Welcome to Joel BB’s guitar journal …dedicated to documenting my journey of learning how to play the electric guitar, and perhaps also documenting a little bit of my sometimes quirky and often overly-intense life, in all its glory!
Where did this all begin? Well, it was that legendary Lucozade television ad in the eighties that first captured my attention, featuring the British athlete Daley Thompson exploding out of the starting blocks to the galloping sound of Iron Maiden‘s ‘Phantom Of The Opera’. In the nineties, I was inspired by those hard rock riffs and signature soaring guitar solos of Slash in Guns N’ Roses, then later by the sheer rhythmic intensity of James Hetfield‘s playing in Metallica, not to mention his band-mate Kirk Hammett‘s blistering solos. Like many before me, I would naturally discover the electric sound of the late Jimi Hendrix, with all his eccentricities, playing his olympic white Fender Stratocaster unlike any other guitarist who has ever walked the earth. Genius. Then, my musical tastes widened further and I found myself spell-bound by the raw, emotive power being expressed by the inimitable blues playing of the legendary Gary Moore.
However, I have always been inclined towards an all or nothing approach to anything I do and just don’t believe in doing anything half-heartedly, so, given that I was actively engaged in martial arts that demanded most of my spare time until my late twenties, I didn’t even get around to actually buying a guitar until quite recently …well into my thirties! By this time, not unlike the Superman mythology of Kal-El being inextricably drawn to the crystal and to his fortress of solitude to finally begin his training, the call was simply too loud to ignore and at long last I finally bought my very first guitar: an Epiphone Les Paul electric guitar in vintage sunburst. Due to the rather unexpected life events that followed though, it remained boxed whilst I suddenly found myself desperately trying to deal with the challenges of being a thirty-something Dad who had just lost his career due to the company he worked for going bust and, as a result, shortly thereafter also shockingly finding his relationship with his Son’s mother over! Despite being together, for the most part, for just over six years, when faced with the reality of my redundancy, my Son’s mother simply decided the grass was greener without me! Losing your career, the woman you thought you’d spend the rest of your life with, your car, and, for a moment there, even access to your baby boy, is enough to push anyone to either find a bridge …or pick up a guitar!
Well, this brings us up to date, to 2nd August 2009. I am fighting to see my baby boy. I am fighting to rebuild a career. I am fighting to keep a roof over my head. I am at WAR!
So, here I am, having returned home from a day with my baby boy today. I am just so proud to be a Dad but can’t help wondering how our original plans to start a family and build a future together ended up with both my Son’s mother and myself now living separate lives as respectively single parents. This is not the future I envisioned. My Son is only ten months old but our Father and Son bond is strong. Very strong. He is amazing. A strong little cheeky warrior and I am the proudest Father on the planet. Though, in truth, in pain at having to say goodbye to my Son again today and wondering how long it would be this time until I would next see him? Being forced to fight for access through the courts is not a quick or kind process. So, I feel like I am in a forced limbo, a prisoner at war, when all I want to do is successfully rebuild a life with my Son. Fighting to see my Son, fighting to rebuild a career, and, due to the financial implications of having been made redundant previously, fighting to keep a roof over my head, all take their toll!
It is late. That saying about having “the weight of the world on your shoulders” has never held a more visceral meaning than it does right now. I feel as though the horsemen of the apocalypse are riding and despite a sense of anger at the world, instinctively know that I need to do something to keep the voices at bay, keep these shadows from my mind, and ultimately find a way to stop myself losing the plot whilst I continuously fight to rebuild my life. I have never stopped fighting to turn things around but it has been extremely tough and I know I need to maintain hope that things will get better, but there is a lot of frustration born out of the feeling that I am fighting an uphill battle. Sitting at my desk at home, deep in thought, night has fallen and I am in darkness. Then, out of the darkness, a distant, very distant sound suddenly escapes from the clutches of oblivion. The sound of an electric guitar. I instantly recognise the signature sound of this guitar and realise I can hear the opening notes to Metallica’s ‘One’ echoing through the night, remembering that they must be playing at Sonisphere this weekend, barely four miles away at Knebworth, here in the UK.
It is amazing what a difference music can make. Motivated by the fact that I am a Father, by that innate driving need to simply keep going, and by the momentous sound of Metallica playing at nearby Knebworth, I immediately just know what I need to do now to maintain my focus and my sanity each night, whilst also finally having an all important outlet for the day to day frustrations encountered as I fight my personal war and rebuild my life. So, I finally decide at long last to actually break open the box, take out the Les Paul electric guitar and without so much as a clue as to how to play, simply grab a pick, fire-up an instructional DVD and begin the journey of figuring out how to actually wield this six-stringed axe!
This is my life now. My Son and my guitar!
For better or worse, I am looking forward to sharing the journey with you!
- Joel BB