Marc Gaffney of GozuJanuary 28, 2021
Are there any songs/artists in this playlist that would be a go-to for you when you need inspiration to write music?
To be honest most of the songs have a melodic virtue to them that made me fall in love the first listen. The sense of groove, emotional quality of the chord structure and the delicious chorus to each tune took my auditory system captive and let’s just say I didn’t call the SWAT team to rescue me. When I need a kickstart most likely “The Hunt” or “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin'” ingest a nitrous oxide type gas into me and I’m ready to get down on the get down. A tune I forgot to add is Little Dreamer by VH. That riff is the epitome of sexy. Also, D’Angelo, in terms of layering, is really a concrete vibe that I strive to hear and yearn to manipulate and throw down when writing new material. If you listen to “Brown Sugar” and automatically don’t feel a little something in your plums, please stop, dial 911, turn and cough.
Which of these songs has been one that you’ve been listening to the longest?
“You Don’t Have to Cry” by CSN, is by far the first song that introduced me to the art of harmony and why its emotive quality is like no other. I was in my friend’s mother’s pickup truck in Watertown, NY before hockey practice and it blew me away. The vocal blending of those three, to my ears, is the top of the mountain, the yum-yum in the tum-tum. They make harmonies the highlight of the song, the central earworm to hook you and then reel you in. My buddy Jeff Berman will religiously text me whenever he hears the song.
Is there one song in this playlist that seems to stand out to you more than the others?
Great question young tiger. “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” by Willie Nelson was a song my dad and I would sing together when I was really young and especially in my 40s before he passed. Sugar Phil would have the biggest fucking grin when we would sing together. He was my biggest fan and supporter and seeing him smile was the best gift a son could have. He would close his eyes and go for it and I would do the top harmony and he would ask me questions about what range to hit and why. I used to tell him it was in K minor to which he would say, “What the fuck are you talking about” and laugh, as he knew after asking that I had no idea regarding what key or anything technical. I could not listen to that song until now as I would tear up and sob whenever it would come on. I tried on his birthday last year and it hit me like a brick in the undercarriage.
Music holds so many treasures that truly need to be unlocked. When you finally get that magic key, you see, feel, and hear things in a different manner. Gone is the macho insecure bullshit of manly men. My dad was my idol; my hero that could with one hand toss me like a rag doll and he did not give a fuck about any of the “Guy Commandments” as he was the most secure, strong, and loving human in the universe. Willie was a man among men in his mind and that taught me to love and enjoy how music moves and sets your inhibitions free.
What are your thoughts about the music streaming format as opposed to physical releases?
I am a huge fan of the physical entity. I love to read the jacket, who played on each track, where it was recorded, by whom, the gear the musicians used, and the art of unwrapping and throwing it on. Watching the needle hit the groove or the ingestion into the car CD player was like Friday Night Lights every time. You wait for the crackle and bam, music from the soul for the soul. Also, how great is it to go into a shop and actually buy the goods from a dude in a tight fit Joe Jackson t-shirt that never heard “Stepping Out” before. He bought it because he wanted to be asked to the Sady Hawkins dance by his friend Linda.
Having said that, streaming is a needed gem, especially since I can listen on my phone to really any song I want to. It’s certainly easy and brings music to a broader audience and gives a fresh new listen by the youth. If it sells music especially for older musicians then job well done. Streaming or physical, you are basically making love out of nothing at all.
During quarantine have you found yourself exploring new music or going back to old favorites?
Both. I’ve been listening to Mountain more than I have in a bit for the sheer guitar assault he lays on wax. “Never in My Life” … sweet Christ. I wanna hop in a truck and run over some wine coolers. There’s a band Whitney that I really dig and find their music incredibly smooth and relaxing, which is key on the nerves these days. A lot of Jerry Garcia Band and Grateful Dead from ’77 – ’83. Doug [from Gozu] is always sending me new music to peruse, some I like, some, well, not my cup of tea. Basically, I need to feel the music, the 4 on the floor, the blending of voices to get me off. If that happens, I’m a fan, if not: check, please.
Nick (Deafening Assembly):
I was so stoked to see The Allman Brothers first on the list. In the big world of guitar Duane Allman is clearly highly regarded, but I rarely ever hear metal artists bring him up. In my mind when I picture a Les Paul I always picture Duane Allman. One of the few things I got from my father before he spiraled down into alcoholism was his record collection, and in there was that “Duane and Gregg” album, the one with the black cover. Man, it’s so good! To hear just the two brothers, and one of the truest Les Paul tones. It’s also such a great example of the shift from the ’60s into the ’70s. You can hear the ’60s style drums with that snare on the 1 and heavy on the organ. There’s something about the fuzz on that album too, very ’60s. But at the same time, it’s very ’70s rock, I really think it’s a perfect blend of the two decades. The whole album just sounds like a rainy day with coffee and cigarettes, have you heard that one? I own that album.
In college, we would have handle parties, a bunch of wing nuts each with their own 1.75 of Beam, and listen to the Allman Brothers on 20. One of my best friends, Tyler, adored them, I mean homage in the purest way, sharing the music of the Allman’s with all of us. Another one of my best friends Keith would play tunes like “Pegasus” and it would be a highlight reel of sipping shall we say. My first weekend at school, I went to a bar called Daily’s and walking in, “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More” is blasting through the sound system. Guy dancing on the bar in a cowboy hat, pint glass of Beam and coke, singing along. I thought I was in heaven. I still talk to most of those people.
