Link Wray, as you probably know by now, died on Nov. 5. He was 76. The Dunn native, who produced some of the most quintessential American guitar rock instrumentals, spent his final years in Copenhagen and played nearly to the end of his days. We owe him for style almost as much as we do for songs like “Jack the Ripper” and, of course, “Rumble.”
I thank my lucky stars that at some point in my mid-’60s childhood, the tune “Rumble” rolled out of a radio and into my musical memory bank. I thank my friend and former bandmate Paul Jova, aka Frankie Camero, for teaching it to me–not just the chords and that little signature lick but the soul of the song–when I was 19 and a guitar tenderfoot with a tenuously strung Fender Jaguar. Even my hard-to-control fingers could get the hang of that song, a swaying, menacing piece of barely-in-control instrumental mayhem invented at a Virginia sock-hop and recorded by Link Wray and His Ray Men in 1958.
If you know the chords D, A, E and B on guitar, you can swing it, too. But first, as Frankie taught me, you gotta put yourself in a kind of High Noon, showdown frame of mind. We used to play it while dropped down on one knee, guitar necks crossed. That may sound a little over-the-top, but in an era when boppy, poppy New Wave was all the rage, playing “Rumble” with sincere reverence was a statement.
So are you ready to Rumble? Here’s the progression: DDE/ DDE/ DDA/ DDE/ DDB (insert descending lick here) E/ DDE. Play it like you mean it. And drop down on one knee for brother Link. —Kirk Ross
Chris Caffery, one of the guitarists in the latest installation of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, walked onstage at the RBC Center Monday night during intermission wearing a Carolina Hurricanes jersey, just to remove it minutes later to flex while sporting his Carolina Panthers Jake Delhomme gear. The dude looked like the bastard child of Mötley Crüe and Whitesnake and sounded like the blonde-locked offspring of Ric Flair and Macho Man Randy Savage as he introduced the band, letting out these big “whoop”s and half-scary/mostly funny growls. That’s the thing about the Trans-Siberian Orchestra: It is mostly funny. As a rock opera, the libretto for the night’s performance of Christmas Eve–the first half of the three-hour performance–has to be one of the most masterful pieces of tripe ever produced, with lines in the opening, narrated aria reading: “For it was in this bar that I happened to wander/ To stare into a glass and my universe ponder.” The storyline is a peace-on-Earth deal set to an amalgam of prog-injected glamour rock played by guys too slow to be Yngwie and maybe too wrapped up in the Christmas spirit to be Trans-Scandinavian priests of death metal. But they certainly spent the last hour and a half of Monday’s performance trying to play rock ‘n’ roll, butchering standards like Zeppelin’s ode to the genre with background vocals and way-tepid guitar solos. Walking out with an hour left: Now that’s Christmas in November. —Grayson Currin