When Rock Goes Acoustic


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When Rock Goes Acoustic

Documentary taking an insightful, irreverent look at the love affair between rock and the acoustic guitar. Contributors include Johnny Marr, Keith Richards and Ray Davies.


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Transcript


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This programme contains strong language.

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Legend has it that rock 'n' roll's

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all about the electric guitar.

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All that sex, energy and aggression.

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ROCK ELECTRIC GUITAR

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# Welcome to the jungle...#

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But what happens to rock music when the amps are turned off...

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FEEDBACK

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..and our guitar hero picks up an acoustic?

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MUSIC: "Wonderwall" by Oasis

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You weren't a real guitar player unless you could play acoustic.

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In order to be the complete rock musician,

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you had to have an acoustic passage in a song somewhere.

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There's something about an acoustic

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that inspires you to do some crazy stuff.

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That's what the acoustic guitar is to a musician.

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It's a different feel.

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If it plays right and sounds right, that's all you need.

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A man with an acoustic guitar on stage is truly naked.

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But if you're an exhibitionist, you might enjoy it.

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The electric guitar is powerful,

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but it's the child, it's not the father of the music.

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Acoustic guitars have a sound unto themselves.

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The guitar can sound

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so gentle and so melodic

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and then it can sound so strong and so dramatic.

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The guitar is complete in itself as an instrument.

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There's nowhere to go. There's nowhere to hide with an acoustic.

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The acoustic guitar -

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six strings, a hollow body

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and a long neck.

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Simple,

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beautiful and elegant.

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Unfortunately, the instrument does come with some baggage,

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and I'm not talking about the case.

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Adopted over the years by everyone, from singing nuns

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to bearded folkies,

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the acoustic guitar's had something of an image problem.

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I definitely grew more of a beard

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when I started playing acoustic guitar every day.

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There are definitely periods in our history as we suddenly realise,

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"They're not playing their Gibson, they're playing an acoustic

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"and, wow, they've grown a beard and their hair's just a wee bit messy

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"and they've been in the forest chopping wood.

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"Now they're serious. Now they have soul."

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# Mull of Kintyre

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# Oh, mist rolling in...

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Pull one out at a party

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there's a danger you'll drive your guests to distraction.

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# I gave my love a story...#

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But cliches aside, has this humble box of wood been as important

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to the development of rock music as its sexier electric brother?

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# With the lights out

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# It's less dangerous

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# Here we are now

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# Entertain us. #

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The rock scene of the early '90s

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was dominated by thunderous guitar bands like Guns N' Roses,

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Pearl Jam, and the kings of grunge, Nirvana,

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whose explosive live shows

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often ended in a riot of smashed instruments and wailing feedback.

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But in November 1993, Nirvana risked blowing their punk cred

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by appearing on MTV Unplugged.

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No distortion, no crowd surfing, nowhere to hide.

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MUSIC: 'All Apologies" by Nirvana

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Just Kurt Cobain's cracked voice and the songs intimately exposed

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by the simple accompaniment of acoustic guitars.

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# All apologies

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# What else should I say?

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# Everyone is gay

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# What else should I write?

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# I don't have the right. #

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It was sort of a perfect storm.

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You had the unplugged genre building up for a few years at that point

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when Nirvana appeared, and then you had Kurt Cobain,

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who was truly able to shine in that setting.

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# All apologies

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# In the sun

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# In the sun I feel as one

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# In the sun

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# In the sun

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# Married

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# Buried...#

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It was a real personal night.

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He didn't have to be outrageous, he didn't have to come out and say,

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"Hello, London."

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You just come out and start playing.

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# I need an easy friend

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# I do with an ear to lend. #

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It was just the way

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the songs translated across from being really noisy,

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loud, scary songs,

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to being just these heartbreaking numbers.

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# I take advantage while

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# You hang me out to dry. #

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It showed you how great that band really were

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because their sound was completely the opposite,

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but yet the songs in that particular set

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put across how great their ethos was,

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their songs, the words, his singing.

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If you strip away everything else and it still stands up,

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it shows it was a great song in the first place

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and you don't get to hide behind a big wall of guitars.

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-What you saying?

-HE LAUGHS

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I think it is a real pinnacle in that band's career.

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It takes them from being a noisy rock band

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into being just a timeless rock band.

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They're great songwriters and they were a great band

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and that moment on Unplugged says that.

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# I do. #

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It was a defining moment for acoustic rock,

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but it was no accident.

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Kurt Cobain and Nirvana understood just how central the instrument was,

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and always had been, to the very soul of rock 'n' roll.

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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

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# Well it's one for the money Two for the show

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# Three to get ready Now go, cat, go. #

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Much of early rock 'n' roll's popularity

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relied on Elvis' hip-swivelling antics.

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But he had another secret weapon.

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Of course, acoustic was very cool, you know,

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like Elvis and the Everly Brothers.

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# Slander my name All over the place.#

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I heard Elvis Presley's Heartbreak Hotel.

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# Well since my baby left me...#

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I loved the sound so much, I wanted a guitar.

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It was THE symbol of rock 'n' roll.

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# Well it's down at the end of lonely street

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# At Heartbreak Hotel. #

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SCREAMING # I'll be so lonely baby

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# I'm so lonely...#

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The success of Elvis inspired teenagers

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on this side of the Atlantic.

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They picked up the acoustic guitar in their droves

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and dreamt their rock 'n' roll fantasies.

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And it was a peculiar,

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acoustic-driven style of rock 'n' roll

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that first captured the imagination of British youth -

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skiffle.

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For many an Elvis wannabe,

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from Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page, seen here on the left,

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to the young Beatles, joining a skiffle band was the first step

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into the brave new world of rock 'n' roll.

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Skiffle was invented

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to teach kids how to make music without much money,

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hence tea-chest bass and stuff like that

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and washboards.

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And the guitar was the only real instrument in that line-up.

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What it did is it said, "You can do this.

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"Grab a guitar," or in some cases,

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"Grab a piece of string, a broom handle,

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"tie the string onto a crate and there's your double bass."

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That's what skiffle did. It was incredibly liberating.

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-And now it's time for us to introduce the...

-King.

-Of.

-Skiffle.

-Himself.

-Lonnie.

-Donegan!

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# When you play the game of life You've got trouble you've got strife

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# Jack of Diamonds is a hard card to find

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# Life is like a game of cards

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# But it's very very hard

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# Jack of Diamonds is a hard card to find

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# Jack of diamonds, jack of diamonds

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# Diamonds is a hard card to find...#

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This homespun music craze might have been a flash in the pan

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had it not been for the remarkable success of Lonnie Donegan.

