Music 3: The non-adventures of a guitar player

I play the guitar, I have now played the guitar for more of my life than I have not, which is crazy for me to think about. What is also crazy is that there are probably many people who know me who do not know that I play, when I tell them they are surprised. I’ll get to that later.

I made mention in part 2 of my self-exploration of music that I had briefly played guitar when I was around 8 or 9 years old. It didn’t last & I had almost completely forgotten about 08-InTheseArms-BonJovi01-tnit. However, when I was 16 & had rediscovered rock & roll, my desire to play guitar was overwhelming. My hero was Richie Sambora & I simply wanted to play guitar. I had bonded with a friend at college over music, he was as big a GnR fan as I was Jovi, we both decided we needed to get guitars. My friend had his stuff together a little better than I did, he had a part time job & he had some money. I’m not sure I even had a paper round at this point in life, I’m going to go with probably not. My friend got an Epiphone Les Paul & I saw a white Stratocaster that I simply had to have.

The date was February 23rd 1994 (I know because I still have the receipt). It was a white strat, just like the one Hendrix played at Woodstock (I was wonderfully naive) I had to have it. Unfortunately I didn’t have any money to buy it with. The store was a place called Big Deal, it was pretty much a pawn shop in the city center, they bought & sold things, mostly musical or electrical. So no money & a guitar I had to have, I did what any right minded person would do, I negotiated (which in hindsight is hilarious because I don’t negotiate, I just don’t).

I worked a deal out with the place to trade my computer & all my video games for the guitar. Now looking back, this was a really big deal, I love video games, I lose more time to gaming than any other hobby, for me to be willing to give that up completely in order to get a guitar shows how badly I wanted it. I remember going home to get my computer all packed up, going back into town (all on the bus). It was snowing by the time I got back there. They checked every thing over & before you knew it she was mine. A beautiful white Fender Squire Stratocaster.

Now I talked about being wonderfully naïve, it is really ridiculous how naïve I was. Let’s start with the guitar, I had no idea that there were different levels in quality on a guitar, I thought they were all just guitars. My introduction to the electric guitar was on a completely base, entry level piece of wood. That of course didn’t matter; it was the perfect guitar for me at the time. I wish I had taken a picture of it, unfortunately I apparently didn’t think about such things back then – the digital age is wonderful.

Anyway, anyone who knows anything about electric guitars knows that you need an amplifier in order for them to be, well, electric. This concept had completely eluded me & I had no notion as to how I would amplify the guitar. Step in my Dad, this is not the spot for it, but I struggle with finding happy childhood memories, heck I struggle with finding memories period. So happy Dad memory, yay.

My Dad rigged up an amp of sorts, he had a tape deck that would accept a phono input, he then connected that to an old record player from my Granddad for the speaker. There you have it, my first amp. I played either through that or through the karaoke mic input of my hi-fi for almost a year before I got my first real amp. My Dad played guitar at his church, acoustic only, to me he was a master of the instrument. He showed me some chords, let me borrow his big guitar book (I’m still borrowing it) & also showed me how to play the House of the Rising Sun. The 1st song I learnt to play, I still get a kick out of playing that song.

I am completely self-taught on the guitar, other than when I was 9 I have never had a lesson, img019 I don’t count them as anything that I learnt was completely gone by the time I was 16. I learnt initially from the Guitar handbook that I borrowed from Dad. Then from other books, from playing along to music, playing with friends & from just practicing over & over. These were not the days of youtube & free tab, if you wanted the music for a song you had to buy it. Half the time you could only get the piano music for it anyway, for guitar all they gave was the chords, you could tell how tricky a song was going to be by the number of chord boxes shown at the beginning.

So I went along my journey of learning how to play, very slowly figuring things out. I didn’t even attempt to play lead for months, I’m not sure why, but I didn’t grasp the concept initially, on the bright side that allowed me to build a good solid foundation of chords. Speaking of chords, I remember the 1st time I tried to play a power chord, something that is so natural today, was the most painful thing I’d ever asked my hand to do.

On July 19th of 1995; 17 months or so into playing, I got an upgrade on my guitar. Probably the coolest new toy I’ve ever had, simply because of the significance of it to me at the time. Iimg022 got a brand new Richie Sambora signature Stratocaster. Ok, it was the made in Mexico version & not the Fender custom shop edition, but it was & still is, an utterly awesome guitar. What made it even more special was that it is autographed by the man himself. The 1st Bon Jovi concert I went to, June 28th 1995, the guy from the music shop I frequented got to have a dream come true for him. He was as big a Richie fan as I & he got to go back stage & meet the man, also getting 2 pickguards autographed, one of which I still own today.

img020 Here it is (bedroom guitar photos are awseome – in a ridiculous kind of way)

The guy from the music shop, would go on to become the best friend I ever had, other than img023the one I married (hand hint, marry your best friend, it really helps your marriage work), he was the best man at my wedding & for seven years after I bought the guitar until I emigrated in 2002 we would jam together our on guitars. We became friends because of Richie Sambora, that dude has had a huge impact on my life. My friend Scott also arranged for me to meet Richie a few years later courtesy of Taylor guitars, we had a brief meet & greet backstage at a concert – talk about a big moment, that day I started to believe again that things were possible in life. August of 2000, I wonder now how much that seemingly impossible moment allowed be to have the faith to follow my heart & move to Texas in 2002.

img021Ok maybe Scott is a bigger Richie fan than me, he had the double neck custom made, the triple neck he bought from the man himself. that very same guitar is the one Richie used at the Moscow Peace Festive.

