Episode 178: 108 Rock Star Guitars

Episode 178: 108 Rock Star Guitars
Pat welcomes guest Lisa S. Johnson photographer and author of the book "108 Rock Star Guitars" to discuss rock stars and more importantly... their guitars
From December 11, 2014

With your host:

Pat Francis

00:00:00 Pat welcomes us to the show. Pat is very excited for today's show. He often does book reviews for Pop Culture Beast. He got a book in the mail to review called 108 Rock Star Guitars and it captivated him. The book is as the title says, 108 rock star guitars. Today's guest is the author of the book, Lisa S. Johnson!
Lisa S. Johnson
Lisa was at the Forum last night watching Fleetwood Mac, who were amazing. Christine McVie makes the whole thing complete. She is in her 70s and still sounds amazing. Pat says that some bands just get better with age. He lists AC/DC as an example. The band loses a lead singer and not only doesn't skip a beat, but their fan base grows. Sad new for Malcolm Young, though.
00:05:00 Pat and Lisa get into the book. Lisa went to college for photography and then worked at a photo lab for aerospace companies. Lisa wanted to expand so she asked someone at Kodak if they were hiring and they said yes. Pat says you always have to ask people because you never know. Lisa really got into it at Kodak, always shooting and testing film. Then Lisa went to Memphis. Her parents are into music, and they told Lisa never to date a musician (sage advice). But Lisa dated the guitar player from church who owned a vintage guitar store. There Lisa fell in love with the guitar image.
00:10:00 Lisa went to New York, so she might as well photograph famous guitars. Lisa figured that if she had access, she might as well do a book. Why 108 guitars, Pat asks. Lisa is a Yogi and she went to India. She had a Vedic astrology reading and she asked the guru for a book name. The guru said that Lisa was a Yogi and 108 is an important number in Yogic philosophy. 108 has many different meanings, including being the number of beads on a yoga prayer bead. Lisa decided that 108 was the perfect choice.
Pat lists some of the big names in the book: Ann Wilson, Ben Harper, Billy Gibbons, Brian Setzer, Bruce Springsteen, Carlos Santana, Chrissie Hynde, Dave Mason, Dave Mustaine, Don Felder, Eric Clapton, Glenn Tipton, James Young and Tommy Shaw, John Bonnamassa, Joe Satriani. And that's only some of the people that Pat isn't playing on today's show. It's a crazy list. But there are also some big names who are not in the book.
00:15:00 Eddie Van Halen is not in the book. Lisa asked three times and all three came back no's. It's strange, why wouldn't anyone not want to be in a book with guys like Roger Waters, Jimmy Page, and Ron Wood? Lisa sent Eddie the book and maybe he'll be in Vol. 2, but so far nothing. Lisa asked for Angus Young more times than anyone, but AC/DC don't answer back. It takes perseverance, but if they say no, what can you do? Joan Jett was a no, Mark Knopfler was a no, Pete Townshend was a no. But, as Pat says, you still got guys like Nils Lofgren, Zakk Wylde, Reeves Gabrels, and Robbie Krieger in the book. Willie Nelson is in too, and he's country, but he hangs with the rockers. Lisa had to put him in, because you can't not put a guitar that Johnny Cash signed in the book.
Let's play some music, specifically guitar solos. We start with Jeff Beck and his solo from Mick Jagger's song "Lonely at the Top" from the album She's the Boss. Lisa met a lot of the artists, about 50%. Lisa didn't meet Jack White, but she did go to Nashville when she worked at Kodak. The old photo studio that Lisa used to work at in Nashville is now the headquarters of Jack White's record label.
00:20:00 The photos aren't just a guitar in front of a curtain. There are different angles, closeups, showing rich textures and wear and tear in the wood and the headstock. These are very detailed and intricate photos. Lisa said she wanted the guitars to tell the story. Going back to Jack White, we hear his solo from "Black Math" by The White Stripes off the album Elephant.
Pat asks Ace Frehley a question: Would it be okay if we play one of his guitar solos?

Lisa photographed Ace's modified Gibson Les Paul called the UFO Light Guitar. It's got halogen lights along the parameter of the body that blink. All of Ace's guitars are tricked out, like the smoker. Pat plays the solo from Ace's song "Speedin' Back to My Baby" off his self-titled solo album.
