Robert S. Ringwald robert at ringwald.com
Thu Jul 22 13:10:48 PDT 2004

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Stephen Barbone" <barbonestreet at earthlink.net>
To: "Dixieland Jazz Mailing List" <dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
Sent: Thursday, July 22, 2004 7:23 AM
Subject: [Dixielandjazz] THE ARTISTIC GRIMACE

> List mates:
> I think the Rocker's stole the artistic grimace from us jazzers. And we
> stole it from the classical artists. In any event, if you are playing
> jazz, you should either have that "grimace", or a spaced out blank face
> stare. How many of us remember the Pee Wee Russell grimace? I copied it
> for a while and then added Lionel Hampton's "Eh" grunt with every breath
> plus a slight pelvic move. Very effective with the ladies when I was
> under 30.
> Then Jimmy Hendrix and Elvis stole it from me, garnering fame, fortune,
> fans and all my women. ;-) VBG
> Say, how about a National "banjo-face" contest and/or "washboard face"
> contest. Winner to be announced at Sacramento Jubilee in 2005? First
> prize, an off season trip to Pismo Beach and all the clams you can dig.

No more clams in Pismo Beach.  The Jazz scared 'em away...

> ;-) VBG
> Cheers,
> Steve Barbone
> PS. Personally, I always thought Sir Thomas Crapper was responsible for
> the artistic grimace. (all you ex-fighter pilots out there know what I'm
> talking about, having been taught to use it to avert G-force blackout)
> July 22, 2004 By RANDY KENNEDY - NY Times
> He Can Play Guitar, but Can He Grimace?
> In England they call it, rather elegantly, "throwing shapes." One
> American practitioner says he thinks of it as "selling a move." But to
> most people who have seen it up close as a rock concert, it is simply
> that nutty face that the guitar player makes: a contorted grimace,
> sometimes involving liberal amounts of tongue, that suggests either
> ecstasy or accidental electrocution.
> "My sister always asked me: why do you make those faces when you play?"
> said Gary Lucas, who played for Captain Beefheart and was interviewed
> recently while touring England with the Magic Band. Mr. Lucas could
> never exactly explain it to his sister, except to say that the "strings
> have always seemed like an extension of the nervous system."
> And somehow, too, making the face was sexy. Mr. Lucas remembers that
> when he was young, he even noticed the familiar look of pained pleasure
> on the face of the second or third cellist in the New York Philharmonic.
> "He had a certain female section of the audience absolutely swooning,"
> he said.
> Now both men and women - professionals, nonprofessionals and air
> guitarists alike - are being given a chance to put their best
> swoon-inducing faces on display. As a way to promote a video-on-demand
> guitar instruction show on cable television called "Guitar Xpress," the
> company that owns the service, Rainbow Media Holdings, recently came up
> with the idea of holding a national "guitar face" contest.
> Pretenders to the throne of, say, Angus Young of AC/DC (among the widely
> acknowledged kings of extreme-pain guitar face) or Stevie Ray Vaughn
> (who patented a kind of uncontrolled hideous laughing look) or Eddie Van
> Halen (of the prolonged wide-open-mouth school) can take a picture of
> their own look and send it via e-mail to guitarface at magrack.com or mail
> it to the company, which has lined up a panel of celebrity guitarist
> judges including Dick Dale, Roger McGuinn and J. J. French of Twisted
> Sister. When the contest ends in October, the winner will end up with an
> Epiphone guitar, 15 or maybe even 20 seconds of fame and possibly calls
> from reality-show casting directors offering more.
> Sal Cataldi, a public relations executive and part-time guitar player
> who came up with the idea for the contest, said that when he started
> trying to recruit judges "they all immediately knew what I was talking
> about.
> "And they all had these great stories about the guys they thought had
> the world-class guitar faces," he said, adding that B. B. King's was
> mentioned often as a classic, an intensely painful look, as if he were
> playing with broken fingers or had intestinal spasms.
> The faces break down into a few general categories: the pout, the
> pucker, the catfish (open mouth), the heavy squint and the full-face
> wince. There are combinations, such as the catfish crossed with the
> heavy squint, which one Web site describes as the Mr. Magoo, after the
> seeing-impaired cartoon character. And there are also regional variants,
> like the angry, disdainful no-expression look of the New York guitar
> player, a face used frequently by Mr. French, the Twisted Sister
> guitarist, who admits that he adapted his techniques from early
> performances by Mick Ronson, David Bowie's guitarist.
> "This is the J. J. really cool New York look," Mr. French said the other
> day in an interview at the Sam Ash guitar store on West 48th Street in
> Manhattan, demonstrating his special almost-no-expression snarl with
> sunglasses. But then Mr. French, who owns a management company and still
> tours in full makeup with Twisted Sister ("We always looked like a bunch
> of middle-aged hookers, but now we really do") showed how his look can
> change into a tortured but blissful squint when playing high notes at
> the top of the guitar neck and then relax into a kind of pouty,
> elongated gape with the lower notes.
> Once during a big stadium show in the 1980's, he recalled, he achieved
> his all-time most successful guitar face after jumping from a drum stand
> and sliding across the stage, smashing his knee badly against an
> amplifier. "At which point," he said, "the pain and the expression on my
> face probably out-Hendrixed Hendrix. And when I was in all that pain, I
> remember saying to myself, `Go with it, J. J. Milk it. The crowd is
> eating this up.' "
> Which of course brings up the ongoing debate regarding guitar face: how
> much of it is an expression of genuine, unfiltered musical passion and
> how much is calculated, the well-honed moves of a seasoned performer?
> Mr. French says that he was aware of the need to perform boldly onstage,
> especially for huge audiences, and that the facial expressions helped.He
> said they helped "sell the move" he was about to make by windmilling his
> strumming arm or kicking up one of his waxed legs. But he swears that he
> never put that much forethought into the look on his face and thinks few
> professional rock guitarists do.
> "I don't think it's like professional wrestling where guys sit around
> and figure out how they're going to con the audience," he said. "Forgive
> me for not being that cynical. I like to think we really feel it."
> They may, but Mark Weiss, a veteran rock photographer who is a judge for
> the contest, says that in his 30 years of watching guitarists, he has
> seen quite a few who were not only very aware of their stage expressions
> but worked on them.
> "That's probably how they got into playing in the first place - it's
> that they figured out how cool they looked doing it," said Mr. Weiss,
> who has spent many hours focusing his camera on the faces of Ted Nugent,
> Mr. Van Halen and the guitarists for extreme-guitar-face hair bands like
> Poison and Mötley Crüe.
> While he will not say which guitarists, he described how some in photo
> shoots for album covers or magazines "insisted that I have a mirror
> behind me while I was shooting so they could see their own poses. They
> were thinking about the look a lot," he said.
> Mr. Lucas, for one, admits that he did. When he was young, he says, he
> decided to give up playing the French horn for reasons other than not
> being so good at it. "Basically," he said, "I couldn't put on a good
> rock face while I was playing it."
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