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Say Yes to the astonishing guitar solo from ‘Starship Trooper’
04:31 am


Steve Howe

If you’re “of a certain age”—say early-50s on up—then progrock was most likely part of the musical background of your existence. You might not have exactly requested it specifically—was there anyone who could have anticipated, say, Jethro Tull?—but inescapably songs like “Aqualung,” Emerson Lake and Palmer’s “Lucky Man” and “Roundabout” by Yes were part of the soundtrack to your young life, even if it was just through osmosis. These days you can avoid the mainstream, back then it’s all there was and prog was the big thing for a while…

However, if you’re around my age (I’m 48) progrock groups were seen as the enemy. Budding young rock snob that I was, I can recall picking up Uriah Heep, ELP, Robin Trower and Nektar albums at garage sales when I was in the 5th grade and being fairly perplexed that people actually liked this kind of stuff, or that I myself might be expected to like such crappy music to “fit in” or something. It was confusing when I first started buying records—an album by The Who, The Stones or The Kinks from the 60s would be great, whereas one from 1976 would be just… fucking terrible. In any case, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols came out two days after my 11th birthday and that confusion ended. Instantly. If you were all “punk rock,” then you had no time for progrock bands. You hated them. They were all totally unredeemably shit. (All of them, except for maybe King Crimson. Robert Fripp, now he was cool.)

Things being the way they are, eventually the record industry, or at least a few heroic indie labels, began to sell the again MOJO-reading public on the notion of opening their ears up to music they’d have shunned in the past. Admittedly, it’s only been in recent years that I’ve personally been willing to consider the prog rock genre seriously, and not be reflexively close-minded about it. I’ve simply exhausted most other sections at the record store, and I’ve got an insatiable appetite for finding new music, so why not prog? Much of what I’ve been picking up on are the surround sound editions that Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson has been working on, revamping classic prog albums for 5.1 audio. If Wilson is involved in it, I definitely want to hear it and as a result I’m discovering some great “new” music, like, you know… Jethro Tull.

Good times!

So yeah... um… Yes? “Roundabout” aside, I never liked Yes and never really had the time for them. I didn’t hate them, but they wore capes and seemed very “Middle Earth” to me which had pretty much no appeal to me whatsoever when I could listen to Kraftwerk, David Bowie, The Residents or Public Image Ltd. (Ironically PiL’s Keith Levene was a roadie for Yes in 1974). It was earlier this year when my wife admitted that she was a “closet” Yes fan that I decided to bring Wilson’s Close to the Edge 5.1 surround mix home from the record store for both of us to listen to (I’m always accused of monopolizing the stereo, so this was a sop to that criticism.) I quickly got pretty obsessed with that album—ultimately annoying her with it in the process, I’ sure—but the thing that that just knocked down any resistance to the glory that is Yes, for me, was hearing Steven Wilson’s surround treatment of “Würm,” the third movement of The Yes Album‘s “Starship Trooper.”

Sublime. Glorious. It’s a soaring electric guitar symphony. Playing it loud—I mean really loud—it gets to the point where you feel like you’re standing on the tarmac as a jet takes off. It’s a crazy good. Even if you hate progrock in general, or Yes in particular, you can make an exception for this amazing song. Once you do, you’ll get why Yes was such a huge act in the 70s and beyond. It—they—suddenly clicked for me. Now I love them, or at least I love some of their albums.

But here’s the thing, “Würm” and its memorable, hypnotic riff and blistering guitar solo, was actually taken from a song called “Nether Street” that had been recorded by Howe’s post Tomorrow and pre Yes band, Bodast, in 1968 or 69. It came to naught for them although Howe was loyal enough to the group to stick with them in the face of recruitment attempts from both Jethro Tull and Keith Emerson’s band The Nice before packing it in. Howe revived “Nether Street” for “Starship Trooper” in 1971, but it wasn’t until 1981 that the original recording saw the light of day.

Steve Howe told Music Radar:

The song wasn’t rehearsed; it was constructed in the studio from various pieces. I had the Wurm part from another band I used to be in called Bodast. It was in a song called “The Ghost Of Nether Street.” We’d recorded an album, but the label closed down, and so the record never came out.

