Today, Albert Hammond Jr. is a bit of an ambassador for guitar and guitar music. Equipped with his signature white Fender Stratocaster, Hammond has contributed some of the most fundamental and fawned-over rock and roll licks of the past 20 years, from ‘Someday’ to ‘Reptilia’ to ‘Under Cover of Darkness’. His abilities as both a lead and rhythm player are not only easily identifiable but also malleable to fit in with both The Strokes and his solo music.
When he first joined The Strokes, however, Hammond held a secondary role to Nick Valensi and, if the band had their way, Julian Casablancas. “They all wanted Julian to play guitar,” Hammond told Matt Sweeney during his appearance on the Noisey series ‘Guitar Moves’. “He was like ‘I don’t want to play guitar.’ And I just happened to come at that right time.”
Hammond also shared how his role in The Strokes was primarily that of a rhythm guitar player. “I never thought I would ever play lead. I’m making an EP now, and I have a solo in I think every song besides one, and they’re solos that my mom didn’t even know. Like, ‘Wow, you’re playing them?’ Not that my mom said that. I made her seem like she was like, ‘Oh, you’re terrible,'” Hammond says with a laugh.
But Hammond was playing solos all the way back in the Is This It era, having contributed the lead lines for songs like ‘Trying Your Luck’ and ‘Take It or Leave It’. When asked by Sweeney to dissect one of his solos, Hammond breaks down perhaps his most iconic lead line in ‘Last Nite’, mentioning how his former guitar teacher J. P. Bowersock exposed him to old-school blues guitarists that eventually served as an inspiration for the solo.
“He was like, ‘Oh, check out Freddie King,'” Hammond recalled, busting out the long opening bend of the ‘Last Nite’ as an example of a King-style guitar lick. “Julian had this end part, and so I just had a beginning thing to help it finish the end part, and that’s the beginning of the solo.” With Hammond’s King-influenced beginning paired with Casablancas’ ending run, the solo to ‘Last Nite’ was born.
Check out Hammond’s full episode of ‘Guitar Moves’ down below.