Friday, March 02, 2007

Machine Head

My third Thursday morning at 'We Will Rock You' (or, Stu calls it, 'We Will Rob You') and I think I'm getting the hang of it... until Stu tells me that Laurie told him that he was having tuning problems on his main guitar. That'll be the one I changed the strings on last week then. Bugger. After a bit of thought we decide that I'm not using the locking machineheads correctly- you only need to put the string through and tighten the back of the machinehead rather than wind the string round several times as you would on a 'normal' one. I've not used them before and I don't think I tightened them up enough which makes me feel a bit daft to be honest. Still that's the only complaint (so far!)- well the only one I've heard anyway.
With everything done it's over the road to 'Sound Control' (an enormous musical instrument shop underneath the Virgin megastore) to meet Stu's mate Brian who's working on an installation there. After lunch in The Tottenham it's a tube ride to Knightsbridge where, unusually, we're off to Harrods. The rather implausably named 'Harrods Rocks' exhibition ends this weekend; since it features some of Rory Gallagher's guitars amongst it's exhibits we decide it's worth a visit. And I think it was, though I'm not entirely sure who decided that getting a few so-called celebrities to badly paint a guitar and then claim that it was worth auctioning off for charity constitutes 'rock'. Mind you, some of them were very good (Peter Blake, Bono, Grahan Coxon) and there were some excellent instruments on show including an extraordinary collection of autographed instruments (Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones and Warhol and the Velvets among them) and an exhibition of Ronnie Wood's artwork which is rather better than his guitar playing these days. Best of all for me though had to be Rory Gallagher's battered 1961 Stratocaster (or as he apparently called it, 'the tatocaster'). To describe it as 'worn' doesn't even begin to get across the state it's in. The back of the neck looks almost swollen with sweat, and the front of the guitar's probably best described as a mess. But there it is in a glass case in front of me, an instrument of almost monumental significance to me both as a player and as a person. I saw him play a few times and it changed my life. Amazing. Because of the lighting I could see my face reflected back at me with Rory's guitar behind the reflection, an odd, almost eerie image still caught in my mind this morning. Weird... as I walked around the glass case Stu came over.

'See that odd machinehead' he said, pointing at the headstock.

The sixth string machinehead looked different to the rest.

'I fitted that. It was the only one I had and he needed the guitar for a gig. It's a locking machinehead, but Rory never used it as one.'

True. It had the string wound on normally rather than just put through and tightened.

I don't feel quite so daft now. Good.

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