Thursday, February 26, 2015

Six men, three songs, a lifetime of music

I don't know about anyone else, but I can tell you the exact moment I decided I had to learn to play guitar: July 3rd 1985, at about 3:45 in the afternoon.

It was a particular song, played in a particular way, in a particular context. I'd heard the song many times before, but this was different. This was... powerful.

It hit me in the gut, grabbed me by the balls, and said "YOU WILL DO THIS".

Unfortunately, my mother didnt think I was old enough for my own guitar yet (I had been taking vocal, piano, and music theory lessons for several years already by then). She made me wait...

Maybe she was hoping I would change my mind, since my dad played guitar and she had some bad memories and associations there. She aways wanted me to play sax, which I started learning as a kid, but the reeds gave me mouth sores so I had to stop, and I had the same problem when I tried to learn trumpet (in retrospect, we were pretty poor that year, and the next couple years, and you could rent used band instruments for a few dollars a month but not guitars and amplifiers).

So I spent the next four years and five months messing about with other people's acoustic guitars, in my music classes, and family friends and friends, and anything I could get my hands on... before my mother finally bought me my own electric guitar.

Those years of messing with other people acoustics, and never knowing what tuning they'd be in, or whether theyd be in tune, or what the strings would feel like; imprinted on my so much, that every time I pick up a guitar, I automatically finger and play an augmented open G chord.

I play the augmented open G, because it let's you hear the relative tuning and intonation of every string clearly and immediately, and highlights any defects in the guitar and it's setup. It also sounds good arpeggiated, and several songs can be played within the arpeggiation.

Still today, my fingers just automatically reset to that position by default, whenever I'm not specifically playing anything else... and it's almost always the last thing I play before I put the guitar down, just by reflex.

My first guitar was a bright red Epiphone Stratocopy (an sm-3), purchased Christmas of '89 from Daddy's Junky Music, in Boston Massachusetts.

I very much wanted a Strat', very specifically because of two other songs, and two other players... again both of which grabbed me and said "you will will do this".

Those two songs ended up being the first rock songs I ever learned to play... That first song, that grabbed me back in 1985, was quite a lot harder, and took a lot longer to learn... and hell, I still can't play it "right" more than 25 years later... I don't think anybody can play it quite right, except for the true original.

So, I guess I can credit five... well, really six... people (all but one were guitarists), and three songs, with making me absolutely need to play electric guitar.

If you're a guitarist, or a music nerd, I'm sure you know what those three songs are and who three of those guitarists are, without even thinking about it.

The other three people (two guitarists) in question might be a surprise, but the answer is in that date above.

Anybody want to guess who those people are, and what the songs are?