Pat asks Lisa if she ever got starstruck. Lisa isn't that person. It's more of an honored feeling. Maybe if she met Jimmy Page, she would have gotten starstruck.
00:25:00 Lisa needs time to set up the shots. When she had to photograph Chrissie Hynde's guitar, she only had ten minutes to do it. Lisa shot the guitar with super high speed film.
Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson are Lisa's Canadian brothers. Every time she goes to a Rush concert, she's pretty much the only girl. Yeah, that sounds about right. Geddy and Alex are super nice. Lisa got to photograph two of Alex's guitars and Geddy's sweet bass. Pat plays a selection from Rush's song "Freewill" off the album Permanent Waves.
00:30:00 The thing with Rush is that they play as hard and heavy as they did in their youth. They do not slow down. Pat says that Geddy's kinda grown into his looks. Lisa has actually always liked Geddy's looks. I bet it's the nose. Lisa is also learning the guitar. Pat's wife bought him a guitar ten years ago and it remains untouched. Pat asks Lisa about her favorite guitarists. It's hard for her to pick favorites. She names Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, and The Nightwatchman. Also Wayne Kramer from MC5.
Rick Nielsen from Pat's favorite band Cheap Trick is in the book too. He's got a lot of cool guitars. The quad neck guitar was there, but Lisa chose not to photograph it because we've seen it enough. Lisa did photo a double neck guitar called "Uncle Dick," which is a guitar shaped and painted like Rick Nielsen. There is also the Rick of Diamonds, a Swarovski diamond encrusted guitar that looks like the face of a playing card.
Rick Nielsen's "Rick of Diamonds" Fender Telecaster
00:35:00 The fans may think the guitars look nice from the crowd, but up close the guitars have A LOT of wear and tear. Lisa photographed the checkerboard guitar. Rick actually hits the guitar so hard with his guitar pick that the pick's color is wearing off onto the guitar. We listen to Rick shred from the Cheap Trick song "Love Comes A-Tumblin' Down" off the album All Shook Up.
Up next are the guitars of Keith Richards and Ron Wood from The Rolling Stones. It's a big process to get close to the Rolling Stones, especially without a publicist. Pat feels the same trying to get musician guests in studio. And this was back when there was no e-mail, only fax and phone. It turns out that a friend of a friend got Lisa to the guitars. Lisa photographed Keith's Gibson ES-350 and Ronnie's Gibson L5, which are actually their warmup guitars that they NEVER bring onstage. Cool.
00:40:00 They are beautiful guitars in good shape. The pit guard on Keith's is actually worn down from his skull ring! Can Keith actually get all those rings off? Pat doesn't think so. Lisa takes time to thank the publicists Cheryl Northrup and Wes Seeley (I hope I'm spelling those right) who helped her get a lot of the guitars. Pat has two signed soft cover copies of the book to give away.
Pat transitions to talking about Slash. Lisa met Slash at a baseball game in Toronto. Slash was gonna play both the Canadian and American anthems on his guitar. Lisa's friend got her in to photograph Slash's guitar. They met and Slash liked that someone wanted to photograph his guitar and not him for once. It turns out, that guitar was just given to Slash for that day. A year later, Lisa got to photograph Slash's real guitars in Vegas.
00:45:00 One of Slash's guitars that Lisa photographed is a 1985 Gibson Les Paul with a cigarette burn from an Alice Cooper show. Lisa met Slash again in Japan when she went to photograph a Japanese rock star's guitar. Pat plays the epic solo from "November Rain" by Guns N' Roses, off the album Use Your Illusion I.
Steve Vai has played with guys like Frank Zappa, Whitesnake, and David Lee Roth. His guitar actually has a handle built into the body. It's an Ibanez Jem called EVO that has been with Steve for decades.
00:50:00 Steve Vai actually makes his own honey. What an odd fact. Maynard James Keenan makes his own wine, Sammy Hagar makes his own tequila, an Steve Vai makes his own honey. Rock stars. On a side note, Warren DeMartini from Ratt has a guitar with python snakeskin stretched over its body. Snakeskin is so durable that the scales remain intact after years. Pat and Lisa agree that Warren should get more respect because he's a fantastic guitarist. Lisa photographs all digitally because it's easier and film is expensive. Is she nervous being around and handling these precious guitars? Lisa isn't nervous because she has handled so many, but some some artists do not let her touch the guitar no matter what. She couldn't touch Jimmy Page's Stairway to Heaven double neck herself.
