Lady with the Spinning Head - how it fits into U2's Achtung Baby era

Thursday, November 23, 2023
In the annals of rock music, few albums have marked such a distinctive and daring shift in a band's musical direction as U2's seminal 1991 release, "Achtung Baby". This album not only redefined U2's sound but also reshaped the landscape of early-90s rock music. Within this transformative album lies a lesser-known gem, "Lady With The Spinning Head", a track that encapsulates the experimental spirit and the bold departure from convention that characterizes the entire album.

As the 1980s drew to a close, U2 was already a band with significant achievements and a distinctive sound, known for their soaring anthems and politically charged lyrics. However, as the new decade dawned, they found themselves at a crossroads, seeking to reinvent and rejuvenate their music in the face of a rapidly changing musical landscape. This period of introspection and experimentation gave birth to "Achtung Baby", an album that stands as a testament to the band's willingness to dismantle their established identity and venture into uncharted territories.

Within this context, "Lady With The Spinning Head" emerges as a pivotal piece. While ultimately it was not included on the final album released,  played a crucial role in the band's creative process during this era. The song is a confluence of new sonic textures, lyrical introspection, and innovative production techniques. 

history of lady with the spinning head

Before delving into the intricacies of "Lady With The Spinning Head", it's essential to contextualize the environment in which U2 was operating prior to "Achtung Baby". The late 1980s saw U2 riding high on the success of albums like "The Joshua Tree" and "Rattle and Hum". These albums had cemented their status as one of the world's leading rock bands, known for their anthemic sound and Bono's earnest, politically-charged lyrics. Despite this success, there was a growing sense within the band that their musical expression needed a new direction, a sentiment that became the catalyst for the sonic overhaul that was to come.

The end of the 1980s was a period marked by significant global changes. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War era heralded a new social and political climate. These global shifts paralleled U2's own desire for change, inspiring them to step away from the anthemic rock that had defined their previous work. The band sought a sound that reflected the uncertainties and complexities of the new decade, leading them to experiment with alternative rock and electronic dance music influences.

The creation of "Achtung Baby" began in earnest in Berlin, a city itself symbolic of change and rebirth. The band chose the Hansa Studios, famous for its association with groundbreaking artists like David Bowie and Iggy Pop. Here, amidst the cultural and political ferment of a reunified Berlin, U2 began deconstructing their established sound. The initial sessions were challenging, marked by creative tensions and disagreements about the musical direction. However, it was within this environment of uncertainty and experimentation that "Lady With The Spinning Head" and other tracks began to take shape.

The story of "Lady With The Spinning Head" begins in the midst of U2's creative upheaval during the "Achtung Baby" sessions. This song, like many others from this era, was born out of a period of intense experimentation and exploration. It was a time when the band was actively seeking to redefine their musical identity, and this track emerged as a pivotal piece in this puzzle.

The inspiration for the song stemmed from a combination of personal experiences and the band's collective desire to explore new musical landscapes. Bono, the band's iconic frontman, often drew from his own life and the world around him for lyrical content, and this song was no exception. The imagery and metaphors in the lyrics reflect a sense of disorientation and fascination, themes that resonated with the band's experiences in the rapidly changing world of the early 1990s.

"Lady With The Spinning Head" was initially developed during jam sessions, a common practice for U2 where improvisation played a key role in song creation. These sessions were characterized by a free-form approach, allowing each band member to contribute and experiment without the constraints of a predetermined structure. The Edge, known for his innovative guitar work, experimented with new sounds and effects, adding a distinctive texture to the song.

The rhythm section, comprising bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr., also played a crucial role in the song's development. Their willingness to adapt and explore new rhythmic patterns was crucial in shaping the track's dynamic and engaging tempo.

As the song evolved, it underwent several iterations, each adding layers and depth to its composition. The band worked closely with producers such as Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno, who were instrumental in guiding the song's development and helping U2 navigate their new sonic territory. Their input was vital in refining the song, ensuring that it aligned with the overall vision for "Achtung Baby".

Bono's lyrics in "Lady With The Spinning Head" are a tapestry of vivid imagery and introspective themes. The lyrics reflect a sense of disorientation and complexity, mirroring the band's own state of transition. Bono uses metaphorical language to convey feelings of confusion and fascination, which were prevalent themes in many of U2's songs from this period.

The song's lyrical content also demonstrates a shift from the overtly political and social commentary of earlier albums to a more personal and introspective style. This shift is indicative of the band's broader evolution during the "Achtung Baby" era, where personal introspection and existential themes became more prominent in their music.

"Lady With The Spinning Head" not only reflects the experimental nature of "Achtung Baby" but also influenced the sound of other tracks on the album. Elements of the song's composition can be heard in more prominent tracks like "The Fly" and "Ultraviolet (Light My Way)", showcasing its significance in the overall texture of the album.

This track's contribution to the album's sound highlights U2's creative process during this era. It serves as a testament to the band's ability to push musical boundaries and explore new artistic territories, setting a precedent for their future work.

In the broader context of U2's discography, "Lady With The Spinning Head" occupies a special place. It encapsulates the band's adventurous spirit during the early 1990s and stands as a symbol of their ability to reinvent themselves. While it may not have achieved the same level of commercial success as some of their other hits, its significance lies in its contribution to one of the most important phases in the band's history.

The legacy of "Lady With The Spinning Head" is multifaceted. It is a testament to U2's artistic courage, a key influence on their future work, and a pivotal piece in the puzzle that is "Achtung Baby". Its evolution and the legacy it has left behind offer a fascinating insight into one of the most transformative periods in U2's storied career.

How The Beatles met each other

The Beatles, a band synonymous with a cultural revolution in music, had their origins in Liverpool, England, during the 1950s. This iconic band's formation is a fascinating tale of chance encounters and musical synergy.

