As I was on the treadmill this morning I listened to a great live show from the Rolling Stones. It was recorded in October of 1994 on their Voodoo Lounge tour and it reminded me about why The Stones are one of the greatest bands ever. It also reminded me of a few business points.
A big part of the band’s signature sound is the interplay between the two main guitar players.
Most bands have one player who is designated as the rhythm guitarist; the other one plays lead. When you listen to The Dead or other bands with multiple guitar players you can usually name the lead guitarist. While Bob Weir played the occasional solo, it’s pretty clear that Garcia was the lead.
Think about the Stones – who is the lead? I don’t think there is one, because of what Keith Richards called “the fine art of weaving.” That’s what he calls the blending of the two guitar parts into a seamless sound. It’s hard to tell which is playing the lead part and which is carrying the rhythm, and the correct answer to that will often change throughout the song. Which of course leads to the business points.
First, anyone who has ever heard the Stones’ sound can identify it immediately. Isn’t that sort of solid identification something all brands seek?
Second – while each of the guitar players in the band – Ron Wood and Keith Richards – can handle lead guitar well enough to front a band (which each has done – Wood with The Faces, Richards with numerous other projects), they sublimate their skill into “lesser” roles to create something bigger. How many co-workers, peers, and managers are willing to do be that selfless when the need is here?
Finally, they’re LIVE! No overdubs, no pre-recorded tracks. The band plays every note we hear and they deliver. This was 37 shows into a tour that would go on for almost another year yet they personified the old Joe DiMaggio quote. When asked why he played so hard, he replied: “Because there is always some kid who may be seeing me for the first time. I owe him my best.” How many of us can say the same each day?
The fine art of weaving and the work around it is becoming more rare these days. What are you doing to preserve it?