Never mind the bollocks, here’s Puccini – By @charlesfare

Marc lewis | August 30, 2018

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By Charles Olafare

 

Never mind the bollocks, here’s Puccini

 

I’ve wanted to learn the guitar for as long as I remember. One of my earliest memories is listening to Bon Jovi of all bands and thinking “this is what I want” as power chords bled into solos and back again.

 

Come the age of 12, I got my first (and so far, only) guitar. A birthday present. Some cheap thing from Argos that came with a chord chart, an introductory VHS tape and a pamphlet with some words of inspiration for the furtive rocker.

 

It’s 17 years down the line and I’d be lying if I told you I could remember anything on that tape, in that pamphlet or noted in that chord chart. What I do remember is reading about Sid Vicious and how he learned to play guitar in a week. What a load of fucking bollocks that was.

 

 I’ve done my research in the time since, and all that guy was good at was getting high and dying. Aged 12 though, that little bit of news, fake as it may be, was quite inspiring. I spent a whole week noodling, strumming and plucking trying to master the guitar. Come day seven, I gave up my dreams of being a rock star and spent the following decade or so wishing I hadn’t.

 

I want to blame Sid Vicious, but really it’s my own fault. I was a fool to listen to him. He didn’t even actually play guitar. He was a bassist and shit one at that. They never even let him play on the recordings.

 

My real northstar should have been Malcom Mclaren. He couldn’t play guitar either. I don’t think he ever even picked up a bass. By all accounts he was an egotist and a chancer, but he was a chancer you could set your fucking watch to. Depending on who you ask, he’s the guy who go the Sex Pistols together. Saw them mooching around in Vivienne Westwood’s shop, said to himself “yeah, they’ll do” and birthed one of the world’s most notorious rock groups.

 

A group I absolutely hate, by the way.

 

What Mclaren had that the Sex Pistols didn’t was a grand sense of vision. He could see two unconnected building blocks and pull them together to make something brilliant. Who else would have thought to marry 19th century Italian opera with 1980s R&B?

 

On the 1984 album Fans, Mclaren took Giacomo Puccini’s classic operas Madama Butterfly, Carmen and others, and reconfigured it for the modern age. Across six songs, sopranos wail over thumping bass lines, sawtooth synths and gated drums. It’s a thing of beauty to listen to and stops me in my tracks whenever I listen to it.

 

When I think about the kind of creative I’d like to be, Mclaren is someone that comes to mind. The kind of person who can pull together disparate influences, spot the connecting tissue and fashion them into something greater than the sum of their parts. A dogged chancer that knows you don’t need to be able to hold a tune to make great, impactful music.

 

Hand on heart, I wager I’m far too long in the tooth to learn the guitar. But I reckon I’ve still got the time to dark art of throwing shit at the wall and seeing what sticks like Mclaren did. Here’s hoping it doesn’t take me another 17 years.