John Lennon, the founding member, started his musical journey with a skiffle group called the Quarrymen in 1956. This genre, a blend of jazz, blues, and folk, was popular in the UK at the time. The pivotal moment for the Beatles came on July 6, 1957, during a performance by the Quarrymen at the St. Peter's Church garden fête in Woolton, Liverpool. 

Here, 15-year-old Paul McCartney was introduced to John Lennon. McCartney's skill on the guitar and his knowledge of songs by Eddie Cochran and Little Richard impressed Lennon, leading to McCartney joining the Quarrymen.

The addition of McCartney marked a turning point for the group. The Lennon-McCartney partnership rapidly became the group's cornerstone, with the duo starting to write songs together. This collaboration would later produce some of the 20th century's most iconic music.


The introduction of George Harrison into the group marked a significant evolution in its dynamic. Harrison, who was a friend of McCartney's from the Liverpool Institute High School for Boys, brought a new dimension to the ensemble. Despite being only 14 years old at the time, his exceptional talent on the guitar was undeniable. McCartney, aware of Harrison's skills, facilitated a meeting between him and Lennon. 

Initially, Lennon was hesitant due to Harrison's young age, questioning his maturity and experience. However, Harrison's audition for the group, showcasing his proficiency in playing intricate guitar solos and his familiarity with a wide range of rock and roll music, dispelled any doubts. His performance not only impressed Lennon but also demonstrated a level of musicianship that was rare for someone of his age.

Harrison's inclusion in the group was more than just an addition of a new member; it signified a shift towards a more serious and dedicated approach to their music. His influence was not limited to his guitar skills. Harrison brought with him a unique sensibility and creativity that would later become integral to the Beatles' sound. He had a keen ear for musical detail and a penchant for experimenting with different styles and techniques, which would contribute significantly to the band's innovative and evolving sound.

The final and crucial addition to the band that would become The Beatles was Ringo Starr, then known by his birth name, Richard Starkey. 

Before joining The Beatles, Starr was a member of another popular Liverpool band, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, where he had honed his skills as a drummer. His connection with The Beatles began in Hamburg, Germany, where both bands had been part of the same vibrant music scene. Starr's performances in Hamburg had already made an impression on The Beatles, showcasing his solid and distinctive drumming style, which differed significantly from that of their then-drummer, Pete Best.

In August 1962, Starr's transition into The Beatles occurred, marking a pivotal moment in the band's evolution. This change was not without controversy; Pete Best had been with the band during their formative years and his replacement by Starr caused some initial discontent among fans. However, Starr's inclusion brought a new dynamic to the group. His drumming style, characterized by a steady, reliable rhythm and an ability to adapt to the band's evolving musical styles, was a perfect fit for The Beatles' sound. His easygoing personality and sense of humor also gelled well with the rest of the band, creating a cohesive and harmonious group dynamic.

Through these formative years, the band, initially known as the Quarrymen, underwent several name changes, including the Silver Beetles, before finally settling on The Beatles. The name was a play on the word "beat," reflecting their status as a "beat group." Despite early struggles, playing in small clubs in Liverpool and Hamburg, they achieved their first major success with the release of their single "Love Me Do" in 1962.

The Beatles' journey from a group of teenagers in Liverpool to global superstardom is a testament to their talent, innovation, and the unique chemistry they shared. They didn't just transform the landscape of popular music; they also influenced the cultural fabric of the era. Even decades after their breakup, The Beatles continue to be a significant influence in music, fashion, and pop culture, illustrating the enduring impact of their collaboration. Their story, from serendipitous meetings to musical evolution, mirrors the cultural shifts of their time and highlights the extraordinary impact a small group of talented individuals can have on the world.

The Tale of Glen Hansard's 'The Horse

Sunday, November 19, 2023
Glen Hansard's legendary guitar, affectionately known as "The Horse," is not just an instrument; it's a central character in the narrative of his music career. This guitar, with its well-worn appearance, has been the birthplace of numerous songs that resonate deeply with audiences. Let's integrate examples of songs that Hansard wrote with this guitar into our discussion of its significance.

Glen Hansard's guitar, a Takamine NP15, has been an integral part of his musical journey. It's characterized by its rugged appearance, bearing the marks of a lifetime of use. This guitar has been Hansard's companion through various stages of his career, instrumental in the creation of songs that have touched the hearts of many.

Each scratch and dent on "The Horse" symbolizes stories and emotions, many of which have been transformed into songs. For instance, the song "Falling Slowly," from the movie "Once," was composed on this guitar. 

This song, which won an Academy Award, is a poignant example of how Hansard's experiences and emotions have been channeled through "The Horse." Similarly, songs like "Leave" and "Lies" from the same film carry the essence of the guitar's character in their melodies and lyrics.

glen hansard takamine horse

The unique sound quality of "The Horse," shaped by its worn condition, has significantly influenced Hansard's music. 

Songs like "When Your Mind's Made Up" and "Say It to Me Now" showcase the dynamic range that Hansard achieves with his guitar, from soft, tender strums to powerful, emotive chords. These songs demonstrate how the guitar's character complements Hansard's storytelling and emotional expression in music.

"The Horse" has played a pivotal role in shaping the cultural impact of Hansard's work. The songs written on this guitar have become anthems of the indie music scene. For instance, "Falling Slowly" has become an iconic song, representing the spirit of independent music and the power of simple, heartfelt storytelling. This song, along with others like "Gold" and "The Hill," contribute to the legacy of "The Horse," making it an iconic symbol in the world of music.

the horse takamine guitar glen hansard history

Incorporating these songs into the discussion about "The Horse" enriches our understanding of the guitar's significance. It's not just a musical instrument; it's a vessel that has carried stories, emotions, and experiences into the world through song. 

Glen Hansard's attachment to and interaction with "The Horse" is a vivid example of the symbiotic relationship between a musician and their instrument. The songs written on this guitar stand as testament to its enduring legacy in the realm of music and storytelling, making it an object of fascination and inspiration for music lovers and artists globally.

