Polly Says Her Ears Hurt

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I only have one electric guitar. It’s the same electric guitar that I’ve had for about the last 20 years. It was a gift for my thirteenth, maybe fourteenth birthday, a Fender Jaguar. A copy, yes but I didn’t care. It looked like the one Kurt Cobain played in Nirvana’s, ‘Live Tonight Sold Out!’ video and that was all that mattered. I distinctly remember sitting outside the shop in the front seat of my Dad’s van feeling decidedly uncomfortable; It was bad enough that he was sending me to do the deal myself. What made it worse was what I was expected to hand over.

The guitar was £450, reduced from £600 and my Dad was sending me in with change bags full of coins (none of which were gold) from one of the corner shops he owned at the time. Reduced price or not, I’m sure you’d agree that £450 is a generous gift under any circumstance and this only served to add to my discomfort; You see, my skill level as a guitarist at this time wasn’t exactly worthy of such an expensive piece of kit, something which my Dad was quick to point out once I’d made the purchase but I’ll get to that later.

Understandably then, I would’ve quite liked for the number of people who were aware of my rather obvious limitations to be kept to an absolute minimum but I couldn’t see any way of making that happen; My Dad knew, I obviously knew but now it was time for the manager, his assistants and a shop full of customers on a busy Saturday afternoon to find out as well; It was now time for me to actually, er, you know, try the thing out.

As I cast my mind back 20 years or so, to this moment, I can’t help but think of it as the grunge equivalent of that scene from Wayne’s World; You know the one where Wayne’s getting ready to buy the Strat and the shop assistant has to stop him launching into, ‘Stairway To Heaven’? Well imagine that, except instead of Mike Myers playing Led Zeppelin’s biggest hit, it’s yours truly stumbling through a truly awful rendition of Nirvana’s, ‘Polly’, all the while wishing that the floor would open up and swallow me whole. Was it really that bad, I hear you ask? Well, at one point the shop manager openly gestured towards me to indicate that I was playing the whole thing solely in downward strokes. ‘Charming, you’re gonna be earning money out of this’, I thought. Saying that, he probably would’ve let me have the thing for free if I’d have just stopped playing. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I was able to do the deal and get back to what I’d presumed would be the embarrassment free zone of my Dad’s van’s front seat. Yeah, right.

‘I had a word with the guy’, my Dad started to explain. ‘And he said that you’re not really good enough for such an expensive guitar, so best make sure you put in enough time practising.’ Cheers Dad. To be honest, I would’ve far rather done without any guitar if it meant missing out on that big lump of guilt I’d now be carrying around but when it came to father and son bonding, wildly expensive gestures were pretty much all my old man had. But that’s another story.

And so that’s the tale of how I came to be the proud owner of my beloved Fender Jag copy, the guitar on which many of my tens of hundreds of songs were both written and recorded. I’d be lying if I said it had all been plain sailing. The neck of the guitar is exceptionally long which can be quite awkward, whilst the bridge cover makes palm muting damn near impossible. But all of that pales into insignificance when I consider its upside. That single trait that’s valued more than any other. That one significant quality that will convince any musician to tolerate all the other glitches and shortcomings. The number one priority of any guitarist worthy of the name;

It. Looks. Amazing.

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