I’ve been hearing his songs ever since I was a little boy – his riffs and his stories. The guitar sound that cut through the airwaves and the glint of humour in his voice.
Then all the others that grew out of him – seeing George in A Hard Day’s Night with his Gretsch or the Beach Boys with their Fenders I fell in love with guitar. I even made a mock one out of thin plywood with my dad’s tools and painted it black. My neighbourhood buddies Carey, Michael and I formed the “new Monkees” and put on “shows” in our back yard with Allan on an old washing machine turned on its side as the drums. We had nothing – no musical chops or real instruments even but we did have that rare enthusiasm. I kept on with it. Through the tennis racket in the mirror phase and the first clunky real axe.
I always wanted to do all those things that he did – write and sing the songs, play the lead and rhythm guitar and move about to the music onstage to songs that meant something to people.
Yesterday I was putting the last few guitar over dubs on the album we’ve been recording. A song called Jennifer. It’s only got the classic three chords and is one of the few songs I’ve written in F. It’s a kind of throwback to a garage band’s take on the Stones.
I’d left it till last the previous Saturday too and had only put one grungy Telecaster rhythm track and the vocal down over the bass and drums. It needed something else.
My friend Neil arrived with his vintage Stratocaster. I plugged it in, slung it low and turned it up and danced around playing an answering rhythm to the original track – trying to get that Keith Richards/Marc Bolan/Chuck Berry feel.
It definitely needed a solo and I’d never done one for this song before or even one in F. I really didn’t know what I was doing – just started playing through it. I felt something very odd in my arms wrestling the licks out of the Strat. I don’t know what it was but it was to do with Chuck Berry and that thing all those players were searching for.
Before I put them away I took a photo from above of all the guitars I’d used in the recording of the album. I felt a sense of satisfaction – I think I’ve finally made the “guitar album” I’ve always wanted to make…
When I woke up the next morning I saw the news that Chuck Berry had passed away.