U2 lyrics which explore The Troubles of Ireland

Saturday, November 18, 2023
U2's engagement with Ireland's "The Troubles," a period of ethno-nationalist conflict in Northern Ireland from the late 1960s until the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, is a profound example of how music can reflect and influence social and political contexts.

The band, originating from Dublin, Ireland, has a unique perspective on this conflict, which they have expressed through their lyrics. In discussing U2's songs that address "The Troubles," it's crucial to explore how they capture the essence of this complex period, the emotional depth of their lyrics, and their impact both within and beyond Ireland.

u2 ireland troubles song lyrics

"Sunday Bloody Sunday" - War Album

"Sunday Bloody Sunday" stands out for its vivid portrayal of the horrors of "The Troubles," particularly focusing on the Bloody Sunday massacre of 1972 in Derry.

This event, where British soldiers shot unarmed civil rights protesters and bystanders, stands as one of the most tragic days in the history of the conflict. Bono's lyrics in the song are a visceral response to this event, filled with imagery that conveys shock, horror, and a deep sense of injustice.

The song's opening lines, "I can't believe the news today," immediately set a tone of disbelief and mourning. Moreover, Bono draws a powerful parallel between this modern-day atrocity and the ancient crucifixion of Jesus Christ, suggesting a timeless cycle of senseless violence and suffering. This comparison not only amplifies the song's emotional impact but also frames the events in Derry within a larger context of historical and moral significance.

Unlike many songs written in times of conflict, "Sunday Bloody Sunday" does not glorify the struggle or take a partisan stance. Instead, it stands out as a poignant plea against violence. This distinction is crucial as it positions the song not as a "rebel song" advocating for armed resistance, but as a call for peace and reconciliation. The song's chorus, "How long, how long must we sing this song?" is a lamentation over the enduring nature of the conflict and an appeal for its resolution. This thematic choice by U2 is significant, particularly given the charged atmosphere of the time. The band's decision to use their music as a vehicle for advocating peace, rather than exacerbating divisions, speaks to their role not just as musicians, but as peace activists within a deeply divided society.

The song's journey from creation to cultural impact is notable. Initially, the lyrics included explicit references to both the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), reflecting the song's direct engagement with the conflict's key players. However, these references were ultimately removed from the final version. This act of self-editing, far from diluting the song's message, arguably made it more universally powerful and accessible.

 Misinterpretations of the song, which some construed as a rallying cry for further conflict, were directly addressed by Bono in live performances. He often introduced the song by stating, "This song is not a rebel song," reiterating its true intent as an anthem for peace. This clarification was crucial in ensuring that the song's message was not co-opted or misunderstood in the charged political climate of the time. 

"Please" - Pop Album

Regarded as one of the standout tracks from the "Pop" album, "Please" directly addresses the Irish conflict. It uses religious imagery to depict the collision of faith and warfare, symbolizing the ongoing strife in Ireland.

The song masterfully depicts the intersection of faith and conflict, symbolizing the persistent struggle that plagued Ireland for decades. Through its lyrics, "Please" extends beyond a mere narrative of conflict, metaphorically addressing the political leaders who were at the forefront of the peace process in Northern Ireland. Bono's lyrics are a subtle yet powerful plea for these leaders to expedite the path to peace, reflecting the urgency and desperation felt by many during this tumultuous time.

Significantly, the single's cover art features the images of four key Northern Irish politicians: Gerry Adams of Sinn FéinDavid Trimble of the Ulster Unionist Party, Ian Paisley of the Democratic Unionist Party, and John Hume of the Social Democratic and Labour Party. Each of these figures played a pivotal role in the peace negotiations and the eventual signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, which marked a significant step towards resolving the conflict. The inclusion of their images on the cover serves as a direct and poignant message, symbolizing the song's call for political action and reconciliation.

Bono cleverly intertwines the theme of personal relationships within the song, presenting "Please" in a dual light. This artistic choice adds a layer of complexity to the track, allowing it to resonate on multiple levels. On one hand, the song can be interpreted as a commentary on a tumultuous personal relationship, while on the other, it mirrors the broader societal and political relationships that were under strain during "The Troubles." This dual interpretation underscores the song's depth and the band's nuanced approach to songwriting, making "Please" not only a standout track of the "Pop" album but also a significant piece in the cultural narrative of the Northern Irish conflict.

"Van Diemen's Land" - Rattle and Hum Album

"Van Diemen's Land" from U2's "Rattle and Hum" album stands as a poignant reflection on the Irish history of resistance and endurance. The song, performed by The Edge, pays homage to John Boyle O'Reilly, a Fenian poet and activist deported to Australia (then known as Van Diemen's Land) for his role in the Irish Republican Brotherhood. 

This selection of O'Reilly as the focal point is significant; his story embodies the struggles of political exile, a recurring theme in Irish history, and the unyielding spirit of resistance against colonial rule. The Edge's choice to center the song around O'Reilly not only acknowledges the historical fight for Irish independence but also underlines the intertwined nature of art, poetry, and political activism in shaping Irish national identity.

Musically, "Van Diemen's Land" differs from U2’s typical style, primarily due to The Edge taking on the role of the lead vocalist. His voice brings a unique and haunting quality to the song, differentiating it from Bono's more familiar lead vocals but maintaining the band's characteristic emotional intensity. The lyrics are crafted in a manner reminiscent of traditional Irish ballads, which are often steeped in historical and political contexts. This song, therefore, serves as a bridge connecting U2’s contemporary musical expression with the rich tapestry of Irish cultural and political history. Given Rattle and Hum was U2's foray into American Blues, it perhaps serves as a stamp on the album, it's a statement of fact, we Irish lads are here - and now we are gonna hook up with Billie Holiday. 

"The Troubles" - Songs of Innocence Album

"The Troubles" a track from U2's album "Songs of Innocence," represents a profound and layered exploration of conflict, both on a personal and a national scale. At its surface, the song appears to address the issue of domestic violence, a theme that Bono has indicated is central to the piece. 

