In an article on Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards from grandparenteffect.com, Keith reflects on his first encounter with his grandad’s guitar which was placed high out of reach on a piano.
“And I just kept looking at it, and he didn’t say anything, and a few years later I was still looking at it.”
Gus said, “Hey, when you get tall enough, you can have a go at it.”
“So I was being teased in a way… Gus was leading me subtly into getting interested in playing, rather than shoving something into my hand and saying ‘It goes like this.’”
Eventually, “he took the guitar down and said, ‘Here you go.’”
It was no different for me. My hunger to play festered in the cage of restriction. I worked so hard to express my interest, until finally I earned myself a three-quarter-size acoustic and progressed to an electric. When I say progress I mean I pissed my pants during a classical guitar lesson because I was bored. This is not what Stevie Ray Vaughn plays!
Earlier today, I was booted out of the last spare room in the house to make room for our second bub. So I did what any muso would do and kicked the car out, laid down a rug and set up in the garage! I soaked up the new creative space and was instantly transported back to my days growing up in Ruse, bunkered up for hours in the garage learning, jamming, experimenting and sometimes fighting with my dad. That’s where it all started…
At seven years old, after claiming the electric guitar, it was time for me to claim the recording equipment. A Sansui hifi system, two portable tape decks and a Yamaha RX8 drum machine; strictly under the sole operation of my father. From the drum machine to the user manual, he would grunt and swear while I’d grow increasingly frustrated at the music we weren’t making. I was more of a “just push some buttons and work it out along the way” type of kid. While he stepped out, my passion driven fingers would defy his “hands off” rule to work out a way to program a series of beats to jam to. Over time, I was making the drum machine work for me. Drums, percussion, cheesy bass and horns. Boom, I now had a band!
Mum and dad were out for the night, and I convinced the babysitter that I was allowed to jam in the garage by myself. The freezing cold air awakened my creative sensors and I marvelled at the speakers, knobs, lights and meters I had waiting on standby ready to turn my ideas to life. Loud life! I disrespect my baby Peavey 112 and head straight for it’s father – Peavey Renown. It was ten times as loud and had big cool colourful knobs. I hit record on tape deck no.1 and play “roonka choonkas” (rhythm) with the series of beats I had programmed into the drum machine. I then play back what I recorded and soloed over the top while hitting record on tape deck no.2. After sitting back to listen to my new creation, I’m unsatisfied with the stiffness of my bass player (drum machine bass) and decide to sack him.
To the right of me stands a black bass guitar that’s only been touched by my dad, but it’s calling my name. I know it’s tuned like a guitar so it can’t be that hard, right? But where to plug it in? A guitar amp is meant for a guitar… Ding! All the records we play through the hifi have bass in them, so dad’s precious Sansui must be fit to handle a bass guitar! So I plug in to the input of the tape deck and crank it. It sounds so ballsy! I hit record on the tape decks and add the bottom end my tapes never had. The babysitter calls down from upstairs just as I finish the last take. I crank the final master through the hifi for one last listen, but notice a serious buzz coming out of one of the EV speakers. That must have always been there, I muse. I go upstairs, put my pj’s on and send out some prayers to Santa.
“Naaaaaathan!!!” my dad’s yelling from the garage. I walk down half asleep and see him grimacing at his beloved EV3’s and asks me, “Were these working last night?” he asks. “Ummm yeah… but towards the end there might have been a tiny little buzz but they were working fine the whole time for me.” I reply hesitantly. When he unpeels the front cover off one of the speakers, my stomach drops as crumbles of cone fall to the ground. The whole sub was shattered. I’m fucking dead. When he questions how I spent last night’s session, I confessed that I plugged the bass guitar into it and knew by his face that I had made a grave mistake. I had been clobbered for talking back, or not cleaning my room for the hundredth time, but to my amazement all he said this time was, “You can’t plug a bass into this hifi system. Okay?” Still to this day, I’m waiting for the hiding.
The next day, the EV3’s have been replaced by old shit kicker PA speakers that I can crank. And I do! Me and my “band”, at seven years old are rockin’ out when dad comes down to watch. The track stops and we are startled by a firm knock on the roller door. As the roller door opens I see two pairs of big boots, followed by blue. Cops! My mum runs down from the living room, and both my parents are having a discussion with the boys in blue whilst looking at me. They’re strapped with guns, I’m strapped with a guitar and a dopey “am I going to jail?” look on my face. One officer signs off saying, “Just try and keep it down”. Turns out they had received a complaint from the witch on the corner about a loud rock band playing in our garage. Most of the conversation was them expressing their shock and embarrassment!