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Guys that I grew up with, like Clapton and Jimmy Page,

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we heard Lonnie Donegan first of all,

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that's what started us playing the guitar.

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Everybody wanted to do that.

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SKIFFLE MUSIC

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The impact that he has on British musicians, not just the Beatles,

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but you talk to Jimmy Page,

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he'll tell you that Lonnie Donegan was a massive influence

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on that generation of guitar players.

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SCREAMING

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And it's a first-time welcome now for that top four with their top hit,

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-You Really Got Me Going, The Kinks!

-SCREAMING

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# Girl you really got me going

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# You got me so I don't know what I'm doing. #

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In the early 60s, everything got louder.

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The music, the fans, the instruments.

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And the electric guitar was king.

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# You really got me now

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# You got me so I don't know what I'm doing

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# Oh yeah, you really got me now...#

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But as the decade progressed,

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bands such as The Kinks and the Rolling Stones

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looked back to the early blues for inspiration,

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adapting the acoustic playing styles of iconic guitarists

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such as Lead Belly and Robert Johnson.

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# Well poor boy Took his father's bread

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# Started down the road

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# Started down the road

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# Took all he had and started down the road. #

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You go down the line,

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all of your first and even second generation rock guys

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were all influenced by those old guys.

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We based everything we did and have done

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from our knowledge of

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starting as a blues band.

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Just the great pleasure of doing something like this.

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HE PLAYS BLUES RIFF

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And then you just sit on it, you know?

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And you can say what the hell you like.

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# You can get out of here baby

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# You can stay

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# The whole damn night. #

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HE PLAYS BLUES RIFF

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But the early blues men weren't the only acoustic influence

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on the new rock royalty.

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# Hey Mr Tambourine Man Play a song for me. #

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In America, even folk musicians were considered hip and bohemian,

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thanks to Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan.

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# Hey Mr Tambourine Man... #

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Bob Dylan's influence extended from New York's coffee houses

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to the hippy west coast,

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where The Byrds recorded a chart-topping version

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of Mr Tambourine Man

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and brought Dylan's brand of American folk

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to a mainstream audience.

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When we first heard it, it was in 2/4 time.

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# Hey Mr Tambourine Man Play a song for me

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# I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to. #

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And I took it and I put a Beatle beat to it, like...

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# Hey Mr Tambourine Man

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# Play a song for me

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# I'm not sleepy and there ain't no place I'm going to. #

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# Hey Mr Tambourine Man

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# Play a song for me

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# In the jingle-jangle morning... #

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Meanwhile, on this side of the Atlantic,

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the acoustic guitar-playing folkies were still more associated

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with comfortable jumpers,

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considerable beard growth and real ale,

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rather than revolutionary protest songs.

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However, the success of Dylan inspired a new generation of British folk musicians,

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led by Donovan, to take the acoustic to the top of the charts.

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# Jennifer Juniper

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# Rides a dabbled mare

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# Jennifer Juniper

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# Lilacs in her hair

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# Is she dreaming? Yes I think so

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# And is she pretty? Yes ever so

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# What you doing Jennifer my love? #

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When I arrived in the folk scene, the spring of 1965,

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the papers were full of it. Folk music appears, arrives,

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on the pop charts.

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# And would you love her? If I could, sir

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# What you doing Jennifer my love? Jennifer Juniper. #

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Donovan's success had a big impact on other aspiring troubadours,

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including influential singer-songwriter Vashti Bunyan,

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the figurehead of today's new folk movement.

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I wanted to see somebody bring acoustic music into mainstream pop.

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When I first saw Donovan by himself,

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that was just a wonderful, magical moment for me,

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and I thought, "OK, somebody's done it."

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SCREAMING

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Donovan even influenced the biggest band in the world, the Beatles.

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In 1968, shortly after the release of their landmark album Sgt Pepper,

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he joined them on their transcendental pilgrimage to India.

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They were constantly growing and learning

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and experimenting with different things

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and acoustic guitar was one of the things they experimented with

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and Paul was taught finger-picking by Donovan.

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There we were, completely cut off from the world, in the jungle

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with these acoustic instruments.

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And one day, John saw me doing the clawhammer.

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HE PLAYS GUITAR

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It's a claw, right?

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HE PLAYS GUITAR

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And he said, "How do you do that?"

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And he picked it up very quickly.

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Paul wouldn't sit down.

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He was listening or walking about doing his own thing,

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but he's so bright, Paul,

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he picked up kind of a backwards way of doing it

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and started writing Blackbird.

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# Blackbird singing in the dead of night

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# Take these broken wings and learn to fly

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# All your life

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# You were only waiting for this moment to arrive. #

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When the Beatles returned from their trip,

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they recorded a double album

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with a strong acoustic guitar presence - The White Album.

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It featured several of the most celebrated acoustic songs in rock music,

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such as Julia, Dear Prudence and Blackbird.

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By the end of the '60s, other innovative folk guitarists,

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such as Davey Graham

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and the legendary Bert Jansch, were also influencing rock music

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with their intricate finger-picking styles and unusual tunings.

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HE PLAYS BLACKWATER SIDE

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# All through the fore

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# Part of the night

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# We lay

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# In sport and play

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# This young man arose... #

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Bert, his sound and his approach and everything was intense.

0:17:100:17:14

It's not too tidy, either.

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It's pretty street, as well. It's kind of unusual.

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This unassuming guitar hero

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opened up a whole new range of techniques and sounds

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for the rock musician.

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But it would be a skiffle school graduate

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who would fully realise the acoustic guitar's rock potential.

0:17:350:17:38

By 1970, Led Zeppelin had released two albums of heavy, hairy,

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riff-based blues.

0:17:440:17:46

Driven by Jimmy Page's blistering electric guitar playing,

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they were hailed as the undisputed gods of rock.

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# We come from the land of the ice and snow

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# From the midnight sun where the hot springs blow

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# Hammer of the gods... #

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For their third album, the band retreated to a remote cottage in North Wales.

0:18:050:18:10

Bron-Yr-Aur had no running water or electricity

0:18:110:18:15

but the change of scenery sparked a period of intense creativity for the band.

0:18:150:18:20

There they wrote the songs for Led Zeppelin III,

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for many, the landmark album in acoustic rock.

0:18:240:18:27

Led Zeppelin III was different.

