Why I Play Rhythm Guitar Not Lead

I have been playing guitar for fifty-two years and I have always been a rhythm guitarist. Lying in bed this morning I started thinking about why that is.

Well, for one thing I’m not a good enough lead guitarist to play lead. But it’s not that; I love playing rhythm.

I started playing guitar because I was excited by the music I was hearing, on the radio (occasionally), on TV (even more occasionally) and on record. When I think back to the records that made an impression, a big part of their effect was due to the rhythm – Bo Diddley, The Kinks, The Beatles – and I wanted to be able to play those rhythms.

So, when I was fourteen, my parents bought me a guitar for Christmas, a small, steel string acoustic. Of course I didn’t know how to play it or tune it or even that you could get different notes by using the fingers of your left hand (I’m right-handed) to make chords. I didn’t even know what chords were. I moved my thumb across the strings and got six out-of-tune sounds. “Is that it?” I thought. “Is that all it can do?” I was very disappointed. Continue reading

1964 – You Really Got Me, The Kinks

1964 - You Really Got Me, The Kinks   That riff!
In 1964 I was fifteen and had been playing guitar, or rather trying to play guitar, for about a year. I had an old arch top acoustic guitar (I think it was a Hofner but I’m not sure) which my parents had bought for about £15 from our next door neighbours and had recently persuaded my mum and dad to buy me my first electric guitar. It was called a Caravelle Top Twenty and had, I think, three pickups and was a similar shape to a strat. It was very light and cheaply made but it was an Electric Guitar!!!, the first one I had ever owned and, as far as I can remember, the first one I had ever touched. I loved it, even though I had nothing to plug it into. It was either light blue or a sort of purple colour (I’m not sure on the colour as I am colour blind), but it had six strings and a tremolo arm and looked a bit like the guitars the bands I was watching on TV were playing. Oh, and the action wasn’t too good, probably nearly half an inch at the twelfth fret but as the only guitars I had played had been as bad and my playing was fairly rudimentary this didn’t bother me too much. (I’ve just checked with Steve and it was actually pink). The shop where we got it was at Strawberry Gardens, a little music shop where I also bought my records. I’ve just realised that one of the records I bought there was ‘You Don’t Have to be a Baby to Cry’ by The Caravelles, http://www.45-rpm.org.uk/dirc/caravelles.htm8f37f-caravelles a female duo from London (which was probably not played on a Caravelle Top Twenty). It wasn’t the sort of record I was really into but when I had my six shillings and eight pence in my hand (the price of a single then), I had to go home with something, and I thought my mum might like it. I think she did but I don’t remember her ever putting a record on to listen to; she probably only heard it once when I got home and played it to her. In fact I don’t remember anyone in my family ever listening to music. We were a television family; in the evening we would gather in the front room and watch TV, although there wasn’t much choice in 1964 as there were only two television channels, the BBC and ITV and, now I was fifteen, I had started to spend more time either out with my friends or in my room listening to records and trying to work out how to play them on guitar. 
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