However, this personal narrative is deftly interwoven with the broader historical context of "The Troubles". This dual interpretation is no coincidence; the song's title itself is a clear nod to this turbulent period. By paralleling the turmoil within a household with the societal upheaval of "The Troubles," the song creates a powerful metaphor for the way personal and political strife can mirror and influence each other. The personal becomes a microcosm of the national, as the song subtly suggests that the tensions and conflicts within a home can reflect the larger divisions and struggles within a society.

Expanding on this metaphor, "The Troubles" also speaks to the album's broader theme of coming of age in Ireland during this tumultuous time. The inclusion of this track in "Songs of Innocence" is a poignant reminder of how the backdrop of political unrest can permeate and shape personal experiences and identities. For U2, a band that grew up in the shadow of this conflict, the song is not just a commentary on a specific period in Irish history, but a reflection on how such a period molds individuals and communities. 

The song, therefore, becomes more than just a narrative about domestic or societal conflict; it is a meditation on the formation of identity in the face of adversity. The lyrics, while dealing with specific themes of violence and struggle, resonate with a broader sense of resilience and the search for peace, both within the walls of a home and in the broader canvas of a nation riven by conflict. This depth gives the song a universal appeal, making it relevant not just to those who experienced "The Troubles" firsthand, but to anyone who understands the complex interplay between personal and political battles..

Ryan Adam's rolls with it as he covers Oasis' What's the Story (Morning Glory)?

Friday, November 17, 2023
Ryan Adams, an American singer-songwriter and musician, has long been celebrated for his unique approach to music, especially when it comes to covering songs. Known for his prolific output and genre-spanning works, Adams has carved a niche for himself in the music world, not just through his original songs but also through his distinctive covers of popular tracks.

One of his most well-received covers is his rendition of "Wonderwall" by Oasis, featured on his 2004 album "Love is Hell." This particular cover stood out for its emotive and raw acoustic style, a stark contrast to the original's Britpop exuberance. It showcased Adams' ability to take a well-known song and reimagine it in a way that felt entirely new, yet deeply respectful to the source material.

In 2023, Ryan Adams took his affinity for covers a step further by undertaking an ambitious project: covering Oasis' entire "Morning Glory" album. This move not only highlights his daring as an artist but also underscores his deep appreciation and understanding of the music he chooses to cover. This article will delve into Adams' journey through his cover projects, with a special focus on this latest endeavor, exploring how it fits into his broader artistic trajectory.

ryan adams oasis morning glory cover

Ryan Adams’ cover of "Wonderwall," originally performed by Oasis, stands as a seminal point in his career. Released on his 2004 album "Love is Hell," this version strips down the Britpop anthem to its emotional core. Adams’ rendition is a subdued, introspective take, featuring a gentle acoustic guitar and his characteristic, introspective vocal style. This transformation of the song into a melancholic ballad redefined its essence and introduced it to a new audience.

The original "Wonderwall" by Oasis is characterized by its upbeat tempo, rich instrumentation, and Liam Gallagher's distinctive vocal delivery, resonating with the Britpop era's vibrant energy. In contrast, Adams' interpretation presents a starkly different soundscape. His version is slower, more reflective, and deeply personal. The acoustic guitar and soft vocals replace the original's electric fervor, highlighting the song's lyrical vulnerability. By doing so, Adams transforms "Wonderwall" from a pop anthem into an intimate confessional.

Ryan Adams' cover of "Wonderwall" had a profound impact on his career and reputation. It not only won critical acclaim but also resonated with a wide audience, including Noel Gallagher, the original songwriter, who praised Adams' version for its emotional depth. This cover demonstrated Adams' exceptional skill in reinterpreting songs in a way that is both respectful to the original and artistically innovative. It cemented his status not just as a talented songwriter and performer but also as a masterful interpreter of others' works. The success of this cover paved the way for future projects, showcasing Adams' unique ability to bridge genres and eras through his music.

In 2023, Ryan Adams embarked on an audacious musical endeavor: covering Oasis' iconic album "Morning Glory" in its entirety. This project was not just a tribute to one of the seminal albums of the 90s but also a testament to Adams' ambitious artistic vision. "Morning Glory," known for its quintessential Britpop sound and anthemic tracks, presented a unique challenge and opportunity for Adams to reimagine these classics through his distinctive lens.

Adams approached "Morning Glory" with a deep reverence for the original, yet infused it with his own artistic identity. His rendition is characterized by a more subdued, introspective atmosphere compared to the original's high-energy, guitar-driven sound. Where Oasis relied on bold, expansive production, Adams opted for minimalism and simplicity. His version leans heavily on acoustic arrangements, soft vocal harmonies, and a contemplative mood that brings a new level of emotional depth to the album.

Key tracks like "Wonderwall" and "Don't Look Back in Anger" are transformed from anthemic sing-alongs into poignant ballads. "Champagne Supernova," known for its sprawling, psychedelic sound, is reinterpreted with a stripped-down arrangement, highlighting the song’s lyrical introspection.

Comparing Adams' covers with the original Oasis versions reveals a fascinating study in contrasts. For instance, the original "Morning Glory" is a product of its time, encapsulating the Britpop era's swagger and vitality. Tracks like "Roll With It" and "Some Might Say" are replete with electric guitar riffs and a sense of rebellious optimism.

A Pattern of Reinvention: The '1989' Album Cover

Ryan Adams' decision to cover Taylor Swift's "1989" in 2015 was a continuation of his pattern of reinterpreting entire albums, adding a unique twist to existing masterpieces. This project followed his well-received cover of Oasis' "Wonderwall" and preceded his ambitious reimagining of the "Morning Glory" album. By choosing "1989," a pop album vastly different from his usual style, Adams demonstrated his versatility and fearless approach to music.

