Why the guitar? you ask.
Perhaps because it’s the coolest instrument in the world.
Well, at least the people in this book think so.
For most of them, the first time they ever laid eyes on the instrument, its intoxicating allure was swift and explosive. Yet there was never a moment when they made the conscious choice to become a guitar player. Because that would mean there had been an option. For them, the calling of the guitar was irresistible.
Its graceful curves, its slender neck, its variety of shapes and colors, its infinity of sounds, and the way it feels against the body when slung over the shoulder and gripped in the hands are like Cupid’s arrows piercing the hearts of its lovers.
Once they experienced its enticing charms, they knew they could never keep their hands off. They realized their six-string journey of discovery would have no end. It’s a magnificent life sentence.
When you’re in high school, there’s nothing cooler than playing guitar in a rock band. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich, poor, short, fat, cute, or ugly, you are just fuckin’ cool, baby, because you play guitar in a rock band. And one of the coolest things is the connection that forms among band members. It’s a bond unlike any other.
Going through first-time life experiences, such as driving a car, having sex, breaking up, making up, and getting drunk or high, are richer experiences when you voyage through them with your band brothers.
Once they left behind the passion and warfare of their adolescent years, the people in the pages of this book variously faced challenges of addiction, rising to fame, attaining material success, reveling in excess, enduring financial ruin, hitting bottom, making comebacks, finding God, and experiencing touring demands that could cripple a platoon of Navy SEALs. Through it all, their guitar has been a faithful friend that is always there to turn to.
It offers unconditional acceptance to everyone, regardless of race, gender, religion, or personal shortcomings. It is a companion you can communicate with anytime, and it will never judge or abandon you.
With our hands on the guitar and a willingness to explore our innermost being, the instrument becomes a conduit of selfexpression to the outside. What lies underneath the skin comes to the surface. The cool become cooler, the geeky become geekier, the strong turn mighty, and the superficial hopelessly devolve. We cannot hide who we really are. We are naked to the world.
The guitar moves with us physically and emotionally, with a voice that bends, whispers, screams, purrs, and moans. And it does these things differently from any other instrument, provided that the player is a capable seducer.
The guitar breathes fire into all the styles of music that it plays. Just look at the expanse of its playground— jazz, classical, blues, folk, country, and, of course, rock. What a vapid world we would live in without it . . . quiet, too. Not only does it rule the world of its players, but entire subcultures also can be generated by the various ongoing permutations in guitar design. This is evidenced by the resurgent metal scene at the turn of the 21st century, spawned by the tuned-down seven-string guitar.
Some people devotedly practice their guitar for 15 hours a day and become shred machines, and some never practice and can barely form an E Major chord. Some people play a note or two, then polish their guitar and hang it on the wall like it’s a museum piece, while others smash it into little pieces and set it on fire. But regardless of all that, what moves the listener is the sincerity and confidence of the player.
A true guitar hero enters a guitar-induced hypnotic state and immerses the audience in an ocean of trance-induced audio elixir, thus revealing the secrets of his soul.
I have found that most great guitar players never feel as though they are good enough. A sign of humility, it is also a sign of real greatness.
Because of the technical advantages of its design, the dynamic range of the guitar is gigantic. There’s no limit to how softly and tenderly it can be caressed, or to how fiercely and chaotically it can be wailed upon. If you think about it, every note ever played on any guitar has never been played exactly the same way twice. Perhaps there are as many guitar notes that have been plucked as there are snowflakes that have fallen on the Earth. And you could probably find half of them in one of my solos . . . the stormy, icy ones.
Whether its sound is harshly distorted, crystal clean, organically acoustic, or highly processed, the instrument’s most enchanting attraction is the way its vibrating strings create attunement deep within its admirers. This resonance is uniquely satisfying, and to go without it for any period of time can result in auditory withdrawal pangs. We need our daily dose of strings!
Now it’s time to get esoteric on your ass.
