I really like Big Red. He was not my first electric guitar. The first, a Jerry Donohue model Telecaster, made in Japan, had a bright sound, great for soloing, with minimum chorus, delay, distortion.
My amp was big in those days. I did not like lugging it, and played the girl, letting the guys set up the stage. My hair was short, in my early rock days, and I liked to mosh with the guys, in the after clubs, where you could hear plenty of The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Soundgarden. Our friend, Ian Beveridge, did sound for Nirvana, so, though we didn't ever meet, we felt like we knew them, from the tour van stories Ian would tell.
I had always played acoustic, and rhythm, to my side partner Calais Browns' Pink Floyd-influenced guitar solos, which were generally soaring and ethereal, compared to my thumping guitar beats. We didn't have a drummer. We had my hands and feet, but we were relentlessly groovy and then hypnotically psychedelic. I loved to work myself into a frenzy of oblivion on the stage, lost in Calais' solos and transported by my own grooves. There was no better world. You played guitar all day, then gigged at night, then stayed up, had a wee spliff and a whiskey and slept wherever the old pub put you.
Sex and gender and guitars did not cross my mind. I wore short skirts and t-shirts, and got my arse grabbed a few times, but my head was always somewhere else, and I never bothered to think about more than playing.
Once, in a pub, I overheard a guy saying "She isnae really much to look at, actually," and that stung a bit, but I brushed it off. Couldn't I just be a guitar player and a songwriter, and hang with the guys?
When we came to Los Angeles, and I met and worked with Richard Perry, I was so comfortable. Here was a producer who liked the way I played electric guitar, who encouraged me, who replaced the band I had with session players. I got to solo, and front my band. I was promised a deal that would end up with my having more guitars than I would know what to do with.
But I was scared. I felt awkward. I was not petite. I felt big. My manager told me that I should consider some plastic surgery on my nose. He took me to Beverly Hills to hair salons and nail parlours, but I balked and clung to my old t-shirts and short kilts.
At this juncture, the last thing I wanted to be was a girly girl.
My sessions in a recording studio in Burbank were very intimidating. The engineer was a master guitarist, a blues player. He had an autographed picture of Ron Jeremy in the studio inscribed with "Rock out with Your Cock out!" I used to see it every day, and truthfully, that photo made me feel weird. How in hell do I do that?
In the studio, no guy disrespected me. I was only shy and sometimes acquiescent, playing parts I didn't want to play, accepting tempos I felt uncomfortable with, always slightly overly exuberant, wanting these rock guys to like me, to approve of me, hoping they rated me. In the end, I feverishly sought their approval more than my own, and lived on the knife edge of approval/rejection.
At the end of the day, I had a year, recording in many studios, and always playing my own electric guitars. I did not love it more than I had loved ramming around, in Scotland and England, without money, playing all day. The business snuck in, as it does, and other elements were present, ones I had naively avoided.
I will never know really why I wasn't signed, moving from publishing to recording deal. It might just have been timing. It might have been an image issue. How do we market her? Or a song problem? Maybe it was a matter of not meeting the right people? I was not Nashville. I was not anywhere near a Britney Spears market. Fred Durst was very popular. There might not be too many slots for girl rockers who play to hip hop beats.
There are so many mysteries. You think there are groups of people, private clubs, and then you find out, no, everyone is out there, often feeling alone, disrespected, insecure or uncertain. "Rock out" is just an expression to get yourself gied up, ready to put it all out there. In the end, it might not matter that much: your sexual equipment.
What might matter more is your bullish drive to keep doing it, keep playing, learning, caring about it, not letting anyone tell you you shouldn't.
This is how we all move forward, whether we are girls or guys. We're just that stubborn and just that happy playing.
I keep hoping I will write a guitar part someone else will want to cover. With Big Red.
To whom I will give all the credit. Because through him, inspiring hooks continue to surface, soaring beyond who I am, and hopefully moving constantly toward who I want to become.
Not a girl or a guy. Just a better player.