“It might get loud for a few seconds.” – The Edge, on getting ready to play in the movie.
“Maybe a fistfight will break out.” – Jack White, on being asked what might happen when the three got together.
“There’s always that point where you’re too old to pick the guitar up. And we’re just trying to keep that day far, far away and out of sight.” – Jimmy Page
From IMDb: “Rarely can a film penetrate the glamorous surface of rock legends. It Might Get Loud tells the personal stories, in their own words, of three generations of electric guitar virtuosos The Edge (U2), Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), and Jack White (The White Stripes). It reveals how each developed his unique sound and style of playing favorite instruments, guitars both found and invented.
Concentrating on the artist’s musical rebellion, traveling with him to influential locations, provoking rare discussion as to how and why he writes and plays, this film lets you witness intimate moments and hear new music from each artist. The movie revolves around a day when Jimmy Page, Jack White, and The Edge first met and sat down together to share their stories, teach and play.”
I was curious how this movie came to be. It turns out that the producer, Thomas Tull, is an ardent guitar and music lover. He says, “I was thinking how, on a global level, the personification of contemporary music IS the guitar… this instrument captures everyone’s imagination. As a fan, I wanted to see a movie that captured the essence of why people are so fanatic about the guitar.”
He chose these three guitarists because “We wanted to show a wide range of styles and eras by focusing on three of the best players in the world from three generations … and they said yes!” (Spoken like a true fanboy – ME). .
So how is this flick? Well, good enough that Sonny Boy watches it every now and again for what, inspiration? But it’s really not, IMHO, a genuflection towards the guitar so much as it’s a celebration of these guys’ love for music. The guitar just happens to be the way they express it.
If you’re expecting some megajam, forget it. The amount of screen time during which these guys play together takes up maybe 10 minutes out of a 90-minute movie. Most of the film consists of individual biographies of each of the guys or – when they’re together – involves them talking about music, playing their favorite tunes for each other or listening to their influences.
Of the three, Jack White comes across as the most purist (and the most cocky). For a guy who is big on punk, most of what he talks about and plays on-camera is the blues. In fact, the movie starts with him building a crude home-made guitar. (And why does he keep referring to ex-wife Meg as his sister?)
Stripped down, it shows his style to be very primitive, very Americana, very country blues. In fact, he says his favorite tune to this day is “Grinnin’ in Your Face” by Son House. It’s just a guy singing a capellla and slapping his hands together. But it’s that, that raw gutbucket hellhound feel that White says he’s always chasing in his music. (We shouldn’t be listening to this song on YouTube or Spotify but rather an old, cheap record player.)
The Edge comes across as the humble, down-to-earth guy I think we all suspect he is. Now, as much as I dig his playing, to some extent he reveals his limitations as a player. Whereas Jack White will build a guitar out of a piece of wood and plug into a toaster if that’s all he can find, Edge has always relied heavily on effects like delay.
So he demonstrates how a lick he plays doesn’t sound like much till the effects kick in. And his guitar tech is positively rapturous about how each song in a 23-song set has a different effect. I like Edge’s playing, he’s done a lot of great stuff. But he’s no improviser and for me, I’m much more in the Jack White plug-in-and-go camp.
When you are aware of the voraciousness of Jimmy Page’s playing, it’s always a bit disconcerting to hear him talk. With his now-gray hair, he comes across more like an English professor at Oxford than a rocker. Until he plugs in, that is.
This is clearly not a meeting of equals. It’s Jimmy Page – and two other guys. He is clearly the eminence grise here (he’s old enough to be both their fathers) and even though the other guys don’t treat him with any special deference, watch their faces light up when he plays the “Whole Lotta Love” lick for them and they realize that he is Moses bringing down the One Commandment.
When he shows them the double-neck guitar he used for “Stairway to Heaven” I thought they would drop to the floor with a hearty “we’re not worthy.” (Which, BTW, I had already long-since done.)
Playing-wise, this clip of them doing “In My Time of Dying,” is maybe my favorite. All three guys play slide and Edge proves he doesn’t need all the effects and plays with a sweet George Harrison-like feel.
Anyway, I think you get the idea. You don’t have to be a guitar lover or even a guitarist to dig this movie. You do have to be somewhat of a – for want of a better expression – music enthusiast.
And I think this doc does a great job of digging into the psyches of these players and figuring out what makes them tick. Best of all, in a way, it’s just like those of us who blog about music. We’re not famous rockers but we love to share tunes and talk about the music we love. So do these guys.
Stay tuned all the way through the credits as the guys do an acoustic version of a song You Will Know. It requires three-part vocals but Page admits he can’t sing. (You’re fired, pal.)
Sources: Wikipedia; Movie web site
It Might Get Loud, Sony Pictures Cinema. Directed by Davis Guggenheim. (An Inconvenient Truth; Waiting for Superman.)