At 18 I saw how infectious their groove was and could be. “Stormy Monday,” the swinging in that bridge section, you kidding me? No one did that. The tone was what hooked me. The way the Les Paul hummed through the Marshall head, fuzz pedal with weak batteries, deeeelish. Then, in comes Dickey. My only other comparison is: Iron Maiden are the Allman Brothers of Metal.
Now, Derek Trucks is by far one of my favorite players. Slide so crisp and clean. Fingers like a Gatlin’ gun. The art form he possesses is elegant and corrosive all in one. Also, Jack Pearson played with Brothers, and he’s a beast. Does it all. That band’s musicians changed the way those instruments are played. They evaporated time and space with a 45 minute “Mountain Jam” at the Ludlow Garage. We would drive and say, “Be there in a ‘Mountain Jam'” or “Probs take side 1 of ‘Eat a Peach’.”
Duane also played on Aretha’s “Just Ain’t Fair.” First listen of that: heartbreaking. She’s playing the Fender Rhodes and in comes Duane with a swell that grabs you like a roller coaster and you hold on for life. Those vocals along with his subtle and harmonious playing, let’s just say a few tears have been shed when least expected. Also Wilson Pickett’s “Hey Jude.” Duane made his peace of mind in that. Gritty and sexy while Wilson is going off in his own zenith. If you don’t know, now you know.
You put Gregg’s voice and B3 with Duane and Dickeys K2 climbing acrobatics on a tune like “Elizabeth Reed” – it is as if the music is a Sherpa for your soul. Carrying it through peaks and valleys, while your eyes are closed and seeing a different light. Then what kept them rooted and able to space out into organic charades was Berry Oakley. That sumbitch, my favorite bass tone ever. It’s like a train had a pair of headers on the wheels and Paul Bunyan was enjoying a drink.
Jaimoe and Butch, my favorite tandem. Then Marc Quiñones on percussion and dance was had by all. Listen to some of the drum breaks. If that doesn’t get you bobbing for the real apples, take care.
They had a way of transitioning from a verse to a bridge that made you pay attention and grin because the smoothest moments held you captive and wanting more. It was a play on the heart and mind. Those guys went through some awful shit and wrote from where they were in headspace and substance. It’s relatable especially when you need that pick me up that only certain music can do. It gives you that nudge to get out of bed, believe that there are better moments than the one you might be in at that moment. It’s therapy in simplicity and heart tugs. Duane led the way to that type of playing. Derek and the Dominos. Please – he destroyed that album. Music should be an outlet, when a band covers all specs in that outlet, you hold onto it and let it marinate in your body and mind.
Duane Allman and Dickey Betts sort of open this whole area of guitar for me, not only with the dueling leads and dynamic harmonies but the scales and shapes that they always seem to play in. I remember Dean Ween said he only plays two guitar solos and one is the Dicky Betts move. When I analyze my own playing I think I could boil it down to Muddy Waters and Tony Iommi, who would yours be?
Great question. I tell you who really made me a good player is Doug. He’s a monster and it flows out of him. He rips solos like cigarettes. Each one differs from the other. We would really work on interplay. “Single strokes” is a joke between him and me but it’s the best lesson I learned. Playing for the groove and when not to play. How a strum can be the chore of the song because of the air and space it holds.
Who would I say influenced the way I play? I really love the chording style of Matt Pike, the tone of Josh Homme, the interplay between singing and playing … I adore how Terry Kath did that. He is a huge influence. His rhythm playing is both crisp and percussive in one. I think I’m finally becoming a good player after many years and I’m thankful for the guys that have been patient and constantly show me things. You are never too old to learn new ways of playing.
Man, Willie Nelson, not sure if you remember all the Willie Nelson stuff at my old place when you came by, but I was so happy to see him on the list. And what a great way to end the playlist. Thank you for sharing that story about your father. When I went to go see Willie a few years ago, it was really incredible to see all the generations in the audience. Also just the kinds of people who were there; the hillbillies, the old veterans, the bikers, and the hippies. He really is a national treasure. When I list my favorite guitarists I usually surprise people by including Willie in the list. But Willie and Tony Iommi both were so influenced by Django Reinhardt and gypsy jazz, you can really hear Django so clearly in both Black Sabbath and Willie Nelson.
Willie is a unique player. He has the chicken shack, behind-the-beat playing that is his own. You forget the riffs he pulls off in the verses after he sings. Take a tune like “Whiskey River,” the interplay between his voice and guitar is beautiful. “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” you listen to him sing, “Love is like a dying ember,” and right after he rips off a 4-note pull that’s not expected if you are not familiar with him. I remember you and I speaking about Willie and that’s when you had me.
Tony, he single-handedly made an outlet for guys like you and me to play. His tonality and acoustic playing are so tasty. The cleanness is insanity running amuck while, bang, second later, SG blasting your nuts off. Riffs, rhythm, and real. He had the 3 R’s before they were a thing. He is a monster and should be heralded by all styles as that is what sets him apart. He definitely has the Django vibe pumping hard. His right hand especially.
Sabbath swing so hard. Heavy jazz at times. That’s why Ozzy sounds so great over the style and chords as it totally melted the 2 together. It’s brilliant music and is always so fresh. It is a gift.
Thanks so much for participating in this, I’ve always loved talking music with you. Your taste is so broad and when I got to dig into it all with you I could hear all these old albums singing so clearly in Gozu. Looking forward to when everything with Covid-19 is under control so you and I can have some scotch and cigars again and dig into some old records! Hope you and your family are enjoying your time together!
Marc Gaffney plays guitar and sings in Gozu.