Underappreciated Artists: Chris Spedding19th July 2014 • No comments
(Chris Spedding-Video Life)
(The Kinks Cover)
(Title track Off of Pearls 2011)
Chris Spedding is an incredibly skilled lead guitarist. He plays fast, clean, is very creative, and adept at solos. Known for his trademark Gibson Flying V guitar, which has a warm, loud, but not overly distorted sound due to the limba wood it uses. There was a quote on AllMusic which said, to paraphrase, that Chris Spedding’s lack of stardom in America was not for lack of commitment. Though his self titled album(1976) did well, featuring, “Motorbiking”. He also had many singles, “Video Life”, and ‘Jump in My Car”, originally by the Ted Mulry Gang, “Save the Life”, and I’m not Like Everybody Else.” are notable hits.
Just as often Spedding was a studio session guitarist for many of the more popular musicians of the 60’s through 80’s. From Paul McCartney to Tom Waits, Chris Spedding did it all. He contributed to Tom Waits’ most defining album, Rain Dogs, played on Coming from Reality by Sixto Rodriguez, played with Brian Eno, and produced the Sex Pistols first demos. He was a part of Battered Ornaments, Sharks, as well as The Wombles; a band created for a children’s show where the members dressed up in silly costumes.
Now to the music: Perhaps his most well known song, “Video Life,” has one of the most unique riffs I know, a great 50’s bassline. I tend to think he’s talking about escape from the mundane, and love, of course- “Got to take evasive action, got to do it pretty soon, for fear of aerial warfare right here in your room. Video life, tune in, make the image clear, video life, baby, baby, I love you so.” “Jump in My Car” has one of the better feel good riffs but awful lyrics. “Get Outta My Pagoda” has a good solo type riff and angry lyrics; “Fi, Fie, Fo, Feeble, I smell the blood of the English People” Chris raves during this song. It’s about an argument in a temple or home. Also, who has a pagoda? His cover of The Kinks’ “I’m Not Like Everybody Else” is defining for Chris Spedding and “The Crying Game” may be his most poignant song because it covers a topic not often covered. The resolution, or cost, of pain over the years: “I’ll ask the moon, and maybe he’ll explain. Why there are heartaches.” he sings. “She’s My Friend,” “Wild Women,” and “White Lady,” all cover love. Last but certainly not least, we have “Wild in the Streets”. Always sensitive, but he flashes his rawness here, “Your teenage jive would be a mess running wild in the streets.”
As for albums, Chris Spedding, Cafe Days, Just Plug Him In!, Pearls, One Step Ahead of the Blues, and The Very Best of Chris Spedding are all good. Just Plug Him In! is a compilation and The Very Best of Chris Spedding is just that.
Overall he’s a great guitarist, good singer, personable, with clever but depressing, and over sensitive lyrics, 50’s bass, Elvis influence, and a talented performer. Chris Spedding may see himself as a late bloomer and his last few albums have gotten sadder. Johnny Marr is on his upcoming album, Joyland, and there is also a book called “Chris Spedding: Reluctant Guitar Hero.”