Nuno In a Similar Boat…
Since we recently ended a year and, according to some, a decade, I thought about writing a post on the year’s/decade’s best/worst whatever…but decided it would run a serious risk of being boring. Or at least redundant.
But I couldn’t let one thing pass without writing about it. And because you read the title of this post, you know what it is: Ace Frehley, one of the most influential rock guitarists ever to walk the planet, put out his first album in 20 years (and it’s good!) and somehow did not make the cover of a single guitar magazine.
I’m not an apologist for Ace, nor does he need one. So I’m not going to sit here and “defend” his creds to anyone who somehow won’t acknowledge that Ace is a rock god and influenced a legion of players – some pros (including EVH, the Pearl Jam guys, Ace’s latest replacement Tommy Thayer, and many others) and lots who are still amateurs.
That influence might have been Ace’s unique style, which he had from the first KISS record (I’ve heard entire Ace solos ripped from KISS songs now in other well-known tunes). Or it might’ve been to pick up a Les Paul and blast away through a Marshall. Or it might’ve been a “I want to do that” because of how cool he looked up onstage.
Even now, as an adult (at least half the time), I love playing Ace’s stuff and have to believe that some of my love for Les Pauls comes from “the man.”
Maybe some of this strong feeling is because I had the walls of my room completely coated with KISS posters and magazine pages (some eventually replace by Van Halen) – I can still see that photo of Ace with his Love Gun-era costume on, smoke pouring out of a tobacco sunburst Les Paul.
Who knows. Whether you were as nutty about KISS as I was or don’t dig him at all, the fact remains that Ace is one of the most influential guitarists ever from one of the biggest rock bands ever.
So where was the damn cover?
Ace’s album Anomaly came out in September. Let’s take a look at the guitar magazine covers for September through the end of the year.
> Guitar Player: Chickenfoot, Steve Vai, Green Day, Les Paul.
> Guitar World: Jimmy Page, the Edge and Jack White; Neil Young; Slayer; Jerry Cantrell.
> Vintage Guitar: Mick Mars, a Gretsch White Falcon, Les Paul, Jay Geils.
Green Day? Neil friggin’ Young? A Gretsch and Jay Geils?!
Hey…I’m not taking anything away from these artists, or I guess certain people’s passion for the Gretsch White Falcon. But come on! On the question of influence or number of fans, it’s no contest. And it’s not like the magazines didn’t know Ace was coming out with an album and when.
To be fair, Ace did make the Holiday 2009 issue of Guitar Player, the December 2009 issue of Guitar World in the February 2010 issue of Vintage Guitar.
> KISS was on the cover of the Holiday 2009 issue of Guitar Player, with Tommy Thayer in Ace’s makeup. No mention of Ace was on the cover.
> Ace’s name was on the cover of the December Guitar World that had Jerry Cantrell on the cover.
> His most prominent cover was the February 2010 issue of Vintage Guitar: His photo was there, but it was much smaller in size than Billy Sheehan’s bass.
Again: No “real” cover.
I’m just stumped on this one. It’s not every day that a guitar legend like Ace has a reason for being on a cover, let alone a damn good reason. For that matter, there are precious few guitar legends of Ace’s stature, period.
Consider it this way: If Jimmy Page this year comes out with some new music, also after a long hiatus, should we expect that the guitar magazines will just ignore him too? Yeah, you can probably come up with five significant differences between Jimmy/Zep and Ace/KISS off the top of your head. But when it comes to influence and the number of fans, Ace probably has the edge – as demonstrated by the fact that Ace’s signature Les Paul apparently sold better than any other signature Les Paul, including Jimmy’s.
So because both players influenced a lot of people to play rock guitar – and it could be argued that Ace was the next Les Paul “rock god” after Jimmy – I think the comparison works.
I’m most disappointed in Guitar Player on this one. Guitar World is more shreddy than Guitar Player, and Vintage Guitar seems to cater more to the cork-sniffer crowd. I know coin somehow factors into this whole thing but it’s not like Gibson, DiMarzio and Marshall don’t advertise.
The bottom line here is that who appears on a cover often is the result of an editorial staff’s taste. So the responsibility lies with the editorial staffs, and they blew it on this one.
End of Ace rant… but I have one more.
Where Was Nuno?
I can’t make the same argument for Nuno Bettencourt. Obviously not nearly as popular or well-known as Ace. But he was always a heck of a player, and was part of the second wave of really good ‘80s “shredders” (post-EVH, Randy, Lynch), meaning ones with a distinct style and real musicality.
Extreme’s Saudades de Rock CD came out in August 2008. It was the band’s first album in 13 years and it’s good. It even has a tune of radio single proportions, “King of the Ladies.”
I saw Extreme live after the CD came out, and the band was incredible. Very tight, great singing and Nuno hadn’t lost a step at all. Amazing playing, great rhythm and to see him sing harmony while his fingers were flying across the fretboard was awesome. I can’t believe anyone who works at a guitar magazine who saw what I saw wouldn’t feel the same way.
Yet I believe the only time Nuno made an appearance in any guitar magazine in the rest of ‘08 and through all of ‘09 was in Guitar World’s “the setlist” feature, which is barely an interview.
Granted Extreme isn’t the hottest band in the world, especially after 13 years off, but the mere fact that Nuno is in a “famous” band and can run tasteful circles around 99% of the guitar players in other famous bands surely is worthy of a feature interview.
But what do I know. Ace Frehley didn’t even get a cover.
> Some of Nuno’s actual guitars are on eBay right now. Not cheap, but they’re his. Just search for Nuno Bettencourt, and then sort by highest priced.