Guitar hero Joe Satriani first achieved wide fame with 1989’s Surfing with the Alien, his second LP. That instrumental record won a Grammy, as did its highlight single, “Always With Me, Always With You.” Subsequent albums have continued to demonstrate Satriani’s wide-ranging skill and expressiveness. But beyond his solo work – 18 studio albums to date – the New York-born musician has an impressive and eclectic range of credits. Thanks to his instrumental prowess (and because he’s one of the nicest guys in the business), Satch is a sought-after collaborator. Here are five tracks that you might not have known feature Joe Satriani.
Crowded House – “Now We’re Getting Somewhere” from Crowded House (1986)
The trio formed by Neil Finn after dissolving Split Enz made its stellar debut with a self-titled 1986 album. The record’s biggest hit was the worldwide smash “Don’t Dream it’s Over,” but in fact the first single from the album was this song. Oddly enough – seeing that nearly all of his recorded work is instrumental – Joe Satriani was enlisted to provide backing vocals on the album. The famously modest Satriani laughed when this writer asked him about Crowded House in a 2013 interview: “I think it’s the only time I’ve ever been paid to sing!” he said. “That was the beginning and the end of my career as a singer.”
Spinal Tap – “Break Like the Wind” from Break Like the Wind (1992)
The mirthful metallurgists Spinal Tap weren’t a “real” group when they appeared as the subject of the groundbreaking mockumentary This is Spinal Tap in 1984. But in response to public demand, the trio of Michael McKean, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer assembled a full group and went out on tour. Eight years later the band returned with Break Like the Wind, a star-studded album populated with an unexpected assortment of guest stars including Cher, Eagles’ Timothy B. Schmit and (on liner notes) Steely Dan’s Walter Becker. The title track features dueling, over-the-top guitar solos from Satriani, Toto’s Steve Lukather and Jeff Beck.
G3 – “My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama” from G3: Live in Concert (1997)
Beginning in 1995, Joe Satriani put together a series of concert tours in which he would share the spotlight equally with two others top-flight guitarists. Over the years, the popular G3 tours have featured artists as far-ranging as Robert Fripp, Al DiMeola and Uli Jon Roth. To date there have been four G3 live albums; the first featured Satriani alongside Steve Vai and Eric Johnson. Per the tour’s custom, after each guitarist played his own mini-set, all three would reconvene onstage for a blowout finale. This reading of the Frank Zappa classic is an undisputed highlight.
Yardbirds – “Train Kept A Rollin’” from Birdland (2003)
During their original 1963-68 run, the Yardbirds featured a succession of lead guitarists: Top Topham, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. The group ended when Page changed the name of his “New Yardbirds” group to Led Zeppelin. After a quarter-century break, founding member Chris Dreja and Jim McCarty revived the Yardbirds with new players and occasional guests. For their 2003 studio album Birdland they were joined on various tracks by Slash, Brian May and others. On a remake of their classic “Train Kept a Rollin’” (itself a cover of a Tiny Bradshaw classic from 1951) Joe Satriani lent his guitar wizardry.
Steve Hunter – “Twilight in Harlem” from The Manhattan Blues Project (2013)
Hunter is perhaps best known as one half of the ace guitar duo with Dick Wagner that lend sonic fireworks and finesse to albums by Lou Reed, Alice Cooper and others. Beyond his unassailable rock credentials Hunter is a superb blues player. On his 2013 album, he invited a who’s-who of friends (Johnny Depp, Tony Levin, Joe Perry and more) to contribute. This contemplative instrumental showcases both his and Satriani’s soaring guitar work.
With a background in marketing and advertising, Bill Kopp got his professional start writing for Trouser Press. After a stint as Editor-in-chief for a national music magazine, Bill launched Musoscribe in 2009, and has published new content every business day since then (and every single day since 2018). The 4500-plus interviews, essays, and reviews on Musoscribe reflect Bill's keen interest in American musical forms, most notably rock, jazz, and soul. His work features a special emphasis on reissues and vinyl. Bill's work also appears in many other outlets both online and in print. He regularly hosts lecture/discussions on artists and albums of historical importance (including monthly events Music to Your Ears and Music Movie Mondays), and is a frequent guest on music-focused radio programs and podcasts. In Spring 2023 he taught a history of Rock 'n' Roll at UNC Asheville's College for Seniors. He also researches and authors liner notes for album reissues -- more than 30 to date -- and co-produced a reissue of jazz legend Julian "Cannonball" Adderley's final album. His first book, Reinventing Pink Floyd: From Syd Barrett to The Dark Side of the Moon was published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2018, and in paperback in 2019. His second book, Disturbing the Peace: 415 Records and the Rise of New Wave, was published in 2021 by HoZac Books. His third book, What's the Big Idea: Great Concept Albums will be published in 2024. Read even more about him here.