I never liked taking guitar solos. Ya wouldn't think so considering, but it's true. I always cared more about a song in its entirety, the musical aspect, I've never been comfortable with the 'attention' of standing on stage alone and noodling away. Maybe it's insecurity or lack of belief in myself, maybe it's obstinacy and an overly idealistic stance to my own detriment about the importance of a song, maybe it's just how I'm wired and I shouldn't psycho-analyze. Regardless, that's me. The 'song' is everything to me, I'm the anti-rockstar, I'd rather be heard than seen, I'm not about mystique or larger-than-life idol worship, although a good chunk of that philosophy goes out the window once I hit the stage and the switch is flicked. But ultimately I love music, making it, giving it, feeding souls, bringing smiles, it's that basic.
It was November 2009, Guns N' Roses was rehearsing at the LA Forum for the start of the next year(s) of touring, and we were to come up with our own solo spots for the show. Richard [Fortus] had his James Bond inspired spot, DJ [Ashba] had a song he made specifically called “Ballad Of Death” and I had nothing prepared, I had avoided it throughout the year, and was unwilling to bend on my anti-solo attitude. I'd spout off, “People didn't come here to see me screw around, they came to hear GNR songs...”, “I'll walk before doing something I don't believe in...” Methinks I doth protest too much. Perhaps I read too many YouTube comments.
Three days left of full-production rehearsals before we go home and our gear floats to Taipei for the start of the tour, and I give in. “Has anyone done a version of the Charlie Brown theme?” I ask. “Pretty much every kid in GIT [guitar school]” Fortus responds. “OK, how's about the Pink Panther?” Nope, hasn't been done. “OK, Frank, gimme a 'tsss, ts, t-tsss, ts, t-tsss' on the cymbals, Tommy, go 'dammmm, dommmm, dummmm' on the octave 5th & root, Rich, gimme the...” (Rich was already playing the part before I finished the sentence), “Deej, hit the heavy 'duh-dah, duh dah!' and we quickly threw the song together. And that was my solo for the next two years of touring. And I enjoyed it! It was a *song*, and it was fun.
I'd finish 'November Rain', the lights would go down, I'd carefully climb around the piano and swerve through the oncoming flurry of crew rushing to move the piano off-stage, McBob [my tech] would be meeting me half-way with my Vigier fretted/fretless double-neck and thimble in hand [thimble goes over my picking hand 4th finger for tapping high notes on the string past the fretboard], I'd be removing the single-cutaway guitar and he'd be strapping the 30-pound behemoth over my neck, and I'd get to the front the stage as Axl would be announcing me in an ever-changing amusing fashion, “The one, the only...”, or some twist on my name, “Ron 'Thalshank Redemption'...”
And half the time I'd be taking a solo Axl would be telling jokes into the band's in-ear monitors that only we hear. He'd do that to us all from time to time. So, if you ever see us bursting into a random laugh, shaking our head as we play, or looking behind us toward the side of the stage in mid-solo, that's why.
“The Pink Panther Theme”, written by Henry Mancini – featuring my GNR bandmates Frank 'Thunderchucker' Ferrer on drums (recorded August 2011, while laying drum tracks for the debut album 'Rise Above' of an artist I produced 'Poc'), Tommy Stinson on bass, Richard Fortus & DJ Ashba on rhythm guitars and myself on lead (recorded September 2011 between rehearsals and the start of the 2011 tour of the Americas.) Right now I'm on a plane to Phoenix, squashed in a middle seat with a glass of red wine in one hand, typing this with the other... got a show tonight, heading to Vegas tomorrow, this is the final release of 2011 Bumblefoot songs, days away from New Years' Eve. Been quite a year, I hope you enjoy this song and have a wonderful 2012!! All the best!
~ Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal
Get a slice of Pink Panther