The reception of Adams' "1989" was notably positive, both critically and among fans. His version offered a complete reworking of Swift's synth-pop sound into a style more akin to heartland rock and folk. This transformation was seen as a bold artistic statement, bridging the gap between pop and indie genres. Critics applauded Adams for not only paying homage to Swift's songwriting but also for adding his own emotional depth and maturity to the songs.

The success of this album had a significant impact on Adams' career. It introduced him to a broader audience, some of whom were more familiar with pop music than indie or alternative genres. The project also reinforced Adams' reputation as a versatile and daring artist, unafraid to cross genre boundaries and reinterpret contemporary hits in his own style.

On "1989," Adams' stylistic choices are a departure from the original's upbeat, synth-driven production. He reimagined the album with a moody, introspective vibe, using acoustic guitars, piano, and a softer vocal delivery. This approach brought a new level of emotional gravity to Swift's lyrics, which, in the original, were often overshadowed by the upbeat pop arrangements.

Tracks like "Shake It Off" and "Bad Blood," known for their high-energy pop beats, were transformed into melancholic, introspective ballads. "Out of the Woods," originally a fast-paced synth-pop track, was reinterpreted with a slower tempo and a focus on the lyrics' storytelling, bringing a sense of earnestness and vulnerability.

Exploring Diverse Musical Legacies: The Elvis Covers

Ryan Adams ventured into the realm of classic rock 'n' roll by covering songs from the legendary Elvis Presley. These covers, interspersed throughout his career, are a testament to Adams' respect and admiration for the musical giants who preceded him. Covering Elvis, an icon known for his distinctive voice and charismatic stage presence, was a challenge that Adams approached with his unique blend of introspection and reverence.


The Elvis covers hold a special place in Ryan Adams' discography. They represent not just a nod to the roots of rock music but also a personal homage to an artist who has influenced generations of musicians. These covers are distinct from Adams' other projects, such as his complete album reimaginings, as they delve into a more traditional and foundational era of music. They highlight Adams' ability to bridge the gap between contemporary indie rock and the classic rock 'n' roll of Elvis Presley.

In covering a song like "Can't Help Falling in Love," Adams turns the original, a buoyant and romantic ballad, into a deeply moving and reflective piece. His version emphasizes the song’s inherent poignancy, showcasing his skill in reinterpreting well-known tracks in a way that uncovers new layers of meaning and emotion.

Similarly, his cover of "Suspicious Minds" transforms the upbeat, rhythm-driven original into a somber, contemplative piece, focusing on the song's themes of mistrust and relationship turmoil. This reinterpretation exemplifies Adams' ability to recontextualize a song, turning a classic pop track into a deeply personal and emotionally resonant performance.

Ryan Adams’ inclination towards covering a diverse range of songs and entire albums offers a window into his broader artistic philosophy. This tendency reflects a deep-rooted respect for musical history and a desire to connect with and reinterpret the work of other artists, ranging from contemporary pop stars like Taylor Swift to rock legends like Elvis Presley. Adams' covers are not just tributes but are explorations that blend his unique sensibilities with the original artists' intents, creating a bridge between different musical eras and genres.

The Red Special - Brian May's homemade classic guitar

Tuesday, November 14, 2023
In the pantheon of rock music, few guitars have achieved the legendary status of Brian May’s Red Special. This unique instrument, with its distinct sound and appearance, has not just been a tool but a companion in May’s journey with the iconic band Queen. Beyond its association with numerous hits, the Red Special stands as a testament to innovation, craftsmanship, and the enduring bond between a musician and his instrument.

Brian May, known for his virtuosic guitar skills and his role in shaping the sound of Queen, one of the most influential rock bands of all time, embarked on an ambitious project in his early years. Together with his father, Harold May, he set out to create a custom guitar. This was not merely due to the financial constraints of buying a professional instrument but also stemmed from a desire to craft something that was uniquely tailored to his playing style and sonic preferences.

The guitar they built, affectionately named the Red Special, is far from just another electric guitar. It's a culmination of innovative design, unconventional materials, and a deep understanding of sound mechanics. Over the decades, it has become almost as famous as the man who plays it, featuring in countless performances and recordings, and becoming a central part of Queen's sound.

red special guitar brian may

The Red Special’s story is one of ingenuity and a relentless pursuit of a musical vision. It’s about how a homemade instrument, crafted with care and precision, can rise to become a piece of rock history. This essay delves into the journey of the Red Special, exploring its creation, its unique characteristics, and the way it has shaped and been shaped by one of rock music’s most storied careers.

The journey of the Red Special began in the early 1960s, grounded in the young Brian May's desire to have an electric guitar that he could not afford. This financial constraint, however, was a blessing in disguise, as it led to a remarkable display of innovation and customization that would define the sound of Queen for decades to come.

May's inspiration didn't just stem from economic necessity but also from a deep dissatisfaction with the features offered by contemporary guitars. He sought an instrument that could produce a range of sounds unattainable with the standard models available at the time. His goal was a versatile guitar capable of both screaming leads and rich, orchestral-like chords, a desire that would significantly influence the design of the Red Special.

The construction of the Red Special was a collaborative effort between Brian May and his father, Harold, a skilled electronics engineer and craftsman. The Mays approached the project with ingenuity, using materials readily available to them. Notably, the neck of the guitar was carved from wood of an old fireplace mantel, chosen for its age-hardened quality, ensuring stability and a lack of warping.

The ingenuity of the May duo was further demonstrated in their use of unconventional items: the springs from a motorbike for the tremolo system, buttons from a mother-of-pearl sweater for fret markers, and even knitting needles. These materials were not just chosen for their availability but also for their contribution to the guitar's unique sound and playability.

The construction process was fraught with challenges, from shaping the wood without professional tools to designing homemade pickups. The Mays overcame these hurdles with a combination of patience, precision, and experimental zeal. This process was not just about building a musical instrument but also about a father and son working together, sharing skills and ideas, and ultimately creating something extraordinary.

