Joe Satriani

At the time of this writing, Pat Cooper still lives. So does Harry Dean Stanton! And Kirk Douglas!

In high school, I was ga-ga for “Joe Satch”. I admired the brass balls required to release an instrumental shred album in the mid-1980s. Of course, by Flying In A Blue Dream, somebody convinced Satch to do vocals. This happens with everybody. The stronger an artist is without a voice, the harder some twerp will try to make them sing. Kaki King is another example. Singing is fine, but what if it gilds the lily?

I saw Satriani in concert at least once. It was Jersey as fuck. I had a Flying In A Blue Dream T-shirt, which was deep blue with silkscreened accents, resembling the design of the CD. During that show, Satriani hit a note on his axe that vibrated something inside my cerebral cortex. The words “neon ponderosa” popped into my mind. I went on to use that as a “place” in Mike the Pod, and later a record label.

Tray card of Tailothepup’s Throw Up Throw Down (2004). The Neon Ponderosa logo is at bottom right.

I don’t know why I felt different because I listened to Joe Satriani records. Once the technology caught up, it would become the standard for video game soundtracks.

It’s even in one of the Guitar Hero games. There were ballads, too, which I found to be more palatable than concurrent offerings from Poison and Mr. Big. Again; the key is no vocals. No voices, no lies.

I would sit in my teenage bedroom and listen to that, and dream of imaginary relationships with imaginary girlfriends. Then I’d go get drunk and burn things. Grunt oof grunt.

It’s a little embarrassing that I didn’t recognize John Byrne’s style on the cover; the only Marvel comic I read as a kid that wasn’t Star Wars or Transformers was Alpha Flight. I loved the way Byrne drew mechanical details, even though his faces, while expressive, tended to lack variety. I had no knowledge of any kind of publishing house drama. A girl gifted me a copy of Alpha Flight #2 when I was 11, and I was hooked.

This comic book and John Byrne taught me the word “disembowel”.

Flying In A Blue Dream may or may not refer to the pot strain. It would be kinda cool if it did. It has a “getting high by yourself” vibe. I always wondered what the hell the sample at the beginning was.

In concert, Stuart Hamm played Vince Guaraldi’s “Linus and Lucy” on his bass. I have to mention that here because at the time, I drove my friends up the wall raving about it.

Inevitably, as I said, someone convinced Satch to warble. It’s forgivable, but it’s far from his strong suit. What can I say; it’s not like I sing any better.

Maybe I’m being too divisive. It could be that Joe wanted to sing, or that he was replying to listeners who wondered if he could. I’m kind of a fascist when it comes to vocals. I groan when people sing along with the radio.

I was raised to appreciate classical music, which today, is like being born disappointed. Remember a couple decades back, when exposure to classical music made smarter babies? Whatever happened with that?

Oh. Never mind. Just… forget I asked.

Joe Satriani’s music appeared in Billy Bob Thornton’s Sling Blade. I probably don’t have to tell you that’s one of the greatest movies ever made, independent or otherwise. Thornton is unrecognizable, and has received the accolades he deserves for his work, but my favorite is Dwight Yoakam. He plays the redneck villain, Doyle Hargraves.

Like the soap bar beating in Full Metal Jacket, Doyle provides a buffet of inappropriate laughs. He abuses literally everyone, even wheelchair-bound Vic Chesnutt and kindly gay John Ritter. He withstands a barrage of every object in a room, hurled by a raging child. But funniest of all, he subjects everyone within a mile radius to his monstrously shitty band.

When it comes time to pay the piper, Doyle says to get on with it. It’s an eerily authentic portrayal, one you don’t get to see often in Hollywood. Sling Blade was a high point in 1990s movies, and one hell of an start for Billy Bob Thornton. He went on to fuck Angelina Jolie in the limo, long before she resembled Christopher Walken with pneumonia. Like Doyle, he reportedly has a phobia of midgets and antique furniture. Like me, he nearly starved to death while a struggling artist, trying to live off potatoes.

Joe Satriani is highly regarded as a “guitar god” today, and you can find many YouTube videos of comely lasses performing his fingering style and music. I think he does clinics, like equally godlike drummer Vinnie Colaiuta. Solo work. Like just about any guy with an Italian surname you could mention. Italian guys don’t help each other.

Who tol’ ya that?!?

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