0:18:380:18:39

There's a lot of sounds you don't hear on the first two records.

0:18:390:18:43

They were horrified, the label. And the fans couldn't believe it.

0:18:430:18:46

"What are you doing? Where's the electricity?"

0:18:460:18:50

Led Zeppelin were rock gods. What were they thinking?

0:18:500:18:54

Why suddenly was all this acoustic music coming out of them?

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There was no escaping the fact that with Led Zeppelin III,

0:18:570:19:02

folk music had quietly gatecrashed the heavy rock party.

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# And I walk down the country lanes

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# I'll be walking along, hear me call your name... #

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They aren't dabbling with folk music. They absorb it.

0:19:120:19:15

It is part of their make-up as a group

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and it is what they genuinely love

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and refer to.

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It's based on an immersion in that music and an understanding of it.

0:19:240:19:29

And I think it's that grounding that introduces folk music

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in a really credible way to hard rock, if you will.

0:19:330:19:37

From their third album onwards,

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acoustic instruments were an essential part of Led Zep's sound.

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Their songs had an authenticity

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that somehow looked back to old folk traditions

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whilst remaining cutting-edge.

0:19:540:19:56

# Hangman, hangman

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# Hold it a little while

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# I think I see my brother coming, riding many a mile... #

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Jimmy Page certainly took a lot of his knowledge about alternate tunings and the like

0:20:100:20:16

from guys like Roy Harper and Burt Jansch,

0:20:160:20:18

and all of a sudden, they gave you an entirely different sound.

0:20:180:20:21

# Sister, I implore you

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# Take him by the hand

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# Take him to some shady bower

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# Save me from the wrath of this man... #

0:20:280:20:31

You can hear how the possibilities of acoustic music are not narrow cast,

0:20:320:20:37

they are not about just being a bit of a maudlin singer-songwriter.

0:20:370:20:41

You can be symphonic in an acoustic context.

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# I'm free to ride, ride for many mile... #

0:20:440:20:48

When they brought it into rock music, they made it strong.

0:20:480:20:52

They didn't bring it in with a whimper.

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It came in very, very forcefully.

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Even if they were playing something quite gentle,

0:20:580:21:01

you still knew that you were in a rock song.

0:21:010:21:04

HE PLAYS GUITAR RIFF

0:21:040:21:07

If you listen to the acoustic moments on Led Zeppelin records,

0:21:130:21:17

your spine tingles with some kind of, like, majesty

0:21:170:21:21

and it just feels so gentle and it just feels so articulate.

0:21:210:21:25

# I don't know how I'm going to tell you

0:21:360:21:41

# I can't play with you no more

0:21:420:21:46

They took it to a different level. They took it to a stage,

0:21:470:21:51

to a live stage where you could not only play a beautiful song

0:21:510:21:55

but you could rock an arena crowd with a pulse and with percussion

0:21:550:22:01

and I think that changed things for everybody.

0:22:010:22:05

I think that made it very cool to play acoustic

0:22:050:22:08

and not just be a folk hero.

0:22:080:22:11

CHEERING

0:22:140:22:17

# Today was gonna be the day but they'll never throw it back to you

0:22:310:22:35

# And by now you should've somehow realised what you're not to do

0:22:350:22:40

# I don't believe that anybody feels the way I do about you now

0:22:400:22:46

# I said maybe

0:22:460:22:51

# You're gonna be the one that saves me

0:22:510:22:55

# And after all

0:22:550:23:00

# You're my wonderwall... #

0:23:000:23:03

From Zeppelin to Nirvana and Oasis,

0:23:030:23:06

the greatest bands have proven that you can rock a stadium crowd

0:23:060:23:10

with whatever guitar you're wielding.

0:23:100:23:12

But only the bravest musicians leave the comfort of the band

0:23:120:23:15

and expose themselves, alone, in front of an audience.

0:23:150:23:19

Richard Thompson said that a man with an acoustic guitar on a stage is truly naked.

0:23:190:23:25

But if you're an exhibitionist, you might enjoy it.

0:23:250:23:28

# You have your very own number

0:23:280:23:34

# They dress your cage in its nature... #

0:23:360:23:43

It's a challenge and you kind of enjoy the challenge of trying to

0:23:430:23:46

explore the intimacy between not having the power of the band behind you

0:23:460:23:50

and having the challenge of having an audience in front of you, and you kind of feel naked.

0:23:500:23:55

Someone who can just hold someone's attention and make a big noise

0:23:550:23:58

and get their song across on an acoustic is, er...

0:23:580:24:02

There's nobility in it. It's quite heroic in a way.

0:24:020:24:05

# Environment's not yours

0:24:050:24:09

# You see through it all

0:24:090:24:12

# Wanna get out

0:24:140:24:17

# Won't miss you sensaround

0:24:170:24:20

# To carry your own dead

0:24:210:24:25

# To swing your tyre tricks

0:24:250:24:28

# Oh, wanna get out

0:24:290:24:32

# Here you're bred dead quick

0:24:330:24:36

# For the outside

0:24:380:24:41

# The small black flowers that grow in the sky

0:24:410:24:46

# Here chewing your tail

0:24:500:24:54

# Is joy. #

0:24:540:24:59

An acoustic number at a rock gig can certainly be powerful,

0:25:010:25:05

but sometimes, seeing the lights turned down and the amps unplugged

0:25:050:25:08

fills people with dread.

0:25:080:25:11

You've got... HE IMITATES DRUMS

0:25:110:25:14

"We're going to slow things down a bit now..."

0:25:140:25:16

"Whoa, don't do that." It could be bad news.

0:25:160:25:20

I remember when I did Small Black Flowers That Grow In The Sky

0:25:200:25:23

on stage the first time, I saw a lighter in the distance.

0:25:230:25:28

I thought, "Oh, no, no, no, this is wrong, this is definitely wrong."

0:25:280:25:32

I think people are waiting to light the match or the torch

0:25:320:25:36

as soon as the acoustic gets handed to the guy, before they even hear the song.

0:25:360:25:40

"There's the acoustic, let's get sad!"

0:25:400:25:42

# There's an insect in your ear

0:25:420:25:45

# If you scratch, it won't disappear

0:25:450:25:49

# It's gonna itch and burn and sting

0:25:490:25:52

# You wanna see what scratching brings... #

0:25:520:25:55

The acoustic part of it could be trouble.

0:25:550:25:57

They should put up the acoustic flag

0:25:570:25:59

and then people have the right to go out and, you know...