The Red Special was not just a product of necessity but also of visionary artistry. Brian May's deep involvement in every aspect of its construction ensured that the guitar was perfectly attuned to his playing style and sound preferences. This level of customization is what makes the Red Special not just a unique instrument, but an extension of May's musical persona.

The Red Special's design is a marvel of musical engineering, characterized by several distinctive features that contribute to its unique sound. One of the most significant aspects is its semi-acoustic construction. The guitar's body, partially hollow, was designed to resonate in a specific way, contributing to a richer, more vibrant tone. This semi-acoustic nature allows the Red Special to produce a sound that is noticeably different from the solid-body electric guitars commonly used in rock music.

Another defining feature is the homemade pickups, designed and built by Brian and Harold May. These pickups were wound by hand, allowing for precise control over their output and characteristics. This level of customization was crucial in achieving the wide range of tones that Brian May desired, from the bright, cutting leads to the smooth, melodic rhythms.

The playability of the Red Special is heavily influenced by its neck design. The neck, relatively wide and thick, was shaped to fit Brian May's hand comfortably. This design choice not only affects the playability but also contributes to the guitar's sustain and tone. The fretboard, made of oak with a zero fret for improved intonation, is another element that enhances the instrument's playability.

Over the years, the Red Special has undergone various modifications, though always with the intent of preserving its original essence. These modifications include changes to the bridge, pickups, and electronics, aimed at maintaining the guitar's reliability and performance while on tour. Despite these changes, the core of the Red Special's design and sound has remained largely unchanged, testament to the original vision and craftsmanship of the Mays.

The Red Special's impact on the sound of Queen cannot be overstated. Its versatility and distinctive tone played a pivotal role in the band's diverse musical repertoire. Brian May's ability to coax a wide array of sounds from the Red Special – from the soaring leads in "Brighton Rock" to the orchestral-like layers in "Bohemian Rhapsody" – was instrumental in defining Queen's unique sonic identity.

May's technique, coupled with the guitar's design, allowed for a sound that was at once powerful and nuanced. The Red Special's ability to sustain notes, its rich harmonics, and the feedback it could produce, all contributed to a signature sound that was unmistakably Queen. This was not just a matter of technical proficiency but also of artistic expression, with the guitar serving as a medium for May's creativity.

The influence of the Red Special extends beyond Queen's music. It has inspired countless guitarists across generations, drawn to its unique sound and the story of its creation. The guitar has become a symbol of innovation and personalization in instrument design, showing that the limitations of standard models can be overcome with creativity and technical knowledge.

brian may red special guitar queen

The legacy of the Red Special is also evident in the numerous replicas and signature models that have been produced over the years. These replicas, both officially endorsed and fan-made, are a testament to the guitar's enduring appeal and influence. They allow musicians to capture a piece of the Red Special's magic, further cementing its place in the pantheon of iconic musical instruments.

The Red Special's legacy extends far beyond its technical specifications or its role in Queen's music. It stands as a symbol of innovation, resourcefulness, and the deeply personal connection that can exist between a musician and their instrument. The story of its creation, born from a combination of necessity and ingenuity, has inspired musicians and craftsmen to think outside the box, to see the potential in unconventional materials and methods.

This guitar has also become a beacon for the idea of personalizing one's instrument. Brian May's hands-on approach in designing and building the Red Special with his father has encouraged many guitarists to explore customizing their instruments, whether through modifying existing guitars or building from scratch. The Red Special thus represents a philosophy as much as it does a physical instrument.

The Red Special's story and its distinctive sound continue to capture the imagination of new fans and musicians, ensuring its place in the cultural lexicon for years to come. Its journey from a homemade project in a suburban London home to stages around the world is a powerful narrative that continues to inspire and influence the music world.

The history of B.B. King's Lucille guitars

B.B. King, born Riley B. King in 1925, stands as a monumental figure in blues music, often revered as "The King of the Blues."

His career, spanning over half a century, profoundly influenced the genre through his distinctive guitar playing and soulful voice. King's approach to the electric guitar, marked by fluid string bends and shimmering vibrato, brought a unique voice to blues music, inspiring countless guitarists across genres.
His legacy lies not just in the technical mastery of his music but in the raw emotion and narrative quality he infused into it, epitomizing the essence of the blues as a story of life's struggles and joys.

His popular songs like "The Thrill is Gone," "Lucille," and "Rock Me Baby," as well as his legendary records such as "Live at the Regal" and "Riding with the King," stand testament to his extraordinary influence in the world of music.

bb king history of Lucille guitars

Origin of the 'Lucille'

The tale of how B.B. King's guitar came to be known as Lucille is as much a part of blues folklore as the music itself. It roots King's relationship with his guitar in a narrative of survival, passion, and transformation, setting the stage for a deeper exploration of this iconic instrument's history.

The story of Lucille begins on a cold winter night in 1949 in a dance hall in Twist, Arkansas. During a performance, two men ignited a fire by knocking over a kerosene stove while fighting. King, having fled outside, realized he had left his beloved guitar inside. He risked his life to retrieve it. This event was not only a pivotal moment in King's life but also marked the christening of his guitars as Lucille.

The legend has it King learned that the two men who started the fire had been fighting over a woman who worked at the hall named Lucille. King had not met Lucille but named that guitar, and every guitar he subsequently owned, Lucille, as a reminder never again to do something as stupid as run into a burning building or fight over a woman...

Naming his guitars Lucille thus bore a deeper significance for King. It served as a cautionary tale against violence and recklessness, encapsulating a moment of revelation about life's priorities. Lucille became more than an instrument; it was a life lesson and a partner, accompanying him through his journey in blues.

Evolution of the Lucille Guitar Model

Before Lucille became synonymous with the Gibson guitars, B.B. King played on a variety of models. His early career saw him using different brands, each contributing to the development of his unique sound. These guitars, although not yet bearing the Lucille moniker, were instrumental in King's formative years as a blues artist.

