In praise of that most deadly sound: The Riff
First there was The Music, daughter of The Sound. She begat Ostinato, a wailing, demanding, insistent thing. (Its name, chosen by learned fops in frilly sleeves, came from the Italian for ‘stubborn’.)
Ages passed until Ostinato was given a different moniker. In pits full of smoke and jazz it became known as The Riff. Soon after, it mutated in to a killer. No one knows for sure where the transformation took place. It could have been down on the bayou. Or in a crossfire hurricane. Either would have been appropriate.
To claim victims, The Riff first took control of the electrified axe. It was wielded by hairy acolytes of The Rock, resplendent in denim and leather. Loyalty to The Riff led to stardom, even notoriety, as well as an abundance of chemical refreshment and sticky young chins. The Riff spread like an infection, become an addiction – and it was well pleased.
More time was spent while The Riff continued to shift and evolve. It sought extra disciples, those who were followers of The Pop and The Groove. Not all bowed to The Riff; neither did they all flee. Some adored The Riff; many others were cautiously accepting.
The Riff abides. It has many forms. It has structure, but it is adaptable. It has rules but ignores boundaries. It knows the people of The Rock will offer the warmest, the most thrilling and the most murderous embrace – but it does not discriminate against beliefs or values or weapons. It knows neither colour nor gender. It asks only for two simple things: devotion and volume
Daring reader, you can celebrate The Riff: place your feet well apart, raise you arms in the air, turn your face to the skies – and prepare to get LOUD!
- Rebel Rebel – David Bowie
- In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida – Iron Butterfly
- Higher Ground – Stevie Wonder
- Purple Haze – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
- Torch – Soft Cell
- London Calling – The Clash
- Layla – Derek & the Dominos
- (Marie’s the Name of) His Latest Flame – Elvis Presley
- Le Freak – Chic
- Cherub Rock – Smashing Pumpkins
- Brown Sugar – The Rolling Stones
- Geno – Dexy’s Midnight Runners
- Johnny B Goode – Chuck Berry
- Smoke on the Water – Deep Purple
- 1999 – Prince & the Revolution
- Run Through the Jungle – Creedence Clearwater Revival
- Every 1’s a Winner – Hot Chocolate
- Green Onions – Booker T & The MG’s
- Kick! – Adam & the Ants
- Satisfaction (I Can’t Get No) – Otis Redding
- Aeroplane Blues – Blue Aeroplanes
- Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
- Jealousy – Status Quo
- Paranoid – Black Sabbath
- Television – Marquee Moon
A closer listen: the missing masterpieces
Yeah, yeah! We know: the Ultimate Riff is missing; the one that goes “Duh-duh-duh! DUH-DUH-DUH!”. Also not here, the one that’s all like, “Duh der-duh-der dur-duh, a-diggle-diggle-diggle”. For the three or four readers who don’t recognise those, they’re Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir and Back in Black by AC/DC. And surely no one need to be told how brain-fryingly awesome they are. I mean… dude!
But – howl! – they’re not on Spotify. Nor are The Beatles, who when compared to the manly manness of the Zep and the, er, CD (?!) were little pigtailed girls in flowery dresses, but they could knock out a big lad’s riff when the wanted to. Day Tripper, anyone? You know it makes sense!