For decades they were the mainstay of popular music. Without guitars, there would have been little 60s pop, no punk/new wave and limited Indie. Britpop wouldn’t even have made it out of the maternity ward.
At their best, there is little to match the passion and fury of a guitar band in full throttle – especially live. So why, in 2017, do they seem increasingly irrelevant?
If Sir David Attenborough was to make a documentary about 21st century music, he would be tempted to declare the guitar band an endangered species. Faced by the unremitting onslaught of hip hop and electronica, they could be extinct in a matter of years. Unless we do something about it, of course.
But do we necessarily want to? When was the last time you heard a new guitar band that sounded that interesting or exciting? If you take away so-called post rock bands such as Explosions In The Sky or Godspeed You! Black Emperor, there has been little in the way of original guitar music since the late 1990s.
Gigs still mean guitars
Except, fortunately or otherwise, concert promoters do not seem to have noticed. Night in, night out, they try to revive the spirit of Oasis or whatever and mostly book three or four-piece guitar bands, plus drummer. Most of the group members will be male.
Solo electronic artists such as Ever, a female singer-songwriter based in Wiltshire, feel ostracised because they don’t travel around with two or three guitarists in tow
Yet does it really matter if musicians turn up to a gig with a keyboard and shiny laptop rather than traditional string instruments?
Don’t the likes of Clark, Jon Hopkins, Rival Consoles and Squarepusher generate as much passion when they are on stage, even if we must get used to watching more in the way of technology and less human being?
Maybe I have been slightly hasty in damning all guitar music. Folk singers, one assumes, will continue to rely heavily on guitars, plus other instruments. And there is little chance of punk or heavy metal disappearing soon.
The keyboard is key now
But equally, why not accept that the guitar has been overtaken as an instrument of beauty and wonder by the extra scope and dimension of electronic gadgetry?
It may put some session musicians out of business. Sorry! But tell me honestly, wouldn’t Laura Marling’s gigs benefit from a little less string strutting from her band? Or, for that matter, Sinkane’s mostly innovative fusion of funk and Sudanese pop?
Yes, we probably spend too much of our lives gazing at computers. But if it means that the music is more enticing, passionate and soul-searching, I for one won’t be sorry if electronic gadgets take centre stage and at least some guitars are left alone to gently weep.