I've always had a love/hate relationship with the electric guitar; I love what it does for me (and in my life, it’s done a lot for me. It’s given me an endless supply of booze, drugs and women, for a start. It’s got me out of a few tight situations and into many others) but I’m not so keen on what I’ve got to do for it: namely play it.
Unlike most guitar players, I’m not anal about it. I don’t buy Guitarist magazine or get excited about pick-ups and hardware, insanely shaped plectrums, leopard skin trousers or virtuosity. In fact I think all that stuff’s a bunch of wank.
If I’m honest with myself, as a young lad I didn’t pick up a guitar because I wanted to play the guitar: no. I picked up the guitar because I wanted to stand on a stage and have the boys stand in awe and the girls throw their knickers at me; I wanted adulation, worship and applause.
The electric guitar is a wonderful extension of the ego. But I was far too lazy to do such mind numbing stuff as practice or learn scales. I just picked up a few riffs off some old Chuck Berry records that I found in my dad’s loft and called it a night. Amazingly enough, I became quite good in spite of myself. Those riffs served me well.
As time went by and my alcoholism plunged ever darker depths it became impossible for me to keep hold of a guitar. They came, to be sure, but they went just as fast. I’d be losing them in blackout, pawning them for drink, or smashing them over people’s heads in fits of impotent fury. Any pleasure I’d ever had in playing was long gone. I was playing for survival, and that was it.
That’s all it ever was for me: a means to an end.
Recently I found myself in the unenviable position of having to earn some money (again). This is because I want to buy a car. Not a flash car, by any means, but hopefully not a Nissan Micra, either. So I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Should I throw myself onto the labour market once more and end up on Prozac working in a shop or factory – or God help me at the Last Chance Employment Agency - for a bunch of soulless capitalist pigs, or become a guitar teacher and anarchist and work for myself?
Not a difficult choice to make.
A friend of mine said he’d lend me a guitar so I could get started. Not just any guitar, as it turned out, but a Telecaster. An original honest to God no frills American Telecaster. As soon as I picked the thing up I felt it creeping over me: that possession, that old Devil.
There was nothing left but to plug in, crank the volume to 11 and explode in a blues fuelled orgy of noise and violence. Nothing grunts like a pig and screams like a whore and reeks of rock and roll like a Fender Telecaster - nothing. I blew out the windows and machine-gunned the neighbourhood; I started revolutions and liberated nations; I created worlds and destroyed universes; I took that thing to space and fucked the face of Death Himself.
Is there anything, I thought, anything that a Telecaster cannot do?
And the answer is no. No there isn’t.
“Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.” – Lao Tzu