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Joe Satriani: “Even Steve Vai Told Me I Shouldn’t Have Written This Solo”

(Image credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Joe Satriani has released 16 studio albums, from 1986’s Not of This Earth to 2018’s What Happens Next.

And of all the solos he has recorded, he says he regrets only one: the solo on “Crushing Day,” from his 1987 breakthrough album, Surfing with the Alien.

“I never should have written that solo!” Satriani told MusicRadar.com in a lengthy interview during which he discusses every Surfing with the Alien track. “That was some alter-ego thing where I thought it would be a really cool thing to do.”

Satch says that of all the songs on Surfing with the Alien, “Crushing Day” had the longest solo. In fact, it was so long that he knew he couldn’t just improvise it like he did the others on the album. “And going into the solo record both [producer] John [Cuniberti] and I were like, ‘Hey, we’re just going to do what we want to do. There’s nobody here to tell us we can’t turn the guitar up or we can’t have a 382-bar guitar solo!’”

When it came to tour behind the album, Satch found that there was no way he could improvise the solo—he had to stick to the script. Even then, it didn’t sound right. “We tried everything,” he says. “We would liven it up, we would mess it up, we would play it perfectly, we just couldn't figure out what it was.”

After a show in San Francisco, he received a note from a fan. “He said, ‘What happened to “Crushing Day”? You messed up every part.’

As it turns out, Satch’s pal Steve Vai had let him know, in a subtle way, that the solo was a bit of a stinker when the album was completed.

“Steve really loved the record,” Satriani says, “but I remember when it came to talking about that song, he just said, ‘Yes, it’s a really cool song... Solo’s kind of worked out, though, isn’t it?’ ”

You can read the full story and learn the truth behind every Surfing with the Alien track at MusicRadar.com.

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Christopher Scapelliti is editor-in-chief of Guitar Player magazine, the world’s longest-running guitar magazine, founded in 1967. In his extensive career, he has authored in-depth interviews with such guitarists as Pete Townshend, Slash, Billy Corgan, Jack White, Elvis Costello and Todd Rundgren, and audio professionals including Beatles engineers Geoff Emerick and Ken Scott. He is the co-author of Guitar Aficionado: The Collections: The Most Famous, Rare, and Valuable Guitars in the World, a founding editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine, and a former editor with Guitar WorldGuitar for the Practicing Musician and Maximum Guitar. Apart from guitars, he maintains a collection of more than 30 vintage analog synthesizers.