The studio guitarist’s guide to happiness and personal fulfilment, as related by our resident session ace. This month: Go To Work On An Eggle.
To my surprise, I have managed to retain friendships with a respectable number of persons along life’s rocky (and rolly) road. Furthermore, I’m still on speaking terms with several. For example, I recently enjoyed an al fresco, socially distanced pub luncheon with one such chum on the bucolic Hertfordshire-Bedfordshire border, (or within easy walking distance of the runway at Luton Airport, depending on your estate agent).
For reasons of confidentiality and data protection, I must refer to him only by his real name - Robin King. Among other things, we share a mutual interest in vintage guitars. Thus far in our relationship he has sold a fabulous Tele. To someone else, to my chagrin. Then he decided that I must own his retro Gibson Firebird by way of compensation. However, all I really want is for him to negotiate the sale back to me of a 60s 330 that he carelessly let go to another mate. I remain hopeful. The foregoing is merely to confirm that Mr K is well into, and well connected with, frets and fretting folk. Which is how I came to meet Patrick Eggle, at the time a purveyor of high-end acoustic instruments. The boy has had a varied career as manufacturer of electric guitars in both the UK and the USA but now concentrates on producing stunning bespoke items from his Oswestry base.
However, at the time of our introduction, the lad was seeking a gullible soul to demonstrate his Saluda acoustic range, a mini jumbo-shaped model replete with the finest tone woods - spruce top, maple sides and back and ebony fingerboard with exquisite 'falling leaf' mother-of-pearl fret markers. My mission was to appear with it at The London Guitar Show at The Excel Centre and inflict my acoustic stylings upon an unsuspecting public. And so it was that a week later, I walked through the imposing entrance to Docklands’ premier exhibition centre.
Directions were superfluous as I traversed the vast space. A faint hum grew ever louder, evolving relentlessly into a malevolent din before morphing finally into a thermonuclear racket of terrifying, tinnitus inducing proportions.
Clearly, I had entered Dalton’s inferno. An area the size of several football pitches reverberated to what seemed like a mash up of Smoke On The Water, Stairway To Heaven and the charred remains of a chord which might once have been E Major. Several hundred whippersnappers, anoraks and refugees from the rain were unleashing their tormented quasi musical frustrations upon the world from dozens of manufacturers’ stands. Simultaneously and yet remarkably, oblivious to each other. Think 'The Scream' by Edvard Munch if you require an evocation of my mental state - but without the charm, of course.
I turned and was about to flee this Heavy Metal Holocaust when salvation occurred. Inexplicable, sudden and complete silence. You could hear a plectrum drop. A representative from a nearby stall must have observed my expression, a heady mix of bewilderment and fear that the aural beatings might recommence at any moment. “It’s alright mate. You not bin ‘ere before, ‘ave you? We stop the demos for 15 minutes in every hour. Otherwise we’d all go bleeding mad.” At which point he removed his ear defenders and noticed my Hiscox Liteflite case. “If you want the Acoustic section, it’s on the first floor. You'll find it’s a bit quieter up there, I think.”
We parted in sweet sorrow and I shot up the stairs. To discover that my new best friend was very much in error. Strike a light! The first floor set-up was identical. The only difference was that crimes against music were being perpetrated from
“THE IMAGE OF ANDRES SEGOVIA ATTEMPTING THE BACH LUTE SUITES WHILE GIANT HAYSTACKS JUMPED ON HIS HEAD, SPRANG TO MIND”
all corners by acoustic guitarists through acoustic amplifiers. At screeching, feedback inducing volume, natch. Years of artisanship, the employment of the most fastidiously selected materials and obsessive attention to detail counted for nothing here. The image of Andre Segovia attempting The Bach Lute Suites while (wrestler) Giant Haystacks jumped on his head, sprang to mind.
It was a relief to discover that the Eggle stand resided in a marginally quieter neighbourhood. By concentrating hard, one could discern a few fragments from my recital. Members of the public seemed content with my efforts, nevertheless. I know this because they would frequently engage me in conversation while playing. “How much is that one behind you? It sounds better than yours.” “Do you think Patrick would make a guitar for me with skull and crossbones fret position markers?” “Do you know where the loos are?”
And so the day wore on. It was different. I entered into the spirit. I actually enjoyed it.
At close of play Patrick thanked me. He’d taken an order and several expressions of serious interest. “We didn’t discuss money, did we?" He said. "Would you accept the guitar in lieu of a fee?”
Which was, er… nice.