Monday, January 28, 2013

When do you hang up your air guitar?

Played Tres Hombres by ZZ Top on Saturday. It sounded as good as it did in the early 70s, when I first heard it. Back then I shared a flat in Wood Green with a bunch of blokes and one of them had an import copy. He worked an office job and every night when he came home he would fire up his prized Pioneer PL12D and play this. He played it so loud I reckon I can still recognise the pregnant hum and crackle of the stylus on the vinyl in the few seconds before the opening bars of "Waiting For The Bus".

On playing the record the other day I found my right index finger and thumb wielding a non-existent pick while my left hand reached for an invisible neck at round about the point Billy Gibbon would have done on the real one. Some air guitarists favour high notes at the top of the neck. Other prefer windmilling chords. The sound of Tres Hombres is obviously the sound that connects with my inner air guitarist.

It's a while since I played air guitar. It's not seemly when you've got grown-up children. Playing pretend is a huge part of growing up with pop. I used to have a knitting needles and pillows arrangement on the end of my bed in emulation of a drumkit. I collected old tennis rackets of different sizes to serve as guitars. My enjoyment of the music intensified in direct proportion to the extent to which I could pretend I was the one who's making it. Among boys the dawning love for music comes in at the end of their love affair with military hardware. It touches a lot of the same buttons.

I wonder when it wanes and finally dies. Probably when your children reach the age that you run the risk they might happen upon you doing it. They know what you were doing because they've started doing it themselves.


  1. Mind you don't find yourself taping two tennis rackets together and start air noodling away to The Mahavishnu Orchestra.

  2. How the sweet realisation that playing guitar like Robert Johnson or Dave Navarro no longer meant loitering at some windswept crossroads at midnight, awaiting the arrival of the Devil from whatever gilded palace of sin he'd been haunting.

    I will give up my air guitar when they pry it from my cold dead hands. Even in death my fingers will still be franticly wriggling their way up and down an imaginary fret, like a pair of unturned beetles desperately attempting to right themselves.

  3. You mean it's possible to not play air guitar? Who knew?

  4. Great album. Wonder if it'll be worth going to see them this year? I fear disappointment.

  5. I stopped air guitaring about the same time I started real guitaring. Although key tracks can cause my fretting hand to go into pulsing spasms.

    And that run of clip harmonics at the end of La Grange - stunning.

    Did you ever get the Six Pack CD set released in the eighties - when the Top's key albums were rebeefed with 80s boom?

  6. These days I practise my ground strokes with a brand new Gibson Les Paul.

    (C) a comedian I can't remember.

  7. And who can forget Alan Partridges peerless bass solo on Music for Chameleons?

  8. I play both guitar and drums and never feel the need to play the Air varieties. However, I was walking through Farringdon about a year ago listening to Electric Warrior on my iPod when I found myself playing Air Cello.

    And I'm frequent on the cusp of Air Bowling (both Fast and Spin) and Air Batting. I just manage to stop myself.

  9. Maybe it's time to try and flog your old air guitar on eBay?