I usually reserve my 10th-favourite-guitarist-of-all-time
spot for whoever I’ve listened to recently that’s very good but didn’t make the
top 9. Mike Campbell, Tom Petty’s
sidekick, is frequently in that spot.
One list he could definitely
top, though, is Most Improved Guitarist.
Such a designation may be unfair, because he was always terrific. Never a wasted note, always complimenting the
song with additional emotion, tasty licks, clever double stops and a unique but
Refugee, The Waiting or Mary Jane’s Last Dance are typical examples of Campbell’s ability
to improve a song without getting in the way.
But you’d be hard pressed to move him up the list and compare him with
the likes of Clapton or Page or Hendrix or SRV, right? Not enough notes. Not enough complexity. Insufficient speed. No real surprises.
OK, so go listen to Good Enough from Petty’s last album, Mojo.
It’s a trippy, bluesy, Beatle-esque number calling for either some
signature Harrison bends or some classic Lennon howls. Campbell gives you both, while still sounding
like himself. But during the extended
soloing, Campbell also gives you Jimmy Page with a bit of Clapton thrown
in. If you swapped Petty’s vocals for
Plant, and had John Bonham drumming, this song could be a stow-away on Led
Improved? Well, maybe Mike Campbell got better with
time. Maybe he just became more
adventurous. Or maybe he just felt like
saying, “oh ya, I can do that too.”
I should have known it.
Labels: Beatles, blues, eric clapton, George Harrison, guitar, hendrix, jimmy page, john bonham, john Lennon, led zeppelin, mike campbell, psychedelic, robert plant, rock, stevie ray vaughan, tom petty