By Steve Newton

Sometimes when I listen to a musician perform I wonder to myself, “How did they get so goddamn good?”

And sometimes–if I meet said musician in my capacity as a music writer–I’ll just flat out ask them how they got so goddamn good.

I did it with guitarist Guthrie Govan last year, and a couple of days ago I did it with bassist Tal Wilkenfeld, who you may recognize from all those YouTube videos with Jeff Beck where her playing just blows you right the fvck away.

On Wednesday Tal called me up from the road while on the tour that brings her to Vancouver’s Biltmore Cabaret next Thursday (October 13), and we had a nice little chat.

At one point I asked her if she had to lock herself in a room for eight hours a day to get so goddamned good, but that was…

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By Steve Newton

Southern rock. The raw bite of the blues tempered by a free-wheelin’, down-home country feel. Gruff, unencumbered vocals and soaring, twin lead guitars. Songs about ramblin’ men, poison whiskey, and Saturday night specials. You have no choice: ya gotta like it.

Unfortunately, in the last days of the ’80s, real good Southern bands are a rare species. The onslaught of the video age has hindered bands that aren’t image-oriented. The early-to-mid 1970s heyday of Southern rock–when bands like the Allman Brothers, the Outlaws, and Lynyrd Skynyrd prospered–predated the era of MTV and its siblings. Some of the bands from the period are still slugging it out–like the Outlaws, who cruised through town recently, though hardly anyone noticed. Others have lost their lifeblood through personal tragedy: like Duane Allman’s motorcycle accident and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s airplane crash. Still other decent Southern rock…

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By Steve Newton

As you may have already heard, the hard-rock world has lost one of its most beloved artists.

AC/DC rhythm-guitarist Malcolm Young has passed away at the age of 64. Ill health had forced him to leave the band in 2014, and to be confined to a nursing home, where he suffered from dementia.

I only met “Mal” a couple of times. The first time was back in 1983 when I interviewed him–along with singer Brian Johnson and then-drummer Simon Wright–at a hotel before a show in Vancouver. I ran into him again in 2001, backstage after a gig at the Pacific Coliseum on the Stiff Upper Lip tour.

But even those fleeting interactions with Young left me feeling like that he was my kinda guy–an ego-less soul bent on using his talent to spread good times through simple music meant for common folk. From his straightforward guitarwork to…

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By Steve Newton

When I interviewed Malcolm Young and Brian Johnson at their Vancouver hotel room in 1983 it was less than two months since the release of AC/DC’s eighth internationally released studio album, Flick of the Switch.

One of the more intriguing tracks on the LP, the third one to feature Johnson on vocals, was “Bedlam in Belgium”, which seemed to describe a concert gone terribly wrong, with cops on stage brandishing guns.

So I asked Mal what the tune was all about.

Have a listen:

(ya gotta crank the volume a bit; it’s AC/DC after all)

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By Steve Newton

When I interviewed AC/DC‘s Malcolm Young and Brian Johnson back in 1983 I asked Malcolm if he ever had a hankering to step out and play a lead-guitar solo once in a while.

As expected, his response was along the lines of, “Why bother when you’ve got a guy like Angus around?”

Have a listen:

(ya gotta crank the volume a bit. It’s AC/DC, after all)

And for those who have difficulty making out the conversation with those wacky AC/DC accents, here’s the transcription:

ME: Do you ever get the urge to step out and play lead, Malcolm?

YOUNG: Yeah! (laughter from bandmates and entourage). They’ve got this big hook umbrella to pull me back in.

JOHNSON: “That’s enough Young! Four chords a second and that’s it.”

ME: But you don’t play much lead…

YOUNG: Aw, I just tinkle…

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By Steve Newton

I graduated from high school in 1975, and, holy crap, was that ever a great year for rock music!

Lizzy‘s Fighting, Floyd‘s Wish You Were Here, Zep’s Physical Graffiti, Neil‘s Zuma, Beck‘s Blow By Blow, Seger‘s Beautiful Loser–the list of killer albums went on and on.

But none of them thrilled me more than Ian Hunter’s self-titled solo debut, with the one-and-only Mick Ronson on guitar.

And the opening track, “Once Bitten, Twice Shy”, was four minutes and forty-four seconds of pure rockin’ bliss, featuring what is probably the greatest guitar solo of all time.

I was fortune enough to have interviewed Mick Ronson a couple of times, in 1988 and ’89, when he had reunited with Hunter to record and tour behind the awesome YUI Orta album.

Four months before I did my second…

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