Jan 062010

The following piece was submitted by Townsman hissing fauna, making his debut on The Main Stage. Way to step up, Townsman, and make this casa your casa!

RUFF TUFF rock n’ rollers here.

Somewhere deep in the forgettable mire of late-’60s Beach Boys albums is this ridiculous, hilariously misguided attempt to “rock out.” The song itself is a forgettable, fluffy pop song, but for some reason, being the lost souls they were at the time, the band decided to hire some chump named Ed Carter to overdub RUFF TUFF guitar parts into what is otherwise a goofy pop song.

Of course, there are other examples of the puzzling presence of RUFF TUFF guitar parts in pop music, be it “Hungry Like the Wolf,” “Beat It,” or those weird pseudo-heavy metal riffs at the end of “Running Up That Hill,” by Kate Bush. The frequency of this strange conundrum is troubling, especially when one considers the motivations. Is this phenomenon the result of a misguided attempt by male artists to meet our culture’s self-destructive perceptions of masculinity? Is Kate Bush and other women’s similar use of RUFF TUFF guitar an attempt to bridge the gender gap in what is predominantly seen as a male genre? In short, is RUFF TUFF guitar symbolic of those disenfranchised by patriarchy?


  8 Responses to “The RUFF TUFF Guitar Conundrum”

  1. Mr. Moderator

    The use of RUFF TUFF guitar in “Beat It” and “Running Up That Hill” always annoys me. Is it the musical equivalent of Audrey Hepburn wearing Doc Marten’s or is it just the result of artists incorporating what I felt was a terrible then-contemporary production technique? Even if it’s Audrey in Doc Marten’s, was that necessary? I’m not sure that I can think of many examples when this works. Wasn’t the new album by The Decemberists panned for going RUFF TUFF? I didn’t care for their old stuff, but the couple of songs I heard from the newer album were unintentionally funny.

  2. diskojoe

    One of the bonus tracks on the Bee Gees Odessa reissue had a RUFF TUFF guitar overdubbed on it, which they wisely didn’t use on the final album.

  3. hrrundivbakshi

    Man, that Beach Boys number is a stinker!

  4. I believe the RUFF TUFF guitar solo on “Shoplifters of the World Unite” was initially very controversial in the world of Smiths fans.

    I HATE “Bluebirds Over the Mountain.”

  5. Mr. Moderator

    Is Bruce Johnston actually singing lead on that song? I didn’t know he ever got to sing lead unless he was subbing for Brian.

  6. Is this the Beach Boys trying to respond to the Cream/Eric Clapton phenomena? Especially given the beards?

    I’m tempted to say that hissing is exactly correct: that it may be an attempt to up the manly quotient, in this case right at the time that heavy was beginning to come in.

  7. misterioso

    And then there’s the whole Mike Love thing.

  8. misterioso

    I must confess that I have always enjoyed the Beat It VH solo. I find it entertaining and kind of funny, sort of a Cliff’s Notes version of the entire recorded output of VH to that point. It could have been computer generated: simply program in the data of all Eddie VH solos and create a composite–verging on a parody–and this is what you would get.

    The mention of Hungry Like the Wolf reminds me of the Ruff ‘n’ Tuff guitar histrionics of the horrible Power Station songs. See about 2.5 minutes in here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pQJvinmsiI

    I understand this as Andy Taylor’s cri de coeur: I am not a wuss! I am wearing leather pants and a bandolier! I kick ass!

    I am tempted to suggest that everything that sucked about the 80s can be found in the Power Station.

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