Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

All Aboard: The Randy Rhoads Guitar Train

I remember the day that I got the Tribute tab book.

I put the head phones on and listened to the album over and over while my index finger pointed out/followed the notes. After that first listen I went to the guitar, tuned up and started to play the basic riffs. After playing through the tab book in that fashion, I went back to the head phones and started following the notes again. I didn’t know it at the time but by doing this I was storing the image of the progressions in my mind. In a weird way, that is how I started to remember the songs.

Then I went back to the guitar and played through the whole album again with a lot of mistakes around the lead breaks.

I did this routine for months until I perfected the album. The music of Randy Rhoads became my bible. It was a religion. 32 years have passed and the legend remains. The memories remain. The teacher remains.

I remember the time when I traded my cousin a few Twisted Sister 12 inch singles for the “Quiet Riot II” album with Randy Rhoads. I needed to have it. My cousin wouldn’t part with it. I kept on persisting and finally he agreed. I was on a train to his place the same day.

Studying the style of Randy Rhoads, I learned all about modes and the different scales that are made from each note of the mode, like Ionian, Phyrgian, Dorian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian and Locrian. I even named my son after one of the modes. It’s so easy to dismiss musical theory, however when you have an actual song that you can refer to, it makes it so much more easier to learn.

Wolf Marshall did an unbelievable job with the book transcription and on the commentary on each song. Actually Wolf Marshall was the transcription god back then. Another was Dave Whitehill. Experienced, super-talented and knowledgeable guitar players that broke down so many doors with their transcriptions and made it easier for young guitar players to pick up the guitar and practice.

“Crazy Train” was the first song I mastered. At the time, Alex Sklonick also had a column in the magazine “Guitar For The Practicing Musician”. In one of those columns, Skolnick also talked about modes and how “Crazy Train” is in the key of A Major and how it switches between the minor and major modes throughout the song. At the time it was a lot to take in however once you get it, you get it. Plus having a song like Crazy Train to refer too, who wouldn’t get it.

That one song has all the tools that every guitarist should possess.

Power Chords. CHECK. The All- Aboard part, the pre chorus and the chorus.
Pedal Point Riff. CHECK. The Intro F#m riff, along with the verse riff.
Movable Chord Shapes over a Pedal Point. CHECK. The whole verse riff that moves from A to E to D.
Finger Tapping. CHECK. Lead Break
Hammer Ons and Pull Offs. CHECK. In the Chorus and the Lead Break and sprinkled throughout the verse riffs.
Legato Lines. CHECK. In the Lead Break.
Palm Muting. CHECK. In the F#m riff and the lead break.
Alternate Picking. CHECK. Throughout the whole song.
Bends. CHECK. In the Chorus lead interludes and the Lead Break.

And then when you start to go through all of the other songs, you see/hear all of the above tools re-used, which re-enforces all the techniques. Some songs had finger picking and arpeggios. Randy Rhoads was the definition of completeness.

By creating great music, he also taught us how to be better guitar players. Everything made sense. You can take a teacher and make them a rock star, however you can never stop the rock star from being a teacher and that is exactly what Randy Rhoads was. A teacher.

Bob Daisley on his website released some snippets of what he calls the “Holy Grail”. Small snippets of jam sessions with Randy Rhoads. Hearing them just made me crank the Blizzard, Diary and Tribute albums again.

If something like Spotify was around in the Eighties, imagine the stream metrics these songs would have by now. It’s no surprise that “Crazy Train” is Ozzy’s most played track on Spotify with 15 million plus streams. “Mr Crowley” is up there with 4.9 million streams. Go on YouTube and there are hundreds of channels that have the song, with a lot of views on each channel. One fan channel has over 15 million views. Another has 5 million.

That is Randy Rhoads. His reach on one song is huge. Add to that all the others and it’s a crazy train alright. Rest in peace brother.

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