0:25:590:26:03

talk to their friends, maybe go to the pub across the way.

0:26:030:26:06

The mass experience of people standing in a stadium with their lighters aloft

0:26:060:26:10

is quite satisfying when you're in that crowd.

0:26:100:26:13

You do want to share that communal experience,

0:26:130:26:16

against your better judgement at times.

0:26:160:26:18

# Staring at the sun

0:26:180:26:21

# Afraid of what you'd find

0:26:210:26:25

# If you took a look inside

0:26:250:26:28

# I'm not just deaf and dumb... #

0:26:280:26:32

There is a great pleasure in buying into these constructs.

0:26:320:26:35

There is a great pleasure in saying, "OK, this is the encore,

0:26:350:26:39

"we're going to have four or five acoustic songs -

0:26:390:26:42

"people no longer light lighters, people will wave their phones

0:26:420:26:46

"and we will all feel soppy and fling our arms round each other."

0:26:460:26:51

When the acoustic's pulled out for the acoustic number,

0:26:510:26:54

it normally comes with so much sentimentality,

0:26:540:26:57

it seems to be this token, "Now I'm really going to get down to it

0:26:570:27:01

"and bare my soul for the quiet bit of the set

0:27:010:27:04

"in front of 20,000 to 100,000 people."

0:27:040:27:08

-BOTH:

-# I'm not just deaf and dumb

0:27:080:27:12

# Staring at the sun

0:27:120:27:15

# I'm not the only one

0:27:150:27:17

# Who'd rather go blind. #

0:27:170:27:23

I think there's a great problem with this notion,

0:27:260:27:29

if you strum your guitar really intensely with your eyes shut

0:27:290:27:33

that you are conveying automatically a great depth to your songwriting

0:27:330:27:40

or you are revealing the inner workings of your soul

0:27:400:27:43

in a way that you weren't doing half an hour earlier

0:27:430:27:46

with your foot on the monitor, hitting a power chord.

0:27:460:27:49

# Do you wanna play with me? #

0:27:490:27:54

The urge of every self-respecting hard rock band to bare their souls -

0:27:570:28:01

as well as their chests -

0:28:010:28:03

isn't restricted to the big stage.

0:28:030:28:05

And if you really want to prove that you're a "serious artist,"

0:28:090:28:12

then why not bring out the acoustics in your video

0:28:120:28:15

as well as on the album?

0:28:150:28:17

Every band had one of these songs

0:28:170:28:20

and they all sort of had a lot in common,

0:28:200:28:22

one of these things being, for some reason,

0:28:220:28:25

these guys could only play the guitar sitting down in their videos.

0:28:250:28:29

# Saying I love you

0:28:290:28:33

# Is not the words I want to hear from you... #

0:28:330:28:39

Bringing out the acoustic guitar meant that you had something

0:28:390:28:43

if not serious to say, something emotionally serious to say.

0:28:430:28:48

It gives this veneer of confessional,

0:28:480:28:51

this veneer of feeling,

0:28:510:28:54

this veneer of you're revealing something deep within you.

0:28:540:28:58

# How you feel

0:28:580:29:01

# More than words

0:29:010:29:04

It's us playing it, it's us in there,

0:29:040:29:06

trying to get the band involved with some lighters

0:29:060:29:08

so they knew we were a band, by even having them put the sticks down.

0:29:080:29:12

"Let's make sure they don't think we're the Everly Brothers."

0:29:120:29:15

# Cos I'd already know

0:29:150:29:22

# What would you do? #

0:29:220:29:26

The acoustic is aiding you, as you're being let in

0:29:260:29:32

on maybe what you're not supposed to see, because the acoustic signifies the emotional

0:29:320:29:37

and stripping away all the pretence.

0:29:370:29:40

The flip side to a lot of all this for the bands,

0:29:420:29:46

who could make instant riches off of doing these power ballads,

0:29:460:29:49

was the fact that some of them

0:29:490:29:51

kind of became pigeonholed as ballad bands,

0:29:510:29:56

whereas they viewed themselves as these, you know, manly, hard rockers,

0:29:560:30:01

but it was going to follow them around from then on.

0:30:010:30:05

# Then you couldn't make things new

0:30:050:30:09

# Just by saying I love you... #

0:30:090:30:14

There were people coming to the shows that heard More Than Words.

0:30:140:30:18

We'd see their faces in the first three rows like...

0:30:180:30:20

Looking at their tickets. "Is this the right band?"

0:30:200:30:23

# Just by saying I love you. #

0:30:230:30:30

Apart from pleasing, and occasionally surprising, their fans,

0:30:390:30:43

slinging an old acoustic round your neck can do a lot for your image.

0:30:430:30:47

Countless acts would strap it on in the video

0:30:470:30:51

and you'd sort of know what was coming.

0:30:510:30:53

It was great to start off a song with an acoustic

0:30:530:30:56

and then when the big chorus comes in,

0:30:560:30:59

turn on the electrics and really bring it all home.

0:30:590:31:01

Former poodle rocker Jon Bon Jovi took things way out west.

0:31:040:31:08

And also the odd fascination with

0:31:080:31:12

pairing acoustic guitars and cowboy imagery in these ballads.

0:31:120:31:17

And that was a big thing with these bands.

0:31:170:31:20

The cowboy boots and the cowboy hat and your acoustic guitar

0:31:200:31:23

and all of a sudden you're good old American country boy.

0:31:230:31:27

It was a big money-maker for a lot of bands,

0:31:290:31:32

it was big business, but it became sort of tired and cliche

0:31:320:31:36

and sort of a joke at the end of the day.

0:31:360:31:38

Not only can an acoustic guitar make you look sexy,

0:31:390:31:42

the instrument itself is an object of desire.

0:31:420:31:46

And for some rockers, meeting their new partner was love at first sight.

0:31:490:31:54

I had the worst hangover of my life when I bought this guitar

0:31:540:31:57

and it was this pathetic moment in the shop where it just sang to me,

0:31:570:32:01

and I thought, "That guitar needs to be with me."

0:32:010:32:04

It's one thing that is significant in my life that I really remember,

0:32:040:32:08

seeing the shape of the guitar case.

0:32:080:32:12

# There she goes... #

0:32:120:32:16

It was so amazing. It was like seeing a superhero.

0:32:160:32:19

# Racing through my brain... #

0:32:190:32:22

I think definitely all the retro,

0:32:220:32:25

well, vintage acoustic guitars just look like they've seen so much life.

