THE DEDICATION ARTICLE
(FOR THIS ISSUE IS DEDICATED TO JASON BECKER)
by Richard Karsmakers
There are few things that really touch you deeply as life passes
- unless you're involved with them personally, of course. The
disaster of the "Herald of Free Enterprise". The Gulf War. The
Space Shuttle Challenger exploding. The Exxon Valdez oil
disaster. Millions dead in Pakistan because of storms and rain.
Many dead in an earthquake or volcanic eruption. The tearing down
of the Berlin wall. Even though some of these events have been
truly massive, they almost never really lead you to fully
sympathise as much as the event may deserve. The media usually
make you thoroughly aware of it, and that's about it. Curiously,
the 'smaller' things are the ones that actually happen to touch
you more intensely.
Such a thing touched me in the weekend of the Düsseldorf Messe,
late August, when I read the September issue of "Aardschok/Metal
Hammer", a major Dutch Heavy Metal magazine. Its news section
spoke of a concert to the benefit of talented guitar player Jason
Becker where various well known people from the scene had
attended (such as George Lynch and Stuart Hamm). Jason suffered,
as the article said, of 'a muscle disease known as the A.L.S. Lou
Gehrig syndrome, known to lead to death within three years after
the ocurrence of the first symptoms'. At the concert, Jason was
already paralysed in his legs, and he had to move himself by
means of a wheelchair.
Many thoughts shot through my mind. Was the article correct?
Would Jason Becker, a young man of approximately my age, die
before having fully developed? Would one of the best neo-
classical guitar masters be torn away from us like this? Would he
die within three years?
First, in case you are not aware who Jason Becker is, allow me
to tell you something about him. After that I will quote the
letter I immediately wrote to him after reading the bad news.
Jason Becker - Guitar Master extra-ordinaire
In the United States there is a record label called Shrapnel
Records. This is run by a chap called Mike Varney - a guitar
player himself who started to produce records for young guitar
talents later. It was Varney that first discovered Yngwie
Malmsteen (who got teamed up with Ron Keel to do the first
"Steeler" album which is trash apart from the guitar bits), and
later discoveries include Joey Tafolla, Marty Friedman, Greg
Howe, Paul Gilbert (Racer X), Tony McAlpine, Vinnie Moore (ex-
Vicious Rumours), Tony Fredianelli (Apocrypha), Kurt James (Dr.
Mastermind) and, of course, Jason Becker. The list continues to
increase even as we speak.
Jason Becker is one of the finest examples, and it is rightly
claimed that his name will one day be echoed through the guitar
hall of fame.
He started playing guitar at the age of 12 - a semi-acoustic
Takamine guitar he used to perform for his and other schools. He
got instructed by his father, an excellent classical guitarist,
and his uncle, an accomplished player. When he was 13, his school
music teacher was so impressed by him that she asked him to lead
the school jazz ensemble. A year later he spent most of his time
writing and composing his own music. At the age of 17, his music
was of such high calibre that he got discovered by aforementioned
Mike Varney. He teamed Jason up with Marty Friedman, forming
Cacophony. Their first album came out in 1987 - Jason could not
have been older than 18.
I was quite emotional when I wrote my first letter, on August
26th. Not only did I actually feel a physical nausea in my guts,
but I was also angry. Angry at fate? Angry at the Man upstairs? I
didn't know. But I knew all of what had happened to Jason was
brutal injustice, that's for sure!
It was a difficult letter. I had to evade all words relating to
death, for starters. I had never before written to someone who
knows he'll die soon. But I simply had to write.
This is one of the most difficult letters I have ever written. I
really have difficulty even finding the most rudimentary words to
merely start it. I would like to use it to stand by you in a time
of misery but that's hardly the kind of thing you're waiting for.
