Thursday, July 5, 2007

Fingerpicking

The videos of Jimi Hendrix reminded me of my nights as a teenager, hiding under a blanket in an intern school in Cuba, perfecting some guitar licks and techniques while listening to the KAOY, a radio station from Little Rock, Arkansas.... The light of the flashlight, the crackling sounds of the Russian radio, makes those memories very vivid, and I wrote a few posts about them at KillCastro.... Among them are "mucho metal", "the other side", "it's not the 1940's anymore", and "1973".
On this very same blog you're reading, I've written so much about rock that some people suggested that I ditched politics for good and devoted my efforts to write only about music and my experiences in Cuba. Well, the two are inseparable. So, y'all are stuck with my rants.
One of the tunes we wanted to play in high school was precisely the Star Spangled Banner, but we had to find a way of doing it.
A friend of mine, the bass player, got his mojo working and he said: "why don't we do a slide show of photos of Viet Nam and we trick the principal into believing that we are blasting the Americans and we can play the anthem a la Jimi Hendrix?"
I gotta tell y'all... I fell for it!
We practiced and practiced, and practiced some more, but the teacher of "Moral Comunista" -as if the commies had ever had any morals- grew suspicious and said: "you ain't playing no anthem!"
So, the possibility of become the coolest cats on Earth kind of vanished.
While preparing for the gig that never happened, I honed my picking technique with the plectra, which is the right name for the pick, but they were hard to come by and one solved that by using a corner of your student ID as a pick, which were laminated in hard plastic.
Fingerpicking was my favorite technique, because I could use the five fingers of the right hand, and to make the purists cringe, I could use the five fingers of my left hand on the fretboard, but... my guitar teacher would ban the use of the left thumb going over the fretboard. Now you know that I am not a southpaw.
Thanks to American radio stations broadcasting with huge wattage from the Texas-Mexico border, I learnt other techniques favored by ZZTop and other Southern blues inspired rockers, like bottlenecking (which is obviously the action of using the neck of a beer bottle as a slider on the strings, pressing them against the fretboard) and "sleeving" which was to put a stainless steel tubing in one's right little finger to get a wailing sound. That one was particularly tricky, because the finger has to be kind of oiled if you don't want it stuck inside a narrow tube, or glass flask is one doesn't have a steel tube handy. I once used my school issued plastic toothbrush handle, and it was a very interesting sound, without risking having my finger stuck anywere.
So much for guitar geekdom....
At this point, you might be asking yourself why the hell am I doing that I choose to write this memories....
Well, I really don't play anymore. But I might be back.... one of these days, who knows.
Sometimes I have those ideas, those dreams that I am playing again, and I should, and I wake up with a lick sounding inside my skull. My skull, which is populated by dead guitar players. Talk about ghosts and phantoms. Jimi Hendrix, Randy Rhoads, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Brian Jones, and many other play all the time inside my head.
Blame them for me being this way!