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Sunday, May 18, 2014

On Toni Loomi - Riffs

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As we all know, Toni Loomi's riffs were a huge game changer for rock music. Each year, countless teenagers pick up their first guitar with only one thing in mind: learning to recreate the magic of Toni Loomi's legendary guitar riffs.

Dave Growl said it best:

"Well like... there was just some magic when it came to Toni's riffs. They could be so simple or so complex, sometimes even both at the same time. I don't know. But either way... there was always something that was just inexplicably powerful about them. You had songs like "The Man with the Hammer" where it was... there's just one riff the whole song consisting of F# powerchords on the two low strings, but it's such a great riff.

On the other hand, you had some of the tunes that he wrote from Pink Floyd's solo material in the late 70s. They continued to play together after parting ways with Led Zeppelin in 1976. Really great chemistry between the two of them. Anyway... Pink was at the height of both his drug use and his jazz fusion phase, and so naturally he tried to incorporate all kinds of nutty things in the music.

I remember the first time that I heard the riff to "Keep Tossing those Word Salads" on Pink's "Gustav, the Madman of Stockholm" album... oh man. There was just no making heads or tails of that one. It was like... to this day, people are still trying to figure out how he made that one work. I have heard many people attempt it, but nobody can quite nail it.

There was this one time that I saw good old Wrongway [author's note: Swedish guitar virtuoso Yngve Mammoth, commonly referred to as "Wrongway" due to a combination of his infamous tendency to complain about producers, his live musicians, his management, and flight attendants of always doing everything the "wrong way" and his name being impossible to pronounce correctly] playing in Seattle. Oh man... dude tried to cover "The Purple Skies of Venice Beach" off of "Gustav" and came up way short. I think that it's the only time I have ever seen an audience actually throw their shoes at a musician in person.

Point is... if a legend like Wrongway, who is just amazing despite how rude and arrogant he is, can't even pull off one of Toni Loomi's signature riffs... I think that that says it all."

In addition to a seemingly limitless amount of testimony from rock legends, Toni Loomi has also received considerable recognition for his riffs from many leading rock music and guitar magazines.

Here is a brief selection of accolades relating to Toni's riffs:

25 Best Rock Riffs of the 70s (Guitar Lord Magizine, 1980):
---1. Pink Floyd - "Where the Rat Nests" (Build a Better Mousetrap)
---4. Led Zeppelin - "Where They Don't Have Streets" (Led Zeppelin II)
---9. Led Zeppelin - "The Man with the Hammer" (Led Zeppelin VI)
--17. Toni Loomi - "Wrong Side of the Tracks" (I Did a Solo Album)
--23. Pink Floyd - "If I were a Machine" (Strange is the New Normal)

50 Greatest Hard Rock Riff Writers (Falling Tree Magazine, 1985):
---1. Toni Loomi (Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Blank Stare, The Scream)

10 Riffs that Should Never, Ever, Ever be Attempted (Modern Guitar, 1986):
---1. Pink Floyd - "Keep Tossing those Word Salads"
---7. The Scream - "That's Not My Problem"

20 Riffs that Shaped Rock Music (Rock 'n' Roll Magazine, 1989):
---Blank Stare - "F-105 Thunderchief" (1966)
---Led Zeppelin - "It Takes a Thief to Catch a Thief" (1969)
---Pink Floyd - "Keep Tossing those Word Salads" (1978)
---The Scream - "If a Tree Screams in the Forest..." (1986)

40 Riffs to Pick up Chicks (Guitar Sleaze, 1992):
---Blank Stare - "Of Mice and Bigger Mice" (Micecream, 1967)
---Led Zeppelin - "Stairway to Upstairs" (Led Zeppelin IV, 1973)
---Pink Floyd - "Robot Descartes" (Strange is the New Normal, 1977)

With such an impressive collection of feathers in his cap, there really isn't much more that we can say, so we'll let the man himself sum it up:

"I always try to make a riff that will stick with the listener, first time. Something that gets people to stop what they are doing and turn their attention to the radio. But really, it's all about what works for the song. Sometimes you need something that's just there, but sometimes you need a real showstopper. I think that learning when to tone it down and when to really pour it on was one of the trickiest, but most rewarding, things to learn.

I think that Rocky Mountain Tim would probably be my biggest riff writing influence for that reason. That guy really knew when to go big and when to just sort of go regular sized with his riffs. Brilliant guy, never hogged the spotlight from those around him, though he could easily have ran circles around them all. *laughs*

Really though I just write riffs that I would want to hear over and over, because let's face it... if I don't even want to hear one of my riffs, who does?"

-Toni Loomi, Falling Tree Magazine, 1974

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