See Steve's Hand-Written Solo Transcription

Steve Khan's solo on:

"The Camera Never Lies"(Michael Franks)

    There are any number of things that happen in the music business for which one has to search for answers. Often times, when called by a producer and asked to play something in particular, or with a particular sound, one can only scratch their head and ask, "Now WHY is he calling me to do THAT?" Though the brilliant keyboardist and producer Rob Mounsey and I have worked together on countless occasions and projects, The Camera Never Lies - Michael Franks I have never understood just why it is that when he does call me for something, it is almost always to play a 'solo' or some fills, but using my Strat and plugging directly into the board. This is something, generally speaking, that I hate doing! I don't mind doing it for certain kinds of R&B-related rhythm parts, but for anything 'melodic'? No way!!! Some years before, in 1985, Rob had called me to play on an album titled "SKIN DIVE"(Warner Bros.) for singer/songwriter Michael Franks. That song was titled, "Your Secret's Safe with Me," and it became a bit of an R&B hit. So, two years later, I was called to do a similar sound and approach for the title track from "THE CAMERA NEVER LIES"(Warner Bros.). The truth is that, in context, Rob's instincts proved to be far better than mine. I do really like the end result, even though it is not something I would ever choose to do myself.
    This particular kind of 'solo' has absolutely nothing to do with "jazz guitar" as we know it. I would have to say, if forced to describe it, or to categorize it, the solo falls into some form of sophisticated R&B. That's the best description I can give it. The most important issue is that, and it would hold true no matter what the genre of music might be, when one is playing on a song, the prime directive is to "serve the song." No matter what your personal instincts might be, just do what is best for the song, always! In a case such as this, where you are playing on a rather short "R&B"-style song, I always listen to the entire track first to get a sense of the melody and the lyrics. In doing so, it is my hope that I might come upon a melodic fragment which will help me 'glue' my solo and/or fills to the body of the song. Especially in a case such as this where I am being asked to play in the Intro first, it is crucial that what I play somehow 'previews' what is to come in some way. That's what I tried to do.
    Despite my serious doubts about the wisdom of playing direct into the board, somehow, by a miracle, Rob allowed me to 'get away with' using my tremolo arm, the whammy bar, the soul stick, in various parts of the solo. I would never have considered this except that I felt that it was absolutely right for the mood of the piece. Often times, instead of thinking of Jimi Hendrix, which is how I relate to its usage, even great musicians and producers will say to me, "Hey man, don't do any of that Hawaiian guitar stuff! Please!" This drives me crazy, but, it's never worth arguing about it. So, I just let it go. And this is why, on this particular tune, I was thrilled that Rob let me go for it, and he kept all of it.
    Though there are certain 'chord changes' present, in essence, I sought out the 'blues' elements, and immediately knew that if I just played phrases related to F minor blues, or the F minor pentatonic [F, Ab, Bb, C, Eb], everything would sound great. In essence, this is what you now hear.
    You might be wondering, "Why would you ever want to transcribe a solo like this?" Well, the answer is that I would never want to do such a thing. However, of all things, Warner Bros. records asked Michael Franks to do a video for the tune, I guess they were hoping that it might get played on VH-1, and, the director of the video thought that, because the guitar is so omnipresent throughout the tune, it might be a great idea if I appeared in the video. How 'bout that?!?!?!

Steve Khan - ESP Strat

They told me that there would be lots of shots of my hands, so, I knew that I was going to have to really make it look authentic. This meant that I would have to actually memorize everything that I had improvised. And so, that was the reason that I had to write everything out, because it helped me to memorize it all. There were four sections: an Intro [I]; a brief Interlude [I2] between verses; the Solo section; and finally the Fade. The Fade is the longest section, and includes the best of the whammy-bar work.
    During the '80s, I spent a goodly amount of time on the road with Michael Franks, and it was always enjoyable because, during those years, he had some really great bands. Bands which included musicians whom I respect, whom I enjoy playing with, and who are also great to travel with. A brief list of those players would have to include: Bill Evans(Sax); Mark Egan(El. Bass); Danny Gottlieb(Drums); Gil Goldstein(Keys); Manolo Badrena(Perc.); Clifford Carter(Keys); and Robin Gould(Drums). Michael is a terrific leader, one who allows his musicians a great deal of creative freedom, and there is probably more space for soloing than most singers would ever permit. In short, I enjoyed working with him very much. Perhaps best of all, this work with both Michael and Rob Mounsey led Rob and I to record "LOCAL COLOR" together in 1987. And then, some 10 years later, we recorded, "YOU ARE HERE." It should be noted that there is no direct guitar on either of those recordings. I only play acoustic guitars. My idea!!!
    Until this moment, the day after Nelson Mandela's passing, on December 5th, 2013, I had never thought of actually posting this particular transcription. But, a friend, via Facebook, sent me this YouTube link to the video for "The Camera Never Lies" because, apparently Michael Franks had just posted it too, and I was reminded of the connection of the song to the struggle for freedom in South Africa, and more specifically the miner's strike during the mid-'80s. So, everything seems to be right for posting this now. I hope that the song and its message will, yet again, resonate with those who care to listen. Rest in peace, Nelson Mandela. Love to you and your family, and, to the family of man all over the world!!!

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