So anyway, I’m getting better as a guitarist, writing songs & like any other guitar infatuated teenager all I wanted to do was become a rock & roll star. The thing is though, I never even got started. I never tried. of all the things I have done that I shouldn’t have, of all the things I never did that I should have, my one big regret in life is that I have never played electric guitar on stage in front of people.

Ok, so I did try, just not very hard. Partially due to my naivety as to how the world worked, partially because a few years after I started playing, life got tough & instead of retreating into music I all but stopped playing. Life got real & I had to take care of that. There were other things though, I wanted to be in a band with friends, I wasn’t confident enough to join a band, I needed to start one, yet they never got off the ground. Ultimately though subconsciously I didn’t figure it out because I was afraid. I was especially afraid to go out & try to do it by myself. I remember one time me & a buddy tried out for a band, a few days later they called me & asked if we were a package deal or if I would be interested in joining alone. I politely declined, horrified at the thought.

Why? What causes someone that wants something so badly to not even try to attain it? Quite simply 2 things, a complete lack of self-worth & a crippling fear of rejection. Until recently (a few years ago) my identity, what I believed in my heart of hearts to be true about myself, was built on lies. My identity was that I was not worthy, that I was unlovable & that I would never achieve anything. I learnt to hide these things, ignore them, pretend they were not there, but (and this is always sub/un-conscious) these lies have controlled more of my life than I will ever know.

What causes such beliefs? It’s easy for me to blame it on my parent’s separation, divorce & the fallout from that when I was 13 or being beaten & bullied all through high school. The truth though, is that while they were significant contributing factors, the damage had already begun long before those periods. When I was 13 all I wanted to do was play soccer, yet it took me 2 years to try out for the school team. I would practice for hours, even play on non-school teams, but I wouldn’t try out at school. Why? Because I was afraid they would tell me I wasn’t good enough & it was so important to me that I couldn’t face the chance that they would say that. I was so afraid of the rejection that I did not put myself in a position to be rejected. I’m not going to air what I have discovered about my childhood here, my parents did the best they could, they loved me & provided for me, that is way more than a lot of people get, unfortunately they were not so great at nurturing me, I’ll leave it there. It was not all my parents, so many little things here & there that seem insignificant at the time, insults, jokes, they build up, like a runaway snowball until they are huge & crippling.

So where does that leave me today? Well, I’m comfortable with not being a rock star, honestly it would have been more than I could have handed any way. Was I good enough? Who the heck knows, probably not, but it takes way more than talent anyway. I play guitar for my own entertainment, occasionally I get to play with others, my brother-in-law is a very talented bass player, I have a friend who is a very good drummer. I hope that one day we will all be able to make enough time to get to play a gig together, make that band that I always wanted to make. That’s really all I want, 1 show. I have looked into joining bands, the problem is I don’t want a 2nd job, I already have a job, I have a family, I have a life. It seems that most bands want to play multiple shows a weekend, practice a few times a week & basically want more of a commitment that I am willing or able to give. So if I wind up going through life having never played on stage, while it will be a regret, I am good with that because today, my family is my main thing.

As far as my playing, I enjoy messing around with the guitar. I learn songs only when I really want to, most of the time I like to invent music. I love to sit down & just see what comes out, maybe play a few chords into the looper & just play lead over it. I love the spontaneity of improvisation, I play the same way I write my poems, I just see what is going to come out, there may be an initial plan but it is always a matter of lets see where it goes.

Where am I at with my self-worth & fear of rejection you might be wondering? My self-worth is at an all time high. My wife did wonders for that, the love she spoke into me changed me forever and then there is God. When I was learning how to hear from God, one of the things to do was ask him to tell you something about yourself, something he wanted you to know. I asked and I was told “you are loved”, not an audible voice, but the words appeared in my mind, words that I know did not come from me. At the time I was hoping he was going to tell me something like you’ll be the next Clapton lol. That’s not how He works, he is not interested in the goals of this world, He is interested in the Kingdom & freeing His beloved from the chains of lies. I am loved, I am accepted, I am worthy. If I am all these things to God, then why should I fear rejection from humans?

Easier said than done of course, but I have found over time that just stubbornly defying the fear, putting it out there, at least allowing for the possibility for the rejection to happen is infinitely better than hiding from the possibility itself. That is how I am able to press the publish button after I have written something. Years ago I could not even have contemplated writing something like this.

Where do I go with my music now? Well I really want to start writing songs again, I have over 20 songs I wrote back in England. I figure that my poetry should be the basis for some new songs too. I think that to honor that broken kid who was too afraid to share his works, I am going to make an attempt to record at least a rough demo of all those songs & post them on here, good bad or indifferent. It may be that nobody listens to them, but at least they will be out there & one more shackle from the past will be broken.

To finish up I’ll leave you with these 3 videos of my playing. When I gave my testimony to my men’s group at church earlier this year, was when I realized that I had been afraid to share my music all these years. So I decided to record me noodling around & share it. 2 reasons, 1 so that I didn’t lose whatever I was creating that. 2  just to get over the fear of someone that I didn’t know hearing me play. So here they are, just me in my office messing around, not polished, not finished products, but me playing, so be gentle

This is the 1st one I recorded, the audio was captured using the camera so it’s not great quality

This was me figuring out how to make a video, I recorded the guitar through Cubase & mixed it with the video using Windows Movie Maker

This I came up with playing in an open tuning that a friend showed me. Apparently I am getting more comfortable as I allowed my head to be on the screen 😉

Now I’m going to go & play guitar, maybe I’ll record something, maybe an old song that I wrote, maybe I’ll relearn Johnny B Goode, who knows? …..

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