0:32:250:32:30

And I love that sort of worn-away wood look

0:32:300:32:33

and they've definitely got a story. That looks pretty hot.

0:32:330:32:37

# There she goes again... #

0:32:370:32:41

It's not that personal. I don't compare them to women, like some guitar players do.

0:32:410:32:46

The shape of a guitar is very sexy.

0:32:460:32:50

It's like that.

0:32:500:32:53

There was this idea that the electric guitar

0:32:550:32:58

was sort of virile and potent

0:32:580:33:00

and the acoustic guitar was sort of gentle and curvy and nice.

0:33:000:33:05

The smell it had was just... It smelled like roses

0:33:060:33:12

and it was just sort of intoxicating.

0:33:120:33:14

You just smelled this thing and you'd go, "Wow!"

0:33:140:33:17

I kiss guitars. I'll kiss my guitar.

0:33:200:33:23

If I haven't given it enough attention, I'll just kiss the head.

0:33:230:33:27

I may have gone to bed with a guitar on the bed.

0:33:270:33:32

I'm sure I did at one time or another.

0:33:320:33:35

I don't sleep with my guitar. That's where the relationship ends.

0:33:350:33:40

I sleep with it under my bed sometimes,

0:33:400:33:42

in case somebody steals it.

0:33:420:33:44

Sexy, fragrant and considerably lighter than a piano,

0:33:460:33:50

most rock songs start life on the acoustic.

0:33:500:33:53

It's the perfect companion for any songwriter.

0:33:530:33:56

It's a good songwriting tool

0:33:560:33:58

because it's just little and you can take it anywhere, you know?

0:33:580:34:02

# When I come home, you won't be there anymore

0:34:040:34:09

# When I come home, you won't be there anymore... #

0:34:100:34:14

It's just very easy to sit and play

0:34:140:34:17

and then it's so easy to kind of sing along to, as well.

0:34:170:34:20

# When I come home, home, home, home... #

0:34:200:34:25

There is an aspect to acoustic guitars which is very important

0:34:250:34:28

that an electric doesn't have - you can take it with you somewhere

0:34:280:34:33

and it's all you need.

0:34:330:34:35

Because it can be everything, bass...

0:34:350:34:38

HE PLAYS BASELINE

0:34:380:34:40

..and rhythm... HE STRUMS RHYTHMICALLY

0:34:400:34:43

..and even counter-melody, lead guitar...

0:34:430:34:46

HE PLAYS MELODY

0:34:460:34:50

The guitar hero can even take the six-string beauty to bed,

0:34:510:34:55

ready to be woken when the creative juices begin to flow.

0:34:550:34:59

I was asleep, I woke up and without even knowing it,

0:34:590:35:04

I pushed play on my little early cassette player...

0:35:040:35:09

..played it, went back to sleep,

0:35:100:35:13

didn't remember a thing about it

0:35:130:35:15

until I saw that the tape had run to the other end.

0:35:150:35:18

So I ran it all the way back to the front

0:35:190:35:22

and there is 30 seconds of Satisfaction,

0:35:220:35:25

a very slow version.

0:35:250:35:27

HE PLAYS GUITAR RIFF

0:35:290:35:32

# I can't get no

0:35:330:35:37

# Satisfaction

0:35:380:35:40

# I can't get me no

0:35:420:35:44

# Satisfaction, babe

0:35:460:35:48

# Cos I try

0:35:480:35:50

# And I try

0:35:500:35:52

# Girl, I try

0:35:520:35:54

# Yeah, I try... #

0:35:540:35:56

HE SNORES

0:35:560:36:00

Just like that.

0:36:000:36:01

The guitar is complete in itself as an instrument.

0:36:080:36:11

It can have four or five voices musically, all going on at once.

0:36:110:36:16

I do like the versatility of acoustic guitars.

0:36:260:36:29

You can make them sound thumpy, gentle, it's a complete instrument.

0:36:290:36:34

So it can be really soft and the thumbs and your hands give you different tones to...

0:36:340:36:39

HE STRUMS GUITAR LOUDLY

0:36:390:36:42

Erm... And, you know...

0:36:420:36:45

HE FINGER-PICKS

0:36:450:36:46

I can't help but play that pattern all the time cos I like it.

0:36:460:36:49

But it just has...

0:36:510:36:53

You can get real expressive dynamics in it.

0:36:530:36:56

Because you can play just a simple chord...

0:36:580:37:01

HE PLAYS CHORD

0:37:010:37:04

I mean, and put a melody over that, it's very easy to do.

0:37:060:37:11

HE STRUMS

0:37:110:37:12

It's like a whole orchestra on its own, really.

0:37:120:37:16

-When you play...

-SHE STRUMS

0:37:170:37:21

A very full sound. But that's what the acoustic can do.

0:37:320:37:36

So it can make you feel as if you can write a song, you don't need anybody else.

0:37:360:37:40

That's the wonderful thing about the guitar, you can just be by yourself

0:37:430:37:47

and you have a whole orchestra in your head

0:37:470:37:49

and you can get part of it out with this six-string,

0:37:490:37:54

six notes and a voice.

0:37:540:37:56

SHE PLAYS AND HUMS

0:37:560:38:00

That's why it's good variety,

0:38:030:38:04

because you can get the feel of what you want without being

0:38:040:38:09

either a virtuoso or anything like that,

0:38:090:38:13

anyone can be, sit there and write a song.

0:38:130:38:17

You don't need amps, you don't need electricity, you don't need leads,

0:38:170:38:22

you don't need a bass player, a drummer,

0:38:220:38:24

you don't need all this set-up to create music.

0:38:240:38:27

You can create on your own, quite quietly, upstairs in your bedroom.

0:38:270:38:32

# I met her in a club down old Soho

0:38:320:38:35

# Where you drink champagne that tastes just like cherry cola

0:38:350:38:40

-AUDIENCE: # C-O-L-A, cola... #

-Far out.

0:38:400:38:44

The guitar sound is so influential in evoking a mood.

0:38:440:38:49

# Dark brown voice she said Lola

0:38:490:38:52

# L-O-L-A, Lola... #

0:38:530:38:56

Almost any acoustic guitar has its own sound,

0:38:560:38:59

and that might give you some ideas

0:38:590:39:02

as to what you're writing, just the sound of it.

