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Alltop, all the cool kids (and me)

Over on the left margin in the Sponsor links you'll see a new link from Alltop, the "online magazine rack" created by top-rated blogger, enterpreneur, and hockey fanatic Guy Kawasaki.  Alltop now has now added a new category (which features this site along with, GuitarFlame, GuitarNoise, GuitarNoize(!) and many other good sites with goofy names.)

I've met Guy many times over the years and he's one of the nicest (and smartest) guys in the tech industry.  His blog, "How to Change the World," is a must-read for startup companies who want to build great products.  He's recently published a book called "Reality Check" which culls some of the best material from his blog including essays on the "Top 10 Lies of Entrepreneurs,"  "How to Bootstrap a Company" and "Hindsights" his speech to graduates which is his recommendations to kids going out into the world includes this gem:

Learn to play a musical instrument. My only connection to music today is that I was named after Guy Lombardo. Trust me: it's better than being named after Guy's brother, Carmen. Playing a musical instrument could be with me now and stay with me forever. Instead, I have to buy CDs at Tower.

I wish I'd taken guitar more seriously earlier in my life; instead I wasted years working hard and studying.  But I'm making up for it now by playing guitar and hanging out in low-life bars.  If you're in your twenties or thirties, trust me on this.  You will never have as much time to learn a musical instrument as right now. 

Alltop also has other categories that might be of interest including Music, Gadgets, Photography, Movies, Books, Running, Tech News, and Startups.  Or at least these are the topics I find interesting.  Alltop is growing every day and there are now hundreds of different categories.  Check it out, you will find a few gems in here. 

Life of a Rockstar: Bono & the Bikini Babes


Maybe life as a rockstar isn't so bad after all, at least according to these photos of Bono cavorting with bikini-clad students while on vacation in St Tropez, France.  But where's guitar player The Edge?  No doubt he's off practicing scales or testing out some new Line 6 gear.  Who wants to hang out with a bunch of underage girls anyways...

The Rocker - Worst Rock Movie Ever?


My wife and I went to see The Rocker last night.  I'm a big fan of Rainn Wilson, especially in his role as Dwight, the clueless cubicle dweller in The Office.  So I had high expectations going in, along the lines of Spinal Tap meets The Office.  Forget it.  This movie is the worst rock movie I have seen in ages.  Maybe the worst rock movie ever.

I can forgive the premise of a Pete Best type story of a drummer who gets booted from his band just before their career takes off and then 20 years later takes up with some high school kids to give it another shot.  And I can forgive the pop pastiche songs, which were better than I had feared.  But what can't be forgiven is that there's no humor in this movie.  The writing is without humor or dramatic tension.  So what you're left with is the equivalent of a Disney after school special.  What's worse is the movie has a great cast with SNL and 30 Rock alumni including Jason Sudeikis as the slimey record company rep, camoes by Amy Poehler, and Fred Armisen, Will Arnett and Lonny Ross who make up the fictional Vesuvius in the style of GnR.  Unfortunately, the funniest people in the movie have a total of about 6 lines and not a single joke between them.  All tolled there are maybe 2 decent jokes in the entire movie.  One features Pete Best though it's not even clear until you see the credits.

This is a dud of a movie.  Don't go see it and don't even rent it on DVD.  Just avoid it.  If you want a great rock comedy movie, check out Spinal Tap, Still Crazy, my favorite of the genre.

GuitarFlame - Best Guitar Blog of Romania


Like most blogs, I have a list of recommended sites over on the right-hand side of my blog.  Some of these are links to companies and some link to other blogs.  One of my favorites is GuitarFlame, a blog by Ovidiu Oprescu, a 31-year old guitar player from Romania with 14 years of guitar playing under his belt.  Ovidiu's blog is a great read for any guitar player.  He mixes it up with news, editorial, insights into live playing, you name it.  And even if the English isn't always perfect, it's quaint and definitely better than my Romanian! 

