10 lead guitarist clichés
12th Oct 2011 | 16:21
The older brother of denim and less-chafing cousin of snakeskin, leather is the world’s hardest-rocking fabric.
From convenience (the wipe-clean format repels bodily fluids) to sheer comfort (the windproof nature ensures snug knackers onstage at Roskilde), its merits far outweigh the handfuls of talcum powder many of our heroes are presumably forced to dump down their crotches.
For every Dave Grohl, there are a thousand guitar heroes for whom 'difficult' is a lifestyle choice.
These morose sleeve-mutterers react to well-meaning questions about amp settings with a barked order to “read the press release” and a pout like you’ve pissed on their cowboy boots.
There comes a time in a shredder’s life when he decides: “These top frets aren’t doing it for me. Maybe I’ll hollow the fingerboard out, like some mad carpenter, for no discernible reason other than to annoy guitarists who pick up my signature model.”
The trophy wife
To compensate for an adolescence of solitary sweep-picking, the guitarist spends his weekends prowling The Viper Room for his prey (Baywatch babes between marriages).
A white trash romance will briefly blossom before withering in a storm of groped lap dancers and assault charges.
The failed solo career
With an ego inflated by his agent’s hot air and his Dylan-flavoured new material knocked back by the band, the guitarist strikes out alone.
He’ll soon discover he doesn’t like playing sweatboxes, has the stage presence of patio furniture and his singing voice sounds like bagpipes being violated.
How many songs require you to shift from a six- to a 12-string within the same bar? None.
Yet that doesn’t dissuade the rock fraternity, from Pagey’s EDS-1275 double-neck back in the day to Vai’s heart-shaped triple-neck and Michael Angelo Batio's frankly bonkers Quad Guitar.
A drug habit
For this cliché, any narcotics are fair game, but ego-bolstering cocaine tends to be the drug of choice.
For the best example of nose-powder on record, dig out Oasis’s bloated Be Here Now, described by Noel Gallagher as “the sound of a bunch of guys on coke, in the studio, not giving a fuck”.
The wall of Marshalls
In 2011, with state-of-the-art PA in most venues, there’s no need for a wall of Marshall stacks.
But to the insecure axeslinger, hitting the stage with a mere combo would be humiliation on a par with admitting his codpiece is full of socks. Some bands have been known to use empty 'dummy' cabs just for the look or even mic up a small combo around the back, safely out of sight of the audience.
Slash’s iconic topper is just the tip of the hatstand.
Highlights include Tom Morello’s ‘Soviet chimney-sweep’ cap, the headband that suggests Mark Knopfler has just come from a step class and the IRA-style balaclava James Dean Bradfield wore on Top Of The Pops in 1994 during the Manics' performance of Faster.
It’s dusk in a dimly lit restaurant, but still the lead guitarist lurks behind his Aviators in the least effective attempt to ‘keep a low profile’ ever.
His shades have two functions: concealing bloodshot eyes during magazine shoots, and allowing the rocker to comb the room for nubile fans and potential stalkers. They will only be removed for showers, orgies and eye tests.