00:55:00 Back to Steve Vai, we hear his solo from the David Lee Roth song "Knucklebones" off the album Skyscraper.
Okay, Jimmy Page. The Stairway to Heaven guitar is the Holy Grail of double necks. It has layers of sweat and dirt on it. During the sessions, Lisa can't really see what she's getting. It's only downloading and editing the photos that Lisa can see everything clearly. The pictures are very intimate. Lisa doesn't like "mugshot" guitar photos. She went to London to photograph Page's guitars.
Jimmy Page and the "Stairway to Heaven" Double Neck Gibson EDS-1275
01:00:00 Before Lisa went to London, she wanted to call Eric Clapton's people to see if she can get some shots of his guitars. She had photographed them years before for a Clapton book that never came to be. Clapton's people actually called her and decided to use the original shots for another book. The proceeds went to Clapton's Crossroads rehab center. Clapton donated his guitars for charity too. Hey, if you're not playing them, you might as well use them for a good cause. Lisa gives credit to the guitar techs who handled the guitars. They're like the nannies of famous guitars.
Pat plays Jimmy Page's solo from Led Zeppelin's "Heartbreaker" off of Led Zeppelin II. So, so clean.
01:05:00 The website is 108RockStarGuitars.com.
Robbie Krieger from The Doors personally brought his guitars to Lisa's house to photograph. He has a replica of an Gibson SG that was stolen. He's also got a Jose Ramirez Flamenco guitar from 1963 that his dad bought him, and a Starburst Gibson Les Paul that weighs 7 pounds. Robbie's a sleight gentleman, after all, so his guitars weigh less. Pat says that the only show that he and his friend Jimmy could not get into in LA was The Doors of the 21st Century, which was Robbie, Ray Manzarek, and Ian Astbury from The Cult. No leftover tickets, no scalpers, nothing. We listen to Robbie doing his solo from The Doors' "Light My Fire" off of The Doors' self-titled debut album.
01:10:00 Lisa calls it the ultimate psychedelic jam. Of course The Doors had to jam because Jim Morrison might have crashed and burned in the middle of the show. Lisa tells a funny story about how Jim and former Rock Solid guest Pamela Des Barres were making out upstairs in a venue while the band was still playing downstairs. Pamela is a cool lady. Groupies weren't just about the sex, they loved the rock stars. Pamela forged lifelong friendships with these guys.
Pat brings up Joe Walsh, who Lisa met. She is a good friend with Joe's wife. Lisa photoed Joe's guitars at a William Shatner charity event. He's got a 1958 guitar and a J. Backlund guitar that looks like something out of the space age.
01:15:00 Lisa also took photos of Don Felder's Hotel California guitar. Felder and Walsh are probably two of the nicer Eagles. Pat plays an excerpt from the song "Funk #49" by Joe's band James Gang, off the album James Gang Rides Again. Everyone in the book got a deluxe copy of the book: collector's box, scarf, prints of the images in the book: $540 retail value. The soft cover version is $54, but on Amazon it is only $36. It's a steal! The hardback is $108, which is very appropriate. This is a well made book, with really rich colors. Lisa teaches Pat the process of color book printing.
01:20:00 Another guitarist Pat wants to talk about is Mick Jones from Foreigner. Pat says Foreigner have a lot of recognizable guitar riffs. We listen to the solo from "Dirty White Boy" off the album Head Games. Mick says that he owes all his success to his guitar.
The next guitarist is German virtuoso Michael Schenker from UFO, Scorpions, and (obviously) Michael Schenker Group. He's got his famous flying V's: a multi-colored "kaleidoscope" guitar and a black and white guitar. Pat met Michael once and he wasn't very cordial. I've heard similar things. Pat plays Michael's blistering guitar solo from the UFO song "Lights Out" off the album Lights Out.
01:25:00 Pat mentions Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run guitar. It's so beat up, especially the back. In fact, it's a Fender reject. Bruce was a Fender factory, picked it up, and he's had it ever since. It's a very iconic guitar. Lisa photographed it at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Bruce's guitar was the last one photoed. Les Paul's guitar was the first. Les actually wrote the foreword. Les was in on this thing from the very beginning. You can't get more authentic than Les Paul.