I don't think I've ever gone to his site and not learned something, whether it's about AC/DC's use of an Fm chord in their new album, Jeff Becks' 22 year-old bass player, the fastest guitar player in the world, or modelling guitars. He's also a regular commentor on this blog and even though I haven't met him in person, he seems like a really nice guy with a passionate flame for music.  Ovidiu is a gold medalist when it comes to blogging.  So wander over to GuitarFlame and cozy up to the fire!

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Hello, Cleveland!  As luck would have it, I had a free evening in Cleveland on a recent business trip and was able to meet up with my old buddy Bruce and his nephew and tour the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, or as it's known locally: Rock Hall

The museum is open late on wednesday evenings during the summer when they invite local bands to perform.  And even though the bands were impressive (and certainly loud) we moved through quickly in order to visit the exhibits and memorabilia that make the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame so much fun.  They've got everything from Elvis' old tax returns to David Bowie's capes and spandex suits as well as hundreds of famous guitars.  The current exhibits include a 2008 inductee area, a feature on The Doors, and Behind the Scenes of the Beatle's HELP! There's also some short films on Hall of Fame winners through the years and somewhat uninspired gift shop.  Oddly enough, I didn't notice the excellent Museum Guide Book until I was in their much smaller shop at Cleveland Airport.    

Even though you're not allowed to, I snapped a couple dozen photos through out the place. I felt like a bit of a spy pulling out my compact Canon G9 camera from under my shirt to and dodging the museum's blackshirted staff.  But what the heck.  Rock & Roll is about breaking the rules, right?  And besides, at $22 a ticket, I figure I paid plenty for the privilege. 

Some of the highlights for me were seeing Paul Simonon's smashed bass from the cover photo of the Clash's London Calling album, Joe Strummer's stickered and beat up Telecaster, a couple of Bo Diddley's guitars, the Ramones gear, some early Les Paul electrics and Jimmy Hendrix's double-necked electric.  It was also very cool to see the huge Pink Floyd memorabilia from The Wall and The Division Bell.  And even more guitars from The Ventures, the Yardbirds, Elvis, Eric Clapton and The Beatles. 

If you're in the midwest, you gotta visit Rock Hall.  And remember to break some rules.  'Coz Cleveland Rocks!

A Backlog of Reviews


Ok, I'm behind.  I've had a lot of travel recently and more coming up, so bear with me.   I've got half a dozen stories in the queue which I'll try to complete in the next few weeks.  You can expect some reviews of recent music by The Hellacopters and Vampire Weekend, a review of the very funny book "Rock On" by Dan Kennedy, as well as Don Felder's "Heaven & Hell" memoir of his time in The Eagles.  I'll also take a look at the guitar instruction site Infinite Guitar, a report on my visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.  Oh yeah, and I've been banging on an awesome Washburn custom HM 526 guitar and a very affordable Randall KH15 Kirk Hammett practice amp.   So expect a write up on those also.  Any day now.  No, I'm not selling them on ebay.  I swear. 

And if we're lucky, I'll also get a guest posting on Soul Detective, a great site for out-of-print R&B music and maybe something to deal with dreaded Guitar Acquisition Syndrome.

Top 10 GuitarVibe Stories


This was a good year for rock and a good year for stories on GuitarVibe.  In case you missed it, here's my top 10 kick-ass GuitarVibe stories for 2007.  Click on the headline to read the original story. 

  10. My New White Epiphone Les Paul -- Somehow a $200 purchase at Guitar Center (pictured above) has kicked off a serious dose of GAS -- Guitar Acquisition Syndrome.  My wife suggested I leave a guitar at my father-in-law's house in Michigan so when I travel I have a guitar there.  At this point, it's out of control and I now have multiple budget guitars located at relatives houses around the country.  I haven't even had a chance to write up reviews for all of them and I have another one on order.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.  Is there counselling available? 

  9.   Fender VG Strat  -- Ok, to be clear, I'm  a big fan of Line 6.  But when the giant Fender starts following Line 6's lead, that's something to pay attention to.  I also wrote about the business strategy behind Line 6 and Fender over at OnDisruption.

