Recently, I was asked about my favorite guitar solo.
There are a few recordings that changed my life. One was Bobby Darin’s 'Dream Lover', another was The Beatles 'Love Me Do', and 'Apache' by The Shadows. 'Dream Lover' was the first 45 rpm record that my brother and I owned and loved, and we would play it over and over again (somehow) on our grandfather's old wind up gramophone.
The moment I heard 'Love Me Do' I knew that life was going to be different now that The Beatles were in it - and I was right. Soon after that I was in London, with Marty and Joyce Wilde on a magical, musical journey and The Beatles were in London and they were the leaders of the 'scene' there.
We can often remember the moment we first heard a song or a record. That was the case with me and 'Apache'. The mystery and depth of it, and the minor key darkness and major key relief absolutely captured me. It was the summer of 1960. I was working ( at 13 years old ) with a theatre company in Lyme Regis and one of the company had a radio that we would tune in without fail to the 'pop' shows on the BBC Light Programme. We knew when they would be coming on - there were so few pop shows on the government controlled airwaves. I heard 'Apache' for the first time on that radio in that little theatre. It was such a huge record that year I was in heaven and I have adored the record ever since. It still never fails to work it's magic on me every single time I hear it. Apache is one long beautiful guitar solo.
Today, one of my close friends is Bruce Welch and we love playing the old songs together for fun and for our songwriter pals. I have also had the honour of playing on stage with him and Hank, the late Jet Harris and Liquorice Locking with Marty singing, all together at The London Palladium. I could hardly believe it was happening - sharing a stage with my heroes was one of the most wonderful times I have ever known.
However - the question was my favourite guitar solo of all time - well of course - it's James Burton's solo on Ricky Nelson's 'Hello Mary Lou'.
Like you, and all of the guitar players in the world, I was so very sad to hear of the passing of B.B.King. While he was still with us, and on the road until not so long ago, I found it comforting, and it was always a thrill (never gone) to see his photo on the wall backstage at the gigs and to be on the stage that he had graced. I did have the joy of seeing him play many years ago and I loved that slight jerk he would sometimes throw his fingers and body into at the end of a short guitar phrase. He was the master of understated playing, and proof that less is often more. Like so many guitar players he accepted that his guitars were female and the story of his Lucille's are told best elsewhere.
Some guitars players would not dream of giving their guitars a gender - but my guitars, with just a couple of exceptions, have always been male.They are my true friends, and sometimes, in my darker moments, I come to believe they are my only true friends. Every guitar tech I have worked with, including David (who incidentally is the best I have known) has assumed that my guitars are female, kinda like boats, which I don't see as female either. I can understand it, but to me women are much more complex, sexy and fascinating than woody instruments, not straightforward at all, and sometimes not faithful either. I hope it doesn't disillusion any fans of my guitars, but there it is.
So what were my exceptions? For some reason my Danelecto Sitar guitar is female. You absolutely have to coax it into sounding lovely. And a Martin 12 string that I have had since the sixties. It has silk and steel strings and is gentle and delicate. You can hear that on 'Nostradamus'.
Now - when it comes to keyboards, that's a different matter. For some reason, which I tend not to try and analyse or think about too much, I assume my keyboards are female. It's natural to caress a keyboard, and a strong, and sometimes gentle touch is needed. I have a huge old Yamaha controller keyboard that I write on and that has always been a delightful lady, and my 1980's DX7, still featured on most of my recordings, and sampled now for stage sounds, is still my light, flighty girlfriend.
Perseverance is the best advice for anyone wanting to play the guitar. It will be painful on your hands and fingers for a while, but try and push through that - it will soon pass. I'm not a believer in talent, I believe in desire - you must want to play more than anything. But you must get a good quality guitar, and preferably one that you choose yourself. If you have a clear connection to that particular guitar from the beginning it will mean more to you. A guitar is a friend and you should want to be with it.
Even the best guitarist could still use some of these great tips!
I think it's best to start learning with chords on the top (high) four strings. The chords are then easier to form and understand and when you have learned a few good shapes on four strings the whole chord will come easier later.
If you really like certain songs learn to play the chords, however slowly. Then make sure the right hand (if you are right handed) keeps a good rhythm. I always think the right hand can make people tap their feet to a good groove - so keep that groove - and when you play always go to the end of the song. Try not to stop in the middle - just go past your mistakes and move on along the song. Stopping in the middle never works.
And finally, I know it seems obvious but maybe most important of all, make sure your guitar is perfectly in tune when you play. Buy a tuner, and keep your guitar well tuned, otherwise, no matter how good you get, it will never sound great.