Band Thoughts, Banjo Thoughts, and Line 6 Thoughts

Hey everybody –

There have been three things bouncing around in my head lately, and only the last two subjects are related, but I figured I could combine them into one post.

Band Thoughts:

I recently watched “The History of the Eagles” on Showtime.  This 3 hour long documentary is also available to rent on Netflix.  It covers the time from Glenn Frey’s and Don Henley’s childhoods, to how they met up in California, how the Eagles formed in the early 1970’s, how they broke up in 1980, solo careers, their reunion in the early 90’s and subsequent line-up changes.

I’m not a huge Eagles fan, though I really like “Hotel California” and teach the two lead solos, which impressed me for they’re melodic content. Same thing with “One of These Nights”.  But beyond that, I didn’t know much about them.

So why waste 3 hours of your precious time to watch this documentary?  To me it’s always interesting how bands form.  I’ve formed a few myself and they are fragile things.  But nothing keeps a band going like success, even if you have to change a member or two.  And the Eagles were one of the all time most successful hit makers.  I didn’t realize just how many songs they had that I was familiar with, even though I never bought an album from them.

If you’re looking at this as in how to get tips to “make it”, well, it’s still a chance combination of talent, chemistry between band members, and some good old fashioned luck. You can work on the first part, but the second two are hard.  I’ve often said, and it is repeated in this documentary, that being in a band is like being in a marriage – more so for these guys who travelled, slept, and ate together for years.  You’re going to get on each other’s nerves, it’s inevitable.

I think what saddened me was the end piece.  The Eagles reunited, and it seemed like all bad fights had been forgotten.  But a new one emerged: Glenn Frey and Don Henley wanted to draw up legal contracts insisting they get paid more than the other members of the band.  Their guitarist Don Felder didn’t agree, but went along with it for some time and was finally kicked out for his disagreements and his questions.

Frey’s and Henley’s argument was that after the band broke up, they both had hit singles throughout the 1980’s, keeping the Eagles name out there (according to them).  Felder’s argument was just because those two had better solo careers has nothing to do with the Eagles.

I tend to side with Felder on this.  First, with all their hits (and don’t forget royalties are paid for hit songs every time they are broadcasted or used – it can be a lot of money) – Frey and Henley were already rich.

Also, the Eagles had a very collaborative song writing method.  Everybody contributed.  Everybody sang.  Everybody wrote.  Everybody had sang lead vocals on some hit tunes.  Their band members carry a heavier load than most other band members.  Don Felder claimed “The whole band was greater than the sum of it’s parts”.  I agree and wish Felder well.  (Felder does the first guitar lead on Hotel California which is pretty darn good).

Banjo

As I am now in the Turbo Fuegos band, and the line up is complete, we’ve been digging into the material and trying to get ready for our first gig.  On some of our tunes, the banjo is really featured.  I never thought much about banjo, but it’s effect is undeniable in some songs (like “Save a Horse” by Big And Rich).  So I began looking into owning one.

They aren’t terribly expensive – at least not the introductory ones.  $200 will land you one.  But I found out, there’s about 3 different models of banjo – 4 string, 5 string and 6 string.  And more tunings too just to make it fun.  For someone who just wanted to add it to some particular songs, I had to know what I would be getting into.

Which brings me to Line 6….

Line 6

If you’ve been reading my posts from the last year, you might think I love Line 6 more than any other amp maker out there.  I don’t.  It’s just that I never know what style of music I’ll be playing.  Last year I was in a top 40 band that needed straight and distorted tones, wah effects, delay, reverb, and compression.  I even used an octave harmonizer on one song.  Now I’m in a country/country rock/classic rock band.  So the straight tones have gone from a “funk” sound to more twangy.  I’m not using quite as many effects, but I am playing different distortions.

Line 6 is versatile.  I can model a lot of different amps from Fender to Marshall to Mesa Boogie.  Is it perfect? No.  If I decided to specialize – say I was going to go heavy metal, I’d start looking at Eddie Van Halen’s (EVH) brand, maybe Soldano.  Bogner is great but way expensive.

So for versatility – I have the Line 6 50W DT50 head/cabinet, and the Line 6 HD500.  I normally play my Ibanez Prestige.

Line 6 also makes a line of guitars called the Variax.  So now they model guitars like strats, telecasters, les pauls, etc.  That’s nice but it also models acoustic guitars and…..banjo!  As I want banjo for an effect on certain songs and not wanting to be a killer banjo player, this might be worth it.

However, I still wanted 24 frets and a locking vibrato bar.  At the NAMM show this year, line 6 introduced the Variax JTV 89F guitar.  They must have heard my mental messages to them.  24 Frets, Floyd rose, all the models including banjo.  They must have not have heard my mental message about price – they hiked it to $1499.

I will be keeping it in mind as the Turbo Fuegos ramp up our playing and I have a full grip on the material.  The artist side of me wants it now, the business side of me reminds me I haven’t made a dime yet from this band.  If this is going to be an investment, it needs to make sense.

I’ll keep y’all informed 🙂

Spencer

 

 

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