It Might Get Loud
There can be few people who have not at least heard of Davis Guggenheim’s influential documentary “An Inconvenient Truth”. The Establishment often points to this work as an anthem and suggests that mankind is solely responsible for global warming and as such the common man/woman must submit to an unprecedented array of new taxes placed on every facet of life, and administered by a newly empowered World Bank that many feel is merely a fiscal front for the New World Order. Recent disclosures of sculduggery and criminal manipulation of data by the largely unqualified Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change has cast serious doubts on the validity of this suggestion. Not least because the planet has actually cooled over the last ten years, but also because it is well known, thanks to ice core samples from Greenland, that the planet has been both much hotter, and much cooler than at present at various times in the past — even before humans were a part of the equation.
Fortunately for us music enthusiasts, however, Guggenheim has just released a far less contentious piece of work dedicated solely to the electric guitar, titled “It Might Get Loud”. The documentary brings together three iconic guitar legends from three successive generations, places them in a room together with their plethora of assorted guitars, amps and effects, and allows them to swap stories, opinions and licks in an informal studio atmosphere, with cuts to the individual’s home turfs, seminal origins and preparations for the live event itself — all taking place within loosely defined titled chapters. The three guitar players in question are none other than Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, U2’s The Edge, and The White Stripe’s Jack White. A Royal Flush by any standards.
From the opening segment featuring Jack white at home on his farm creating a playable electric guitar with a plank of wood, a hammer and nails and a length of wire stretched over a coke bottle, to an orgasmic Jimmy Page unable to contain his excitement while playing air guitar to a 1958 recording of Link Wray’s “Rumble”, this documentary delivers a rare insight into the inner motivations, passions and influences of three men who have undoubtedly influenced the sound of Rock music as we know it today.
Guitar connoisseurs might easily point out that the balance is slightly lopsided, in that White and Page come from a Blues background while the Edge is more known for sonic layering and minimalism. While this may be true, just have a look at White and The Edge’s mutually shared look of awe when Page breaks into the iconic Whole Lotta Love lick. It’s priceless. And later when the three join in on slide guitar to Zeppelin’s In My Time Of Dying, The Edge is playing blues like you have never heard him before. Another high point must surely be the three playing a snip of White’s dirty blues inspired Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground.
We get to hear early 4 track recordings of U2 demos with Bonno calling time, as well as watch White and his ex wife Meg performing to a room full of geriatrics in full military regalia, before being taken to Headley Grange, where Zeppelin recorded much of their classic Fourth album and Page reminisces about recording techniques. Other priceless moments include The Edge, back at his school, pointing to the notice board where he first saw the advert which led to his joining U2. Page also discloses how close the world came to losing a great guitar player to the world of fine art. It turns out the man has a passion for painting as well as music. And we could have lost White to the fine craft of furniture upholstery if not for fate or luck.
After viewing it is even possible to apply a moniker of sorts to each of their philosophical approaches to guitar playing. Page ascribes to a balance of “light and shadow”, White strives to challenge himself at all times by applying handicaps he must then overcome and The Edge seeks to find a synergy between what he’s actually playing and what’s bouncing back at him from his effects set up — getting two for the price of one as it were.
Ultimately, one comes away from this documentary convinced that it would be a pleasure to share a drink and a chat with any of these men. This is a diva-free zone. They are true musicians who have dedicated their lives to the exploration of their instrument’s potentials, and we, the listener, have only benefited from their sonic discoveries.
As Page says at the end, his aim is to keep that inevitable day when he will be physically too old to play “over the hills and very far away” for as long as possible thank you. We should all wish him luck and longevity in that case.
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