Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Rock & Roll Hindsight Part 3 - STEVE STEVENS

You may not know this name, but you probably know his music.

Steve Stevens (born as Steve Schneider on May 5, 1959, in Brooklyn, New York) is a brilliant guitar virtuoso, but not in the ultra-complex-and-complicated classical/metal kind of way for which someone like Yngwie Malmsteen or Buckethead might be better known.  No, Stevens has a solid, hard rock, classic-wail appeal reminiscent of Randy Rhodes or Slash.

Stevens is most notably known for his work with rock icon Billy Idol.  You can hear his work on such hits as "White Wedding", "Dancing With Myself", "Eyes Without a Face" and "Rebel Yell," the latter two containing some of my favorite work of his.  His sound stands out with an awesome rhythmic riff at the bridge (at about 02:25) in "Eyes", and an amazingly-intricate-yet-hard-rockin' intro riff with a balls-to-the-wall energetic solo featuring a crazy, staccato "machine gun" sound effect (at 2:39) in "Rebel Yell".

But Idol's albums aren't necessarily where Stevens peaked.  

In 1986, the "coolest" movie of the decade hit theaters - Top Gun!  Stevens rocked out the awesome guitar work on the Kenny Loggins smash hit, "Danger Zone" - perhaps one of the most explosive little guitar solos ever recorded! That's him, also, in the movie's main title music (entitled "Top Gun Anthem" on the soundtrack) with '80s instrumental-cheese guru, Harold Faltermeyer (who brought you the ultimate '80s cheese track, "Axl F" from the Beverly Hills Cop movies).

And in 1987, a strangely gender-ambiguous figure (entirely clad in latex, high heels and a huge, jet-black, spiked, permed hairdo) rocks some edgy, flamboyant guitar sounds in the Michael Jackson video for "Dirty Diana":  That's Steve Stevens.  The main chorus riff in this song is pretty cool (but sounds even cooler played at double-time, as I discovered when I learned how to hold the "fast-forward" button half-way down when I was 8 years old), and toward the end of the song, (circa o4:20) Stevens uses some interesting pedal effects to create an awesome siren sound.  It's pretty dang cool.

Stevens has also appeared on several other band's/artists' recordings, including an amusing little techno/chorus 2000 track by Juno Reactor, a band "known for (their) cinematic fusion of electronic, orchestral and global music" (Wikipedia.com).  The track is called "Pistolero" and was later featured in the Robert Rodriguez film, Once Upon A Time in Mexico (2003).  Stevens' kick-ass acoustic, flamenco guitar solo makes this song awesome all by itself.

Stevens has also produced several solo albums of his own.  1989's Atomic Playboys was a critically acclaimed mix of flamenco and hard riff-rock, while his 1999 release, Flamenco-A-Go-Go, was obviously a more flamenco-style collection of his work set against electronic and atmospheric tunes - very jazzy and relaxing in most cases.  (I recommend the stand-out title track.)  He's also just released his 3rd full solo album - Memory Crash - this year.

Steve Stevens is one bad-ass guitar player.  Listen carefully to his work the next time you hear any of the aforementioned songs on the radio... or just listen from the playlist below!


Schwartzilla said...

Good write up. The Top Gun theme was my favorite as a kid, too bad every file sharing service had it listed as Joe Satriani or Steve Vai - the man couldn't even get credit when people downloaded it for free. Billy Idol wouldn't be the rockin' badass he was without Stevens backing him up on the gee-tar. He's not as much a hosehold name as some of the others but he's just as impressive.

e said...

hey, i'm with a guy right now who LOVES john mayer! he just bought a guitar just like his! ooooh!

Mike Wood said...

Ummm... nobody mentioned John Mayer, Erin. That's weeeeiiiird...