Russ Stewart (of this parish) knows a thing or two about music so when he says the blistering guitar solo at the end of the The Carpenter’s “Goodbye to Love” is every bit as good as anything 70s heavyweights, Clapton, Beck, et al, have produced, then it’s worth considering.
The only issue is that 99% of us would have no idea who the soloist on the Carpenters track was.
Actually the player in question goes by the name of Tony Peluso, who at the time was a guitarist with a little known band called Instant Joy.
Richard Carpenter wanted to add some fuzz-guitar to a track he was recording called “Goodbye to Love” and had been impressed when seeing Tony live, so he invited him to play on the session and was so taken with the result that he became part of the Carpenters band.
When you get into it, the world is awash with great solos and contributions from musicians that fly so low under the radar that you need to carry out a deep-dive to unearth them.
Take the excellent guitar work by Amos Garrett on Maria Muldaur’s sultry one-hit-wonder “Midnight at the Oasis”. Listed as one of Jimmy Page’s favourite guitarists, Garrett has played with Stevie Wonder and Todd Rundgren as well as releasing several albums of his own.
His solo on Muldaur’s hit is often referenced and is considered by many musician’s to be a classic, but he’s not exactly a household name.
Similarly, Elliott Randall is another hired hand who’s intro and guitar work on Steely Dan’s “Reeling In The Years” is the stuff of legend.
Randall preferred to stay out of the spotlight, turning down invites to join Steely Dan as well as Toto, and even said no when he was offered the musical director gig for the Blues Brothers project.
Randall spends a lot of time in the UK now and can often be seen playing in pubs just for the fun of it.
As always, axe-men get most of the glory but they’re not the only players who can steal the show….
Unless you’re a big Rolling Stones fan the name Bobby Keys may not mean anything to you, but you’ll be familiar with his work – he’s the guy playing the raspy saxophone solos on hits like “Brown Sugar” and “Miss You”.
Keys, a Texan, was born on the same day as Richards and was best man at Jagger’s wedding, and apart from a brief period in the 70s he remained an integral part of the Stones inner sanctum until his death in 2014.
When he wasn’t on the road or in the studio with The Stones, Keys was an in-demand session player, featuring on albums by George Harrison, Joe Cocker and John Lennon where his sax playing on “Whatever Gets You Thru The Night” is immense.
Thick as thieves with Keith Richards, Keys was sacked by Jagger in the mid 70s, when he found he’d filled a hotel bathtub with Dom Perignon and drank most of it leaving the band with a heftier than normal room service bill. Keith managed to bring his old drinking buddy back into the fold once Jagger had calmed down though.
Staying with horn players, David Sanborn is another saxophonist with a mountain of credits including some unique solos that you will definitely have heard.
It’s his distinctive alto-sax you can hear on David Bowie’s “Young Americans”, The Eagle’s “The Sad Cafe” and Stevie Wonders “Tuesday Heartbreak”.
Sanborn has carved out a decent solo career and alongside Tom Scott and the Brecker Brothers, he was the go-to horn player for most of the big recording sessions in the 70s.
(John Allan wrote a great piece on Tom Scott that you can find using this link… Tom Scott)
Not renowned for their solos, even bass players can get in on the act every now and again.
Probably the most recognisable bass line in popular music was released almost 50 years to the day.
It was written and played by Herbie Flowers a veteran English session player who doubled up with an electric bass and a double bass to get the sound he wanted for Lou Reed’s “Walk On The Wild Side”.
Instead of getting a writing credit for producing one of the best song intros of all time, Flowers received a flat fee of £17.
Another bass solo that’s not so well known but just as distinct and striking was constructed and played by a young Anthony Jackson at a recording session for the O’Jays “For The Love Of Money” in 1974.
This song’s always been a favourite of mine but to be honest I didn’t learn till recently that the intro to this funk classic was actually played on the bass.
Jackson who started off in Billy Paul’s band has gone on to have a long and fruitful career as a top session player featuring on albums by Steely Dan, George Benson and Paul Simon.
His contribution to the O’Jays hit was so profound however that he actually received a writing credit from Gamble & Huff, and they didn’t hand those out lightly.
Jackson was one of the lucky ones, a lot of 70s session guys never got credited even though they were helping to create platinum albums whilst being paid a set hourly rate.
So, the next time you hear an amazing solo or a great piece of playing spare a thought for the unsung hero who got a measly £17 for creating a piece of magic.
(By Paul Fitzpatrick: London, October 2022)