Gratuitous Sax/Senseless violins
My sister played the saxophone. She had one tune – The Red Flag – which would parp out of her bedroom over and over. My brother, on the other hand, was rather good with the guitar. Surely I had at least one musical bone in my body? No.
Easily impressed that I was as a teenager, I sat rapt with attention as some long-haired idiot came into our school assembly and demonstrated the million-and-one marvellous things that you could do with a violin. He bowed it, he plucked at it, he played it like a guitar. Gad! He made it look so easy, and frankly, I wanted a go.
Billy Currie out of Ultravox was a pop star and a violinist*, and was also as cool as shit. I wanted in. I wanted to do "Vienna" and get girls.
Seeing myself as the next Yehudi Menhuin, only less Jewish, I was round the music block like a shot at break-time, as did my best friend Graham. Committed to term after term of incredibly expensive lessons, not to mention burdening our parents with the cost of the actual instrument, the two of us cared not a jot, and signed up on the spot.
It was only then that we realised that the violin is a fucking awful and downright painful instrument to learn how to play, and we really, really should have signed up for piano class, where they let you put little stickers on the keys.
Worse, the guy who had impressed us so was not only going to be our teacher, but he was a professional musician of many years’ standing, and had spent most of this time practising like buggery to be able to play the thing like a guitar behind this head. He was also the most incredible bastard.
And if things couldn’t get any worse, in our rush to sign up, we hadn’t realised that lessons were actually on Tuesday lunch times. During break. Sacred play time, for God’s sake, breaking one of the cardinal rules of the playground: “Don’t sign up for extra lessons, you fucking swot”. And I was already doing extra German before school, doubling up on my spacker quotient.
I hated the violin, with a passion.
I did anything to avoid practising the accursed thing, and soon found out that the tuning pipes that came with my hugely expensive rubbish council violin sounded almost exactly like the real thing. I could lock myself in my bedroom for hours, puffing away on the thing to give my fee-paying parents the illusion of genuine practice. Woe, then, that my brother should catch me in the act. He subjected me to weeks of cold, hard blackmail, which I would have thoroughly approved of had I not been the victim.
After two years of avoiding violin lessons on Tuesday lunchtimes (this followed a playground purge where extra-lesson softies were severely dealt with), Graham and I both faced the sorry truth of the whole affair: we were both fucking awful on the violin. I didn’t even pass Grade One, which, as far as I could tell, was given to anybody who could hold the instrument the right way up and get some sort of noise out of it.
Christ, I hated the violin.
Doing anything to avoid playing the bastard, I took to examining it in minute detail, right down to the fake Stradivarius label (“Made in England”) glued inside. It was at this time that I noticed a rather disconcerting kink in the neck of my instrument. I decided, there and then, that the object of that day’s practice would be to straighten it out.
“Crack”, it went.
“Ooooh shit”, I went, which was a fair summation of the evening’s events as the thing fell apart in my hands.
It's amazing what you can fix with superglue, and it is with some pride that I was the only person in the music faculty not to be asked to do something for the school concert. In fact, I was told to stay away, preferably in another country.
And that’s why I want to kill Nigel Kennedy. Perfectly natural, no?
* In fact Currie, while a classically trained musician, actually plays the Viola, the equivalent of turning up for the British Grand Prix in a truck