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Is so-and-so a Dinosaur?

So who get's profiled? Who is a Dinosaur Rock Guitarist? This is the all-too Frequently Asked Question here at Dinosaur Rock Guitar. It comes up all the time. People bring it up in the forum, people e-mail me about it. Someone asks: is this player or that player a Dinosaur? While there is obvious consensus on guys like Iommi and Blackmore, there are plenty of opinions and even disagreements on other players. I'm supposed to be the arbiter of such weighty decisions, but the reality is that everyone's take on this subject is somewhat different, and that's perfectly valid.

The get-off-the-pot-already answer is: I know one when I hear one. And yes, by my definition, I know implicitly yes or no on any guitarist I am familiar with. And when someone's way off, I'll tell them. But where the lines are fuzzy, I have never wanted my personal take on the subject to be a strict limiting factor in who we discuss here. So a better answer is: don't worry about it! If you want to talk about a player, do so. Not all Dinosaurs were big, scary carnivores, and not every great guitarist is a Dinosaur.

So what comprises a Dinosaur Rock Guitarist?

If that answer still didn't satisfy you, and since I came up with the concept, I've spelled out my take on the subject below. This way, before you ask: Is so-and-so a Dinosaur? Or: are you going to profile so-and-so in Alchemy, you can read my own criteria and see if you can figure it out for yourself.

The formula for Dinosaur Rock Guitar is equal parts Melody, (Dino) Attitude, Emotion, and Chops. And while equal parts means no one of these elements is more important that the others, the key defining element of Dinosaur Rock Guitar is an attitude. A ballsy, I wanna tear your head off with my guitar attitude that comes across in a Dinosaur's songs and guitar style. Which is why some great guitarists are simply NOT Dinosaurs. They may possess the other elements, but do not possess the Dino attitude, mentality, or sensibility. Dinosaurs don't pussyfoot around. They go for it!

In my mind, Dinosaur Rock Guitarists:

  • Don't predate Pete Townshend. The Beatles and the Stones guitarists are not Dinos. The Yardbirds guitarists are.
  • Play heavy rock or melodic heavy metal as their main thing — or embrace those styles in some way. Stevie Ray Vaughan, Mike Bloomfield, Eric Johnson, and Alvin Lee are not Dinos. Al Dimeola and John McLaughlin are not Dinos. John Petrucci is. The guys in Lynyrd Skynard and the Allman Brothers Band are not Dinos. Carlos Santana is not a Dino.
  • Write heavy riffs and typically inject a sexual element into their music through their lead style. Steve Morse is a great player but he is so NOT a Dinosaur — which is why he sounds so wrong in Deep Purple.
  • Are loud and aggressive. They use heavy, distorted tones. They gleefully embrace power chords. Lindsay Buckingham is not a Dino. Mark Knopfler is not a Dino. Steve Howe is not a Dino. Robby Krieger is not a Dino.
  • Place great value in melody in all aspects of their music (including the vocals when possible). This excludes some Thrash, most Death Metal and Hardcore, all Rap Metal — basically, a lot of 90s to present metal.
  • In general, predate the Shred genre. Shred (as a style unto itself) is what Dinosaur Rock Guitar evolved into. The Shred style actually caused a backlash against guitar-oriented music that devastated Dinosaur Rock Guitar in the process. Shred is an offshoot. An aberration where technique became more important than the songs. Dinosaur Rock Guitarists play for the song and understand that great riffs and great songs are FAR more important than lead chops. Having great chops is an asset, and certainly impresses other players, but it's great riffs and great songs that add up to great music that hits any audience on the gut level. In my mind, this disqualifies the vast majority of the Shrapnel shred guys and the Neo-Classical crowd who often create music to showcase their lead guitar prowess rather than creating strong, riff-based compositions. Lead work aside — how much shred is memorable music? Jimmy Page, Joe Perry, and Angus Young are big honking Dinos who have created timeless Dino Rock music without particulalry impressive lead chops. How many Zeppelin, Aerosmith, or AC/DC songs can you name off the top of your head? How many can you name from the average shredder? Now there is certainly some crossover among the forum members who like both Dino and Shred styles — and if you like shred, that's cool — but offically, we are not a Shred site.
  • Are very effective lead players regardless of their chops level (Rudi Schenker and Angus Young come to mind). Most do have excellent lead chops, but Dinos also understand that there is just as much value in playing slowly and melodically as there is in playing the fast stuff. Those that don't have great chops, succeed on other Dino aspects such as pure balls, riffs, songs, attitude, tone. Neil Young is not a Dino!
  • In general, don't play corporate suck-ass rock. The guys in Styx, Foreigner, the Eagles, and Boston are not Dinos. Steve Lukather is a Dino when he's not it Toto. Neal Schon strays into Dino territory on occasion. Some guys who I consider are borderline (like Schon) got profiled becaue somone else wanted to write about them.
  • With all due respect to any female Dinos over at the forum, most women don't dig Dinosaur Rock Guitar music. Bands with large female followings like Bon Jovi are not usually Dinos.

Your mileage may vary, but this is how I view the Dinosaur Rock Guitar genre. The official focus of the site (and who we profile in Guitar Alchemy) is going to remain only Dinos — as defined by these general guidelines.

But here's another thought to chew on: Alchemy proflies typically took 8 to 12 hours to write — not including the background research and listening. As such, we couldn't possibly write a profile on every guitarist who might qualify as a Dino. Some of them just don't warrant that effort based on what they've accomplished. Others, the DRG staff just may not have the familiarity with the player to do a good job. And yes, in some case, we just didn't have the inclanation to write a profile. We profiled players we may not have personally cared for if they were important in the genre. But other than that, we profiled the players we liked. Sorry. We're human.

I hope this clarifies things.


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