Thursday, September 02, 2004

Zen and the Art of Learning Guitar

This weeks story was inspired by someone asking me how long I've been playing guitar. I thought about it... a long time. It occurred to me I don't remember actually learning to play, because I never had lessons, I taught myself, a few people along the way showed me a few tricks. But there must have been a time when I didn't know how to play. This story is about that time...............

I was at university and I figured it would be cool to learn guitar. So I went to the local trading post where I’d seen a guitar for £45. I went in and handed over the money. It included an amplifier. The shop keeper handed me the guitar and then said “Don’t forget yer amp mate.”
I turned around to look where he was pointing. It was twice the size of a large suitcase. With the guitar slung across my back I struggled out of the shop with the amp and made my way through the crowds to the bus stop and waited. A bus came, the driver stopped opened the door and said “You aint comin’ on with that thing.”
“But…….”
“We’ve no room, this is a bus, not a bleedin’ lorry.”
“But…...” The bus drove on leaving me at the stop. “Bastard!!!”
Another bus came, this time the driver was sympathetic and suggested I tuck the amp behind his cab.
I got back to my digs, it was about 11:00am on a damp Friday morning. The house was empty the landlady was off shopping and her children were at school. The next door neighbour was stone deaf so I thought I’d try out my new guitar and amp.
I switched it on, there was a gentle hum followed by a loud echoey pop as I plugged in the guitar. I knew three chords then. A D and E so I hit those strings. Whammmm! Brilliant. Kerrang! Need more volume. Wham Strammm. Blimey I’m good. Whammm whammm kerrang. More volume! I turned that bad boy up full and hit those strings for all I was worth. I was Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Pete Townsend all rolled into one. I was for that moment a guitar God. Wham whamm whammmm. The windows shook and the light fittings rattled. It was great. I was thrashing away at the three chords I knew, revelling in my imaginary stardom.
Suddenly there was a terrific crash. Christ! What was that? I switched off the amp and listened. Nothing. My ears were still ringing. I looked toward my door. Little puffs of white dust were coming up from underneath the door. I slung my axe on the bed and went to open the door….. slowly. I peered out.
WHITE OUT! The whole of the landing was covered in plaster and dust, the ceiling had fallen down. Shit! What have I done? Moments panic. What to do? If I left the room I’d leave footprints in the plaster dust. I’d be caught. Step back shut the door and sit on the bed a few minutes to have a think. I don’t think the house was designed for that level of volume.
A few seconds later I had the answer. I climbed out of the window, shinned down the drain pipe, crossed the back lawn and hopped over the wall. Ran up the road and caught a bus back to Uni. There I stayed in the union bar for a few hours amusing myself with a few friends playing table football.
At six I got back to my digs, opened the door and stood there saying “Oh my God what’s happened?”
My landlady came out the kitchen. “Looks like the rain we’ve had has brought down the ceiling.”
“I guess it was an act of God.” I said, not mentioning the fact it was the act of a guitar God.
Now I said I wasn’t very good back then, well as a post script to this story, I was later in a friends room in the halls of residence, showing off my remarkable prowess at guitar. I was a natural talent. Well I thought I was, until my good friend Mark ripped the guitar out of my hands and chucked it out of the seventh floor window. We all rushed to the window in time to see in plummet downwards towards it’s inevitable destruction. It hit the paving stones at the bottom with a delicious crash and discordant twang.
Mark said “That’s the best that guitar has ever sounded.” I've improved since then.


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