I learned to play guitar aged 14 from Hold Down a Chord, books one and two.
I played The Grand Old Duke of York (G and D7, followed by C and back again) for almost a year (dum-ching, dum-ching) before progressing to book two, which I only managed to get halfway through because it was so difficult, although I loved the names of the people- Reverend Gary Davis and Big Bill Broonzy. McMum and McDad had asked me what I'd like for my birthday and I'd said either a guitar or a violin, and I think they had a think about what our cat and dog might think of the latter.
The guitar was three-quarter-size and made in China; it was of pale wood with varnish that came off in drifts of snowy dandruff if you ran your fingernail across it, which of course you had to do once you realised what fun it was to scratch it. Its sound was tinny and cheap, but I loved it straight away; I loved the way the body vibrated when you played and the strings changed pitch when you turned the tuning pegs. Hold Down a Chord book one became my friend and I started to invent new chords (or so I thought) and wrote them in blue school fountain pen in the margins so I wouldn't forget them.
My first song was Haunted Castle, a psychedelic teenage angst song, which thank fully I can only remember the melody of; I played it in Music at school and the music teacher refused to believe I had written it, which I found completely distressing. I was a quiet girl and I was trying to express emotions I felt, and had been accused of being a fraud.
It's amazing what you can do with two or three chords. I hated the cold and discovered that if I had a 'guitar group' at school we could sit in the Geography Block and play our three chords all winter lunchtime while it blustered outside.
Later, when I was seventeen, I hung out with a group of lads in the village. I don't know why they tolerated me and nobody else female; I think it might have been because I was a total tomboy and obviously not girlfriend material. I used to sit with them while they played electric guitars; there was one guy, from Liverpool whom they all admired. I don't know why, it might have been his provenance; but he played endless, endless guitar solos with his eyes half closed and their pupils skywards, mouth open, lank dark hair quivering with emotion.
Never once did any of them ask if I might like to play; I don't think I learned anything from them, either, apart from how groups of teenage lads operate. They were nice, and they were latching on to music to help them pass the time until they left home and became free.