Christmas 1980, as I’ve had reasons to recall these weeks gone by, will forever rank high in the memorable present stakes of the past (if you follow) on account of my receiving then, aged fourteen, a stapler set from my folks. The stapler set, so’s you know, comprised non-standard-gauge stapler, ditto replacement staples and staple-remover, and in totality stood as a powerful handing over to me of the future – as a hunter may pass to his child his first bow, or a baker his pie dolly. Here was my destiny distilled into office supplies. Yes, my son, you will be a clerical worker.
Which makes for some light anecdoting once the darkness is acknowledged; the impish selectiveness that is the, erm, staple of the comedy of nostalgia, for I was lucky enough to get and to have lovely things (but seriously… a stapler?), including, that very same year, The Beatles Complete songbook, Guitar Edition.
Some months prior I got my second guitar. It was bought from the music shop that was where a new row of shops now stand, or the new library even, or Tesco Express, where the Selby Road in Halton drops round to the right and curves downwards and onwards to Leeds. The name of the shop has gone from my memory, though we, and everyone locally with a dream, spent some serious hours in there over the years (years before the Stairway to Heaven ban), and there I chose a second-hand steel-strung number hanging high on the wall, and bought it for thirty five quid.
It was not a plain-looking guitar; not wholly uncommon, as the Les Paul-ish sunburst could have been plenty googled then if google there was, but complete with its hummingbird pick guard and faux-ivory lines it was an uncommonly bold selection for a fair child like me to have made – even with a canary-yellow stapler headed my way – for I’d fallen for it on the spot.
The guitar bought me entry into a multi-faith (as in both-footed) musical troupe going by the folksy moniker of The Mustard Seed. The Mustard Seed and our ching-a-ling adventures therein require a post or two of their own, so I’ll add little more than to say that the bearded grump of a musical director welcomed me into the happy-clap fold by mumbling of my new vivacious friend, ‘I suppose it’ll have to do’, thereby giving a vinegary flavour of the group’s most Christian cordiality.
When not feeling the beat of the tambourine, me and The Sunburst* worked our way through The Beatles Complete (fourteen, count ‘em, actual naked boobs in the introduction’s artwork), and learned most every chord and song, including the still never heard – never heard – ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’, which I can to this day only play and sing in a way that’s probably, almost certainly, nothing like John and Paul planned it; I more under the influence of Val Doonican than LSD. And ending, always with my sung ‘pluck, strum.’
These days this guitar – still with me, still loved, still (with shamefully un-callussed fingers) played; photo-bombing the background of pictures on Right Move; and the occasional guest appearance in ‘marketing material’ – has developed a mid-life rattle low in its belly. It needs re-stringing and a serious clean.
It is a very beautiful thing. It leans against the wall to my right as I write; beyond the shelf with the stapler, in this office of my own.
*I never called it The Sunburst until I wrote The Sunburst just then. I never did name it, but that’s not its name. Maybe Joleisa.
For portraits and bespoke artwork of things other than guitars, such as children and other loved ones, visit, do, my Picture Window site.
© Copyright, Steve Mitchell and Fisher Lane, 2013