I was originally turned on to Eric Johnson from this live version of Cliffs of Dover back in the mid-80’s. This was another floppy record disc that came in a Guitar Player magazine, man I just got turned onto so many guitarists that way! I put the acetate record on the turn table and was simply blown away! Not only was the song great, but the guitar tone and techniques were amazing. The beautiful part was no one else really knew who he was, except for us guitarists. However, I do have to point out that this was years before the studio version of the song ever became a hit on AOR radio in 1990.
Cliffs of Dover was a great example of Eric’s command of guitar tone, resonating a violin type sound. It was amazing to learn that he was playing a Fender Strat in the 80’s and was able to get that kind of effect. You have to understand that Fender really was way past its glory by this point and certainly wasn’t built as good as the Leo Fender days. Keep in mind in the mid-80’s it had lost favor amongst guitarists along with Gibson, as many of us were favoring the Super Strat monsters that were being produced by Kramer, Charvel, ESP, Ibanez, etc. Simply it was the day of reckoning for the Frankenstein guitars! Divebombs, pinched harmonics, tremolo madness all ruled the day. I remember this conversation in an elevator that I was privy to between two other musicians in college. One said to the other, “Dude you can’t be in the band if you don’t have a Floyd Rose tremolo on a Charvel guitar.” The other musician looked so forlonged because he just owned a Fender Strat with a standard tremolo. I had a Kramer with a Floyd Rose but certainly was not going to jump into the conversation. That’s how Fender was viewed in those days.
But it was Stevie Ray Vaughan who brought the Fender Strat back to the foreground and to a certain degree Eric Johnson. That is why I always liked both of them because they bucked the system at a time when hair, make-up, looks and brand names ruled the success of the day.
About the Curator: Brian Tarquin
Multi Emmy Award winning Brian Tarquin is an established top rate composer/guitarist. He has won 3 Emmy's for “Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction and Composition for a Drama Series” and has been nominated for an Emmy 6 times. In 2019 Tarquin received a Global Music Gold Award for his release Orlando In Heaven for “Best Album.” Three years in a row (2016-2019) Tarquin received “Best Album of the Year” nominations from the Independent Music Awards for his releases: Guitars for Wounded Warriors, Orlando in Heaven, and Guitars for Veterans. On which, Tarquin shows his guitar prowess alongside such world-class shredders as: Steve Morse, Larry Coryell, Billy Sheehan, Bumblefoot (Guns N’ Roses), Reb Beach (Whitesnake), Chuck Loeb (FourPlay) to name a few. In 2006 SESAC honored him with the Network Television Performance Award. Tarquin has graced the Top Billboard Charts with such commercial releases as: This is Acid Jazz, Vol. 2, Sweet Emotions, and Bossa Brava: Caliente on Instinct Records, followed by several solo jazz albums, which charted Top 10 at Smooth Jazz Radio R&R and Gavin charts. Brian has appeared on 38 releases, selling over 140,000 records in his career.