Friday, January 4, 2019

Un-Sainted Nicks: Nicky Hopkins

purchase [No More Changes ]

Can you identify a musician's "signature style" just by hearing them play on a particular track?
For a vocal artist, it's pretty straight forward - their "instrument" is highly unique. But whaddabout a guitar player or a keyboard player? To the knowledgeable, a Fender sounds different from a Gibson. A country picker sounds different from a rocker and so on ... But what is it about their style, their sound that sets them apart?

In the case of Nicky Hopkins - need I say, one of the most sought after session keyboard artists throughout the 70s and 80s - it appears that it was personality more than keyboard fingering that set him apart. Great work, but could you identify him on a track just by hearing it?

I've been to the Keyboard mag site and an article titled "5 Ways to Play Like Nicky Hopkins" in search of an answer. Among other notes, they report one of his signature techniques involved: " a sus2 embellishing the third scale degree". If that tells you more than your ears tell you ... Wow! Their review of his style only gets more technical as it continues (beyond my ability to follow).

His Rolling Stone obituary said  he played "fast, accurate pounding piano lines to flesh out the sound of everything ...", as well as "skill, reliability and cheerful personality ensured he was the sort of session player untutored rockers could relate to". I want to believe that it is this that put him in such demand. When you play with others, how you fit in at the moment is as important as your speed or your technique.

My bad: I hadn't realized that Nicky Hopkins had passed - and it's been 25 years. I knew his name/fame primarily because of his session work with the Stones and the Kinks, but never delved particularly deeper than acknowledging his chops here and there. So ... let's post this under <Nick> but let it lead us into <In Memoriam>, even if he didn't pass this past year. (SMM might have missed him back when he did ... wait: SMM wasn't yet online back then!)

His Wikipedia page reveals so much more: all over the place, he was. The full list is overwhelming:

A taste below:

Art Garfunkel (above)

Jeff Beck (above)

The  Rolling Stones - Sympathy (above)

The Grateful Dead/Quicksilver (Edward the Mad Shirt Grinder)

the Who -the Song is over (above)

John Lennon -Jealous Guy

blog comments powered by Disqus