I want to shout "Chin up, man! It ain't half as bad as you
think!" but that would be a lie. I would like to write poetry if
it could console you but I am no poet and I doubt it would
console you even if I was. I would like to tell you of how
miserable I sometimes feel, but I have never felt as miserable as
I suspect you do. I would like to tell you all the fun bits of my
life, but they will hardly interest you. I would like to swear
abuse at whoever or whatever is responsible. It ain't right, damn
it! I would turn you to any religion that will safeguard you a
place in an afterlife if there was one - but even then, I am no
All I know is that when I read about your situation I felt an
urge I had never felt before - and urge to write, regardless what
the contents, if only there was a tiniest of minute chances I
could mean something to one of my all time greatest guitar
Please first let me tell you something about myself. It will be
I started playing guitar aged 15. My hero was Ritchie Blackmore,
and I thought Jimi Hendrix was brilliant, too. I wanted to be
like them. My lessons didn't proceed as much and as quickly as I
would have liked - and I continued lacking the funds to get me an
electrical guitar. All I had was a daft old Ibanez acoustic
guitar, and my dad refused to buy my dream guitar, a
Then I heard Yngwie Malmsteen. Before long, I gave up lessons as
there was no way I would ever become as good as him. Not long
after that I heard more good guitarists. Vai, Satriani. In 1988 I
bought "Perpetual Burn", adding another guitar master
extraordinaire to my knowledge. Later I discovered Friedman,
Gilbert, Howe, Kotzen. But to me they all came after the three
best ones: Malmsteen, Satriani and you.
I bought all Cacophony albums when I found out you played in
there as well. Through that, I learned to appreciate Friedman
more so now I guess he's closest to being number four, together
with Blackmore, Vai and Hendrix.
So far my life - the things that might be relevant to you, that
When I started to write this letter, I thought whether or not I
should just lie a bit and say you are the best guitar player -
just thinking it might possibly mean something to you. I decided
not to. I like each of my favourite three guitar heroes about
equally much although I play Malmsteen most because he's been
most productive and my girlfriend prefers Satriani because of his
really senstive ballads and his smile on stage.
I find if fucking frustrating that I've never seen you perform
live. I find it fucking frustrating that you only made one solo
album. I find it fucking frustrating that you've not become as
famous as Clapton, Hendrix, Reinhard, Healey, Blackmore. Or all
of them together! The thing I find most mega-fucking frustrating,
however, is that you are about my age. It's not the fear that I
might get some disease myself too, but it's the sheer frustration
that a very talented person will not be allowed the time to
develop fully into what would have been even better.
I am sorry for all the abusive language, but something like that
makes me really angry, senseless though it may be. I love my
father, but when he dies I would cry for a day and get on living.
He would have received more or less of an OK age, and would have
peaked his life the highest he could.
When I merely heard the bad news about you I felt physically
ill, a nauseating feeling in my guts that wouldn't leave. I felt
damn close to crying. This ain't justice! If I could swear loud
enough to stop it, I would. If I could hit the wall hard enough
for it to halt, I would too. Damn, if I could do anything to stop
it I wouldn't consider wasting time even to think about it.
Second to the urge to write, to help, to do whatever I am
capable of doing, I decided to dedicate the next issue of my
magazine to you.
I am the co-editor of a fairly major international computer
magazine that one might describe as 'cult'. You will probably
wonder why a computer magazine should be dedicated to you. Why
not a music magazine, or an issue of "Guitar Player"?
Alas, I merely have this magazine at my disposal, and it ain't
as bad as it sounds. At least I found something that isn't as bad
as it sounds. The magazine is non-commercial and filled by a
couple of friends of mine and myself. We can write whatever we
want, and we have already convinced many people to dig Metallica,
Malmsteen, you, Satriani, Deep Purple/Rainbow and lots of other
Basically, we influence a huge kind of 'family' of likewise
minded people that all happen to own a computer (the computer for
which this all is done is the Atari ST). This 'family' consists
of a couple of thousand people all over the globe, as friends of
hours abroad take care of the distribution in their countries.
This sounds almost like something religious, which of course it
ain't. We're just being enthusiastic people doing things for
other enthusiastic people, which is exactly the atmosphere you
need to get people to dig out certain bands they would normally
not have bothered even to think about listening to.
Of course, if you don't agree to us giving all this attention to
you, just say so and we won't!
I would like to use the mag to increase people's interest in
your music. We won't be able to make you famous, but at least we
will get some people to dig your music. If you want to, we can
ask people to write to you. Whereas I am not a poet, preacher, or
even someone who really knows what to write in this letter, among
the readers there will surely be people that will be capable of
meaning something to you. People that will give you strength and
make you feel good.
