Keith) and Future (Yourself).

10 to 15. Treat the family to your new acoustic arrangement of “Jingle Bells” and win an extra mince pie.

5 to 9. Treat the family to your new acoustic arrangement of “Jingle Bells” and win an extra hour of dog-walking duty.

Less than 5. You will find your new Casio keyboard under the tree.

 

  1. The mythical Fadd9 (played on a 12-string) that gave us the most famous opening chord in pop history, is impossible for a single player to recreate. Which song – and why?

 

  1. The timeless result of a dedicated car-enthusiast going into battle with Austin’s past.

 

  1. B.B.’s Lucille, Willie’s Trigger, Albert’s Lucy, Eric’s Blackie, Leadbelly’s Stella, George’s Lucy. Odd one out?

 

  1. Jerry Garcia, Django Reinhardt and Tony Iommi (unlike Joni Mitchell), were all right. Les Paul, meanwhile, had higher concerns. “Humorously”-speaking, that is.

 

  1. Probably the only iconic guitar in history to be named after its price.

 

  1. Fancy a six-a-side? Ring the Crocker Motorcycle Company and ask for Paul. Sorry, who?

 

  1. George Van Eps, Steve Vai, Bucky Pizzarelli (and son, John), Howard Alden, Charlie Hunter, Lenny Breau…even Roger McGuinn, in his way. Magnificent, perhaps. Or just lucky.

 

  1. L’Angelo Misterioso, Bijou Drains, S. Flavius Mercurius?

 

  1. Founded just off Maxwell Street, Chicago in 1883 and ideally located to take advantage of the US Blues explosion of the 1920s – America’s second oldest commercial guitar-maker?

 

  1. White Rice? Anything but plain if you order the right number (and original make).

 

  1. He may have married Mary Ford in 1949 but how did Les Paul’s Lover shake up the future of Gibson in 1958?

 

  1. “Mister” Larry Carlton + Pat’s Pikasso + Narcisco Yepes (x2) + Seasick’s Trance Wonder = one aforementioned super-guitar?

 

  1. Who, in 1973, worried – via album title – about his ailing friend’s dietary intake?

 

  1. The original island home of the ukulele? Careful now…or there’s no cake!

 

  1. Quick one! Possibly the most significant year in recorded guitar-music history saw the debut releases of The Byrds, Paul Simon, The Who, Donovan, The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Butterfield Blues Band, Martin Carthy, John Renbourn and Bert Jansch. Phew. 19…?

 

  1. Essentially a set of pop covers reimagined, this eponymous offering (with added exclamation mark) from 1968 is rarely left off the list of greatest-ever acoustic albums.

 

  1. Which somersaulting teenage guitarist made his 1970 recording debut as an extremely reluctant piano-player on one of the widely acknowledged, greatest rock albums of all time?

 

  1. Which 1961 compilation album (of the work of a single artist) proved to be the most significant release the UK electric guitar scene is every likely to experience? Paradoxically.

 

  1. These sweaty clubs pop up all over the place but watch out for the Big Mouth and, invariably, someone on the fiddle.

 

  1. Because it’s a quiz tradition…name the state capital of Pennsylvania. In keeping with the theme, it’s the home of the annual Artisan Guitar Show.

 

And though you obviously don’t need them…we present…the answers!

That famous Fadd9 chord introduced The Beatles’, “Hard Day’s Night” to a legion of dazzled devotees in July, 1964. On the recording it’s slightly out of tune and enhanced by a D from McCartney’s bass and a low F on the piano – possibly from Ringo.

Bill Collings named his Waterloo range after the original name of the company’s home town.

In three, Stella was the make – the rest are affectionate nicknames.

The link (in 4) is injury. Joni Mitchell had a left-hand problem and Les shattered his right elbow in a car accident.

When the Gibson Super 400 came out in 1934 it cost, yes…$400. Fortunately, more imagination went into its design than into the board meeting that christened it.

Paul Bigsby was a motor-mechanic when his mate, Merle Travis, asked him to fix the tremolo on one his guitars. The system he came up with – and the one-sided tuner placement as opposed to three-and-three – proved to be a considerable success.

Question 7, answer…7. Strings, that is. Roger’s is the weird one. Okay…weirder one.

Then, in 8, we have three classic noms de guerre from the 70s; George Harrison, Pete Townsend and Jimmy Page, followed by (9) a near-forgotten giant – Washburn.

Number ten is a nod to the legendary, 1935 Martin D-28 that Clarence White bought for $25 in 1959. It eventually found its way into Tony Rice’s collection where, more than a bit knackered, it now languishes in well-earned and rarely spotted retirement.

