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1) Learning Guitar (1992)


So as memory serves I got my first electric guitar at 14. This was after various abortive attempts at trying to learn the recorder, the violin, the piano, the euphonium and the trumpet. A key gripe I still have from trying to learn these instruments was that the respective teachers made it about as much fun as… well something that’s not much fun at all. Why the hell do I want to play jingle bells on any instrument? I’m sure if they had taught me music from some of the music of the time I’d have shown more interest. Or perhaps with the trumpet introduced me to John Coltrane. Is it too much to ask? After all that’s what trumpet playing is all about isn’t it? Anyway that’s all water under the bridge. These past failures in some way allowed me to focus my efforts on the electric guitar.

I’d had it for at least a year and tried in vain to teach myself, but as with any instrument it’s hard to get over that initial barrier of everything just sounding awful and not knowing what to do. I overcame this by going to night school with a couple of mates (Jon Tuck and Scott Madden) and all of a sudden we had an environment to learn in – although this did require getting sign off from our head master to say that learning the guitar wouldn’t effect our studying!

Night school was a slightly surreal but joyous experience. We were the youngest in the class by some margin. The rest of the class was made up of Shadows fans, bored house wives and middle aged frustrated rockers. Our teacher, Adrian, was a nice guy who could certainly play but also had the knack of making everything he played sound like country / rock and roll. But fair play he had his sound. Even if Smells Like Teen Spirit shouldn’t really be played with sliding chords and that big reverby twang that he used to embellish everything with. Anyway it was this environment that got us over the bridge of sounding awful and gave us hands on tuition at learning the chords and gaining confidence in making quick changes. That's an awful lot of practice. Tunes we learnt at the time included Knocking on Heavens door, Hotel California (really thought I’d arrived when I could play this! LOL!), Smells Like Teen Spirit and a host of others.

After night school got up and running I had the double benefit of guitar lessons also getting offered at school. Enter David Holmes or “Dave” as we used to refer to him who took what I thought was possible with a guitar to a whole new level. Trying to think back I think Dave at the time must have been in his mid to late twenties and I think he saw our enthusiasm and decided to just go with it rather than try and teach us all the law and fundamentals of music. As a result each week we’d take in a tape of our favourite bands and Dave would just listen to it and figure out how to play them there and then. This at the time had the feel of the super natural about it. It was through Dave’s magic ears that I learnt to play my first Suede tunes that were a massive influence on my playing (and indeed my life at the time) along with a host of other Indie classics from the likes of Blur, REM, The Boo Radleys, The Smiths, and Dinosaur Jnr. This was like a dream come true and gave me all I needed to actually start writing songs myself and start thinking about putting my own band together!



 

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