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December 25th 1973

“Crismis Day – Got a guitar”

Evil child that I was, I always hunted for – and invariably found – my wrapped Crismis Christmas presents many weeks before Santa’s big day. Of course, as a result of them being wrapped I was not always 100% sure of the gifts inside but the size and shape of the packages was usually a giveaway.

However, I can honestly say that my parents genuinely surprised me with this guitar. (I later found out Dad had hidden it by hanging it inside one of his work suits, itself inside a suit hanging bag, at the back of their wardrobe)

This guitar was a half-sized model which – rather than learning to properly play – I instead posed with in front of whichever mirror I could find. Yes, I would adopt clichéd poses with it. Yes I would pretend I was a rock star and mime along with hits on it. I’d be a liar if I said otherwise.

Dad – with some considerable hope – also bought me Bert Weedon’s Play in a Day tutorial book in the vain hope that I would actually read it and learn how to properly bang out tunes on the guitar.

Instead I merely limited myself to bashing out the opening chords to Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” – or *ahem* variations thereof – imagining myself to be a kind of folksier Richie Blackmore. I also taught myself the irritatingly repetitive riff to Cream’s “Sunshine of your Love” as well as “the Status Quo riff”

Not whole songs I hasten to add, just the riffs. I could amuse myself for hours by doing this, as well as wildly improvising, creating noises with the strings (by rubbing bottles, pens and any other implements to hand over them) and messing with the tuning knobs. I was practising to be an avant garde savant.

As time progressed it was inevitable that the guitar would fall into less and less use. I remember that when I left home and moved into my first flat the guitar had become more of a repository for record label promo stickers than anything I picked up and played. I think the thing got damaged during – and was consequently thrown away – my next house move.

Years and years later – in the early 90’s – a girlfriend of mine decided that I needed a guitar so likewise bought me one as a Christmas gift. Again it was a nice surprise. This time the bonus was a complete set of guitar lessons with a local teacher. I opened the guitar bag and hefted this – now full sized – instrument out, popped on the strap, stood up and…..immediately played “Smoke on the Water”. This wasn’t going to end well.

It didn’t. The girlfriend & I broke up before I had the first lesson, and as she was paying for them I didn’t feel it prudent to push the point during our break-up negotiations.

Thus, the world can squarely blame her for England not having a “second Nick Drake” to fawn over.

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Filed under 1973 Diary Entries

September 30th 1972

“went to Oval pop festival – E.L.P + Focus absolutely brilliant. W.A. not bad. Argent, Genesis – shit / Cort 9.47 /

So what – 36 years later – can I remember of my first ever rock gig?

Actually – and maybe surprisingly – this Oval gig was my one and ONLY rock “festival”, but very much my induction into the “bigger leagues” of music.

I’d love, simply LOVE, to be able to write a long, lengthy piece about the day, reporting that I can clearly remember every nuanced moment, every guitar solo, everything the crowd chanted out or sung along to and the track listing of every act.

But as regular readers will have realised by now realised, this is about as likely as George W Bush admitting he stole the 2000 Presidential election.

Instead I give you these, the very briefest of memories about the day….

 Graham, Trev & I sat on the grass left of centre to the stage about half-way back.
In those days there were no video screens so what we could see was, let’s say, minimal
I remember Peter Gabriel coming out at one point with the big flower head
Fudd was a made up group. They didn’t exist. Mainly to hide the fact that Cream bassist Jack Bruce was going to appear as a surprise guest performer in a lengthy jam session alongside Focus’ Thijs Van Leer and Jan Akkerman. Many people around us thought it was great. I thought it was self-indulgent rambling shit.
ELP had two huge mammoth armadillo-style tanks at each side of the stage which breathed smoke and fire during the band’s performance.
Keith Emerson stabbed his keyboard with knives.
Wishbone Ash were more entertaining than I imagined

E.L.P + Focus absolutely brilliant. W.A. not bad. Argent, Genesis – shit = My succinct review of the day’s proceedings

I took no photos and can remember little else. Which is quite sad – in many ways – for an event that really DID have such an effect on my life then, and later.

An extensive search online yielded one solitary image taken by someone else at the show…

Plus I found tracklistings for Genesis’ set…

• The Knife
• Fountain of Salmacis
• Get ’em out by Friday
• Watcher of the Skies
• The Return of the Giant Hogweed

and Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s…

• Hoedown
• Tarkus
• Endless Enigma
• The Sheriff
• Take a Pebble
• Lucky Man
• Piano Improv
• Take a Pebble
• Pictures At An Exhibition

Isn’t it strange that I can recall little else? You’d think that something so important to me at the time would stick in my memory, but perhaps my mind was somehow on other matters like “How do I get to the loo?” and “Will we catch the train home?” to truly relax and soak up the atmosphere?

I needn’t have worried about missing the train as “cort 9:47” attests.

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Filed under 1972 Diary Entries