I see the universe as a series of infinite vibrations that are resonating within each other. From the motions of the tiny atom to the orbits of the solar system to the expansion of the cosmos —all is in a state of constant vibration. Each color of the rainbow vibrates at its own frequency, and though they are more refined, thoughts and feelings are a form of vibration existing within a subtler dimension. All are set into motion by a primal action. And what that is, God only knows.
I believe that no other instrument captures the vibrational microcosm of the Creation like the guitar. Every “kirchang” of its strings is like the creation of a universe set into motion by its “kirchanger.” Aha! Perhaps that’s why so many guitarists have a God complex . . . ?
Nah, c’mon, we all know that lead singers are the real creators of the universe, for fuck’s sake!
Playing the guitar is a cathartic expression of self-discovery. And here’s the good news. You don’t have to be one of the people in this book to play it. Anyone can play guitar, and maybe everyone should. Please hear this loud and clear: It’s your right to play it, and it does not matter how good or bad you are. Guitar playing is a form of artistic expression and freedom, and in reality, there’s no wrong way to do it. Even if you have the technique or strength to set only one note into motion, it can envelop your spirit and light up your world. Just try it!
If you happen to be one of the elite players who made it into this book, it means that you have heard the call of the guitar, fallen in love with it, and have taken your life’s journey with a handful of six-string soul. It was also inevitable that at some point along the way, your destiny dictated you would be given orders by a more powerful voice than that of your own muse. It was the voice of the infamous creator of the photos in this book.
The voice that demands, “Chin up! Come on, get your fuckin’ chin up and give me some fuckin’ attitude! WE AIN’T GOT ALL FUCKIN’ DAY!”
Such are the demands of Neil Zlozower.
Now, the music industry has its share of colorful and talented people, and many of them are in front of the camera. Although Zlozower is one of the people on the other side of the camera, he’s no less gifted at what he does than the people whose historical images he preserves for posterity. He’s a character such as you will never find anywhere else. I’ll try to give you a clue as to the intensity that is “The Zloz.”
Neil Zlozower is rock and roll to the bone! For 40 years, he’s been nailing on film images of renowned “kirchangers,” and this book is the culmination of that passion.
Zlozower is brutally honest. There’s no stop valve between his brain and his mouth. He doesn’t care who you are or how famous you are; if you are talking to him, you’d better be prepared to hear the Zloz truth. Whenever I’m with him, I can’t wait to hear what’s going to come out of his mouth next. He’s freakin’ hilarious! I’ve heard him say things that were so raunchy that the input jack on my guitar closed up.
He’s loud and raw. Just read his intro to this book and check out how many exclamation marks he uses. He’s yelling at you, even when you can’t hear him.
He’s ferociously protective of his work and has set precedents around the world for the rights of photographers. There is a copyright notice somewhere in this book regarding the use of these photos. I suggest adhering to it.
But more than anything, he is a conscientious professional who is attentive to every detail and does whatever it takes to get the shot. The guy is always on time and tireless when he works. He still gets excited over a good idea and is not afraid to try to execute it. I’ve seen him clamber through some of Hollywood’s filthiest alleys in the blazing L.A. heat, naked from the waist up, wearing nothing but a tattoo of the Dalai Lama on one arm, a tattoo of the Buddha on the other, torn-up motorcycle boots, and funky gray shorts so skimpy that his sweaty balls are hanging out, just to snag the ideal photo.
There’s a rough charm about him, but you have to have the right lens to view it. Underneath the wildman in the shorts is a person who is deeply respectful of those he works with. He’s not content until his subjects are also happy with his shots.
Neil is arguably the finest rock photographer in history, and this book is one of his masterpieces.
But I have to end now, because I just got an e-mail from him that says, “Are you fucking finished writing yet?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! Come on, Stevie darling, I AIN’T GOT ALL FUCKIN’ DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Hey, Zloz, keep your balls in your shorts. I’m done.
— Steve Vai