Steve Miller is actually Les Paul's godson. His guitar stool has the Book of Dreams logo on it. Steve also has a half sitar, half guitar thing. Pat plays some Miller guitar from Steve Miller Band's "Jungle Love" off the album Book of Dreams. Each guitar has its own sound and condition.
01:30:00 Steve Lukather's guitar is immaculate. Steve has played with everyone and is a very nice guy. Lisa was at Steve's house and his eldest son's friend's dad is Peter Frampton. Lisa had already photographed Frampton's guitar. Pat drops a bombshell and says that Steve Lukather has said that he will come on the show sometime in early 2015! Pretty cool news. To celebrate, we hear some of Steve's playing on the Toto song "Rosanna" off of Toto IV.
The next guitarist is the legendary Brian May from Queen. When Brian was young, he made his first guitar with his dad, the Red Special, from the things around his house. For example, the body is made out of the oak of an old table and the neck is made out of the wood from a fireplace mantel. Brian also doesn't use a guitar pick, he uses a six pence coin with his face on it. Yes, that's right, the British Mint made A SIX PENCE COIN WITH BRIAN MAY'S FACE ON IT!!!!
Brian May and the Red Special
01:35:00 Pat showcases some of Brian's playing with the song "If You Can't Beat Them" off of Queen's album Jazz.
There are a lot of women in the book, like Sheryl Crow and the Wilson sisters. Pat wants to focus on Bonnie Raitt. Bonnie actually took the finish off of her guitar because it gives the guitar a different sound. We hear Bonnie sing and play on her song "Love Sneakin' Up on You" off her album Longing in Their Hearts.
Facebook is 108 Rock Star Guitars, Twitter and Instagram are @108RSGUITARS.
01:40:00 Vol. 2 of the book is underway. Lisa's been photographing other genres too. The first book took 17 years. The next book will evolve over the next year or so. It takes a while for this stuff to happen. How many photos does Lisa take per shoot? Per guitar, 100 images. Lisa has a good eye for editing. The photographing part is easy, but the other stuff takes time. Pat gives the plugs.
We look at one more guitarist, Tom Scholz from Boston. He has a very unique sound. Lisa didn't meet Tom, but she did meet the late great Brad Delp.
01:45:00 Tom's Les Paul guitar is called Blondie and has a natural wood color. Pat plays Boston's "Peace of Mind" off of their self-titled debut album.
A portion of the book's proceeds support the Les Paul Foundation. Lisa wanted to give back to Les for being a friend and supporting her. Pat again fully endorses the book. These are completely unique guitar photos. Thanks again to Lisa for stopping by the show.
01:50:00 It's time to unplug, pack up, and go home. Pat sends us out with some Keith Richards on The Rolling Stones' song "Jumpin' Jack Flash" off the album Forty Licks.
Time Song Album Artist Who
00:15:00 Lonely at the Top She's the Boss Jeff Beck (Mick Jagger) N/A
00:20:00 Black Math Elephant Jack White (The White Stripes) N/A
00:20:00 Speedin' Back to My Baby Ace Frehley Ace Frehley N/A
00:25:00 Freewill Permanent Waves Geddy Lee & Alex Lifeson (Rush) N/A
00:35:00 Love Comes A-Tumblin' Down All Shook Up Rick Nielsen (Cheap Trick) N/A
00:45:00 November Rain Use Your Illusion I Slash (Guns N' Roses) N/A
00:55:00 Knucklebones Skyscraper Steve Vai (David Lee Roth) N/A
01:00:00 Heartbreaker Led Zeppelin II Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) N/A
01:05:00 Light My Fire The Doors Robbie Krieger (The Doors) N/A
01:15:00 Funk #49 James Gang Rides Again Joe Walsh (James Gang) N/A
01:20:00 Dirty White Boy Head Games Mick Jones (Foreigner) N/A
01:20:00 Lights Out Lights Out Michael Schenker (UFO) N/A
01:25:00 Jungle Love Book of Dreams Steve Miller (Steve Miller Band) N/A
01:30:00 Rosanna Toto IV Steve Lukather (Toto) N/A
01:35:00 If You Can't Beat Them Jazz Brian May (Queen) N/A
01:35:00 Love Sneakin' Up on Me Longing in Their Hearts Bonnie Raitt N/A
01:45:00 Peace of Mind Boston Tom Scholz (Boston) N/A
01:50:00 Jumpin' Jack Flash Forty Licks Keith Richards (The Rolling Stones) N/A