I’ll never forget my first guitar.
At the ripe old age of sixteen, having saved money from my new part-time job (and saved patiently at seven dollars an hour), I walked into my local pawn shop to take the first step on the road to rock stardom. The store had a small, varied collection of guitars, which to my uninitiated eyes appeared as the seven wonders of the musical world. Looking back now, I see the only wonder was how such pieces of junk could be sold so cheaply and still be overpriced. There were four electric guitars, all well used and abused, with nine rusty strings between them. The best of that bunch was an imitation Les Paul, the faded purplish colour of which inspired an involuntary shudder of repulsion. Next to those was a left-handed electric bass, whose designer had disregarded aesthetics, instead opting for a less-is-more, canoe paddle shape. Judging by the condition of the instrument’s body, its previous owner had used it mainly for hammering cricket stumps into the ground. Then there were two medieval acoustics, each one a precision instrument of fingertip torture. With the cheapest axe at one hundred and sixty dollars, they were beyond my budget. However, all was not lost.
A curvy, blonde sales assistant appeared from an office at the back of the store. He waddled over and told me in a thick Swedish accent that he had one more guitar “out the back” that I should see. He assured me I had never seen an instrument like it. At least he was honest. The guitar he showed me was a classical acoustic, covered all over with scratches and heavy metal stickers; it reminded me of my brother’s car. It was strung with fishing line and home to a small colony of wasps, but it was within my price range. I bought it.
The next three months were spent almost entirely in my bedroom, breaking my fingers like I was breaking a horse—a horse learning barre chords and pretending to be in Pearl Jam. When I emerged from that creative chrysalis, I did so with the tools I would need if I was going to make it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: a desire for the spotlight, supreme confidence, and the bare minimum of musical skills.
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