Fireworks

Simon Ramsay

Fireworks & Rocktopia Contributing Writer
Simon Ramsay
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Call me a deviant, devotee or debauched geek, but if it ever becomes legally acceptable to marry my guitar I'll waltz that curvy beauty down the aisle quicker than you can scream "Holy Hendrix!" Standing opposite my gleaming Les Paul, I'll happily promise to love, honour and obey - before whisking her away on a long honeymoon, where I'll spend my days and nights plucking her senseless.....

It's always been about the wood and the wire for me. Like most young kids growing up in the 1980s, I lost my musical cherry to Michael Jackson (steady...), falling for tracks such as Beat It, Dirty Diana and Give Into Me without quite comprehending why. It's clear my subconscious was ten steps ahead of me, because those songs have one thing in common. And no, it's not the presence of a chimp-loving man child.

I'm talking about dazzling six-string action. From the streetwise funky-rock riffage of Mr Steve Lukather and flamboyant tapping of Sir Edward Van Halen, to Steve Stevens' laser gun licks and the dripping emotive swagger of Slash, a person would either have to be dead inside, or Kanye West, not to be mesmerised by such extra-terrestrial brilliance.

Fast forward to December 1991, and that barely understood whisper mutated into a face-slapping roar following an epiphany that changed my life forever. I still remember the day, mainly because I'd been struck down by the crippling beast known simply as 'Man Flu'. Lying prostrate on the bed, a cassette (Google it kids) of Queen's 'Greatest Hits II' was playing in the background. It barely aroused me from my suffering, until The Show Must Go On came on and struck me like a sonic sledgehammer.

Maybe it was because I was clearly on the brink of death, or the fact that the greatest frontmen to ever draw breath, and sport a yellow leather jacket, had just passed away, but the bleak existential angst of the lyrics immediately had my curiosity. Then Brian May's insanely visceral solo burst from the speakers, and it truly had my attention.

I devoured everything from Freddie and the boys, but remained musically monogamous until a song called 'Let's Get Rocked' blew my tiny mind. Queen may have opened the rock n' roll door, but Def Leppard kicked me through it with Women, White Lightning and Too Late For Love turning my fretboard fascination into a full blown obsession.

I subsequently saw the Leps play the Birmingham NEC Arena in '92, and for a first concert experience it was pure magic. The music was obviously scintillating, but so many other details made it a night to remember: In the round staging, stunning light show, insane levels of volume, an audience full of ladies who were way hotter than my class mates. And Phil Collen's tits.

From that moment I was a post-pubescent man on a mission, desperately trying to score my next six-string fix and slowly progressing from the softer, wacky backy sounds of Bon Jovi, '80s Aerosmith, Poison, Tyketto and Motley Crue, to the harder stuff; Guns N Roses, Skid Row circa 'Slave To The Grind', Therapy, Machine Head, Sabbath and, most importantly, Metallica. Back when they made furious new music and weren't just a cheesy touring commodity.

Around the age of fourteen I began taking guitar lessons, and spent hours in my bedroom playing with – sorry - by myself. A few years later I joined a couple of bands, but my studies took precedence and, even though I dreamt of both, there was more chance of me bedding Kylie Minogue than becoming a professional axe man. How good was I? Not a patch on my heroes, but considerably better than Noel Gallagher. Which isn't much of a boast is it?

By 1996 I'd grown tired of what I perceived to be a rather stale rock scene, and aside from Pearl Jam's 'Ten', Live's 'Throwing Copper' and Garbage's debut, nothing really hit my aural G spot. That same year I departed for Uni and my tastes really changed, with zeitgeist humping acts like Oasis, Suede, the Manics, The Verve, James and The Charlatans leading me into decidedly trendy territory.

To my eternal shame I'd become a Radio One listening automaton, enjoying the same old acts without voraciously seeking out new records or artists. However, life – in all its infinite wisdom / cruelty - found a way to bring me back from the dark side. During the summer of '99 I spent three months working in Greece, serving and consuming copious amounts of alcohol. Little sleep, a dearth of healthy nutrition and way too many cocktails - what could possibly go wrong? Turns out, everything.

I returned to Blighty feeling rather unwell. The doctors diagnosed me with M.E, although to this day I ascertain it was simply the longest hangover in human history. For the next decade the illness wiped me out and shattered my dreams. However, on the plus side it gifted me ample time to reconnect with my love of great music. Every cloud and all that.

My tastes broadened exponentially. I developed a yin for dark singer songwriters like Tom McRae, Rufus Wainwright, Nick Cave, Tori Amos, Elliot Smith and Damien Rice, fell for Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Pink Floyd and The Gaslight Anthem, worshipped Matchbox Twenty, Goo Goo Dolls, Dave Mathews Band, Lifehouse, Counting Crows and, after hearing Gotthard's 'Need To Believe', finally reconnected with my first musical crush.

It was a powerful reawakening. All of a sudden I felt like a teenager again, embracing Rock and AOR in a way I'd never done before, as well as power pop, progressive bands such as Dream Theater, loads of blues artists and contemporary groups like Halestorm, Shinedown and Black Stone Cherry.

Around that time my health improved and I realised that – along with rebuilding my physical strength – I needed to get my emaciated brain working again. I started penning reviews for Allgigs, before moving to Stereoboard, where I'm now one of their longest serving writers. I've also become a huge fan of country music and feel proud to enjoy so many different genres, especially as I was such a blinkered tosser in my youth.

Having said that, I'll always return to my premier passion. Guitar based music just feels like home, and will continue to thrill me until the day I ascend to the great gig in the sky. Which, even though I'm only 38, will probably be before the release of Metallica's new album.

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