0:39:020:39:05

# She talked like a man, Lola

0:39:050:39:08

# L-L-L-L-Lola

0:39:080:39:11

# L-L-L-L-Lola... #

0:39:110:39:14

Sometimes the right guitar determines the journey or the decision-making

0:39:180:39:22

about where to go next with the song you're writing.

0:39:220:39:25

The jang-jang-jangy sound on Lola, for example,

0:39:250:39:29

came because I heard the guitar playback.

0:39:290:39:32

The guitar is inspirational.

0:39:320:39:34

Thank you very much!

0:39:370:39:38

CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

0:39:380:39:40

# When we collide we come together

0:39:400:39:43

# If we don't we'll always be apart... #

0:39:460:39:49

Even for some of today's heaviest bands, such as Scottish rockers Biffy Clyro,

0:39:490:39:53

the song needs to be crafted properly on the acoustic first, before cranking the amp up to 11.

0:39:530:39:59

# When you hit me, hit me hard... #

0:39:590:40:02

You kind of figure out whether an idea is a good idea or not,

0:40:040:40:07

and whether the melody is really worth working on

0:40:070:40:11

cos sometimes just an open chord through a big Marshall stack sounds just amazing but anyone can do that,

0:40:110:40:16

you know, you have to try and work a bit harder and make things more subtle and intricate.

0:40:160:40:22

# I've got Gilligan's eyes

0:40:250:40:29

# I still believe... #

0:40:310:40:34

When we first play our songs together, we always play them quiet,

0:40:340:40:37

we never play them full-on rock until we find out how the song flows and where it's going to go.

0:40:370:40:43

# When we collide we come together

0:40:430:40:48

# If we don't we'll always be apart

0:40:490:40:54

# I'll take a bruise, I know you're worth it

0:40:560:40:59

# When you hit me, hit me hard... #

0:41:010:41:05

If it doesn't work acoustically, it's a shit song.

0:41:060:41:08

HE LAUGHS

0:41:080:41:09

-We write all our songs on acoustic guitar.

-THEY LAUGH

0:41:090:41:12

# Against what

0:41:120:41:14

# Our future is for

0:41:160:41:19

# Many of horror... #

0:41:220:41:24

I mean, I certainly don't think that, as a lot of people do,

0:41:240:41:28

that a song isn't good unless you can play it on an acoustic.

0:41:280:41:32

I don't really...

0:41:320:41:34

I think there's a lot of evidence against that, really.

0:41:350:41:38

But if you can play it from start to finish on an acoustic and it's great,

0:41:380:41:41

whatever you do to it it's going to be killer.

0:41:410:41:44

MUSIC: "Layla" by Eric Clapton

0:41:440:41:46

And it can work the other way around, too.

0:41:460:41:48

A rock classic can be completely transformed by playing it acoustically.

0:41:480:41:52

When Clapton re-did Layla as an acoustic version,

0:41:520:41:56

there was the classic riff that everyone remembered

0:41:560:42:01

from the original electric version of it, which he downplayed.

0:42:010:42:05

MUSIC: "Layla" by Eric Clapton

0:42:050:42:08

CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

0:42:080:42:12

If you read the blogs, there are people who think it's horrible.

0:42:170:42:21

-Because you don't have...

-HE HUMS RIFF

0:42:210:42:23

But, erm, you've got to understand that

0:42:230:42:27

that's what the acoustic guitar is to a musician.

0:42:270:42:31

It's a different feel. It's more soulful.

0:42:310:42:35

# What will you do when you get lonely?

0:42:370:42:40

# No-one waiting by your side

0:42:420:42:45

# You've been running and hiding much too long

0:42:470:42:52

# You know it's just your foolish pride

0:42:520:42:56

# Layla... #

0:42:560:42:58

It wasn't an angry-young-man approach

0:42:580:43:00

as it was when he first recorded it.

0:43:000:43:02

# Layla

0:43:020:43:05

# You got me on my knees, Layla

0:43:050:43:08

# I'm begging darling please, Layla... #

0:43:090:43:12

It was someone who had more of a relaxed view of life.

0:43:120:43:18

# Tried to give you consolation

0:43:190:43:22

# When your old man had let you down... #

0:43:240:43:27

It was always a love song.

0:43:270:43:29

But it was a heavy-duty love song

0:43:290:43:32

and then he managed to take it down to a much more personal level.

0:43:320:43:35

It just gave it a whole new life, I think.

0:43:350:43:41

CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

0:43:430:43:47

Thank you!

0:43:490:43:51

# Hey, hey, my, my

0:43:510:43:54

# Rock 'n' roll can never die... #

0:43:580:44:02

If the great rock guitarist is defined

0:44:020:44:04

by an ability to master both the raw power of the electric

0:44:040:44:08

and the intimacy of the acoustic, then Neil Young is the man.

0:44:080:44:12

# Old man, look at my life

0:44:180:44:21

# I'm a lot like you were

0:44:210:44:25

# Old man, look at my life

0:44:260:44:29

# I'm a lot like you were... #

0:44:290:44:34

For artists like Neil Young,

0:44:350:44:37

who swaps between the electric and the acoustic guitar at will,

0:44:370:44:40

the simplicity of acoustic tracks

0:44:400:44:42

can shine a light on their innermost feelings.

0:44:420:44:45

# Old man, look at my life

0:44:450:44:48

# 24 and there's so much more

0:44:480:44:51

# Live alone in a paradise

0:44:510:44:54

# That makes me think of two

0:44:540:44:57

# Love lost, such a cost

0:44:580:45:01

# Give me things that don't get lost

0:45:010:45:05

# Like a coin that won't get tossed

0:45:050:45:08

# Rolling home to you... #

0:45:080:45:10

I guess it lends itself to a bit of melancholy,

0:45:100:45:13

especially with the dynamics and the sweetness that it has, and the humanness it has, as well.

0:45:130:45:18

# Old man, take a look at my life

0:45:180:45:21

# I'm a lot like you

0:45:210:45:25

# I need someone to love me

0:45:250:45:28

# The whole day through

0:45:280:45:31

# Ah, one look in my eyes

0:45:320:45:34

# And you can tell that's true... #

0:45:340:45:38

There's a certain rawness of emotion and spirit to the acoustic,

0:45:410:45:46

and I think that's what attracts a lot of people

0:45:460:45:49

to the acoustic guitar is the more immediate emotional connection

0:45:490:45:54

you can make to these artists.

0:45:540:45:57

# It's a sight

0:45:570:46:02

# To behold

0:46:020:46:04

# When you've got some odd words to mould

0:46:050:46:10

# And you can make them your own... #

0:46:100:46:13

You can immediately identify with the vulnerability of somebody

0:46:130:46:18

expressing themselves with just the accompaniment of an acoustic guitar.

0:46:180:46:23

# It would be much better I'm told

0:46:230:46:28

I mean, it's literally sitting on your chest

0:46:280:46:32

and it's just amplifying what's coming out from here.

0:46:320:46:35

# Every light is on but all the rooms

0:46:350:46:39

# Are empty except one... #

0:46:390:46:42

With only the acoustic guitar between you and the audience,

0:46:450:46:48

every expression and every word is exposed.

0:46:480:46:52

People do, almost, kind of, sit up

0:46:520:46:57

and...lean forward a bit

0:46:570:47:02

and, erm, it's like they feel they've been invited to something.

0:47:020:47:06

# Woncha come on home

0:47:080:47:11

# Home... #

0:47:110:47:15

When that moment is happening, I'm there with them, actually.

0:47:150:47:19

I like it myself.

0:47:190:47:20

# Every key is turned

0:47:200:47:22

# And every window's bolted from inside

0:47:220:47:27

# Oh, babe, you know I get so scared

0:47:290:47:32

# You know I couldn't live alone

0:47:320:47:35

# It's just been confirmed

0:47:350:47:37

# Baby, woncha come on home

0:47:370:47:40

# Standing on the corner

0:47:400:47:42

# Is a madman looking at my window? #

0:47:420:47:45

When you stand on stage on your own, you just feel how important the words are.

0:47:450:47:49

When it's just the acoustic guitar, your voice and the lyrics that your trying to get across,

0:47:490:47:53

you realise the lyrics are so integral.

0:47:530:47:56

# Woncha come on home

0:47:560:47:59

# Home... #

0:47:590:48:03

You learn pretty quickly that your lyrics are crap

0:48:030:48:06

if you can't sing it with an acoustic.

0:48:060:48:08

Because now you're singing and it's so exposed and people are going,

0:48:080:48:11

"What are you talking about? That's the silliest thing I ever heard."

0:48:110:48:16

When the lyrics are strong enough,

0:48:160:48:18

then the acoustic guitar remains the perfect partner.

0:48:180:48:22

From old-school rockers right up to today's wistful whippersnappers,

0:48:220:48:25

it's all you need to tell your story.

0:48:250:48:29

# I know I said I loved you but I'm thinking I was wrong

0:48:290:48:33

# I'm the first to admit that I'm still pretty young

0:48:330:48:36

# And I never meant to hurt you and I wrote you ten love songs

0:48:360:48:41

# About a guy that I could never get, how his girlfriend was pretty fit

0:48:440:48:47

# And everyone who knew her loved her so

0:48:470:48:50

# And I made you leave her for me and now I'm feeling pretty mean

0:48:510:48:55

# But my mind has fucked me over

0:48:550:48:56

# More times than any man could ever know... #

0:48:560:49:00

People love the acoustic troubadour. That's why the likes of Pete Doherty

0:49:030:49:08

and Elliot Smith and Jeff Buckley are held in great esteem

0:49:080:49:12

because they are people who can pick up a guitar and start playing to you

0:49:120:49:16

and sing to you a song and it just immediately...

0:49:160:49:19

It enthrals you, it makes you want to listen to more.

0:49:190:49:23

# I'll never love a man cos love and pain go hand in hand

0:49:230:49:26

# And I can't do it again

0:49:260:49:30

# I will never love a man cos I can never hurt a man

0:49:300:49:34

# Not in this new romantic way. #

0:49:340:49:40

CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

0:49:430:49:45

I think there's a natural expression

0:49:450:49:47

for confessional songwriting with an acoustic guitar,

0:49:470:49:51

because it allows your lyricism to really work.

0:49:510:49:54

# And I don't know what to do

0:49:540:49:58

# Cos I'll never be with you... #

0:50:000:50:04

There's a healthy load of miserable singer-songwriters

0:50:060:50:09

working with acoustic guitars

0:50:090:50:11

and so perhaps it does the same thing for them as it does for me

0:50:110:50:15

and if I'm in a quiet corner with an acoustic guitar then I find I express darker, sadder songs.

0:50:150:50:20

The success of these melancholic minstrels

0:50:200:50:23

might suggest the acoustic is at its most potent

0:50:230:50:26

during these heart-rending moments.

0:50:260:50:29

# Cos I'll never be with you. #

0:50:290:50:33

Doesn't have to be like that, does it? It can be loud and proud.

0:50:350:50:38

STRUMS JOLLY TUNE

0:50:380:50:42

Is that melancholic?

0:50:420:50:44

Maybe it's cos I'm smiling.

0:50:440:50:46

# This is Ground Control to Major Tom

0:50:490:50:53

# You've really made the grade

0:50:530:50:57

# And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear... #

0:50:590:51:05

Sometimes I think when people hear an acoustic guitar,

0:51:050:51:08

it's just an acoustic guitar and it's just going to be, kind of, quite weak.

0:51:080:51:12

But in the hands of the right person,

0:51:150:51:17

it's going to sound absolutely incredible.

0:51:170:51:19

For Johnny Marr, former member of The Smiths

0:51:210:51:24

and one of the most influential guitarists of his generation,

0:51:240:51:28

the acoustic is an essential part of his musical armoury.

0:51:280:51:31

An instrument that not only sets the mood of the music,

0:51:310:51:34

but drives the song itself.

0:51:340:51:36

One of the first things that struck me about the acoustic was, being very little,

0:51:360:51:41

and, erm, hearing the Everly Brothers, you know,

0:51:410:51:45

and one of their records starts...

0:51:450:51:48

HE PLAYS GUITAR

0:51:480:51:50

MUSIC: "Wake Up Little Susie" by the Everly Brothers

0:51:520:51:56

# Wake up little Susie, wake up... #

0:51:570:52:01

And it's very deliberately an acoustic guitar intro.

0:52:020:52:06

And they had that going on on a couple of their records.

0:52:060:52:09

And, erm, that's a different thing to

0:52:090:52:12

this sort of earnest idea of the folk singer,

0:52:120:52:17

earnestly finger-picking accompaniment.

0:52:170:52:21

That's a riff.

0:52:210:52:22

Sometimes it adds a springiness, it adds an articulate nature to violence, you know.

