A Really Small But Very Important List Of Good Songs With Telecasters In Them
I spend a lot of time watching YouTube videos and also a fair amount of time admiring guitars. My favorite guitar is the Fender Telecaster because it is very cool looking and has an unmistakeable sound. It’s a guitar that doesn’t try too hard, because it doesn’t have to.
Here is a very short list of amazing YouTube videos of live performances featuring at least one Telecaster. Enjoy.
1. Diet Cig, “Harvard”
I dislike this band’s name, mostly because my mom always referred to her ever-present Newports as “cigs,” and that word bothers me to this day. That doesn’t make the following statement untrue: their four song EP, Over Easy, is easily the best, most exciting thing my ear holes have heard in over a year. Maybe two. Every time I listen to it (daily) I think “I sure wish these fuckers had more songs!” The guitar in this live performance of “Harvard” seems like a custom, non-Fender job. I’m already breaking my rules for this list. Who cares. Further viewing: the band also made an official video for “Scene Sick,” which I have deemed the “Cutest Music Video of 2015.” I just wanna dance.
2. Courtney Barnett, “Pedestrian at Best”
Courtney, Courtney. You know how some three-piece bands (guitar, bass, and drums) tack on a couple extra guitar players for live shows to make their sick recorded sound fuller and more punchy IRL? Yeah, Courtney doesn’t need that. She delivers live the same way she does on her records: unpretentious, impressively cool. True story: yesterday I drove around for half an hour listening to her play live at Bonaroo with my 16 month old daughter. After playing “Depreston,” Courtney mentioned it being a “special moment,” or something. She was right, I cried a little, and my baby, there in the back seat, gazed out the window in a rare moment of silence. There’s no live video of that (yet, I hope there will be very soon), so this performance on “Ellen” from March will have to do for now.
3. Elastica, “Blue,” Live at Glastonbury
The first and only time I saw Elastica was in Cleveland at the Odeon in 2000. Peaches and Gonzales opened for them, and as they played I remember thinking it was gonna be hard for anyone to follow that performance. By then, Elastica had released a weird, uneven second album that doesn’t totally hold up after 15 years though there are still spots of brilliance. Doesn’t matter. They were amazing live. I never saw them at Glastonbury, so this video of them destroying in front of the most huge crowd imaginable is still sort of surprising to me, even after years of watching it every few months. Further reading: there is a hilarious (because of the models and 1995 fashions) video of them playing “Hold Me Now” at MTV’s “Fashionably Loud” fashion show.
4. Sleater-Kinney, “A New Wave,” David Letterman Show
I feel like I’m cheating including Sleater-Kinney because neither Carrie Brownstein nor Corin Tucker almost ever plays a Telecaster. Imagine my relief and surprise to see some sort of Thinline (the most special of Telecasters, more on that in a moment) strapped to Carrie when they performed “A New Wave,” from their recently released, first album in ten years. Ahhhh. It’s so good. Further Reading: NPR recorded, at very high quality, an entire show at the 9:30 club earlier this year in Washington, D.C. Watch the whole thing, or skip to 42.53 to see my favorite S-K song, “One Beat.”
5. PJ Harvey, “Missed”
PJ Harvey’s early career is classic Telecaster territory. It’s one of many important underpinnings of her classic, Steve Albini-engineered album, Rid of Me. Really nothing kicks my guts out so quickly even now, like 20 or 30 or whatever years later (I’m tragically bad at math). She’s also insanely amazing live, as this performance displays quite effectively. Further reading: If you need more evidence, this CRAZY bad recording of her playing “Rid of Me,” all alone at “The Tonight Show” will probably convert you. Please note that for some reason, she has a space heater on stage with her.
6. Lush, “For Love”
Did you know that Dennis Miller had a late night talk show once? I did, because in 1992, when I was still tiny enough to have to sneak into the basement of my parents’ house to stay up late to watch such shows on a school night, my favorite band, Lush, played on it. They had just released their first full length record, Spooky, which is maybe the most important event in the timeline of yours truly. Lush was never so popular and they disappeared so early that we don’t have a lot of great live performances committed to tape and available on YouTube, but there are a few. Emma Anderson, the one who doesn’t have flame red hair, very very often played a reissued 1972 Telecaster Thinline, which, at $700, was the second guitar I ever purchased (The first was a black and white, traditional, cheap Telecaster). These guitars are very special. Unlike many Telecasters, they have Humbuckers instead of the signature “lipstick” pickup but we’re way further into the weeds than can possibly matter. Further reading: Here they are in 1994 playing “Hypocrite,” live on Conan O’Brien’s show, and here is the official video for my favorite song of theirs, “Desire Lines.” It is most certainly worth your 7 minutes and 32 seconds.
Laura June is a writer.