Friday, November 02, 2007

The guitar's the star

Yesterday was All Saint's Day. Did you know that? I only do because the minister presiding over Paul Fox's funeral said that it was, although when he said it I found myself thinking something like 'oh yeah, of course it is'. There were over 300 of us crammed into and around the chapel at Breakspear Crematorium and what a strange lot we must have looked to a casual onlooker- family members next to mates from down the pub, punk rockers next to punk rock musicians, all wanting to say a last goodbye to Foxy. A few days earlier I'd received a call from the ubiquitous Mark Wyeth asking if I could write out the opening riff to 'Babylon's Burning' on music manuscript paper as Paul's wife Sharon wanted to have it printed on the outside of his coffin. I'd assumed that it would be transferred to computer and written out 'properly' (i.e. printed rather than handwritten) which left me rather surprised to say the least when I saw my scrawl emblazoned across the outside of his white coffin. I kept thinking about the times I saw him play and the times I played with him, the hours that I'd spent when learning to play trying to work out his solos on The Ruts records, the last conversation that I had with him where he thanked me for standing in for him at rehearsals and gigs back in the summer- and now my writing was all over his coffin. They carried it in to the sound of 'Bold as Love' by Jimi Hendrix; the minister said something like 'I hear that he was a bit of a wildman'- much to the amusement of many of the assembled multitude. There was talk of heaven, a better place where everything would be alright, and of sins committed here on Earth- then we all left to the sound of 'West One' by The Ruts. Lots of people cried and lots of people laughed as they remembered the man who had bought them all there an hour or so earlier; many were off to The Crown & Treaty to tell each other all about it. I'd like to have joined them (Segs from The Ruts asked me for directions!) but I had to go to Mansfield to play the guitar- but not just any guitar....

We arrived at The Palace Theatre just before 7 o'clock, after much swearing at the M1 and the Mansfield one-way system. With Shirley off parking the car I set up just in time to get changed for a 7.30 start. I'd decided to use my Stratocaster for the show- it used to belong to Paul so it seemed a good move. As we started 'Peter Gunn' I couldn't help but remember the way Paul would smile at me with the words 'how's my guitar?' I'd normally reply with something like 'my guitar's fine thank you' although had more recently taken to saying 'our guitar's fine thank you'. I usually use a white Telecaster so it was rather odd to look down and see a black Strat in it's place; Paul fitted a Schecter bridge sometime in the '80's, and gold hardware around the same time I think, he played it on Ruts recordings and on Dirty Strangers sessions with Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood, told me how much Mick Ralphs of Bad Company had liked it when he tried it... I don't play it as much as I should- then again sometimes I worry about taking it out of the case let alone out of the house. I played it at the 'Re:View' show back in June and it felt great then and it feels great now, and by the solo in 'She Caught The Katy' I'm wondering why I'd ever want to play any other guitar ever again. It's my guitar, it's Paul's guitar, it's our guitar.

Who said romance is dead? Cheers Paul.

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