The Man with the Boo guitar

Songwriters' Circle

I’ve long been fascinated by the relationship between musicians and their instruments – guitars especially, like Neil Young (now elder statesman) and his axe and BB King (with whom my older son shares a birthday, I share mine with John Martyn) and his trusty, curvy soulmate Lucille. I’m making my way back right now from a unique gig at Bush Hall in BBCland courtesy of Songwriters’ Circle (recorded for BBC4 broadcast in the autumn).

Chris Difford’s  (of Squeeze) guitar had a glittery border around the body and the hole (is there a special name for the big hole in a guitar?) They looked like old pals.

Boo Hewerdine (of The Bible and songwriter for the likes of Eddi Reader) had the most striking design of the evening’s six acoustic guitars – black with * BOO * inlaid on the neck in pearl. He had a very strong presence on stage, big and quiet but all his mots justes right. Had a brief exchange with him in Nandos after the gig, enjoying the balmy evening of the Uxbridge Road with my old pal JRT.

Justin Currie’s (of Del Amitri) had a morse code of inlaid mother of pearl around the Hole with No Name. Like Boo, a fine, strong voice but a touch lighter and more soulful.

Chris, Boo and Justin played the first session – a spectrum ranging from great lyricist to great voice, with Boo the lynchpin in the middle. Boo has composed with Chris and recorded with Justin.

Richard Thompson’s guitar was pale and functional, a work tool, with a couple of plectrums attached to the top. He proved a fabulous embellisher of his two fellow singer-songwriters’ tunes.

Suzanne Vega’s instrument was rich browns, in perfect condition, matching her hair. Between Richard and Loudon she provided a melodic female counter-balance.

Loudon Wainright’s axe had a cheeky bit of walnuty-wild cat pattern finishing. He appeared like Clint Eastwood meets Bob Dylan. Gifted with words, a streak of humour through everything, somehow making the sad even more poignant. The highlight of the night was the song about going through his dead dad’s closets. Another highpoint was the laugh-out-loud funny tale of a guitar he had to leave behind in Durrango thanks to Suzanne, an airline bitch.

12 feet away from those six in a tiny old venue was a once-in-a-lifetime music experience. Of the six, Boo and Richard Thompson seemed to have the deepest connection to their music-machines. Of the two, Richard seemed truly joined at the hip and totally living through his. I’m writing this paragraph walking home from the gig across the road to Muswell Hill from which the great man hails and where the origins of the Fairport Convention name stems. He struck me tonight as perhaps being the bearer of the John Martyn guitar-baton in the wake of the sad, sad loss last year of that even greater man .

Boo Hewerdine, Justin Currie & Chris Difford beating round the Bush

They said, "You have a blue guitar,
You do not play things as they are."

The man replied, "Things as they are
Are changed upon the blue guitar."
...


The blue guitar
And I are one.

Wallace Stevens

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4 comments so far

  1. alister atkin on

    Hi, that was a great night. was lucky enough to be invited my Boo and Chris to the show. It was amazing. We built that guitar for Boo a few years back. Its on of our OM standard guitars. Check this out. xx
    http://www.atkinguitars.com/reviews/Guitar_Buyer_Boo_Guitar.htm

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  2. ArkAngel on

    I know nothing about guitars but glad I can spot a good one from a whole 15 feet away. Nice work.

    Any further thoughts on “the relationship between musicians and their instruments – guitars especially”?

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  3. […] recorded for BBC4 at Porchester Hall for the ‘Songwriters’ Circle’ series. The last time I wrote about ‘Songwriters’ Circle’ on this blog, magic of the internet the fella who makes Boo Hewerdine’s guitars got in touch. […]

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  4. […] to boot. The last time I wrote about a particular guitar in Simple Pleasures pt 4 (back in 2010), The Man with the Boo Guitar,  it was Boo Hewerdine’s guitar and the maker, Alister Atkin down in Canterbury, kindly got […]

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