I have always told people ‘you don’t want to listen to music with me’. I am the guy who will rewind one obscure part of a song 10 times when something strikes me.
I was running today and Pearl Jam’s “Alive” came up on my iPod and during Mike McCready’s guitar solo I heard a part of it that I’ve probably listened to a thousand times before. Because I played it over and over a thousand times. Its a something he does that lasts all of a second and a half, but as I was running I was immediately transported back to being 13 years old in my bedroom at my parent’s house rewinding that part over and over.
Disclaimer - Listen to the entire song or at least the entire solo from 3:39-5:41 first before reading further.
It happens from 4:39-4:40 of the song. That’s it. That one second of music I’ve listened to way more than anyone would have ever thought.
Its the set up of that moment. That deep slide on the guitar’s lowest string that makes it what it is.
The slide UP at 4:29 is the first thing that peaked my ear, you can hear him slide on the guitar and its really no discernible notes. It’s just him in the moment sliding his hand up the neck. I always pictured that’s the set up where he’s saying “watch me, its about to get ugly”.
Sound familiar? It’s the little things that wow you as a kid and stick.
But that’s just the set up. At 4:39 of he slides his hand DOWN the neck on the lowest string and I remember thinking it sounds like he’s shifting gears in a Porche and taking it to another LEVEL right now. Like dude is SERIOUS right now. Take a listen.
It’s like he’s giving the middle finger to everyone saying “I’m a bad man, I’m not even gonna play notes here” and “I can do what you can do, but you can’t do what I can do”. TOTALLY AWESOME.
I never tried to imitate it, it just happened in my playing as I got older, when I felt it, never forced. My guitar teacher once told me the notes are important and the expression is even more. Those two moments in Mike McCready’s solo brought that lesson to life for me. And as you can see, those little moments made their way subconsciously into my playing.