  8. Six Pack with Marcus Ryle of Line 6 -- Line 6 has continued to be a huge innovator in guitars, amps and effects and here's a detailed interview with co-founder and VP of R&D Marcus Ryle.  Marcus is a great guy despite the accusations against him as a keyboard player.  Hey, everyone has to come from somewhere!  It's a good read, despite the fact that he wouldn't spill the beans on any unnanounced products.  I also managed interviews with Phil Neal, inventor of the Lapstick ultimate travel guitar and rocker-turned DJ Greg Kihn.  Meanwhile, still waiting for Paul Stanley.

Spidervalve112 7. Line 6 Spider Valve Amp -- Line 6 has had so many new products it's hard to keep them all straight, but to me this was the most significant.  It was a top-secret innovation that has cemented Line 6's position as the #2 Amp supplier.  Long known for their modeling capabilities, Line 6 turned it up to 11 by combining valve power from boutique supplier Bogner Amplification.  Line 6 also put out new models of its Pod and TonePort products.  But I'm still waiting for an update to the Variax line.

  6. Andy Walo at House of Blues, Las Vegas -- I managed to see a lot of good shows this year by the likes of Elvis Costello, Roger WatersThe Police, Los Lobos, Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush, Lenny Kravitz, The Smithereens, Alan Iglesias, Rod Piazza and others. (Hey, it was a good year for live music and I managed to get some pretty good photos to boot!)

But somehow, this small blues club gig was the most fun.  Maybe because I was in Vegas I wasn't expecting much, but Swedish blues rocker Andy Walo puts on quite a show.  And I'm much more of a club guy than a stadium rocker anyways. If you're in the LA area or Vegas, be sure to take in Andy Walo. 

  5. GuitarPro 5 -- Wanna learn a song?  Any song?  Get GuitarPro 5 and then head on over to TabScout and start downloading just about any guitar song in the world.  No guitar player should be without this.  Seriously recommended.  Ten million tab files can't be wrong!

  4. Jazz Butcher at 12 Bar Club, London -- I ended up seeing this Pat "Jazz Butcher" Fish gig quite by accident while in London on business in April.  Then six months later, I'm in London once again, and head over to the same club, and there's Pat Fish once again playing his second London gig of the year and stalwart fans Nigel, Dominic and me are sitting in the exact same seats as last time.  Both gigs were awesome, but I got better photos and video the second time around.

  3. Guitar Hero Rocks -- Whether it's the original, Guitar Hero II, Guitar Hero III or the sort-of 2.5 80's version for Playstation 2, this video game series has done more to reinvigorate rock music among kids than anything in recent history.  Not only is Guitar Hero redefining and disrupting the music industry, heck, it's outselling Van Halen, U2 and the Stones.  I suspect in a few years we'll see an influx of 16 to 18 year old kids who can shred like nobody's business and their first instrument will have been a plastic game controller shaped like a guitar.  If you have kids, or if you know someone with kids, or you think you are still a kid at heart, go get Guitar Hero III.  Or better yet, get RockBand, the sort-of-follow-on-with-drums by the original developers. And check out the business story over at OnDisruption

  2. Led Zeppelin Reunion -- My buddy Hans got to witness the second coming of Led Zep in London last month.  By all accounts a great gig.  Hopefully there will be a tour in 2008.Brainpool_junk_2   One can hope, right?

  1. Brainpool Junk -- I discovered this gem earlier this year and despite the fact that it was  released several years back, I think it deserves the top position as most Kick Ass story for the year.  Yes, better than Led Zep.  How weird is that?   All I can say, is if you like 70's & 80s rock music like classic Who, Pink Floyd or The Clash, then check it Brainpool Junk.  It is the rock opera you wish you'd heard 25 years ago. Unfortunately, Brainpool has since disbanded. 

Ok, that's my top ten list for the year.  Feel free to add your comments below on your own top ten, or better yet, worst ten rock guitar items for the year.  Oh, and Happy New Year!

Guitar Lesson Scams?