Shit! I just read the above paragraph and it really sounds like
an enormous load of corny shit of the worst kind! Why do I lack
the eloquence of words to express what I really want to say, to
write down things you would really like to hear? I cannot find
other words to describe what I said above, and all I can hope is
that you will understand what I mean, even if I don't write it
down exactly like I may possibly have meant it.
Maybe I am largely an ego-centred bastard that only wants to
satisfy the urge to write, but I know that I would really like to
mean something to you by writing - if I can. Maybe my eloquence
with words will improve if you take time to reply. Right now I
don't even know how you feel about it, so I just assumed you
don't feel much better about it as I do.
Basically I just want you to know that out here there's someone
Hoping to hear from you one day, I remain,
perpetually burningly yours..."
When I posted the letter I had mixed feelings about it. Had I
been too fatalistic? Would the man actually like reading it, or
would he get even more depressed? I didn't know.
When I checked my mailbox on September 17th, however, I had
the answer I needed: An letter sent by Jason Becker! It contained
a picture with handwriting on the back:
"To Richard -
Thank you very much for the nice letter. I really appreciate it!
Your concern is really cool. Your computer magazine idea sounds
I immediately sat down to write a reply. Again, I really didn't
know how to do it. For starters, I wasn't yet sure whether the
disease was lethal or not! I wanted to write again, however, no
So I did.
Cliché number one: I was completely flabbergasted, stumped,
stupefied, flummoxed, gobsmacked, bewildered, astonished,
perplexed, stunned (and more) when I opened my mail box this
afternoon and in it found your reply to my letter. Adrenalin
surged through my veins instantly. I scrambled back inside,
slammed "Perpetual Burn" into the CD player, read what you had
written and started writing this.
Cliché number two: Thank you for bothering to reply. Thanks for
giving me the satisfaction of knowing that I have been able to do
something that was appreciated. I have tried to write to some
people that I admire before (Malmsteen and Douglas Adams, the
latter being a writer of terrific books) but they never took the
trouble to answer. It's only too bad that the reason of this
correspondence is a dire one.
Accidentally, your reply also caused my girlfriend suddenly to
think you're a lot better than Malmsteen, because she thinks
he's, like, a tad arrogant. Obviously, you're not.
Cliché number three: I will pin the picture to a wall, but I am
still in doubt which side should be visible - the one with you on
it or the one displaying the note, proof of a guitar hero
replying to my correspondence.
Cliché number four: After having partly recovered from the
sudden adrenalin profusion and after having picked myself off the
floor, I gathered together courage and decided to actually ask
you some more things as well. After all, your green light towards
a dedication article to appear in the computer magazine I
mentioned requires some background information of you to be
supplied, which I'd hereby like to ask. Basically I need some
information about your date of birth, when you started playing
guitar, why you didn't decide to play the trumpet instead, who
you admired, where you get your inspiration from, discography,
whether your opinion about Malmsteen is the same as my
girlfriend's, which schools you went to, what you'd advise young
would-be guitarists... You know, the usual stuff, whatever you
want to say.
Once more, thanks very much for replying to my previous letter
(and, hopefully, this one). I sincerely hope there will always be
people to fall back on in times of doubt, people that will listen
when you feel rotten, people that heed you when you need help.
I'm no shrink but you can write whenever you want, about whatever
it is that's occupying you.
Speed Metal Symphonizingly yours..."
Unfortunately, he has not written back to my last letter. I
don't know whether this was due to premature departure off this
plane of existence or just because he was busy - let's hope for
A.L.S. - Amyotrophical Lateral Sclerosis
Maybe some of you already know what A.L.S. actually is, but most
of you probably won't. Principally, it is not a muscle disease
but one of the motor neurons, the nerve cells that supply muscles
with impulses from the brain.
You want to use your muscles and they can work, but something
goes wrong between the command centre and the working spot.
This causes gradual ineffectivity of the muscles, which gets
worse and worse as the disease continues. As muscles no longer
get used, a lack of myotrophical (= feeding the muscles) lateral
sclerosis (= tissue strengthening) sets in. Muscles get weaker
and weaker, effectively paralysing the bearer of A.L.S.
The causes of the disease are not very well known, though recent
research tends to indicate that it's a lack of certain amino-
acids that the body usually makes in ample quantites (amino-acids
are made up of proteins, and they are the building stones of your
body). Further research goes as far as saying that a big supply
of specific other amino-acids can get the body produce the
lacking amino-acid, but none of this is sure yet.