Seth Lover invented the humbucking pick-up (eleven) and in twelve those numbers; 335, 42, 20 and 3 add up to one giant Gibson Super 400. Which, incidentally, used to cost…oh, never mind…

Thirteen is John Martyn; the subject of “Solid Air” being his tragic pal, Nick Drake.

Fourteen is Madeira. Settlers from the little Portuguese territory took their 4-stringed ‘machêtes’ with them and those crazy Hawaiians did the rest. Often with pineapples. Madeira actually means wood. So there.

Fifteen is 1965 and sixteen is the great Jose Feliciano. Seventeen is Nils Lofgren on Neil Young’s seminal, “After The Gold Rush” and eighteen is Robert Johnson’s, “King of the Delta Blues Singers”. He certainly woke Eric Clapton up.

Nineteen is any “Hot Club of…” you care to mention; the big mouth being the Selmer-style Grande Bouche of Jazz Manouche tradition. Twenty is Harrisburg, PA. A fine place.

 

And after all that unaccustomed cerebral exertion, treat yourself to two aspirin and a turps-infused mince pie then settle in (again) for “The Great Escape”. Because you’re worth it.

 

This Festive Fortnight’s Fab Five!

 

It is a truth universally acknowledged, reader, that ninety per cent of Christmas music is tripe. The weird thing is, hundreds of artists who should know better have donned the seasonal elf-costume in order to bring peace and goodwill to all by stuffing their bank accounts while we get the prize turkey. Admittedly, in the ‘Unavoidable’ file, there’s a lot of fine festive bluster to bellow along with after the traditional brandy and Babycham overdose - Bruce, Elvis, Ella, Phil Spector, James Brown and more - and though some of our guilty pleasures should come with a long stretch in solitary, we thought we’d dig deeper into albums that might not only grace your tinsel-festooned Dansette but actually have year-round listenability. A word we just made up. Plus, some of them have excellent guitary-bits!

 

  1. Sufjan Stevens, normally a noted minimalist, loves going full kitchen sink at this time of year – and why not? Both box-sets, “Songs For Christmas” and the later “Silver and Gold” are packed with lovely, mostly soothing, mostly acoustic gems to get you through to the New Year and way beyond. Left-field, for sure, but when everyone else is wallowing in Wham…

 

  1. “A She & Him Christmas” (2011) from the vastly underrated duo comprising Zooey Deschanel and M Ward is a cool, classy, laid-back collection of festive favourites delivered with a wry, grown-up nudge-and-a-wink. The hipsters’ Fred and Ginger? Absolutely.

 

  1. The Windham Hill Holiday Guitar Collection from 2006, featuring many lesser-known seasonal tunes by brilliant players - including Tuck Andress, Steve Morse and Alex de Grassi - is a superb hour of gently melodic acoustic artistry that won’t frighten the horses or the in-laws (sadly). In holiday sanity terms, think Slade, then think the complete opposite.

 

  1. For OTT guitar pyrotechnics – and not just in December – look no further than The Brian Setzer Orchestra. The ex-Stray Cat’s Yuletide output is now so vast it’s hard to imagine he finds time to fit anything else in. Swing, jive and, of course, trademark strut is always to the fore on quiff-combing classics like “Christmas Island”, “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” and “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”. Fortunately, there’s a “Best of…”. Irresistibly barking.

 

  1. And finally, though we’d love to include (in the “Really? What were they thinking?” category) the Actually Rather Good “Home for Christmas” by Hall & Oates, no Christmas is complete without a dip into the warm and bittersweet pool of Aimee Mann’s wonderfully world-weary “One More Drifter in the Snow”. True, the usual suspects have all been rounded up but there are originals, too, and her “White Christmas” is a match for anyone’s.

 

So, there we are. And if enduring an entire album will have you rampaging round the house in axe-wielding, “Shining” mode, you might want to settle for the occasional one-off instead; Shawn Colvin’s beautiful take on “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, perhaps, or Michael McDonald’s raucous, swamp-stomp “Christmas on the Bayou” or the joyous sway of “Your Holiday Song” by the Indigo Girls. Failing that, of course, you could put the guitar down for a week and turn over the entertainment duties to the undisputed Greatest Christmas Album of All Time, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” by The Vince Guaraldi Trio. Yes!

 

Beyond that, especially around the festive table…peace not politics. See you next year.

 

by Stephen Bennett

 

Stephen Bennett

Stephen Bennett is a multi-award-winning TV scriptwriter, theatre director, musician and reviewer/interviewer for the sadly, now-defunct, “Acoustic” magazine. He lives with his wife, Gabrielle, in Mystic (which is a real place) and owns far too many guitars to deserve such a happy marriage. He once played football against the Brazilian national team (no, really) and will happily discuss the narrow 12-1 defeat at great length – with anybody.

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