Monday, March 21, 2005


Perhaps telling my wife that possessing a new guitar was like "having a new woman in your life" wasn't particularly wise. She took it well, though. And the arrival of my new Moon 0003 ( )has caused little domestic trauma.
But then, I did pay for it by selling (count them) three other guitars on eBay. One really old and battered Suzuki (bought at the Shetland Country Music Club's closing down auction), a Simon and Patrick 12-string, purchased on a mad whim after hearing Roger McGuinn do a live session on Radio Scotland's Janice Forsyth Show, and what was for many years my pride and joy: A rare black Martin J40 with full built-in electrics.
The Suzuki and the S&P were never serious elements in my strumming-and-picking life. The Martin, on the other hand, I bought new nearly 20 years ago for what seemed then (and still does) a colossal mount of money. It has been played all over the country, in studios, bars, concert halls and living rooms. It has been dropped, scratched, battered and, alas, seriously damaged by another guitar, a Martin Shenandoah (Martin's brief flirtation with buying pre-cut parts from Japan and assembling them in the USA) , falling headstock-first into the belly.
When that happened, I was so upset I put the instrument away in its case for a month. I couldn't bear to look at it. In the end, Jimmy Moon (see above) repaired it, immaculately, but I think it's fair to say I never felt the same about the thing again. And when the refinished front "finish checked" - what they call that crazy paving effect when the wood expands faster than the brittle varnish can handle) it was if the guitar itself was rebelling.
James Taylor talks about "finding" songs in certain guitars; there is a magic about the process of songwriting, of the relationship you have with a guitar. And sometimes that magic just disappears.
The Martin was never really a domestic guitar. It was built to project to an audience, not to the player, and so its metier was not the back-room twiddling that has largely been its fate these past 10 years. At least, that's what I told myself when I flogged it, second time around on eBay. First time, some scamster attempted to carry out that old Western-Union repayments fraud with it, but was soon seen off.
Anyway, I had my eye on the Moon, which had been hanging in Lerwick's High Level Music the best part of a year. It was apparently made by Innes Thomson from Fair Isle, who was and is working with Jimmy Moon, and it would probably have sold long ago if someone hadn't given its front a whack and left a wee bit of scarring on the lovely finish. Still, as best I could tell, I liked its lively, ringing tone (typical, in my experience, of this kind of hand-made guitar) and once the other guitars were sold, I made an offer for it which was duly accepted. Complete with Hiscox Liteflite case, I think it was a bargain.
And I love it. I absolutely love it. Once I had it at home, I spent some time just looking at it. And then hours playing it, fingerpicking, strumming, up and down the neck doing all those nonsensical things you don't dare in a music shop.
Looking for the magic, undoubtedly. And I have to tell you, it's there. Compounded by the fact that this guitar was made not on a production line, but was crafted in Glasgow, by someone from Shetland. Well, if Fair Isle really counts as Shetland...
The truth is, I'd lost my love for not just the guitars in my life, but playing them. Now, with my fingers aching, I'm keen to play all the time. Not just the Moon, either, but the old Shenandoah that visited such destruction on the J40 (the Shenandoah was a present from my wife; I'd never sell it) and the little Romanian travel guitar I cart about to hotels and apartments when I'm away. New strings on them all, and there's magic in them too.

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