My Back Pages: Thirty Years Ago in Guitar Player Magazine (July 1987)

Jul - 15

My Back Pages: Thirty Years Ago in Guitar Player Magazine (July 1987)


Welcome back to “30 Years Ago”, where I take a close look at the issue of Guitar Player magazine from exactly thirty years prior to discuss what I gleaned from the issue at the time and what I can learn from rereading so many decades later.  I also provide a Spotify playlist that includes music that was mentioned in the month’s issue.
Before we start, I’m sad to say that one of the musicians I featured in the June 1987 lookback, South African guitarist Ray Phiri passed away this week. You can read that blog post here on the site, and I urge you to listen to the playlist–the live cuts from Phiri’s band Stimela are really awesome.
Nationally, the seventh month of 1987 saw Oliver North testify in the Iran/Contra hearings, and Federal Appeals Judge Robert Bork was nominated for the Supreme Court. Also, while I didn’t notice it then, Guns and Roses released Appetite for Destruction, one of the best albums of the decade and one that would soon play a major role in my life.  On a personal level, in July, 1987 I was getting ready to start my senior year in high school. I worked that summer at Jules Pilch Menswear in nearby Hatboro, PA, and continued my guitar lessons while watching lots of MTV. Around this time I was starting to get a lot more cognizant of different types of guitars, and while I was still super happy to be picking my Peavey T-15 I definitely began getting aware of other kinds of axes. By this time I was also getting heavily into the blues and listening to a Wednesday night blues show on local radio was a highlight of my week. 

Unlike some of the other issues I’ve written about in this series, the July 1987 issue doesn’t have quite as many noteworthy articles or reviews. Interestingly, the cover features a “summit” of four outstanding Canadian guitarists, Rik Emmett of Triumph, Alex Lifeson of Rush, classical virtuoso Liona Boyd and jazzer Ed Bickert discussing a recording of Emmett’s composition “Beyond Borders” that they made combining all of their styles. I say it’s interesting because at the time my best friend was Canadian; Doug’s dad was stationed at the local Naval Air base near my house and it was in July of 1987 that he was transferred back to Canada and Doug moved away. I remember that Doug had a record collection made up almost entirely of Canadian artists, but I can’t remember if he and I talked about this issue or not. 
Other articles of note include interviews with Curt Kirkwood of the Meat Puppets, Joe Diorio on creative improvisation, bassist Andy West on the virtues of the 6-string bass, and a feature on bass giant Brian Bromberg. There was also an informative article about custom colored Fender telecasters from the 1950s and one about Rickenbacker guitars that were sold in England (and bought by groups like the Beatles).
The two things that really mean the most to me in this issue are the announcement of the release of Tribute by Ozzy Osbourne in honor of his late guitar legend Randy Rhodes, who had died in a crash of the band’s plane a few years before and a preview of Fender’s Eric Clapton signature guitar. I couldn’t have known this then, but the Tribute album has been hugely important to me. It turns out that Ozzy Osbourne helps me conquer writer’s block–seriously! Ever since college, when I REALLY need to write something I put on the Tribute album and I can write fast and well. And in 1990 I bought my Fender Stratocaster which is not a Clapton model, but it is Pewter, the most common color of the early Clapton axes (and I’ve also customized it with Lace Sensor Gold pickups, so it is 70% of an EC)–you’ll see much more on my Stratocaster in future blog posts!


That’s about all for this month. My wife and I are packing up our things for our 10th move in our 24 years together. As always I’ll grumble when packing the Guitar Players into boxes but I’m so glad to have these old issues!  I look forward to next month and having everything unpacked in our new home. Until then, keep on picking!

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2 Replies to “My Back Pages: Thirty Years Ago in Guitar Player Magazine (July 1987)”

  1. This is a great series that I’m discovering two years late. I too was in high school in the late 80s and subscribing to Guitar Player. The soundpage in this issue was one of the first times was conscious of straight-head jazz guitar playing. Ed Bickert’s plain little jazz solo in the midst of all the shimmering Rik Emmett cotton candy grabbed my ears. PBS also happened to broadcast the early-80s Tal Farlow documentary right around this time (at least in my area), and I quickly started paying more attention to the jazz players in Guitar Player inlcuding Sco and Stern. I’ve recently renewed my appreciation for Ed and dug much deeper into his catalog, but back in the 80s I was able to find a Japanese import of his latest Concord album at my local CD emporium, and I was thrilled. I’ve also recently rediscovered Ted Greene, who I learned of through Guitar Player back then (and for him, I had to mail-order an LP as I recall…ah, pre-internet days!).

    1. Thanks for this, JP. I, too, remember watching the Tal Farlow documentary and just deciding then and there that I had to be a jazz guy. It didn’t last (the jazz playing), but it sure was inspirational.

      I hope you enjoy the rest of the posts–come back every month for more!

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