The partnership between B.B. King and Gibson is a landmark in the history of electric guitars. This collaboration was born out of King's search for a guitar that could meet his specific needs as a musician and resulted in the creation of a signature model that embodied his ideals for sound, playability, and aesthetics.

The Gibson Lucille models are a testament to King's pursuit of a particular sound and feel in his instrument. These guitars were custom-designed to suit his playing style, featuring unique specifications like a semi-hollow body without f-holes, to reduce feedback, and specific electronic configurations for a versatile and rich blues tone. The design and specifications of Lucille reflect not just technical requirements but also King's personal journey in music.

Lucille's unique characteristics significantly shaped B.B. King's musical style and sound. The guitar's design, particularly the semi-hollow body and the custom electronics, enabled King to produce his trademark luscious, sustained notes and expressive vibratos.

Famous Gigs with the King

B.B. King's live performances were legendary, not just for his unparalleled skill as a guitarist, but for the sheer emotional power and soul he brought to every stage. Here are some of his most memorable live guitar performances:

Live at the Regal (1964): This performance at the Regal Theater in Chicago is often hailed as one of the greatest blues albums of all time. King's interaction with the audience and his dynamic playing style set a new standard for live blues recordings.

Live in Cook County Jail (1970): This concert, performed for inmates at Cook County Jail in Chicago, is renowned for its raw energy and emotional intensity. King's performance of classics like "The Thrill Is Gone" and "Every Day I Have the Blues" resonated deeply with the audience.

The Blues Summit Concert (1993): This concert featured King alongside other blues legends like Buddy Guy, Ruth Brown, and Albert Collins. His performance here, particularly in duets, showcased his ability to blend styles with other artists while maintaining his unique sound.

Live at San Quentin (1990): Similar to his Cook County Jail performance, this live album captured King playing at San Quentin State Prison. His performances were a mix of storytelling and soulful guitar playing, creating a deep connection with the audience.

Lucille as a Cultural Icon

Lucille transcended its role as a mere musical instrument to become a symbol in the blues genre. This section will explore how Lucille represented the essence of the blues – its emotion, storytelling, and resilience. The guitar became synonymous with King's journey and, by extension, the journey of the blues itself, reflecting the genre's rich history and cultural significance.

In 1997, during a momentous Christmas concert at the Vatican, B.B. King, a blues legend and a global ambassador of music, had the honor of meeting Pope John Paul II. In a profound gesture that symbolized the unifying power of music across cultural and religious divides, King presented one of his cherished Lucille guitars to the Pope. This act was not merely a gift but a powerful symbol of King’s deep connection to his music and an offering of his life's passion. The presentation of Lucille to the Pope underscored the universal appeal of music, King's reverence for spiritual leadership, and the significant role of Lucille as an extension of King's identity and legacy. This event encapsulated Lucille’s transcendence beyond the realm of blues, highlighting its status as a beacon of artistic expression, unity, and peace, further enriching the guitar’s profound legacy in global cultural and spiritual contexts.

About that song with U2..

"Love Comes to Town" is a collaborative track between B.B. King and the Irish rock band U2, featured on U2's 1988 album, "Rattle and Hum." This song stands as a notable intersection between blues and rock, showcasing the blend of two distinct musical styles and eras.

The song opens with a distinct, jangling guitar riff characteristic of U2's The Edge, setting a rhythmic, rock-infused tone. B.B. King's entrance is marked by his signature soulful electric blues guitar licks, adding a layer of depth and emotion to the track. The blend of The Edge's rhythmic playing and King's expressive, fluid blues solos creates a compelling musical dialogue, illustrating the versatility and adaptability of blues within different musical contexts.

Bono's vocals, passionate and gritty, carry the verses with a sense of urgency and introspection. When King joins in, there's a noticeable shift; his voice, rich and textured with experience, adds a different dimension to the song's narrative. The contrast between Bono's youthful energy and King's seasoned timbre makes for a dynamic vocal interplay, highlighting the song's theme of introspective journeying and the transformative power of love.

Lyrically, "When Love Comes to Town" navigates themes of redemption, love, and personal transformation. The lyrics are introspective, reflective of a journey from darkness to light, a common motif in both blues and rock. King's contribution to the lyrics brings in elements of the blues narrative – life's struggles, mistakes, and the redemptive power of love.

The collaboration was significant for bringing together two generations of musicians, symbolizing a bridging of the gap between classic blues and contemporary rock. For U2, working with a blues legend like King was an opportunity to connect with the roots of rock music. For King, it was a chance to introduce his art to a younger, more diverse audience. The song received widespread acclaim and introduced King's music to a new generation of listeners, underlining the timeless and universal appeal of the blues.

How U2 tried to claim the blues with Rattle and Hum

"Rattle and Hum," U2's sixth studio album, is not just a collection of songs but a journey into the heart of American music. Released in 1988, it served as both a soundtrack and a companion piece to the documentary film of the same name. This project represented a pivotal moment for U2, as they ventured into the realms of blues, gospel, and soul, seeking to infuse these traditional American genres into their distinct rock style.

The blues genre, emerging from the African American experience, has been a cornerstone of modern music, particularly rock and roll. Its raw emotional depth and distinctive musical structure have profoundly influenced countless artists. U2's exploration of blues was more than a stylistic shift; it was an acknowledgment of this rich musical legacy.

bb king u2 love comes to town

Before "Rattle and Hum," U2 had primarily been identified with a post-punk, ethereal sound, marked by politically and emotionally charged lyrics. Their earlier albums, especially "The Joshua Tree," had firmly established them as rock icons. The move into blues and related genres marked a significant expansion of their musical repertoire.

Analyzing Key Tracks

"Angel of Harlem"

"Angel of Harlem" stands out as a vibrant tribute to the blues and jazz heritage of Harlem. The song's structure, incorporating brass and a more rhythmic sound, shows U2's ability to adapt blues elements while retaining their unique sonic identity. The references to Miles Davis and Billie Holiday pay homage to these legends.

