Lynyrd Skynyrd: Gimme Back My Bullets
As the band’s last connection to its origins, Rossington takes his role as keeper of the Skynyrd flame seriously. Still, he laughs when Lynyrd Skynyrd’s tortured history is compared to an old philosophy question: If you replace every part of a car over the course of decades, is it still the same car?
“Well, we’re definitely still Skynyrd,” he says. “I wouldn’t ever let anyone in the band that did not have absolute respect and understanding for the history, the original members and everything we’ve done. We want to be the real deal and no bullshit about it, because that’s what this legacy is all about. It’s all on the up and up.”
GUITAR WORLD On God & Guns, it sounds like you set out to do something decidedly different. The music seems like an extension of the group’s past efforts rather than a retread of familiar songs.
GARY ROSSINGTON Oh yeah! We wanted to show people that we still had some new, different, exciting stuff left in us. We love to play our classics and always will play them, but we also need to keep things fresh. We took a long time to write this album. Johnny, Rickey and myself worked on songs and went to Nashville and got a few more writers involved, and we tried really hard to write some good stuff that would stand up to our classics but also stand apart from them.
RICKEY MEDLOCKE We really wanted to bring something new to the table. We just wrote the best songs we possibly could and did the best recording of them. We didn’t cut any corners in terms of time or money.
My old man Shorty was a huge figure in my musical life. He wrote [Blackfoot’s] “Train, Train” and Ronnie wrote “The Ballad of Curtis Lowe” [from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s 1974 album, Second Helping] with him in mind. The old guy once told me, “If you ever want to make something happen and be noticed, do something different.” And that’s basically the advice we followed here, and it started with getting a really different kind of producer, Bob Marlette, who brought a lot to the table.
GW “Still Unbroken” could be your theme song. How much does it describe Skynyrd’s present attitude toward life and music?
ROSSINGTON Pretty much totally. That’s just a true story about what’s happening to us. After a while you just feel like you can withstand anything. You can’t make this stuff up.
I know a lot of people fear getting older, but in a way it’s great. You lose fear and don’t really care about how others see you. And after you get older and have been around long enough, people show a little respect whether they like your music or not. It’s hard for anybody in life to keep going through tragedy, but we all lose loved ones. Tragedies happen to everyone, and they happened to us in the public eye. People who have been following us have seen the band go through a lot and they relate to that. When people see you go through so much, they get closer to you. We’ve been through a lot and we’re still standing. Still unbroken.
MEDLOCKE The song reflects everything we’ve been through, and we almost named the album after it, but we wanted to move past our past. We still get questions about the plane crash, but the band has moved so far beyond that.
We actually began writing “Still Unbroken” right after Leon [Wilkeson, original bassist] passed in 2001. We worked on it with Hughie [Thomasson, who left Skynyrd in 2005 to reunite the Outlaws and passed away two years later] but never finished it. Then, as we were getting ready to start writing sessions for this recording, Gary listened through a bunch of cassettes of old songs to see if there was anything worth going back to, and he came across this song. We could hear Hughie talking and it was really moving in ways that are hard to describe. It’s what really got us going on this album. It all started there.
GW It also has a very thick, textured guitar sound.
MEDLOCKE That’s because it’s in a drop tuning, which I write in often. In this case, we are detuned half a step, and then the low E is down another step. I often use dropped D or C—I even go all the way down to A. What can be really cool is drop a guitar down there and have the rest of the band continue in standard tuning. It gives it a lot of power and texture.