Strange Beautiful Music: A Musical Memoir
By Joe Satriani and Jake Brown
BenBella Books – 2014
320 pages, $24.95
In this fantastic biography, Joe Satriani looks back at his illustrious career so far. Satch starts his story as a boy growing up in Carle Place, New York (on Long Island) and takes us to his current status as the most successful instrumental rock guitarist of all-time. It was both fascinating and appropriate that the springboard for him playing the instrument was the death of guitar God Jimi Hendrix.
Like his music, Satriani has written the book in such a way that it should appeal to the biggest possible audience. You don’t have to be a guitar player or even a musician to understand how he talks about writing, recording and playing his music for the world. “Joe Cool” has always strived to make his work accessible to the common man and this is no different.
Satriani does provide great depth and clarity to his process and how he went about making each one of his albums.
The biggest surprise you will get is how he didn’t just walk into success. It took some years struggling as a guitarist looking for the right band. When he didn’t find it in New York, he moved from Long Island to San Francisco, California.
In the bay area, Joe started teaching guitar to almost a who’s who of guitar students (Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, Testament’s Alex Skolnick, T-Ride’s Geoff Tyson, Primus’ Larry LaLonde, jazz great Charlie Hunter and Doug Doppler to name a few) and got involved with a 3-piece band called The Squares.
Unfortunately ,The Squares never got beyond local hero status but his playing in this band led to Satriani getting hired to play in the Greg Kihn Band.
Steve Vai, who had been a lifelong friend and former student, inspired Joe to record his own solo album, which was the jumping off point for the axe-man. His first album, Not of this Earth, was basically all Satriani (guitars & bass) playing with drum machines providing the percussion. It was not an easy album for Joe to make between limited funds (he maxed out his credit card to do it) and having to record at odd times to maximize his dollar.
There’s all kinds of fascinating accounts from both Satriani and producer John Cuniberti, detailing how they pulled off that initial release. Make no mistake about Cuniberti’s contribution to Joe’s success, the producer was the audio master who had the perfect technical make-up to get the best of the guitarist and the personality to gel with Satraini’s prolific working style.
Strange Beautiful Music: A Musical Memoir is loaded with comments from an impressive array of people; from his band mates in Chickenfoot, to many of his former students, along with the legendary producers who have worked with the guitarist. Everyone chimes in to tell anecdotes about who Joe is and his inspiring story. Queen’s Brian May writes a wonderful foreward to get things started.
Whether you like to surf with the alien, fly through a blue dream or just wanna rock, Joe Satriani has built up too much unstoppable momentum not to enjoy Strange Beautiful Music.