Linked In: A Powerful Chord

Your personal discovery of music so often takes you on a trip to the past. Maybe I’m bored and jaded but I don’t go leaping over the moon listening to a lot of music today that others wax eloquent on. And then I pull out my CDs, sift through them and let the act bring to the fore of memory forgotten heroes. And so I came by, gladly once again, two pioneering guitarists. This post is about one of them.

The power chord is stock-in-trade of rock guitarists. I’m never comfortable with ascribing to a single source the invention of something because that assumes an idea can be planted in the imagination of only one mind. Whether Link Wray ‘invented’ the power chord or not is a moot point then but he probably played the most important part in placing it up front and centre of a rock guitarist’s repertoire of tricks. The power chord, by the way, employs 2 notes – the basic and the note 5 intervals away from it – as different from the normal minimum of 3 notes to a chord. I won’t bother you with the details – you can look it up in as much detail you want. But this is what it sounds like.

That familiar jhang-jhang-jhang (I know, it sounds horrible when put like that but it hopefully helps identify the part that I’m talking about) is from ‘Rumble’, the song that put Link Wray on the musical map. It’s a sound that we’re so used to now but back in 1958-59 it shook up the airwaves. That song title was quite apt. I think it was banned on New York city radio stations for its feral, riot-inducing, innocence-sucking sound…or so the powers-that-be thought. Familiar story, huh? That thing, the power chord, is one of the most influential sounds in rock history. Countless artists have claimed its inspirational hold on them. Although ‘Rumble’ became his signature Link Wray left behind a worthwhile body of work, songs like the mean and dirty ‘Big City After Dark’  and the quirky and fun ‘Run Chicken Run’.  And my favourite, the mesmerising ‘Jack the Ripper’ which I think is his finest.

I had 3 of his albums on cassette many years ago. I got myself a CD of most of his best work later. If you’re interested in Link Wray’s music, I’d strongly recommend the ‘Rumble! The Best of Link Wray’ compilation.

My next post will be on another hugely influential musician. And Wray and he are, erm, linked albeit loosely.

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