The Joy of the Guitar Riff – Friday 18 July – ft Brian May


The Joy of the Guitar Riff
Friday 18 July 2014 – BBC Four HD 9:00-10:00PM
BBC Four Sat 19 July 2014 00:50 and Sunday 20 July 23:30
Documentary tracing the ebb and flow of the guitar riff over the last 60 years of popular music from Chuck Berry through to the White Stripes.

BBC programme page here:

The guitar riff is the DNA of rock ‘n’ roll, a double helix of repetitive simplicity and fiendish complexity on which its history has been built. From Chuck Berry through to the White Stripes, this documentary traces the ebb and flow of the guitar riff over the last 60 years of popular music. With riffs and stories from an all-star cast including Brian May, Dave Davies, Hank Marvin, Joan Jett, Nile Rodgers, Tony Iommi, Robert Fripp, Johnny Marr, Nancy Wilson, Kevin Shields, Ryan Jarman, Tom Morello and many more. Narrated by Lauren Laverne

13 July 2014

Friday, July 18
The Joy Of The Guitar Riff 10pm, BBC Four

See, now, this latest Friday night music doc from BBC Four is fine; but we should draw a line in the sand at this point, and get back to making in-depth films about more specific subjects, genres and artists. Otherwise, we are going to wind up staring down the barrel of a programme called “The Joy Of The Drum Solo,” and this is not a position in which we ever want to find ourselves. Anyway: a cast of strummers including Nile Rodgers, Johnny Marr, Dave Davies, Tommy Iommi and Brian May assemble, axes in hand, to discuss, and demonstrate, some of the hookiest chops and riffs to have graced rock’n’roll, disco, metal, punk and beyond. It all begins, as most TV programmes really should, with Chuck Berry. A compilation, Great Guitar Riffs At The BBC, follows at 10pm, featuring The Shadows, Hendrix, The Stones, The Kinks, The Smiths, Pixies and, well… other bands who used guitars.


— this film, narrated by Lauren Laverne, reveals the connection and evolution of something that spans the decades. Or rather centuries Beethoven’s Fifth contains a pretty catchy hooky of its own (altogether now Der, der, der, deeeeerrrr)

But don’t take her word for it, the likes of Brian May, Hank Marvin (looking virtually the same as the black and white footage) Tony Iommi and Johnny Marr know what they are talking about. And they are pretty united in paying tribute to Chuck Berry for bringing the guitar to the spotlight. Without his Johnny Be Goode we’d have no Led Zeppelin, AC/DC or White Stripes.

Dave Davies, of The Kinks, was just 17 when, desperate to come up with a new sound, he ripped the front of his amplifier (I’d have given him a clip round the ear if I’d been Mrs Davies) but the resulting raw sound gave rise to You Really Got Me (it’s my favourite tune) . This in turn gave us Satisfaction and I Can’t Explain.

But rockers didn’t rule the riff. Nile Rodgers talks us through his distinctive thwacking style which spawned Chic’s Good Times and then there’s the session guitarist who put the phone down on Michael Jackson. He didn’t believe the Prince of Pop could need a rock guitarist but the collaboration eventually led to Beat It with its gnarling opening notes.

You are bound to have a favourite in there somewhere – from the more obscure King Crimson track to Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana which led Brian May to comment “and I thought all the great guitar riffs had been invented.” Praise indeed.