- Yesterday and Today
- Dave Meniketti
Watch Dave Meniketti in Action at the bottom of this page!
Famous / Infamous for
Famous For: Another great player who's woefully under-rated, who (still) labors in relative obscurity. Meniketti's old band, Y&T isn't much more than a footnote in the history of 80s metal. That's a crime because it should have been much more. The quality of his songwriting, playing, and singing has always been first-rate. To his incredibly loyal fans — and I'm one — he's famous for his beat up '68 Les Paul, and his trademark pickup selector switch soloing technique, and his ballsy music.
Infamous For: Dave has always been a cocky, opinionated, outspoken guy who speaks his mind and calls 'em as he sees 'em.
Back in the mid 80s, after finally having some commercial success with the single Summertime Girls, Y&T tried to capitalize on that success and released the Down for the Count album. It was more commercial than previous efforts and unpopular with loyal fans who screamed "foul" and accused the band and Dave of selling-out. As a big Y&T fan, I remember feeling that way myself. But I was 22 years old! Everything about metal and guitar was so deadly serious back then. Too serious. With some distance and perspective it all seems like much ado about nothing. At that point, Y&T had been busting their asses for over ten years without any real commercial success to show for it. So they followed the money. I don't know anyone who would have done differently in their shoes. Funny thing, when I listen to Down for the Count today, while it's not my favorite Y&T album, I don't have much problem with it.
Obvious: Dave is "Old School" — influenced by the rock guitar pioneers — particularly Jimi Hendrix, but also Ritchie Blackmore, Jeff Beck, early Jimmy Page, and Leslie West. Dave is actually a 70s style player who happened to have good enough chops to slug it out with the younger 80s gunslingers. In fact, he's a far tastier player than most of them. Dave is an American, but many aspects of his style sound more British blues/rock-based.
Not-so-obvious: Maybe it's just me, but I've always felt Dave Meniketti's lead style sounded somewhat like a blend of Gary Moore's ballsier attitude-based playing and Michael Schenker's blistering minor pentatonic licks. Probably why like it so much. You can find a lot of the same influences in all three players. Dave has also professed a fondness for the Allman Brothers, Billy Gibbons, and R&B artists such as James Brown and Marvin Gaye. This influence is a bit more detectable on his bluesy first solo album, On the Blue Side, than it was in the past with Y&T.
Songwriting: Dave's forté is straight-forward, rock/metal songs that employ the classic compositional songwriting elements I like to hear: Great hooks, big choruses. Very strong on melody and dynamics. He likes recurring melodic themes. A lot of Dave's songs are based on chord progressions rather that repetitive riffs.
Solos: Dave's solos also contain all the elements I'm looking for: melody, attitude, emotion, chops, and wicked tone!
Singing: Dave was both the lead guitarist and lead singer for Y&T. He has a great voice with a lot of power and plenty of character. It stylistically similar to Sammy Hagar's voice, though a bit deeper. Dave can employ all the melody, power, and gravely quality he wants or needs in a vocal delivery. He has a quirky little vibrato in his voice that comes out in certain phrasings.
Consistency: Dave is a Rock guitarist and he knows it. I don't worry about Dave falling victim to the Gary Moore syndrome. Dave doesn't screw around with stylistic departures or try and reinvent himself. Even though his first solo release was a collection of blues songs, they are quite definitely "Rock blues." And his follow-up album, Meniketti was right back to kick-ass heavy rock. He still sounds like Dave Meniketti — the guy who published his songs under the title of Facemelting Music. And while there have been a few valleys among the peaks, the overall quality of Dave's music has always remained quite high — since 1976. Unlike many of my favorite players, Dave Meniketti has never released an album you could call "a real stinker."
Some pretty clichéd lyrics at times. Dave Meniketti tends to use the same lyrical themes we hear from David Coverdale and David Lee Roth — what is it with these guy's named Dave, anyway?
Other than that, not much. Like John Sykes, Dave Meniketti is an all-around threat who excels in all areas.
In the 90s, Dave got more into playing super strats and Fender strats. But the classic Dave Meniketti sound from Y&T's glory years, was derived from his old faithful '68 Gibson Les Paul and a 1974 Marshall 100 watt Mark II Super Lead. Dave is one of the few name players who liked the Mark IIs and was able to get a great sound with them. He used a Kramer Baretta through a Mesa Rectifier on most of his first solo album (and it sounds great), but he pulled out the old Gibson/Marshall combination for a few tracks on the solo album, and for my money, this is still Dave's best sound. It's a great Les Paul - Marshall sound with good beef and a lot of bite. Not quite as thick or brown as Gary Moore's Les Paul tone. Pretty clean and unprocessed — less gain than John Sykes' Les Paul tone. Certainly not an 80s, JCM 800 tone. Dave doesn't use much in the way of effects. Some phase shifter, and an echoplex on the older stuff. Live — some delay and subtle chorus added at the mixing board rather than in-line. There's a gear rundown of what he used on On the Blue Side at his website: www.meniketti.com/gear.htm, and Dave talked quite extensively about getting his sound in his August 2002 Interview with Dinosaur Rock Guitar.
A self-taught player, Dave's songs feature very standard rock chords: mostly simple root 6 and 5 chords, power chords — sometimes arpeggiated "folk" chords for the power ballads.
When it comes to lead, Dave is primarily a blues scale player. And Dave is actually a guy who does sound bluesy when he's in the blues scale. In slow power ballads, he often goes to Aeolian minor. Occasionally he'll use some major pentatonic for dynamic contrast in rock songs. A great example of this is in the opening of the solo Black Tiger's Hell or Highwater, where Dave plays some wonderfully melodic major licks before launching into a sexual tirade of incendiary blues scale licks. Yeah, Dave knows all about putting sex in his playing! Dave has excellent chops and plenty of speed, but what's more is that his solos have loads of that ballsy, rip-your-head-off attitude. He has great phrasing and plays with the pure feel and emotion of an guy who's means every note, and is on a mission to kick total ass!
Dave really avoids most of the 80s flash metal tricks. He seldom used a whammy bar, doesn't tap or use many false harmonics. His picking style shows a good deal of legato, but he goes to alternate picking for fast runs. One distinctive Meniketti lead trademark that's all his own, is the "pickup selector switch solo" which Dave achieves by turning the volume on the Les Paul's neck pickup to 0, and flipping the pickup toggle back and forth really fast while hammering and pulling-off with the left hand. Sounds easy enough, but it's a bitch to get it to sound as good as Dave does it. The technique can be heard on Black Tiger, Straight Thru the Heart, Life, Life, Life and a few others. He uses it about once per album.
In an Guitar World interview from 1986, Dave stated most of his his solos are "spontaneous." However in Dinosaur Rock Guitar's 2002 interview with Dave, he clarified the issue by saying he doesn't prepare the solos before going in to record them, but he does work them out once he gets in the studio. They usually have definite beginnings, middles, and endings. He reproduces them live.
Vibrato: Dave has a fast, nervous-sounding vibrato. Not too wide, but pretty even and controlled. His early career was almost exclusively Les Paul, so there's very little whammy bar in his style, even when he's on a guitar equipped with one.
- Earthshaker - V V V V
- Black Tiger - V V V V V
- Mean Streak - V V V V V
- In Rock We Trust - V V V V V
- Y&T - Live: One Hot Night (2DVD/CD) - V V V V V
Profile by Dinosaur David B. Copyright ©2002 All rights reserved.