I always loved the section as a whole piece of music, so I decided to carry it over to Yes. I like the way it goes from G to E-flat to C, but different things happen on the roots. Although it repeats endlessly, it sometimes has the fifth below roots on the chords. It sounds like a lot going on, and of course, it’s flanged.

The build-up of it is very impressive. It splits into two guitar tracks, one side taking a solo. Somehow, we did a bunch of takes, and so we’d pick the best of each. They were all done as complete takes. I remember thinking that I was sort of jamming with myself.

The “Disillusion” section came from another old song: “For Everyone” was a Yes number written by bassist Chris Squire that was played in concert back in the Peter Banks days but never recorded.

Our guest editors Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd pay tribute to the mighty “Würm” with the name of their new Electric Würms project. The Würm is also a river in Bavaria which gave its name to the Würm glaciation ice age when Scandinavia and much of Britain were under ice. Wurm (sans the umlaut) is an Olde English word for “dragon.”

Here’s “Starship Trooper” as heard on The Yes Album. If you’re one of those people—like I was—resistant to progrock, turn this sucker up good and loud and let it wash all the fuck over you. It’s over nine minutes long, but the build-up is crucial.

Here’s the original Bodast recording of “Nether Street.” Almost as amazing as “Würm” itself for—ahem—damned obvious reasons!

A fan-made video of “Starship Trooper” as it was heard on the live Yessongs album (In the concert film only the final part of the song is used, so the earlier shots are from other numbers. It works.)

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The Strawberry Alarm Clock’s marvelous custom Mosrite guitars

Of all the psych era’s strivers, I have the softest of soft spots for The Strawberry Alarm Clock. They embraced so many of the era’s musical and fashion tropes so thoroughly they couldn’t help but instantly become a badge for psychedelia (and psychedelic kitsch) itself. They made a huge impact crater with their 1967 debut LP and single, both called Incense and Peppermints (I didn’t even need to tell you that, did I? I’m guessing that song has been playing in your head from the moment you read the band’s name in the headline). They followed up with 1968’s more modestly successful but still worthy Wake Up… It’s Tomorrow, but that would be the end of the band’s classic lineup. In the years after Tomorrow, the band cycled through a number of membership changes, and every subsequent release saw diminishing returns, which, combined with internal struggles over musical direction as the psychedelic era petered out, splintered the band by 1971. Notably, their guitarist Ed King would join up with Lynyrd Skynyrd, and flautist/guitarist Steve Bartek would resurface a few years later as Danny Elfman’s second-banana in Oingo Boingo.

But in just a few short years of existence, that band got to do tons of cool stuff. The massive success of Incense propelled the band to countless TV appearances, and prominent performance segments in the film Psych-Out and the notorious Roger Ebert/Russ Meyer clusterfuck Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. They appeared on the debut episode of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, and one of them even served as a bachelor on The Dating Game, and won.

But as much fun as all that must have been, I’d ponder giving it all up in exchange for the other amazing perk of being a SAC—these amazing custom-built Mosrite guitars, one of which has been enshrined in the Smithsonian Institution.



The SAC Mosrite on display with the Chinery Collection at the Smithsonian

In 2009, The Unique Guitar blog  ran this amusing and opinionated account of these guitars’ creation. The blogger seems not to have cared much for folk or psych.

[Luthier Semie] Moseley’s fortune came and went and came back and went again. Moseley guitars that sold for up to $300 in the 1960’s are now being sought after by collectors and bring in tens of thousands of dollars. There are over 30 companies making copies of Mosrite style guitars.

Which brings us to The Strawberry Alarm Clock.

In the late 1960’s, about ten years after The Folk Scare, we encountered another music problem that came to be known as The Psychedelic Era. This was characterized by guys usually dressed in clothing they bought from women’s clothing stores (that’s where Hendrix got his attire…you don’t believe me? Check it out!) who imagined they could play guitar which led to writing really awful poetry to complete their musical scat. Essentially these fellows just made extremely loud noise through powerful Frigidaire sized amplifiers and sang their meaningless bad lyrics.