0:52:270:52:31

Pete Townshend and stuff like Substitute, kind of like, you know,

0:52:310:52:35

it doesn't have to be a soppy, foppish instrument. It actually adds vitality to the violence of music.

0:52:350:52:41

STRUMS MAJOR CHORDS

0:52:410:52:44

# Substitute your lies for fact

0:52:480:52:52

# I see right through your plastic mac

0:52:520:52:55

# I look all white but my dad was black

0:52:550:52:58

# My fine-looking suit's really made out of sack... #

0:52:580:53:03

A riff like...

0:53:030:53:05

HE PLAYS "BIG MOUTH STRIKES AGAIN"

0:53:050:53:07

# Sweetness, sweetness I was only joking when I said

0:53:110:53:16

# I'd like to smash every tooth in your head... #

0:53:160:53:21

That, to me, is always going to sound better on an acoustic,

0:53:210:53:25

and it's, erm,

0:53:250:53:27

it's a rock, post-punk, whatever name you want put on it, but it's not folk music.

0:53:270:53:33

If there's one Smiths song I would pick which I would say that

0:53:330:53:37

the acoustic playing on it is just so important,

0:53:370:53:40

kind of almost drives the song along and makes everything just a wee bit more bucolic, kind of thing,

0:53:400:53:45

is William It Was Really Nothing.

0:53:450:53:47

It was written on an acoustic

0:53:470:53:49

in a transit van going down the motorway.

0:53:490:53:52

I had this acoustic and I just started going...

0:53:520:53:55

HE STRUMS CHORDS

0:53:550:53:56

# Rain falls hard on a humdrum town

0:54:060:54:10

# This town has dragged you down... #

0:54:100:54:13

And it may be because it was the noise of sitting in the back of a van, with no seats, on a mattress.

0:54:140:54:21

I needed to hear myself, so I just started to play something loud and hyperactive, you know.

0:54:210:54:26

But the whole band, the bass and the drums all go along with that rhythm.

0:54:260:54:31

And the song is, kind of, erm, propelled by that.

0:54:310:54:36

# William, William it was

0:54:430:54:48

# Really nothing

0:54:480:54:50

# William, William it was

0:54:500:54:55

# Really nothing

0:54:550:54:58

# It was your life... #

0:54:580:55:01

It just feels like it's the bed for everything else.

0:55:010:55:05

And sometimes when an acoustic guitar is that important,

0:55:050:55:08

it almost becomes more important than drums.

0:55:080:55:10

# How can you stay with a fat girl who'll say, "Oh

0:55:100:55:15

# "Would you like to marry me?

0:55:150:55:16

# "And if you like you can buy the ring..." #

0:55:160:55:18

The combination of an acoustic and electric is a wonderful thing

0:55:180:55:21

because they don't really get in the way of each other.

0:55:210:55:24

They occupy different parts of the sonic range within a record.

0:55:240:55:28

And you'll find that a lot of great rock acts over the years

0:55:280:55:30

like REM or The Smiths, or any of those great bands,

0:55:300:55:33

they often put a little bit of acoustic amongst the electrics

0:55:330:55:36

and it just helps glue the rhythm section to the guitars.

0:55:360:55:40

Sometimes the acoustic guitar brings the band closer together.

0:55:400:55:45

And it definitely reigns the electric guitar in, makes it more gentle. Makes it more regal.

0:55:450:55:50

I don't know, there's just something there

0:55:520:55:55

where everything feels as if it's couched in some kind of Ready Brek glow.

0:55:550:55:59

Proud as a peacock, the acoustic guitar.

0:56:120:56:15

# Well, I'm up on the eleventh floor

0:56:150:56:17

# And I'm watching the cruisers below... #

0:56:170:56:20

It's been an essential part of rock 'n' roll from the very beginning, and has never gone away.

0:56:200:56:25

As crucial to a rock band as the bass, drums, and its electric brother.

0:56:250:56:30

It is the basis of popular music today.

0:56:300:56:34

It goes away and it comes back, goes away, comes back. It's always there.

0:56:340:56:37

A little thrum in the background. There's always some acoustic music around.

0:56:370:56:42

# I'll take advantage while

0:56:420:56:45

# You hang me out to dry... #

0:56:450:56:49

A gentle music machine that's at the heart of even the loudest of bands.

0:56:490:56:53

Acoustic music is not just

0:56:530:56:57

rock 'n' roll music and it's not just folk music, it is music.

0:56:570:57:02

# Come on, let me tell you what you're missing

0:57:020:57:05

# Messing round these brick walls... #

0:57:050:57:07

The most complete artists seem to be able to switch in between,

0:57:090:57:13

harnessing the power of a band

0:57:130:57:16

and also just showing how gentle the acoustic guitar can be.

0:57:160:57:19

MUSIC: "Wonderwall" by Oasis

0:57:190:57:22

The musicians' bedfellow, collaborator and best friend.

0:57:230:57:28

It's all you need.

0:57:280:57:30

I don't know of anything else in my life that's like that, really.

0:57:300:57:34

A humble box with six strings that can write your song,

0:57:350:57:39

break your heart and set a stadium alight.

0:57:390:57:42

# I don't believe that anybody

0:57:420:57:45

# Feels the way I do about you now

0:57:450:57:48

# And all the roads we have to walk are winding

0:57:510:57:56

# And all the lights that light the way are blinding

0:57:560:58:00

# There are many things that I would like to say to you

0:58:000:58:05

# But I don't know how

0:58:050:58:08

# I don't know how

0:58:080:58:10

# Because maybe

0:58:100:58:13

# You're gonna be the one that saves me

0:58:130:58:18

# And after all

0:58:180:58:23

# You're my wonderwall. #

0:58:230:58:26

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:58:260:58:29

-Cheers.

-CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

0:58:330:58:35

The cliche of classic rock guitar is one of riffs, solos and noise. But write a list of great guitarists and their finest moments and a quieter, more intense playing comes to the fore. The acoustic guitar is the secret weapon in the armoury of the guitar hero, when paradoxically they get more attention by playing quietly than being loud.

This documentary takes an insightful and occasionally irreverent look at the love affair between rock and the humble acoustic guitar. Exploring a much less celebrated, yet crucial part of the rock musician's arsenal, contributors including Johnny Marr, Keith Richards, Ray Davies, James Dean Bradfield, Biffy Clyro, Joan Armatrading, Donovan and Roger McGuinn discuss why an instrument favoured by medieval minstrels and singing nuns is as important to rock 'n' roll as the drums, bass and its noisy sister, the electric guitar.