The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world



with Ashley Khan and Hal Miller






Santana is many things to many people: for me it’s hard to think of a band and a man more lovingly defined by a cover song than Santana and their cover of Peter Green’s early Fleetwood Mac classic ‘Black Magic Woman’. For most it’s hard to think of the band without recalling their spot at the most iconic Rock Festival ever – Woodstock. These days of course the younger fans may well recall that latter day mainstream hit ‘Supernatural’.

With more ex-members of the band than you can easily count one thing is clear – Santana has really all been about one man and his musical and spiritual journey, and ‘The Universal Tone’ as far as book titles go – is as close to summing up the man as you can get. After an introduction that attempts to get to the heart of the ‘Universal Tone’ concept – Carlos’ belief that music and the soul are divinely intertwined, and therefore an essential prerequisite to exploring Santana’s journey, what we get is a rather nicely executed work.

Of all the big names in Rock out there it is perhaps surprising that Carlos hadn’t already put pen to paper, but that really says more about his continued resurgence than anything else: the man after all is still very busy. What Santana has also been over the years is mysterious and so ‘The Universal Tone’ surely has a compelling story to tell – a guitarist at the top of his game for 40+ years, millions of fans and more awards and accolades than could fit on any mantelpiece…

And in truth this is a very interesting book and what makes it all the more interesting is Santana’s, at times, perfect sensory recollection (I was going to say photographic but it is all of the senses) of key figures and events which make things all the more interesting. Essentially this is the story of a poor boy ‘done good’, a boy with a freakish talent, but one who works hard, makes mistakes, learns, does good deeds and over time essentially finds some peace with the universe.

You can imagine the poor Mexican kid we first meet in Chapter one meeting the blissful Santana of 2015 – would he ever have contemplated the man he became?  

Best of all for this reader are the recollections of growing up – a world in stark contrast to the stories of the 60’s underground in San Francisco, and of course Woodstock, the 70’s and the resurgence starting with ‘Supernatural’. When you add to that the social activism and humanitarian concerns wrapped up in the quality and detail of the narrative all of those components and the flow make this a compelling read. There’s balance here, searching and yet at times unquestioning, a real sense of balance.

At times honest to a fault and self-effacingly matter-of-fact at times, it’s a book that feels as open as it is rich in detail. And when you couple that with a real sense of the man and his drive and his art you feel a connection that so few autobiographies even contemplate let alone manage. This is far richer than most autobiographies far more inspirational. Now if I could only find that ‘tone’…



by Mark Rockpit