If you've ever done a search online for guitar lessons, you've no doubt come across so-called "review sites" that provide glowing reviews of two or three guitar lesson systems, praising them to the skies.  But what you'll notice is that the reviews are a mile wide and an inch deep.  The only thing they review is the particular products they're promoting.  There's no follow up, no how-to articles, no reviews of other products, no contact information, no names, etc. 

And the funny thing is you can find site after site with the same products reviewed with different names and headlines like "Smart Guy reviews," "Musicians Info," "Review nest," or with headlines like "Suck at guitar?"   But you'll never see any news about these products anywhere else.  (And unfortunately, sometimes these bogus reviews end up on this site since the ads are served up by Google.)

Doug Marks, who has been providing classic rock guitar lessons for more than 25 years under the Metal Method name believes these other companies are scamming guitar players and has written a brief article to exposes their techniques.   In effect, the review sites are just bogus advertisements linking back to the same old products over and over again.

I don't know if these competing products are any good or not, but I'm certainly wary of trying out a product that resorts to this sort of tactic.  Meanwhile, you can view samples of Doug Marks' courses on YouTube and read the online forum  to see what people say.  And he's recently updated his courses with all new content. 

Caveat emptor!


I was tired of some of the scam sites showing up on my google ads, so I'm now filtering many of them. And in the spirit of full disclosure, I have bought Doug's courses and joined their affiliate program.  It's a great course and I highly recommend it.  I have not tried some of the other courses, so I cannot recommend them.

As a result, you can get free shipping on orders in the USA by clicking on the banner below and entering the code FreeShip at checkout.  Normal shipping costs apply for International orders.  I don't make much money from the program, but it pays for the hosting of this site and an occasional trip to GuitarCenter. 

Romantics Sue Guitar Hero Publisher


Long forgotten Detroit punk pop band The Romantics finally managed to generate some renewed attention this year by licensing Activision the rights to include a cover version of their hit single "What I like About You" in the video game "Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s."  Now The Romantics have taken the brilliant next step to reinvigorate their career by suing Activision claiming that the cover version is, ah, too similar to the original recording.  They are seeking damages and an injunction against Activision.

Guys, wake up!  That's the idea of a cover version.  It's supposed to sound like the original.  And you signed a contract enabling them to do exactly that.  Frankly, you should be happy that kids even know who The Romantics are because of Guitar Hero.  And to anyone who has heard this song on the radio dozens if not thousands of times before, it's clearly not the original recording.  The vocals are similar, but not exactly same and the guitar solo is a completely different intepretation.

Maybe you should have sued them for putting your song next to a bunch of second-rate hair bands.  Or for not including your songs in Rock Band!   Get over it.

Guitar Hero Encore: Rock the 80s


Still counting the days until Guitar Hero III or rival Rockband appears in time for Christmas?  Then check out Guitar Hero Encore: Rock the 80s.  It's a bit pricey at $50 for 30 new songs, but if you want to rock out to hits from your youth, it's a must have.   The song list includes: We Got the Beat, I Ran (So Far Away), Radar Love, Turning Japanese, What I like About You, Synchronicity II, Ballroom Blitz, Lonely is the Night, Heat of the Moment as well as tunes from Poison, Anthrax, Twisted Sister and Judas Priest.  However, some of the songs are really more keyboard oriented than riff rock anthems.  I don't think anyone ever air guitared to Flock of Seagulls before. 

So get out the spandex, put on some hairspray and rock like you never did before.  Available for Playstation 2 only.  Though I would guess these songs will end up on XBox Live for download at some point.

Note also: Guitar Hero III will be coming out for the PC and Mac this fall. 

Theft of copyrighted content

I have noticed that there are now some sites that are hijacking the content from this site in order to have an ad farm of guitar ads and related content. 

As indicated in the about page:

Content on this site is Copyright (c) 2005-2007 M. Zack Urlocker.  All rights reserved.  Material may not be reproduced without permission from the author.

I intend to pursue all copyright violators and their hosting companies with copyright infringement charges.  Use of copyright protected material without permission is illegal under copyright laws and may also be against the terms of agreement of Google advertising and of ISPs.

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