My eldest brother was an avid guitarist and I asked him to teach me to play. He obliged, though very slowly, he gave me a few pointers – although I was only allowed to pick up his pride and joy in his presence.
I bought some strings with the money I’d made selling old golf balls and the strings were the only tariff my brother demanded for access to his guitar and tutoring skills – basic though they be. I can still recall the first few bits of tablature he scribbled for me to practice, and the crudely drawn chord boxes, complete with dots indicating where my fingers should be. A little like the pencil marks Grandad used to make on the piano keys when he tried to teach me to play too; I needed something to follow – I wasn’t the best at remembering chords, etc…
My brother’s guitar was a genuine Fender Stratocaster and probably his one true love! He did have a childhood sweetheart whom he later married, however, I think he was more in love with this guitar than his girlfriend as he’d lovingly clean it, in stark contrast to his partner, as quite often and mostly over drink-fueled weekends they’d be knocking lumps out of one another. He also had an old amplifier that never had a plug on it – I remember him pushing the wires into the holes in a wall socket many a time; obviously the slight risk of electrocution not occurring to him. When he was plugged in and playing it sounded fantastic, and I knew that if I could play like that, then there was no doubt that in a very short time, I’d be the most famous rock star ever! Well in my mind anyway… When he played it was amazing! He played easily and it took him no amount of concentration whatsoever – when I tried, it was mostly just scratching and screeching. Mind you, my fingers were only small, stubby little things and I couldn’t even wrap them around the neck of the guitar. Wrestling with the adult size guitar, neck stretched to see where I was trying to put my fingers, my tongue would be out and covering my bottom lip with a dogged determination!
My guitar lessons weren’t to last long…
Along came holiday time, and as was the tradition, we were off to Cullercoats! This time, my eldest brother and sister were left at home to fend for themselves. Being young adults now, it was obvious they’d grown bored of family holidays and had better things to do with their time. A slightly misplaced trust was bestowed on them to house-sit in our absence. Their weekend social habits had more attraction than sunshine (or rain), sand and sandwiches – and a week in a holiday boarding house; although Whitley Bay did have it’s own nightlife, my mischievous elder siblings were content with their friends and antics back at home.
Returning from our little holiday, no more than two steps through the front door at home and into a house that reeked of alcohol, and with a carpet that squelched when stepped on, horrified my over-houseproud mother! She’d worried about leaving the others behind all week and I guess she fancied that she’d return to some horror or other. The absence of parents and much younger children was for my elders, the signal to party! And party they did! The house was a wreck. Cans and bottles strewn everywhere, rubbish, dirty clothing and a kitchen like a cesspit!
Mum saw red and the yelling commenced! Almost faint with temper, and following a few words of backchat from my eldest brother, she grasped at his guitar, which stood proudly on its stand in the living room and without fear or care, hurled it at my brother! It missed him and clattered into the wall, the neck completely snapped through and only attached to the body by the strings.
That was end of my guitar playing…for the moment.