The Electric Guitar – a symbol of rebellion?

Examples of Rock Rebellion… NOT!
-Brian May on the roof of Buckingham Palace 10 years ago, or his strutting in the London Olympic Closing Ceremony.
-Roger Daltrey and The Who receiving the Kennedy Center Honors award from George W Bush in 2008.
-Mick Jagger and Jeff Beck performing at the Whitehouse, then Obama joining in on vocals over a blues. Who feels more honoured?

Often parents contact me now saying their sons of 7 or 8 years old want to learn to play the electric guitar. It’s easy enough to get a small electric guitar and amp from Argos. But why?

Maybe it’s my own preconceptions, but I want the electric guitar to symbolise something adult, or at least a transition between childhood and adulthood, a rite of passage… i.e. teenage years. But then it’s impossible to capture what those teenagers in the 1950s and 1960s lived when they picked up guitars and wrote songs at their friends’ houses, like Lennon & McCartney and countless others did. Now we are in a different age, and the electric guitar has gone through several incarnations.

When I was listening to the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix as a child, I was already the next generation on from the previous fans, as that music was all over in 1970, and I was born in 1972. By the time I picked up the guitar it was the mid/ late 1980′s and the Sixties seemed a world away from the increasingly Stock-Aitken&Watermanised studio-produced pop that was dominating the UK charts. We are now 25 years on from then… so by now, what does the idea of rock music represent?

The symbol of the electric guitar is now a commodity… I can buy into rock by putting an electric guitar round my neck (and possible a cheesy Kiss/ Aerosmith wig!). The rock ‘n’ roll of the 80s (already tired in the days of Bon Jovi) has now become a parody of a parody… so we see bands like The Darkness (these days classified as Glam Rock) and adverts on the TV making fun of the big hair and over-the-top stage antics. Of course this ties in with the tendancy the British already have, of making fun of themselves! So the image of the overly made-up rock star on stage, down on his knees playing a 1000 mile-an-hour guitar solo is now a well-worn cliche… but we still want to do it!!

Stateside we can see similar phenomena in films like Jack Black’s School of Rock.and to some extent, in the talent shows like American Idol. These days it would also be normal to have a School of Rap, School of R&B, School of Jazz. All can be packaged. I imagine a futuristic multiple choice where a computer-generated voice requests… Press 1 to be a Rock God, 2 to be Eminem, 3 to be Soul Diva/ or R Kelly, or 4 to be big band Andy Williams crooner.

Of course nothing shows us that the electric guitar is a commodity more than the game with plastic instrument and other add-ons supplied, Guitar Hero! I suppose it’s that all-inclusive roleplaying mentality, like Karaoke… you can have a piece of the action without really being able to play. I can play the guitar well, but I struggle with Guitar Hero… the different coloured buttons confuse me!

Oh I forgot, there are Air Guitar championships. But just Google it. Enough said.

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