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Phil O'Keefe

The best 12 string songs

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I saw this article a moment ago and thought it would be an interesting subject for discussion.

 

http://www.myrareguitars.com/12-songs-for-12-strings

 

So... what do you think? Is their list a good one, or do you disagree with some of their selections? And what about possible omissions - is there anything glaring you feel they left off the list?

 

What is your favorite use of a 12 string guitar (electric or acoustic) on a recording?

 

 

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Kinda tame. I'd add R.E.M., the Smiths, Leadbelly, Zeppelin, and Rush. I love the Byrds and the Beatles, but they were playing around with the relatively new electric 12 string. Peter Buck and Johnny Marr explored tonal melody and used it more like an instrument in an orchestra rather than a lead instrument.

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Dave Mason's rhythm playing on All Along the Watchtower on Electric Ladyland by the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Hendrix's 12-string playing on his acoustic version of Hear My Train A'Comin'.

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Kinda tame. I'd add R.E.M.' date=' the Smiths, Leadbelly, Zeppelin, and Rush. I love the Byrds and the Beatles, but they were playing around with the relatively new electric 12 string. Peter Buck and Johnny Marr explored tonal melody and used it more like an instrument in an orchestra rather than a lead instrument.[/quote']

 

 

 

I am a fan of early REM. Peter Buck was one of the first to come to mind. I'm not sure which tunes were a 12 string and which were just the Rickenbacker 6 with some effects.

 

Johnny Marr is another one.

 

Love them both, as well as others like Tom Petty and Mike Campbell.

 

Many years ago I saw The Church, and Marty Wilson Piper is a huge Rickenbacker 12 string player. I don't recall him switching guitars. At a Marty Wilson Piper solo show he played a Takamine 12 string most of the time.

 

So Central Rain

Don't Go Back to Rockville

Under the Milkway.

 

David Bowie often played a 12 string. Overshadowed by Mick Ronson :D

[video=youtube;3qrOvBuWJ-c]

 

 

 

 

 

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Peter used Mitch Easter's Fender 12 string on the first two LPs, and I still don't know 100% what he used on Fables. People forget that REM were not rich rockstars until maybe their fifth or sixth albums. It's not like Peter could easily afford a Ric 12 back in the early eighties, but I'm not him. A lot of fans say, "Well, I have a finely tuned ear..." But I have never read him say it in an interview or seen pictures of him with a Ric 12 string in the studio from that era. He did say he only brought one guitar to those sessions because he had to take the tube to get there. Whatever was in the studio is what he used.

 

Of course, he used Danelectro and Epiphones later on despite owning many Rickenbackers. Go figure.

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many years ago a buddy of mine and I were in a bar, and their 'live music' was a guy playing 12 string badly and singing, well, more badly. My buddy, pretty much done listening to this hack, says 'can you play "Over the Hills and Far Away"?'

And the guy smiles and nods...and my buddy say 'then get going...' :badump:

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I was a big fan of Chicago in the 70s, and while there's a 12 string on it, I don't think that song would have ever crossed my mind as an example of something that features a 12 string prominently. :lol:

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Kinda tame. I'd add R.E.M.' date=' the Smiths, Leadbelly, Zeppelin, and Rush. I love the Byrds and the Beatles, but they were playing around with the relatively new electric 12 string. Peter Buck and Johnny Marr explored tonal melody and used it more like an instrument in an orchestra rather than a lead instrument.[/quote']

 

Okay, how about some specifics? Which Smiths song(s)? Which R.E.M song(s)?

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Okay, how about some specifics? Which Smiths song(s)? Which R.E.M song(s)?

 

I mean... A lot of them. Most of their albums.

 

From Murmur: "Laughing," "Sitting Still," "Shaking Through," "We Walk," and "West of the Fields."

 

Reckoning: "So Central Rain," "Pretty Persuasion," "Time After Time," "Second Guessing," and "Letter Never Sent."

 

Fables of the Reconstruction: "Feeling Gravity's Pull," "Maps and Legends," "Life and How to Live It," "Green Grow the Rushes," "Kohoutek," "Good Advices,"

 

Life's Rich Pageant: "Swan Swan H"

 

Document was largely a mix of Rickenbacker 360 and Les Paul. Same for Green, which is largely Les Paul.

 

Out of Time; "Radio Song," and "Losing My Religion" (Yeah, there's an acoustic 12 string playing rhythm behind the mandolin). Maybe "Near Wild Heaven."

 

Automatic was a mostly acoustic album, Monster is their retro glam rock album, New Adventures is their experimental rock album, and then there's the more electronic Up.

 

Reveal: "The Lifting," "All the Way to Reno," "Disappear," "Imitation of Life,"

 

Around the Sun: "Leaving New York," and "Around the Sun."

 

Are you asking me to pick favorites amongst what is a large chunk of their discography? It's easier with the Smiths because they only had four main studio LPs, but R.E.M. is my favorite band and the reason I own a Rickenbacker.