For now, A.L.S. is incurable. People have been known to have had
it for many years: Genius theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking
- of "A Brief History Of Time" fame - has had it for 20 years and
is still alive, contributing to science. Unfortunately, the
disease is different for each individual. He who has it will
deteriorate quickly, and 'years' can still be enjoyed. In 5-20%
of the cases, the disease seems to pause for months or even
years. It does not affect the senses, the digestive system,
bladder, eye muscles and sexual functions.
It is a typical males' disease, that usually started between the
ages of 40 and 60. It is rarely hereditary (only in 6-7% of the
cases), and barely causes physical pain. The chance of a person
getting A.L.S. is 4 out of 100,000.
Maybe you just sympathize with Jason. Maybe you are already a
fan. Maybe you've got A.L.S. or another Motor Neuron Disease
yourself. In any case, you can write him a letter if you want
to. The address to write to is the following:
P.O. Box 5109
Richmond, CA 94805
United States of America
In case you've already written a letter to the address mentioned
on the back of his "Perpetual Burn" solo album, please rest
assured: Those letters will eventually reach him, too.
Do not write to his record company, Shrapnel records, as they
don't bother to answer anything. Jason at least answers the good
Jason Becker has, unfortunately, only been able to do one solo
album, which is a brilliant one nonetheless. A second album was
due to come out early summer 1991 but never came. He has,
however, participated on some other albums. Although I suspect
this list is hardly complete, it gives you an indication of what
he has done.
Cacophony, "Speed Metal Symphony", 1987
An album where Jason plays all songs together with Marty
Friedman (who also did all bass). Most songs also feature vocals
(by Peter Marrino), with Atma Anur on drums.
Marty Friedman, "Dragon's Kiss", 1988
Marty's solo album, featuring Jason playing guest solos on two
Jason Becker, "Perpetual Burn", 1988
Jason's only solo album, featuring 7 altogether brilliant and
magical instrumentals, three of which co-feature Marty Friedman.
Jason did the production and all bass guitar and keyboards, too.
Atma Anur did the drumming.
Cacophony, "Go Off!", 1988
The second Cacophony album. Again, Jason with Marty together
with vocals by Peter Marrino, drums by Deen Castronovo and bass
by Jimmy O'Shea. Jason co-produced it.
Various artists, "Guitar Masters", 1989
This is a Shrapnel Records sampler. Jason plays on "Altitudes"
(taken off "Perpetual Burn") and "X-Ray Eyes" (taken off "Go
Off!"). Other artists on it are e.g. Marty Friedman, Racer X,
Greg Howe and Joey Tafolla.
Howe II, "High Gear", 1989
This is the second album of Greg Howe, but now with vocals and
other band members so the band was now named "Howe II". Jason
plays a guest solo on the song "Party Favors".
Kotzen, Richie, "Richie Kotzen", 1989
This album does not actually feature Jason on the guitar, but he
did co-produce it. Quite a good album, actually.
David Lee Roth, "A Little Ain't Enough", 1991
After Marty Friedman went to join Megadeth, Jason joined David
Lee Roth's band, where Steve Vai departure to Whitesnake had left
a formidable gap to be filled. Unfortunately, Jason had to
restrain himself on all tracks. Only on the last two songs, "It's
Showtime!" and "Drop in the Bucket", he really gets down (he co-
wrote these songs as well). He left the band after this
recording, and didn't even tour with them - probably due to his
Taking everything into consideration, I think there is nobody in
the world who more deserves something to be dedicated to him
rather than Jason Becker. Both Stefan and myself admire him a
lot, and we are both sorry that the sound of his guitar playing
will not be renewed, that we will both never actually hear him
I sincerely hope that some of his friends and colleagues will
bother to dedicate some of their work to Jason. He deserves it.
I'd like to thank Stefan for allowing this article to be
published. Further thanks need to go to Mr. Timmen of the VSN
(Muscle Disease Foundation Netherlands, or something like that)
for supplying me with information about A.L.S.
Special thanks need to go to Jason himself, for granting us
permission to actually do this article. We wish you all the
strength you can get. Good luck.
To the reader
After the article concerning the Gulf War in ST NEWS Volume 6
Issue 1, once again a rather heavy article. We hope you didn't
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.