My Guitar, Myself

Once, when the Italian actress Anna Magnani was having her portrait taken she told the photographer, “Please don’t retouch my wrinkles. It took me so long to earn them.”

I used to be the kind of person who was so struck by the visual beauty of a Fender Stratocaster guitar that when I finally owned one, the thought of it being scratched or dinged filled me with horror. Of course, scratches and dings happened despite my best efforts to prevent them. As a young man those dings and scratches really bothered me, as if somehow my guitar was forever marred.

As the years passed by, I myself, despite my best efforts, acquired many dings and scratches. Somewhere along the way I realized that dings and scratches are evidence of a life that’s been lived, and of a guitar that’s been played. Once I accepted this I no longer worried about cosmetic damage to my instruments. In fact, I saw it as evidence of instruments that have been thoroughly played and enjoyed and of a life thoroughly lived. I also began to add pictures/stickers/ephemera to my instruments so that they became a kind of mirror of me and a record of people and places important to me.

When I look down at my Strat I see Johnny Ramone looking over the shoulder of Jerry Garcia, a juxtaposition that might make sense only to me but which represents a love of both bands that took years to reach fruition (Ramones came first). Pete Townshend in mid-windmill reminds me to play rock and roll with maximum passion. Geoff of Plassey Cabs was a friendly Irishman who picked me up at Shannon Airport and drove me into Limerick as I was beginning a new phase of my life. The big sparkly B is for my mom, Betty… I have a memento of my mom on all of my instruments… ‘nuff said.

When I look down at my Strat I see a reflection of myself, dings and scratches included; then I hit an A chord for all it is worth and just let it ring…

~ John