Sunday, August 19, 2007

Creation in the Back Yard...
...or on a park bench, at a beach, wherever...

You see them everywhere; some of them sound really great; others sound okay, and some of them, well.....(and I hope I'm not in that last category). And they seem to transcend time itself. Oftentimes, 20-somethings will group with their buddies; other times, old hippies can be seen as they flash back to their younger days. Some love to have a crowd standing 'round so they can show off a little bit; others are content to sit off by themselves and let things take their course. What do all of these people have in common? They're playing guitar in an outdoor setting...

There is a degree of intimacy that can be reached with an acoustic guitar, that is difficult to achieve with a lot of other instruments. The acoustic guitar can be taken anywhere, it can be played (almost) anywhere, it can be gently strummed, it can be played urgently, it can bring forth lush chords or single notes; it can be used to replicate current hit songs or oldies, or as a way to convey the state of mind its player is in at the time. And, I never cease to marvel at the fact that although the average guitar neck is only a couple of feet long on average, between the ends of that guitar neck is an entire miniature little world that probably no one knows everything about...although some guitarists are so great, it's scary...

Sometimes, especially in an outdoor setting, my mind just wanders almost everywhere if I've brought my guitar with me. The roar of the ocean, for some reason, seems to bring out melancholy-sounding minor chords strummed very slowly...and a song I learned many years ago, Neil Young's "On The Beach" is something that just naturally arrives when I am playing within sight and sound of the ocean, and then I just kinda go from there. Sometimes there's careful attention to musical structure; other times, chords and pieces of melody wander in and out and up and down and through...I wish I could play everything I hear or imagine, all the while, knowing I can't...and how long have I been doing this now, some 30 years?

The next time you see an aspiring young guitarist either sitting alone with his instrument, or in a grouping with others, before you dismiss them categorically as you make your way through your day, consider this: That guitarist might just have the power to change the entire musical universe, if not society in general. You never know. That guitarist most likely won't be me, but still, it's amazing the effect that a backyard strummer can have. You might just be hearing the next important talent out there. And that person might just change the world, as this young guitarist did, once upon a long time ago...

The year was 1962. The place, Liverpool, a port city in Northern England. What, you say, the young man seems to playing his guitar the wrong-way-'round? And, looking at him back then, you would've never guessed that this young man became one of the most influential musicians the world has ever known. For, this is the 18-year-old, left-handed Paul McCartney, playing in the back yard, way back in the days before "Meet The Beatles". Not everything he's written over the years has been great, but the impact this one person has had is amazing. The above photo is the front cover of Paul McCartney's 2005 album, "Chaos and Creation in the Back Yard", taken by his younger brother, Mike.

A few pieces of wood glued together. A few thin metal bars inserted into the wood. Some mechanical hardware at the top. Metal strings stretched over its body. And someone to put all of these things into motion. Sometimes I look at my old guitar, and I can't believe I've had it over 20 years now. I bought it at a pawn shop long ago. And it's never been back in pawn, and I'm proud of that. I look at all the scratches and dents on its body, and I think of all the times I played with other musicians, or alone, in happy times and in dark moments, on that guitar that's been with me such a long time. Chaos and creation indeed. Or, maybe it's "creation in spite of chaos." I'll have to think about that...

____________________

From what I've read, a young John Lennon was forced to practice his guitar out on the porch, out of earshot of the Aunt who raised him. Paul's dad, a musician himself, was more tolerant of the budding Lennon-McCartney partnership. And from such humble beginnings, legends are born.

2 Comments:

Blogger Dogwalkmusings said...

During my school days I played sax in the band and had my own all girls dance band.

As young adult I tried the guitar but was foolish enough to lend it to friends. It would never be returned. I think it took 3 times before I decided that was a pretty stupid thing to do.

I moved on to the banjo with the popularization of blue grass and the realization one couldn't easily sit around a camp fire toodling on a sax.

Then life got in the way and practice stopped. I still have it and pull it out every so often - and how I wish I could play it!

8:47 AM  
Anonymous Idaho escapeE said...

I hate to practice. But when I pick up the guitar at home, I try to create. "Practice" has always been an incredibly tedious experience for me. If it ain't fun, it ain't worth doin'.

3:39 AM  

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