I hereby claim my prize for the longest blog post title in history. And with that out of the way, let me tell you the problem with guitars.
It’s surprising how yearnings begin. My yearning for a guitar came to me on the shore of Grasmere in the Lake District. Buy a guitar and learn how to play; it was an instruction to myself to develop ‘interests.’ Those interests eventually came back and emptied my wallet.
The Jackson came first. I didn’t watch any YouTube videos about the ideal guitar for the beginner, but in retrospect I don’t remember seeing any that recommended a flying-v. The Jackson JS32T Rhoads in white was my first choice. It was awkward to play sitting down, but I made progress.
I spent the first month plucking strings. The second month developing some left hand dexterity on the neck. Concentrating on one simple task at a time was the idea of a madman from Denmark and it seemed to work. From never having lifted a guitar in my life to effortless alternate picking in four weeks was my idea of success. It would only be a matter of time before Steve Vai was ringing me for advice.
What I hadn’t anticipated was Hurricane Nita. She was one of many faces and fingers on YouTube demonstrating chromatic scales, barred chords, diminished sevenths or whatever, and as if her skills weren’t impressive enough Nita Strauss is a real Strauss, related to the well known Strausses of Vienna. Blue Danube, Raditzky March, New Year’s Day concert and all that.
For those still not familiar with the name, Nita Strauss played for the Iron Maidens and is currently part of Alice Cooper’s band. Off stage she is charming and approachable, on stage she looks a little bit deranged, but in the middle of the mock-horror mayhem she played one of the most desirable guitars I’d ever seen. Her own Ibanez signature called the Jiva 10.
I don’t know if this phenomenon affects you, but when a desire seeds itself in my subconscious it grows like one of those plants that doesn’t need soil or water. It just sits there enlarging until the irrational need becomes irresistible. No amount of logical thought sends it away.
Jiva 10s are not cheap. They’re not the most expensive guitars by a long way, but it was five times more expensive than the Jackson. I sat in a traffic jam in Manchester for 45 minutes so that I could look at a real one in a music shop. It hung high on the wall which was good, because any lower I would have felt obliged to hold it and reveal to everyone that I was a hopeless novice looking at buying a pro guitar. It stayed on the wall and I left without buying anything.
Within seven days I owned one. A price match online was all it took and the day after unboxing it I broke it. Various bits and pieces came flying out of the bridge, which took an hour to put back (It wasn’t really broke, it just sort of disassembled itself.) On day two I broke a string. The locking nut concept getting the better of me this time.
A few years ago I was talking to a man called Ron who owned a second hand record store in Blackpool. He told me that collectors are often disappointed to find something rare they want for their collection. It’s the chase that drives them and I felt a bit like that whenever I looked at the Jiva 10. The build quality, the appearance, it’s one of the finest objects I’ve ever owned, but once I had it the desire to learn the guitar wore off! It was as if the whole learning thing was a malevolent plot to get me to buy an Ibanez.
Anyway, now I have the time to write again and in the latest novel, Behind the Wall, one of my principal characters, a lifelong Gibson Flying V player, started to have second thoughts about the guitar and why she had stayed loyal to Gibson for so long. The character, Susan Bekker, was associated with the Flying V, it was a gift from her mother in 1974 and she played it out of loyalty to her. But seeing other musicians with their sponsorships and deals and her own career in a rut, Bekker decided to investigate a change in style.
I did some sketches for the type of guitar she would play and eventually concocted a flying-v hybrid in matt black, named in the novel as the Fatal Blow. What I did next I now regret. I looked online to see if there was anything similar . . . and there was.
It’s made by ESP and its real name is the Black Metal Arrow. I want one. I know I’ll end up owning one and it will join the others, sitting there like large decorations, my wallet panting for breath, guilt keeping me awake at night. Was it Buddha who said desire is the root of all unhappiness? He obviously knew what he was talking about.