Friday, February 16, 2007

We will wreck you

I had a day off from the shop yesterday which started at, you've guessed it, the dentist. And, you've guessed it, they've managed to find something else that needs doing. Expect more ranting on the subject after I've had a filling replaced on the Monday after next. You have been warned.

On to bigger and better things. A good mate of mine is the one and only Stuart Monks, guitar repair man extraordinare and all round good bloke. Sadly Stu has had a rough time of late, with major surgery for cancer dominating the last year-and-a-bit; incredibly he's continued to work, go down the pub, go out to see bands- pretty much everything that he used to do 'before'. His guitar related work includes maintaining all the instruments being used at the popular West End show 'We Will Rock You'; with this in mind he invited me to join him at The Dominion Theatre on London's Tottenham Court Road to 'see how it's done' as he's due to go into hospital next week for an exploratory operation and might need some help with the work over the upcoming weeks. I do a fair bit of guitar maintainance at the shop these days and have probably picked up more than I realise over the years from talking to and watching people like Stu, but this is the big league- a show that generates over 1 million pounds a week and whose principal guitarists are Alan Darby (he's played with Eric Clapton among others) and Laurie Wisefield (Wishbone Ash, Tina Turner etc). I spend the tube journey up there reading about The Sex Pistols and wondering if I'm up to this; then at Oxford Circus I hear a busker singing an Oasis song. As I walk around the corner I can see him- he's got part of his right arm missing, what's left is just long enough for him to scrub at the strings as he sings a desperate 'Cast No Shadow' as people hurry past him with their heads down as people always do when they think it could cost them a few pence. They're pushing past me as I'm watching him, he's doing 'Morning Glory' now- I give him a bit of change and a thumbs-up, he looks surprised but almost smiles at me anyway. As I get on the train I can still hear him singing 'need a little time to wake up'- and I'm feeling guilty about worrying about what I'm about to do. Funny how things work out sometimes isn't it?

10 minutes later and I'm surrounded by electric guitars, all of which bear a striking resemblance to Brian May's 'Red Special'. Stu shows me what to do- take off the old strings, clean and oil the fingerboard, fit new strings, tune 'em up, stretch 'em, tune 'em up again... in no time I'm on the production line while he's replacing a volume control in one that's already been 'done'. There's batteries to change, leads to check- and we've got to be finished by 1-ish because Stu's got to be at John Henry's rehearsal room off the Caledonian Road for some more re-stringing. I make some scribbly notes (he works quickly!) which I looked at for the first time this morning; they appear to have been written in Martian- hopefully I'll have translated these by the time I'm up there next.

John Henry's isn't a rehearsal room or rooms, it's a 'complex'- which basically means that it's big and famous people go there. We meet Adam Goldsmith outside- Stu's there to work on his guitars, he's there rehearsing for some upcoming shows with Russell Watson. We get his guitars and make a start. Stu shows me how he re-strings classical guitars- a notoriously tricky job which he makes look worryingly easy. More notes then time for a cup of coffee; the walls of the canteen are covered in signed photos, Kylie Minogue next to Robbie Williams next to Mick Jagger, a odd sight as you order a cheese roll. As I'm leaving with our refreshments I walk past a guy who I think used to be in Busted. He seems happy enough... back downstairs with Stu and I remark that 'there's too many dead people on the walls'- a reference to photos of Cozy Powell, Dusty Springfield, Jimmy McCulloch- Stu looks closer and spots Charlie Tumahai, former bassist with Be-Bop Deluxe, the first band he ever worked with, another casualty. Sad.

Back in the pub near home I rather sheepishly admit that I never liked Queen. It turns out that Stu didn't either.

Thanks to Steve 'Eastberg' Holt for providing both the title of this posting and the soon-to-be-written stage show based on the music of The Price. Well, the first one anyway...

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