 

Not to mention all of the early Glen Campbell albums, including his instrumental acoustic ones. He has a song called "Bulldurem" that is exceptional:

 

The Smiths have: "The Headmaster Ritual," "I Want the One I Can't Have," "That Joke isn't Funny Anymore," "Well I Wonder," "Cemetry Gates," "Bigmouth Strikes Again," "The Boy With a Thorn in his Side," "There is a Light That Never Goes Out," "I Started Something," "Girlfriend in a Coma," "Stop Me if You Think You've Heard this One Before," "Unhappy Birthday," and so many others.

 

If you want me to narrow them down, I'd say...

 

"West of the Fields,"

"Pretty Persuasion,"

"Maps and Legends,"

"Green Grow the Rushes"

"Radio Song,"

"Leaving New York,"

"Unhappy Birthday,"

"Bigmouth Strikes Again,"

"That Joke isn't Funny Anymore."

 

And that's just for two artists. Besides the Beatles and the Byrds, Glen Campbell was a powerhouse of twelve string tunes, and his breakthrough LP Gentle on my Mind has him with a 12 string Mosrite on the cover. People who write these articles don't even have decent knowledge of Rock and Roll, let alone Folk or Blues.

 

 

 

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Laugh if you want but the guitar solo is played on an acoustic 12-string. The song wouldn't be the same without it, at least to me.

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Free Falling by Tom Petty.

 

Sorry, I'm a fanatical Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers fan.

I love his music over 90% of the Metal I play or the Metal I listen to.

Mike Campbell is criminally over looked as one of the greatest guitarists ever.

Edited by AJ6stringsting
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Mike Campbell is criminally over looked as one of the greatest guitarists ever.

 

I absolutely agree. Mike is a great (and IMHO highly under-rated) player. :philthumb:

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So... what do you think? Is their list a good one, or do you disagree with some of their selections? And what about possible omissions - is there anything glaring you feel they left off the list?

 

What is your favorite use of a 12 string guitar (electric or acoustic) on a recording?

 

 

Wellll.....

 

This will raise some feathers. First, the article is about the 12 string in rock and roll, so I suppose in that context, the list is valid. And yes, many good rock and rollers have picked up a 12 and played it on one or two of their songs, but honestly, none of them specialized in that sound (except maybe McGuinn). And in the opening paragraph they say " The result? In a word… “Jangle!” We all know the sound. It is instantly recognizable as a twelve string guitar, and when you hear it, it truly makes you want to have one."

 

And yes, jangle is the sound of the twelve string in most (but not all) of these examples. But in my humble, jangle is not the twelve string's best sound, and in fact I rather don't care for it. If you look at these songs and players, some are using true electric guitars, but several (including McGuinn, SRV) are in fact playing acoustics. And with in the electrics, the Rickenbacker has a pretty signature sound - I think they are played for that, not just because they are a 12 string.

 

So, where am I going with this? I believe the 12 string is a completely different instrument than a six and should be played as such. I like them tuned down, sometimes way down, and I think they work far better for blues, folk and American Primative than rock and roll. So here would be a partial list of their (intentional) omissions

 

Ledbelly (Huddy Leadbetter) - Midnight Special, In the PInes (Black Girl), Good Night Irene (Stella, strung with cables, tuned in the cellar)

 

Barbecue Bob - how about Diddle-Da-Diddle but there are a bunch, including some pretty tasty slide work. (Another Stella)

 

Memphis Minnie - If You See My Rooster, When the Levee Breaks, many others. (Yet another Stella)

 

Pete Seeger - If I Had a Hammer, This Land is Your Land, (Bruce, not Bob, Taylor, long scale, tuned down)

 

Roof Top Singers - one hit poney, Walk Right In - (matching left and right handed Gibson 12's)

 

McGuinn when he was with the Byrds - (Rick, distinctive jangle)

 

David Crosby when he was with the Byrds - (modified D18,distinctive acoustic)

 

Glen Campbell did a lot on the 12 string but funny thing, I don't remember any of them (Ovation)

 

SRV - Life By the Drop - (big beautiful Guild - IMHO Guild makes some of the best 12's in the world)

 

Leo of course - everything from 6 & 12 String guitars, but especially Vaseline Machine Gun, Tennessee Toad, Sailors Grave, Crow River Waltz... ( Leo is famous for his old Gibson that got stolen and his Bozo, now plays the sig Taylors)

 

Alvin Youngblood Hart (Big Mamma's Doorstep) and Paul Geremia (everything) are keeping the old blues alive. (Both play old Stellas and new Fraulini's)

 

Art Sulger and Chris Proctor are arranging new things on the old guitar - highly recommended (Taylors, the other great modern 12)

 

some old fart named Keller who tries to build and play these things in the style that he thinks sounds the best - down tuned, finger picked and totally acoustic

 

I'm editing my list to include Robbie Bashio - an obscure and eclectic 12 string player from the early Kottke/Fahey days. His music was inspired (and often strange), usually in open tunings and I don't thing there are vid or many cd's of his stuff. I have one old vinyl of him, gave up trying to figure out what he was doing.

 

Adding to all my other rants about 12 strings, I think they are very suited not only to down tuning but also to open tuning. All of the octaves and partials can get very complex - no wonder they have been called "the grand pianos of the guitar world"

Edited by Freeman Keller
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