The Verandah School Of Guitar



I signed up for guitar lessons only the once. The year was 1983 or 1984. I made the call, turned up on the sign-up day, and gathered in a classroom in an old Queenslander house in Holland Park in Brisbane with about two-dozen other hopefuls and waited for the guitar teaching to begin. 

I had walked the whole way from my half-house in Yeronga - about 5 km - and was glad to sit for a while.The teacher certainly looked like she knew her way around the guitar when she first entered the room.

She had raven-black hair, a tattoo on the small of her back (much more rare in those days) and wore an alarming number of bracelets up both arms from wrist to elbow.She was sexy as all get up.

Trouble was... she couldn't play guitar.

First thing she did was ask all of us, all 24, to play a piece on the guitar for the rest of the class to hear. She said it would also give her an idea of our level of development and from this she would decipher what level to start the lessons at. I just thought... she's cool.

The first person in class couldn't play guitar and didn't even have one. The second person had a guitar but left it at his cousin's house cos his uncle’s trailer caught fire and the chickens had to be saved. The third person played "Blowin' In The Wind"... the Peter, Paul and Mary version.

Strummity strum strum.

Everyone went "yaawwwnnnn"

The next few people strummed a bit, stopped to change chords, got stuck, hurt themselves, and sang out of tune.

I was about number 10 in the line-up.

This is what I said... 'I'd like to play a song I wrote myself... It's called "Pig-farmer's Daughter" '

So I played it. As songs go, you know, it was alright. I actually decided, half-way through the song, to throw in part of another song around half way, to see if it would fly. And it did. It made an awesome middle-eight section. It was so cool I threw the next part of that same song as a second middle eight.

The song hybrid went like this:

It was a hot summers evenin'and I don't know if I will see her again
four walls surround meI don't know if I will see her again
When you don't know where to go
are you lonely or just living alone
are you lonely or just living alone
are you lonely or just living alone

Ain't no thoughtfulness can ease me
as I lay down upon my lonesome bed
ain't no lovin' arms can please me
as I write down all the things I should have said
When you don't know where to go
are you lonely or just living alone
are you lonely or just living alone
are you lonely or just living alone

(middle eight...
it's gonna be sad, to have you near me
it's gonna be sad, to have you near
it's gonna be sad to have you near me
it's gonna be sad to have you here....)
(Second middle eight....
waiting alone for youis nothing new for me to do
and if you say you care, I will say "there's nothing there...")

I can see her on the back porch
sitting beneath the stars
eating her curds and whey
editing her heart-felt pars
When you don't know where to go
are you lonely or just living alone
are you lonely or just living alone
are you lonely or just living alone...

Nobody else got to play their little demonstration of guitar skills.
After I played my song we broke for morning tea and we all went out on the verandah where my fellow students kept putting in requests for me to play.

I played song after song after song.

We did this for the next 8 weeks, every Tuesday morning from 9am til midday. The teacher woman didn't teach anyone anything. Sometimes she would sit in and jam along with me, and a couple of times she brought her boyfriend in (he was in a professional rock band) and I would teach him some of my songs.

He was an amazing guitar player but he didn't have any songs. I told him he could play my songs til the cows came home.

I didn't learn anything about guitar playing at my guitar course. But I learned an awful lot about playing songs for people on a sun-drenched verandah

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