"When Love Comes to Town" with B.B. King

In "When Love Comes to Town," U2's collaboration with B.B. King, the band reaches a high point in their blues exploration. King's authentic blues guitar and vocals, combined with U2's rock foundation, create a powerful blend that honors both genres. This track is a quintessential example of respectful and successful genre fusion.

Gospel Choir in "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"

The reworking of The Joshua Tree's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" with a gospel choir is a striking example of genre blending. The song's themes of spiritual searching gain new dimensions with the choir, illustrating the deep emotional and spiritual resonance shared between rock and gospel music.

U2 approached the blues with a sense of reverence and authenticity. Their endeavor was less about imitation and more about integration, seeking to understand and internalize blues elements within their own musical identity.

While some critics viewed "Rattle and Hum" as overambitious, many acknowledged its artistic merits. The album was both a commercial success and a demonstration of U2's ability to transcend their established sound, forging a memorable fusion of rock and blues.

"Rattle and Hum" marked a turning point in U2's career. This exploration had a lasting impact on their music, as elements of blues, gospel, and soul continued to surface in their later works.

In conclusion, U2's blues journey in "Rattle and Hum" was a bold exploration that went beyond mere musical experimentation. It was a sincere homage to American musical traditions and a pivotal moment in their artistic evolution. The album remains a significant chapter in U2's history, reflecting their ability to bridge diverse musical worlds while leaving an indelible mark on the landscape of rock music.

Willie Nelson's legendary 'Trigger' Guitar

Willie Nelson, a name synonymous with country music, resonates across the globe, symbolizing a blend of raw talent, unfiltered expression, and a unique approach to storytelling through music. At the heart of his musical odyssey lies "Trigger," a guitar as iconic as Nelson himself. This Martin N-20 classical guitar, affectionately named after Roy Rogers' horse, is not just an instrument but a testament to Nelson's enduring legacy. Its journey from a mere musical tool to a legendary artifact mirrors Nelson's own transformation from a struggling artist to a country music luminary.

The early chapters of Willie Nelson's career were marked by a relentless search for a distinct musical identity. His influences ranged widely, absorbing the essence of diverse genres, which later culminated in his unique style. The story of Trigger began in the early 1970s when Nelson's previous guitar was damaged. This misfortune led him to a music shop where he encountered the Martin N-20. It was not just an acquisition but a serendipitous partnership that would shape the course of his music.

Nelson's initial impressions of Trigger were marked by an instant connection. The guitar, with its classical design, offered a sound that resonated with Nelson's desire for a distinct acoustic quality. It became an extension of his musical expression, laying the foundation for a bond that would span decades.

willie nelson trigger

Trigger, a Martin N-20 classical guitar, stands out with its nylon strings – a rarity in country music dominated by steel-string guitars. This unique choice significantly influenced Nelson's playing style, introducing a softer, more melodic quality to his music. The guitar's design facilitated Nelson's fluid fingerpicking technique, allowing him to weave intricate melodies effortlessly.

Over the years, Trigger underwent numerous customizations and modifications, each adding to its character and story. The most notable is the signature Baldwin pickup, a modification that Nelson insisted on, giving Trigger a distinctive amplified sound. Other customizations include a series of autographs from fellow artists and friends, turning the guitar into a mosaic of memories and camaraderie.

Trigger's journey with Willie Nelson is a chronicle of musical evolution. As Nelson's style shifted from Nashville's mainstream to a more individualistic and introspective approach, Trigger was his constant companion. Its strings echoed Nelson's deepening exploration into the realms of country, jazz, and folk. This guitar was not just present for key performances and recordings but was a central figure in them.

Iconic songs like "On the Road Again" and "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain" were born from Trigger's strings, capturing the essence of Nelson's soulful storytelling. The guitar's distinctive sound became synonymous with Nelson's voice, a combination that has enchanted audiences worldwide. Beyond studio recordings, Trigger was a staple in Nelson's live performances, witnessing the ebb and flow of his career and the changing tides of music history.

Anecdotes about Trigger abound, painting a vivid picture of its role in Nelson's life and music. From tales of Nelson writing songs on Trigger under the stars to accounts of it surviving tumultuous tours and concerts, each story adds to the mythos of this legendary instrument.

Trigger, much like its aging owner, bears the marks of a life richly lived. Its most famous feature is the gaping hole worn through the wood below the sound hole. This distinctive damage, a result of Nelson's intense pick strumming over the years, has become a symbol of the guitar's resilience and enduring presence.

The wear and tear on Trigger are not just cosmetic but have contributed to its unique sound. The damage, paradoxically, has become part of its acoustic signature, offering a warmth and resonance that distinguishes it from other guitars. Nelson's refusal to replace Trigger despite the visible wear speaks volumes about their inseparable bond.

Preserving Trigger has been a task entrusted to skilled luthiers, who have undertaken repairs and maintenance with a reverence befitting an artifact. Their efforts ensure that Trigger continues to accompany Nelson, a testament to the guitar's tenacity and the dedicated efforts to preserve its legacy.

Trigger has transcended its role as a musical instrument to become an emblematic figure in not just the music industry, but in popular culture as a whole. Its influence is far-reaching, impacting musicians across various genres. For aspiring guitarists and seasoned artists alike, Trigger represents a source of inspiration, embodying the possibilities of musical and personal evolution.

The guitar's journey alongside Willie Nelson has inspired countless musicians to prioritize authenticity over perfection. Its battered form and distinct sound are reminders of the importance of character and history in music. Trigger's story encourages artists to forge deep connections with their instruments, viewing them as partners in the creative process rather than mere tools.

Beyond music, Trigger holds a place in the collective imagination of popular culture. It has appeared in books, documentaries, and has been a subject of fascination for fans and music historians. Trigger symbolizes the endurance of traditional music in an age of rapid change and the enduring appeal of storytelling through song.

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