Reflections on “It Might Get Loud.”
Last night, I watched "It Might Get Loud". To look at the DVD cover, you might think the documentary is a paean to Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White, but the true subject and star of the film is a powered plank with six strings.
Watching the movie I felt vindicated. All my life, the electric guitar has been the one instrument that has truly inspired me. Violins, pianos, cellos, trumpets, they’re all fine, but I never stare at them in wonder. I never dream of them. I never hold them and imagine entire worlds unfolding, refolding and unfolding again.
If you rent "It Might Get Loud" to see three legends rock out, you will be disappointed. The magic is not in the notes, but in the words, for when the movie soars – as it often does – you are not listening to someone play, you are listening to someone talk. And as each player describes the electric guitar and the role it has played in his life, you hear stories of first purchases, of custom creations, of sound and feel. I was enthralled. Here finally is the electric guitar being venerated the way it should be, up there with respectable instruments like violins and pianos. And what of acoustic guitars? Hardly a word, though each player plays one in the movie. No, as cameras float over pick-ups, knobs, switches and chipped, cracked finishes and the voice over speaks in tones of wonder, the object of desire is the electric guitar.
When I first wanted to learn an instrument, I’m pretty sure I wanted to learn the electric guitar. But I was expected to show interest in a “real” instrument before I could get in touch with my inner rock star, and so, I learned the accordion. Then, dues partially paid, I was allowed to start with the guitar. Not an electric, mind you, an acoustic. I lost interest. Nothing against the acoustic guitar, but I have just never been as enamored of acoustics the way I am of electrics. Also, why should the acoustic be the more respectable instrument, the one “real” musicians play? I’ll tell you why: culture. When I was a kid, the electric guitar was more of a novelty than an instrument, and the people who played them more performers than musicians. Thankfully, culture is changing. And "It Might Get Loud" is a positively glowing ember of evidence that the old view has burned down.
Long live the electric guitar.