The classical guitar lessons were not going well.
I could barely pluck and plonk my way through even the most simple of the “etudes” set for me by my guitar teacher Mr Miles without stopping in the wrong place or playing the wrong note. They were not going well mainly because I did not practice enough, and I didn’t practice enough because it was unrewarding and boring, and it was nothing like being in T-Rex as I was rather optimistically hoping. I still couldn’t work out how you got from the dreary repetitive exercises that I was being given by Mr Miles to full on proper power pop, it was like he'd never heard of electric guitars. There were definitely no signs of proper songs in Mr Miles’ music rooms which hosted a strictly classical curriculum and were located just across the road from my primary school. Despite my lack of obvious progress I continued with my weekly appointments, partly because I was hoping that one day the etudes would be over and we could start on Ride A White Swan, but really I just didn’t want to disappoint my parents.
By the time I was 8 years old, all I really wanted to do was to be in a band. There were no actual bands of any merit with 8 year olds in, and I didn’t want to be in a silly children’s band, like the kind of novelty freakshow who might crop up on Junior Showtime or Opportunity Knocks, or a one hit wonder like Our Kid or Flintlock. That wasn’t what I meant at all.
Staring at the photograph my father had taken of me in my school uniform leading my utterly non-rock star life, simply served to further illustrate the enormous gaping canyon between me and the bands I would see in magazines and watch every week on Top of The Pops in their rock star clothes with proper electric guitars and this gap seemed utterly unbridgeable. I didn’t have a proper guitar, just my stupid nylon strung classical one that I took to Mr Miles, certainly not the electric type that was essential to being in a rock band, I didn’t have any cool clothes, I was pudgy and had a sort of “home-cut haircut” and I didn’t know anyone who either was in a band or wanted to be. This same feeling was coupled with a great urgency about getting there, a slight panic, of being able to be in a rock band while rock bands still existed.
My Mother called every new band or thing I got into “faddy”. That’s what she thought about each and every successive band I declared an undying loyalty to but also to pop music as a whole, that it was just faddy and one day we’d all wake up and suddenly there would be no pop music because we were all now bored with it and were no longer thrilled to be hoppin' and a boppin' to the Crocodile Rock. If my Mother was right, as she quite often was, then Pop music would soon suffer the same fate as clackers and space hoppers, and one morning everyone in all the bands would get a sensible job at the Abbey National or join the ambulance service or something, Radio 1 would have to shut down because it would have absolutely no listeners, and we’d all be back to listening to Val Doonican, Connie Francis, and nightly re-runs of Dick Barton on the valve wireless while sipping our Ovaltine before turning in for the night on our horse hair beds… in the Anderson shelter, by candlelight.
I would not let this happen. The future was quite clearly in my hands. Quite a responsibility for a 8 year old.
On the first day that I arrived at secondary school, the music teacher asked for a show of hands of the people who had already started to learn an instrument. I kept quiet and very very still thinking that it would excuse me from continuing along the musical cul de sac that was the classical guitar. For once I was right, there would be no more guitar lessons for me. It was a short lived victory though, as instead it had simply fast tracked me into the unspeakable domain of beginners violin. Ever the optimist, I told myself that maybe this was a good thing, maybe the violin would be easier, I might be a natural, maybe I could start thinking of it like beginners ELO. Positioned around the music stands in our small tutor groups we launched into “Bobby Shaftoe” for the umpteenth time, my violin playing was uncertain, screechy, tuneless, clumsy and unpleasant. A bit like my guitar playing really.