‘McCartney and Hendrix Should Not Be Held Responsible’

drawing woman playing guitarDid we talk about my guitar lessons? No, probably not.  Well, after a zillion years of consuming the product of other people’s efforts, I’ve decided to take a shot at it myself. I did used to play, plucking out a melody on an upside-down old acoustic and receiving the adulation of family members, but that’s where it stopped. When you’re a leftie, anatomically speaking, in the early sixties and have the social constraints both of class and being a GIRL, the idea that account might be taken of your disadvantage never occurs to anyone. Yes, we had Paul McCartney but beyond noticing that his guitar was the wrong way round, we never gave a thought to how he managed to make the same notes as everyone else or what he did with his strings. At the time, we were more preoccupied with his boyish rabbit-in-headlights appearance which contrasted nicely with Lennon’s rather more rakish demeanour. Looking like the kid who just got detention for hiding in the cloakroom during break and hauled out by his ear, Lennon was the Beatle parents least wanted their daughters to warm to, although even he was preferable to any number of Rolling Stones whose unwashed and deviant personae sent dads into a frenzy of gate-keeping activity. To say there was a national lock-down for teenage girls during that era is to suggest that Khrushchev and Kennedy were maybe having a bit of a spat over a few silly weapons in Cuba. Had there been DIY stores at the time, the run on locks and heavy duty razor wire would have cleaned them out.

Anyway, the upshot was that, plonking aside, I never really got to ‘do’ any music. Even when Hendrix crashed onto the scene, his handedness rather passed me by.  By that time I was at art college and although art was essentially the medium through which its practitioners would abstract and interpret the real world, actually living in it was not terribly cool so we didn’t. As a result, I was more inclined to float enigmatically and with a studiously vacant expression to ‘Purple Haze’ than try to figure out how he achieved an Amaj7. It didn’t matter of course. Unlike doing the high jump, playing tennis or rounders, or passing maths exams. Ok, maybe the last wasn’t so much down to being left handed as being mathematically brain-dead but you get the picture.  With tennis, I was always facing the wrong way and spent most lessons searching in the cow field for a ball that my powerful but undisciplined clout sent there. Rounders? Goes straight to first base and you’re out. Embarrassing but not injurious, unlike the high jump when, taking off from the same start as the righties, you end up in a tangle of legs and poles through trying to pirouette in mid-air having taken off from the opposite foot.

The delight, although possibly not for my close neighbours, is that a search through that wonderful Emporium, the Internet, reveals gee-tars of all kinds, including a selection properly constructed and strung for lefthanders. Unfortunately, the one I bought didn’t come with a plug-in talent chip so I’m having to struggle with fingers that now seem ridiculously short and fat, a chest I can’t see over to find the chords, and a left hand that has suddenly become more wooden than an entire series of Space 1999[1].

I have a patient teacher. He plays heroically along while I crash and stutter from A to C, D to Em, then G to something that ought to be C again but plainly isn’t.  After practising the simple ditties he left me (‘Jambalaya’ being one and ‘Wonderful Tonight’ another and I am SO SORRY you guys.) I discovered I have two speeds. The first, my troubadour mode, results in recognisable chords at least and goes chord tuneless-wailing, chord more-wailing. The vocals, if we can call them that, offer an interval of time during which I can line up for the next strike of the strings in the manner of an ice skater preparing for a big jump. There is certainly a jump but I rather fancy the scores would come in at a generous 3.2 leaving me well out of the medals.

My other speed is George Formby. Told to keep moving, never mind what the right hand is doing, my left is going like the clappers on the grounds that any attention to its activities will bring it shuddering to a halt. You won’t have heard ‘Sorrow’ played in the ‘When I’m Cleaning Windows’ styleeee I expect and for that you should be more than grateful.  In fact if you pay me, I might consider not putting it on YouTube. I’m not greedy, a couple of quid each would be fine. Tonight I have a Roxy Music number in my sights.

[1] What can you say about Space 1999? Like Thunderbirds without the strings, it was on British TV in the 1970s and probably set the standard for Blake’s 7. We were easy to please.

 

From Not Being First Fish by P Spencer-Beck.  Available from Amazon (non-illustrated edition). Second edition (illustrated) due 2018.

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