The Strawberry Alarm Clock was one group that actually showed some skill and put together some tunes that people enjoyed. So the music powers that be got them a lot of air time on the radio and a lot of face time in concerts. I won’t go into all the Alarm Clock’s history. Suffice to say, “Incense and Peppermints” is still one of those classic songs no matter how hard you try, you can’t get out of your head because you’ve heard it since 1967 due to 47 years of radio play.

Somehow Moseley hooked up with the Alarm Clock and was commissioned to design as set of two guitars and a bass for the group. These guitars all had Mosrite style parts, pickups, vibrato and bridges, but also had the bizarre feature of being surrounded by a wooden frame.

After finishing the bodies, Moseley shipped them to famed California artist Von Dutch. He was known for unusual auto pin striping and painted body designs as well as painted designs on surfboards. Due to his involvement the guitar became known also as The Surfboard Guitars.


It strikes me as incredibly weird that there don’t seem to be any photos or videos of the band actually playing, or even just posing with these. If someone made me something this beautifully bonkers, I’d be showing it off ’til you wanted to kick me. So since there doesn’t seem to be any motion footage of these guitars, and since you’ve surely already heard “Incense and Peppermints” more than enough times in your life, here’s some rare footage of the band’s segment in Laugh In, wearing rain gear and wrecking a car with sledgehammers, because the Summer of Love was OVER, maaaaaaaan.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Playable glass guitar bong
08:30 am



According to the Hail Mary Jane website, this handmade glass guitar bong (or is it a bowl?) is fully-functional as a musical instrument.

It sure looks like a bitch to clean. Wouldn’t you get resin all over the fret board? And a glass guitar? My husband once broke two regular glass bongs in a 24 hour period. How long would this puppy last in the hands of someone who is stoned enough to actually want one of these?

“A” for effort, “F” for practicality.

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Wake ‘N Bake: Coffee cup weed pipe


Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Another funk master gone too soon: R.I.P. Phelps “Catfish” Collins

Sad news from Cincy is that Bootsy’s older brother Phelps Collins has lost his battle with cancer. This comes shortly after the equally bumming news of fellow Funkadelic guitarist Gary Shider’s passing.

The always-smiling rhythm guitarist started a band called the Pacemakers in 1968 and were soon scouted and picked up by James Brown to back him up. The brothers would record such classics as “Super Bad,” “Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine,” “Soul Power,” and “Give It Up or Turnit a Loose” before it became too much to deal with the Godfather. Then it was on to a wonderful decade with Parliament-Funkadelic and Bootsy’s Rubber Band, lacing masterpieces like “Flashlight” with his brightly sparking chikka-chikka. Phelps spent most of the past 20 years away from music, surfacing occasionally to play with groups like Deeee-lite and on soundtracks like Superbad.

He got some here at the famous L’Olympia with the JB’s in 1971, just before he and Bootsy said bye-bye to the Hardest Working Man…

After the jump: the bad-ass sounds of Phelps and Bootsy in ‘71 in between their tenures with the JBs and Parliament-Funkadelic!!

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment
Rest in P: Garry Shider

It’s with heavy hearts that we come upon news of the death at 56 years too-young of Funkadelic guitarist, writer and arranger Garry “Diaper Man” Shider.

As a teen in the late ‘60s, Shider first linked up with the visionary funkateer George Clinton at a barber shop in his native Plainfield, NJ where Clinton rehearsed his doo-wop group the Parliaments. He joined Clinton’s guitar section in 1971 and ended up writing and performing on some of Parliament Funkadelic’s classics, including “One Nation Under a Groove” and “Cosmic Slop.” Unlike many of his peers, Shider was able to smoothly navigate his bluesy, psychedelic style over the insistent thump of most of the Funkadelic repertoire.

He’s also the guitarist who’s stuck with Funkadelic’s exhausting touring schedule the longest.

Let us remember him in his 20-year-old glory here in a promo for his best-known composition (on which he sang lead), dressed in trademark diaper and Roman centurion-style cape with feathered shoulder shells.  



Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment