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Guitars and Sunflowers, Part One

April 3, 2013

dodie and garywith Gary Mockford

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I first picked up the guitar when I was fourteen.  It was this guitar.

No, actually, it was an acoustic guitar.  But I DID get this guitar when I was fourteen.  My mom bought it for me, from a co-worker who was getting married.  I thought this lady was mad to give up such a thing because she was getting married!  I think it had to do with money and travel, but at the time, I was chafed.

This is how I looked with it in the living room as a teenager:

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poser

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I was mugging here for my stepmom’s camera, but yeah, take away the Motley Crue makeup and I totally dressed like that in high school.

I was listening to progressive rock, like Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, Deep Purple, Yes, Rush.  I was listening to things with odd rhythms, like the Pretenders, or unusual sounds, like Big Country.  I wanted badly to understand and play the guitar.

But when I went to take guitar lessons, the teacher tried to make me play Mary Had a Little Lamb.  After three lessons, I got frustrated and gave up.

One day in a guitar magazine, I found the tabs to the Pretenders’ Back on the Chain Gang.  I wanted to play that song.  I tried and tried, so very hard, but I just wasn’t getting it.  I could not play the song.  I had everything laid out in front of me, in a chart, and I couldn’t play it.  I couldn’t make the chord changes fast enough, and I couldn’t jump to this part here, and couldn’t play that chord there, and….ugh!

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dodie and scottwith Scott Skulmoski

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So I never did truly play the guitar back then.  I toyed around with it from time to time, but what I really wanted was to sing,  And I didn’t have the courage to sing in public anyway, so what was the point?  I could just sing along to the stereo, in private.

The guitar got moved around a lot, until I ended up here at the Treehouse.  I rarely played it.  It was difficult, and I didn’t really understand it, beyond a few basic chords.  Besides, my old hollowbody was badly out of shape, and wouldn’t stay in tune.  For years, it served a decorative purpose, and eventually went high up on the wall, above a bookcase.

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I decided to start playing guitar again with a bang.  I had a very bad day at work.  I no longer loved my job, and was ready to leave, but scared to give up my career.  I had poured my heart and soul into Human Rights work for eleven years.  I didn’t even know what else I could do with my life.

I walked out the door at the end of that work day, and instead of turning left to go home, I turned right and walked up to the pawn shops.  I was determined not to come home without an acoustic guitar, so I could finally start learning to play.

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fender

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It was a Fender.  Someone had replaced the bridge with the end of a rat tail comb.  It cost $125.

I replaced the bridge the next day, and played my Fender every night for an hour after work.  Then I made dinner.  Then I played for another two hours.  Naturally, my fingers blistered.  I popped the blisters and put fabric bandaids on my fingertips.  I HAD to keep playing.  My fingers were bleeding, I was still playing.

What a little nutcase I was.  🙂

It was about 2 years after I started playing again that I decided to form my first band, Scully and the Mulders.  (They wanted to be Scully and the Foxy Mulders, but I nixed it.)  And I wanted to play some Pretenders.  Back on the Chain Gang was the first song on my list.

I still play it in my sets.   Every time I do, I feel a little shoulder-lift of triumph.  It took me a few years, squared.  But I got there.

I haven’t yet performed Back on the Chain Gang on the electric guitar I failed to learn it on, all those years ago.  But it’s on my list for Dodie Goldney & the Instamatics.  I only recently got the electric working again, which I will tell you about in Part Two of Guitars and Sunflowers.

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gary and drummy and dodiewith Gary Mockford and Drummy Pryce

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It’s only been within the last year that I started putting my guitar down sometimes, when I sing with a band.  Singing without it been a good skill for me to learn, both for my vocals and my performing skills. But I also find that the guitar and I have a symbiotic relationship that’s hard to separate.

The rhythm of my breathing when I sing is absolutely inter-meshed with the rhythm I am playing on the guitar.  Singing without the guitar makes me lose confidence in my timing.  It’s actually a lot harder for me to learn to sing a song if I don’t also learn to play it.  In fact, even on songs I don’t play on, I run the rhythm guitar through my head.  I almost want to say it’s like a metronome for my voice.  But more.

It’s funny that it took me so long to get there with the guitar.  Once, I didn’t understand it, and now, I can’t imagine I would ever want to perform an entire show without it.

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Just because you are bad at something once in your life, it doesn’t mean you will be bad at it forever!  I am not a brilliant guitarist, but I am a competent one, and I can hold my own without a band behind me.  It may take some serious dedication, but I think everyone has the creative capacity to learn and push themselves to acquire a new skill.

One of the best things about music and other creative arts is that it’s never too late to start learning something new!

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next up:  Guitars and Sunflowers, Part Two

Dodie Goldney

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related posts by Dodie Goldney:

The Insta-band

Creative Interpreting

Dominion

Women’s Work is in the Home (Renovations)

The Grass is Always Greener Where You Water It


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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Carole Goldney permalink
    April 4, 2013 10:36 am

    I remember, way back, when you would sit by the stereo and learning to play the guitar from your Def Leppard album – and the time their bus was loading up across the street from where I worked in downtown Vancouver and you hustled downtown to come and meet them – and they autographed your album for you before they hopped on the bus, Remember that?

  2. April 9, 2013 12:26 am

    That looks like an old Gretsch Duo Jet

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  1. Heavy Metal Minuets | The Treehouse by Dodie Goldney

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